36e législature, 1re session

l134 - Thu 5 Dec 1996 / Jeu 5 Déc 1996


























































The House met at 1002.




Mr Chiarelli moved second reading of the following bill:

Bill 101, An Act to provide for the Arbitration of certain Disputes relating to Franchises / Projet de loi 101, Loi prévoyant l'arbitrage de certains différends concernant les franchises.

The Deputy Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): Pursuant to standing order 96(c)(i), the honourable member has 10 minutes for his presentation.

Mr Robert Chiarelli (Ottawa West): This is the first bill we're debating today and it's called the Franchises' Arbitration Act. This deals with subject matter that is long overdue for legislation by this Legislature over the term of a number of governments. The bill is very simple in its structure, and I want to refer to the bill.

The first section of the bill deals with some definition sections of franchisor/franchisee in a technical sense. I want to thank Mr Tony Martin, the MPP for Sault Ste Marie, who previously introduced legislation on this subject matter. We borrowed some of the technical definitions from his bill. I also want to compliment Mr Martin for having been an advocate on this issue of franchises for a long time.

I'll read the nub of the bill, or the gist of the bill. It's in section 2. It says: "In the case of a dispute between a franchisor and a franchisee with respect to a fundamental term" -- and I underline the word "fundamental" -- "of the franchise agreement, either party may require that the matter be determined by arbitration under the Arbitration Act, 1991 by giving the other party notice to that effect."

What that does, in effect, by statutory means, is add a term to every franchise agreement in the province of Ontario to say that either party may refer to arbitration under the Arbitration Act.

The Arbitration Act in Ontario was recently revised by this Legislature, about two years ago. There was all-party consent, and certainly there was a very broad consensus that this statute, the Arbitration Act, should be used very extensively in the province. It forms a very viable alternative dispute mechanism. The bill is now compatible with all the other legislation dealing with arbitration in the other provinces. It has also been highly recommended by various studies into the court system to be used to try to take cases out of the court system.

This bill deals only with fundamental terms of the contract in dispute. It's very important, particularly for franchisors, that they understand this provision. It is not a provision that will allow franchisees to harass and bother and make nuisances of themselves with respect to specific contracts. If there is an issue fundamental to the contract between the franchisor and the franchisee, if it's a question of termination, if it's a question of misrepresentation to induce somebody to enter into a contract, if it's a question of frustrating the financial viability of the franchise arrangement, it's only under those circumstances that the matter can be referred to arbitration under this particular bill.

I think it's important that we look at some of the realities with respect to franchises in Ontario. First of all, Canada-wide, franchises deal in sales of $90 billion a year in retail business across the country. In Ontario it's $45 billion. It's very widespread throughout the province and impacts on thousands and thousands of small business people who happen to be franchisees, and tens of thousands of employees who work for them, so it's very significant subject matter for this Legislature to consider.

When it comes to mainline franchisors, when we think in terms of McDonald's or Harvey's or Dunkin Donuts, Tim Horton's or what have you, we have to understand that there's not a very level playing field. I practised commercial law for 18 years before I was elected to this Legislature. I acted for many franchisees.

Mr Garry J. Guzzo (Ottawa-Rideau): You did very well.

Mr Chiarelli: My former partner, Mr Guzzo, on the other side, is commenting that he recognizes that I did such a wonderful job as a commercial lawyer.

In any case, dealing with all these franchisees, it's important to know that it's not a level playing field. The franchisor puts a contract on the table and says, in effect, "Take it or leave it." I've been at the table with my clients, prospective franchisees who are investing their life savings in the business, and if one tries to negotiate changes to those terms it is not possible. The effect of that is that the franchisee in many cases is left in a very dangerous situation in terms of termination, in terms of financial security.

I want to say that most of the franchisors act very responsibly, but there have been some very significant high-profile cases which reflect the dangers in having this continue. Of course it was the rebellion of the Pizza Pizza dealers a year or two ago and, more recently, the Loeb dealers. These are people who were very severely handicapped by the nature of the relationship between them.

This is an issue also of corporate responsibility. While most franchisors accept their corporate responsibility, there are too many cases where they don't, and they take advantage of the little guy, the person with his or her life savings on the line, who has to deal with this hammer hanging over their heads all the time.


There are thousands of Ontario franchisees who feel a tremendous sense of disappointment and betrayal at lack of government action. I'm not talking about this Tory government only. I'm talking about the Liberal government, I'm talking about the NDP government, I'm talking about this government now, which says it has the intention to legislate.

The reason this period, Thursday morning, should be made much more important and significant is that the Liberal administration had what it thought were very priority items that it had to have legislated, and the whole issue of franchises fell through the cracks, the Liberal cracks. The NDP government, very strong advocates of legislation for franchisees and franchisors, strongly advocated it before they were elected, they advocated it after they were elected, and what happened? It fell through the cracks. We were dealing with the social contract, we were dealing with labour legislation, which were a priority to the NDP government. Now we have the Conservative government, and they have their priorities. I'm not questioning their priorities. It's their right to have them. They're doing tremendous restructuring in the health care field, in education, with municipalities, and now they're saying to the franchise dealers, "We intend to do something next spring." Next spring they might introduce legislation. It will go to committee. Perhaps we will or we won't, but in the meantime the franchisors and the franchisees across this province do not have legislation. As I said, we have a very simple bill here which I think can serve as the permanent legislation to deal with this particular issue.

There's a broader public policy issue involved in this type of legislation, and that is the whole area of what's happening to our court system. Alternative dispute resolution mechanisms: All the studies and people who have looked at the courts, and I have in my role as Attorney General critic, are all advocating ADR, alternative dispute resolution. We have the Arbitration Act in Ontario, which is already there. It's a very effective piece of legislation. We need to reduce cases which come before the courts.

We've just seen the Loeb franchise dispute go before a judge, I believe six or seven times in the last couple of months. The cost to the franchisees and the franchisors was absolutely exorbitant. The cost to the taxpayers, of using up all this court time to resolve commercial disputes, is not appropriate in today's day and age. All the key people who have looked at the court system are recommending alternative dispute mechanisms, and here we have a very simple way of doing it.

It's frightening to me to see some of the press reports coming out from the franchisors in discussions with this government in terms of what this government is contemplating. This government is contemplating a regulatory framework. It's looking at the possibility of establishing an ombudsman. It's looking at the possibility of establishing prerequisite requirements for franchisors to get into the market. I can't believe that this government at this time would be contemplating looking at a regulatory framework, looking at setting up a bureaucracy to deal with this issue.

I repeat my comments at the beginning. It is very, very simple. We have an Arbitration Act. We're saying that if there is a fundamental dispute between a franchisor and a franchisee, we're simply, by statute, putting a term in every contract across the province saying that either party has the right to refer that to arbitration. It's in the taxpayers' interest to keep these matters out of the court and it's in the interests of all these small business people to have something to rely on in protecting their life savings with these larger, controlling franchisors.

Mr Jim Flaherty (Durham Centre): I am pleased this morning to have an opportunity to speak to the bill that stands in the name of the member for Ottawa West, regrettably numbered Bill 101, because it of course brings up memories of Bill 101 in the province of Quebec, which dealt with English-only signs in the province. I regret the number on the bill.

But to deal with the substance of the bill, there are problems with it. It does address an issue that needs to be addressed, and I fully agree with the member for Ottawa West in that regard, that we do need to address the issue of the relationship between franchisors and franchisees in the province of Ontario. Indeed, we need to address it on a broader basis than that, because the franchise business phenomenon in Ontario extends into business relationships outside the province and many times franchisees in Ontario are entering into arrangements with franchisors who are located outside of the province.

So that's one point: that we need, if possible, a degree of interprovincial cooperation in the development of a franchise legislative framework that will work for all of the persons involved either as franchisors or franchisees in the Dominion of Canada.

I also agree that there is a need to have legislation that is fairly refined, in the sense that governments have a tendency to take a sledgehammer approach, and I think we ought to avoid that when we're dealing with business relationships not only as important as these but also as sensitive as these between franchisors and franchisees.

I agree with the honourable member for Ottawa West when he speaks about the importance of alternative dispute resolution. Alternative dispute resolution commonly involves mediation and arbitration. The proposal in this legislation, which is in section 2 of the act, section 2 being the main operative section of the act, talks about, "In the case of a dispute between a franchisor and a franchisee with respect to a fundamental term of the franchise agreement," and I'll stop there for a moment, if I may, because this is the first large difficulty with the bill itself. This term "fundamental term," as used in the private member's bill, is not defined although there is a definition section.

My concern from that -- I also have experience in the courts and in litigating commercial matters, and I acknowledge the experience of Mr Chiarelli, the member for Ottawa West, in these matters. I'm sure he would agree with me that this type of undefined term in the main operative section of a piece of legislation, rather than minimizing litigation, tends to promote litigation. It also promotes procedural problems, because an aggrieved franchisee, let's say, would have a situation where he would not know whether the matter with which he was dealing ought to go to arbitration or ought to go to the courts because the franchisee would be in the position of not being sure whether the term with respect to which he was dealing was fundamental or not fundamental.

I think we need to work harder on the alternative dispute resolution aspects of this to make sure that the concept works not just in the legislation, on a piece of paper, but that it actually works in practice to accomplish the goals that I'm sure are shared by the member for Ottawa West with most of the members of the House, and that is that we need to address this issue of the relationship between franchisors and franchisees.

The second part of the key section of the bill, in my view, is the second half of section 2, which deals with "Either party may require that the matter be determined by arbitration under the Arbitration Act, 1991 by giving the other party notice to that effect."

I have two concerns in that regard. One is that this is giving a mandatory arbitration power to one party, be it the franchisor or the franchisee, which would compel the other party to participate in arbitration under the Arbitration Act, 1991. That gives one party the power to avoid the traditional court proceeding. I think this is a matter that needs further consideration because of the advisability, in my view, and I think this needs to be discussed further, of including mediation before arbitration and the advisability of looking at forms of arbitration other than simply arbitrations under the Arbitration Act, 1991.

I'm sure the member for Ottawa West knows, as I know from experience, that arbitrations under that act are not necessarily cost-efficient. They can be very expensive, they can be very cumbersome and they can take a long time. I think we need to look a little bit harder at the alternative dispute resolution aspect generally and also in this piece of legislation to try to make it work on the ground and not just in theory.

The trend that seems to be developing not only in landlord and tenant disputes but in commercial disputes generally and in the courts is to first seek out mediation, which is having a remarkable success rate at very efficient costs and expeditiously. In that regard, I agree with the principle that is being advanced by my colleague the member for Ottawa West, but I think it needs a lot more work in order to make the approach a functional, useful approach for both franchisors and franchisees.


The bill itself, I believe, was prompted by the dispute between Loeb and a number of its franchisees. We are fortunate that this dispute has been largely resolved, as reported in the press last week, by an agreed buyout between the Loeb grocery chain and the franchisees, so the impetus for the bill in that regard is no longer present, having been overtaken by events.

There is also the concern about consulting. My friends opposite have often criticized our government for perhaps not consulting adequately concerning issues. This is an important commercial issue; it's an important issue for the relationship between persons doing business in the province. These persons are employing people. It's an area of business that is a growth area. I think we would all agree that we want to get it right.

In order to get it right, in my submission, it's very important that the key stakeholders are consulted. Consultations are taking place between the government and the Canadian Franchise Association and the Ontario Coalition of Franchisees, who are the two major stakeholder groups in the franchise industry. They do not support this bill, as I understand it, but they do definitely want to proceed with further discussions and further consultations, which are taking place. I had the pleasure in September of addressing the Canadian franchisors show at the Coliseum, and I heard from persons there their concern about how this matter is proceeded with. In that regard, there are a number of models, as members are aware.

Some of those models are self-management-type models, where those in the field, both franchisors and franchisees, have an opportunity to police their own, in effect, subject to a code of ethics and rules that they would promulgate. That is one of the possibilities. But the key, I repeat, is that we must consult. I think all members would agree that the stakeholders, the persons in the field who deal with the business life of franchisors and franchisees from week to week, need to have input, serious consultation, in order to arrive at a piece of legislation that one would hope would actually work in business rather than simply make a statement in a private member's bill.

For those reasons, I urge members of the House not to support this particular piece of legislation, although I would certainly agree with the member for Ottawa West that it is an approach that needs to be addressed, both with respect to ADR and with respect to the relationship between franchisors and franchisees generally in the province.

Mr Bruce Crozier (Essex South): It's a pleasure for me this morning to speak to Bill 101, An Act to provide for the Arbitration of certain Disputes relating to Franchises. As has been said by the member for Ottawa West and the member for Durham Centre, many of us are aware of the fact that legislation of this nature is necessary in that, as was referred to by the member for Durham Centre, there is a most recent high-profile dispute that legislation such as this would assist in, but these have been problems that have come up in the past and no doubt they will continue to be of concern to franchisors and franchisees in the future.

In fact, the Franchise Sector Working Team report has been more or less collecting dust since August 1995. All three governments, as was mentioned by the member for Ottawa West, have promised legislation in this area, but it has fallen through the cracks, keeps being delayed and always seems to be in the next session.

Bill 101 provides for an effective and cost-efficient method in which to deal with franchiser and franchisee disputes. As a matter of fact, I quote from the letter of Mr Chiarelli:

"It provides a viable solution to disputes between franchisees and franchisors, and addresses the immediate need for a dispute resolution mechanism in the absence of comprehensive franchise regulatory control. By allowing either party to refer the matter to arbitration under the Arbitrations Act of Ontario, the legislation helps to provide a level playing field for all parties involved."

I think that's the ultimate goal of this legislation and any that the government may bring forth in future in the way of comprehensive franchise regulatory control. The real intent and goal for all of us is that there be a level playing field between the franchisor and the franchisee.

It's also important to note that the bill provides the right to arbitrate only those matters affecting fundamental terms of the franchise agreement and therefore cannot be subject to frivolous abuse. Comment has been made as well by the member for Durham Centre that the word "fundamental" causes some concern. If we all agree that we need to find a solution quickly and not let this go on forever, as it seems to have been in the past, the prudent and expedient thing to do would be to refer this legislation to committee. Then some of these concerns can be addressed.

This legislation will satisfy, in our opinion, the government's pre- and post-election commitments to provide legislation in this matter. The best aspect of the bill of the member for Ottawa West is that it creates no government bureaucracy, no government cost to deal adequately with the issue, and as we all know, the Arbitration Act is an existing statute in Ontario. It is highly respected as a way to deal with commercial disputes.

For example, in the runup to the situation we had with Loeb, the court system had to figure prominently in this dispute, but there was, no doubt, a lot of cost involved. There definitely would have been a significant amount of delay and waste of court resources if at that time we would have had an alternative such as Bill 101. As has been mentioned, Bill 101 uses an already existing and workable act, the Arbitration Act, and in using the Arbitration Act franchisees and franchisors will be saving not only their own money but they will also be saving tax dollars, taxpayers' money in the form of not accessing court resources.

In my estimation, and I agree that this bill should go to committee for further refinement if that's necessary, the intent and for the most part the content of Bill 101 is a fair, timely and cost-effective response to what has been a lack of regulation in the area of franchisor and franchisee disputes, and it's less intrusive than full-scale legislation.

I believe it builds on a very good piece of existing legislation and will go a long way to ensuring that a level playing field exists between franchisees and franchisors.


Rather than dismiss the bill out of hand, as is the case with many private members' bills -- they are intended to solve problems that aren't partisan in nature. They are problems that many of us here on both sides of the House have had our commercial constituents come to us with. In view of the fact that the government has a very heavy legislative schedule, it would be an expedient way to address a problem that will not go away. The longer it's delayed, the more times we as members are going to be involved in helping constituents to solve these kinds of problems and the courts will be involved.

I would encourage those who are here this morning and those who will be voting on the bill to support it so that at least it may go to committee and get an appropriate review.

Mr Tony Martin (Sault Ste Marie): I certainly welcome the introduction of this bill here this morning. It's another attempt to solve a very difficult issue that continues to hang out there like a black cloud over Ontario, something that has been in front of government for a number of years now, something that some tremendous level of work has been done around by all flavours of government in this place and that governments of the day have not had in their time the will to really do anything about. I suggest some of that is because of the backroom, heavy-handed, very difficult lobbying that is done by the franchisor, a part of this whole equation, who continues to have a bit of a stranglehold on this type of business in Ontario and frankly is quite problematic.

If, as this government suggests, the free market, private sector approach to the delivery of goods and services and the way we do business in this province is the way we're going to go, it has to at least be interested in putting in place those vehicles that will make sure that transactions and business agreements and contracts between different parties are fair and that both parties live up to not only the legal requirement but the spirit of those agreements. If you don't have that, you really don't have a whole lot going for you, and your business sector suffers and the whole community thereby suffers. We've certainly had some very high-profile and very troubling examples of what happens to entrepreneurs, very responsible entrepreneurs in communities, when the big foot or the big thumb of the franchisor who decides they're not getting enough out of the agreement wants more and then they bring into play all of those vehicles that are written in either directly or indirectly to the agreement that allow them to pull the plug and just throw people out on their heads.

It's nice to see the Liberals bringing this forward. I remind the House that on two occasions over the last six years we as a party brought forward two bills. Jim Wiseman, a member from the Durham area of the province when we were government, brought a bill forward in response to a very difficult playing out of a disagreement between Pizza Pizza franchisees and the Pizza Pizza franchisor at that particular point in time. The government of the day, which happened to be New Democrat, took his bill by way of incentive to launch a review of this whole issue and brought together all of the major players, brought them to the table -- franchisors, the franchisee association, legal counsel and others -- to sit down and try and figure out what would be the most intelligent and progressive thing to do in this circumstance and, recognizing that this could come at us again, come up with a plan.

The report was delivered near either the very end of the previous government's mandate or the beginning of the present government's mandate. Anyway, it ended up in the lap of the Minister of Community and Social Services at that point in time for his review. In that report was the recommendation and very strong suggestion, particularly by the franchisees, that the only way to come to terms with this really difficult problem was to bring in legislation that would do a number of things for the parties involved, including making sure that there was full disclosure of all information before agreements were entered into and that at the end of the day, if there was a disagreement, there was a table to which the parties could come and have some settlement arrived at that was mutually acceptable and would see that particular situation resolved so that we could move forward in some degree of harmony and good health for the business community and the communities within which these enterprises operated.

But the government of the day did not see it as a priority to move forward with this. It was shelved, it was put on a shelf, and when I came forward about a year ago with the same piece of legislation that Mr Wiseman had brought in for the review of this place, we found out that there was nothing being done at the ministry level about this issue. Whereas the franchisees out there thought that there was some legislation being put together, there was nothing happening. That was sort of a wake-up call, I guess.

I remember the morning that we had that debate in here and the government members got up. Mr Sampson, who has now moved on to bigger and better things, the portfolio of trying to privatize everything in this province, and the member who spoke previously here from the government party, Mr Flaherty, the member for Durham Centre, said the very same things. They said that we didn't need to regulate this industry. They expressed anxiety on behalf of the franchisor; didn't say too much, I believe, about the franchisee and his or her difficulty in this whole issue; and suggested that the government was going to do something, was going to bring the parties together, was going to make sure that there was a self-regulatory initiative begun and put in place. But alas, none of that has happened. Nothing happened.

I remember as well that the day I brought in my legislation we had four or five Loeb franchisees out there who were under direct threat of losing their stores. Because we didn't do anything at that time about the piece of legislation I brought forward, at least two of those franchisees lost their stores. These were not fly-by-night operators who were trying to make a fast buck at the expense of the community and the franchisor. These were hard-working, committed families who had invested everything they had, mortgaged their home to take on the operation of these stores and offered to their communities the best of service. Because they weren't able to give back to the franchisor the kind of effort and profit they expected, they just pulled the rug.

There was one family in particular, and I'm not sure exactly where they were now, but they owned a little store in a small community in northern Ontario. I sat and talked with them at the time that I introduced my legislation and it was a sad tale indeed. They had moved from their previous community, had borrowed money, taken all the money they had saved. They had mortgaged their house and moved to the new community and got into this business with great vigour and vitality.

But for one reason or another, the level of energy that they could put in diminished somewhat. I believe one of the partners in the relationship got sick, and because of that Provigo and Loeb decided that they weren't getting the kind of effort they needed so they spit them out and then decided either to bring in somebody else they could rape and pillage or to bring in somebody else they could convince to work as a corporate manager in that particular store so that they could maximize the profit they get out of that store and that community.

We had then two franchisees I know of, and probably more, who were just plain out of luck -- their investment gone, their plans for their future gone, wiped out.


It didn't end there. We continued to talk to the government about what they were doing. There was a change of minister and this thing, of course, got put on the back burner and nothing happened. Then all of a sudden we had this thing festering and, lo and behold, 20 to 22 Loeb franchisees decided, because of the strong-arm tactics that continued to be implemented by Provigo out of Montreal, that they would band together because individually -- it's your archetypal David and Goliath story except that David in this instance just didn't have the firepower to individually go after the giant. Provigo just has too many resources. So 22 franchisees decided to come together, pool their resources and take the corporate giant on.

They came back to me and said, "Tony, it would be really helpful if we had the government moving on some legislation so that we could maybe shift this out of the court so that we could, at the end of the day, resolve this thing and keep our stores." The big thing here was they wanted to keep their stores, because they saw this as their future, as their nest egg, so to speak, as that which they were willing to work very hard at to make sure it was a huge success so they could turn it over to their family perhaps, or probably. They wanted me to encourage the government to move quickly to introduce some legislation that would create a table that they could come to to have this thing resolved so that Provigo could have some of its needs met but ultimately they could keep their stores and do what they do best.

Some of these folks started out in this business packing shelves and carrying out, and worked their way up so that they became the owners of the stores. They found themselves, for reasons beyond their control, being threatened with the loss of this opportunity that they had worked so hard all their life to develop.

We were told at that point, and continue to be told today, that the government is moving on some legislation, but we haven't seen anything yet. In the meantime, these 22 store operators -- I believe there are still two out there who haven't come to any settlement or any agreement, so I think there's 20 now who have decided to settle out of court. It wasn't their first option. It wasn't what they wanted to do. They wanted to settle, but they wanted also to be able to keep their stores because that's what they invested in, that's what they do best, that's what they saw as the future for them and for their families.

Frankly, in my community anyway, the two stores that have now gone corporate, because the entrepreneurs who were driving them have now lost their business, were some of the most responsible corporate citizens we had. These were not irresponsible operators of grocery stores. The two families that ran the grocery stores in Sault Ste Marie were your model entrepreneurs, the kind of people that you want to draw out of the woodwork to be the engine for this new economy you keep talking about. But if you continue to allow the bigger entity, the big guy, to have all the power and to use his resources in the way they have in this instance to just wipe people out because they don't agree with the amount of profit they're getting and they want more, then you won't have anybody wanting to be an entrepreneur, you won't have anybody wanting to take that kind of risk because it's just too great.

In this instance you had 22 operators come together and pool their resources to take on the giant, but at the end of the day it just wasn't enough. They didn't see that they could carry this thing far enough into the system to have a victory for themselves at the end of the day. They weren't looking for the whole tamale. They weren't looking for the whole thing. They just wanted to sit down with this franchisor and talk to him about some of the difficulties they were having around the supply of goods and what those cost and what they could sell them for, and ultimately to keep their stores. That didn't happen. It cries out to this place that we need to put in place something.

So today we have a package brought forward by the member for Ottawa West, Mr Chiarelli, that will go a ways. There are all kinds of examples of legislation out there, even in Canada, in Alberta. There's a wonderful piece of legislation in Britain called the Fair Practices Act that would do the trick. But the government has to have the will to see this through. Even if Mr Chiarelli's bill goes to committee -- we could have a real good discussion there, we could bring some people in and we could make his bill fit, but at the end of the day if the government doesn't agree with it, it's toast, it doesn't go anywhere.

We continue down that road and we will have more -- trust me -- of this happening because franchising, franchisor, franchisee, the whole franchise industry is one of the newer approaches to doing business in our province, and if we don't regulate it in a way that makes it fair, we will have disaster after disaster.

So I today exhort the House, the members who are here, to support this bill. I hope the member for Ottawa West would have enough of his members on side to make sure we get a good crack at it. Last time, when I brought my legislation in, there were a number of your people who didn't vote for it. I hope that today they will, and that the members across the way recognize that we need to do this, if for no other reason but that it's in the best interests of some of the principles that you're espousing re how our economy is going to grow.

Mr Tom Froese (St Catharines-Brock): I'm pleased to speak this morning on private member's Bill 101 as put forward by my colleague on the other side of the House, the member for Ottawa West. The issue of providing a legislative mechanism to a franchise dispute is a complicated one. If the House will bear with me, I'd just like to digress a little bit.

This government was elected because its members campaigned that we would carry out the five key components of a job creation plan. We would cut personal income taxes. We would reduce non-priority government spending. We would remove government barriers to job creation, investment and economic growth.

Mr Michael A. Brown (Algoma-Manitoulin): Mike said this yesterday, Tom.

Mr Froese: But you need to hear it again. You're right, the Premier said it yesterday.

We would cut the size of government and provide the people of Ontario with better for less and we would balance the budget.

Someone might ask, though, "What do these five points have to do with franchise arbitration?" They have a great deal to do with Bill 101. Let's look at why we're cutting taxes. We're cutting taxes to create jobs and to stimulate the economy and, in so doing, bring prosperity back to Ontario. Why? So that the taxpayers can spend it on goods and services they want and need.

Franchising plays an important role in Ontario's economy in providing those goods and services, currently the most widespread in terms of new investment and business development. Opening franchises now accounts for about 30% of sales and 80% of all business successes that survive the first five years. There's actually an 80% chance of success for franchisees. So the need for a franchise dispute mechanism will be less because of the success rate. I also will discuss later, human nature being what it is, that it will not be eliminated altogether.

The second point my government pledged was to cut non-priority government spending. What that means in real terms is that if there's a dispute we have to find ways to bring the franchise partners together that does not necessitate a new bureaucracy. That will not help anyone.

As was said earlier by my colleague the member for Durham Centre, the industry has identified that it wants legislation to deal with problems but in a self-management environment. What we need is balance, and we need not get that by implementing legislation. As to non-priority spending, it tells the industry exactly what to do and when to do it.

The third point was that we said we would cut government barriers to job creation, economic development and investor growth. We need to ask ourselves, will Bill 101 act as a barrier to economic development and job creation? To answer that question, let's look at both the advantages and the disadvantages of franchising.

Chief among the advantages is that it's often much easier to start a new business because the investor has the support of the established parent company, the franchisor. The franchisor can provide the entrepreneur with assistance in obtaining financing, site selection, building construction, supervision, employee training and ongoing support during a difficult break-in period. It's important that the government of the province does what it does. It will create the climate for more such partnerships and investment. We have to be careful that we're not adding red tape without getting the full input of the industry and without looking at the issues involved in settling disputes.

The bottom line is that any legislation dealing with relationships between franchisors and franchisees needs to be driven and monitored by the industry itself. I understand why Bill 101 is being brought forward, but it's not the answer to finding that balance between the two parties involved in franchising. We know there needs to be a code of ethics and disclosure requirements. The franchisor needs to set the parameters and the franchisee needs to know what they are getting into right from the start.

In my opinion, we need legislation that identifies and provides for all factors that drive and affect the entire industry. We also need to make sure that we create conditions for success for those in business now and those willing to invest in new franchise business opportunities, and our plan is working.

I'll be voting against the bill because I don't see where the balance is and where the legislation is industry-driven. That is primarily the reason why I will vote against the bill.


M. Jean-Marc Lalonde (Prescott et Russell) : Je crois qu'il est très important pour les membres de cette Assemblée de reconnaître le projet de loi 101 prévoyant l'arbitrage de certains différends concernant les franchises.

Les familles, les employés et les propriétaires des franchises Loeb viennent de vivre des situations que personne d'entre nous ne voudrait vivre. Ce projet de loi éviterait ces moments déplorables que ces familles ont dû endurer tout récemment.

Nous savons que les franchises Loeb appartiennent à Provigo de Montréal. Vingt-et-un magasins franchisés ont été impliqués récemment dans cette poursuite. J'en avais nommé quelques-uns : Loeb Arnprior dans le comté de Carleton ; Loeb Bayridge; Loeb Blind River; Loeb Brady Street; Loeb Cochrane; Loeb Elmvale Acres; Loeb Fisher Street; Loeb Golden Mile; Loeb Hazeldean; Loeb Kirkland Lake; Loeb Korah Road; Loeb LaSalle Court; Loeb Lincoln Heights; Loeb Manotick Mews, encore dans le comté du député de Carleton; Loeb Mattawa; Loeb Meadowlands; Loeb Petawawa; Loeb Prescott; Loeb Rockland; Loeb St-Laurent; et Loeb South Porcupine. Nous avons 21 franchisés qui sont impliqués dans cette poursuite. On aura pu modifier la loi pour aider ces gens.

Je me rappelle une rencontre avec le ministre de la Consommation du temps, le député de Carleton, le 14 août dernier. Il avait son équipe du département de la loi avec lui. J'ai une lettre que j'ai reçue le 3 janvier 1996 qui se lit comme suit au troisième paragraphe :

«Le ministre a admis qu'il existe actuellement un manque d'équilibre et qu'il était au courant d'abus de pouvoir de la part de certains franchiseurs, incluant Loeb. Bien que son parti soit plutôt porté par la déréglementation, il a l'intention de discuter de ce problème avec ses homologues des autres provinces au cours du mois de février. De plus, il a évoqué la possibilité d'introduire un projet de loi au printemps» -- c'est le printemps dernier en 1996 -- «quoique ce projet de loi ne serait sans doute pas en tête de liste des projets de loi de son gouvernement.»

Nous avons eu plusieurs discussions ainsi avec le nouveau ministre de ce ministère, le député de Markham. Nous étions sur le point d'arriver avec un nouveau projet de loi qui aurait été présenté en Chambre il y a quelques semaines. Mais nous avons constaté que les franchiseurs ont mis de la pression sur le gouvernement actuel afin qu'on n'arrive pas avec un projet de loi. C'est regrettable que l'on doive procéder avec de la politicaillerie que nous connaissons dans le moment.

J'ai eu la chance de regarder le procès-verbal du mois de janvier 1996. Aucun avocat n'aurait accepté ce qui était décrit dans ce procès-verbal. Je ne sais pas si mes collègues du gouvernement étaient bien au courant que seulement quatre franchisés pouvaient assister aux réunions. Aucun des franchisés n'avait le droit d'avoir avec lui son avocat ou son conseil légal. Nous étions obligés de signer les ententes. Le magasin Loeb voulait augmenter le volume mais avec pertes à nos franchisés. C'est bien beau de dire que nous reprenons les magasins, que nous allons désigner notre propre gestion afin d'avoir le plein contrôle, et le but principal était de joindre le volume de Maxi -- Maxi, c'est une succursale de Loeb -- et toujours au détriment des franchisés qui existent actuellement.

Je crois qu'il est temps que le gouvernement regarde de très près. Nous savons qu'il y a d'autres franchiseurs qui s'en viennent, tels les Tim Horton's, les Pizza Pizza, bien, nous avons gagné la cause en cour, apparemment. Mais aujourd'hui le gouvernement a bel et bien la chance d'appuyer un projet de loi qui est déposé par mon collègue d'Ottawa-Ouest qui pourra éliminer tous les problèmes que nous venons de vivre. Si mes collègues du gouvernement pourraient constater le harcèlement qui existait durant cette période de temps, c'est presque incroyable de voir le harcèlement que toutes ces familles, ces propriétaires ou ces franchisés ont dû vivre depuis janvier 1996.

Je crois que le ministre de la Consommation et du Commerce était au courant. C'est un expert dans les franchises. Il était au courant et il est sensible à la cause, mais je suis convaincu qu'il a reçu de la pression de son Cabinet ou du premier ministre de cette province en lui disant, «Laisse tomber ce projet.» Je crois que nous avions de gros supporteurs financiers derrière le premier ministre qui auraient peut-être empêché le premier ministre à recevoir des fonds pour les prochaines élections. Mais je crois que notre tâche pour nous tous, les élus de cette province, c'est d'en arriver à une entente au meilleur de notre conscience et puis, dans ce cas, je dirais que la conscience de tous les élus de ce gouvernement était de protéger nos petits franchisés.

Mais ce n'est pas ça qui va arriver. Encore une fois nous allons protéger les gros financiers. Dans ce cas-ci nous allons protéger la chaîne de magasins Loeb, dont le propriétaire est Provigo de Montréal. Dans ma propre ville on m'a appelé un soir et puis nous avons reconnu que le serrurier était à la porte, prêt à changer la combinaison du coffre-fort, prêt à changer la serrure de la porte.

Sur le boulevard Saint-Laurent à Ottawa, la même chose. Sur Elmvale Acres, la même chose. J'étais sur place. L'épouse du propriétaire pleurait ; les employés à la caisse pleuraient. Ils voyaient le serrurier à la porte avec les gardes de sécurité et on venait changer les serrures. Pourquoi ? J'ai ici la liste qu'ils avaient reçue avec toutes les dates qu'on voulait procéder avec la fermeture de tous les magasins.

Mr E.J. Douglas Rollins (Quinte): I would like to say that I will be supporting the bill.

I was one of those franchisees who had the rug pulled out from under them after 25 or 26 years with the company, and they came in and told me by a 30-day notice, "You're out of business." I want to support the bill we've got coming forward.

I find it awfully hard to think that I'm supporting something the member for Sault Ste Marie is supporting, but I'll have to deal with my conscience later on tonight. But I can tell you that those big companies care little or nothing about the little guy, and I was one of those little guys they pulled the rug out from and I think we need that kind of support for those individuals. That's why this person from Quinte is going to stand up for the little guy. I was one of those little guys.


The Deputy Speaker: The member for Ottawa West, you have two minutes.

Mr Chiarelli: I think the people across this province should know that the member for Durham Centre is the parliamentary assistant to the minister responsible for this particular issue. I also think the people of Ontario should know that the then minister, on September 25, 1995 -- that was Mr Norm Sterling -- issued a press release which said: "Consumer and Commercial Relations Minister Norman Sterling today said that he was pleased to receive the Franchise Sector Working Team report presented to him on August 30, 1995" -- 15 months ago. The minister's press release goes on to say: "The minister said he will share the report on franchising with other provincial governments since franchising affects all provinces."

Well, I wonder what happened to Canada Post. They've had this now for 15 months and they've done nothing. This is the government that represents business people. They represent these tens of thousands of small business people who are franchisees who are getting hammered by the big franchisors, and what do they do? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. They close their eyes. Here is one minister saying, 15 months ago, that he's already got the results of all the consultation, and 15 months later we have a new minister saying: "Maybe we'll do something in the spring. Oh, this bill isn't good enough."

The member for Durham Centre says quite clearly he agrees with the principle of this bill. Then he should support it. He should send it to committee, and if he wants to change some of the definitions, if he wants to close some of the problems with terminology, he can do it in committee. We can work together, we can work with it in a non-partisan way.

I think the only way this government will deal with this issue is if there is a new minister. If that new minister happens to be Mr Guzzo, my former law partner, he understands the problem with franchisees. He will do something and he will get some action, and I encourage Mike Harris to appoint him.

The Deputy Speaker: The time allotted for the first ballot item has expired.


Mr Galt moved private member's notice of motion number 33:

That in the opinion of this House, the government of Ontario should recognize the important role of volunteers in the province of Ontario, should consider their concerns about their exposure to liability and that barriers to voluntary service be removed and that volunteers should be encouraged and be properly recognized for their efforts.

The Deputy Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): Pursuant to standing order 96(c)(i), the member has 10 minutes for his presentation.

Mr Doug Galt (Northumberland): In his famous book The Prophet, early-20th-century philosopher Kahlil Gibran wrote: "You give but little when you give of your possessions. It is when you give of yourself that you truly give."

Here in Ontario, we have literally millions of people giving of themselves every day. They do this by donating their time and their efforts to charities, to hospitals and to religious organizations, to service clubs for Lions Clubs International, to minor hockey and softball leagues, to medical research and service organizations like the Heart and Stroke Foundation, the Canadian National Institute for the Blind, and the Canadian Cancer Society, just to name a few.

Volunteers do this work without compensation, they do this work without being asked, and they do this work solely for the benefit of their fellow human beings. They only seek to serve and to return something to the communities in which they live.

Volunteer efforts enhance the social fabric of Ontario in a way that government or business never can. In fact, volunteer efforts in Ontario, and indeed across Canada, are vital to the health and the wellbeing of our respective communities. Volunteers help to ensure that our neighbourhoods are protected and that our children are safe. They help the needy and the disadvantaged in society in often very personal ways. They support medical advances and scientific research. They help both the young and the old to cope in an increasingly fragmented society.

Statistics Canada says that as many as four persons in 10 have volunteered for a community or social agency. One person in three has volunteered or helped to support a religious organization. Although it is difficult to quantify the value of volunteer work, it is safe to say that billions of dollars worth of effort is expended by volunteers every year. We also know that volunteers give more to charities than the average donor.

The Canadian Centre for Philanthropy reports that donations to charity in Canada totalled more than $8 billion last year. This money went to some 69,000 registered charities, many of which operate completely without government support.

It is often said that the charitable sector, or the third sector, as business guru Peter Drucker calls it, is the fastest-growing social grouping on this continent. The staff and the volunteers of these organizations do for the community what DOS does for dummies in personal computing. They make it easy to try something new and very worthwhile. They can do this because they have the flexibility to experiment without making huge investments in hardware and program delivery. They have proven themselves to be more efficient than either the private or public sector. In fact, the social capital provided by volunteers is one of the last great and growing resources in our society.

The resolution I am putting forward for a vote today recognizes the immense social capital contributed by volunteers across this province. It seeks to give a little back to these volunteers and to the organizations they represent. I believe there are many opportunities for our government to encourage these volunteer efforts through legislative change and policy adjustment.

While I recognize that many efforts to do that are already well under way, I believe we must make a public commitment to our province's volunteers. We must make a commitment to encourage their efforts and remove barriers to voluntary service.

These barriers take many forms. For instance, members of voluntary boards of directors have liabilities under the law that are in many ways inappropriate to a volunteer organization. Although few are prosecuted under these laws, the perception that volunteers are risking their assets and their life earnings to serve has a significant impact on their willingness to become involved. What's more, purchasing liability insurance is often too costly for all but the largest charitable organizations. As a result, many forgo this option, preferring to use assets instead for the betterment of their community. In doing so, they are putting themselves at risk. This is but one example of the tough decisions volunteers in the third sector are facing.

At the same time, I'm not suggesting that volunteers should be completely absolved of responsibility for their actions. If it is shown that a volunteer has acted with gross negligence, malice or ill intent, indeed the person should be held accountable. In the case of an automobile accident, for instance, even if the driver is a volunteer, all existing regulations and statutes should be applied.

But what I am concerned about is that charities and volunteers operating in Ontario do not have any protection from liability in carrying out their charitably motivated actions. I believe this is a very important distinction to make. In contrast to Ontario, many jurisdictions across North America have enacted volunteer protection laws that provide some protection for volunteers against liability.

This protection is based on three fundamental principles: the volunteer was acting in good faith; the volunteer was acting within the scope of their official functions; and, finally, that the damage or injury was not caused by wilful or wanton misconduct.

That, I believe, is the litmus test for many jurisdictions, and I believe we can successfully apply the same conditions here.

A thoughtfully constructed volunteer protection law would demonstrate that we are serious about encouraging the volunteer sector. Given the tremendous social capital and value that volunteer organizations contribute to Ontario, I believe the time has come to seriously address their concerns.


Many in the voluntary sector are concerned that they are not considered or involved in the formation of relevant public policy. They are concerned that the value of volunteerism is not adequately recognized at the highest levels of government and that their organizations are not adequately protected against liability arising from charitably motivated actions. It is within the power of this government to allay those fears and take tangible action to support volunteers. I would like to recommend strongly that we do just that.

Until the 1960s many volunteers worked in charitable organizations and religious organizations to bring a quality of life to Ontario. In the late 1960s, some 30 years ago, governments across Canada thought they could do it better. They went into a cycle of spend and borrow, and as a result we've ended up making bankers rich, and the province of Ontario has an $8.7-billion interest payment to pay this year. That $8.7 billion in interest could build things like 13 SkyDomes across Ontario. That is what $8.7 billion in interest is equal to.

It is obvious that we can no longer continue that kind of cycle of spend and borrow. Once again, it is imperative that we look to the volunteer sector, that third sector, to assist us in ensuring that we have the quality of life in Ontario that our children deserve.

Therefore, be it resolved that in the opinion of this House, the government of Ontario should recognize the important role of volunteers in the province; it should consider their concerns about their exposure to liability; that barriers to voluntary service should be removed; and finally, that volunteers should be encouraged and properly recognized for their efforts.

Mr Bernard Grandmaître (Ottawa East): I want to congratulate the member for Northumberland this morning for introducing this bill for many reasons. It gives me an opportunity to boast about the volunteers in my own community and how effective they are. If it weren't for volunteers in my own community I don't think the quality of life would be as good as it is.

Volunteers in my community have built an arena and a number of parks. These parks and the arena are not being managed, but are supported by volunteers. With the help of le Club Richelieu, which raised $300,000 to build a community centre, which is called le Centre Richelieu, along with the Kiwanis Club and the Lions Club, all volunteers raised close to half a million dollars, and these facilities were built because of volunteerism, because of volunteers who continue to improve the quality of life in our community.

When we look at a community, too often we look at the measurable assets of a community. We look at roads, transportation and the infrastructure and we say that all these great things will improve or are improving the quality of life in the community. I say that without volunteerism my community wouldn't be the same. I think volunteerism is an asset and I encourage all communities right across Ontario to invite volunteers to participate in the real life of our community. I usually brag about my senior citizens club. They have 1,600 members in this club, the largest in Ontario. They just raised $350,000 to build their own centre -- again, all volunteers. I think this is an asset to my community.

If you want to talk about the recreational activities, baseball, softball, hockey, these sports are being managed by volunteers for the simple reason that our tax base, our tax assessment, is a low one. When 70% of our tax base comes from residential taxes we have to depend on volunteers. The nice thing about volunteers in my community is that we have a mixed quality of life in my community. A lot of people think that it's mainly francophones who live in my community but actually there's only 49% francophones. We have Italians, Portuguese, English-speaking people, and we all work together. When I went to school we weren't divided. English- and French-speaking and Portuguese and Italian kids would play together in the same yard and would be educated under the same roof. I think this is where we grew this volunteer taste to help each other and I think this is why my community is chosen every year as a model for volunteerism. I can't stop celebrating what they've done for my community.

I realize what the government of Ontario has done in the last 10 or 15 years. Every year they recognize volunteers in the province of Ontario, but this is only once a year. I think we should celebrate volunteerism in this province every day, because they do improve the quality of life, and that's what a community is all about. It's not about sidewalks, it's not about paved roads, it's not about the traffic in your community; it's about people. When we plan a community in the province of Ontario we usually think about infrastructure first, then we think about people. It should be the opposite. We should plan with people in mind, then have the infrastructure to serve these people.

I know that if I didn't say a word in French, my volunteers in my community wouldn't appreciate it.

Je veux profiter de cette occasion pour féliciter les nombreux groupes volontaires dans ma communauté. Je pense aux dames auxiliaires de la Légion, de l'hôpital Montfort, à tous ces gens-là, aux milliers de personnes. Pourtant je demeure dans une petite communauté, et par contre nous avons un grand nombre per capita de volontaires.

Ces gens-là ne sont jamais payés, et le gouvernement devrait reconnaître le bienfait de ces gens-là. Si le gouvernement de l'Ontario aujourd'hui devait payer chacun de nos volontaires, ça leur coûterait 2,1 $ milliards par année -- $2.1 billion in services.

Il faut reconnaître que la qualité de la vie d'une communauté ne dépend pas surtout des services comme les routes, les trottoirs, toutes ces choses-là. Ce sont des gens, et on manque trop souvent l'occasion de féliciter ces gens-là et d'encourager d'autres à faire profiter leur communauté.

I will be supporting the member's bill and I hope that all of us will join and support this bill.


Mr Tony Martin (Sault Ste Marie): This resolution this morning at first blush is motherhood. I think we all agree that the volunteer sector and the contribution that volunteers make to our community is an invaluable way of getting some things done that otherwise wouldn't get done, an invaluable way of using the time and resources and expertise of people to help community, to help themselves, to build a community, to contribute to quality of life, that is just unparalleled in any other way; and that we should be doing all in our power to encourage and support and to assist in that effort. And that happens. It's been going on for a long time and will continue to go on. We'll find ways to support that and to make sure that it continues to be an integral and important part of the life of all the communities in this province.

But when you look at this piece of legislation in the context of the agenda of this government and what this government is about and what it's been doing to people and what it proposes to do and when you listen to some of the comments at the end of the speech of the member who has introduced it, the member for Northumberland, it takes on a different flavour, it takes on a different colour, it becomes a fish of a different stock. I think we have to talk about that.

We would be doing the people of this province a great disfavour, those of us who have been elected to come here, particularly those of us of a New Democratic persuasion, if we don't uncover some of this, unravel it, take out some of the layers so that we see what in fact is at the heart of it.

I spoke the other night about legislation that has come from this government over the last year and a half, most of it being a Trojan horse: It comes packaged in nice language, very fluffy and soft and feel-good public relations supports, with names like "legislation to assist tenants, legislation to assist workers," and all that; but when you peel away some of what, yes, is put in by way of some small token of something helpful, we find that the heart of the matter is a taking away, a diminishing of the things that we as a community over a large number of years have put together to facilitate the total life of this province and this community.

What this resolution really is about is paving the way for initiatives such as workfare, making workfare seem somewhat more palatable because it's in the volunteer sector. It's making sure that those organizations that take on the workfare recipients are not liable and are more willing to do it, because they're having a hell of a time out there getting any community or any organization to buy into this --

Mr Len Wood (Cochrane North): Change the name.

Mr Martin: That's right -- into this program, Ontario Works. You change the name, but it doesn't change the beast. Anything this government says or anything a member of this government says that feels in any way supportive of people helping people, supportive of communities, supportive of some of those very important institutions and traditions that we've built up collectively over the years to assist all of us as we live our daily lives, to enhance quality of life, is, in my mind, suspect because of what they've done, because of their track record to date.

As I said, certainly this resolution lends itself very clearly to paving the way for groups and individuals in our communities to become involved in the whole issue of workfare.

We'll move on to another area: education. We hear in the education system that we're going to move more and more students out into the community to work in co-op programs, to go and spend a few hours every week at McDonald's, for example, so you learn how to flip hamburgers and how to scrub the floor --

Interjection: Five hundred people looking for one job.

Mr Martin: Five hundred people working for -- and we call this volunteer; it's opening up the volunteer sector. We know what it is: It's getting work for nothing. It's delivering programs to people for nothing that we, as a collective, as a community of people, have decided over the years were worth paying for. We believed that people making a salary and collecting a wage for doing very valuable work in the public sector is worth paying for, because those people, ultimately, take the money they get and spend it back in the communities. It goes into the cash registers and the tills of the small business community that you seem, in word anyway, so readily to support, but in fact when something comes before the House that talks about protecting and supporting small business, like the bill that we had previously here, you very clearly will not, most of you, support that.

To suggest for a second that anything you do by way of, for example, this resolution that's in front of us this morning is somehow going to be helpful in any way to the communities and people of this province is not supported by the track record that you have so far. Everything you do hurts people; everything you do particularly hurts vulnerable people and marginalized people.


Mr Martin: You laugh over there.

The Deputy Speaker: Order. Go ahead.

Mr Martin: July 1995 was probably the high-water mark in meanness.

Mr Jim Flaherty (Durham Centre): Are people being mean to you, Tony?

Mr Martin: You're being mean to the people of this province. To come in here today with this warm fuzzy and expect that people are going to buy into this and not see it for what it is speaks volumes of the naïveté of some of the members of your caucus around just exactly what you're doing and what people are seeing and feeling out there in the communities.

I was going to say that in July 1995 I woke up to the announcement from this government that it was going to take 22% out of the income of the poorest and the most vulnerable and the most marginalized in our province. Can you imagine, Speaker, if you or I or the members over there walked into work one morning and the boss just said: "We're going to take 22% of your salary today because we think it's going to be good for you. It's going to make you more responsible; it's going to make you more accountable. You're going to probably work harder for the money that you get. Ultimately, it's going to be good for the whole community."

We know that that's just not true. We know that when you take money away from the poorest --

The Deputy Speaker: I'd like to bring you back to the topic, which is on volunteers.

Mr Martin: Well, I am.

The Deputy Speaker: Not quite. No, no.

Mr Martin: This is private member's hour.

The Deputy Speaker: At the same time, you have to stick to the topic. If you don't stick to the topic, I'll have to rule you out of order.

Mr Martin: That would be really unfortunate, and I think it would be a misuse of your power.

Mr David Tilson (Dufferin-Peel): -- fireside chat.

Mr Martin: Whatever. You call it what you like: fireside chat. That's the language you use to hurt people in this community in Ontario.

If this was really about supporting and helping volunteers, I would have no problem, because as I said when I started out, it's motherhood. But it's not about that. It's about paving the way for moving public service jobs into the private sector. It's about paving the way for the introduction of your workfare initiative that is having an awful hard time getting off the ground. It's about paving the way for moving kids out of the classroom where teachers are being paid to teach them into the co-op sector of the community so that they can learn how to flip hamburgers and shovel snow and wash floors. That's what this is about. It's about nothing else.

Trying to present to us this morning this warm, fuzzy, "Let's support volunteers," as I said, is typical of the way this government has delivered everything by way of legislative agenda and initiative in this province in the last year and a half. It's tearing at the very fibre, it's taking thread by thread from the fibre that has been put together by all of us. You in particular, Speaker, have been here a lot longer than I have, and you've seen governments in this place work together to try to put in place the best of services for people, the best of education, the best of health care. You've seen us grapple with how we pay for that and make sure that those who are delivering those services have the resources they need to be the best they can be.


What we have out there in the communities across this province are teachers and nurses and social workers who have spent most of their lives becoming the best they can be in that profession, investing in their professional development, now having to turn to the volunteer sector to be able to use that resource they are for all of us, and not be paid for it. How does that help anybody? How does that help my community? When you turn health care and when you turn education and when you turn social services over to the volunteer sector, you take money out of my community. You take bread out of the hands of the children, of small business people in my community.

Let me tell you what happened to my community when this government decided they were going to take 22% out of the income of the poorest of the people who live in Sault Ste Marie. Twenty four million dollars was gone out of the economy of Sault Ste Marie, $2 million a month, $24 million that was spent annually. It was $24 million a year out of the small business sector, out of the cash registers of the corner stores.

When you decided to turn social services and health care and education over to the volunteer sector, which is what this is really about, you took, up until September 1995 -- and that's just the first three months of your mandate -- about $35 million out of the economy of Sault Ste Marie, money that was spent in corner stores and grocery stores and at garages, money that circulated among all of us to make sure that all of us could pay for those services we need and the food we need and to pay the rent and to build new homes etc.

And the carnage goes on. When we see in January 1997, when we all come back here, what you're going to do in the municipal sector and the education sector by way of changing the governance and all that means, what it will be about in the end is taking money away from communities, taking money away from the education system and turning a lot of the work the professionals in those areas do over to the volunteer sector and pay them absolutely nothing for their efforts. That is what this is about. This is about paving the way. This is about trying to convince people that you folks over there have a heart. But we know you don't. There's no heart and there's no soul in the government you are part of, and there is nothing in what you've done so far to indicate that down the road somewhere you might in fact discover that you do have one.

It doesn't matter how wonderfully you talk about the volunteer sector and what they do and what they offer to the community you live in. It doesn't matter how you couch it. It doesn't matter how many times you bring the Trojan horse in. At the end of the day, the soldiers jump out with their guns and their knives and they shred the fabric that we all collectively have woven over the years to make sure we looked after people who were in need, that we had the best of education, that we had the best of health care, that we had the best of social services in this province.

As a matter of fact, when you look at the reports that are written about why Ontario is forever these days being recognized by the United Nations as the envy of the world, the place where people would love to come and live, it's because we have good services and because of previous government. What you're doing in your short year and a half is destroying all of that, you're taking away from it. It won't be long, because of what you're doing to the public sector and because of what you're foisting on the volunteer sector, that we will become every inch a Third World country, a have-not country. The gap between the rich and the poor is widening, and you're not going to be able to bring it together with the volunteer sector. You're going to have to get back to giving those people who need it the resources to do the job that we all know they should be doing.

The Deputy Speaker: I would just like to remind the members that the member for Northumberland's resolution was quite clear. It was on volunteers, and the topic should be on volunteers -- as simple as that.

Mr Tilson: I think we've just heard an excellent example from the member for Sault Ste Marie of why this province is in the terrible economic position it's in. However, I won't dwell on that, because the purpose of the resolution brought forward by the member for Northumberland is to bring to the attention of this House and to the public the problem we have in our society of volunteers who are doing things in a society that is becoming more and more litigious, and how do we as a government or how do we as a society protect those volunteers?

Families in the past, and not so long ago, at a time when life was a little slower, helped each other, communities helped each other. They do to a certain extent still, but not as much, because different governments over the years, of all political stripes, have done more and more and more for different groups in our society, until we have reached, of course, a position where we have no money. The money is all spent. We have a debt in the province of $100 billion.

This government and, hopefully, other governments around this country will look at the fact that we need to count on our volunteer society. We need the families and friends and members of our society to help us in a more personal way.

Mr Martin: Services won't get delivered otherwise.

The Deputy Speaker: The member for Sault Ste Marie, you had your turn.

Mr Tilson: Quite recently there was legislation put in this House called Bill 79, which dealt with a number of things. One of the things it dealt with was volunteers and improving their plight with respect to incorporated organizations and charities, making life easier for them by enabling them to obtain liability insurance coverage.

The purpose of this resolution, as I understand it, is to talk about the individual, the person who drives seniors to different areas of our community, the single volunteer. We need those people. We need those people, and they run a great risk of getting sued in this particular society we live in.

In my community, for example, there are three men, Chuck Landry, Jim Blackwell and Doug Clark, who run a golf tournament. Those three men -- they're not incorporated -- have promised to raise for our community $72,000 for our local hospital. That's all they're doing, and they don't have any protection. They run a great risk of being sued personally for problems that may occur. But that's what they've undertaken to do.

There are individual restaurateurs who open up their kitchens to feed the hungry on Christmas Day and other times of the year. I'm talking about people in my community. I'm talking about volunteers in our community, and those people do have some sort of risk --

Mr Martin: Why don't you give people enough money to feed themselves at home?

The Deputy Speaker: I'd ask you to follow the procedures and stop heckling.

Mr Martin: I can't handle this.

The Deputy Speaker: I'm asking you. If you can't, then I'll take the measures I have to take.

Mr Tilson: The mayor of Orangeville, Mayor Rose, has organized a youth advisory committee. Its purpose is to set up a drop-in centre for our youth in the town of Orangeville. They have accepted donated games and amusements from individuals to help form this drop-in community. Those people aren't any part of any charity or any organized group, and they literally are unprotected.

Santa Claus parades: We all have Santa Claus parades, particularly in the rural communities, and they're volunteers, single volunteers, not large groups or organizations, who volunteer their time, volunteer their trucks, volunteer their flatbeds, those sorts of things.

That is the purpose of this resolution. I commend the member for Northumberland for raising it in this House. We need these volunteers to survive. We need the assistance. There's no question that the people who are perhaps injured by accident need protection as well. I don't think the member for Northumberland is offering any particular solution, but he's raising a concern. We need to encourage our volunteers in our communities, and there's a concern that needs to be addressed, and hopefully all members of this House will consider that concern, particularly in the area of liability, because these volunteers who help us in all of our -- I've just mentioned a few in my community and I'm sure every member in this House, whether you live in a rural community or whether you live in a large urban community, could stand up and give personal examples of people who need protection. Congratulations to the member for Northumberland.


Mr Michael A. Brown (Algoma-Manitoulin): I am pleased to stand, and I want to indicate right off the top that I'm very supportive of the resolution before us today in that volunteerism in Ontario is very, very important.

I appreciate the comments from the member for Dufferin-Peel. I think that is what the member is attempting to get at: the legal liabilities that are incurred by volunteers across the province. I appreciate the member raising this issue, but it's terribly complex. I am not a lawyer, but I know that the issues being raised by the member for Northumberland are very difficult to solve.

I hope the government will do its best to find ways so that we don't have Rotary Clubs, we don't have Kinsmen Clubs, we don't have Kiwanis Clubs, we don't have hospital auxiliaries, we don't have all those people paying out large amounts for liability insurance. They're raising money, and I just don't appreciate the fact that they have to send it off to insurance companies somewhere. I also appreciate the fact that volunteers in our society as individuals, just doing things as individuals, need some help.

I was surprised, however, at how we somehow got back into class warfare in this, on a resolution supporting volunteers. The government and the third party -- if there was ever a division in the world. I don't know how we could get into it on supporting volunteers.

I want to give the member for Northumberland an opportunity to correct I think a misstatement, at least I hope it is. He said he wanted to get back to the 1960s in terms of volunteerism. Well, I'll tell you, in my constituency we have more volunteers doing more things today than we had in the 1960. I don't think that we want to go back to the 1960s in the constituency of Algoma-Manitoulin.

I think about all the good things our volunteers are doing in the city of Elliott Lake, the city of rebirth, a phoenix, if you like, a city that has gone through losing 4,000 extremely well-paid mining jobs to now the premier place for seniors to come and live with a quality of life that is unsurpassed in this country. That has happened because of volunteers. The whole concept came from volunteers. It was supported by government, though, by the way, but the absolute quality of life is certainly more dependent upon the volunteers than on the government sector.

I think of the Lions Club at Serpent River. I think about the Rotary Club of Gore Bay that, 10 or 15 years ago when I was involved with it, raised 70% more than they needed to to build a medical centre and then was able to donate those additional funds to equipment and things the physicians would need at that medical centre.

Volunteers are more important than ever. I do not see it as -- the government seems to be painting this as, "We've got to get it out of government so the volunteers can do things." I don't see it as that kind of issue. We need volunteers. Governments have a problem. Goodness, we have a government that's borrowing $8 billion or $9 billion this year, $8 billion or $9 billion more than a Liberal administration borrowed in five, a government that is going to give a tax break of $12 billion when they're in absolutely very difficult financial straits.

I understand that there's a problem, but the problem isn't one between government and volunteers. It's about liability insurance for volunteers. As we see these divisions between the third party and the government, this is really a resolution -- and probably the member from Northumberland agrees with me -- that's meant to bring people together. It isn't about silly partisan politics which demean us all, especially in private members' hour.

I want to tell you that a place like the district of Manitoulin, basically an island -- we have a little bit of territory on the mainland but mostly it's an island -- 110 miles long, 50 miles wide, has a population of about 12,000 or 13,000. The largest community would probably be Wikwemikong First Nation, which has maybe 2,000 or 2,500 people in the actual village. The next one is Little Current, with about 1,400 people. These are very small communities, at least by Metropolitan Toronto standards. I defy you to go to those communities and tell them that volunteerism is not important. They have built the curling rinks, they have built the arenas, they look after the hockey teams, they look after the figure skaters, they look after raising money for the hospitals, they do the Meals on Wheels. Those volunteers -- and I don't think we're unlike anybody else -- really provide a service. In Espanola -- the Lions Club, the Eagles, the Elks and many more -- it's incredible the work and support they provide to the community.

I don't think that we do ourselves a service if we want to pit government against volunteers, the legal community against volunteers. At the very same time we have to understand that some of the things that happen at volunteer events -- just because they're sponsored by a volunteer doesn't mean there can't be something bad happen. We all, at least the more northerly members of this Legislature, know about snowmobiles and snowmobile races and those kinds of events, and there can be very serious things happen. People can be injured, and certainly no volunteer organization wants to see someone injured or hurt and not be compensated in some way for what might perhaps happen because of the volunteer's negligence, because once in a while even a volunteer can do something that's negligent.

All I'm saying and suggesting to you today is that I think the member for Northumberland has it right. We have to provide more support to our volunteers in terms of trying to eliminate any legal liabilities that aren't appropriate, but we're going to have to think very hard about how we get those kinds of liability factors taken care of and at the same time protect both the public and the participants in the event from serious harm and injury.

Thank you very much for the opportunity to participate.

Mrs Julia Munro (Durham-York): It is a pleasure to rise in support of the resolution of my colleague the member for Northumberland, which directs government to recognize the important role of volunteers and to protect volunteers from exposure to liability and remove the barriers to voluntary service. I want to thank the member for Northumberland for bringing this important resolution to our attention and I want to assure him that he has my support.

In the 1995 throne speech the Premier appointed me as his parliamentary assistant to lead a government initiative aimed at promoting, encouraging, supporting and nurturing the spirit of volunteerism in Ontario. In looking at that initiative and the kinds of objectives we have in this, it's really important to look at a number of issues that have been raised this morning through the resolution and the discussions that have followed.

First of all, we recognize that volunteers play a critical role in supporting and developing the quality of life we all value in this province. I particularly was taken by the member for Ottawa East and the comments he made, because they truly express what many of us have found in our own communities, that the quality of lifestyle we value is provided largely by volunteers. Voluntary action and volunteerism are rooted in our concept of citizenship and social responsibility. It is part of our cultural heritage and it is part of the democratic tradition to take a role in civic society.


In the initiative we look at a number of objectives, and one of the first things that came to my attention was the fact that there are barriers which inhibit decisions to assume volunteer roles, and it is to that object in the consultation process that I will speak in a moment.

One of the things that we are looking at is to create a sector for Ontarians that is safe, accessible and recognized; to provide leadership and work together with volunteers, the voluntary sector and the private sector to enhance partnerships and coordination; and finally, to provide the framework for opportunity which makes it easier for volunteers to be involved at the community level.

As a result of the recognition of these objectives, I established an advisory board to bring recommendations forward to the government and began a consultation process with volunteers across the province. We began in July with a one-day key informants' conference where we asked them to identify the challenges and the barriers to voluntary action. In September, we invited another group, 50 people, to participate in a three-day search conference. Their task was to create a vision of a desired future for voluntary action in this province. Finally, we took those recommendations across the province, to 10 different communities, to get input and response to these recommendations from them. I await the final report of the advisory board this month.

I would just like to comment on a couple of the things that very clearly come from our consultation. It becomes very clear that it's important to promote voluntary action as the hallmark of civil society. It's also very important to provide opportunities to work together in partnerships. This is something that we see over and over again in all of our communities where people are working together. Some of the members have raised examples in their own communities.

Yesterday I had the opportunity to join with the celebration of the creation of the Web site page for the Kids Help Phone and Bell On-line. Here is an outstanding example of the kind of cooperation between a private sector venture and a community venture.

We also are looking at how we can sustain and shape the capacity of the voluntary sector. People want to make their communities a better place to live, and it is incumbent upon the government to help that. In that way we look at a number of government initiatives. The member for Dufferin-Peel referred to the Ministry of the Attorney General's Bill 79. We also have a number of other examples, such as the linkages program through the Ministry of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation.

The government continues to support hundreds of volunteers throughout the province through its ministries, and so I'm pleased to be able to stand in support of this resolution.

Mr Bill Grimmett (Muskoka-Georgian Bay): I'm pleased to have the opportunity to speak in support of this resolution today. I want to say at the outset that I appreciate the comments from the other speakers, including the member for Sault Ste Marie, who is always sincere in his comments, but I want to reassure the member for Sault Ste Marie that this resolution has nothing to do with the Premier's office, has nothing to do with the government generally. It has to do with the efforts of the member for Northumberland, who is far too modest to mention that he has put in 31 years as a member of a service organization. He's been a leader, on a volunteer basis, in the community he comes from.

My own experiences with this issue are as a small-town lawyer. I have had people come to my office who are thinking of starting community organizations and are very concerned about the issue of liability. In preparing for today I did some research on the American experience with respect to legislation. I was assisted in this regard by the Legislative research service, which provided me with a very good paper. In my research I discovered that many of the statutes that have been brought in in American jurisdictions resulted from a case where a baseball coach was successfully sued by a parent when one of the children on a baseball team was hit in the eye while playing in the outfield. It's kind of a strange case because I don't understand why liability would be found in that situation, but none the less it was. That has prompted a lot of organizations in the American states to approach their legislatures and ask for liability coverage, for some protection from liability.

As the member for Dufferin-Peel suggested in his talk, there seems to be a growing concern with litigation and with liability in Canada and in Ontario. I remember once, as a young lawyer, going to a seminar where a law professor from New York, who was also a leading litigation attorney in New York City, mentioned that one of the biggest drawbacks to attract investment in the business community, especially in the eastern states in the United States, was the prospect of litigation. If you are sued in the US, you are a loser immediately because of the tremendous costs of trying to defend such a suit. These are the kinds of concerns that volunteers have in Ontario and these are the kinds of concerns that we should be addressing as a government.

Some people would say that we as a government should keep our nose out of this, that we should let people have complete freedom to litigate, complete freedom to sue. I'm not sure that that preserves the kind of freedom that volunteers need to have in order to step up and volunteer and help to make our communities better places to live in.

I'd like to turn over the last minute and a half of my time to my colleague, who has some comments as well.

Mr Peter L. Preston (Brant-Haldimand): On a personal note, I raise Peruvian paso horses. Because of their attitude and because of their gait they are particularly adaptable to use by people who are mentally or physically challenged. My ranch is wide open for any of these organizations to use at any time, except my liability policy specifically excludes use of my horses by mentally or physically challenged people. There are organizations in my area that cannot take advantage of the opportunity because of the situation with liability insurance. This particular bill will change that, and I'm behind it 100%.

The Acting Speaker (Mr Bert Johnson): Further debate? The member for Northumberland has two minutes.

Mr Galt: Thanks to the many members in this House who are supporting this resolution. I would first like to explain to the member for Algoma-Manitoulin, who has concerns about returning to the 1960s, that wasn't quite my intent. What I was wanting to point out was the new direction we took in the late 1960s where government thought they could run everything. I certainly don't want to return to the 1960s, but I do want to draw the comparison whereby today, as government is required because of the debt load to start backing off on some of the services, volunteers are needed more than ever.

I think the member for Muskoka-Georgian Bay expressed it very well with the incident in the US where a child was hit with a baseball and the end result was that the coach was sued when certainly it was no fault of the coach. I'm sure the coach had the best intentions for those children. That's why he or she was there, to look after the children and give them the opportunity to play ball, and the end result was an injury. Following that, this poor coach ended up having to pay dearly for that particular incident, when it was a sport and it was quite accidental.

I'm very pleased with the member for Ottawa East making many references to volunteers and organizations in his riding, and how often the term Lions came up, Lions Clubs International. Having been a member of the organization for some 31 years, my chest came out a little with each mention of it. But at the same time I recognize the tremendous effort put in by all the other service clubs. Certainly they all contribute tremendously to their respective communities.

Voluntary action is a hallmark of a civil society. It is deeply rooted in citizenship and social responsibility and it represents the best our society has to offer. I believe we should protect the interests of those who serve as well as those who receive volunteer services. That is why I'm asking the members of this House to support the resolution I'm putting forward today. We have had big government. We've had big business. Now we need big community. I believe this resolution will take us one step closer to achieving that goal.


The Acting Speaker (Mr Bert Johnson): We will deal first with ballot item number 53, standing in the name of Mr Chiarelli. If any members are opposed to taking a vote on this at this time, would they please rise.

Mr Chiarelli has moved second reading of Bill 101.

Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry?

All those in favour will please say "aye."

All those opposed will please say "nay."

In my opinion, the ayes have it.

There will be a division on this and it will be held after the next order of business.


The Acting Speaker (Mr Bert Johnson): We'll now deal with ballot item number 54, standing in the name of Mr Galt. If there are any members opposed to taking a vote on this now, would they please rise.

Mr Galt has moved resolution number 33.

Is it the wish of the House that the resolution carry? Carried.

There will be a five-minute bell calling in the members.

The division bells rang from 1202 to 1207.


The Acting Speaker (Mr Bert Johnson): Mr Chiarelli has moved second reading of Bill 101, An Act to provide for the Arbitration of certain Disputes relating to Franchises.

All those in favour will please rise and remain standing until named by the Clerk.


Arnott, Ted

Crozier, Bruce

Martin, Tony

Baird, John R.

Galt, Doug

Morin, Gilles E.

Bartolucci, Rick

Grandmaître, Bernard

Murdoch, Bill

Boushy, Dave

Gravelle, Michael

Phillips, Gerry

Boyd, Marion

Guzzo, Garry J.

Ramsay, David

Bradley, James J.

Jordan, W. Leo

Rollins, E.J. Douglas

Brown, Michael A.

Kells, Morley

Ruprecht, Tony

Caplan, Elinor

Kennedy, Gerard

Sergio, Mario

Chiarelli, Robert

Kwinter, Monte

Shea, Derwyn

Christopherson, David

Lalonde, Jean-Marc

Wildman, Bud

Churley, Marilyn

Lankin, Frances


Colle, Mike

Laughren, Floyd


The Acting Speaker: All those opposed will please rise and remain standing until named by the Clerk.


Barrett, Toby

Grimmett, Bill

Parker, John L.

Carroll, Jack

Hastings, John

Sheehan, Frank

Doyle, Ed

Hudak, Tim

Smith, Bruce

Fisher, Barbara

Johnson, Ron

Tilson, David

Flaherty, Jim

Leadston, Gary L.

Wettlaufer, Wayne

Ford, Douglas B.

Martiniuk, Gerry

Wood, Bob

Froese, Tom

O'Toole, John

Young, Terence H.

Clerk of the House (Mr Claude L. DesRosiers): The ayes are 34, the nays are 21.

The Acting Speaker: I declare the motion carried.

Pursuant to standing order number 96(k), the bill is referred to the committee of the whole House.

Mr Robert Chiarelli (Ottawa West): I move that Bill 101 be referred to the standing committee on administration of justice.

The Acting Speaker: Is it agreed? It is not agreed.

All those in favour will please rise. Thank you. A majority being in favour, this bill stands referred to the standing committee on administration of justice.

It being after 12, this House stands adjourned until 1:30 of the clock.

The House recessed from 1211 to 1331.



Mr Mario Sergio (Yorkview): One of the most cherished things for senior citizens and the physically challenged in Ontario is mobility. The service currently provided to many people in Metropolitan Toronto by Wheel-Trans is truly invaluable. However, it is becoming increasingly obvious that the government continues to abandon the most needy and vulnerable citizens in our society.

I have another illustration of the fallout from the government's mean-spirited policies: a senior citizen from my riding of Yorkview, Mrs Ellen Bloom, who has undergone double hip replacement surgery and required the services of Wheel-Trans to attend her doctor's appointments and other essential trips. Her claim to Wheel-Trans is supported by her doctor, and yet she has been notified by Wheel-Trans that she does not meet the eligibility requirements for their accessible transit service.

I call upon the Premier and his government to cease this headlong assault on the senior citizens and severely physically challenged. If we are not to provide the most rudimentary services to those in need in this province, then what hope is there for our society?

Premier, I ask that you think again about the policy you are pursuing. They are not just numbers on a page. They are our neighbours, our friends and our families.


Mr Len Wood (Cochrane North): Today my statement is on the bankruptcies in Ontario, and especially in northern Ontario. It's directed at the Minister of Northern Development and Mines and Premier Mike Harris.

Yesterday the Premier said, "Consumer confidence in Ontario has risen by 19.3% this year." But Ontario does not stop at the French River. Here are some of the results of the Common Sense Revolution in northern Ontario, and these numbers don't tell lies. In Cochrane, for example, the consumer bankruptcy rate went up 115.38%; in west Sault Ste Marie, 127.7%; in Timmins, 75%; in Kirkland Lake, 93.3%. This is the feedback we're getting from what is happening throughout northern Ontario. I'm wondering, and a lot of people in northern Ontario are wondering, is this what the Common Sense Revolution meant when Mike Harris was out campaigning in 1995 for a majority government here?

We see all kinds of figures: the city of Sudbury, a 49.7% increase. This is in a seven-month period. The area around Sudbury, a 41.72% increase. In the Tri-town area it's going up on a steady basis, 25%. In North Bay -- this is the home of the Premier -- bankruptcies have gone up over 21% in the last seven months. As I said earlier, Timmins has gone up.

If this is what the Common Sense Revolution means to northern Ontario, we don't want it.


Mr Dave Boushy (Sarnia): I am happy to update this assembly on some of the progressive changes happening in Sarnia. The riding I'm honoured to represent is well on its way to becoming a major point of attraction for American dollars.

The twinning of the International Blue Water Bridge, just completed, has positioned Sarnia, southwestern Ontario, and Ontario as a whole as a larger welcoming gateway to American visitors by making access quicker and easier.

The International Blue Water Bridge in my riding is already one of the main car and truck passageways to the US and links Highway 402 in my riding to Interstates 69 and 94 in Michigan. By the year 2000, the volume of traffic using the bridge is expected to increase by 50%, amounting to 7.5 million vehicles per year.

Thanks to a healthy economic climate created by this government, existing business can expand to accommodate our American friends and their dollars. For example, this nation's largest Canadian Tire store, occupying 130,000 square feet, opened its doors just as the twinning of the bridge was completed. Canadian Tire is using a unique and aggressive strategy of targeting American cross-border shoppers.


Mr David Ramsay (Timiskaming): It's very sad, as we move towards Christmas, that the Mike Harris government is certainly the Grinch that stole Christmas. As part of the 720 Ministry of Transportation of Ontario job cuts across the province, 23 more jobs were cut in New Liskeard after a series of cuts this year.

I would just say to this government that however and whenever you're doing your restructuring, much of which we disagree with, basic human resource management would tell you that a couple of weeks before Christmas is not the time to lay off 720 people across this province.

In all our towns, in all our communities that have depended upon government opportunities for employment, much of that in northern Ontario, our towns are being ravished by the Harris government cuts. Their depth and speed are very much hurting our communities. The people, the leaders in our communities, their heads are rolling by what is happening with this juggernaut that's been let loose by the Harris government.

I would ask that the Harris government get some sense and get some real common sense back into their heads and stop these job cuts across this province, and certainly stop the ill-advised timing of them, just before Christmas when families are trying to put some money together to have a bit of holiday time. The present that you give them is: "You're out of work. Go try to find something in Harris Ontario."


Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): I heard recently that the American consumer advocate Ralph Nader made a statement in Vancouver that Canada's new national coast-to-coast pastime is fixing things that aren't broken.

This reminded me of the Ministry of Education and Training, which has sent out a request for research to Dr Allen Pearson, dean of education at the University of Western Ontario. Dr Pearson is the head of the Ontario Association of Deans of Education, which acts as a funnel for this type of request.

The letter is a request for research; that is, a series of papers that would be reviews of literature on secondary school reform and best practices in other jurisdictions. The purpose of this request is to get information to be used for further discussion and dialogue.

As David Moll, the chair of the Toronto Board of Education, has said, the government has it all backwards. They've already stated the changes they want to make and now it seems they're checking with the academics to see if it makes sense.

This is a complete disaster. The government has alienated everyone in the education community: trustees, educational administrators, teachers, students and parents. The government has made up its mind and now has decided to find out if there are any facts that back up the position it has taken.


Mr David Turnbull (York Mills): It is my privilege to call to the attention of all members in the House that tonight marks the beginning of the eight-day feast of Hanukkah.

Hanukkah commemorates the historic events during the time of the Maccabees, who were freedom fighters against foreign oppression. Their successful fight won back the city of Jerusalem, where Jewish religious life was restored in accordance with Mosaic law. The ever-burning lamp of the Presence, with only enough oil to last one day, burned steadily for the eight days it took to find more oil. This is the miracle of light that is commemorated during Hanukkah with a nine-candle menorah. On each night of the Hanukkah festival, Jewish families gather together to share togetherness, readings and prayers and to light one of the menorah candles on eight successive nights.

On behalf of the Ontario government, I would like to take this opportunity to wish the Canadian Jewish community of Ontario a very happy Hanukkah celebration. Because this holiday commemorates the priceless gift of freedom given to the Jews by God through his zealous servants the Maccabees, it is a holiday with great relevance for all Canadians who live in a land that is likewise so richly blessed with this gift. Shalom.



Mr Dominic Agostino (Hamilton East): I have received in my office dozens of calls from injured workers in my riding concerned about the draconian cuts and legislation this government is planning to introduce.

Workers in my riding who are injured, who have gone to work in the morning hoping to come home in one piece, and unfortunately an industrial accident has hindered that, are now facing the attack of this government.

This government believes that injured workers are making too much money. This government believes that, "Injured workers choose to be there, so we're going to punish them." This government believes that you have to cut their benefits by 5%, because this government believes that injured workers want to stay on WCB because they're making too much money.

That is the mentality that is driving these cuts: "We're going to de-index their pensions. Injured workers are too wealthy. The injured worker who is 55 or 60 years old is making too much money and the pension they're receiving as a result of their chronic disability, such as a back injury, an arm injury and many other problems they suffer, is much too generous." That is the mentality of this cutting.

I think it's an absolute disgrace when this government, in order to take care of its corporate friends, decides its going to attack the most vulnerable people in our society. They're going to attack hardworking men and women in this province who as a result of going to work and trying to make a living for their families have suffered an injury. I think this government should be ashamed of itself.

I challenge members of this government to see injured workers in their own ridings. Look them in the eye. Tell them why you're cutting their benefits and tell them why you're taking food away from their tables and their children.


Mr Floyd Laughren (Nickel Belt): I wanted to make a couple of comments about this government seeming to be hell-bent to privatize one of the most precious resources in this province, namely, our water.

The Minister of Environment, in his typical fashion, tries to be cute by half when he talks about not privatizing as much as simply turning it over to the rightful owners, the municipalities of this province, while he's the one who's mused very publicly about privatizing OCWA, the Ontario Clean Water Agency.

When this has been done elsewhere, it's been a disaster. In the UK they privatized the water supply. Guess what? Rates went up by as much as 62%. The worst polluters of the rivers in the UK now are the privatized water companies. Of course, the salaries of the executives in those water companies went right through the roof.

Here we are in Ontario seemingly determined to go down that same road, which to me makes no sense whatsoever. I know this government has a fetish for privatization, but when it comes to clean water, we have no interest in pursuing that route.

I can say to the Minister of Environment that if he's determined to do this, then he'd better be prepared to take the heat, because people in this province will not tolerate having our water supply turned over to the private sector.


Mr Bert Johnson (Perth): I rise in the House today to offer my congratulations to a group of people in my riding who are making Ontario a better place. I'm talking about the non-profit organization Women in Rural Economic Development, WRED, which has its head office in Stratford, in Perth county.

WRED is a provincial non-profit organization dedicated to providing rural women with increased participation in rural economic development. This is accomplished through the successful execution of business development training, networking programs and access to capital.

This organization was founded just three years ago and presently has a membership base of over 500 people. Although newly formed, they have already successfully provided business development assistance to over 300 women. As a matter of fact, due to their efforts, there are now over 220 new businesses operating in rural Ontario.

As well, this group is now looking towards developing a rural economic strategy across Canada as well as in Ontario, which will improve the quality of life more in rural areas.

This is an excellent example of how the people of Perth work together to provide within their communities and across the province. It is also evidence that Ontario can be prosperous without government intervention.

Once again, it's my pleasure to stand in the House today and applaud yet another example of how the people of the great riding of Perth are working together to improve Ontario.



Hon Jim Wilson (Minister of Health): I rise today to demonstrate this government's commitment to quality health care in Ontario. I'm pleased to announce to the members of this House that the provincial government's share of capital financing for hospital restructuring projects approved by the Health Services Restructuring Commission will increase from 50% to the unprecedented level of 70% funding.

We have listened to the people of Ontario, to hospitals and to the Ontario Hospital Association. We recognize the need for special capital help to effectively restructure hospitals. That is why the ministry is changing its spending formula to provide a greater share for restructuring capital projects.

Just yesterday, I was in Thunder Bay to announce the province's commitment of $59.4 million in capital funds to help Thunder Bay and northwestern Ontario improve its local health care system, and I look forward to assisting other communities through the same process.

Let me emphasize that the Mike Harris government is adhering to our campaign commitment that health care funding will not fall below $17.4 billion. Not only have we met our campaign commitment, but we are actually spending $300 million more than that this year. This is no small miracle in light of federal funding cuts of $2.1 billion to Ontario's health and social transfers. The only people cutting health care dollars in Ontario are the federal Liberals, Jean Chrétien and Paul Martin, plain and simple.

The Mike Harris government is not cutting health care dollars. We are changing how health care dollars are spent. We are making these changes now so that the people of Ontario will have a health care system that will meet their needs in the future. We are reinvesting savings in direct patient care and front-line services. Without these changes, our system will not be able to provide the modern, advanced care Ontarians deserve as we move into the 21st century.

We want a truly integrated health care system that delivers the right care, at the right time, in the right place. We are bringing health care to patients in their homes and in their communities. This is the way care should be provided. We are guided in our efforts by our vision of the future of health care in Ontario, putting patients first. Our goal is to provide quality care at an affordable price.

Picture our system as a wheel. On the rim are the major components: hospitals, nurses, physician offices, pharmacies, laboratories, long-term-care providers and mental health agencies. In the centre is the patient, the focus of all our efforts. The spokes? Well, the spokes are information systems. Information systems will coordinate all of the parts.

Last November the Minister of Finance announced that we would commence the shift of dollars from our hospital sector into community-based care. In 1996-97 that shift was $360 million, or 5% of hospital budgets; in the next year, $435 million, or 6%; and $507 million, or 7%, in 1998-99.

I want to emphasize that caring for patients in the community as restructuring occurs is indeed our priority. Earlier this year I announced a reinvestment of $170 million into community-based care services such as home care. This is the largest single reinvestment in health care in Ontario. Communities across the province are already benefitting from this. In addition, this government committed $23.5 million to the community investment fund for mental health services in the community.

The key to achieving the savings in the hospital sector for reinvestment in greater health care services is the largest health services restructuring and re-engineering effort in North America. Through the hard work of Dr Duncan Sinclair and the Health Services Restructuring Commission, we will achieve this change in a way that ensures we never lose sight of the needs of patients.

That is why today's announcement is so important. Communities need to know that the government will be there to support them as they work to improve their local health care systems. Today we are telling the people of the province that we will be there to help and we will continue to reinvest in their good health.

Let me emphasize that this does not mean a return to the emphasis on bricks and mortar of former Liberal and NDP governments. It is yet another commitment on behalf of this government to move towards a fully integrated, easier to use health care system, a system which puts patients first and provides the health care that the people of Ontario deserve and need.


Hon Dianne Cunningham (Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, minister responsible for women's issues): Mr Speaker, we have an agreement among all parties to make a statement on tomorrow's national day of remembrance with regard to violence against women. I'm wondering if it's appropriate to do that now or after the responses. I think it would be appropriate after the responses, since we will have a moment of silence.

Mrs Elinor Caplan (Oriole): I rise today to respond to the unbelievably bad statement by this Minister of Health. He stumbled through it because, frankly, in response to direct questions from Robert Fisher during the leaders' debate on whether or not Mike Harris's promise to protect health care meant that he would not close hospitals, Mike Harris answered, "Well, certainly I can guarantee you that it's not my plan to close hospitals."

Today, the minister stands in his place and is telling communities that they are going to have to spend 30% of the capital cost to close their hospitals. That's what this is about.

The second thing that Mike Harris and Jim Wilson do in their response to questions is answer, as the minister did today, by trying to blame the federal government. I want to remind him of two things: First, their Common Sense Revolution document had a big banner across it that said the "Post-Martin Budget" CSR, and they assured everyone that they had taken it all into account and none of their policies were going to be guided by any of the concerns they might or might not have, and in fact Mike Harris said he supported Mr Martin and what he was doing. This is the quote from Mike Harris. He said, "The restructuring of federal transfer payments does not affect the Harris commitment to protecting Ontario's health care system, which is a top spending priority."

What have we heard from this Premier? What was his commitment? (1) He had no plan to close hospitals; and (2) he felt that the federal government's transfer plans would not in any way affect what he's doing. What do we hear from the minister today? What we hear from the minister today is gobbledegook. This minister arbitrarily cut all capital funding to 50%. Today he stands in his place and says: "Whoops, we made a mistake. We're going to take it up to 70%."

The only thing that is unprecedented about his 70% announcement is the fact that he shamefully has to admit his error in this House. What is unprecedented is his hospital closing commission with unprecedented powers to go into communities and force them to close their hospitals. About his commitment to an integrated delivery system, everything that he is doing is creating a barrier to getting there. His approach to primary care, his approach to long-term care, his approach to mental health reform, all of those are just creating new silos and making it impossible.

But the thing that is making it most impossible and the thing that is worrying, and rightly worrying, communities and people across this province is his $1.3-billion cut to the hospital budgets of this province. He can stand in his place and day after day say he's not cutting, but the truth is, he is cutting $1.3 billion from the hospital budgets, and that is the infrastructure that people in our communities depend on to take care of them when they are sick and they need surgeries. When they need help, they want their hospitals to be there for them, and this minister stands in his place.

He has cut the capital budget of the Ministry of Health to an unprecedented low; it is an unprecedented $167 million. The question I would ask him as he stands in his place is, how can he possibly --


The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Order. Stop the clock.


The Speaker: Minister of Health, come to order, please. Member for St Catharines.


The Speaker: Folks. Member for Oriole.

Mrs Caplan: This minister cannot possibly fund the capital that is required in the $167-million budget allotment for the Ministry of Health. That is an unprecedented low. That is another cut that he has made.

Today's announcement is spin; it is spin from a minister whose reputation as a minister is that of a bully who makes arbitrary decisions, who has not taken the health and the health care needs of the province of Ontario seriously, who has done everything he can to undermine relations with those who make the system work.

This is typical of the former Mulroney staffer that he is. I say to him, you're not going to get away with closing hospitals, and you are not going to get away with cutting $1.3 billion out of their budgets. You are not going to get away with making the people of this province so angry and expect that they will ever support you and your government ever again. You, sir, are a disgrace and a disaster as a Minister of Health.

The Speaker: The member for Windsor-Riverside.

Mr David S. Cooke (Windsor-Riverside): We certainly --


The Speaker: Stop the clock.


The Speaker: Okay, and Merry Christmas, one and all. Okay? We're all done. You can seek unanimous consent if you want to continue. If not, you're going to just have to take that one outside. The member for Windsor-Riverside.

Mr Cooke: I think the two of them deserve one another.

On the one issue that the minister has announced today, I certainly, and our caucus, agree with the minister's decision to go to 70%. We only wish he had announced this when the restructuring process began, because so many communities have been so concerned about whether any of the plans make any sense because of the 50% that he had announced before and the impossibility of any community being able to raise that kind of capital funds.

When I heard the minister's incredibly political statement a few minutes ago, and especially when he was whining at length about the federal government, I had to think back. I thought what we used to always hear was, "There's not a revenue problem; it's a spending problem," and that, "No one should whine about federal government cutbacks." How the Tories have now begun to learn that it's much more difficult, it's much more complicated than their simplistic approach to everything from health care to education to economic issues. Everything that they are now confronting they know is a little more complicated than going to polls and determining what to be said in an election campaign.

The real issue here today, as the real issue yesterday in Thunder Bay, is that now that part of the capital question has been answered, what about the community supports? What about the agencies that are going to provide services in our communities so that if there are hospitals to be closed and beds to be closed, people will not fall through the cracks when they need health care? The fact of the matter is, the minister is deliberately avoiding that question because of the Crombie Who Does What report that's about to come down.

We know that the minister refuses to say here in this place that there is going to be a maintenance of all community funding, whether it's community health centres, whether it's long-term care, that that's going to remain at the provincial level. We know that there is active consideration to having those issues all devolve down to the municipalities. If that happens, we know that Duncan Sinclair has said very clearly that there will be no integrated health care system, that the whole thing will fall apart.

Minister, you've got to give a vision in this place that is backed up with reality. If you're going to devolve all those services to municipalities, there's going to be a major problem. It won't work. It will be a disaster, not just for you politically, but it'll be a disaster for people who need health care in this province.

I will finish by saying that there is no plan that this government has put together. Let's take a look at the record: They're at war with the doctors, they're at war with the nurses, they're at war with communities where the restructuring is taking place. What a mess we've got in this province with health care.


Mr Howard Hampton (Rainy River): I cannot let the statement the Minister of Health made today pass without reminding him of a few things. We understand that the federal Liberal government is cutting Ontario's health and education by $2.1 billion. We understand that, that the federal Liberals are being unfair. We knew that when we were the government. But, Minister, your party said you had all the answers, that the answers were all to be found in the Common Sense Revolution, the answers were all to be found in cutting spending.

So what have you done? You've closed hospitals in Thunder Bay. You went up there yesterday and you tried to promise them some money, but they know, because they've done their homework, that the money you promised is completely inadequate and will eventually lead to an inadequate hospital facility for Thunder Bay and the region. That's why they booed you out of town.

They've also done their work in terms of a reinvestment in community programs. They know you are not providing the money needed to move those patients out of the hospitals and into community care. They know that at the end of the day, when you add up all the numbers, you are about health care cuts -- not about health care change, not about a progressive health care agenda; you are about health care cuts.


The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): The minister responsible for women's issues is seeking consent for -- agreed? The member for Oriole.

Mrs Elinor Caplan (Oriole): In order to allow the minister to go last and ask for a moment of silence, I'll begin.

Geneviève Bergeron, Hélène Colgan, Nathalie Croteau, Barbara Daigneault, Anne-Marie Edward, Maud Haviernick, Barbara Maria Klucznik, Maryse Laganière, Maryse Leclair, Anne-Marie Lemay, Sonia Pelletier, Michèle Richard, Annie St-Arneault, Annie Turcotte.

Seven years ago, the eyes of the world focused on Montreal. People will remember December 6 as the day 14 young women were murdered as they attended classes at L'École polytechnique. Seven years later, it is difficult to understand the hate and the violence that led to their needless deaths.

Although we as a society believe we have made some progress recognizing violence against women, the problem still exists. Last month, the Ontario Association of Interval and Transition Houses released their report entitled Locked In, Left Out. The report detailed cases of 29 women who have died at the hands of their partners since June 1995. Clearly, the problem of violence against women still exists.

I'd like to quote part of the editorial from the Montreal Gazette of December 1989.

"The grieving is mingled with a profound and disabling sense of helpless. It is hard to believe what happened at the university's engineering school on Wednesday and impossible to explain. About all we can do is bow our heads in pain, anguish and incomprehension."

Tomorrow is the national Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence against Women. I hope that the women we remember today and tomorrow did not die in vain and that next year we have no new women to add to the list of those who have been lost to needless, senseless violence.

Ms Marilyn Churley (Riverdale): Today I stand in remembrance of 14 precious, bright young women who were murdered seven years ago tomorrow. These 14 women were executed because the gunman saw them as a threat, the object of his rage. Many still debate whether this was a random act committed by a disturbed individual or whether this speaks to a deeper problem, a problem in society's collective attitude towards women. But let's remember exactly what happened that night, because we must never forget. We must never forget either the event and the details of the event.

The killer separated the men from the women, then he shot the women, and he acknowledged his motive: He shot the women because to him they represented objects of his rage. He saw them as feminists who were infringing on his territory. In daring to be studying engineering, traditionally a male profession, these women had gone too far, in his view. For taking a class, they were executed by an angry gunman.

We all have a responsibility in this. We have a responsibility to the women who were murdered and to all the women who remain and to our daughters. We need to confront one another with our attitudes and we need to teach our children. We need to ensure that events like the one in Montreal on December 6, 1989, are never forgotten and never repeated. To do this, we need to root out both violence and the attitudes that allow women to be second-class citizens, attitudes that cause women to be victims in society, rather than equal participants. Government has a role of paramount importance. If nothing else, we need to learn from this tragic event.

Today we are remembering the women who were shot, but it is necessary to point out that violence against women is an all too common occurrence in our society. Over the past year, 29 women in Ontario died at the hands of abusive spouses, and countless others were severely injured.

I would like to read a small portion of the mission statement of the White Ribbon Campaign that describes violence against women:

"If it were between countries, we'd call it a war. If it were a disease, we'd call it an epidemic. If it were an oil spill, we'd call it a disaster."

Violence against women in our society is all of those things. I would urge all of the men in the Legislature, whatever your political beliefs are, to get involved in the White Ribbon Campaign and be part of the group of more and more men who are coming together to speak in a voice with women and say that violence against women is unacceptable in our society.

Tomorrow I will be doing what I do every year on December 6. This year, seven years after that tragic, unbearable day of horror, I will be once again attending a candlelight vigil to remember the 14 young women who were gunned down. I urge all members of the House to find such a remembrance ceremony in their community and attend, because as painful as it is, as difficult as it is, I want to remember. We must remember. We must never forget.

I know that when I go to that ceremony, 14 women and men hold a rose, each of us, a rose that represents a name of a real young woman. Afterwards, we all file up and we put that rose in a vase, 14 of them together, and we look, at the end, at these 14 red roses in a vase and we know that those roses represent real young women who died at the hands of a gunman because they dared to study. Those of us who have daughters, as I do, of that age we cannot help but see and understand in hearing the names of these young women the promise that has been struck dead.

It's important that we remember these young women as real people and that we work together as government, as a society, in our communities to make sure that violence against women is put to a stop.


Hon Dianne Cunningham (Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, minister responsible for women's issues): Tomorrow it will be seven years since the tragedy that has come to be known across our country as the Montreal massacre. Today we remember the 14 young women, students at l'École polytechnique, in the prime of their lives who were robbed of their futures in a horrifying act of violence.

As we mourn the loss of 14 young women we must also remember the women among us who continue to be beaten, abused, stalked and killed in our province and across this country. But just as December 6 has become a day of remembrance and reflection on the issue of violence against women, this day should also be a rallying point encouraging us to focus our energies on finding solutions.

Governments across this country continue to work together with families, communities and each other to find more effective ways to address the issue of violence against women. We must all reach out to victims of violence and work towards preventing violence wherever and whenever we can. Our goal must be to stop the violence and the threat of violence against women. We must work together for a society in which violence has no place, in which all citizens will speak out and act against it.

We are all committed to achieving safe communities and preventing violence against women. Every year at this time we remember with sadness those 14 young women:

Geneviève Bergeron, Hélène Colgan, Nathalie Croteau, Barbara Daigneault, Anne-Marie Edward, Maud Haviernick, Barbara Maria Klucznik, Maryse Langanière, Maryse Leclair, Anne-Marie Lemay, Sonia Pelletier, Michèle Richard, Annie St-Arneault, Annie Turcotte.

But as we remember these young women, their families and their loved ones we must remember to ensure that this tragedy will never be repeated.

At this time I would ask my colleagues to rise and observe a moment of silence in remembrance of the young lives so tragically lost.

The House observed a moment's silence.



Mr Dalton McGuinty (Leader of the Opposition): My question is for the Minister of Health. Today we are somewhat pleased to see that you finally admitted what we've been telling you all along: that your cuts to capital funding to hospitals were far too deep. It's about time you issued a "Reverse engines" order.

Having recognized that your cuts to hospital construction went way too far, will you now recognize that your $1.3-billion cut to hospital operating budgets has also gone too far and is jeopardizing patient care?

Hon Jim Wilson (Minister of Health): I say to the honourable member and all members in the House that today's announcement is good news in showing the government's support for the restructuring of the hospital system which is long overdue in this province. Every party in this House is on record as having agreed with that, at least over the past few months. Some days you never know, though.

Also, I remind the public and hospitals that the 50% rule still applies for all non-restructuring capital projects. The 70% rule is for those hospitals that are undergoing restructuring, and the restructuring capital projects are approved by the commission.

All members at one time agreed that there's a need to get on with restructuring. The Ontario Hospital Association, just four weeks ago, reminded all legislators that they would like to see us redouble our efforts and actually go faster than what's been done to date, and this 70% announcement should help to facilitate the proper restructuring of our hospital system.

Mr McGuinty: I want to remind the minister of something he didn't mention in his statement today: that on top of this year's huge cuts to hospitals, which have already resulted in thousands of nursing layoffs, you plan to cut hospitals by an additional $1 billion, that's 1,000 million dollars.

Hospitals can barely cope with the cuts you've already implemented. Your cuts are being felt where it counts most: in patient care, in any objective sense. Minister, given your promise in the last election not to cut health care and given the pain your cuts are already causing, how can you possibly justify cutting an additional $1 billion from our hospitals?

Hon Mr Wilson: We've not cut one penny from health care in this province. Everyone can go to their local library, look up the budget of the government of Ontario, and lo and behold, you will discover that the budget is up $300 million. It's an unprecedented amount of money to spend on health care.

When you take the $17.7 billion being spent on health care by the provincial government and the approximately $9.2 billion being spent by workers' compensation, employee benefit plans and third-party insurers, the private sector health care, and add those two together, you won't find a jurisdiction on the face of the earth spending, on a per capita basis, more money on health care than Ontario.

I don't know where the member gets the premise for his questions, because again the member is wrong. The health care budget has increased in this province.

Mr McGuinty: It might be helpful to remind the minister of the record to date of this government and compare the promises made with what's been delivered.

During the leader's debate Mike Harris said, and I quote: "Certainly I can guarantee you that it's not my plan to close hospitals." Now more than 30 are on the chopping block. During the last election he specifically stated that federal transfers would not affect his commitment to protect health care. Now he refuses to take responsibility for the cuts. The Common Sense Revolution said you would not bring in new user fees. Now you're punishing seniors with new user fees on medication.

Minister, will you not admit that your plan to cut an additional $1 billion from hospitals fits the pattern perfectly? When it comes to health care, Mike Harris can't keep his word.

Hon Mr Wilson: The Premier is fully keeping his word. The previous two governments launched 60 hospital restructuring studies across the province at a cost of $26 million. Local --

Mrs Elinor Caplan (Oriole): "I have no plans to close hospitals. I assure you I have no plan."


The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Order. The member for Ottawa-Rideau, please come to order. The member for Oriole as well. Now, if you want to keep heckling, we're going to waste time.

Hon Mr Wilson: Local communities, through local studies they've produced over the past few years under the previous two governments, are asking this government to make their local health care systems better, get rid of the half-empty buildings and get all services on to fewer sites so that we can have full-service hospitals once again, as we used to have 20 years ago in this province.

Nine thousand hospital beds have been closed over the last seven years in this province, the equivalent of 33 mid-sized hospitals, but all the administration and all the bricks and mortar are still there. All we're doing is acting on studies that have been developed by local communities and paid for by the taxpayers.

The Speaker: New question.

Mr McGuinty: You can't get around it. Mike Harris promised not to close any hospitals.



Mr Dalton McGuinty (Leader of the Opposition): My question is to the minister responsible for seniors' issues. A report entitled Growing Old in Canada reveals something I'm sure all of us in this House would agree is a deplorable and completely unacceptable situation. Over 40% of women over the age of 75 live alone and in poverty. This should be of grave concern to all of us because we share a very important responsibility to speak on behalf of our most vulnerable citizens.

Some of Ontario's elderly and poor women are watching us right now, and I'm sure some of them are cold, some of them are hungry and many of them would be frightened. So I want to ask on their behalf, Minister, what are you doing right now to help them?

Hon Cameron Jackson (Minister without Portfolio [Seniors Issues]): I want to thank the honourable member for raising the question and the report from Statistics Canada done on poverty all across Canada. These statistics were done in 1991 and they have served to bring to public attention the concerns of the elderly in this country. I am pleased to be given the opportunity to report on the kinds of programs which this government has implemented.

The member will know quite frankly that when long-term care was discussed by members of your party for five years and studied, and when the next government for five years studied and almost got to implementation, it was a number one priority for the Mike Harris government and it was one of the first pieces of legislation for our Minister of Health to invest $170 million into long-term-care support programs.

Our Minister of Finance and our Premier realize that when those two political parties raised income taxes in this province seven times, they reduced the disposable income of seniors. When women in this province who are at or below poverty --

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Thank you, Minister. Supplementary.

Mr McGuinty: Minister, that old-style, partisan finger-pointing lends no comfort whatsoever to those women who are watching you on TV right now, none whatsoever.

Let's set the record straight here. In terms of what you've done, it's not what you've done for seniors; it's what you've done to them. So far you've brought in user fees for seniors' medication. You've cut funding for accessible transit. You've imposed a freeze on new nursing home beds, while charging $40 a day for chronically ill seniors in hospital. Now you're gutting rent controls. You're forcing seniors to choose between eating, taking medication or paying the rent. Minister, you've got the title. When are you going to start taking responsibility for seniors?

Hon Mr Jackson: I would hope that the member opposite wouldn't confuse partisanship with the truth and the reality of what is really going on in terms of public policy development in this province.

The truth is that this government has moved decisively to invest moneys and bring those services directly to our seniors. The $20 million put into -- we're the first government in all of Canada to include the pneumonia immunization program in its drug benefit plan so that seniors did not have to pay for this immunization process. We're the first government in Canada to do that.

There are several programs. We've got a Minister of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation who has just recently announced millions of dollars in programs for vulnerable adults, in particular seniors. Our investment in long-term care is one of the most massive investments, over $1 billion, and 170 million new dollars have gone to provide services for those vulnerable seniors, programs that your government had the opportunity to implement and this government is doing something about.

My colleague the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing: the first piece of rent review legislation in this province's history which specifically looks at individuals as renters and seniors' protection.

Mr McGuinty: It's obvious that for this government, senior citizens are a very easy target. To me, they're our parents and our grandparents. They helped build this province and the quality of life we've come to enjoy, and they deserve to be protected and respected.

Minister, your government flaunts its $12-billion tax cut. Well, poor seniors aren't getting a tax cut. You can't get a tax cut if you're not paying taxes. In fact, they're the biggest losers in your tax scheme because their services are being cut to pay for that tax cut. Your Common Sense Revolution specifically stated, "Aid for seniors will not be cut." I want you to look into those cameras again and I want you to tell those seniors that you are very sorry because you broke a critical campaign promise.

Hon Mr Jackson: I want to remind the member opposite, who recently came through an experience at Maple Leaf Gardens where he was surrounded by federal members of Parliament who were quick to give him advice on all manner of things, that the only person targeting seniors in this country today is our federal government. You want to ask some solid questions about what's on the table for the Canada pension plan, where women disproportionately will be adversely affected by --


The Speaker: Order. Minister.

Hon Mr Jackson: The only Premier in all of Canada who has put one person solely responsible for seniors' issues, the only Premier in this country who's done that is Mike Harris. I'll tell you what the problem with this country and this federal government is. You want to move beyond your cue-card compassion which you've been exhibiting all week in this House and pick up a telephone and call Ottawa and ask why we're $2 billion short for seniors, why the OAS and CPP are unavailable to thousands of new Canadians in this country --


The Speaker: Minister, come to order, please.


Mr Howard Hampton (Rainy River): My question is for the Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism. It's a question about Canadian Airlines. The minister knows that Canadian Airlines pumps $1 billion into Ontario's economy each year, most of it into the greater Toronto area, and he knows that Canadian Airlines sustains 4,000 direct and 2,000 indirect jobs in Ontario. Right now the workers at Canadian Airlines, the federal government, the British Columbia government and the Alberta government are all trying to work out an agreement to financially reposition Canadian Airlines.

Minister, can you tell us why the Ontario government isn't at the table trying to sustain those 6,000 jobs and trying to sustain the $1 billion in economic activity for the Ontario economy?

Hon William Saunderson (Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism): I'm very happy to respond to the leader of the third party's question about an issue that I think all of us consider very seriously in this House.

Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): Do something.

Hon Mr Saunderson: I might say that our fuel tax -- and we're asked to do something -- is very low compared to the fuel tax in Alberta and British Columbia. Our fuel tax is 2.7 cents per litre and the rates out in British Columbia and Alberta stood at 5%. Now I know British Columbia is rethinking what they're going to do, but I can tell you that Alberta is also doing the same thing. In their budget of last May they decided they would reduce the fuel tax to 2.5 cents per litre starting in 1998. Now they have said they will backdate that to the beginning of this year.

As far as I'm concerned, this province is doing something. Our fuel tax is very competitive with all the fuel taxes in those other two provinces.

Mr Hampton: It's very interesting. I ask a question about 6,000 jobs and about $1 billion in economic activity for Ontario and I get a response --


The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Order. Just a second. Would the government members please come to order. The members for Brant-Haldimand and Nepean, please come to order.


The Speaker: And the member for Quinte I guess too. Leader of the third party.

Mr Hampton: Let me try again, Speaker, because this is about 6,000 good-paying jobs in Ontario and it's about $1 billion in economic activity in the greater Toronto area.


Minister, your government, through your tax scheme, is giving the presidents and the chief executive officers of the big banks down on Bay Street over $1 million in tax breaks. Meanwhile, the banks are cutting thousands of jobs. So my question naturally flows: If you can afford to give the chief executive officers of banks and the presidents of banks millions of dollars in tax breaks while they cut jobs at the banks, why aren't you at the table with the federal government, the government of British Columbia, the government of Alberta and the workers, trying to sustain 6,000 jobs and trying to sustain $1 billion in economic activity for Ontario? Don't those jobs count? Doesn't that economic activity count?

Hon Mr Saunderson: Of course jobs count in this province. What we have been doing since we were elected is creating the proper business climate to create jobs. Some 127,000 net new jobs have been created since we were elected.

We are no longer in the business of writing cheques in this government, in my ministry. In the past, we gave grants to businesses. We do not do that any more. What we give to business is the right business climate in which to thrive.

When I have the opportunity to travel outside this country, I'm appalled to hear from the countries and companies I speak to about the bad situation the two previous governments allowed to develop in this province.

Finally, I would just like to say to the leader of the third party --

The Speaker: Minister, thank you.

Mr Hampton: The minister talks about writing cheques. We know you're very good at writing cheques to bank CEOs and bank presidents. They're going to get their $200,000 each.


The Speaker: Stop the clock, please. I ask the government members to come to order, please. It's very difficult to hear the answers and the questions.

Mr Dominic Agostino (Hamilton East): What is wrong with you guys over there?

The Speaker: I don't need any help, member for Hamilton East.

Mr Hampton: I can tell from the hoots and hollers of the Conservative caucus that they don't care about these 6,000 jobs, but it's the minister here who has the responsibility. I say to the minister, we know you're very good at writing cheques to bank presidents and you're very good at writing cheques to CEOs of banks and you're very good at writing cheques to consultants for $2,400 a day.

This concerns 6,000 direct and indirect jobs in the greater Toronto area and over $1 billion in economic activity. Everybody else, every other government, the workers, the unions are now at the table trying to work out an agreement. You, the Ontario government, can cinch this deal. You can go to the table and you can cinch this deal. You can sustain 6,000 important, well-paying jobs for the greater Toronto area and $1 billion in annual economic activity.

Minister, will you do the right thing for the economy and the right thing for jobs? Will you go to the table, make a contribution like the workers and the other --

The Speaker: Thank you. Minister?

Hon Mr Saunderson: Let me just tell the leader of the third party that we are doing the right thing. I keep saying it again and again. We're creating the right business climate for businesses to thrive. From a philosophical point of view, we are all here in this House because of the democratic process. I think somebody should explain the democratic process to Buzz Hargrove.


The Speaker: New question, third party.

Mr Hampton: My next question is to the Attorney General, but I'd say from the response of the Conservative caucus, you really do hate unions, don't you?


Mr Howard Hampton (Rainy River): My question for the Attorney General is this. It regards the continuing chaos you've created at the family support plan office by closing the regional offices and laying off 290 experienced staff. Today the problem is one of confidentiality of records.

My colleague from London Centre received confidential information from the family support plan office which was intended for the offices of Dwight Duncan and Bruce Crozier. Three family support plan confidential files, with the women's names, case numbers, their personal information about their family support cases, were wrongly sent to the office of the member for London Centre.

Minister, is the situation so desperate now at the family support plan office that confidentiality of addresses and records and names doesn't matter any more, that you're so disorganized that you fax them to all and sundry? Is that what it's gotten to, that you really don't care about the confidentiality --

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Thank you. Minister?

Hon Charles Harnick (Attorney General, minister responsible for native affairs): I will not comment on the issue. It's something that obviously is now being brought to my attention. I'm prepared to look into the matter and get back to the member.

Mr Hampton: We've been hearing that the minister "will check into this matter," and every day it's another horror story. Let me give you this one from Ottawa. My office was informed by SCOPE, Support for Children, an Organization for Public Education, based in Ottawa, that one of their members, a woman received a phone call from the family support plan office, but it was a collect phone call. It is surely a sad state when the family support plan office, which has cut women and children off from child support, now calls those same women and children and says: "We can talk to you, but it's a collect call. You have to pay for it."

You've been telling women and children across this province for four months now that you're creating a wonderful new plan. Is it now the policy that not only are you going to deny women and children their support cheques, but you're going to charge them collect phone calls when they try to find out how you bungled it?

Hon Mr Harnick: Certainly, if the information the member provides is accurate, it disturbs me as much as it disturbs him. I'll look into it.

Mr Hampton: We raise every day the plight of ordinary women and children across this province who are being denied an income, who are being driven to food banks, who are being evicted from their apartments, who are having their electricity shut off, their phones disconnected, their natural gas shut off, because this minister wrecked the family support plan and this minister, day after day, week after week, month after month, cannot provide any answers.

Minister, let me ask you this: It's now two weeks before Christmas. Do we have to send another video crew into the family support plan office at 55 Yonge Street to help you get the problem straightened out?

Hon Mr Harnick: I can tell you that on Tuesday moneys were disbursed to 7,000 families. Yesterday we disbursed money to 5,000 families. We're now disbursing money at a rate that's 25% greater, on a daily basis, than has ever been the case before. We're developing a new office that I think will provide far better service to women and their children than the office has ever been able to supply before.

Everyone in this assembly knows that problems with the family support plan have been of long standing. Everyone in this chamber knows that is one of the recurrent complaints that has always existed in their constituency offices.

We are doing our utmost to improve service. We have a bill before this Legislature that I hope the opposition will support. It will make enforcement procedures significantly better so that we can continue to collect money -- significantly more than we've ever been able to collect.



Mr Gerry Phillips (Scarborough-Agincourt): My question is to the Attorney General and it has to do with Ipperwash. I want to review an answer he gave the House on October 31, 1996. Many people have felt that one of the key reasons the natives occupied Ipperwash park was because they believed there was a sacred burial ground in that park. We also assumed that the first nations had told the government that was the reason they were occupying the park. They said: "Listen, we are taking over this park because we believe a burial ground exists in there. It's very important to us."

However, when you were asked that question in the House, on October 31, you said: "There is no evidence that is why...the occupation took place." Are you saying the first nations people never told the government that a reason they were taking over the park was because they believed there was a sacred burial ground in the park?

Hon Charles Harnick (Attorney General, minister responsible for native affairs): The issue with the park has been an issue that has been debated. There have been investigations regarding the geological aspects to Ipperwash Provincial Park. Certainly, I stand by the answer that I provided to the member when he asked the question originally.

Mr Phillips: We have obtained two confidential briefing notes for the Ministry of the Attorney General. The Attorney General has said to the House that the natives did not explain that there was a sacred burial ground in there. In answer to our question, when I said one of the reasons they did that was because they believed there was a sacred burial ground within the boundary of the park, the Attorney General said, "That isn't why they went into the park."

We have two briefing notes obtained under freedom of information. One -- I might add, I gather there was an error in releasing this to us in that something should have been whited out that wasn't -- is a briefing note to the Attorney General that states clearly that the occupiers allege that the park lands are theirs and they allege that there is a burial site in the park. We have another briefing note dated September 7 for the minister essentially saying exactly the same thing.

The minister has told the House that the first nations did not inform them that there was a burial ground, and we have two confidential briefing notes that tell us the opposite --

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Thank you. Attorney General.

Hon Mr Harnick: I don't deny the fact that allegations have been made. Allegations are being investigated. I've never denied the information that has been obtained from the federal government. I've never denied the information that has come as a result of geological surveys that were done at Ipperwash park early in the 1970s, which were inconclusive.

Certainly we have always said, as a government, that if there is a burial ground there, we're prepared to take steps to ensure that it's protected. We're prepared to respect that burial ground and we're prepared to work with Chief Bressette to determine the existence of a burial ground and to deal with the matter on that basis. Certainly we have indicated that very clearly to Chief Bressette.


Mr David S. Cooke (Windsor-Riverside): I have a question to the Minister of Health. I want to ask you a question about the Trillium drug plan. The minister will know this matter has been raised with him several times. It was raised in estimates. It has been raised with him by a number of consumer groups.

The minister will be aware that the waiting period to get approved by the Trillium drug plan is still running between four and five months. This plan was designed to help people who have extreme drug costs and need prescription drugs. Instead, what they get from your ministry are taped messages and no responses. There was a commitment made by the director of the program in meetings with the AIDS foundation and AIDS Action Now that the program would be fixed by November 1. It's a month after and the wait continues. What action are you taking to make sure this program responds to desperate needs for people who need prescriptions?

Hon Jim Wilson (Minister of Health): We've taken a number of actions to ensure that the waiting lists decrease. When the previous government started the program -- and we've expanded the program this year. For everyone in the province who's paying their $2 copayment, all of that money has gone into helping expand the program so that the working poor in the province, some 140,000 more working poor, and families, have access to the program. That has put considerable pressure on the program.

I don't think our waiting lists today are still four to five months. The program started about two years ago. Not many people knew about it so there weren't many applications. Now that word has got out and we've made the reinvestment of all those copayments into the program and expanded the program, yes, there is a considerable workload there. The director of the program, who I know you've spoken to personally, is doing everything he can to resource up the program and make sure we get the applications turned around.

No one is being denied drug coverage under the program. We're having to catch up in many cases to some of the bills that people have paid, and we're fully going to pay people who are fully qualified for the program.

Mr Cooke: The difficulty is that there are a lot of people who can't afford to lay out the cash in order to purchase the drugs and wait for the Trillium drug plan to respond. The minister will know that people, especially people with AIDS, need to continually take their drugs. If they stop taking their drugs because they can't approval from Trillium, it will do them more harm.

I would like to ask the minister, does he think it's appropriate for people like Jim Wakeford, who laid out, out of his own pocket, $4,500 before he was approved by Trillium, to have that happen with a program that is designed to help people, and is the minister prepared to meet with people like AIDS Action Now and other consumer groups, since he thinks the program is fixed, to get first-hand knowledge to understand that it's not working and it's got to be changed and it's got to be properly resourced so that people can get the help when they need it?

Hon Mr Wilson: I'd be happy to meet with the associations the honourable member has spoken about. I've met with many of those associations. The member's right. We have to get rid of the backlog that's there. Certainly, with people who call us who indicate that they think they qualify for the program and they have the very expensive drugs, we've been trying to deal with those immediately, especially when you have the very high drug costs if you're living with HIV and AIDS. We're doing everything we can. I hope in the next very short period of time to be able to report to the member that we've pretty well caught up. That is our goal.


Mr Ron Johnson (Brantford): My question is to the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations. Over the last year or so in the riding of Brantford I've had a number of constituents look at me and relay their concerns over the leasing of automobiles. Their concern of course is surrounding some of the complicated language in the contractual agreements. I know from the members opposite that they're experiencing the same thing from their constituents. Is there anything we're doing to help address this complicated problem?

Hon David H. Tsubouchi (Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations): I thank the honourable member for Brantford for his question. It's very timely that he brings this question to my attention today, because today along with Mr Phil Walker of the Ontario Automobile Dealers Association, Mr Peter Wilson, president of Ford Credit Canada, and the Honourable John Manley, we've introduced a new cooperative initiative that will make leasing a car a much simpler process for the consumer.

This is a good day for the consumer. The intent of this change is the use of plain language, making it far easier for Ontarians to understand the terms and conditions of the auto lease. Documents will state in simple language the monthly payment, interest rate and purchase price, and this will assist Ontario consumers when they're shopping for a car.

Mr Ron Johnson: As much as that sounds encouraging, and I know we're all in support of this particular program, one concern I have is that it may be creating a little bit more government red tape, so perhaps the minister could clarify the government's position and the minister's position on the creation of red tape and what that's going to do to this particular plan.

Hon Mr Tsubouchi: Although the members on the opposite side of the floor may understand greatly the creation of red tape, this accomplishes exactly the opposite. It's through a joint initiative with business and government, both the federal and Ontario governments, I might add, that simplifies the leasing agreements and the use of plain language. This is great for consumers. They will now be able to understand us.

Earlier in the year, in September, we had a conference of the federal, provincial and territorial governments where we talked about the harmonization of this type of good consumer initiative. This proves that when government and business join together in an initiative, in a partnership, the end result is good for the consumer and good for business.



Mr Peter North (Elgin): My question is to the Minister of Health. Yesterday and over the past few days we've had inquiries in my office with regard to the loss of yet another physician. This brings the number of physicians that we've lost in Elgin county in the last year or so to 17. People are very concerned. We have probably close to 10,000 people now who don't have a family physician. I wonder if the minister could explain to me what he's doing to ensure the people of rural Ontario will have physicians in the very near future.

Hon Jim Wilson (Minister of Health): I say to the honourable member that the problem is growing in that Ontario has enough physicians, general practitioners and family doctors. The problem is that they're concentrated in the large urban areas. We're doing everything we can to encourage physicians to go out to where they're needed.

Most other provinces now have programs to ensure that when physicians graduate, they have to go where they're needed. We are still trying to use the incentive approach to make sure that our graduates and others go to places like Elgin, but also to my home areas of Alliston and Collingwood, which need physicians and have needed physicians for a number of years.

It's a major topic at the negotiating table, as you know. That was witnessed in the interim agreement which Ontario's doctors rejected. So both parties are back at the table and they're trying again. Certainly one of the objectives I think of everyone at the table is try to find a more permanent solution to this outstanding problem.

Mr North: It's a real concern, I guess, that we would not be in a position where we are forcing physicians into a community they don't wish to be in.

Second to that, we've sent letters supporting some four applications from our particular county with regard to the underserviced area program. The worry and concern we have is that even though we have sent in those particular questions and concerns with regard to underserviced areas, inevitably in the end we will be told that for some reason we don't qualify as underserviced. We will in the end probably still have some 10,000 people who don't have a family physician. In fact, I am one of them. So we have these concerns. We hope this can be mediated and arranged in some way.

I ask you again, if for any reason you can't get this mediated, if we deal with the underserviced area and we can't get physicians, what will you do as minister to ensure that we do?

Hon Mr Wilson: I think the honourable member is aware of the government's commitment and my personal commitment to find a more permanent solution to this problem. The underserviced area program is not the most effective way to go about it. With that program in place for a number of years, we've seen a 30% increase in the number of areas of the province since 1990 that are underserviced. In fact, as we said when the interim agreement was put forward during the negotiations, it was very clear at that time that 90% of the land mass of Ontario, outside of Metro and a couple of other overserviced area, is open for business for Ontario's graduates.

Of the 473 billing numbers that this government has issued since May 1 of this year, unfortunately all but 8% of those new graduates went to overserviced or what we call adequately serviced areas. We're still not, in spite of all the incentives, getting the doctors out to where they're needed.


Mr Monte Kwinter (Wilson Heights): I have a question to the Minister of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation. The McMichael Canadian Art Collection in Kleinburg, Ontario has a world-renowned reputation and is a major cultural and tourism attraction for Ontario.

A November 15 decision of Mr Justice Peter Grossi of the Ontario Court (General Division) could greatly restrict the gallery's ability to acquire and display the works of many important historical and living Canadian artists. Judge Grossi ruled that the gallery should restrict its collection to Group of Seven painters and other artists who have made a contribution to Canadian art. He then went on to define what Canadian art is as applied to the McMichael collection. Judge Grossi's narrow interpretation could have serious negative implications for the gallery.

Minister, you have until December 16, 1996, to appeal Justice Grossi's judgement. Could you tell this House if you indeed plan to appeal this judgement?

Hon Marilyn Mushinski (Minister of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation): I thank the honourable member for the question. The judgement that was handed down several weeks ago has indeed raised a number of complex issues which we are currently examining. No decision has been made at this time with respect to any appeal.

Mr Kwinter: There are two issues at stake here. One is the possible demise of a world-renowned gallery as a result of the elimination of works of art that do not fit Justice Grossi's view of Canadian art, and the other is the negative impact on trustees of publicly funded institutions that have acted in good faith in carrying out their duties and now may be liable for their actions.

Minister, can you assure us today that you will intercede and appeal the judgement to ensure that the McMichael Canadian Art Collection will maintain its stature as an internationally recognized and vibrant collection reflecting an important aspect of Canadian culture? It isn't something where you can just sit back and say, "We really haven't made up our minds." You have a judge who has made a very narrow definition of what is Canadian art. The whole idea that someone would decide on his own that, "This is what I think Canadian art is" is just unconscionable. Surely you at least have to challenge that interpretation.

Hon Ms Mushinski: Thank you again for the question. As I suggested earlier, the judgement has raised a number of issues, very complex in nature, which I believe do need some clarification. That is why I am going through those considerations right now. What I can assure the honourable member is that any decision this government makes with respect to this judgement will clearly be in the best interests of the people of Ontario.


Mr Tony Silipo (Dovercourt): My question is to the Minister of Municipal Affairs. You keep saying that you want your megacity, and you won't let the public or the facts get in the way of that objective. You won't do any cost studies even though there's evidence that amalgamation will actually cost more money rather than save money. You won't call a referendum, as 75% of the people in Metropolitan Toronto are saying they want to see. It's clear to us and it's clear to the people of Metropolitan Toronto that you've already made up your mind as to which option you're going to implement and you just want Crombie to echo your decision.

Nobody believes you're actually going to get the Crombie report today or tomorrow, when you're going to receive it, and then in a few days draft legislation and bring it before this House. So why don't you just tell us today what is going to be in that legislation?

Hon Al Leach (Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing): The member is right that I am expecting the report from the Crombie panel probably tomorrow. When we get that information, we'll consider that information along with all of the other information that we have: the mayors' report, external information, internal information. When we have an opportunity to review it all, we'll make a decision.

Mr Silipo: It's just incredible that this minister wants to have people believe he's actually going to be drafting a bill in the next three or four days after he considers what Crombie recommends. We know the kind of skating he's been doing on this. We saw the Premier yesterday try to pretend that they don't have a decision, but the minister has been consistently telling us what his position is on this. What we're saying is this: You've got the bill already drafted. Don't try to fool anybody any more. Just tell us what the bill is and put the bill before the House today rather than waiting and going through the pretence of tabling it next week. You've already drafted it; tell us what's in it.

Hon Mr Leach: I've been very consistent in stating that I have a preferred position. My preferred position doesn't necessarily always represent the government's position. Just to repeat the answer that I gave earlier, we're waiting for the Crombie letter. I expect it probably tomorrow. We'll look at that in conjunction with all of the other information. You wouldn't want us to make a decision before we had all of the information. I'm sure the member opposite would agree to that.


The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): New question, the member for Chatham-Kent.

Mr Jack Carroll (Chatham-Kent): My question is also for the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. For over a year the 21 municipalities in Kent county have been discussing restructuring. Despite these lengthy discussions, there has been no agreement. Many municipalities are now frustrated and looking to the province for some advice and direction. Could you please provide some advice to the people of Kent county on what they should do now?

Hon Mr Leach: I'd like to thank the member for Chatham-Kent for the question. I know he's been very involved in the discussions and negotiations that have been going on in his riding. I'm aware that the municipalities in Kent county have been working very hard and discussing the issue extensively. I've met with the officials in Kent county on numerous occasions and I'm encouraging them to bring forward a local option that best suits the needs of their own communities.

Restructuring is taking place right across the province. There are over 350 municipalities that are involved in restructuring, trying to eliminate waste and duplication, and I hope Kent county will be able to come up with an agreement on this very important issue.

Mr Carroll: Minister, are you prepared to send in a commission to restructure Kent county if no proposal is forthcoming in the immediate future?

Hon Mr Leach: The member is aware, and I'm sure this House is aware, that local municipalities have to request that a commission be appointed. I have had several requests from municipalities in Kent county that such a commission be set up. I'm hopeful, and I continue to hope, that the county will be able to work out a solution to its restructuring issues internally. However, if we don't get a report within the month, I would be more than prepared to appoint a commission to look at the restructuring issues in that county.


Mr Dominic Agostino (Hamilton East): My question is to the Minister of Health. Early in the new year your handpicked, appointed hospital restructuring commission will be steamrolling into Hamilton-Wentworth and will be looking at our hospital system. The people of Hamilton-Wentworth are fearful. They're concerned. There's a great danger in their minds that this government is going to close one of the hospitals in our area.

Minister, let me go back to a comment made by your then leader, now the Premier of Ontario. I quote a response to a question in the leaders' debate: "Certainly I can guarantee that it's not my plan to close hospitals." That was Mike Harris. Can you guarantee to the House today that Mike Harris will keep that commitment to the people of Hamilton-Wentworth?

Hon Jim Wilson (Minister of Health): It is very clear in Hamilton-Wentworth and in other areas of the province where local communities have developed plans that these local communities are tired of half-empty hospitals with fewer and fewer services almost every month. The fact of the matter is, nobody in health care today is looking at the bricks and mortar. That's the old-style politics. That's the old way that got us into trouble and increased the waiting lists.

We're driving every dollar into front-line services. Nine thousand hospital beds have been closed in the last seven years. We've got half-empty buildings in many parts of the province. The full administration is still there. All of that needs to be restructured, the dollars saved. When we get rid of the waste and duplication, all those dollars have to driven into patient services because there's no use having hospital buildings that don't have any services in them.

Mr Agostino: What the minister has just said serves as absolutely no comfort, gives absolutely no reassurance to the people in Hamilton-Wentworth and clearly indicates that the Premier is willing to break his promise and the commitment that he made.

Minister, let me remind you that the hospital CEOs in Hamilton-Wentworth came together and put together a formula, a plan that would ensure that all the hospitals remain open, that all the services that are being provided are being provided within the current financial framework you have given them. They're willing to work within the money that you have assigned those hospitals. That plan was approved by all the CEOs in Hamilton-Wentworth. We're now afraid your restructuring commission is going to come in and overturn this local solution.

Can you assure the people of Hamilton-Wentworth who work with the hospital communities, the CEOs and the patients in our community that the promise made by Premier Mike Harris that you're not going to close any hospitals will be maintained by the restructuring commission? Minister, please give us a simple yes or no answer. Will you commit to what the Premier said during the television debate, that you will not close any hospitals in this province, including Hamilton?

Hon Mr Wilson: I don't know what the definition of a hospital is for the honourable member. Is it the corporate entity -- of which, by the way, five in the last five months have voluntarily merged and no longer are that hospital -- or is a hospital the services, the nurses and the hospital workers?

What is our number one consumer complaint today? That is, Mr Speaker, and you hear it all the time in your riding and I hear it in mine, you visit your mother or your grandmother at the hospital and she tells you it's a beautiful hospital, nice cafeteria and a beautiful atrium but she hasn't seen a nurse all day or a health care worker. How many times do you hear that someone's gone to visit someone in the hospital and they've been sitting on a dirty bedpan for 45 minutes because there aren't any services around?

We're trying to get rid of all the waste and the duplication and drive it so that once again we'll have full-service hospitals that can look after the patients who are there and get away from the bricks and mortar and excessive administration that we have throughout this province.

I know, in direct answer to the question, that the commission will take both the CEOs' and the DHC's plans into consideration in his community.


Ms Marilyn Churley (Riverdale): My question is for the Minister of Community and Social Services. You will recall that two weeks ago I asked you about the report issued by the Ontario Association of Interval and Transition Houses. Your response to the question was to state that the biggest threat to women was the debt. I would like to point out to you that the debt has never given anybody a broken jaw; the debt has never given anybody a black eye.

Minister, your comments have angered women across this province. On this day, when we remember the victims from December 6, 1989, the 14 women who were shot, I ask you if you will retract that statement today and apologize.

Hon Janet Ecker (Minister of Community and Social Services): Thank you very much, to the honourable member, for the question. I don't think there was anybody in this House who was not moved by the comments that the honourable member made earlier today in commemoration of a very tragic event that happened in the past. That is one of the reasons why our government believes that we should continue to spend and that we are spending money on helping women who need help to get out of abusive relationships.

I'd like to remind the honourable member that we spend, on a per capita basis, more than twice what the province of Quebec spends on similar programs; we spend almost two and a half times per capita what the NDP government in Saskatchewan spends; four times what the Liberal government in Nova Scotia spends.

I know it's a very serious issue. We take it very seriously. I believe we are making a financial commitment to provide the services that those women so desperately need.

Ms Churley: Minister, you still haven't apologized for that comment or retracted, and I would still ask you to do that.

I have here an article from that same week from the Windsor Star. In it, you stated that you think the report issued by the Ontario Association of Interval and Transition Houses is inaccurate. This province, under your government, despite what you just said, has cut; you're taking a giant step backwards.

These women came here on November 18 to plead with you. They have direct and tangible evidence that women are being forced back into abusive situations. There is nowhere for them to go. The supports are being whipped out from under them. I ask you if you think they are lying, and you refuse to answer. But outside of this House that is essentially what you did. Your cuts are hurting women. I'm asking you again today, will you at least reinstate the $9 million, and that's just a tiny portion, in the upcoming budget that you have taken out?

Hon Mrs Ecker: I appreciate the concern of the honourable member, but we are spending $60 million on 97 shelters and for the 100 counselling programs. I've talked about how much we are spending per capita compared to other jurisdictions. I'd like to remind the honourable member that the report talks about an increase in the number of women who are going back to abusive relationships, but according to a 1993 Statistics Canada report, the number of women who were going back was even higher then than it is now.

The other fact that I think is important to note is that only about 13% of women actually need the shelters when they do leave abusive relationships.

It is a tragedy when it happens to a woman, when a family is broken up by abuse, and I would be very happy to have $90 million more for this important need, but with the $9 billion in interest that you guys left us with, we don't have a lot of choice.

Ms Churley: Then don't give up the money to rich people.

Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): Take the $90 million out of your tax cut.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Order. Members from the third party, please come to order.


The Speaker: The member for Kitchener, please come to order.



Mr John R. Baird (Nepean): My question is for the Minister of Community and Social Services. In the last election campaign the people of Ontario told us our welfare system was broken and they wanted major reforms to change that welfare system. This morning I read in all the Metro Toronto dailies that the welfare rolls are once again declining in Metropolitan Toronto. What can I tell the folks in my constituency who are demanding major change and major reform about the provincial rates across the province?

Hon Janet Ecker (Minister of Community and Social Services): I'm very pleased to report that once again the number of people, the number of women and children on welfare has declined in this province. Over 200,000 fewer people are stuck on welfare. That's good news not only for the taxpayers of this province, it's very good news for those families that are getting on with their lives and getting off welfare.

Mr Baird: This is a very significant and unprecedented decrease in our province. I can't think of a jurisdiction anywhere in North America which has achieved such success in terms of getting people back in the workforce, with more than 127,000 net new jobs being created. I wonder if the minister could tell the House why she believes this trend is occurring. Could the minister inform us of that?

Hon Mrs Ecker: We are very pleased to see that the strong economic growth, the new net job growth in Ontario, is certainly having a very beneficial impact on the number of people who are coming off welfare. In addition, our welfare reforms are also having an impact.

Mr Peter Kormos (Welland-Thorold): Where have you been? Unemployment is higher than it was a year ago.


Hon Mrs Ecker: The honourable members across the way are hooting and hollering about this, but let me put another fact on here about their record. During their time in office, there was a 121% increase in the number of women and children stuck on welfare. I think that status quo is unacceptable. Since we've taken office, there's been an 11% decrease in the number of women and children who are trapped on welfare. I think that's good news for those families.


Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): My question is for the Minister of Labour. In the Niagara region there's great concern being expressed with the potential of your closing the worker adviser office in Thorold. As I read the Jackson report on WCB, I noted there was a mention of the importance of worker adviser offices. Will you assure the people of the Niagara region that you will not close the worker adviser office, which provides counselling and assistance to those who don't have any other kind of counselling assistance available to them in their cases with the WCB?

Hon Elizabeth Witmer (Minister of Labour): As you know, in Bill 99 we've indicated that we value the work that's done by the office of the worker adviser and we intend to continue to operate the offices that are presently functioning today.


Deferred vote on the motion for third reading of Bill 81, An Act to reduce the number of members of the Legislative Assembly by making the number and boundaries of provincial electoral districts identical to those of their federal counterparts and to make consequential amendments to statutes concerning electoral representation / Projet de loi 81, Loi visant à réduire le nombre des députés à l'Assemblée législative en rendant identiques le nombre et les limites des circonscriptions électorales provinciales et fédérales et à apporter des modifications corrélatives à des lois concernant la représentation électorale.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): It was agreed that immediately following question period the members would be called in for a deferred vote on Bill 81. It will be a five-minute bell.

The division bells rang from 1515 to 1520.

The Speaker: Mr Johnson has moved third reading of Bill 81. All those in favour of the motion will please rise one at a time and be recognized by the Clerk.


Arnott, Ted

Hastings, John

Rollins, E.J. Douglas

Baird, John R.

Hodgson, Chris

Ross, Lillian

Barrett, Toby

Hudak, Tim

Runciman, Robert W.

Bassett, Isabel

Jackson, Cameron

Sampson, Rob

Brown, Jim

Johnson, Bert

Saunderson, William

Carroll, Jack

Johnson, David

Shea, Derwyn

Chudleigh, Ted

Johnson, Ron

Sheehan, Frank

Clement, Tony

Jordan, W. Leo

Skarica, Toni

Cunningham, Dianne

Kells, Morley

Smith, Bruce

DeFaria, Carl

Klees, Frank

Snobelen, John

Doyle, Ed

Leach, Al

Tilson, David

Elliott, Brenda

Marland, Margaret

Tsubouchi, David H.

Eves, Ernie L.

Martiniuk, Gerry

Turnbull, David

Fisher, Barbara

Munro, Julia

Vankoughnet, Bill

Ford, Douglas B.

Mushinski, Marilyn

Wettlaufer, Wayne

Froese, Tom

Newman, Dan

Wilson, Jim

Gilchrist, Steve

O'Toole, John

Witmer, Elizabeth

Grimmett, Bill

Ouellette, Jerry J.

Wood, Bob

Guzzo, Garry J.

Parker, John L.

Young, Terence H.

Harnick, Charles

Preston, Peter


The Speaker: All those opposed, please rise one at a time to be recognized by the Clerk.


Agostino, Dominic

Kennedy, Gerard

North, Peter

Boyd, Marion

Kormos, Peter

Phillips, Gerry

Bradley, James J.

Kwinter, Monte

Pouliot, Gilles

Brown, Michael A.

Lalonde, Jean-Marc

Ramsay, David

Caplan, Elinor

Lankin, Frances

Ruprecht, Tony

Christopherson, David

Laughren, Floyd

Sergio, Mario

Churley, Marilyn

Marchese, Rosario

Silipo, Tony

Colle, Mike

Martel, Shelley

Wildman, Bud

Cooke, David S.

Martin, Tony


Hampton, Howard

Morin, Gilles E.


Clerk of the House (Mr Claude L. DesRosiers): The ayes are 59; the nays are 28.

The Speaker: I declare the motion carried.

Resolved that the bill do now pass and be entitled as in the motion.



Hon David Johnson (Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet and Government House Leader): I move that the order for third reading of Bill 52, An Act to promote resource development, conservation and environmental protection through the streamlining of regulatory processes and the enhancement of compliance measures in the Aggregate and Petroleum Industries, be discharged and the bill referred to committee of the whole House.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Shall the motion carry?

All those in favour, please say "aye."

All those opposed, please say "nay."

In my opinion the ayes have it.

I declare the motion carried.


Hon David Johnson (Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet and Government House Leader): I move that notwithstanding the order of the House dated November 2, 1995, the standing committee on resources development be authorized to meet beyond 6 pm on Monday, December 9, 1996, for the purpose of clause-by-clause consideration of Bill 86, An Act to provide for better local government by updating and streamlining the Municipal Elections Act, the Municipal Act and related statutes.

Mrs Elinor Caplan (Oriole): I'd like to speak very briefly to this motion. I was contacted by a resident of Ontario, a Mr Doyle, who has a concern about a portion of this bill that has to do with an amendment to the ambulance services act. He asked me if the bill was going to be referred to committee. When I checked with the government House leader and found out that in fact it was going to the resources committee, I told him that it would be at committee and that under the normal practices at committee individuals could make presentation if they made that request. He asked if he could be heard at committee.

It's my understanding that the subcommittee met this morning and decided that it would not be hearing deputations from individuals. I communicated this to Mr Doyle and suggested that he make a written presentation to the committee, that he attend in person and could talk to the members privately so that it would not impede the progress of this bill, as had been discussed. I know that Mr Doyle would really appreciate it if he could have, at most, 10 minutes to be heard by the committee, and I would ask for support from all parties, via unanimous consent, to give Mr Doyle his 10 minutes at the start of the committee hearing to allow him to have his say before this proceeds to clause-by-clause.

I would hope that the government has no objection. The government House leader told me he had no objection. I know the concern in the third party was the precedent it would set, but I would ask, since he's the only one who has really expressed a concern about something which is just a part of the bill that has not been addressed in debate in this House, if we could have all-party consent, unanimous consent, that Mr Doyle be granted 10 minutes before the resources committee at the start of its deliberations.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): With respect, this is going to be further debate on this issue. The problem I have is that you can't seek consent in the House for --

Mrs Caplan: Unanimous consent.

The Speaker: You can do anything with unanimous consent except you can't bind a committee. A committee can go and have unanimous consent to hear that person, but the House seeking unanimous consent to tell a committee to hear one individual is not in order. It's best that you make that motion at committee.

Mrs Caplan: I don't want to prolong this. It's my understanding that if the House makes that request of the committee, the government members who then control the committee would assent to that. While we're not binding the committee, it's just a request that Mr Doyle be heard at the committee. That's all I'm asking.

The Speaker: You're seeking unanimous consent that this House request the committee to hear Mr Doyle for 10 minutes at the beginning of the committee?

Mrs Caplan: That's correct.

The Speaker: The member for Oriole is seeking consent to ask the committee --

Interjection: No.

Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-Woodbine): Your House leader said yes today.

Mrs Caplan: Your House leader said yes.

The Speaker: Is there consent? Agreed? With all due respect, the member for Oriole, you've left the Speaker in a very difficult situation. I appreciate that maybe the House leader did agree to that -- I'm not saying he didn't -- but the difficulty I'm faced with is that you're doing something which really is not allowed: You're asking the House to have unanimous consent to bind a committee. You can request, but you can go to the committee and get unanimous consent there. May I suggest that's what you do.

Mrs Caplan: I've had communication with the House leader, who says he'll speak to the committee Chair. I understand that the third party is prepared to support that request. I therefore withdraw my request for unanimous consent of this House, and I do hope this matter can be settled and that Mr Doyle will have his 10 minutes at committee.


Mr Frank Klees (York-Mackenzie): On the same point, Mr Speaker, I have a concern that something is being done here for a member that is not applicable to other members. I have to say to you that I too have constituents who would have liked to have made presentations on this issue. If we're going to do something here for one member, I think we should also make it possible for other people in this province to make representation, so I just think we have to think very carefully about this.

Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): Mr Speaker, just to do what we can to clarify what should be a fairly routine matter, I want to be clear because the member for Oriole left the impression that we were the only ones to raise the concern.

The issue raised by the last speaker is exactly the one I raised and said, "However, if it's a big enough issue, I'll go back and talk to our critic and House leader." The fact of the matter is, just to be clear to the honourable member, that it was her colleague on the subcommittee who also agreed to go back and recommend that there not be a presentation, so let's be very clear where people are. My sense is, in watching the House leaders talk here, that this can be worked out. But don't let the impression be left that it was somehow the third party, because her own representative was going to talk to you about backing off and agreed that there was a concern about precedent. Let's be clear about who said what.

The Speaker: Further debate? Seeing none, let's go back to this.

Mr Johnson has moved that notwithstanding the order of the House dated November 2, 1995, the standing committee on resources development be authorized to meet beyond 6 pm on Monday, December 9, 1996, for the purpose of clause-by-clause consideration of Bill 86, An Act to provide for better local government by updating and streamlining the Municipal Elections Act, the Municipal Act and related statutes.

All those in favour? Carried?


The Speaker: This is simply extending the meeting time.

Mr Christopherson: But you said after 6. I thought it was supposed to be finished at 9.

The Speaker: I have this motion. I can only read the motion. If it's not going to be carried, then it's not carried, so let's just -- agreed? Agreed.

Any other motions? That's good.



Mr Mike Colle (Oakwood): This is a petition on secondary school reform in Ontario.

"Dear Minister of Education and Training:

"We believe that the heart of education in our province is the relationship between student and teacher and that the human relational dimension should be maintained and extended in any proposed reform. As Minister of Education and Training, you should know how strongly we oppose many of the secondary school reform recommendations being proposed by your ministry and government.

"We recognize and support the need to review secondary education in Ontario. The proposal for reform as put forward by your ministry, however, is substantially flawed in several key areas, namely (a) reduced instruction time, (b) reduction in instruction in English, (c) reduction of qualified teaching personnel, (d) academic work experience credit not linked to education curriculum, and (e) devaluation of formal education.

"We strongly urge your ministry to delay the implementation of secondary school reform so that all interested stakeholders -- parents, students, school councils, trustees and teachers -- are able to participate in a more meaningful consultation process which will help ensure that a high quality of publicly funded education is provided."

I'll affix my name to this petition.


Ms Marilyn Churley (Riverdale): I have a petition on the proposed closure of the Vanier Centre for Women, which has got people quite worried. It reads:

"The government's proposed closure of the Vanier Centre for Women in Brampton and the placement of all provincial women prisoners into a superjail is both foolish and costly. The Vanier Centre is a dedicated facility for women, which has developed programs specific to the needs of women.

"A woman's reality is substantially different from that of a man, due in large part to her perceived secondary status in society. Female offenders are almost invariably victims of male violence. They experience low self-esteem and have not developed the ability to act on their own behalf. Women offenders typically have depended upon men or society to maintain themselves economically. They're often caught up in destructive lifestyles that lack purpose and reason.

"Vanier is a unique facility which provides specialized programs to deal with issues like physical and sexual abuse, lack of trust in relationships and low personal aspirations. Based upon compassion and understanding between staff and offenders, the Vanier program provides support, role modelling, behaviour modification and problem-solving skills. Offenders in the Vanier program are 15% less likely to reoffend than offenders who receive no treatment.

"The Vanier Centre is a facility whose success in preventing recidivism is" -- I can't read that word. "The cost of effective corrections at the provincial level must be balanced with the cost of recidivism if specialized programs are not provided.

"How shameful for the government to even contemplate destroying this facility and its program with a move to the proposed superjails, where the ratio of prisoners to specialized staff will be lowered and the potential for rehabilitation greatly reduced."

I affix my signature to this petition.


Mr Jerry J. Ouellette (Oshawa): In accordance with standing order 36(b), I summarize the contents of the following petition to say that it deals with the spring bear hunt and I submit it as required.


Mr Tony Ruprecht (Parkdale): I keep receiving petitions against the $2 user fee for seniors. The petition reads as follows:

"To the assembly of Ontario:

"Whereas the Ministry of Health has started to charge seniors a $2 user fee for each prescription filled since July 1996; and

"Whereas seniors on a fixed income do not significantly benefit from the income tax savings created by this user fee copayment or from other non-health user fees; and

"Whereas the perceived savings to health care from the $2 copayment fee will not compensate for the suffering and misery caused by this user fee or the painstaking task involved in filling out the application forms; and

"Whereas the current Ontario Minister of Health, Jim Wilson, promised as an opposition MPP in a July 5, 1993, letter to Ontario pharmacists that his party would not endorse legislation that will punish patients to the detriment of health care in Ontario;

"Therefore, we, the undersigned Ontario residents, strongly urge the government of Ontario to repeal this user fee plan, because the tax-saving user fee concept is not fair, is not sensitive, is not accessible to low-income or fixed-income seniors; and lest we forget, our province's seniors have paid their dues by collectively contributing to the social, economic, moral and political fabric of this country called Canada."

I've affixed my signature to this document, because I agree with it.


Ms Shelley Martel (Sudbury East): I have a petition addressed to the Legislative Assembly which reads as follows:

"Whereas Mike Harris and John Snobelen promised no cuts to classroom education, and since their election the Harris government has cut more than $430 million from school board budgets, representing a cut of nearly $1 billion to public education on an annualized basis; and

"Whereas our children have already lost 50% of their special education funding, they've lost their librarians and in some areas their junior kindergartens. Many of them have no music programs left in their schools. Their class sizes have increased enormously. Some are in danger of losing their buses; and

"Whereas parents across Ontario know that most of the changes in education are just being made to cut $1 billion so the government can help fund its tax cut; and

"Whereas parents know these cuts are affecting the classrooms and the quality of education for their children; and

"Whereas parents know that they have not been consulted;

"We, the undersigned, demand that Mike Harris stop these cuts to our children's education and to their future."

This is signed by 44 residents in the riding of Sudbury East. I agree with the petitioners and I have signed it as well.


Mr John R. Baird (Nepean): I have a few hundred more signatures to add to the growing list of signatures for the Barrhaven High School, which reads as follows:

"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"Whereas the community of Barrhaven lacks any secondary schools to educate the large number of students living in the area;

"Whereas Barrhaven is the most rapidly growing community in Ottawa-Carleton;

"Whereas the National Capital Commission's greenbelt severs the community of Barrhaven from Nepean, forcing many students to be bused from their community, wasting both time and money;

"Whereas St Pius X and St Paul's high schools in Nepean have 36 portables on site;

"Whereas the Carleton Roman Catholic school board has undertaken significant cost-saving measures to help reduce the construction costs of its high schools;

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

"We strongly urge the Minister of Education to recognize the urgent need for a Catholic high school in Barrhaven and provide the funding required to build our school."

I have affixed my own signature thereto.



Mr Michael A. Brown (Algoma-Manitoulin): I have actually several petitions.

"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"Whereas TVOntario has been providing Ontarians of all ages with high-quality educational programs and services delivered through television and other media for 25 years;

"Whereas TVOntario provides universal access to educational broadcasting in the most effective way possible;

"Whereas TVOntario provides essential broadcast services to communities in northern Ontario;

"Whereas TVOntario has an extensive community-based advisory network spanning the province;

"Whereas TVOntario is committed to increasing net self-generated revenues by 15% every year;

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

"To formally commit to the province's continued support of TVOntario as a publicly owned educational network."

I will affix my signature to this petition, which is signed by numerous residents of Mindemoya, Manitowaning and Spring Bay.


Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): I have a petition forwarded to me by the third vice-president of Local 641 of the Union of National Defence Employees, which is a component of the Public Service Alliance of Canada. The petition reads as follows:

"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"Whereas it is vital that occupational health and safety services provided to workers be conducted by organizations in which workers have faith; and

"Whereas the Workers' Health and Safety Centre and the occupational health clinics for Ontario workers have provided such services on behalf of workers for many years; and

"Whereas the centre and clinics have made a significant contribution to improvements in workplace health and safety and the reduction of injuries, illnesses and death caused by work;

"Therefore, we, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to oppose any attempt to erode the structure, services or funding of the Workers' Health and Safety Centre and the occupational health clinics for Ontario workers.

"Further, we, the undersigned, demand that the education and training of Ontario workers continue in its present form through the Workers' Health and Safety Centre and that professional and technical expertise and advice continue to be provided through the occupational health clinics for Ontario workers."

As I'm in support, I add my name to theirs.


Mr John L. Parker (York East): I have a petition here bearing 48 signatures. The signature at the top is that of Shaida Addetia, who is a personal friend of mine and who I know to be one of the most conscientious and hard-working servants of her community of just about anyone I know. The petition reads as follows:

"We, the undersigned residents of East York, are in favour of the borough of East York remaining as a separate municipality."

This petition is technically not in a form that's appropriate for submission to this Legislature, but out of courtesy to the sentiment expressed in here and to the care that these people took to execute this petition, I'm happy to read it here this afternoon.


Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): I have a petition as well, and I'd like to read to the members of the assembly. It reads:

"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"Whereas the Conservative government of Mike Harris has closed three out of five hospitals in Thunder Bay and two out of three hospitals in Sudbury; and

"Whereas drastic funding cuts to hospitals across Ontario are intimidating hospital boards, district health councils and local hospital restructuring commissions into considering the closing of local hospitals; and

"Whereas hospitals in the Niagara region have provided an outstanding essential service to patients and have been important facilities for medical staff to treat the residents of the Niagara Peninsula and will be required for people in Niagara for years to come; and

"Whereas the population of Niagara is on average older than that in most areas of the province;

"We, the undersigned, call upon the Minister of Health to restore adequate funding to hospitals in the Niagara region and guarantee that his government will not close any hospitals in the Niagara Peninsula."

I affix my name to this petition as I'm in complete agreement with it.


Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): I have a petition from the United Steelworkers of America and the Canadian Auto Workers.

"Whereas the current Progressive Conservative government of Ontario is proposing to amend the Workers' Compensation Act; and

"Whereas the proposed amendments include cutting maximum benefits from 90% to 85% of net average earnings; and

"Whereas the government is further proposing to outlaw workers' compensation benefits for chronic stress; and

"Whereas the direct payment by employers to employees for the first four to six weeks of disability essentially amounts to privatizing a huge portion of WCB, giving employers total control and benefiting private insurance companies; and

"Whereas the Occupational Disease Panel will be folded back into the WCB, therefore compromising their ability to do credible independent work on establishing the cause of occupational diseases; and

"Whereas employer assessments under the government's proposal will be cut by 5%, adding billions of dollars to the board's unfunded liability;

"Therefore we, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly to hold full provincial public hearings on any proposed amendments to workers' compensation legislation to provide all the people of Ontario the opportunity for full disclosure of all proposed amendments and the ability and forum to ensure that all the facts and potential impacts are heard and addressed."

I support the petition by signing my name.


Mr Ted Arnott (Wellington): I have a petition addressed to Premier Harris. It says:

"We, the undersigned taxpayers of the Wellington county school board, are alarmed by the proposed changes to our school board and how this will affect children in the classroom.

"While we agree some reform may be necessary or even helpful, the wholesale dismantling of school boards represents a major loss of local control and resources which we cannot support.

"We are concerned about the speed with which decisions are being made. This issue needs careful study, consideration and public input to understand what the implications of these changes will be.

"We need a local voice in education, we need our resources close by and we need our school boards."

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

Interjection: Are you signing it?

Mr Arnott: As per the rules of the House, in order to have the petition accepted by the table, it does indeed bear my signature.


Mrs Elinor Caplan (Oriole): I have hundreds of petitioners who have signed the following petition.

"The Honourable Jim Wilson, Minister of Health:

"We, the undersigned, protest the Ministry of Health's decision to allow for the removal from the Nursing Home Act the requirement for a minimum of one registered nurse on duty 24 hours a day, seven days per week.

"Literature supports, as does the ministry's resident classification, that the care requirements of residents in long-term-care facilities are steadily increasing and are increasingly more complex.

"Residents have multiple health problems requiring the knowledge and skill of the registered nurse to assess and intervene appropriately.

"We believe that the residents have a basic right to registered nurse care and supervision.

"Respectfully submitted."

I sign my name to this petition. It comes from all across the province, from families and concerned friends of individuals who reside in the long-term-care facilities in this province.



House in committee of the whole.


Consideration of Bill 52, An Act to promote resource development, conservation and environmental protection through the streamlining of regulatory processes and the enhancement of compliance measures in the Aggregate and Petroleum Industries / Projet de loi 52, Loi visant à promouvoir la mise en valeur des ressources, la conservation ainsi que la protection de l'environnement en simplifiant les processus de réglementation et en renforçant les mesures de conformité dans l'industrie pétrolière et l'industrie des agrégats.

The Second Deputy Chair (Mr Bert Johnson): Are there any questions, comments or amendments, and if so, to which section or sections of the bill?

Hon Chris Hodgson (Minister of Natural Resources, Northern Development and Mines): Subsection 52(1).

The Second Deputy Chair: Any further amendments, comments, questions? Shall sections 1 through 51 --

Interjection: Do we debate the amendments or what?

Ms Shelley Martel (Sudbury East): Are we not going to have some explanation here? The amendment has to be read, does it not?

The Second Deputy Chair: The amendment has not yet been moved.

Shall sections 1 through 51 carry? Carried.

Hon Mr Hodgson: I move that subsection 52(1) of the bill, as amended by the general government committee, be struck out.

The Deputy Speaker: That's subsections 66(1) and (2) of the Aggregate Resources Act. Debate?

Ms Martel: I'll have some debate here.

The Second Deputy Chair: The Chair recognizes the member for Algoma-Manitoulin.

Mr Michael A. Brown (Algoma-Manitoulin): I just want to indicate that this is a technical change that is being made to accommodate accomplishing what the government set out to accomplish. In other words, the way the act was amended in committee by government amendment accomplished exactly the opposite of what the government wanted accomplished. Although this is an unusual procedure today, we are agreeing that we should fix this technical deficiency. We will have much more to say about this bill when third reading comes about.

Ms Martel: I would actually like to ask the government the following question. As I look at the explanatory note that accompanied the amendment the general government committee actually passed, the explanatory note indicates that the change was being made in order to ensure that a site plan and the condition of a licence would prevail over a municipal bylaw, an official plan and the development permit. That's not the same wording that appears in the old act. So I wonder if I can just get some clarification as to what will happen now with both the site plan and the condition of a licence. Will they indeed then, as we make this change, be part and parcel of being overruled by the act? How will that work? Those are the two things that are different from the act as it currently stands.

The Second Deputy Chair: Minister, would you like to respond?

Ms Martel: Now that the staff are here, do you want me to repeat it?

Hon Mr Hodgson: As I understand it, that's correct. There was case law that said the amendment that was proposed had been overridden in the past. So we've gone back to the original wording which sets out the provincial interest and clarifies the role between bylaws that are municipal.

Ms Martel: I just had the original act in front of me and there was no specific reference made with respect to either a site plan or the condition of a licence. There certainly was mention made of official plans, development agreements, bylaws. My understanding of the reason why the government moved the amendment in the first place was to ensure that site plans and conditions of licence would also now be captured along with bylaws, official plans or development agreements so that all of those things would prevail. I just want to be clear that if we return to the original wording, which doesn't specifically cite those two cases, is that in fact what the government is doing?

Hon Mr Hodgson: Yes, that's my understanding.

Ms Martel: We will be accepting the amendment as well, but we will be looking forward to the debate on third reading to make some other comments with respect to the whole bill.

Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): I have a question that may or may not relate to this amendment. I hope it does. Is the member aware of any illegal asphalt plants that are being placed on the escarpment at this time? I heard someone mention that. They mentioned it in the context of this bill; I don't know why. But they mentioned to somebody that there was an illegal asphalt plant being built or it was being done illegally or something, or maybe this legislation permits it to happen. Is the minister aware or are any of the officials aware of that?

Hon Mr Hodgson: No, I'm not aware of that, and I'm sure that has nothing to do with this act. This act will actually prohibit that, because the standards are still maintained. I think it's in the interests of all Ontario. I will consult with the member from Owen Sound to find out if that's the case in his neck of the woods.

The Second Deputy Chair: Further debate? Shall that amendment carry as moved? It is carried.

Shall section 52, as amended, form part of the bill? It is agreed.

Shall sections 53 through 77 carry? Carried.

Shall the title carry? It's carried.

Shall I report the bill to the House? Agreed.

Hon Mr Hodgson: I move that the committee rise and report.

The Second Deputy Chair: Is it the wish of the House that the motion carry? It is carried.

The Acting Speaker (Mr Bert Johnson): The committee of the whole House begs to report one bill with certain amendments and asks for leave to sit again. Shall the report be received and adopted? Agreed.



Mr Runciman moved second reading of the following bill:

Bill 95, An Act to permit shopping on Boxing Day by amending the Retail Business Holidays Act and the Employment Standards Act / Projet de loi 95, Loi visant à permettre l'ouverture des magasins le lendemain de Noël en modifiant la Loi sur les jours fériés dans le commerce de détail et la Loi sur les normes d'emploi.

Hon Robert W. Runciman (Solicitor General and Minister of Correctional Services): The bill I table for second reading today, Bill 95, the Boxing Day Shopping Act, will end the confusion that now reigns on the day after Christmas. Store owners will now be free to decide whether or not they will be open or closed that day, employees will have the choice of whether to work or not and consumers will have the choice of whether to shop or not.

As a government, we have always said that we want Ontario to be open for business. Now people will be able to do business on what is often the biggest shopping day of the year without worrying about being charged with an offence and the police can focus on their primary job: fighting crime.

Bill 95 also promotes job creation by increasing available work hours and employment opportunities for Ontario's retail workers.

It has always been the position of this government that less regulation means more jobs. Bill 95 removes December 26 from the list of holiday closing dates for retailers as specified under the Retail Business Holidays Act, effective this year. Bill 95 includes an amendment to the Employment Standards Act to ensure that retail workers' rights are maintained. This means that retail work on Boxing Day will be voluntary. Boxing Day maintains its status as a public holiday.

Bill 95 also amends a provision in the Retail Business Holidays Act concerning commercial leases in order to maintain the right of a commercial tenant to remain closed on Boxing Day despite the requirements of the lease agreement. This gives retailers the option of whether or not to open on December 26.

Bill 95 reflects the government's commitment to balancing the needs of workers and their families and to eliminate barriers to business. The bill eliminates inconsistent enforcement of the Retail Business Holidays Act, responds to consumers' demands for increased shopping opportunities and it allows all retailers in Ontario to conduct business on this day.

In developing this bill, we consulted with our caucus members, who represent communities of all sizes across the province, the retail sector and we evaluated public support for Boxing Day shopping. Employees indicated to us that they wanted the choice of whether to work or not. Employers indicated that they wanted the choice of whether to open for business or not. Finally, consumers indicated they wanted the choice to shop. Bill 95 addresses these concerns by providing all Ontarians with enhanced choices on Boxing Day.

A recent consumer survey conducted by Market Facts of Canada found that 79% of Ontarians surveyed would shop on Boxing Day if stores were allowed to open. In the Metro Toronto area alone, 87% of those surveyed would shop on Boxing Day. This represents a significant demand by consumers to have the opportunity to shop on this day.

Retailers have enthusiastically welcomed Bill 95. Supporters of the bill include: the retail task force, comprised of the Hudson's Bay Co, Dylex and the Oshawa Group, employing over 92,000 people nationally; the Retail Council of Canada; and the International Council of Shopping Centers, among others. Elizabeth Mills of the Retail Council of Canada believes that, "Removing Boxing Day from the Retail Business Holidays Act adds another day to what is easily the most important shopping period for retailers."

The removal of Boxing Day from the list of prohibited shopping days will have a positive economic impact on the province. The retail task force has estimated that among a sample of its members, Boxing Day sales alone will generate net sales of $7 million, a provincial sales tax revenue of $560,000 and create some 4,700 employee days. When distributed across the entire Ontario retail sector, the actual economic benefits will be much greater.

In addition to increased retail sales revenue, Bill 95 will boost the number of available work hours for full- and part-time retail employees, such as students who need the extra income to pay for education expenses. Retail employees who opt to work on December 26 will be entitled to a premium rate of pay in accordance with Employment Standards Act requirements. This is in addition to regular wages for most retail employees.

Bill 95 will also reduce the threat of cross-border shopping on Boxing Day. In past years, large numbers of Canadian consumers have crossed the border on Boxing Day into the United States or into the province of Quebec to shop. The result was lost revenue to the province of Ontario. This bill promotes increased consumer spending in the province, starting this year.

The Christmas season has historically generated significant retail sales activity. Many retailers rely on this season for a large portion of their sales revenue for the year. The removal of Boxing Day from the act adds an important day to the retail sales calendar. The continued protection of retail workers' rights to refuse to work on Boxing Day ensures a fair balance between consumer, retailer and employee needs.

Bill 95 establishes a level playing field for all retailers in the province. The existing act has permitted municipalities to use tourism criteria to designate certain areas open for business, a practice which is discriminatory and unfair to neighbouring retailers and consumers. Bill 95 will ensure that all retailers and consumers are free to conduct business on December 26 if they wish.

This bill will also enhance community safety. In past years, enforcement of retail business closures on Boxing Day required the allocation of police resources to this task. This placed an unnecessary burden on municipalities and their police forces. Removal of Boxing Day from the act will free up police resources for priority front-line work and allow police officers to focus on their primary duty, fighting crime.

Effective in the new year, responsibility for the Retail Business Holidays Act will be transferred to the Ministry of Consumer and Commercial Relations. The rationale for this transfer is that the act deals primarily with issues related to the business sector, not enforcement per se. Accordingly, the Ministry of Consumer and Commercial Relations would be the most appropriate ministry to administer this act, given its mandate for consumer and commercial relations issues.

In concluding, I would like to state that Bill 95 will benefit all Ontarians. It reduces unnecessary government regulation, creates more jobs and increased work hours for employees, ensures that existing employee rights are protected, generates increased sales revenue for businesses in the province and responds to consumer demand for shopping on Boxing Day.

An editorial in Oshawa This Week recently commented that Bill 95 is long overdue, and I quote: "Finally a government which is treating us like adults and allowing us to make our own decisions. Changing the archaic Boxing Day law is a good idea which should have been done years ago."

Unlike previous governments, this government is committed to implementing positive economic policies and listening to Ontarians when they demand positive change. Bill 95 delivers on all counts, and Ontarians will reap the rewards starting this year.

The Deputy Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): Questions or comments?

Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): My questions or comments would be that I wonder what the conversation was at the Conservative caucus when all of the people who were elected on family values in the Conservative caucus recognized that what was going to happen was that instead of having two days where the family might be able to get together, some travelling from some distance, the government is now going to permit stores to be open on Boxing Day and thereby not allow for that same kind of family get-together that might otherwise be possible.

I know the minister is saying there is protection for workers, but I wonder if he really believes, for instance, where there's a store where there are five employees and none of the five wishes to work, that that store is going to close, or whether those employees, because of potential retaliation somewhere down the line, are going to feel obligated to work on that particular day.

I'll go to another point the minister tried to address, and I'm not pretending he didn't try to address it. I just don't think it will work. The leases in the malls: Again, those stores which do not open and are protected by this act from opening are certainly not going to be on the good list of the people who own the malls when the lease comes up for renewal and there is perhaps another store that would wish to move into that place, another retail outlet. I wonder whether that is going to be addressed appropriately or whether again that group would feel intimidated.

What this is doing is opening it up wide open, in my view, and maybe some people want that. I'm not saying there aren't a lot of people who might want that, but I think to pretend that somehow there's protection for people is simply to be fooling the people of the province.


Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): Just to use the two minutes that I have in this response, I will touch on a couple of issues that I intend to expand on later when I speak further to this in about an hour.

First of all, it's almost comical to listen to the Solicitor General talk about freeing up police officers from this so they can go and fight crime, as if there is a police service or a chief or commanding officer or constable who would ever, ever think that enforcing the restriction on shopping on Boxing Day would take precedence over anything that was more important in terms of public safety.

I'm a little disappointed, because I know the minister as an individual is someone who cares about his reputation and I don't know that he does it a great deal of service by raising those kinds of things and letting his speechwriters and spin doctors put that in there when he knows very well that if there were urgent matters of public safety at stake, there's not an officer in command or an officer on the street who wouldn't make sure the public's immediate safety needs were put first, if that meant detective business or responding to a call or assisting the fire department, whatever it might be. But to suggest somehow that this is a positive law enforcement issue really is reaching, even for this government that puts new meaning to the word "reaching."

I'm going to spend a great deal of time later on this afternoon talking about the issue of the minister saying that their legislation, like others, balances the needs of workers and business. Quite the contrary. There's a whole host of issues where business has got the better of the day. This is straightforward business. Stop trying to make it more, Minister.

Mrs Margaret Marland (Mississauga South): I want to congratulate the Solicitor General for finally putting to rest the subject of shopping on Boxing Day. It's a very long-time, convoluted debate --

Mr Bradley: What about the family?

Mrs Marland: -- and I say simply to the member for St Catharines, who says, "What about the family?" the point about Boxing Day is, for those of us who celebrate Christmas in the Christian tradition, that Boxing Day is not a religious day. It does happen to be a family day. It does happen to be a day when a lot of people are not working in conventional jobs and they can go shopping together as a family on Boxing Day with the money they've been given as gifts for Christmas. They can shop in a bargain shopping spree. To give people the freedom of choice: That's what we're talking about.

We live in Alice in Wonderland if we don't think that stores have been open illegally on Boxing Day. As long as the employees are protected who do not wish to work on Boxing Day -- and this bill which the Solicitor General has tabled does protect the employees who do not wish to work on Boxing Day.

Frankly, I am surprised to hear the former Solicitor General talk about the enforcement because I could never defend the deployment of our highly trained police forces and the officers who serve in those police forces around this province to go and issue tickets to businesses which chose to violate the existing law. How ridiculous. How absolutely absurd that those highly trained men and women, our officers of our wonderful police forces in this province, would be asked to go out and ticket stores which chose to disobey the law.

Mr Mike Colle (Oakwood): It's interesting, the perspective on this bill. I had one retailer who told me: "Darn it, this used to be my best retail day of the year when I used to open up illegally. The government's now taken that away from me." Some other retailer said to me, "Perhaps what should happen is the MPPs should all open up their constituency offices on Boxing Day if they really believe in this." He said he's going to come to my office if I vote in favour of it and make sure that I'm there full-blown.

I generally think this is a bill that faces reality. I know we had a nightmare of a problem at Metro trying to administer this and it was certainly counterproductive in trying to legislate this in any way, shape or form. Metro precipitated this bill because, as you know, Metro unilaterally allowed for Boxing Day and I guess it wasn't fair for people in Peel and Durham and York region with two different rules. But that's going to come to an end. They're going to be announcing this new mega-monster city from Oshawa to Burlington where you'll have just one big, huge government that will make rules for everybody, so we won't have any problems that way in the future.

I would just like to say, though, that the minister mentioned creating jobs. I just got a call in my office from a couple where the husband just got laid off and can't get unemployment insurance because there is a waiting period now. Then the spouse, who worked part time, has been told by her employer that they will be closing down, starting next week and all through the second week in January.

This is the real problem: Somehow we've got to create jobs that pay people reasonable wages, and I don't think this is going to help. We have to somehow create real, meaningful jobs in Ontario. Right now most of the jobs are part time. We need jobs for people.

Hon Mr Runciman: A brief comment. I share the concern of the member who just spoke with respect to employment. I think all of the signs with respect to the economy are very positive, but the one that is slower with respect to other elements of the economy is consumer confidence. Certainly I encourage him and his colleagues and his new leader to participate in encouraging consumers in this province rather than encouraging something quite the opposite with respect to the future of this province in terms of some of the economic initiatives that have been announced and undertaken by this government and will be undertaken in the coming year.

I think we can all encourage consumer confidence by the role we play in this House and outside of this House.

The member for St Catharines mentioned caucus, and certainly we had a number of very interesting discussions surrounding this issue and other holidays that fall under this act as well. But certainly this does not create a wide-open situation, as the member suggested, because clearly a number of other very important statutory holidays retain their protection under the Retail Business Holidays Act.

The member for Hamilton Centre was commenting with respect to policing. I certainly didn't intend to imply that this was a panacea with respect to freeing up police officers to deal with crime, but I think the problem has been, certainly in the recent past, the police officers found themselves in a difficult situation, especially in Metro when many business owners chose to ignore the legislation and the law and opened. It placed police officers in very difficult circumstances and their time was consumed dealing with this legislation.

The Deputy Speaker: Thank you. Your time has expired. Further debate?

Mr David Ramsay (Timiskaming): I'm very pleased to be able to rise this afternoon and to speak to this bill. I'd just like to say to the table officers that I wish to share my time with the member for St Catharines this afternoon as lead-off speaker.

The Deputy Speaker: Unanimous consent? Agreed. Did I hear a no? Agreed.

Mr Ramsay: I'd like to thank the members of the House for allowing the member for St Catharines and myself to share the time. You're going to get a different perspective by hearing the member for St Catharines and myself speaking on this issue. In the end these are difficult issues. Just as I'm sure all caucuses had an energetic discussion on this issue, these are social issues that reflect the change of time. On this particular issue, I think this is a time when the law is really catching up with society's behaviour and the wishes of people.

As the Solicitor General has said, to send highly trained men and women out chasing down retailers because the public is demanding to get into their stores the day after Christmas is really an inappropriate use of police resources. With all the problems we have today in society, we need our women and men in the police forces to be chasing real criminals, not store owners who are responding to public demand.


The other thing we need to realize too is that many of the laws that we are turning over in the latter part of this century came from the previous century, when basically society by and large was a Christian society in this country and this province. Of course, as we all know, Canadian society has embraced the peoples of the world. We've invited the peoples of the world to live here and we've done a wonderful job of doing that and living here in harmony. I think it's time also that we, through our laws, reflect the diversity, the pluralistic society that we have, and for many people in society Boxing Day is no more special than any other day. Many of those people wish either to work or to shop, and who are we in government to prevent that from happening?

As with anything we do in society, there is a balance and there are people on either side of the issue. While one may look at this issue and say, "For sure. Why shouldn't everybody be for this? It is what people are doing," there are some downsides to it and I appreciate the minister putting into this bill some safeguards. What's certainly debatable is, how strong are these safeguards in protecting retailers who do not wish to open on Boxing Day and how safe are these safeguards in protecting the workers who do not wish to work on Boxing Day and wish to spend the day with their families?

Before I get into that in more detail, though, I want to carry on the theme of, how big a role should government have in what I call social engineering? Really, what we're talking about here with the law we've had that prevents retailers from opening on Boxing Day is saying to the population that we think it's wrong and, in fact up till probably whenever we vote on this bill, that it is illegal for anybody to be purchasing goods or services on the day after Christmas. I think we really have to examine ourselves as legislators, as the lawmakers in Ontario, as to, really, what business is it of ours to be dictating when people can shop, when business people can open their stores?

Of course we've been through all this debate with Sunday shopping, and quite frankly I supported Sunday shopping. We've had it now for many years and I don't really find the world has changed that much with the introduction of family shopping. There is a sort of nostalgic loss. It would be nice to have kept, in a way, a common day of pause, but again that was based on the common day of pause that most of us had in the last century, when fundamentally the vast majority of people were of one particular religion.

I think what's important is that people are able to have a pause day with their families. It doesn't necessarily have to be a common day of pause. Quite frankly, what we find with Sunday shopping is that many families that go to church will make a day of it and go out after church, go to Sunday brunch somewhere in their community, and sometimes they'll visit a downtown or a mall that happens to be open in their town or city. Families are doing that and being together doing that.

Again, how is it for us in government to say that somehow a family shopping together is not a healthy and loving activity for a family to do? That's not my judgement to make. I don't see anything wrong when I take my daughters out and we go shopping on whatever day it is. It's an activity that I'm doing with my family. So to make those old, I think puritanical judgements that "Thou shalt not shop on a Sunday" or "Thou shalt not shop on the day after Christmas," the day we affectionately call Boxing Day, I think is wrong. We have to move into the modern era and really get government off the backs of people and off the backs of retailers and say that obviously there is a basic code of behaviour that we stand for in this province and that our laws reflect that, but one of those codes of behaviour is not that we should be regulating when you shop or when you sell merchandise or services. I think those are the areas where we should be getting out of people's lives, cutting the red tape when it comes to that and freeing up society on those levels.

I know the government made a move. The previous two governments, one of which I was in, did not make the change that I applaud this government for, and that was extending to 2 am the hours one could enjoy alcoholic beverages in public. It's interesting enough that it wasn't until this weekend that I first had the opportunity to experience that, as I don't tend to find myself out after midnight or 1, but I did this weekend with the political convention. It was very nice and I thank the government. I was thinking in my mind that maybe we, the Liberal Party, should have applied for an exemption for us so that we could have had a beer maybe in the wee hours of the morning, because it was just about breakfast time when we heard those final results, as you all know.

We really have to get out of people's lives and this social engineering, how much we dictate people's behaviour, as long as obviously the very basic fundamentals are there, that we treat each other with respect, that we don't hurt each other. These are the fundamentals of all religion that we should be looking at, and not when you shop or when you work.

That is sort of my entrée into some of the safeguards we have to ensure are in this bill and are effective and continue to be effective as the government wants to move on to the Employment Standards Act and looking at that in the new year. That's something the Liberal caucus will be watching very carefully because we see in this bill that right now there is a protection -- I hope it has some teeth in it for sure and that it's effective -- that those who wish not to work on Boxing Day can stay home with their family and enjoy that day after Christmas, enjoy the stay with relatives who may have travelled from afar and may have another day off before they have to return to their homes, enjoy looking at their presents again and talking about Christmas and just catching up on family activities, especially nowadays when we find ourselves with family probably spread a lot farther across the country and sometimes into other countries, more so than we found years and years ago. Sure, those family days are very important. What's going to be very important for this bill is that the assurances are there that families can have the time if they wish to do so. Again, that applies to retailers.

It's very important, and as the member for Oakwood had said previously in the two-minute Q and A after the last speaker, it's also very important that retailers who wish to spend that day with their family, especially after a very hectic shopping period -- and I hope this year it is a hectic Christmas shopping month for retailers; we're not so sure that's going to happen, but I hope for the economy and for the people that they can afford the presents they want and that the retailers will benefit from that -- that the retailers who wish to stay closed on Boxing Day can remain so and do so without penalty.

The problem is that those retailers who find themselves in malls or any other leasing arrangements where they are under conditions by the leaseholder, such as shopping centres and malls, sometimes are forced to open on days they no longer wish to be open. That sometimes is done because it's the policy of the mall to put all its advertising forward and say -- take an example in my area, Timiskaming Square just outside of New Liskeard in Dymond township -- "Sundays we are open from noon to 4" and all the stores would be open. They can pool their advertising and make sure that people know that those goods and services are available there. The pressure is certainly on the lessees to be open on those days, so it's very important that this protection be there.

The other area of concern is of course what I would say would be the inappropriate use of police resources. There's always the story on the supper news, on the evening news on Boxing Day, when people are maybe still full of eating turkey leftovers and are not moving too much and probably didn't watch news on Christmas Day. Then we start to watch the news on Boxing Day and there's the proverbial story of -- usually it's done in Metro so our news crews don't have to go too far afield on holidays. There's a shot of two of Metro's finest going into one of the name department stores and laying some charges against the store. The store is full of people. There doesn't seem to be too many people out there really upset about this, but we force our police officers to enforce the law.


It really is a law that probably is no longer enforceable, and it's my view and the government's view that it should no longer be enforceable. That's why it's time to live up to the reality of the day and not just say to the police department, giving a wink and a nod, like has happened in the past, "Well, listen, let's just not enforce it," and not really live up to what the law is, that it's wrong and that we need to change it. I'm glad we're going to be changing this law and, as I said, the Liberal caucus will be voting for it.

You have to look at some of the pioneers who made this happen. Even though it looks like it's not a big social issue, this change does not come without great cost to many people. There have been retailers who have led the fight and have been dragged into court and have had a series of fines over the years. I can think of one particularly famous Toronto retailer, Paul Magder, who for years and years led the fight for freer legislation for retailers for Sunday and Boxing Day openings. It has cost him thousands and thousands of dollars and I believe eventually cost him his business, with all the fines that were against him.

So there were pioneers who led this fight, and while, as I said, it doesn't appear to be a fight of great social significance, of human rights or anything, it's still a fight for people's freedom. Even with the downsides of it, that we hope will be protected so that people will not be forced to work or be forced to open up their stores, it is, in a way, a victory for people's freedom to exercise their rights on a day such as Boxing Day to shop if they wish.

Another interesting point, and why this legislation is necessary, is that because of the way the present law is written today, some communities have the ability to open on Boxing Day and some don't. Primarily, a good example of that is Metropolitan Toronto. Because of the tourism exemption that was originally in the law for Sunday shopping that Toronto had passed to allow the Eaton Centre to be designated as a tourist destination, as it certainly is -- that could be attested by anyone over the years who visited the Eaton Centre or in that area of Toronto on a Sunday; way before Sunday shopping was across the board legalized, it certainly was -- Metro has seen fit to declare all of Toronto, and I guess this is probably the city of Toronto, a tourism exemption so that stores in Toronto could legally open on Boxing Day.

Of course, what's interesting to note is that not all communities, because of the nature of those communities, are able to pass the criteria, to say: "Our particular community is a tourism destination. We pass the criteria, and therefore we would be able to open our stores on Sunday."

The present law has given an advantage to main centres, such as the national capital in Ottawa, Toronto, where, without argument, people could say that these are major tourism centres in this province, where many of our smaller towns, while they're very beautiful and attractive to go visit, would not fulfil all the criteria that are in the act now as a tourism destination.

This bill, then, would bring some equity to all municipalities in the province, to all retailers across the province, so that they have the opportunity, if they wish, to open on Sunday.

As I said to the minister when he first made a statement in the House to introduce this bill and to give notice to the House that he was introducing this bill on that day, what I thought particularly interesting about the timing of this is that we're seeing a slump right now in retail sales. If this is going to help, this is certainly the year to legalize this, because our economy is in desperate need of opportunity for consumer transactions such as happen on Boxing Day.

I must say that the problem, of course, is that the tax cut did not generate the retail sales that the government had wished, that in turn would generate the tax revenues coming into the government, that the government sorely needs in order to fund government but particularly to fund the tax cut.

That has been a big problem for the government, so I think this has, particularly at this time, gotten this government's attention. At least if they legalized retail business on Boxing Day, it would give an extra incentive to retailers without the penalty of fines -- and the fines have been substantial in the laws up to date -- the opportunity to open and to try to recoup as much as they could from the very poor showing that retail sales have had over the last couple of months.

It's a big concern in my community. In fact, two days ago I learned that another 23 government employees -- in this case they were part of the 720 Ministry of Transportation employees who were laid off across the province -- were laid off from the New Liskeard district office situated in New Liskeard. That's 23 after another 20 previously who were laid off. While these numbers might sound, for many people, very small and trivial, 20, 30, 40 or 50 people in small communities such as mine are a great blow to the economy.

It's that type of job loss and the threat of job loss coming that has prevented people from opening up their purses and wallets. In fact, it's very interesting to note that the very opposite behaviour that we should be pursuing when there are times of recession or fear of job loss unfortunately happens. In order to make the economy boom, dollars have to be spent, but of course, when we are unemployed or see our neighbour unemployed and fear that we may lose our jobs, we start to save. We get worried. We're concerned that if we lose our job, there's not going to be any savings there to tide us over until unemployment insurance, if we qualify, will kick in or until we can find another job while all that's happening. So, people's wallets and purses tighten up during these times, which again exacerbates the economic problem of money not flowing through the economy.

It's particularly important at this time, with the tax cut there and the tax cut not generating the revenues and the government under pressure from the opposition not to be cutting any more. They are in a box of their own construction. I think it's a trap that they have built for themselves. I certainly hope, for the sake of the government of Ontario and the people of Ontario, that tax revenues will start to flow in to this government. I hope people in the new year do find employment and through that generate the tax revenue we need so that we can keep some basic government services in place for the people of Ontario.

Living in northern Ontario, I can obviously see the deterioration of services, and some very basic ones, that happen at this time of year. Relating back to the transportation ministry cuts, winter road maintenance is one of the very big fundamental issues that affect my area and the area of all my northern colleagues across all sides of this House. It is particularly important, as the government looks at its various expenditure reductions, that areas in public safety and security are not cut to the detriment of public safety and security. That is going to be paramount.

Again, relating to these cuts that have an effect on the economy and the reason why I think the government brought this bill forward to open up the shops on Boxing Day, it's just another reason why I say to the government that we've got to be careful with how you restructure. You're moving far too fast, you're displacing far too many people and, quite frankly, you're sending shock waves through the economy that we're seeing being expressed in the lack of consumer confidence; and that lack of consumer confidence is being expressed in an absence of dollars flowing through cash registers in the stores right across this province. This is a problem. This is a big problem for our retailers.

As one of my northern colleagues stated in the House today -- he was listing the record number of bankruptcies in many of the northern communities across the north of this province. They're at record number today, and if we're to save these retailers so we can have the delivery of goods and services in our towns and cities right across this province, we have to make sure that the retail sector of this economy is sound and strong. We have to make sure that the economy is sound and strong. To be cutting back the billions of dollars a year that this government has done, with an announcement that's imminent of another $3 billion in cuts to come, this hurts the economy. We have to remember that these dollars have to be borrowed to pay for this tax cut. The government is trying to reduce its borrowing, and that's why it's cutting even more, because they have to fund this tax cut. But there's $3 billion that is going to come out of the Ontario economy again next year. That will send a second shock wave through the Ontario populace and people will stop spending again.


I worry about that because I can see this record number of bankruptcies in the retail sector accelerating. I hope that doesn't happen and I hope people have enough confidence to feel they are going to keep their jobs, that they will be able to go out and buy the Christmas presents they want for their families and enjoy the little extras we all enjoy around the kitchen table and the dining room table over Christmastime. It's a wonderful, festive time of year. But it's kind of hard, with the Grinch that's stealing Christmas over there, to celebrate as joyously as we have in the past.

Again I say to the government that I caution you on the way you're going through these cuts. You are sending shock waves through the economy. The retail sector that you're trying to help here today, and I support you in that, is going to be particularly hard hit. It is feeling that pain now as people retrench their spending. It's doubly important that you re-examine these cuts, and certainly the tax cuts, because while you feel you're putting more money in people's pockets, in reality working people in the public sector, and some who have been affected by your government cuts in the private sector, have a lot fewer dollars in their purses and wallets today. They are not spending those dollars, and it's having a profound effect on this economy.

I say to the government I caution you on that, we've got to watch for this, but I think this bill is moving in the right direction. We just have to make sure that not only workers are protected in this bill, but when you reopen the Employment Standards Act next year it's doubly important that as we free up opportunities for people to work and the choice of retailers to open or not, that workers and retailers are protected so they have the ability not to work and not to open their stores when they want. That's very important.

It's a double-edged sword and we have to find the balance. As we move out of this social engineering mode we've been in probably the last 50 years in this country and bring more freedoms to individuals to express themselves in a safe and decent manner, it's important that the safeguards are there so the people are protected.

Mr Speaker, I realize that as we've split the time we will not have the questions and answers in between. I thank you very much for recognizing me. I know that my colleague from St Catharines is following my speech very closely in his office and that he will be down very shortly.

I remember when we went through this very same argument with Sunday shopping about five years ago. For any people who are afraid of what might happen when this law is passed -- it's going to happen in a few weeks, and Boxing Day is declared a legal shopping holiday -- I don't really think the world is going to change. I think the world will become just as safe and secure a place and that family values will not be eroded.

That was exactly what people had feared: that somehow, if shopping was legalized on Sundays, family values would be eroded and church attendance would decline. Studies subsequent to the opening of Sunday shopping have shown that's not the case at all. In fact, many of us who supported Sunday shopping at that time had seen, from studies done in different states that had Sunday shopping for many years, that church attendance had not eroded, that family activity on a Sunday had not eroded at all and that basically the world had not changed dramatically.

What it did for people who were very busy -- and quite frankly what's interesting is that 20 years ago when we really saw the new surge of automation, we all predicted that "You know, by the late 1990s people are only going to be working 30 hours a week. With the automation we'll be working a lot less." What we've found is that actually we are working a lot more. For various reasons we are working harder and longer and of course that gives us less opportunity to accomplish those personal errands and chores when we have to go out and buy goods and services. So having that flexibility and that freedom over the whole weekend is very important.

Many of us I know in this business work on Saturdays. There are many people who work on Saturdays who cannot get out and do the normal things that some of us do, shopping and doing our grocery shopping and other things on Saturdays, so Sunday, whether we like it or not, is a day that we can avail ourselves of. We enjoy having that freedom of choice. We may or we may not shop on a Sunday, but at least it's there, if you cannot during the week accomplish your personal errands and chores.

It's the same with Boxing Day. For some, it may not be suitable, and I certainly personally do not have any plans to go out on Boxing Day and to shop. But quite frankly I believe that people in Ontario should have the freedom to do that.

The Deputy Speaker: The member for St Catharines.

Mr Bradley: And now for the other side of the story, or the rest of the story, I think is what Paul Harvey says. But in this case I just want to leave some thoughts with members on this with a perhaps slightly different viewpoint from the member for Timiskaming, and the rest of the Liberal caucus just about. I have consistently over the years -- my friends in the caucus would say I pretended it was 1896, but it's really not the case -- I opposed these wide-open Sundays and shopping on holidays and these kinds of laws. I was never one in favour of some of the other initiatives the government in which I was involved was involved in, that is, in terms of these kinds of issues.

It's a difficult issue to wrestle with. The minister, the member for Leeds-Grenville, has been through many changes as well within his own party, from a time when the Conservative Party wouldn't contemplate at all shopping on Sunday to a point where they were for a wide-open Sunday, and other changes that have taken place over the years.

Times do change; however, I don't think principles should change. One of my concerns about this piece of legislation which is going to pass this House and probably will have some widespread support, or at least acquiescence, is that it removes an opportunity for a family day. I recognize that not everybody in Ontario is of the Christian faith or doesn't always recognize Christian holidays as their own holidays, but it has nevertheless become a holiday when people have gathered together. Even those who are not of the Christian faith and those who do not recognize Christmas as a specific religious holiday nevertheless have coalesced around family at that time of year.

Yes, there is Christmas Eve and there is Christmas Day for people to visit, but where there's a larger family or perhaps a situation where a young couple is visiting one set of in-laws one day and the other another day, it's nice to be able to do it all at one time and it's been a nice day. Sometimes as well people have Christmas Day as a family day and Boxing Day they reserve more for friends to get together with them, and I think we're removing this.

I thought it was a good move when we decided we'd close the stores on Boxing Day and that we would prosecute. You see, I think that there's just as much shopping to be done two days later as there is one day after Christmas. I've never understood this stampede to the stores for so-called bargains. The way it is now, a lot of the bargains are coming before Christmas and indeed through the whole week after Christmas or into January, when you'll see some special sales. Why, oh why, we have to have them exactly the next day I'll never know.

People will tell me, and the government is acquiescing to this, that this is a reality. The minister said had a survey that 79% of the people said they would shop if the stores were open on Boxing Day. Well, I would predict that 75% would shop no matter what day you talked about. There would be people shopping on Christmas if you'd let them shop on Christmas, probably not as much certainly, and I think of Labour Day and other holidays that we have. But the people who are left out are the people who are in these stores. So not only does it encourage people to break away from the family circumstance -- and I know how many members of the government emphasized in their campaign literature that they were for family values; I know that they would be concerned about this, as they would with the video lottery terminals that are going to be in every bar, every restaurant on every street in every neighbourhood in Ontario. But this is yet another issue where we are taking away from those family values, if you will.


That's the first argument that I make, that it detracts from the opportunity for people to gather together as family and friends in something other than the helter-skelter shopping that goes on. I heard the member for Mississauga South say, "Well, isn't this great? They can all shop together." If you go into the stores, I'm told, on that day, you would find out that it's worse than an NHL hockey game in the corners with the elbows flying so people can get the best bargains. This mentality of "Shop till you drop" I've never understood, but I guess retailers certainly like it very much, and I suspect that they would have the opportunity to shop the weekend after Christmas or during that week.

I'm really concerned about the people who must work in these stores, and the government is not being unkind about this; they're really trying to address it with the provisions in the act which say that people really don't have to work if they don't want to. Realistically speaking, that doesn't work. That's some protection, and perhaps even for very large stores there may be some protection, but where there are only a few people working in a store, half a dozen people or so and nobody wishes to work on that day, obviously somebody who doesn't want to work is going to work.

Is there an incentive? Yes, there's a premium to be paid, and once again that's to make it easier for those who either feel compelled to work on Boxing Day or genuinely want to work on Boxing Day and are prepared to sacrifice a holiday. Nevertheless, you're going to force people who don't want to work on that day to work on that day, and I suspect they are a lot larger in numbers than perhaps many would anticipate here. They simply are silent because they don't want to annoy their employers, particularly at a time when jobs are difficult to come by in Ontario and anywhere else in the country.

The thought that this creates more jobs I've always dismissed as nonsense. It's the same as Sunday shopping. They say, "If you have the stores open on Sunday, there will be more jobs." Well, there aren't more jobs. People have only so much money, and they're going to spend it in either six days of the week or seven days of the week, and they're going to spend it whether on Boxing Day the stores are open or not.

Where there is an argument, I suppose, is in border areas; if you're adjacent to Manitoba and they allowed it, if people really wanted to travel from Kenora to Manitoba for one day of shopping. I don't know how many would, but more in the Hull-Ottawa area, if the stores are open in Quebec, some people might hightail it across the border to do so.

I always thought people in Canada would do that in the United States, but I was watching a television program about the Thanksgiving weekend and apparently the day after Thanksgiving -- they have a four-day weekend; they have Thanksgiving in the American country on the Thursday -- and what I noted was that the day after that, the Friday, is their Boxing Day. In other words, that's considered to be their best retail day, the day after Thanksgiving, in the United States. I wasn't aware of that. I always thought that perhaps their Boxing Day was the same, but they don't really have a Boxing Day. I'm sure they're happy to cater to Canadians the next day, and maybe in the border areas they would try to copy the kind of sales that might be on the other side of the border, but by and large I think this is totally unnecessary and it's an imposition on employees.

It's also an imposition on shop owners. I know that the government has tried to address this by putting a provision in this bill that says they will not be in violation of their lease no matter what the lease happens to say, and I think it's good that they put that in, I think that's helpful, but I really don't think it's as helpful as everyone believes. When that lease comes up to be renewed, those who are in a very successful mall, shopping area or shopping centre are going to put pressure on people to be open at the same time that all other stores are open. Also there's the peer pressure of the other stores being open.

So we have families and friends who are adversely impacted by this, we have employees of the retail outlets who are adversely impacted and we have some store owners who don't want to be open but obviously will feel somehow that they must be open.

This is a long way from the old Tories I remember in this House who years ago had a different viewpoint in these matters. Some of the people in the rural areas, they tell me, are particularly annoyed with these provisions. I guess in the large urban areas such as Toronto you have some people who kind of accept it because Toronto is a huge tourist city and it's going to be open anyway. But I am told that in some towns the people would prefer to have the stores closed, and open on the 27th, and have the family or friends together for both the 25th and 26th.

All the surveys out there are interesting, but it depends on how you ask the question. If you ask people if they want to shop on Labour Day or Christmas, some people are going to say that yes, they would on those days, instead of keeping ourselves together and having a day of pause.

I'm not going to go on at great length on this because it's probably got a pretty good consensus in this Legislature that it's going to pass. I think those, though, who are opposed deserve to have their views put forward in the House. They happen to coincide with my views, so I will not be voting in favour of this bill. I suppose when I say I'm not voting in favour, that means when you call the vote I will not be here to vote in favour of the bill, so that's the way that will be.

I'm sure some of my colleagues will be here to vote for it. It's one where I wish there were a free vote, but there isn't, and the world doesn't end without free votes in these matters. But I happen to have that view, as I do on Sunday shopping. If I had my way, we wouldn't have Sunday shopping either except in special circumstances. I wouldn't have the large malls and large retail outlets open on a Sunday either, but we have it and it's much harder to reverse that.

The argument I make with a lot of these pieces of legislation which ease the laws is that it's very difficult, once you've eased them, to tighten them up again. If you say now, "We're going to end Sunday shopping," you probably would get a good deal of opposition. But when it first happened, a lot of people out there asked us to take a stand against it. I know that some people like it, and some people say to me, "Who do you think you are, telling me when I can shop and when I can't?" I understand those arguments and I respect them, but I also thought that was a good family day. On Sunday we didn't have to be running helter-skelter out to the malls and shopping centres. You had your small retail outlets open for convenience's sake, and I understood that. That violates the principle, but I understood that.

I thought all those people had to work on Sundays when they could have the family together at one time, and that's why I always found that to be unacceptable. Churches used to be very vocal on this matter. I think many of them, if given their choice, would still have our large retail stores closed on Sunday. There is a bit of a difference in that most of them are open from about 12 o'clock to 5 o'clock or 1 o'clock to 4 o'clock or something of that nature.

I think they found out that Sunday shopping didn't increase sales for them. I suspect that the total increase in sales as a result of opening on Boxing Day will be minimum. Yes, that will be a great day, a huge day for sales, but if you had it on the 27th, I suspect it would be just as big a day in terms of shopping. But you've taken away a holiday for people.


I'd like to figure out if this has something to do with the tax cut. Some members don't think it has, but maybe the member from Riverside thinks that they believe they're going to get more retail sales tax in by having the stores open on Boxing Day and that perhaps one of the motivating factors in having the government bring forward this legislation is its bizarre tax scheme. I was trying to figure out how I could fit that into this, but now I've figured out how it is. So when I'm looking at, why does a government that you wouldn't expect to make changes like this make this change, it makes me think that they know they've got to borrow $5 billion a year for the tax cut, the tax cut which benefits the richest people in our society the most. I see the Royal Bank made unprecedented profits while it was casting employees to the sideline, as did some other banks out there. There were certainly others that have made increased profits and have cast people aside.

When I look at this circumstance, I say that maybe one of the motivating factors was the tax cut, just as I believe that the major motivating factor for bringing in video lottery terminals in every bar, every restaurant, every street and every neighbourhood in Ontario was because of the revenue this government has lost in terms of the tax cut.

Mr David S. Cooke (Windsor-Riverside): There's enough new revenue to pay for 27 MPPs.

Mr Bradley: Enough new revenue, the member says, to pay for 27 new MPPs. That's possible. I'm looking at all the possible reasons. I talked to Dr Joseph Kushner of Brock University, a small-c conservative economist, a member of St Catharines city council for 20 years, who moved the motion at city council that asked the government not to proceed with the tax cut. You won't find a more small-c conservative economist than Joe Kushner, but Joe understood very well what a lot of people don't, and that is that you have to borrow the $5 billion a year to pay for the tax cut and you have to pay interest on that and therefore you increase the debt each year. He can't understand, as I can't understand, as most people can't understand, why you're doing it. I happen to think that's one of the reasons -- not the only reason -- you acquiesced to this piece of legislation, because you thought you might get increased retail sales and you might not have to borrow as much money as contemplated to pay for your tax cut for the richest people in our society. There's how I related it to the tax cut. I know you wanted to do that.


Mr Bradley: The member for Rexdale wants to know how I would get Conrad Black into this. I'm wondering how those newspapers will cover it. The Pelham Herald, the Speaker will want to know, apparently has been saved. Even Conrad Black, or his people beneath him, who work for him, have listened and have decided to keep the Pelham Herald open. There was an insurrection when they were going to close this newspaper, which was making money and had a big tradition.

Mr Bill Murdoch (Grey-Owen Sound): You said you were not going to talk too long.

Mr Bradley: The member for Grey-Owen Sound interjects. I say that so he can send the Hansard home and people will see that he was here. I'm wondering what they would be saying in many of those towns in Grey county about the opening on Boxing Day, because I suspect many of them would be opposed.

Mr Cooke: Was Bill consulted on this?

Mr Bradley: I wonder if Bill was consulted on this. I think he's a person worth consulting on that side, because he often has a view different from the government.

By the way, I should mention -- I don't know how many members of this House know this -- that Hansard is no longer going to be available to the general public except if you're rich enough to own a computer and be on the Internet. I did not know that. Somebody who gets Hansard, who reads the interjections from the member for Etobicoke-Rexdale with great amusement and delight, told me today. Apparently, as a cost-cutting measure, democracy will suffer again. It again fits Ontario, because in Ontario of 1996 and beyond there's one rule for the rich and the privileged and one rule for the rest. If you can afford a computer and if you can afford to be hooked up to the Internet -- and I don't have a computer, and I'm not hooked up to the Internet at my house --


The Acting Speaker (Ms Marilyn Churley): Order, please.

Interjection: How many people read Hansard now?

Mr Bradley: Since you people have been in power, everybody wants Hansard now.

I am deeply disappointed that this is happening, and I think there should be an investigation at the Board of Internal Economy, and since the member for Beaches-Woodbine enjoys her time at the board --

Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-Woodbine): I'm not on it.

Mr Bradley: Oh, you're not on it any more?

Ms Lankin: I never was.

Mr Bradley: I thought you -- oh, I see; the member for Algoma. The whip will tell the member for Algoma that this matter is extremely important and should be brought to the attention of the Board of Internal Economy because this is indeed a travesty of democracy. I like that word.

Ms Lankin: Why don't you get your House leader to tell your whip?

Mr Bradley: House leader; oh, yes, that guy. I will also inform the Liberal whip of that. Those who haven't served on the Board of Internal Economy should know that it's an absolute delight.


Mr Bradley: On the Board of Internal Economy, that is correct.

Anyway, I will be sending this out to thousands of people, this speech on this, many of them who voted for you, indicating what your government thinks of family values, and of course what the Liberal caucus thinks of family values, and what you think of employees and their plight and store owners and their plight.

Will the world end if this bill passes? It will not. Are there more important pieces of legislation to debate in this House? Assuredly so. But I did want to put on record my views on this important matter, and I did want to indicate to you that I would not be voting in favour of this particular legislation. Although, as I say, others have been persuaded of its wisdom, I remain true to my principles on this and so many other matters.

The Acting Speaker: Questions or comments?

Ms Lankin: I want to take a moment to respond to the member for St Catharines, but I have to tell you I think I've responded to this speech before. It's a bit of a déjà vu I'm going through, I'm not sure why.

I want to say that I disagree with you on this one point, and only this time, that I really do not see that this particular bill is related to that silly, phoney, bizarre tax scheme of the government. This one is related to a court challenge. They've been forced to do this. But virtually everything else they're doing is related to that phoney, bizarre tax scheme. So I think you're right in general.

I actually enjoyed your comments, and I share some of your hesitations about yet again another move in this direction, as I did in government when we took the steps to approve Sunday shopping, which was becoming a widespread practice at that time. It felt to someone like me like it was a train coming down the track and there was just no way to stop it.

Speaker, your colleague who spoke earlier talked about a sense of nostalgia and a nostalgic loss of the time when Sunday was a quiet day, when holidays were quiet times, when there wasn't the same pace. Particularly living in urban Ontario as I do, there's a pace and speed to life that I just would like to see slow down sometimes.

While I will support this because I think, in light of court rulings, it makes sense, I find it a sad moment as we see yet another way of life passing. But that's life, right? Things change, and here we are.

The one comment I would like to add to this debate, however, is that as you pass this legislation and you give the protection to workers under the Employment Standards Act, which I support wholeheartedly, their choice to work or not, I wonder how long that protection will be worth anything. As I see your government's continuous attack on working people, as I see you propose changes to the Employment Standards Act which will gut its ability to protect people, I wonder how much this protection is really worth.

The Acting Speaker: Further questions or comments?

Mr John Hastings (Etobicoke-Rexdale): It's very interesting to listen to the remarks from the member for St Catharines in terms of the nostalgia that he brings back in terms of years and decades past, particularly when you think of rural Ontario and some of the smaller communities which probably have some reluctance in terms of seeing their Sundays not as quiet as they used to be. But I think there are significant benefits to this particular piece of legislation. One of the ones that is most important for the opening of Boxing Day for retail shoppers and for all those folks who have the syndrome of "Shop till you drop," which I don't understand either in some instances, but they ought to have the freedom to do so.


The significant benefit, in my estimation, is that there are a number of young people who are working in part-time jobs in retail, in the electronics stores, in some of the upscale and more nostalgic-type retail clothing shops, who require this sort of income for their university or community college or adult learning education, and it's vital that they have that sort of income for that particular day, for in the Employment Standards Act, there is time and a half, if not more, which this government will protect. I want to remind the member for Beaches-Woodbine that that will be protected and has always been protected in legislation. This government has no intention of going about doing what you are implying or in a roundabout way indicating will be done.

The Acting Speaker: The member's time has expired. Further questions or comments? The member for -- sorry.

Mr Bradley: St Catharines-Brock.

The Acting Speaker: St Catharines-Brock.

Mr Tom Froese (St Catharines-Brock): It may be St Catharines next time under the new boundary changes, but right now it's St Catharines-Brock.

The member for St Catharines is quite right that there is a lot of diverse opinion with respect to this issue. In our caucus, like the opposition caucuses, I'm sure there's been a lot of debate. I've received a number of calls in my constituency office from workers from small businesses who are concerned that they will be forced to work. I can certainly appreciate their opinion and that point of view, and we've had some discussions with them.

I come from a strong family, religious and spiritual background. When we talk about these issues, we do deal with those family values. The member alluded to the community and the churches, what they thought of issues like that, and I agree with the member for St Catharines. If it was my choice, I, as well, wouldn't have any Sunday shopping and I would have all family time. But that's not the real world. I'm finding now that on Sunday I do shopping and I go to restaurants as well.

My wife was home for 17 years raising our four children. She went back into the workforce. She now works, because of the type of employment she's in, Tuesday to Saturday, so it takes away from our family time. I really believe that families have to deal with that situation in this day and age. What I really appreciate about the bill is that the employees will have the choice of whether to work or not. I think that's extremely important. They have the right to refuse to work.

Mr Bradley: I appreciate the remarks from other members, and I think everybody can see that I don't see some evil plot on the part of the government in this bill. I know they're facing a court ruling which is compelling them to take certain action. I know the difficulty of administering this law and using up police resources. The police officers who would normally be putting tickets on vehicles that are parked on side streets had to get away from that and go in and give tickets to those who are holding their stores open, so I understand that to be a problem -- or carrying out other responsibilities officers might have.

The member for Rexdale, I must say, has a very colourful tie on, and I want to compliment him on that.

The member for Beaches-Woodbine made a very good point when she said that you have to look at legislation in the context of everything else the government is doing. A lot of employees now, particularly those who are not protected by a large and strong union, are feeling very apprehensive, very concerned, very much under the gun. I know there's always a balance that you want to have. You don't want the employer to be in a position where there's no flexibility at all. On the other hand, the pendulum has swung considerably the other way.

The other day, I guess yesterday, in the House there was some talk of taking away further rights from people who worked for boards of education and things of that nature. That tends to make them apprehensive. All the privatization that takes place is making employees apprehensive. I don't think this legislation will really solve it. It'll go partway, and that's fine, but it won't really solve it.

The member for St Catharines-Brock and I have both received those telephone calls. If we had our wishes we wouldn't be passing this legislation, but obviously it is going to pass and the courts have certainly said it should pass.

Mr Christopherson: I appreciate the opportunity to join the debate on Bill 95. I'm going to talk about a number of things the minister raised in his comments. While the bill would seem relatively innocuous for those of us who will support it, based on the fact that the courts have already determined this -- this is not a huge deal in and of itself -- there are significant references to the Employment Standards Act. In fact, of the six sections that are in this bill, one or maybe two refer to it, but certainly the one that does is the largest section in the entire bill. So a lot of my comments are going to relate to the Employment Standards Act and to other matters the minister raised.

It's interesting that when the minister made his opening comments he talked about the fact that this was an economic issue, he talked about it being a bit of police issue, he talked about it being an important part of their overall intent to try to create and stimulate jobs -- I'm paraphrasing, of course -- but those were the issues he raised. When he did that he made the comment that he felt this, I believe he said like other pieces of legislation, provides the balance this government feels is necessary between workers and their rights and business and their rights. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The fact of the matter is that if you look at the changes this government has made to the Employment Standards Act, the changes they are about to make in Bill 99 under WCB, the changes they've made under Bill 7, all the changes they've made to date take away from that balance, take away from workers, take away from unions, take away from any part of the equation that doesn't relate directly to the needs of their corporate friends, and that's not to say there aren't issues that we need to deal with on the corporate side of things.

There needs to be a vibrant economy, there needs to be wealth generated so we can go on having the kind of province we've had in this part of the country, but this government refuses to accept that there is another part of the equation because that's the only part of it they care about. If that means that along the way vulnerable workers get sideswiped off the road to prosperity and pushed into the ditch, that's tough; that's the way it goes when you're doing business. The problem with those of us, as they see it, who don't support that kind of thinking, is, "You just don't understand." They do all but reach over and pat us on the head and say, "You poor misguided souls, you just don't understand what's necessary here."

The fact is -- well, I see one of the backbenchers raising his hands, doing this -- I think I'm truly reflecting the way some of them view the differences in our philosophies. But again, which they're very good at, that's very shortsighted. That's not what our arguments have been about. That's not why we so strongly opposed your changes to the Employment Standards Act.


To relate directly to what we're speaking about today, one of the things Bill 95 does is to make sure that the rights workers have to refuse work on the days listed in section 50.2 of the ESA are enforced and continue on for Boxing Day. But just four days ago the government's new Employment Standards Act took effect, and one of the things Bill 49 does, the new Employment Standards Act, your law for which you're going to have to take responsibility as we see thousands and thousands of workers hurt by that law, is that it says workers can no longer go to the Ministry of Labour to have their rights enforced under the Employment Standards Act if you happen to belong to a union.

One of their favourite targets is the labour movement: "Go after the unions." We saw it in question period today. Anything at all that paints the unions as the big problem in terms of the economy, they're all for. This law, the law you passed that took effect four days ago and has a direct bearing on Bill 95, which we're talking about today, stipulates that unionized workers can no longer avail themselves of the Ministry of Labour to have enforced the absolute rights they have under the Employment Standards Act. They no longer have that right. The union in that workplace now has to take responsibility for and pay the cost of enforcing the Employment Standards Act.

There was a time, not that long ago in the history of Ontario, when it was felt that workplace standards, particularly where they relate to health and safety, to hours of work, quality of life, were so paramount, so sacrosanct, that the ministry itself took responsibility to enforce those laws. They took the responsibility to ensure that if there was a complaint and someone's rights were being violated, union or non-union -- there was no discrimination, before -- the Ministry of Labour was responsible to ensure that the worker's rights were enforced. For the first time in the history of Ontario that concept has been shattered by this government, because you've said: "If you have the audacity and the nerve and the temerity and the effrontery to join a union, then you can damn well only have the union defend your rights in the Employment Standards Act. You can't go to the Ministry of Labour any more. Don't bother to come knocking. We're not answering."

The fact of the matter is that unions under Mike Harris's government -- unions, by the way, that were created through the democratic vote of working people either to choose or not choose a union and then to choose the union of their choice -- now have to spend their money, their dues, defending something they didn't have to do. Gee, where have we heard that concept before? It sounds a bit like user fees, which we of course see being introduced in every facet of public service, something this government said it wouldn't do, but they hide behind copayments. But in this case there is no hiding. The fact of the matter is that union members' dues now have to go to pay for a service that before four days ago was paid for by the Ministry of Labour, and rightly so, the NDP would contend. Absolutely.


Mr Christopherson: I would point out to the member in the back bench of the Tories who just went, "Oh," so did previous Tory governments used to believe in that concept. It's only this weird Reform-a-Tory kind of neo-con, right-wing, Mike Harris crowd that thinks differently. This has got nothing to do with the history of the Progressive Conservative Party that we've seen in power for four decades prior to the mid-1980s. You've decided that you're going to discriminate between who gets to have their rights enforced and who doesn't, and those who don't, "You've got to pay the cost; you've got to pay the freight." And I would point out that we're not talking insignificant money.

Whereas right now, if there's a right under the Employment Standards Act being violated, if you've been forced to work on a stat holiday that you didn't have to, a complaint was made. The ministry had the infrastructure, before you got rid of all the employment standards officers, which does relate very directly to the 30% tax cut because you laid them off so you'd find your share in the Ministry of Labour to pay for your part of the tax cut. That's why that was done. But before that, an inspector would be brought out to the site. They would have the power to place an order to cease and desist and to pay compensation, and being a government official, they carried a lot of clout. Most employers aren't keen to see employment standards officers marching through their front doors because they've had a complaint.

That's not what's going to happen any more. Now what will happen is that the grievance procedure is the only mechanism available for that worker, and if we get into an arbitration case, we're talking big bucks. Where it went from one inspector having the power to make a decision, place an order and make things whole again, correct things, we now are into the grievance procedure and in many cases we're going to end up in arbitration. Boy, do we walk through an expensive doorway when we walk through the door of grievance arbitration, because right off the bat you're looking at anywhere between $2,500 and $3,500 a day for an arbitrator.

All of this that I'm speaking of are matters that were once handled by the Ministry of Labour. That doesn't happen any more. That union member is paying to have a matter grieved and arbitrated that, prior to December 1, was taken care of by the Ministry of Labour. They have to pay that cost now. And this government says, "No, no, there won't be any user fees." I don't know how you can possibly say that's not a user fee. Of course it is.

It's also discriminatory, because you've said that if it's a non-union worker, yes, they can go ahead and use the Ministry of Labour, but if you belong to a union, that hated target of this government, you have to pay the cost, your union dues have to do that. If a union is going to provide the service they want, with these added costs they're probably going to have to look at a dues increase or at not providing other services they provide for those union dues.

And this is the government of non-intervention. This is the government of laissez-faire that says, "Just leave things alone, don't get involved, stay away." But it's okay if it's the labour movement: Just charge right in there, because they're the enemy. It's okay to go after them, but boy, don't talk about getting in the way of business.

I'll say that I think an awful lot of business people out there have a big shock coming when they find out they are going to be paying half the cost of enforcing the Employment Standards Act. You see, under the vast majority of collective agreements the cost of arbitration, that $3,000 or $3,500 a day -- and some cases can go on for weeks -- is paid 50% by the employer. An awful lot of employers out there thought Bill 49 was great because it took away all these rights out of the Employment Standards Act and really gave them lots of power, but at the end of the day it's going to cost them money. It's going to cost them big money.

That's the new law to which this government refers when they put Bill 95 on the floor of this Legislature. That same law, which this bill amends, the Employment Standards Act as it exists now in the province, thanks to Mike Harris, also denies a worker the right to use the Ministry of Labour if they've been forced to work on Boxing Day. If they want to make a claim and they don't have a union, they had better hope, because that's all we can do now, that the government doesn't put the new minimum standard that the Employment Standards Act provides, the minimum threshold for a claim, too high. If they do, they are completely out of luck.


If you're making minimum wage and this government says, under the new powers they gave themselves, "You have to have a claim of more than $200 or we won't take the claim," where do they go? Where do they go? If they've been forced to work on Boxing Day -- and this bill says they now have the right to refuse to work on that day and that that right is enforced through the Employment Standards Act. But the new Employment Standards Act, you see, now says to the cabinet, "You can set, wherever you want, this minimum standard." It gave them the power to do that by regulation. None of you backbenchers, whom I'm looking at right now, knows what that dollar amount is, because they haven't made that decision or at least they won't tell anybody outside the cabinet room.

That didn't exist before. That did not exist. There was not minimum. If you were ripped off for $25 or $50 and you're a minimum-wage worker, that means a lot to you, especially at Christmastime. You had the right, in law, to have the employment standards office within the Ministry of Labour come into your workplace and get you your money back and make the company stop. Under the new law that now exists, thanks to Mike Harris, proclaimed four days ago, if your cabinet sets the bar at $200 and you're a minimum-wage worker, you don't have that right. It doesn't exist.

Do you know what the answer was when we raised this issue with the Minister of Labour and the parliamentary secretary when we finally got them out to public hearings, and what their answer was when we asked the question here in the House? "Oh, you could take the company to court." They're telling this to a minimum-wage worker who, if he or she has been forced to work on a statutory holiday, probably works for a bad boss, someone who violates all kinds of other laws. There's no union, no ability to go to the Ministry of Labour, no ability to go to legal aid because you cut that off too. They can't go to legal aid. They're all on their own, and if it's $50 you're owed, it costs you more than that to file the papers in court. That's legalized theft.

That worker had 50 bucks taken away from them that they worked for, that they earned, that they deserved, and they can't get it back. You took away the laws that let them get that money back, and then your minister today, like your Minister of Labour, has the absolute audacity to stand up and talk about fairness and balance.

How do you justify that to a worker who's barely surviving on minimum wage, which you also refuse to consider raising? We know the Americans have already got a higher minimum wage than us. How do you justify that? How do you justify doing that to the most vulnerable in our society, saying to that worker: "If your boss beat you for 50 bucks, too bad. It's gone."

These are workers who are probably already harassed. We're not talking about the majority of cases, and certainly we're not talking about where there are unions in place. We are, though, talking about tens of thousands of workers who don't have a union, who don't have a good employer. They've got the worst of the lot, and that's what the law is there for: to protect workers from people like that, from predators like that, because unfortunately they do exist. If any one of us could snap our fingers and make them disappear, I think we all would. I believe even the Tory backbenchers would do that. I believe that.

But I also believe very firmly that you have denied those vulnerable workers any access to justice. It's not because of something you refuse to do. This is not some new idea, some brand-new panacea from on far that if we did, someone argues, would be wonderful; that right was already there. It was there before. You took it away. You took it away by passing your amendments to the Employment Standards Act. That's what you did. You did it by denying those workers the right to go to legal aid and get assistance, and you knew it.

That's the thing: You can never say you didn't know, because after you delayed and delayed, in terms of us demanding province-wide public hearings -- remember, Bill 49 was only a housekeeping bill; the issue that I just spoke of your government defined as housekeeping. How disgraceful. How disrespectful of another Ontarian, to say to them that losing that right is a housekeeping matter. But that's what your government said, and we had to fight you to get into province-wide public hearings.

Mr Peter L. Preston (Brant-Haldimand): That's a stretch.

Mr Christopherson: I hear one of the backbenchers -- I forget from where; he's one of the usual cacklers. Where's he from? Brant-Haldimand. There you go. The member from Brant-Haldimand says it's a stretch. No, it's not a stretch, because if you would take the time -- it's not that long; I'm sure you could get through it in the next hour or so -- if you take a look at it, this bill amends the Employment Standards Act. It would make a great deal of sense to me that suggesting that changes you made to the bill that this law amends is very much in order and we ought to be talking about it here, and I am damn well going to talk about it here, because it is not a minor matter, but that's what you said.

Now, is that the end of it? No, oh no. That's not the end of it. What else has the government done? Well, they've said that you can't go back two years, which the law said before. If you've been ripped off by your employer, if you've been forced to work stat holidays, overtime that you shouldn't, other rights that are protected in the Employment Standards Act or at least used to be protected, you can't go back two years anymore. Oh, no. You can only go back six months.

Now, the argument from the government at the time was, "Well, we want to make sure that these claims are filed while the trail is hot." You know, I'm not sure; I think they've been reading too many Sherlock Holmes books when they talk about hot trails, and maybe the Minister of Labour with one of those double-beaked hats and the magnifying glass and the cape, going out and tracing down these bad bosses, I don't know.

But the fact of the matter is that an awful lot of workers, in fact 90% of all workers, file their claims in terms of the Employment Standards Act after they've left the employment of the bad boss. Why? Because they're afraid to go to the Ministry of Labour and call in the officials. What do you think their life is going to be like after they've done that, blown the whistle, called in the officials? You don't need too vivid an imagination. Again, we're talking about horrible workplaces and horrible people to work for. You don't have to think too far to realize that them calling in the Ministry of Labour for an employment standards complaint is not exactly going to get them a promotion at work. They're afraid.

The law said that after you've left -- and that's when 90% of them are filed -- you can go back two years. Arguably, it should be longer than that. If you're owed the money, you're owed the money. But the law at least said two years, because you don't need to be afraid anymore. Usually a worker will wait until they've got new employment and they're secure. Let's admit, if you're a minimum-wage worker, you probably don't have a lot of skills and you probably don't have a lot of options. It's very difficult to find another job, particularly in the Mike Harris economy. Now, once they've found that job, once they've found it, they then can make the claim.


Ms Lankin: On a point of order, Madam Speaker: I don't believe there is a quorum listening to this important debate.

The Acting Speaker: Is there a quorum?

Clerk Assistant and Clerk of Committees (Ms Deborah Deller): A quorum is not present, Speaker.

The Acting Speaker ordered the bells rung.

Clerk Assistant and Clerk of Committees: A quorum is now present, Speaker.

The Acting Speaker: The member for Hamilton Centre.

Mr Christopherson: While we were doing the count, members asked how one can scream out so loudly for so long. The fact of the matter is that when one thinks about what you've done to people, it's really not hard to work up a real passion. It's not hard at all, when one takes a look at what you've done to injured workers and what you've done to the most vulnerable and what you continue to do day after day. It's not hard to get worked up when one firmly believes that you don't care about these people as long as you can get through your corporate agenda and pay for your 30% tax cut. That's how I can stand on my feet and be so loud for so long. Why don't you try a little bit of caring and a little bit of passion? That might do some good for those people you're hurting out there.

I was speaking of the two years and the fact that workers, before your law, had the right to go back two years.

Mr Froese: Be fair.

Mr Christopherson: One of the members says, "Be fair." I am being fair. The problem is that there's so little fairness in the new Employment Standards Act that it doesn't seem easy to make a 50-50 case. I assure you I am being fair. I could be unfair and not talk about the facts of the law, but for your sake and for the sake of truth, I am speaking about the law. If you can stand up when I'm done and point out where I'm wrong, I'll stand up and admit I was. But until then, I think you'd better respect the fact that this kind of unfairness is what you're doing to people. That is the reality.

They did have the right to go back two years. That would have included statutory holidays and overtime. They can't do that any more; it's only six months. The protection you're giving in this bill by referring to the rights in the Employment Standards Act, having now changed the Employment Standards Act -- if it's not enough money you can't file a claim at all, and if it's after six months you can't claim it. Never mind whether you believe the right to refuse will work on a day-to-day basis; the fact is that you've removed the legal underpinnings that allowed people to enforce their rights under the law. As I mentioned earlier, you can't say you didn't know, because when we went out across the province this issue came up in every community we were in. I want to tell you, there weren't very many people on your side of the argument.

When the subcommittee met -- you have your share of people you can invite to come in and present your perspective and defend your position, and so can the opposition parties -- you couldn't even drum up a fraction of the spots that were available. Why? Because you had put your supporters in an impossible position. You had said to your supporters, "Please come out and defend the fact that we've said Bill 49, the changes to the Employment Standards Act, doesn't really take away any rights and that it is just housekeeping." That's what you asked of your friends.

Well, one thing I've never accused your friends of being is stupid, and that's certainly the case here. In fact, some of those you brought out, when the question was put, and it's there in the Hansard, admitted that, yes, in their opinion there were rights being taken away in the Employment Standards Act. Again, that's a bill that you said was a minor housekeeping bill not worthy of public hearings, not worthy of going out and listening to what people have to say about the rights you are taking away.

On the other end of the spectrum, you also said anybody who's been beat for more than $10,000 must be a rich executive anyway; that's the only way you could be out $10,000. We heard in every community that we went to that that's not the case, that the vast majority of those claims are ordinary working people who, for various reasons, over a two-year period were owed the $10,000. The reason I raise this is that your new law, your new Employment Standards Act, says that if you've been ripped off for more than $10,000, "Don't come calling to the Ministry of Labour to have your rights enforced." You outlawed it.

And what was your answer again? "Go to the courts." The irony of that answer, in addition to the insult, is that their own Attorney General, every opportunity he gets, likes to get up on his hind legs and talk about the overcrowding problem he has in the court system and how it's all so backed up that he's got to do horrible things inside the Attorney General's ministry because he's got to clean out all the backlog, while his colleague who sits four seats over says, "Don't worry about the rights that we used to do in the Ministry of Labour; you can take them to court."

It doesn't make any kind of sense. It doesn't even make any kind of common sense, which is why they get so upset when I tend to raise my voice. They would prefer first of all that these things not be said at all, and second, if they're going to be said, they would rather they be mumbled and jumbled and not be very clear, because they can't defend those issues when they're put to them that way.

Mr Murdoch: No, we're not upset when you raise your voice.

Mr Christopherson: The member for Grey-Owen Sound says he's not upset when I raise my voice. I'm going to refer to that the next time they do, Bill. I'll say, "Bill said it's okay for me to raise my voice." I would assume that you'd understand that one would be angry about what this government has done to vulnerable workers and injured workers. To your credit, there have been occasions when you've expressed a difference, and I suspect you're paying a price for that in caucus. It certainly creates a certain amount of respect for the fact that on these kinds of issues and a few others, even where I didn't even agree with you in terms of the position you took, you were prepared to take one that was your position, yours alone, even when it went against your government. Obviously, some of the issues that I'm raising today are among them, and I can see why.

But that's not the end of the story. I wish it were. It's bad enough, it's horrific enough, but it's not the end of the story. The government, when it introduced Bill 49, also had a clause in there that talked about flexible standards. That was going to allow employers to negotiate out of collective agreements the standards that used to have to at least reach the Employment Standards Act. You couldn't in the history of the province go below that standard, the level of protection in there. That clause would have allowed collective agreements to contain standards below the great protection that this government talks about when they refer to the Employment Standards Act, which of course no longer exists because you've gutted the Employment Standards Act and the people who enforce it.

That same bill, which contained this clause and the other clauses I've talked about -- bear in mind, every issue I've raised so far in terms of rights that have been taken away are all part of the law today of Mike Harris's new Employment Standards Act, the act that Bill 95 refers to with such confidence. That was the bill they said was only housekeeping, that they didn't need public hearings on because there were no big issues there, nothing anybody really needed to worry about. Minor little housekeeping, that's all that was.

Well, after we kicked up such a fuss in this place, which the NDP did -- we put up one hell of a stink, because we said: "This isn't just housekeeping. You're taking away rights from workers." The labour movement and people who represent non-unionized workers and people who represent new Canadians and people who represent women and children and families all raised such a stink out in the public, in community after community right across Ontario, that the government finally caved in. They caved in and said: "All right. We give. We can't defend not having public hearings, so we will have them." And on the first day of those hearings, one of the first utterances out of the minister was, "I'm pulling back that part of Bill 49."


Had we not raised the stink we did and forced the government into province-wide public hearings, the law today would have already contained those flexible standards which are so detrimental to collective bargaining and so detrimental to the rights of working people, which would have eliminated the concept of a floor in terms of the basic rights that all workers in this province are entitled to. It was withdrawn because you couldn't defend it as housekeeping. It's only a shame that the minister didn't have enough compassion to recognize or admit, perhaps, that the rest of Bill 49 also was indefensible in terms of saying it's just housekeeping.

Another one of the ironies is that parts of the bill were housekeeping. Parts of the bill clarified a couple of matters around parental leave that needed to be cleared up. Most arbitrators were helpful in making rulings that reflected the intent of the law, but it deserved to be cleaned up. And other parts of that bill really were housekeeping, that changed a few numbers, referred to other laws in a way that was consistent with the reality.

But you tried to put over all these other things as being housekeeping, and that's what so incensed us. It was the insult of saying to vulnerable workers that the changes to this workers' bill of rights, which is the way the Employment Standards Act is viewed, are only minor and housekeeping and don't have any significant impact on anyone. How insulting.

The other thing about the flexible standards, unfortunately, in terms of the Employment Standards Act, is that that monster is not yet entirely slain. The government is taking a year to review the Employment Standards Act further. O joyous news for all those who don't have unions to protect you: The government's going to review the Employment Standards Act again. You can imagine what's coming. If this was housekeeping, and they've now said they want to take a year to seriously review the Employment Standards Act, guess what next Christmas is going to look like in terms of the rights of workers to have some decent legislation that defends their rights and makes sure they have a decent standard of living and quality of life when they're at work. The minister has said that the flexible standards are going to be part of that review. To every other question we ask in terms of rights contained in the Employment Standards Act, all we get is: "Don't worry. It'll be part of the review. We'll look at it later. We haven't made any decisions."

We haven't seen the discussion paper, by the way. The other good thing about the province-wide public hearings on the Employment Standards Act was that we showed the government that people are paying attention. I think that's why they're so far off their timetable in terms of bringing out the discussion paper on the Employment Standards Act. That's why they were off their timetable on WCB, because they've realized that although they got away with ramming Bill 7 through with no province-wide hearings, no public hearings at all, rammed it through in one month, the bill that gave us scabs again in the province of Ontario, they can't get away with that in terms of the Employment Standards Act. But that one-year review is coming. That one-year review of the Employment Standards Act is coming.

Mr Steve Gilchrist (Scarborough East): I want to know where you stand on this. Let's talk about the bill.

Mr Christopherson: One of the backbenchers over there -- where the heck's he from? I've got to learn your ridings. Scarborough East. He talks about relating to the bill: "Talk to the bill." You'd like for us not to talk about the Employment Standards Act or any other labour relations issue.

Mr Gilchrist: It passed.

Mr Christopherson: Oh, pardon me. It passed. So that's it?

Mr Gilchrist: We passed Bill 49.

Mr Christopherson: Right, you passed Bill 49. So what? Nobody should ever talk about it again? Is that why you wanted to ram through Bill 26, because you believe that once something is rammed through no one should ever refer to it again? Wait until we get into an election. You just wait until we get into an election and we start talking about the things you've passed.

The fact of the matter is your Bill 95 right now takes such great pride in referring to the Employment Standards Act in terms of ensuring protection. I've already spelled out to you very clearly that under your new Employment Standards Act the protections that used to be there before Monday are no longer there. I think that's relevant. I think the fact that it's already the law in this case, in terms of Bill 95, is more relevant. You know what you would say to me if I were talking about Bill 49 and it wasn't passed? You'd say, "But it isn't passed." I know you would. You would say, "It's not relevant because there may be amendments or we might yet make some changes. So you can't tell me that's relevant to Bill 95, Dave. You can't do that." You can't have it both ways, Steve. To the member for Scarborough East, you can't have it both ways.

The fact that it's law, quite frankly, makes it that much more obscene in terms of Bill 95, because Bill 95 suggests there are rights there in the Employment Standards Act that will protect workers. I'm making the argument and putting forward my opinion that your changes in Bill 49 have eliminated the legislative protections that used to be there, so it's a shell of a game.

It's not the only area. We're going to have workers working on Boxing Day and other days. One of the things that can happen to workers is they can get injured on the job. That takes us to Bill 99, your WCB legislation. They don't like these things to be linked, so I suspect somebody at some point is going to pop up and say that I'm off subject again and I'll have to make the argument again. That's fine. I'm ready to do that.

The fact is that you don't like people to put all the pieces together because then they begin to see the whole picture, and when they see the whole picture they realize that when they look at the kind of Ontario you've created for them, they've lost: "Wait a minute, I used to have this and this and this and I've lost that. I've lost my health care system, my education system. You've destroyed WCB. You took away my labour rights. You've attacked my union. And what did I get?" Well, I guess if I was a bank president I'd be getting 200 grand a year. You might want to sit down and contemplate whether you were a winner or a loser, because it would be a toss-up, but boy, if you're just an ordinary working stiff in this province, if you're a working-class, middle-class person -- never mind being the most vulnerable, they had it from day one with this government, but anybody who really wants to start to look at the picture and begins to weigh it out says:

"Gee, maybe if I'm lucky I got a couple of bucks in that 30% tax cut, although from what I hear all the people who already had money are the ones who are getting most of it, but I got a couple of bucks a week here. But over here, I'm paying more for kids' sports, I'm paying more for municipal services that I didn't used to have to pay for. I don't have the education system I had, although they've told me I can send my kid to private school, except I don't have a decent-paying job any more. I used to have a decent job with the provincial government, working hard for the people, working hard for my employer. I had a half-decent job but I don't have that any more because my job was contracted out and I lost my collective agreement. I'm only making nine bucks an hour, so no way I can send my kid to a separate education system.

"I don't know about health care. Well, the hospitals are so full now and besides they shut down the one in my neighbourhood. We don't have the health care system. But Mike Harris told me that I can buy all the health care services I need. I saw that shiny new clinic down the street where the Tory MPP was there smiling, cutting the ribbon, taking photos, and it was in his householder. I can go there. I could do that, except with nine bucks an hour I still haven't figured out how I'm going to do that at the same time I'm trying to figure out how to send my kid to that private education system because I want my kids to have a decent education. And I'm trying to figure out how I can send them to hockey in the winter and how I can send them to baseball in the summer, and my daughter wants to start taking up some sports. How am I going to do all these things? And my MPP comes knocking in the next election: `Hi. Yes, I know all those problems, but you got four bucks a week in the tax cut. Aren't I a great guy?'"

Oh yes, this is wonderful. That's the picture you're painting. That's what you're all going to have to defend.



Mr Christopherson: I'm glad you find it amusing. I do. That's nice. I'm pleased that you're pleased, but the fact of the matter is, maybe with a little drama thrown in to make the point, that is what you're doing. That is exactly what you're doing.

Just the other day we heard there are another 55,000 of those awful public sector workers -- how dare they have the audacity to work for anybody except one of your subcontracting pals for $9 an hour. Now their jobs are on the line.

People are not nearly as gullible as you think or want or hope they are. As more and more people lose decent-paying jobs and look at what the alternative is for them in terms of their future and say, "What does this mean for my kids?" I won't be the only one standing up screaming in Ontario, because they're not going to stand for it; not when you've got corporations getting $6 billion of injured workers' money because you took $15 billion out of the pockets of injured workers and gave $6 billion to your pals. And the 30% tax cut: You gave hundreds of millions of dollars to those who already have the most. You think people aren't going to get it? You think they won't understand what you've done?

There are a lot of nurses out there who don't know what their futures are; there are a lot of teachers; there are a lot of people who clean our schools. Don't you think it's just as important that our kids go to a clean school as well as going to a school where there's good education coming from the person at the front of the room? Don't you agree with that? Because for years and years and decades in this province we have.

You've said no. You've created, and are creating, an economic climate where there's a growing pool of desperate workers who will take any kind of work available because it's better than nothing. At the end of the day, somebody who had at least a decent-paying job and took pride in what they did, working to clean the schools because they cared about the kids, cared about what they did, and got a half-decent-paying job in return, now has the option of taking a job that does the same work and pays $8 or $9, except there's not even a guarantee they're going to get that work because you don't even guarantee that they get offered that job.

Look what happened to the people who worked in the restaurant downstairs in this very building. What happened to them? What happened to those decent-paying jobs? I'll bet they're minimum wage jobs. You contracted it out. You won't take responsibility for it, but that's what's happened. You've decided you're going to lower the value of labour in Ontario because you've decided the only way our economy can grow is by competing with Third World nations.

Mr Gilchrist: Exactly.

Mr Christopherson: The member for Scarborough East says "Exactly." Well, the fact of the matter is that with the Employment Standards Act as it used to exist before Monday, that act and its intent were part of what made this one of the most competitive, prosperous entities in all of North America. That's a piece of it, yet you try to make the argument -- and to a large degree up until now you've convinced an awful lot of people -- that we have to gut the Employment Standards Act; we have to gut our environmental protection; we have to push the poor further into poverty; we have to dismantle and decimate the health care system at least as we knew it, and the same with the education system.

You've ensured that anybody who wants a service has to be able to pay for it. There's no concept of the idea that maybe we all win, all of us as a society, when we have stronger employment standards acts, when we have an effective health care system, when we have an education system that works, when we have a municipal structure with municipal services that are available to everyone.

Don't you think we all gain when there are kids in the street whose parents are maybe already below the poverty line but they've got a shot at going to a recreation centre or joining the local sports league? Don't you think we all win by that? Obviously not, because you're doing the exact opposite.

Your changes, part of the world you're creating for injured workers under Bill 99, say, "You don't get 90% of net any more, you only get 85%." But it's okay for that bank president to get $200,000 a year from your tax cut. You can make the argument that they are not connected. You can make the argument, and I'll listen intently while you make the argument, that that's not a part of it, but I want to tell you, from the perspective of somebody who is unemployed or in poverty or facing poverty or right now is working for the provincial government or the municipal government and has a decent-paying job, when they look at those two things, they damned well connect them. If you're an injured worker who's having your pension slashed by 50% when you turn 65, or you're an injured worker who's been denied a claim that would have been accepted before Bill 99, and you hear that the bank presidents are getting $200,000, yes, you're going to be ticked.

You're not ticked because they make big money per se, okay, because it's part of where we are at this time and place in our evolution; it says that some people get paid more than others. Unions are there to try to make sure that the people who create the wealth, who do the work, get their share of it, but that's not what they're going to hold you accountable for. They're not going to necessarily hold you accountable, although they probably will find it quite obscene that somebody would make $2 million or $3 million from the banking system at a time when they're laying off more and more workers. But they will hold you accountable for the fact that that very same person who's making $1 million or $2 million or $3 million a year -- and I grant you it's the extreme example, but that's how you make the point -- under your new tax structure gets $200,000. Under your new WCB, injured workers get $15 billion taken away from them, and somehow that's okay. Somehow that's going to create a better province?

When you stand up under Bill 95, as the minister did today, and you talk about the fact that this is a part of your economic agenda to stimulate growth and to create jobs, we have a great deal of difficulty with that when we look at the facts, because the facts paint a very different story. The facts say that if you already had in this province before Mike Harris was government, you're going to get more, and not a little bit more and not a fair bit more but a lot more, a lot, a lot, a lot more; and if you're someone who started out as an ordinary working middle-class person -- God forbid you start out as someone who was already on the poverty line -- you're going to get less and less and less, and there are fewer places for you to go to to deal with it, and there are fewer things for you to hope for in terms of a better future. That's what you've given them.

Ms Lankin: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: In honour of your return to the chair, I would like you to check and see if the government has a quorum.

Clerk Assistant and Clerk of Committees: A quorum is not present, Mr Speaker.

The Speaker ordered the bells rung.

Clerk Assistant and Clerk of Committees: A quorum is now present, Speaker.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): The member for Hamilton Centre.

Mr Christopherson: The government continues through its actions to further polarize the province, which is exactly the issue I'm talking of and speaking of in terms of the haves getting a lot and the have-nots getting less and less and less.

The minister, when he introduced Bill 95, talked about creating jobs. But what kind of jobs are you creating? Yes, there are some new, decent-paying jobs in the high-tech industries and in other parts of our economy but, first of all, you haven't done anything to create those. I don't think there's anything you can point to that said you're going to take credit for that, but you will, and that's fine; that's the way politics works. But I don't think most people believe you would.


Secondly, they're very high-skill jobs. If the education system that you're creating starts to take us down the road to the American education system, which it certainly looks like you're doing, then that means for those families which can't afford to send their children to the private schools that they won't get the kind of top-notch education they will need to compete for those very few jobs.

But what are you creating in terms of jobs? Well, you're sure doing a great magic act in terms of taking decent-paying jobs and making them disappear.

I saw another one of the backbenchers scrunch up his face and roll his head when I said that. Which one would that be? I'm never sure; they're all alike. It's not Perth, it's not Brant-Haldimand -- where are you? What riding are you? Come on, don't be shy.

Ms Churley: Scarborough Centre.

Mr Christopherson: Scarborough Centre. Thank you. The member for Scarborough Centre gave me a funny look when I said that, that you have a great skill at taking decent-paying jobs and making them disappear. Well, what do you think is going to happen with those 12,000, 13,000 or is it now 15,000 as you search to find the $3 billion? God help you if the Dominion Bond Rating Service is right and you get any kind of an economic downturn and you have to go and find that other $3 billion. Then you're in real deep do-do.

But let's assume right now that somewhere between 12,000 and 15,000 is still your target provincially. Those are at least half-decent-paying jobs with half-decent benefits belonging to people who contribute -- you like to talk about it a lot, the middle class -- to being a part of the middle class, or at least aspiring to be as much a part of it as they can. They spend their money; they don't invest it in bonds and offshore markets and set up tax dodging in, what is it, the Bahamas and other places. They spend their money. They spend it in our economies, in our stores. They buy the houses that construction workers build. They're the people who make the economy go around, and you're taking large chunks of that part of our economy -- and I'm not talking now on the human level, I'm talking on the economic level -- you're taking huge chunks of those jobs and taking them away, and you're replacing those jobs, because you like to say, "Well, we're creating all kinds of new jobs."

Well, all you're really going to do is create jobs in a privatized world with no union. We know how much that excites you, the idea that there are no unions, because in Bill 7 you took away the right of those workers to carry their collective agreement. You're not going to be let off the hook for the fact that you didn't talk about that in the campaign. There's nothing about that in the Common Sense Revolution. There's nothing on record at all, anywhere, where you told the people of Ontario and those public sector workers, "When we annihilate your jobs, we're going to take away your right to a union."

That's why when the minister today, talking about Bill 95, talked about the importance of job creation and what this government is doing about job creation, I thought immediately of the privatization you're planning to do, because that's where you're going to create this $7.50, $8.50, $9, and the real high-priced paid help will get maybe $10 an hour.

Then we saw the other day that you might now turn your guns; having taken your best shots at OPSEU, now you're going to go after CUPE. You're going to go after the municipal workers. Why? Because your great economic scheme, which includes the tax cut that you have to find the $3 billion for -- which is why you've had to delay your announcement: You can't find a way to do that that's politically palatable, but you can't back away, because you promised to resign if you did. So, you're in a bit of a spot. One way out of your spot is to turn to municipal workers. At least, that's what the report says.

I see the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing here. I am prepared to give unanimous consent if he'll stand on his feet right now and say this is not going to happen. That report says that you, Minister, and your colleagues are planning to take away, or you're at least seriously considering taking away, successor rights for those municipal workers. I see the minister nodding his head up and down saying yes. So, there you go. They're at least considering taking away those successor rights for anybody who's a municipal worker now.

I will admit we were a government that had our differences of opinion with CUPE and with OPSEU and I will acknowledge that they were rather serious, pointed differences. But they are light-years away from the sort of thing this government is contemplating, absolute light-years.

You're going to say to those municipal workers who work in our recreation centres, who plow local streets, who take care of our parks, who take care of our kids in the recreation centres, who clean our hospitals, who clean our schools, just as you did the OPSEU members, "We're going to pay for this tax cut on your back and we're going to cut transfer payments" --

Ms Lankin: Mr Speaker, on a point of order: I really think the government members should be keeping quorum in the House.

The Speaker: Quorum, please.

Clerk Assistant and Clerk of Committees: A quorum is not present, Speaker.

The Speaker ordered the bells rung.

Clerk Assistant and Clerk of Committees: A quorum is now present, Speaker.

The Speaker: Member for Hamilton Centre.

Mr Christopherson: Thank you, Mr Speaker. It's interesting that the government, during the debate on extending hours, talked about the fact that they were the only ones who were prepared to work hard because they were the only ones who really cared and all that other nonsense, yet they're not prepared to be here to keep quorum. Quorum is the responsibility of --

Mr Ed Doyle (Wentworth East): You've got two members here. Where's the rest of the party?

Mr Christopherson: If that's what it takes to wake up a Tory, then I should do a little more of it. It's interesting that the member for Wentworth East, who just had the outburst, happened to just come in here complaining because he wants to go and eat. Well, isn't that too bad.

Mr Doyle: I don't want to go and eat. I want to see the members eat.

The Speaker: Order. Member for Wentworth East, I want to call you to order. I can appreciate the fact you may not like what the member for Hamilton Centre is saying, but he's not out of order. So I would ask the members to maintain decorum.

Mr Christopherson: Thank you, Mr Speaker. Okay now?

It's important to take on this government when they talk about bills like Bill 95 being another piece of their important economic strategy in creating jobs, because you cannot get away from the fact that the privatization you're about to do is unnecessary, doesn't build a better economy and is not going to give us any better services. It will let you cut transfer payments to hospitals, boards of education and municipalities. It will allow your buddies, like Mulroney's buddies, to buy the services you're going to privatize.

I see another backbencher waving their hands saying, "No, that's not the case." Who do you think is going to buy it? They're going to be bought by your pals and they're going to make a lot of money, and they're going to make a lot of money not necessarily because they're doing any better job. This belief that somehow if it's in the private sector it's absolutely always better than in the public sector is nonsense, and if that were the case you'd be talking about privatizing the police, although you have started to introduce legislation, Bill 84, that looks at and opens the possibility of privatizing some fire services, which has got the firefighters upset about public safety.

No, the real place you're going to make money when you privatize is by making sure those collective agreements are gone. Those awful demons, the unions, have contracts there and people have wages that pay a decent standard of living, and maybe they've got benefits in there that you can't stomach. Besides, you can't peddle them off to your friends for as much money if they've got those collective agreements attached to them, oh no.


That's why we get so riled when your minister talks about Bill 95 and about the Employment Standards Act but doesn't want to talk about what privatization means to public sector workers both for the province and municipalities. That's why we get so upset. You refuse to acknowledge and talk about what's happening to injured workers who are having $15 billion taken out of their pockets so you can give $6 billion to your corporate friends.

The Speaker: Member for Hamilton Centre, I appreciate the comments you're making, but it is important that we try and deal with Bill 95 that's before us today.

Mr Christopherson: Mr Speaker, I believe I've been doing that, but I will certainly heed your remarks and your guidance. I've been making the case that when the minister spoke earlier, when he introduced Bill 95, he certainly referred to the Employment Standards Act. As you have the bill in front of you, you know that a large part of Bill 95 makes amendments to the Employment Standards Act. I'm sure I can help you there, Speaker. On page 2, that whole section 3, the largest section in this bill, is amendments to the Employment Standards Act. I've been making the case, because I realize you just came into the House, that referring to the Employment Standards Act and saying everything is okay is not necessarily true because the changes this government has made to the Employment Standards Act, which took effect on Monday, have taken away that legislative certainty. That's why, Speaker, I've been referring to the Employment Standards Act and related labour issues.

When we hear the government talk about the economy and creating jobs under Bill 95 we take a look at what kinds of jobs and who's going to have a chance at these jobs. There's no guarantee that the current workers are going to get them. That's certainly not happening at the provincial level. They're not getting any opportunity to have those jobs, and if they did, what are they looking at?

We saw with the people who clean the offices of the government members and all of us that, because of Bill 7 and part of their economic strategy they talked about when they introduced this bill, part of that strategy took away successor rights from people who clean buildings for a living. That's tough work, and all they've ever asked for is decent pay. I won't get into the details of what happens in that industry, but previous governments made sure that when there was a change in employer or it was contracted out, the collective agreement stayed in place. We moved that into law when the NDP was government. You took it out. Their wages were cut in half, their benefits cut in half and no job security in one day. That's what you did to those workers.

That's your great economic plan. That's what you're so proud of when you say that Bill 95, which we're debating today, is a part of some great economic plan that you have. That's the reality for the majority of real, ordinary working people. That's their reality. Their other realities are watching your Health Services Restructuring Commission roll into town and shut down hospitals, listening to the Minister of Municipal Affairs talk about the slashing and burning he's making to municipal transfer payments and seeing the Minister of Education hacking away at the education system, adding more and more kids to the classrooms -- take a look at how long it has been since any maintenance was done in the schools -- and still you say, "We're going to do more with less," one of your great mantras.

The fact of the matter is that you're going to do a lot less with a lot less. I think the proof is there in the $3 billion, which is part of your economic scheme that was talked about today when the minister introduced Bill 95. I think part of that proof is in the pudding when you look at the fact that you've had to delay your economic statement twice now, the statement that's going to outline where the last $3 billion is going to come from. That's not even the $3 billion the Dominion Bond Rating Service says you might have to come up with if there's an economic downturn of any significance.

Some $3 billion, and you wouldn't risk that -- these are just my thoughts on this subject -- you wouldn't risk your reputation about being such great economic managers and business managers unless you were really in deep trouble, and I think you are. I think politically you can't find that $3 billion in a way that even your spin doctors can make work, that politically it's unpalatable.

You can't back away from it, as I mentioned earlier. You can't back away from the commitment to the tax cut or balancing the budget in such a ridiculously short period of time, an unnecessarily short period of time. You can't back away from either of those because you would have to resign, and you're not about to do that.

So there you sit, stuck with this $3-billion problem, and the ministers will be wringing their hands all over the Christmas season. Do you remember not long ago, I say to my colleague the member for Welland-Thorold, when there was this big to-do about the backbenchers being brought into cabinet strategy for the first time ever in history? Hell, that was because they knew they were in deep trouble and they wouldn't even be able to sell this thing past their back benches, never mind to the public.

That's part of the economic plan the government talked about when it introduced Bill 95, the plan that has the Minister of Finance deferring an announcement on where those $3 billion are going to come from. Not even you can justify what you have to do to Ontario to find that money; not even you can justify to your own people, let alone the broader public, how you're going to justify that.

Mr Douglas B. Ford (Etobicoke-Humber): Talk about democracy.

Mr Christopherson: "Talk about democracy." The member talks to me about democracy. You wouldn't know democracy if you tripped over it. You blew that whole issue on Bill 26. You showed your colours there.

When it comes to Bill 95, which we're talking about today, and the Employment Standards Act and the government's economic plans that he talked about and the labour-related issues that have to be considered when we talk about your changes to the Employment Standards Act, all you have done is take away from workers.

Mr Ford: You didn't do anything.

Mr Christopherson: We haven't done anything? Listen to the member, another one of them. Where's that guy from? I've got to get his number. Which one is it?

Mr Peter Kormos (Welland-Thorold): Dough-head.

Mr Christopherson: I can't say that. I can't find him here.

Mr Rosario Marchese (Fort York): Did you call him a dough-head?

Mr Christopherson: I didn't call him a dough-head. There he is: one of our favourite hecklers, the member for Etobicoke-Humber indeed. He likes to heckle when I get on these kinds of issues, and I appreciate the feedback, I really do. It helps to keep me focused.

One of the things your great democratic Bill 7, the brand-new Ontario labour relations act, has done is to put literally hundreds and thousands of workers on strike. Why? Because you legalized scabs. We said scabs are not wanted, are not allowed, are illegal in Ontario, and I think that was a good thing. So when you say, "What did we do for labour?" -- more than you'll even dream.

Do you know there are scabs working in places right now that, if you hadn't introduced Bill 7 in such an undemocratic fashion, I might remind you, if you hadn't made scabs legal, these workers wouldn't be on strike? If you hadn't changed the Employment Standards Act, I say a lot of those employers wouldn't be so emboldened by the fact that they thought they had a government behind them that would support them in going after the workers and going after the unions that represent them. I say to you that if you hadn't made scabs legal in Ontario and made the changes you did to the Employment Standards Act, those workers wouldn't be on strike.

The employers would have been forced to sit down and negotiate a fair collective agreement, and you know, it worked. That's what you don't like. You don't like the facts being put out there. It worked. When we had the Employment Standards Act which is amended by this bill today, when we had the original Employment Standards Act and when we had Bill 40 in place, for the two years after it came into effect -- I see one of the members going it didn't. The fact of the matter is that in the manufacturing sector, which is one of the most highly unionized sectors in our economy, we had record levels of investment, some $8 billion in 1974, record level.


Don't you get it? In the history of Ontario, we didn't create what we have by having the lowest common denominator. We've built on our strengths. We had a great education system. We had a world-class health system. We had a world-class social services system. We had the ability to build.

My leader, Howard Hampton, likes to talk about what happened after the Second World War in terms of building, that we built our way to prosperity: Universities were built, schools were built, investment was made in communities. You're not doing any of that. You haven't done any of that. Changes you made to the Employment Standards Act, first of all, beyond the insulting notion they were housekeeping, you took away rights of workers because you want to go, I don't know, down south or somewhere in the world and you want to say, "Come invest here because we have the lowest standards."

You did the same thing with the environment, and that's what's behind, I say to you, your slogans about, "Removing all regulations is a good thing" and "Smaller government is a better government," all these simplistic slogans that don't hold up. They don't hold up unless you agree with the idea that exploiting Ontario is the way to go, that you'll make it so easy for people to come in and set up shop: "Never mind. Don't worry about the environment. Hey, we've got that taken care of. We've cut the regulations around the environment. You don't need to worry about that any more. Aren't we great folks?"

Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: Is there a quorum?

The Speaker: Quorum, please.

Clerk Assistant and Clerk of Committees: A quorum is not present.

The Speaker ordered the bells rung.

Clerk Assistant and Clerk of Committees: A quorum is now present, Speaker.

The Speaker: The member for Hamilton Centre.

Mr Christopherson: I can appreciate the frustration of members in terms of having to keep quorum -- I've been there -- but it is part of the responsibility of government.

Again, that's why I was so upset when we debated the issue of extending the hours. Many of you who are actually here in the House today were making comments that you were the only ones who wanted to work and that you were prepared to sacrifice yourself to work till midnight and Saturdays and Sundays to get the work done and blah, blah, blah.

That's kind of why some of us took a little bit of offence, because the reality is that you get into late nights towards the end of the session and it's not quite the little picnic that you thought it was. But one of the responsibilities of being in government -- it always used to bug me, and I'm sure it must you too, the fact that cabinet ministers are the last to be called in for quorum. One of the benefits of becoming a minister was they weren't forever yanking my chain. When I was in those back benches, I can remember being yanked away from finally getting a couple of minutes, because I do believe the vast majority of you work hard, getting a bite to eat, and you get yanked away to come in here. But there you go. There's the price of being in government.

What can I tell you? I guess the debate next year, when we extend the hours, might be a little different than it was this time as members become a little more experienced at what happens. But you do have that obligation to keep quorum. Quorum is the legal requirement to have 20 members here in the House so that we can conduct business.

We do think Bill 95 is important business, and I particularly think it's important when we start talking about the Employment Standards Act, as you've done in this bill, as you have also done on your whole litany of anti-worker legislation, all the way from Bill 7 where you put scabs back into the configuration in Ontario -- I've already pointed out we didn't have that before and we had record levels of investment. There's nothing about outlawing scabs that affects the economy in any way, shape or form. What it's about is recognizing a worker's right to democratically withdraw their work in offsetting the power of the employer to cut off their wages.

Some of you like to say, "People have the democratic right to work or not work." That's the sort of right-to-work, southern-American-state thinking that frightens so many people in Ontario, because that's not what that's about. That's not what that's about. That's about making sure that your employer friends can make sure they can run their places whether there is a strike or not, and you say somehow that the ability to strike and not have scabs go in gives workers a bigger side of the equation, that it gives them greater balance? What a lot of nonsense. The fact of the matter is that most working people are in a much more precarious and difficult and, yes, frightening position in terms of going on strike than the employer is in terms of not being able to produce, because they cut off all ability to survive.

Most employers, certainly the large employers, certainly the ones we're talking about with the strikes in Ontario now, they're not putting the ability to put food on the table on the line. Those workers are. You wonder why there's violence on the line. How do you think they feel about the police -- and the police don't want to do it -- being brought in to push workers out of the way so that the scabs can go in, because they've got to do their job? Under your law, those scabs are entitled to go in, and that's part of your economic plan that you talk about when you introduce Bill 95? That's part of the great protection you talk about when you refer this to the Employment Standards Act, which you've already watered down? We've got strikes in Bramalea Rebuilders in Brampton and the Ottawa Civil Service Association recreation centre. Those are CAW strikes. There are scabs there. Those strikes wouldn't be happening if it weren't for your legislation.

CEP, ICS Couriers: there are scabs there. CUPE, Ottawa-Carleton Lifeskills, Ottawa Valley Autistic Homes: scabs there. UFCW, Bancroft, the IGA store there: scabs there. Branson Mercantile in Ottawa, Goldcorp Inc in Red Lake, S.A. Armstrong in Toronto. These are strikes that I say to you wouldn't be there if you hadn't said it's okay to use scabs. When you changed the Employment Standards Act and took away the rights of workers, you said to those kinds of employers that are prepared to use scabs: "Hey, don't worry about it, folks. We're your buddies. If you really get into trouble, you can count on us."

That's what you have done with your labour legislation, and when these workers go in on Boxing Day, God help -- because this is a new law -- that they should get injured on the job, because very soon you're about to make Bill 99 the law. Bill 99 is your WCB legislation, part of what the minister said today is your "balanced" approach to the needs of business and the needs of workers. That's what the minister said today. He talked about that balance, and that's why I'm so outraged. When we know what they've already done and we know what they intend to do, it's absolutely insulting that they should continue to say they care about workers.

You're going to take $15 billion away from injured workers and give $6 billion back, and you're doing it because you say the unfunded liability is out of control. What a lot of malarkey. If the unfunded liability were in any kind of crisis, the last thing you would do is cut the revenue. It's no different than the deficit and the debt when you talk about it being in crisis and that's why you're turning around and giving $20 billion back over the term of your government that you have to borrow. Same thing. It's a lot of nonsense. WCB has got $8 billion in assets. The unfunded liability has gone down in the last two years by half a billion dollars each year. That's the reality of what's going on.


But what you're doing is taking that $15 billion out of the pockets of injured workers and giving $6 billion back. By the way, the gift-giving starts January 1, next month, because it's passed by the board and the government has given their approval, so that money, that gift back to the corporations -- by the way, it's interesting to remember when we talk about economics, as the minister did today when he introduced Bill 95, there's not one penny of taxpayers' money in the WCB. That unfunded liability is not a part of the debt of the people of Ontario. That is money that is owed by employers. It's not taxpayers' money. But I'll tell you, when you eliminate the ability of workers to claim WCB, which you're doing by tightening it up and by all the changes you're making, when they can't have their medical costs paid for by WCB, which is paid for by the employer, which is done because employees can't sue their employers -- they gave up that right -- guess who's going to pay for their medical costs? The taxpayer, because OHIP will have to pick that up.

And when you fold up the Occupational Disease Panel as part of your economic strategy that the minister talked about today when he introduced Bill 95, you're going to further prevent our ability to stop illnesses that workers die from. A world-renowned body that's respected and pointed to by experts and professional people around the world as the way to go, you're folding up, and our ability to find out why exactly, scientifically and medically, workers are coming down with diseases that maim them and kill them. Not only are innocent people going to die and be hurt, but when they are off work sick, it's the taxpayer who's going to have to pay the freight.

Why is that unfair? I will remind the government members that when you talk about your new economic strategy as you did today when the minister introduced Bill 95, you set aside a great deal of history, not the least of which is, with regard to the WCB, that in 1914 there was the historic compromise. Workers gave up the right to sue their employers when they were injured on the job. They gave up that right. In law, they can't go to court to seek redress. In exchange, employers would pay the premium into a fund that the workers would draw from to pay their wages and benefits when they're off sick or injured as a result of an injury at work that's no fault of their own. That's where it came from. So when you talk about the unfunded liability somehow affecting the macroeconomics of the province, it's not true.

That's why there's such outrage, because the very people who have a legal responsibility to pay the bill are being given back $6 billion by you and you're finding that money in the pockets of the injured worker. Don't you understand that's why they're so outraged? This isn't, "I'm taking care of my own." This isn't greed or selfishness or, "I've got a great lifestyle and I want to keep it." These are injured workers who through no fault of their own cannot work, and you're taking away their rights and giving the money you're taking away in large part back to your corporate friends. That's why people are so angry, and that's why people are so angry when they look at what you're doing to the Employment Standards Act, especially those who don't benefit from a union.

That's why unions are so angry when they look at Bill 7 and the scab law that now lets scabs go in and break democratic picket lines and why OPSEU is so outraged that you're denying those public sector workers the right to keep their collective agreement. You didn't do it to the private sector. Oh, no. In part of your economic scheme that the minister talked about when he introduced Bill 95 today, he didn't talk about the fact that successor rights still exist in the private sector. This is not some ideological principle thing. Oh, no. It's very straightforward. This is all about making sure that when you privatize public sector jobs, that when your friends bid on those contracts, they don't have to worry about collective agreements and therefore they can pay the going rate of wages and the going rate of benefits. Based on the whole economic package you're painting, that rate is going lower and lower and lower as there are more and more desperate people. The more desperate people there are, the more there are competing for fewer and fewer jobs, and therefore those who control the jobs can pay less and less because they can give the classic answer to someone who complains: If you don't like it, get another job.

You're not making that possible. All of this is in the context and at the same time that you're going after the education system, going after the health care system, going after firefighters, going after teachers, going after doctors, going after nurses. There's no one you aren't going after except your friends. Don't hear a whole lot of chambers of commerce complaining about your agenda, do we? Don't hear a whole lot of bankers complaining about your agenda. It's amazing who isn't complaining about your agenda.

Mr Ford: This is about a shopping day.

Mr Christopherson: Well, you pay the price when your minister insists on trying to brag about an economic plan when he introduces a bill. When he says that, I have a right to comment on that economic plan and that's exactly what I'm doing. When you change the Employment Standards Act in any law, I'm going to talk about what you've already done to the Employment Standards Act and I'm going to talk about what you've already done in terms of workers in this province. You can bet on it. Bet on it.

Mr Ford: Why don't you talk about the hundreds of plants that closed down during your administration?

Mr Christopherson: The fact of the matter is that this government, in terms of saving jobs -- don't get me going. In terms of saving jobs, go up to Sault Ste Marie and ask the people of Sault Ste Marie, did they like the way Bob Rae approached Algoma or the way Brian Mulroney did? So don't even talk to me about saving jobs. Now I'm talking about creating jobs. The only jobs you're creating are jobs that are minimum wage with no legal rights underneath the people who are there, and that's just the way you want it.

In fact, you're going to go around the world bragging about it: "We've got no environmental protection, no standards. Don't worry about it. None of that red tape junk in Ontario. Don't worry about it. Employment standards? Don't worry about it, we don't have that stuff. Unions? Oh no, we took care of them. We got them on the run; don't worry about that. If you have a strike, yes, scabs are okay again. Oh no, we fixed that."

What is so obscene about it, in wrapping up, is that it doesn't have to be this way. We could and we should be building on our world-class education system, building on our world-class health care system, building on our municipal infrastructure. It's wonderful that our inner cities aren't crumbling the way they are in the United States, but you're going to change that. It's wonderful that we have all these things to build on. We have the natural resources, we have the geography, we have the space, we have the skills, we have the people. It's all there, and rather than competing at the high end and saying, "We will compete with the best and be competitive through innovation and value added and making sure we have a reliable, skilled workforce, and that's how we'll do it" -- that's what you ought to be doing -- instead you take a bill like 95, which you had to do anyway because of the law, and you stand up and talk about it being part of your economic plan, a plan that is hurting working people in this province, and you seem to think they won't even notice. Well, you're wrong.

The Speaker: Questions and comments?

Mr Gilchrist: For those who are at home, the bill we're debating today is of course the Boxing Day Shopping Act, and while it wasn't mentioned even obliquely by the member in 90 minutes of a diatribe, let's just say that it's an important bill because the courts have given a clear sounding that the Boxing Day premise, the fact that businesses should be closed, is something that is quite out of keeping with our society today. Metro has already passed a bylaw; 25% of the province's population has already had Boxing Day forced upon them, and we don't need a patchwork across this province. Quite frankly, my service in retail predated when Boxing Day came in and I'm sure the world won't come to an end.

But given that the member decided to spend his 90 minutes talking about things that had absolutely nothing to do with the bill, let's just suggest that his righteous indignation -- the boy who cried wolf over there might read into the reaction of the taxpayers of this province, who support our government still to the tune of 52%, I'd remind him that's seven points higher than we had the day of the election precisely because, contrary to the actions taken by your government, which was to take binding union contracts and rip them up and rip off your taxpayers and rip off your workers by 5% because you don't believe in binding contracts. You folks voted for the social contract. The result was a demoralized workforce here at Queen's Park, and quite frankly it was just one of many accomplishments that saw the economy of this province go from the first in Canada to the last.


The turnaround has occurred, and now officially 200,000 people are off welfare, 127,000 have been new jobs created. As much as you continue to harp with the same kind of fiscal nonsense that led to the $100-billion debt in this province, the fact is we're not borrowing $20 billion. Those people who go off government assistance and on to taxpaying jobs pay taxes. The net revenue will increase. We're going to see a sound economy we haven't seen for five years.

Mr Bradley: While I know that the member for Hamilton Centre perhaps didn't stay entirely on the bill the full time, he did discuss issues which were relevant to the bill because with all of the legislation, you have to look at the context in which the bill is passed. I tried to make a case previously that the bill was motivated by the tax cut, but even the member for Beaches-Woodbine said that was not the case, so I couldn't pursue that much further. She didn't defend the tax cut, but she said this is one bill you probably couldn't attribute to that.

What I was interested in was the member's concern that we have, yes, some protection for retail employees in this legislation but that with all of the other protections being removed from workers, from employees in this province and contemplated new removal of those rights and obligations, some of which were placed there by Conservative governments in years gone by, that this idea of being able to keep this particular right -- that is, the right to refuse to work or to agree to work on Boxing Day -- might disappear. I know the member was concerned about that, as I am, because I look at a store, as he may, that might have five or six employees and if none of them wishes to work and they all refuse to work, nobody can tell me that they're not going to be forced to work. Somebody in that store, some of the employees, are going to be forced to work. This legislation will have no effect in protecting those people. Perhaps in a large store, a Canadian Tire store, The Bay, Eaton's, one of those bigger stores, that might happen, but for those who are involved in smaller retail outlets, there's no way that this legislation is going to protect those people.

Mr Kormos: I listened carefully because of the force of the address by the member for Hamilton Centre. I almost called him David Christopherson, but I understand the Speaker made a ruling recently that it would be inappropriate to call him David Christopherson as compared to "the member for Hamilton Centre." The forcefulness of his comments was compelling.

I listened to the member from across the way --

Mr Wildman: Scarborough East.

Mr Kormos: Scarborough East -- who was critical. I'll tell you, I'm confident that the member for Hamilton Centre indeed wishes that he had an opportunity to really put Bill 95, this piece of the puzzle, in its proper position in that whole broader picture. There isn't a single bit of legislation that comes from this government, perhaps with a rare exception, that isn't part of an overall plan, of an overall goal on the part of this government. The member for Hamilton Centre has articulated that very clearly and argued it very forcefully.

He's argued, as I understood his argument, an agenda that is very much anti-worker, an agenda that holds in disdain the fact that workers would dare to organize themselves into collective bargaining units, into trade unions and dare to negotiate collectively with an employer. He talks about a government that holds a high-wage economy in disdain, that wants to drive down wages and drive down employment standards to the point where the gap between the very wealthy, whom they clearly speak for, and the poor is greater and greater and greater, and where the numbers of poor grow larger and larger and larger.

The member for Hamilton Centre has very much and very skilfully put Bill 95 into the total picture. I think it was a valuable contribution to an understanding of why Bill 95 is as insidious as perhaps lengthier pieces of legislation.

Mr Ted Chudleigh (Halton North): I find it passing strange to listen to the railing of the third party on the issue of the opening of Boxing Day, which is one day during the year. International competitiveness, of course, is an extremely important part of Ontario's future, and being internationally competitive in all aspects of the economy we face is very important, and that includes being internationally competitive with the border cities and not encouraging shoppers to drive across the borders to shop and spend their money in other areas.

It's also passing strange to listen to the third party rail against legislation such as this when they introduced Sunday shopping in this province and introduced 52 days of shopping that were -- I don't believe the member actually mentioned that, but I thought it should come to the attention of the House that 52 days of the year were taken away from the workers of this province whom they purport to represent. This is one day of holiday, not 52. The comparison is passing strange indeed.

The Speaker: Response, the member for Hamilton Centre.

Mr Christopherson: To my colleagues from Welland-Thorold and St Catharines, I thank them both very much for their complimentary remarks and their shoring up of the key arguments I was making.

Let me just say to the member for Halton North very directly that history is beginning to show that an awful lot of people, in hindsight, might prefer the Rae days to the kind of future that you're offering them. Given the fact that your party argued that it wasn't nearly enough, I find it passing strange that you would try to offer that up as some kind of attack on my response, but you're entitled to your time and I respect your right to use it.

To my Tory colleague from Scarborough East, a couple of thoughts. First of all, it's interesting that he should characterize my presentation as being a diatribe and somehow his presentation is something different. Perhaps he and I should sit down over a coffee some day and watch his response to my speech in addition to an equal length of time of mine, and maybe we can come up with a definition of diatribe that fits. I would say to him very directly that given the dead, boring, ineffectual, unimportant kind of speeches that far too many government backbenchers give when they stand up and read page after page after page of things they didn't even write, I'd rather be on the other extreme, trying to make a point I firmly believe in, than fall into that trap.


The Speaker: Further debate?

Mr Kormos: I'm not going to have the opportunity to speak to you about Bill 95 for the 90 minutes that the member for Hamilton Centre did, but I will utilize the 30 minutes available to me.

I should tell you that I'm not going to be supporting Bill 95. There is some confusion; you see, one wonders about the motivation behind presenting the bill. My understanding is that the Retail Business Holidays Act and its imposition of restrictions on store opening days was the subject matter of an Ontario Court ruling that basically left this province without any legislation; assuming that that ruling would be maintained by subsequent court decisions, it left this province without any legislation governing store openings. It seems to me curious, then, that this bill would be presented -- acknowledging, however, that the Employment Standards Act amendments might well be the focus of the bill.

As well, though, in view of the fact that the status of the Retail Business Holidays Act -- and you've got to understand that I did not vote for it as it was presented by the last government. It was colloquially referred to as the Sunday shopping legislation then. I didn't support Sunday shopping when I was a member of the opposition, back when the Peterson government was introducing Sunday shopping to the province of Ontario. The reference that was used then was "wide-open Sunday shopping." I recall that as a neophyte here, my first committee work was with the then member for Cambridge, Mike Farnan, who was passionate and sincere in the opposition to the Liberal government's, the 1987-90 Peterson government's advocacy of wide-open Sunday shopping.

In the part of the province where I come from, in Welland-Thorold, the first time I campaigned for election here I made it clear that if people were voting for me they were supporting a member who was going to be opposed to Sunday shopping. In 1990 I similarly made it clear that people who supported me were going to be voting for somebody who had a strong opposition to Sunday shopping. As I say, when the last government introduced its bill -- and look, I appreciate that I was certainly in a minority here in the chamber. I re-read today what the now Premier, then leader of the third party, had to say about the Sunday shopping proposition. Quite frankly, Bill 95 doesn't contradict anything he had to say, although there were times when the Conservative Party was a little bit ambiguous about where it really stood on the issue.

So here we are. We're going to be asked to vote on legislation that in some respects doesn't do anything, because the courts have already ruled that the Retail Business Holidays Act has no effect. The courts have already indicated that the last government's attempt to create this regulatory scheme and permit Sunday shopping and other holiday shopping was inappropriately drafted. So I'm saying, what is this? Is this a public relations exercise? Is this an effort to create some look-good or feel-good legislation?

I heard the Solicitor General when he introduced the bill today, when he spoke to it, and I heard him talk about it in terms -- I'm sure I did, and, listening to the member for Hamilton Centre, he reinforced it. I'm sure the Solicitor General spoke about this as being part of a job creation exercise. I'm sure he said that. He elaborated on that. He clarified that. He talked about it as a job creation exercise in that it will create more working hours.

I reflected on the phone call that I made earlier today to one of the large shopping plazas down in Niagara region. I specifically asked: "How's Christmas shopping going? What's happening in the shops?" I was interested because, as you know, down in Niagara we've got among the highest levels of unemployment in the province. In fact, I telephoned this morning after reading comments about the numbers of people receiving general welfare assistance here in Metro Toronto, which the newspapers tell us -- and no reason to disbelieve them -- have dropped. I questioned that, because I thought: "That's strange. I wonder what it's like in the rest of the province."

In Niagara there's been an increase in the month of November in the rate of general welfare assistance, a significant number, according to the staff people I spoke with at regional government community and social services, and they anticipated even more as the winter months got closer and closer, January and February. I'm interested, then, if that's the case in Niagara, what's happening in terms of the number of people who are forced to rely on general welfare assistance in other parts of the province outside Toronto. I'm confident that the Minister of Community and Social Services would be candid in revealing that information, notwithstanding that it may well prove to illustrate that the numbers of welfare recipients have increased by and large across the province.

We know that unemployment is at a higher level now than it was a year ago at this time. I hear the responses to questions put to the cabinet during question period. They talk about this myth of jobs when in fact unemployment is higher in the province now, in December 1996, than it was a year ago in December 1995. We know that there are more unemployed people in Ontario now than there were a year ago. We know we haven't seen any of the 725,000 jobs that the Conservatives promised voters, and we're now a year and a half into the mandate. Where are these jobs? We're a year and a half into this government's mandate: not one, nothing, zero, not a single new job.

You certainly note that down in Niagara people are hurting, and that was confirmed when I talked to the management at one of the larger and major shopping plazas in Niagara today. He said that people were out there, but it certainly wasn't any booming pre-Christmas shopping period. I asked him about the phenomenon of pre-Christmas sales, because apparently this is something that's rather new, and it was indicated to me that this was a reflection of a consumer that simply hasn't got a whole lot of money in his or her pocket to spend on traditional Christmas shopping.

If people aren't out there shopping before Christmas and if items are already being put on sale, where are these shoppers going to come from after Christmas?

I remember the day this bill was presented for first reading, on November 20, because I remember the Solicitor General again was talking about his support for business with this bill. I reflected, how much support is there here for small business, real small business, the mom-and-pop type of operation? That's the type of business culture I grew up in, quite frankly, and I understand that type of family-operated business. There's no support. There's no support here for real small business.

I'm not talking about small business à la Catherine Swift. I recall her definition of small business: any company with less than 100 employees. Ms Swift sometimes just ain't that swift. She purports to speak about small business, but she speaks about a very different kind of small business than I'm familiar with down in the Niagara region, where folks set up a business, where they work in it as a couple with their children, perhaps with some other relatives, and if things are well -- and they certainly aren't well now -- maybe they can afford to hire a person or two people part-time or for some interim periods of time.

Look what the endorsement of wide-open Boxing Day shopping does to small business people, to small retailers, to the mom-and-poppers, as I'll call it. It puts them at a very uncompetitive edge with the big chains, with the Wal-Marts, the evillest, most despicable retailer that's ever invaded this country, a retailer that has a long anti-union history, and they're actually proud of it, a retailer that has a history of ravaging retail businesses, especially in small-town Ontario, a retailer that is voracious in the way it will consume other locally-owned, family-owned businesses and ship profits back down to -- where in the United States?


Mr Tony Martin (Sault Ste Marie): Alabama.

Mr Kormos: Somewhere. It's part of their heritage, it's part of their colourful heritage. I know some of the folks who work --

Mr Bradley: Arkansas.

Mr Kormos: Arkansas, by God, yes. Roy Somebody --

Mr Monte Kwinter (Wilson Heights): Mr Wal.

Mr Kormos: Yes, that's where the Wal-Mart chain came from. I know some of the people who work there. Would they like to make better wages? Of course. Do they deserve better wages? Of course they do. Are they happy about the fact that they're generating huge profits for a very uncivil type of retailer who is then shipping those profits out of the country so that these folks have to work at lower wages than they deserve or than are even fair or decent? They work there because they had no choice. We haven't seen any of the 725,000 jobs that the Conservatives promised in their election campaign of 1995. I understand, and again this is nothing for this government to be proud of, young people, students are desperate for work. You know that, Speaker. Young people, students are desperate for work, as are their parents, quite frankly.

When I look at the amendments to the Employment Standards Act -- and quite frankly I was as critical of other forms of legislation that purported to protect workers as I will be of this -- the amendments to the Employment Standards Act say that an employee may refuse an assignment of work on, among other things, December 26, Boxing Day.

Please, give me a break. "May refuse," yes. Where do you end up on the list if you dare to refuse? Who do you think is going to be called in next time if there is, hopefully, a busy season or a need for some part-time or temporary staff?

Mr Bradley: The person who worked Boxing Day.

Mr Kormos: The person who was prepared to come in on December 26 or on Good Friday or on New Year's Day or on a Sunday. The person who, notwithstanding the tug between their obligations, let's say, to their family on a Sunday, felt obliged to go into the Wal-Mart on a Sunday to work, feeling the guilt that many feel abandoning their families on a Sunday, on a Christmas Day.

You see, what we've got is a process here of erosion. It didn't start with this government. I understand that. It started with the Liberal government of 1987 to 1990, with the introduction of the concept of wide-open Sunday shopping. It was certainly expanded with the last government, but now here we've got a government that has a chance to draw the line, that has a chance to recognize that Boxing Day -- part of the argument too I understand is that Boxing Day isn't a religious holiday. I understand that. Boxing Day is not a religious holiday but it's become part and parcel of the days of Christmas celebration, by mere usage, by the fact that it's there. I'm not going to get into the origins of it, the history of it, but the fact is it has become part and parcel of those days of celebration of Christmas. It's acquired what one preacher, Pastor Russell down in Welland at the Rosedale Baptist Church told me, almost a quasi-Sabbath character, if not an actual Sabbath quality in itself.

I remember the arguments, short of that, of Mr de Boer from Idomo, for whom I have a great deal of respect and regard. You'll recall Mr de Boer, and I tell you I've been, as often as I've had occasion to be a consumer, a faithful purchaser of Gerrit de Boer's product at Idomo, which as you know makes Swedish-style designed furniture and sells it at a very attractive price. It's very durable and I urge people to shop at Idomo because Gerrit de Boer stood firm on the issue of Sunday shopping. He stood firm.

He spent a great deal of his own energy, effort and money travelling across Ontario, lobbying with MPPs about the need to maintain a day of rest. The arguments that came from the big retailers were -- do you remember him, Speaker? You should have been here, because the arguments that were offered up were incredible: that shopping is a recreational activity; that we're prepared to accommodate you. Bring your children and you can have quality family time in the aisles of our toy department or of our supermarket or our clothing or furniture store. What a myth.

Do retailers have a right to make money? Of course. But for us to have bought into the silliness of consumerism as a recreational activity I think speaks very poorly about all of us. I would have hoped that this government might have looked at the overall situation, at the fact that the courts -- it wasn't an appellate court. As I understand it, the decision is there about the status of the Retail Business Holidays Amendment Act but it's not one that may necessarily dictate the law. It would require further testing or consideration.

I would have thought that a government that spoke about some of the things this government spoke about during the course of their election campaign would have been one that would have been inclined to take a look at what communities and people in those communities feel is a responsible position for government to take in terms of protecting people who work in the retail sector from having to work on what should be, for people who are spiritual, days of religious quality, and that included the concept of a Sabbath which goes far beyond religious observation, but a day for activity with family.

I would have thought so but, after all, this is the government that adopted the argument from the purveyors of the slots, the one-armed bandits, the high-tech video slot machines. This is the government that bought into their argument that slot machines are recreation. By golly, that's the sort of thing we want to do on a Sunday afternoon. Go down to your corner bar or restaurant and play slots; the suggestion that, oh well, there could be rooms set aside so your children could be accommodated in some quasi day care while mom or dad is in there pumping the handle on the slot machines. That industry tried, and it did, quite frankly, with a whole lot of people, to create the imagery that slots were some sort of recreational activity akin to, let's say, bowling or skiing or ice skating or being in a park, when in fact slots are all about the owners of those slots making huge amounts of money at the expense of, among other things, an increasing number of people who are going to suffer from the addiction that slot machines create, at a far greater rate and faster pace than do other forms of gambling.

I don't think the protections here are in any way meaningful or relevant; there are just no two ways about it. My criticism of them now in December 1996 is the same as it was back in 1992 and 1993, and the same as it was back in 1988 and 1989. For what are mostly non-union workers in the retail sector, what are in many cases either young people and students or their parents who are desperate for work, the proposition of refusing, of utilizing what this government would tell you is your right to refuse work on a Sunday or on Christmas Day or on Boxing Day is oh, so unrealistic.


I would have hoped this government might have looked to communities across this province to talk about what family life and what small-town community life is all about. I certainly was in a minority here in the Legislature on the issue of Sunday shopping; I understand that. It's clear that my colleagues in the New Democratic Party, myself included, were in a minority here in the Legislature when we voted against those insidious high-tech slot machines that are going to prey on young people. I don't know; I may well be in a minority in terms of speaking out against wide-open shopping on Boxing Day. But I also know that whether I'm speaking for a minority or not, I'm speaking for more than a few people. I'm speaking for a substantial number of people who don't believe that retail activity should be conducted on Sabbath days -- even, yes, December 26, Boxing Day.

It was strange because in some respects the parallels between Bill 95 and the slot legislation, Bill 75, are so remarkable. Leaders from the spiritual community, religious leaders, came to the government, came to the committee that I sat on, representing a large number of faiths and they tried to persuade the government that there was more here to consider than just the wealth that's going to be created by the owners of slot machines, that there's perhaps something about quality of life and about values and about principles that should be considered. Nobody wants to be rude to a clergyperson and nobody on that committee was rude to a clergyperson, yet their written submissions seemed to almost immediately go to the bottom of the pile, regardless of the denomination. They seemed to be dismissed as just silly old men and women who are too hung up on religious matters and aren't in touch with the reality of day-to-day life.

That's why I talked to some of the religious leaders in Welland and Thorold, knowing that this bill was going to be called today, because I think it's important, and the churches acknowledge that they're in a struggle. They're in a real struggle, an unprecedented struggle. They're trying to provide leadership. They're trying to do the right things and provide leadership in a direction that they think is morally healthy, is spiritually healthy, is good for families, good for young people, good for our parents and grandparents, but they're really feeling the competition of the lure of the shopping plaza on a Sunday. They don't think they're getting much help from government. I know that any number of denominations have any number of views on any number of different subjects, but the recognition of the need for a day of rest for workers so they can pursue spiritual goals and pursue contact with their family is universal among all denominations. It's universal to all religions.

I suppose some might think it's hokey or corny to address this matter in that way. I say, so be it, because the fact is that whether they are a minority or not -- I really don't know. I suspect that if most people were given the real question -- because this was really the issue during the Sunday shopping debate, one which was never given effect to because the big commercial interests won out. They talk about the fact that consumers have a right to shop on Sunday: a right to shop. What they were really talking about is they wanted to have the right to make profits on a Sunday, and the same argument is being used here.

Mr Wayne Wettlaufer (Kitchener): Who opened up Sunday shopping?

Mr Kormos: A Tory backbencher who's over my left shoulder but probably not to my left says, "Who opened up Sunday shopping?" The fact is that the Liberals did it, with great encouragement from Mike Harris and the Conservative Party. I've got the Hansard transcripts right here. I read what Mike Harris had to say about it. He didn't stand firm on the issue of Sunday shopping. It was a matter of mere political convenience.

I ordered the Hansard transcripts of what Mike Harris and other Tories had to say about Sunday shopping. They were purporting to be the proponents of business who wanted Sunday shopping, purporting to be the supporters of business. Again, small business? Yes, 100 non-union employees. That's the Tory version of small business. It's not my idea of small business. Small businesses, I tell you, are the hardworking families running family businesses who, yes, may well feel compelled to open on December 26 even though they've been working seven-day weeks for the weeks prior to that, keeping their small shops and their small boutiques, their small retail stores open to accommodate Christmas shoppers and to try to compete with the Wal-Marts of the world. They're going to be denied the opportunity to put their feet up on Boxing Day and to have a little bit of breathing space that's well deserved by them in view of the hard work they've done.

This bill may well only be symbolic in view of the status of the Retail Business Holidays Act, but if it is only symbolic, that makes it all the worse, because it means that this government very specifically wants to send out a message that it has no concern or interest in the people working in retail who are inevitably going to be forced to work on Boxing Day and on other holidays. The argument that somehow this creates more commercial activity is oh, so naïve. The consumer in this province has little in his or her pocket now as it is, and opening a store one extra day isn't going to put more money in that consumer's pocket. That was the same fallacious argument that was presented during the Sunday shopping debate by the big commercial interests, by the people who wanted to profit and were prepared to sacrifice any number of long-held values to facilitate those profits.

As indicated at the outset, I'm not going to be supporting Bill 95. The Employment Standards Act amendments are in themselves toothless, ineffective, futile. The legislation doesn't provide leadership, but rather shows and demonstrates to the people of Ontario that this government is interested in profits for big business rather than in healthy lives for people and families. This government is far more interested in commercial interests than it is in families and in young people and their parents and grandparents. And this government is the government that, in the course of allowing 20,000 high-tech, highly addictive slot machines to pop up in every neighbourhood of every city in this province, will be held accountable, I'm sure, for initiating what will be from this point on a rapid erosion of any sense of holidays or Sabbaths for working people in this province or their families.

The Acting Speaker (Mr Jack Carroll): Questions or comments?

Mr Dan Newman (Scarborough Centre): It's a privilege to respond to the member for Welland-Thorold and his speech on Bill 95. He spoke about there being a lack of retail confidence or the ability of people to be out there shopping before Christmas in his riding, but I'd like to let him know what's happening in Scarborough. I suggest to him to try and find a parking spot at the Scarborough Town Centre shopping mall this past weekend. You couldn't get one, because everyone was out shopping. In fact, when you talk to retailers -- and I was out doing some Christmas shopping myself, Mr Speaker, and I had trouble using my Interac card. Why did I have trouble using my Interac card? The lines were jammed because too many people were shopping. So many people were out shopping, they couldn't use their Interac cards or their credit cards.



Mr Newman: He says, "What's it going to be like after Christmas?" I believe it's going to be better. It's going to be far better after Christmas, because that's when the second phase of our very real cut in personal provincial income tax comes into effect: January 1, 1997. Cutting personal provincial income tax rates and cutting payroll taxes beginning January 1, 1997, reforming the welfare system with 195,000 fewer men, women and children on the welfare system -- 195,000 fewer people -- and ending unfair job quotas by this government has accomplished a lot. What has it accomplished? Well, 136,000 more jobs during our tenure to date, and we've only been in office for 18 months. That, contrasted to a net job loss of 10,000 jobs by the former NDP government, is quite startling.

I'm proud to be part of a government whose prime focus is job creation and not job losses like the former NDP government.

Mr Bradley: I enjoyed the member's speech and I enjoyed his recounting the history of this. I know he was very disappointed when Premier Rae and the NDP government implemented full Sunday shopping and opened everything up wide open. He was one person who stood in this assembly and opposed that, with a few others, and I want to give him his credit for that.

The member for Scarborough Centre, who was responding to him, talked about credit cards. The government will need a credit card because it's going to have to borrow money to finance the tax cut. The government will be getting out its credit card, adding to the provincial debt, borrowing money to give a tax cut. I think the people who were out at the shopping centre must be bank presidents because they're going to be getting the most money. The richest people in our society will get the largest chunk of money from your tax cut.

I'm wondering if the member for Welland-Thorold is aware that if people want to read this in Hansard, they can't do it any more, because in the new year apparently you're going to have to own a computer and be hooked up to the Internet to be able to receive the published Hansard, the printed Hansard. I find that absolutely appalling, that yet another nail has been placed in the coffin of democracy in this province.

I'm wondering if the member thinks the people who are being laid off are going to be able to shop on Boxing Day, the 175 people at Cadbury Schweppes or the people from the other closings -- Foster Wheeler in St Catharines; Thona Corp, part of the operation of Court Industries, not all of it; the Kelsey-Hayes operation in St Catharines and some in his riding -- whether he thinks those people, as well as those downsized at GM, will be able to spend the money on Boxing Day that this bill enables them to do.

Mr Wildman: I listened with interest to my colleague from Welland-Thorold on the TV in the whip's office. I note his concern about the provisions in this bill and whether or not they will be effective and what it means. I understand that the court decision has basically meant that stores will probably open, or could open if they wish. I was very interested in my colleague's view as to whether or not the provisions to protect workers were real. I don't really know whether they are.

But I was most concerned about the whole issue of putting this in the context of what this government is doing. Like my friend from St Catharines, I'm concerned about the staff of the Ministry of Transportation who are being laid off by this government just before Christmas because of the desire to contract out their jobs. I'm just really wondering whether if a store is open or closed on Boxing Day is going to make any difference to them. It's going to be a very bleak Christmas.

I suppose one might argue that perhaps if a store is open on Boxing Day with a sale, these people, who obviously are not going to be able to afford to shop prior to Christmas, even with the sales that are on now, if there are really deep discounts after Christmas, they might be able to purchase something. But frankly I doubt very much that they will go shopping, because they're going to be in a very serious situation. They're going to be losing their jobs just before Christmas. While this government may think it's giving Boxing Day back to the retailers in this province, it's the Grinch that stole Christmas from those workers.

Mr Tim Hudak (Niagara South): I rise to join in the debate today, with comments on my comrade the member for Welland-Thorold's comments on finally opening businesses on Boxing Day.

One of the themes brought out a very sharp contrast, where the member for Welland-Thorold talked about the evil lure of the shopping centre, where he talked about the seductive ability of The Bay or Gap -- and I do appreciate there are some nice clothes in there and hopefully I'll be able to do some shopping myself when we get through these midnight sittings soon -- but all the same, the ability of a shopping centre to overpower an individual's resolve, to lure them in and tell them where to spend their dollars.

But as a Conservative, and the members on this side of the House will agree, we believe in an individual's ability to choose where to spend their own dollars, how best to spend their own wealth, where best to work and what to do with the money when they get the paycheques coming in. It seems the left, by this argument, and supported by some members across the floor, would rather control that money themselves, I guess go back to the days of high taxes and high debts and all kinds of charges, payroll taxes, so that they can determine where this money from hardworking Ontarians will be spent, perhaps some day suit us all up in some sort of Maoist outfit so we all look the same and won't have to worry about shopping on Boxing Day. But we don't go down that path, as Conservatives. We're the other way around.

Certainly my experience has been that -- let's be realistic -- they do shop on Boxing Day. Working there at the Peace Bridge as a customs officer a few years ago, I'm remembering all the cars coming across the Peace Bridge from Buffalo, talking about, "Oh, I was just over at the Galleria; I was over at Pennsylvania." All these goods came across the border because they didn't have the opportunity to do that shopping in Fort Erie or Welland-Thorold or St Catharines or the Niagara Peninsula.


Mr Hudak: I certainly think, despite the objections of the members across the floor, that we should give Canadians and Ontarians an opportunity to shop in their own province for a change. Instead of having to go internationally across the border and shop in the States, let's shop back home in Canada.

The Acting Speaker: Time to wrap up, the member for Welland-Thorold.

Mr Kormos: I say to the member for St Catharines, thank you kindly. Yes, he had advised me earlier about this government abandoning Ontarians or others who are interested in knowing what's going on here. They've drawn a dark screen around this place by abolishing the right to subscribe to Hansard. Oh, you can access it if you're equipped, as these Tories' wealthy friends undoubtedly are, with the high tech of computers and Internet. But working folks and the poor, without their computers and their modems and their PCs, are no longer entitled to access Hansard.


Mr Kormos: Yes, the workers at Cadbury Schweppes have been abandoned by a runaway company that's fled to the United States, leaving these workers abandoned without jobs. I say that's why all of us should be participating in the boycott of Mott's clamato juice, shouldn't buy another drop of it. I'm advised the President's Choice version of clamato juice is union-made here in Ontario and is far better, quite frankly, than Mott's ever was. Again, there'll be no Mott's clamato juice in my fridge; it'll be President's Choice over this Christmas.

I thank the member for Algoma. The member for Erie-Lincoln, or who would be for Erie-Lincoln if he managed to get the nomination from the member for Lincoln, Mr Sheehan, I would remind him that if you want to reinforce families and quality of life for families, sometimes you've got to pay a price. It's unfortunate that this government is prepared to sacrifice families and the concept of a Sabbath for pure commercial interests. It's sad.


The Acting Speaker: Further debate?

Mr Mario Sergio (Yorkview): I'm delighted to join the debate on this particular bill. As we are getting very close to Boxing Day, I think it's a very appropriate time to debate the bill. I just want to bring a little bit of insight, if I can, with respect to what brought the government to decide on the move of legalizing, if you will, shopping on Boxing Day and the benefits, if there are any, and to whom.

I wonder if this has been dished out through the Who Does What committee, or maybe we should go to that particular committee and then find out if Who Does What to Whom and When would come up with the same conclusion.

Let me give you a little bit of information as to the dilemma that we, as local politicians, went through when we were debating Sunday shopping. I don't have to tell you how long Sunday shopping has been debated. Every municipal council must have debated for one year, two years, three years, perhaps more than five or six years, and we always came to the same conclusion: that the benefits of opening up Sunday shopping, if you will, now on Boxing Day, are not really worth it.

The reason we're opening up on Boxing Day or legalizing it, if you will, I don't believe the minister has given us the real goods. I'm not saying he's lying, absolutely not; I'm saying that the benefits of opening up on Boxing Day, whenever it falls, truly overshadow the negative impact, they really do.

We have to look at policing, the effect that it has on workers. There are those who work in shopping malls versus those who have the strip plaza, if you will, who even if they pay rent don't have to open. But we are going to have the same issues telling the store owners, tenants, employees, "Well, if you don't want to open up, you don't have to." It's very difficult. I've had plenty of calls already, by the way, in my office from small retailers. They say: "Look, I'm hardly making a living the way I do it now, opening up six days a week. You think Boxing Day is going to make my day?"

How are we going to tell our hairdresser or our barber, "The mall is going to be open; you've got to open up"? What does this do to the morale of the people, the employees and the various retailers? A lot of people say -- I don't say everybody, but most people, a lot of people -- usually it's Christmas Day and they may not be able to drive now, after they have a good time on Christmas Day or Christmas night, but certainly they would like to continue to enjoy the spirit of the holiday, the spirit of Christmas, until Boxing Day.

So, why is the government moving to approve, legalize, shopping on Boxing Day? Because we find it very hard to police it. Then why don't we give them a choice and say, "Look, we do have a problem; you want to stay open, you stay open," but don't force it on people? It just cannot be done.

The calls I've been getting -- and I'm pleased that the minister is here -- say, "Look, you are discriminating; you're putting one worker against another," those who are being forced to open up and work on Boxing Day versus those who will be taking off, don't have to open up, can pay their rent and not open up on Boxing Day.

Hon Al Leach (Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing): Only in Ontario would we have a holiday for shopping and then not allow shopping.

Mr Sergio: Yes, indeed, it's politics. I appreciate the intervention of the minister.


The Acting Speaker: Order.

Mr Sergio: I can wait. I'm enjoying it. I'm glad it's now about 20 minutes to 8 on a Thursday night and we are engaged in this type of affair here. It's one of those things again where the government says, "Let's consult the people; let's consult the people who are really affected in situations like this and see what they have to say." I'm sure I'd like to tell the minister. Because he comes from a municipal atmosphere, if not experience, I think he knows that we do have a problem with that. But of course if the government wants to move in the way and legalize the illegal, that's okay, no problem.

I'm showing a lot of concern for those employees, workers who will be unfairly treated. That's a big concern. I think it's a time that we should be telling those people: "It's Christmas Day. You want to enjoy it with your family. You want to do certain things that normally you don't do at any time of the year." This is a very particular time of the year, so don't force it; don't force it upon them.

The calls that I've got are stressing the fact that the ones in the indoor shopping malls will be at a huge disadvantage versus those that are in the various strip plazas, Eglinton, the main streets, where if they want to open up, they open up, but they don't have to stay open. They can pay their rent, lock the store, take holidays and come back in the new year and stuff like that.

I think we're going to have more difficulties with the environment aspect of the situation, opening up practically every day of the year. I think it's going to cost us more. It's not going to be of any benefit to us. I think it's going to cost us a little bit more. At a time that we are curtailing, we are cutting funds to even our police department, now we will have to find more protection. We will have to find those people to be out there, to cover those areas, to be always available on extra calls and stuff like that.

So, I think there are some negative points, but I can see where the government is directed, and I think it's posed as well to let it go through, to approve of it tonight, and so be it. But those are the concerns that I wish to express to the government side. This has been an issue that has been debated for so long, for so many years throughout every council. Those are real concerns that have been expressed, and I share those concerns. I believe there should be one day when we could say, "Close them down." The problem is that those people who have been abusing that particular law have not been prosecuted, if you will, or gone after, been fined, and they have been getting away with it. So the government is saying, "Instead of going after the few, we might as well let everybody open up and let them do their business." That's fine.

I think I have got my two cents worth in this matter here. The concern I want to bring to the House is the concern that I get from the people in my area, and yes, I do have a very large commercial base, both with strip stores, individual stores; I have some malls as well. This is the concern they are telling me: "We don't want to work on Boxing Day." It may be good for some stores, some big stores, but in general I think the people are against it. Those are the concerns I wanted to bring and express to the House.

The Acting Speaker: Questions or comments? The member for Algoma.

Mr Wildman: I want to congratulate the member for Yorkview for bringing forward his concerns about the fact that some people in his constituency, small business people, would like to have the day off and have the after-Christmas sales begin two days after Christmas rather than the first day immediately after Christmas.

I'm intrigued by the interjection that was made during my friend's speech from the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, the member for St George-St David, where he said, "Only in Ontario would we have a holiday for shopping and then not allow shopping."

My question is simple: Who ever said that Boxing Day was a holiday for shopping? Who designated Boxing Day to be a holiday for shopping? The history of Boxing Day is quite different from that. The term comes from 18th century England, where the wealthy used to give presents to their servants the day after Christmas, the leftovers from Christmas. It had nothing to do with shopping.

I've never been in a league where I would be having servants to whom I would give even the leftovers from Christmas, but I'm sure many of the members opposite would like to treat their staff that way and would like to have them have a day off and enjoy themselves rather than have to hurry out and elbow in the enormous crowds on Boxing Day for the sales. Frankly, I don't understand why anybody over the Christmas holiday would want to go shopping the day after Christmas. There are so many other things a family could do together to enjoy the holiday. Shopping is not one of them.


The Acting Speaker: Further questions or comments?

Mrs Marland: This debate is so interesting for those of us who have a historical perspective on it. I find it amazing to hear members discuss the fact that we are now going to legalize something that happens anyway: stores being open on Boxing Day. Members discuss it as though we are forcing people to go and shop. It's a matter of choice. We are simply saying that people choose --

Mr Wildman: You mean this is permissive legislation? Oh, I didn't realize that.

Mrs Marland: I say to the House leader for the third party, the member for Algoma, I didn't interrupt you when you were speaking. I would suggest to you that it's an entirely free choice whether people shop. Boxing Day, as I said earlier today, is not a Christian holiday. Those of us who celebrate the Christian festival known as Christmas do not treat Boxing Day as a religious holiday.

I really find it interesting that the opposition is accusing us of being interested in business and the economy. You're absolutely right. We are all interested on this side of the House in business and the economy, because we want to get more people working in this province and we want to reduce the $100-billion deficit that was the legacy the two former governments left our government to deal with. We're proud of the fact that we're interested in creating jobs, and the people who don't wish to work on Boxing Day are protected by the Solicitor General's legislation.

Mr Colle: I think nobody in this House is against business and the economy, but I think a lot of us on this side are also very interested to see what government legislation does and how it affects people, especially vulnerable people.

This Christmas, throughout this province, there are going to be a lot of seniors who, because they have to pay prescription user fees, because they have to pay a $100 deductible, will not be able to buy that Christmas present for their grandchildren. This is not going to be a very good Christmas for a lot of people who, instead of having 40 hours of work, have now been reduced to 20 hours; a lot of people who won't have full-time jobs, who because of the cutbacks are now working part-time.

Sure, it's great to say how wonderful Boxing Day will be. It might be great for you who have a lot of money, and for your friends who have been given that big tax cut it will be a wonderful Boxing Day, but I'll tell you, there are a lot of people in Oakwood who will not have a very good Boxing Day because of the fact that they've lost their jobs; they're paying more user fees; all kinds of services that have been cut back, that they used to get for free, they're paying for. That's what we're trying to tell you.

I think the member for Yorkview is trying to tell you to stop and think what you're doing to people. As you bulldoze through cities, as you amalgamate everything that moves, as you make these mega-monster stores, mega-monster governments, what happens to people? What happens to the little senior who has to now pay $6.11 every time they buy a prescription? What happens to those seniors who are in hospitals, who have to pay $40 a day? So stop and think what your policies are doing to people too.

Mr Gilles Pouliot (Lake Nipigon): Following that sad but so accurate example, some people will not make it to Boxing Day. Their concern is a chance to be like others in the Christmas spirit. So more immediate, the day before Christmas is when they will suffer very harshly. It's when comparisons are more vivid than at any other time. No government of any political stripe should have to carry the guilt as individuals. We do the best we can at that time of year; not only Christmas but the conditions that lead to not having a very happy Christmas by way of a lack of means so that we can give and share with our loved ones.

For a moment I want to share with you what Boxing Day is like in the community of Manitouwadge. If you see me with a parcel, with a shopping bag on Boxing Day, I'm returning things. I'm not shopping on Boxing Day. For instance, if I were to get a cellular phone on Christmas Day all wrapped in the latest fashion, in Dalmatian wrapping paper -- we got a Christmas card, Monte and the Dalmatian. Since it doesn't work in my riding, because you can really see the curvature of the earth -- there is no system there -- I would stoop, I would be so sad, and I would take the cellular phone back. That's what Boxing Day could mean for me. It doesn't scare anyone.

I'm going to ask you a question, Mr Speaker, you who are so worldly. Boxing Day has been made famous by sales. Is it the day of the year where the real sales occur? Because I want to wish my good wife and spouse a happy Christmas Day and a nicer Boxing Day --

The Acting Speaker: Thank you, member for Nipigon. The member for Yorkview.

Mr Sergio: I take with a good grain of salt the comments from the member for Mississauga South. I wish to thank all the members who have risen to comment on my brief presentation: the members for Oakwood and Lake Nipigon as well as the member for Algoma.

It used to be that Boxing Day was not a shopping day but an exchange day. If it didn't fit, if you didn't like it, that's what you would do. Then it got spoiled, people got greedy and it turned out to be another shopping day.

I should mention this now, because the minister is here, the member for St George-St David. He used to be the essence with respect to the transportation mode within Metro, if not the GTA. I wondered how those people in wheelchairs, the most physically challenged people in our society, are going to be doing some Boxing Day shopping. Usually it's madness just to go and exchange a gift. So I wonder if the TTC's going to be working on Boxing Day. I wonder what kind of service WheelTrans users will get on Boxing Day. Those are the things we should be thinking about. I don't think it's fair to those people.

But let me say this, Mr Speaker, that while we were waiting, another member made a comment that Santa Claus from up north in Santa's village is so upset with the idea of Boxing Day openings that he may even cancel his trip south. I think we should really take that into consideration. Thank you.


The Acting Speaker: Further debate?

Mr Martin: I appreciate the opportunity to get up this evening and speak on this bill, even though I have somewhat mixed opinions and feelings about it.

Interjection: Confused.

Mr Martin: Confused, yes. I don't understand, first of all, why it's before us. From what I'm led to believe, the case before the courts that was decided just a few months ago decided this decision. Why we're dealing with it here tonight is -- well, who knows. I suggest to you it's just another in a line of a whole lot of bills that are brought before this House in a way that is quite illusory: on one hand to present to the public that there's something happening here that's good for them, that's going to be somehow good for business and for their communities, contribute to quality of life, make them more responsible citizens, yet on the other hand, when you take a closer look at it, you begin to see that it, like all the others, is quite a cynical piece of work.

We're presented in this bill with the notion that somehow business is going to be better in our communities because we're going to be open on Boxing Day, that stores are going to make more money, are going to be more prosperous, that communities are going to benefit from this by way of the tax that's generated and the activity that will happen around the downtown.

In another respect -- and my colleague for Hamilton Centre spoke to this -- we're also told in the bill that there are going to be provisions that are going to respect the rights of workers through the Employment Standards Act to say no if they don't want to work on Boxing Day, to refuse to work because they want to stay home with their families or they want to continue the Christmas celebration in some other way besides having to get up and go to work. The member for Hamilton Centre and the member for Welland-Thorold I think made excellent and eloquent presentations on the real fallacy and the real lack of credibility in that particular piece of this bill, and I won't spend a whole lot of time on that.

I do want to spend, though, as much time as I have, as I can put in here tonight, talking more about the question of whether this piece of legislation that we're dealing with -- or with it, I suppose, the court decision -- will in any way enhance the retail sector, will enrich the retail sector in my community or in any community across this province.

I refer back to some of the comments from my colleague for Welland-Thorold. I too remember well the debate we had in this House around the question of Sunday shopping, and how at the end of the day I came to a position of supporting the notion of Sunday shopping in my community, how I thought we might be able to do that in a more controlled fashion. Actually in my community we had attained a level or a way of respecting both the want and the desire of people who wanted to shop on Sunday and balanced that with those who wanted to see Sunday as a day of rest and a day when more time could be spent in more spiritual pursuits.

In Sault Ste Marie at that time there were a number of factors that came into play around the whole question of whether we should be allowing Sunday shopping or not. Certainly one of them was the fact that we are a border community, and just across the river, five minutes from downtown Sault Ste Marie, Ontario, is Sault Ste Marie, Michigan, with wide-open shopping on Sunday, literally carloads of people going across the bridge every Sunday and money flowing in rather significant amounts into the stores of the merchants in Sault, Michigan. I don't for a minute suggest that the merchants in Sault, Michigan don't deserve to take advantage of that kind of trade, but somehow I felt, in discussions with the chamber of commerce and the labour council and the municipal council in my community, that perhaps Sunday shopping might be something that would be, in balance, better for my community than not.

Actually, a year before that, in response to the legislation the Liberal government had brought in, Sault Ste Marie had decided on an experiment, which was to have Sunday shopping from 1 o'clock to 5 o'clock. That left the morning for people to attend church services and spend some time together as family, and then, if they wanted to go out in the afternoon to pick up a few groceries or pick up a card or a present in a shop, they could do that. At the end of the day, I didn't get a whole lot of feedback of a negative nature from people when we as a government decided to move ahead with that.

There was a time in my history when I was very vehemently opposed to the concept of Sunday shopping; in fact, at one point I marched with people on city hall when city hall was making the decision about whether they would respond to the Liberal legislation and open stores. But we all have to be open to new information. We all have to be open, as members in this place, to meeting with our constituents and hearing what they have to say. If, at the end of the day, we think they're right, if it falls within certain basic principles and values -- and one of those for us and for me is the freedom of people of various cultures and religions to have some time to celebrate that particular faith, but also that those who don't share a particular day or a particular time be allowed to do what they feel they need to do, as long as it's respectful of others. So at that time, I was onside with a whole lot of my colleagues in supporting the moving ahead of our government in light of the question of Sunday shopping.

I have presented to you the whole process I went through as an example of why it is so important that we have members in this House who represent constituents who can access the member and have the time that's necessary to sit down and talk and debate over a period of time the issues of the day that affect them directly, so that when decisions are made they know the person they've elected carries, as honestly and fairly as possible, the position of that community -- as much as that can be done, considering that all of us here in this place belong to a particular political party, which brings along with that some party policies, and those are debated as well. And it's important to note that those of us who come here and serve in this capacity also bring our own set of personal circumstances and our upbringing and approach on various things.

But what I wanted to focus on more tonight than that, even, is the question of, why this bill, and why now, after a court decision was made that really made the bill somewhat redundant? I suggest to you it's in keeping with the way of going on that this government has established over the last year and a half, which I talked about two nights ago in this House. It's to bring in legislation that is usually wrapped in a very attractive package. But normally, the name is written in a way that actually betrays in many significant ways what's inside and would lead people to believe that this government actually cares about people, that this government actually cares about communities, and that this government is actually going to take some initiatives that will stimulate and be helpful to an economy that frankly, in this province right now, is sputtering to take off but can't because it is slowly but surely running out of gasoline.


Let's for a minute look at this bill. It presents as somewhat of a Christmas present. You know, here's an opportunity for people to go out and spend more money, here's an opportunity for retailers to be open another day of the year so they can have more customers come in and spend money so that they can generate more profit.

But when you put that in the context of all the other things this government is doing that negatively impact on the retail sector, one scratches one's head and wonders, what is it we're doing here? For example, in my community and across this province in every community, there was one day in July 1995 that was a dark day indeed in this province. It was the day that your government decided to take 22% from the income of the lowest and the most vulnerable and the marginalized in this province.

Mr Hastings: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: It would be appreciated if the member for Sault Ste Marie stuck at least remotely to the subject. I do not see how 22%, regarding our policy decision on social assistance, has anything to do with this decision. The judge didn't rule about it in that way.

The Acting Speaker (Mr Bert Johnson): I'd like to remind the member for Etobicoke-Humber that I was listening very carefully to the member. He is debating Bill 95, an act to permit shopping on Boxing Day, and I'm sure he was just about to bring his debate within the context of the bill.

Mr Martin: If the member would give me a minute, if the member would be a little bit patient -- after all, it's the Christmas season -- I'd explain to you the point I'm coming to.

Interjection: Do you want to get to it?

Mr Martin: Okay, we're getting to it. In July 1995, one of the dark --

The Acting Speaker: Order. I did want to remind the member to address his remarks through the Chair, if he would, please.

Mr Martin: Okay, Speaker, I'll talk to you, although it's much more interesting to talk to these guys, because they're chirping and talking and responding here. They're very interested in what I have to say. They're listening with bated breath to how I'm going to tie this into this bill.

Interjection: Yes, how are you going to do that?

Mr Martin: If I could just get a minute here, Speaker, I would do that.

You'll all remember -- I tell you, I can't forget that day in July 1995 when you, in support of your government, decided to take 22% of the income of the lowest-paid, the most vulnerable and marginalized and poorest people in every community in this province. They thought: "This is going to teach them a lesson. This is just going to tell them to smarten up and get out there and get a job. This is going to make them more responsible and accountable and all those things" -- not realizing that this goes way beyond that particular family and that particular individual.

That family and that particular individual is a story in itself, and it was a sad day when you kicked those folks in the head. But even beyond that, what you've done in my community -- I don't know about your community or Manitouwadge or Welland, but I'm sure they can come up with the same numbers -- is that you took, because of that decision, $2 million a month on average out of the economy, which computes to $24 million a year that is no longer being spent in local stores. That's the point.

All the way through the year, you as a government have pulled $2 million per month out of the cash registers of the smallest stores, corner stores and grocery stores and shoe stores and the stores that sell clothes to kids and to families, and then you bring in a bill here that talks about opening up stores on another day of the year when people --

Ms Lankin: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I'm sorry to interrupt the proceedings, but I was watching on television in my office as you made a ruling on the interjection by the member for Etobicoke-Rexdale. You said that the member for Sault Ste Marie was entirely in order and that he was speaking very directly to the bill, which you said was an act to prevent shopping on Boxing Day. I'm quite confused. I thought this was an act to allow shopping on Boxing Day, Mr Speaker. I think you need to clarify which bill is before the House.

The Acting Speaker: That is not a point of order. If I made a mistake in addressing the member for Etobicoke-Rexdale -- I think I used the wrong riding, and for that I apologize, and if I got the terminology a little bit mixed up, I also apologize for that. What I will not apologize for is the mistake that some may have thought I made and didn't, and that was that I told the member I was paying very close attention to him and that I knew he was bringing his debate within that. I'm saying that I'm sorry you missed part of it, or misinterpreted it, but I do appreciate your participation tonight.

Mr Kormos: On a point of order, sir, there's an old maxim, Speaker: Never apologize, never explain.

The Acting Speaker: That is not a point of order. The Chair recognizes the member for Sault Ste Marie.

Mr Martin: Speaker, I was wondering if, because of all of this, I might be given a bit more time on the clock?

The Acting Speaker: I'm sorry. The answer is no.

Mr Preston: It's your fault anyway.

Mr Martin: No, no. Do you want me to start over?

I appreciate the fact that the Speaker ruled in my favour a few minutes ago in saying that I was going to get to the point eventually and that he was anxiously waiting for me to do that. I was going to get there, and then all this happened. Anyway, here we are.

It just doesn't make any sense to me that this government would be bringing in a bill that really is not necessary, which is redundant, to allow for shopping on another day of the year when, on the other hand, through the decisions it's making, it's literally, on a daily basis, taking millions of dollars out of the pockets of people who would be wanting to spend it in these stores -- how many days in a year?

Mr Kormos: There are 365.

Mr Martin: Spend it 365 days of the year.


Mr Martin: It's late.

Mr Preston: Not counting leap year, Tony.

Mr Martin: Not counting leap year; that's right. While I'm talking, maybe you can figure out how many of those are days you can't shop on, and then we can do that.

Anyway, why this government would be bringing in a bill as redundant as Bill 95 to allow for another day of shopping when they're taking money out of the pockets of people who would spend it, literally millions -- I use the figure for Sault Ste Marie because we did calculate it: $2 million dollars a month out of Sault Ste Marie, $24 million dollars a year. And this is out of the pockets of people who very seldom keep it there very long. It's almost a direct flow-through.

Mr Colle: You could call it a flow-through pocket.

Mr Martin: It's a flow-through pocket. A person on assistance gets the cheque, cashes it and spends it almost immediately. Somebody once said to me it was like putting gas in your carburetor to start it, as opposed to putting it in your tank, because it fires right away. It has an immediate effect on a community. The money you give to people who are on fixed income is money that's spent immediately in the community.


Mr Kormos: These people want it spent on the damn slot machines.

Mr Martin: They want to spent it, yes, on slot machines, but even more than that, they want to give it to people by way of a tax break who aren't going to spend it.

Mr Kormos: The rich.

Mr Martin: The rich, who are going to sock it away or spend it on a vacation in Florida or Bermuda or the Cayman Islands or Jamaica. Does it make any sense to you, Speaker, that they would be doing this?


Mr Wettlaufer: He's not allowed to comment.

Mr Martin: He was commenting a few minutes ago.

Anyway, the other piece of this that's rather disturbing, and it's in the same line and I'll come back and make the same point, is in my community as well, up until September 1995, by way of the cuts to social services and health care and education, you had laid off literally hundreds of people and you had taken by way of that another $35 million out of the community, annualized. We're talking $24 million and $35 million, so we're talking what? What does that add up to, Peter?

Mr Kormos: A whole lot of cheese.

Mr Martin: That's a whole lot of cheese, a whole lot of cheese out of my community that would be spent in those stores, that would be spent with those retailers if this government wasn't in such an all-fired hurry to give the bank presidents a tax break, who aren't going to spend it in our communities because they don't live there. I don't know where they live. Does anybody know where they live? Certainly not in Sault Ste Marie. To give them a tax break.

We did a study -- the labour council and the Steelworkers in Sault Ste Marie -- in partnership with the economic development corporation, of the impact on my community of the decisions you're making by way of the downsizing. We figure by the time you're finished we're probably going to lose between 1,600 and 1,700 jobs in Sault Ste Marie. That's a lot of jobs. That's a lot of spending power. That's a lot of money that is no longer going to be going into the ch-ching cash registers of the stores and shops.

Mr Wettlaufer: How many times?

Mr Martin: Oh, 1,600 to 1,700.


Mr Martin: They don't do ch-ching any more. Okay.

Mr Wettlaufer: You're not even including the lottery corporation.

Mr Martin: That's right, it's coming next. The member for Kitchener brings up an excellent point. I haven't even talked about the lottery corporation. They're going to privatize the lottery corporation and gut Sault Ste Marie. They're going to take 300 to 350 jobs from the lottery corporation out of Sault Ste Marie and God knows where they're going to go, but the bottom line here is that's 350 more people who aren't going to be spending money, never mind on Boxing Day, on any other day of the year in my community. That's another -- what was it? What were they projecting?

Mr Wettlaufer: You might as well close up Sault Ste Marie. It doesn't sound good at all.

The Acting Speaker: Order.

Mr Martin: It doesn't sound good, and I tell you, it isn't good. It's not just Sault Ste Marie. On a more serious note, I would ask anybody here to do the same analysis of the impact of the decisions of this government on their community.

Mr Kormos: This government has a special hatred for the north.

Mr Martin: The member for Welland-Thorold, who should know, says this government has a special hatred for the north. I don't understand why that is. That may have something to do with the fact that the north didn't vote for them in the last election. They understood a couple of things. They understood the leadership that was given by the previous government and they understood before anybody else the impact of the decisions that this government was going to make if it followed up on the promises it made in the Common Sense Revolution on our community.

But interestingly enough, the same kind of analysis that talks about the millions of dollars coming out of the community of Sault Ste Marie that are no longer going to be spent in the shops and stores of my community, never mind on Boxing Day but on any other day of the year, has been done in North Bay. Who represents North Bay in this place? It seems to me it's one Mike Harris represents North Bay.

This study, which was jointly sponsored by a whole lot of groups in North Bay -- the chamber of commerce, the labour council, the economic development corporation, the city -- they all got together because they want to know what the numbers are, what the impact is. They've determined that from the beginning of the downsizing by the federal government in that city, heaped on to the downsizing that's happening now by way of the provincial government, they will eventually lose 2,200 jobs out of North Bay.

Just a little aside to that: Do you know what the Premier and the government are doing to try and shore that up a bit? They're literally cannibalizing the rest of the north. Any job that's left in northern Ontario, whether it's in transportation or the Ministry of Natural Resources or education or the federation of agriculture or policing, any jobs that are left, by hook or by crook, one way or another, are being moved into guess where? They're being moved into the constituency of the Premier of the province to shore him up.

Even though he went out on the weekend this study was released in North Bay and said that this was good news, that government was downsizing and that they were serious about getting their house in order and not spending more money and dealing with the debt, and he said that losing 2,200 jobs in his own home community was the price you had to pay. But on the other hand, clandestinely, behind the scenes -- and we all know, the member for Algoma, I know, the members from Timmins and Sudbury, we all know that he's taking all the jobs that he can get his hands on that are left, the few of them that are left, and he's moving them to North Bay so that the impact isn't quite so hard and so stark on that particular community, which tells me that --

Mr Pouliot: He's even taken the riding away.

Mr Martin: He's doing that too -- that even he is concerned. Even he in the quiet of his own mind, when he has some time to sit back and think about this and how it might impact his community, is having second thoughts and he knows that he should be doing something to help his own community and to help the people who are being laid off in large numbers in North Bay.

Does it make any sense? Does it make any sense to be on one hand the Santa Claus of the province for a while and announce to the business community that they're going to be able to open on another day of the year, Boxing Day, and all that means for the workers and the families that own small businesses who are going to have to open whether they want to or not, because the big shops are going to and they're going to have to follow suit. Does it make sense to be doing that on the other hand, through the decisions you're making a day-to-day basis around here, while taking money out of those communities so that the rest of the year these retailers that this government says it wants to help by way of this bill are literally going bankrupt?

We have record bankruptcies in this province right now and no more so than in the north and in my own community. Bankruptcy has gone up in my own community in the last year by 61%. That's what's happening because of this government, and this bill is a cynical hoax.


The Acting Speaker: Comments and questions? The Chair recognizes the member for Mississauga South.

Mrs Marland: I would say to the member for Sault Ste Marie that we have probably just heard a very good example of why these evening sittings are a complete waste of time. I think most of us understand this bill very well and we understand that this bill gives people the opportunity to shop, should they choose to shop.

I say to those members opposite who found their own member's speech very entertaining that this is not what we're in this place for. We're in this place to speak to legislation from our different perspectives. I simply say to you, if you don't understand the necessity for creating more jobs in this province, we really are in difficulty. What is so interesting for this particular member of course -- I know this because I have a brother who lives in Sault Ste Marie and is a constituent of my colleague the member. I know that of course, like a lot of people, a large number of your constituents don't even shop in the Sault. They go over to the American Sault and other American cities to shop. So your argument about Boxing Day shopping is an absolutely hollow argument and I simply say to you, with respect, give people the opportunity. We are talking about Boxing Day, where people shop illegally all the time --

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

Mrs Elinor Caplan (Oriole): This bill is Bill 95 and it will, when it's passed, allow stores to remain open and people to shop, if they choose, on Boxing Day. We know there are businesses that stay open, even though the law has been that they must close and the cost of the enforcement of that has been an issue and a problem. We also know the retail sector likes to have Boxing Day sales and we also know the retail sector is experiencing economic difficulties at this time. We know as well that many people like the excitement of Boxing Day sales. I personally don't. I don't like those kind of big crowds for shopping, but the fact that I choose not to go and shop on Boxing Day I don't believe should prevent those who want to do it from going and doing it.

I think for retailers Boxing Day will be an important business day for them. I hope it will help them with their sales. I hope those people who got things for the holidays, and Christmas in particular, that they don't like and want to exchange will go and do it while the sales are on and that it will be an economic boon to the province. I suspect, however, that it will not be the economic boon the government is predicting because people who don't like what they got exchange them at some other time.

However, we're spending a lot of time and energy in this House on an issue that when the Conservative government debated and discussed issues such as Sunday shopping, we knew that one day they were on one side of the issue and the next day they were on the other side of the issue, so I'm not at all surprised that there's a lot of discussion and ridicule when you see these folks are the ones that are actually opening up the province to shopping on Boxing Day. I personally don't have a problem with it. I'm just surprised the Harris government is doing it.

Mr Wildman: I want to congratulate my good friend from Sault Ste Marie on a very entertaining and informative speech on Bill 95. I listened very carefully and I understand that my friend basically indicated that some people in his community are in favour of shopping on Boxing Day, some people are opposed to shopping on Boxing Day and he stands squarely with his constituents.

The point, though, has to be recognized that because of court decisions, the stores are going to be able to open for shopping on Boxing Day, whether or not this legislation passes, so really it is not that crucial. The suggestion that we're going to have a lot more shopping done and it's going to be very, very important for the retail sector, I question. I wonder whether it will just move around the dates when people do their shopping. I don't know whether it's going to mean there's going to be a lot more shopping, just that there'll be shopping on a different day.

To suggest that this is going to mean a lot more jobs ignores the real kernel and important part of my friend's speech: that the moves this government has taken have resulted in so many job losses in communities like Sault Ste Marie across northern Ontario that nobody is going to be doing a lot of shopping, whether it's on Boxing Day or before Christmas or any other day of the year, because we're losing an enormous number of jobs and purchasing power in northern Ontario.

There has been the suggestion by the Conservatives that we should speed up and get things moving along here. One of the advantages, I suppose, of this legislation is that the House could sit on Boxing Day, but of course the workers who don't want to come wouldn't have to.

The Acting Speaker: The time has expired. The chair recognizes the member for Etobicoke-Rexdale.

Mr Hastings: Actually, we may have to be here, at the rate and pace of debate on this subject. It's like beating an old horse to death and then expecting it to come back to life again.

I didn't think the day would ever come when I would agree with anything the honourable member for Oriole said, but I sat just absolutely fascinated listening to her positive, upbeat proposition on what may happen on Boxing Day and allowing people the individual choice to doing it.

As for the member for Sault Ste Marie, I tried to connect up logically his contention or premise that somehow the 22% reduction in social assistance kills shopping. It seems to indicate that there is only one type of shopper in the Sault: low-income people. I think there are low-income, middle-income and what you'd call over there the wealthy, anybody over $54,000, as the previous Treasurer defined and seemed to have accepted, whereas a salary of $40,000 to $50,000 is more middle class than anything.

What I think this particular bill is going to achieve is to help some young people who need part-time jobs. If you go to a lot of the shops in even the smaller communities of this province, or in the urban areas -- this government never made a big claim that it was going to increase a pile of jobs, but it is going to keep job retention for young people who are trying to get through community college or university. They need these jobs, and that's why they want to have the stores open. As the member for Oriole said herself, let's allow people the chance to go out and shop if they want to. If they want to return things, fine. It's their individual choice.

Finally, law enforcement in Metro: The cost of it over the years was horrendous. Thank you, Mr Speaker.

The Acting Speaker: The member for Sault Ste Marie has two minutes to respond.

Mr Martin: I thank the members for Mississauga, Oriole, Algoma and Etobicoke-Rexdale for taking the time to get up and enter into the debate on this important piece of legislation.

I will not reduce myself to a debate with the member for Mississauga. That was a cheap shot that she took, although I do say to the member for Oriole that I sympathize. Last night I heard you say that your riding is disappearing, that this government is doing away with your riding. I can't believe it, and the member for Nipigon, his too. It's a sad day in this place. It's almost Christmas, and this is the kind of stuff they're delivering.

I also want to say to the member for Etobicoke-Rexdale that I'm really sorry that you didn't get the point. Work at it. Get the Hansard, have another look at it, and I'm sure the light will go on at some point. Of course the member for Algoma, who always understands what I'm trying to say, got the point.

The initiatives you're taking to suck money out of communities across this province, by way of reductions and by way of job cuts, is putting a damper on the economy and killing the retail sector. It's strangling business, and this piece of legislation, however nicely wrapped, an opportunity for you to play Santa Claus at Christmas, is still, in my mind, a cynical attempt to do nothing.


The Acting Speaker: Further debate? The chair recognizes the member for Wilson Heights.

Mr Kwinter: I don't plan to dwell very long on this, but I wanted to add some comments.

I want to agree with my colleague from Mississauga South when she said that in effect Boxing Day in many communities is wide open anyway and that all we're really doing is bringing some order to it. I think it's true. The situation that exists today with Boxing Day doesn't bring any kind of glory to us as legislators, because the day after Christmas and the day after Boxing Day the papers are filled with storekeepers who defied the law, who have been arrested; some haven't, some have, so you have a situation where there really isn't any uniformity of the application of the law in the first place. Plus, you have this whole area where, for example, Metro Toronto has declared that on Boxing Day all of Metro will be declared a tourism exemption area.

When you have a law that is abused in so many ways, it really brings disrepute to us as legislators. It creates problems for people who don't know whether they should or whether they shouldn't, and there's always speculation, "The major chains have decided this time we're going to do it, we're going to defy the law," and every time that happens it creates a problem. So I have absolutely no problem with the legislation.

I have a problem, and I think there are some cynical aspects to it and I'd like to enter that into the record: In order to make this more palatable to some groups, there is the implication that first of all this is permissive. It may be permissive in a small town where you have a merchants' association or a chamber of commerce that can actually canvass their members and say, "Let's do this as a group: Are we going to stay open or are we not going to stay open?" If they can come to a determination, then of course it is permissive. But certainly in the major urban areas that can't happen, so you get this patchwork quilt where some are open and some aren't and you get a lot of animosity when some people have to work and some don't. I think the idea of trying to sell this on the basis that it's permissive is a sham; it is important that if you're going to do it, do it and let the people make their own determination.

The same thing applies to employees. Again, in trying to sugar-coat it you're saying, "If you are an employee you cannot be forced to work on Boxing Day." The reality of the situation is that if you are a proprietor, a storekeeper, a manager, and you have an employee whom you need and that employee doesn't show up, yes, that employee can enforce his or her rights under this bill and say, "The legislation allows me not to have to come in." But regardless of that, in the mind of that manager or that proprietor or that employer, here is an uncooperative employee and, "I'll remember that in the future."

So you put pressure on that person, whether you like it or not. The legislation is there, without question, but the pressure from fellow employees, from management is going to make it very difficult.

The same situation takes place in a shopping mall, where this particular bill provides protection for those even on a retroactive basis, regardless of what the lease says, that if they choose to close on Boxing Day there can be no sanctions imposed upon them by the mall managers or the mall owners. That sounds fine in theory, but in practice the last thing a mall manager wants is a dark spot in the mall when everybody else is open.

So there's going to be tremendous pressure, and when that lease comes up for renewal or somebody wants to get a different location, if they want to renegotiate the percentage lease -- in shopping centres all sorts of things have to be done on a cooperative basis, and if the mall manager feels that -- you know, one hand washes the other: "If you won't open on Boxing Day, I'm not prepared to renegotiate your percentage lease and I'm not prepared to give you any other concession that you want." So that is a concern to me.

I feel that we have long since gone past the stage where one day out of the year is going to make or break anybody, from an economic point of view. But it is going to apply a lot of pressure to those people who, for whatever reason may think they have a religious reason, who may think this is part of their Christmas celebration, who may feel, for whatever reason, that they would like to take a stand but somehow they can't do it. I would have been a lot happier, had the bill been brought in and said, "Boxing Day will be removed as one of the days under the Retail Business Holidays Act and this is the situation, period," and just let it go at that.

You've set up a straw horse that is going to be out there with people disputing things because the legislation says certain things and you're going to have a major problem in some areas. In most cases people won't even notice because they didn't notice before, because of the particular restrictions that have not been imposed, because of the laxity in the administration of the law and because it has been such a patchwork of compliance and non-compliance.

I suggest that we get on with it, that we get the legislation passed, but don't think that somehow or other you have put in the safeguards that are going to provide ample protection for these people. I think that in the final analysis it's not going to be there. Thank you.

The Acting Speaker: Comments or questions?

Mr Wildman: I would like to congratulate my friend from Wilson Heights for his thoughtful remarks. I think it's important to recognize that the provisions in here will be very difficult to enforce. I said somewhat jocularly while the member was speaking that many workers will have about as much protection as Bob Cratchit before Ebenezer Scrooge had the visitations from the ghosts and reformed in his attitude towards his employee and towards the world in general. The fact is that if the worker says, "No, I don't want to come in on Boxing Day," the employer will almost inevitably see this as an uncooperative individual, and perhaps over a period of time, as the member indicated, will put pressure on the employee or may find some other reason later on to discharge the employee or use some other kind of disciplinary action.

In those kinds of cases I have no idea how these provisions will work. Perhaps they will, but I think the member has raised a very important concern. I suppose we could all hope that employers would not act this way towards their staff, that all would agree, that the employer would ensure that the employee has enough coal on the fire so that he doesn't get cold the way Bob Cratchit did. But unfortunately I'm not sure that all employers treat their employees in that way, and unfortunately we don't have Charles Dickens to reform them all.

Mr Hudak: I commend the member for Wilson Heights on his sensible stand on the issue. It's good to see that members of the official opposition, I anticipate, will support this bill to finally allow Ontarians an opportunity to shop in Ontario and allow our police forces, on Boxing Day, to go to more important front-line duties than trying to figure out who has a regional exemption to the Boxing Day Shopping Act and who does not.

I find it passing curious that the third party objects to this bill on the grounds that workers will be forced to work on Boxing Day without an exemption, without the ability to say, "No, I'd rather stay home with my family." This is the very same party that allowed Sunday shopping, shopping on the Sabbath for many Christians in Ontario, and on those days the exact, same protections were given to workers that we're giving to workers under this bill. I find it rather curious that what was good enough for them they're suddenly objecting to in this bill.

The way I look at it is that in a very open and honest way workers will have the chance and the opportunity to work. With some retail experience myself in retail management, in hiring people to work on weekends and on holidays, we have to realize that it is mostly students who work on these days. It's a chance to help pay for those extra books or the tuition to put themselves through school, the opportunity to work that extra day, maybe some overtime hours; or a low-income single mother perhaps, a chance to work so she can buy those extra gifts to put under the tree this Christmas, to save up for her own child's education.


The way I look at it, as a Conservative and a member from the Niagara Peninsula, I'm tired of seeing everybody go across the border shopping when they could be spending the money in my riding, in Port Colborne, Fort Erie, Niagara Falls or St Catharines. I see this as an opportunity for people to work, to save up and have some money for Christmas or to save for their education; not as any kind of punishment, but as an opportunity for people in Ontario.

Mr Colle: The member for Wilson Heights certainly offers some very valid commentary on the bill, and there are I think legitimate concerns that he raised about the fact that whether or not an employee wants to work on Boxing Day, he or she basically would be forced to do so because there is a shortage of good jobs. There are a lot of part-time, low-paying jobs, but to keep that good job, you're probably going to have to work Boxing Day whether you like it or not.

What I think the member for Wilson Heights is trying to bring to this bill is the human element of it. Certainly we can't go on the way we've been going, and I think this bill tries to rectify that, but I think it's right for him to point out that there are some imperfections here that put pressure on ordinary people, and also in terms of store owners who sometimes have small family operations. If you're in a busy block like Bayview Avenue in wonderful Leaside and East York, which is about to disappear if mega-Al has his way, you know, if one store opens on that Bayview strip, all of them will have to open. They'll have no choice. Even though you may want to be at home with your family, that choice is going to be removed.

I think what this bill does is something that's perfunctory in nature, but we must not think that this bill is all of a sudden going to create all kinds of employment opportunities, because people are maxed out on their credit cards. They're not going to find this such a wonderful day. It's going to remind them how much they are in debt and how little they're bringing home compared to what they did in the past because of all the cutbacks. How about the 700 MTO workers? What kind of Boxing Day will it be for them across this province?

Mr Kormos: Understanding that the bill really isn't necessary, it would appear, to permit stores to legally open here, and hearing some of the very sage comments that have been made over the course of the evening from the opposition benches, one is left with the impression that the government is trying to put some spin on what is going to be a non-event this year, that Boxing Day isn't going to be that orgy of consumerism, because people simply don't have bucks in their pockets.

The member for St Catharines tells us about the workers at Cadbury Schweppes. They're not going to be out shopping before Christmas or on Boxing Day. The workers at Stelco in Welland, forced to hit the pavement on their picket line, forced into a strike to protect pension rights, there's no Christmas for them and their families. There's no shopping either today or tomorrow or, for that matter, on December 26, and that goes for thousands of families across this province, many of them right in Niagara region, which has among the province's highest unemployment, where you see workplace shutdown after workplace shutdown. There is no Christmas and there is no Boxing Day for these people.

This government is trying to put a spin on this that contradicts the reality out there. This government hasn't delivered one of the 725,000 jobs that it's promised. Unemployment is higher now than it was a year ago in December 1995 here in Ontario. The poorest of Ontarians have been victimized by this government and are forced into food banks and into hostels because they're being evicted from their homes. They can't afford to buy groceries, never mind gifts. This government is trying to turn a sow's ear into a silk purse, and nobody is buying it.

The Acting Speaker: The member for Wilson Heights has two minutes to respond.

Mr Kwinter: I want to thank members from all sides for their comments. I welcome them and I appreciate your contribution to the debate.

I would just like to talk about two other things. One is the idea that somehow or other this Boxing Day opening is going to create some economic bonanza. The disposable income on Christmas, other than gifts that have been transferred in cash from one party to another, is going to be virtually the same on December 25 as it on December 26. It's really a matter of convenience more than creating more economic activity. The amount of money that a person has is not going to dramatically change, as I say, unless there are some cash gifts given at Christmas.

I think the convenience factor is important. Obviously it's important to a lot of people. There are lots of people that I know who were opposed to Sunday shopping but have found that it's quite convenient for them to shop on Sunday. They utilize that opportunity, and I think they should have that right.

The other thing is that in particularly small mom-and-pop stores, there are shopping patterns where people go there as a matter of course because they have a comfort level. They know the people, they know where everything is on the shelves, they can get in and get out very quickly, and one of the things that a proprietor of that kind of operation does is try to make sure that their customer doesn't go somewhere else to break that pattern. It's very, very important to them. As a result, they have no choice. When there's a possibility that their competitor is going to be open, whether they want to be open or not, just out of self-preservation to maintain their market share, they are going to have to open. I just want to dispel this view that the storekeeper doesn't have to open if they don't want to. In effect, if their competitor is open, they really have no choice.

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

Mr Runciman has moved second reading of Bill 95. Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry?

All those in favour will please say "aye."

All those opposed will please say "nay."

In my opinion, the ayes have it. I declare the motion carried.

Shall the bill be ordered for third reading? Agreed.



Ms Bassett, on behalf of Mr Eves, moved second reading of the following bill:

Bill 93, An Act to amend certain statutes administered by the Minister of Finance to promote good management of the Province's finances, to implement certain provisions of the 1996 Budget and to implement other aspects of the Government's agenda and to amend the MPPs Pension Act, 1996 / Projet de loi 93, Loi visant à modifier des lois dont l'application relève du ministre des Finances, à favoriser la bonne gestion des finances de la province, à mettre en oeuvre des dispositions du budget de 1996 et d'autres éléments du programme du gouvernement et à modifier la Loi de 1996 sur le régime de retraite des députés.

Ms Isabel Bassett (St Andrew-St Patrick): The Good Financial Management Act is one that places great emphasis on streamlining government and making taxpayers' access to government easier and less cumbersome. This is an important piece of legislation because it works to improve administrative effectiveness and efficiency while maintaining the integrity of the tax system. Taxpayers will now find it much easier to deal with the administrative aspects of the tax system. Tax legislation will be easier to understand, compliance costs for taxpayers will be reduced and government administrative costs will be reduced.

Some of these administrative changes include:

(1) Simplifying certification and filing requirements for the cooperative education tax credit.

(2) Vendors under the Retail Sales Tax Act who honour a lowest-price guarantee can now refund the difference in retail sales tax collected between the original selling price and the price established by honouring the lowest-price guarantee.

(3) It will ensure that corporate tax returns can be reassessed for consequential charges to Ontario taxes resulting from reassessments performed by the federal government or other provinces.

These are just three examples that make government work better for the taxpayers of this province.

This bill does exactly what we said we would do. We said we'd make government simpler and less of a burden on citizens while at the same time reducing waste and reducing duplication.

This bill makes amendments to the cooperative education tax credit originally introduced in Bill 70. The effective date for placements qualifying for this tax credit has been moved back from September 1, 1996, to August 1, 1996. This is because after lengthy discussions with administrators in Ontario's secondary institutions, we concluded that some fall work placements began before September in order to smooth the transition between the summer and fall work terms. Since the intent of the cooperative education tax credit is to have it apply to all 1996 work placements, the amendment we are proposing will ensure that this credit is extended to benefit placements that started their co-op opportunity in August of this year.

We have stressed on many occasions that restructuring government to make it simpler and more responsive to the needs of citizens is good for taxpayers. This act will streamline the borrowing, investing and financial management activities of the government by moving these activities to one central agency.

Currently each ministry or agency manages its own financial activities. It makes more sense to consolidate these activities into one central agency, in this case the Ontario Financing Authority. That allows the experts, whose primary function is the management of billions of dollars of investments and financing arrangements, to extend their expertise and knowhow to these activities and the needs in other government institutions. This is certainly in line with our efforts to improve the way government does business and to find the best way to deliver our services to taxpayers.

Bill 93 includes some technical amendments to the MPPs Pension Act, 1996. Members whose service in the assembly was prior to 1992 may now qualify under the registered pension plan. MPPs will now be able to buy back their past service up to a maximum of 15 years of service and 75% of salary only, based on the highest 36 months of salary. Prior to this, some members were exceeding the 75% limit. This was never the intention. We said that we would end the goldplated pension plans and tax perks for MPPs. This bill puts the finishing touches on this commitment.

Prior to this bill, this government spoke with many stakeholders in various business communities who provided their advice and suggestions by actively participating in consultations with us. These consultations have made for better government policy that is more reflective of the needs and concerns of the citizens of Ontario.

We appreciate and value the input we got from Ontarians from all parts of the province. It provides an opportunity for them to be heard and it provides us with insight into what the people of Ontario are looking for and what they want from their government.

This bill implements changes that make government work better: good changes for good government.

The Acting Speaker (Mr Bert Johnson): Questions or comments? Further debate.

Mr Monte Kwinter (Wilson Heights): Could I get unanimous consent to share our time with the member for St Catharines and the member for Yorkview?

The Acting Speaker: Agreed? It is agreed.

Mr Kwinter: I am pleased to participate in Bill 93, which has been referred to as the Good Financial Management Act. I find it somewhat ironic that every time the government brings in a bill, they put a title on it that gives it some sort of a spin so that when you look at it, it's a good-news kind of bill. As it turns out, this particular bill isn't too bad only because it gives effect to initiatives that were tabled in the budget, and I have no problem with that. I do have a problem with a couple of the specifics, but those are just concerns rather than problems.

Specifically, I hope I can get an assurance from the government on the Retail Sales Tax Act amendments, where they do such things as remove the sales tax from seeing-eye dogs, which I think is a wonderful idea, but they are also ensuring that tax is payable when tickets are purchased for some sort of cultural events. When you consider that this government has taken a conscious decision to make a lot of the cultural entities financially self-sufficient and told them they can no longer depend on the government for any sort of contribution -- they have to go out to the private sector and raise their funds that way -- we now have a situation where a sales tax is being imposed on the tickets for such things as ballets and concerts and things of that kind, which may deter some people. It may not but it may, and I think anything that has that possibility is something to be avoided.

I don't think you can take on the one hand and then take on the other hand as well. I think it should be just the opposite. I think what you would do is decide, and this is the prerogative of the government of course, to say: "We are no longer going to be supporting this but here's what we're going to do to help you support yourself. We're going to give you some sort of a concession. We're going to remove a particular tax. We're going to make it more conducive for people to support you and take the burden from the government." As I say, I have no problem with that at all but I do have a problem where you're taking on the one hand and you're taking on the other hand.

Having said that I have no problem with the specifics of this bill other than in isolated areas where I think there could be an adjustment, I do have a problem with the overall financial thrust of this government. Today we were at the economics and finance committee and we had officials -- the Deputy Minister of Finance there with his staff -- to present to us a presentation outlining Ontario's strong economy and how it's going to create jobs. It was really quite interesting because in the presentation there were certain assumptions that were made and they all are hinged to the budgetary policies of this government, to this particular act and the initiatives that are outlined in it.

My concern is that it is a best-case scenario. Notwithstanding that the officials from the Ministry of Finance are saying, "We have really done our projections in a quite small-c conservative way. We think that we can meet them; we think we can probably exceed them," the figures don't really bear that out.


To give you an example, one of the interesting things about it is that the government tries to portray that the economy is really booming along, that they are right on target, that their projections are even better than they had anticipated, and yet if you take a close look at the figures, you see they got lucky. They really did get lucky, and if they hadn't had that luck, the numbers would be significantly different.

Let me give you an example. For the 1995-96 fiscal year, the government had projected in its fiscal plan that the revenue would be $46.786 billion and the actual was $48.359 billion, so there was a change of about $1.5 billion. That could only come basically from three sources: increased revenues from corporate taxation, increased revenues from personal taxation, and realization on the selling of assets. Somewhere along the line a combination of those three things happened. The chances of it having been personal income is very low, for a couple of reasons. First of all, the economy, particularly for consumers and people, has been very bleak in the last few years, and although there are signs that it is improving, it hasn't improved yet. So it can only be from two areas, and that is corporate profits -- every day you look in the paper and you see the Royal Bank announcing that it has got record profits, or this company's got record profits and that company's got record profits. That of course realizes additional revenues for the government. So they have a $1.5 billion of windfall money that they had not projected in the budget.

Another interesting thing, and this is something that when the leader of the third party, now the Premier, was running for office, he was very adamant in saying: "The problem with the finances of Ontario is not a matter of revenue. We have lots of money. It's a matter of expenditure. We've got to cut our costs." He went into Windsor and threatened to shut down the casino because he didn't need that money. He said: "We don't need that money. We have lots of money. Our problem is we're spending too much." Having said that, and with their vaunted policy of getting rid of excess costs, of trimming members of the public service, of cutting programming, of doing all the things to get their fiscal house in order, they actually had an increase of program expenses in that period of $1.6 billion. So that windfall revenue that they got, they actually exceeded that amount of money, of revenue, by increasing spending.

The other significant area that has created this positive perspective on the financial statement is the fact that interest rates have dropped dramatically, so dramatically that in 1995-96 the savings on interest alone was $714 million. To put that in perspective, people should know, those in the House and those who are watching on television, that at the current projection, the deficit for the province of Ontario for 1995-96 is going to be $8.7 billion. That is what the deficit is going to be, a very significant number, a number that is so significant that prior to 1990 it would have been unbelievable that any government would incur such a debt.

The thing that's interesting about that number is that the interest to service the debt of the province of Ontario, which is in the $100-billion range, is $8.25 billion, so you have a situation where the interest every year is as great as the deficit. It is a huge number. In all the projections and in all the speeches that the government gives and the Minister of Finance gives and the Premier gives and everyone else gives, all they talk about is that by the year 2000-01 they hope to balance the budget, and that this balancing of the budget is going to take place, if all things go well, one year after their mandate.

What they don't tell you -- and they are very fond of heckling and saying the debt is $100 billion. They totally allocate that $100 billion to the last 10 years, when in fact in 1985 the debt of the province of Ontario, which had been ruled by the Conservative Party for over 40 years, was approaching close to $50 billion at that stage.

Mr Wayne Wettlaufer (Kitchener): It's $47 billion.

Mr Kwinter: My colleague says $47 billion. That's pretty close to $50 billion when you're talking --

Mr Douglas B. Ford (Etobicoke-Humber): What's $3 billion?

Mr Kwinter: Yes, what's $3 billion in that magnitude? But what has happened --

Mr Wettlaufer: "What's $3 billion?" Did I hear you say that right?

Mr Kwinter: I wasn't saying it; they were saying it. I was just echoing what he said.

Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): He was repeating the Tories.

Mr Kwinter: That's right. I remember -- you certainly wouldn't remember -- when C.D. Howe said, "What's a million?" With inflation we're now up to, "What's a billion?"

The point I'm making is that when this government finishes its mandate, under the very best scenario that debt will have reached about $130 billion. No matter what they do, because of their projections -- and I see my colleague across the hall is shaking his head. Let me tell you how quickly and how simply it works. I remember when I was in committee when the NDP was the government and I said, "By the end of your mandate, you will have a debt of about $100 billion." The members there shook their heads the same way, saying, "It is impossible." But let me take a look at your own figures.

Under the fiscal plan, under the budget of 1995-96, the government has forecast a deficit of about $9 billion. For 1996-97 they have projected a deficit of $8 billion. So before you even start, right at the start you're up to $117 billion. You've got three more years before the end of this mandate. Let's say you take it from $8 billion to $5 billion, which is going to take some doing; you're then up to $123 billion. Let's say the next year you get it to $4 billion; you're up to $127 billion. Let's say the next year you get it to $3 billion; you're up to $130 billion. So no matter what you do, by the end of your mandate you will have taken the debt of the province of Ontario to $130 billion, plus or minus, somewhere in that range.

The significance of that isn't just the amount of money but the amount of interest it's going to take to service that debt. If it's costing you $8 billion a year now with a very low interest rate --

Mr Rosario Marchese (Fort York): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: There is no quorum that I can detect here, and there should be.

The Acting Speaker: Would you check for a quorum, please.

Clerk Assistant and Clerk of Committees (Ms Deborah Deller): Speaker, a quorum is not present.

The Acting Speaker ordered the bells rung.

Clerk Assistant and Clerk of Committees: A quorum is now present.

The Acting Speaker: The Chair recognizes the member for Wilson Heights.

Mr Kwinter: The point I was making before the quorum call was that with a debt in the $130-billion range even in this regime of very low interest rates, the annual public debt interest is going to be in the range of $9 billion to $9.5 billion a year.


The significant thing about that particular figure is that, given this government's commitment to implement a personal income tax cut, there is going to be a very significant shortfall in its revenues. With this ever-increasing interest rate debt that is going to be added on to the total debt, we're going to find ourselves in a shortfall position, which is exactly why we keep harping on the Minister of Finance: "Why don't you tell us why it is that you're borrowing money to take care of this interest rate situation when it could be better be spent in reducing the deficit and reducing the debt?"

We have a situation where this financial management act that we are debating today does in fact give the government some leeway. There are provisions in there, for example, where they can take profits out of the crown corporations and use them for their own purposes. But at the end of the day, when you take a look at the financial structure, if everything goes absolutely right, if every projection is, as the former Treasurer used to say, spot on, you still have a problem.

On the other hand, if some of the windfall revenues that have come this government's way suddenly change, for example, if interest rates suddenly start to go up, if revenues do not meet the projections of the officials in the finance department -- and that could happen for a variety of reasons. They're putting a great deal of store in the fact that this tax cut is going to find its way back into the economy as increased revenue, because it's going to stimulate sales, with the taxes that will come from that, and there should be an impetuous to growth and to the GDP. But what if it doesn't happen?

I think it's significant that we just had an opportunity to view an election in the United States where Bob Dole, who I would think had an economic philosophy that was very similar to that of the Conservative Party, tried to float a tax initiative of a 15% personal income tax cut. What I found interesting about that is not that it didn't catch hold, and it didn't in any way get them to the point where it turned the tide for him in the election. But that in reading the US financial media, almost exclusively -- and I'm not saying exclusively because there were some who were supporting it -- the financial analysts absolutely discounted that particular initiative and said it would not help the economy, it would not work. If anything, it would compound the problems that could be present if there is any sort of economic downturn.

We have a situation where we've gone through a period that in many ways was artificial in the sense that as a run-up to a presidential election lots of things are happening. Our friend Mr Greenspan was under tight reign not to do anything to upset the apple cart, to do nothing that was going to create problems for the President, and he's just sitting there waiting to make some moves now that the election is behind him. As you know, what happens in the United States invariably has an impact on what happens here.

It was interesting that at the committee today the deputy minister was extolling the virtues of the Ontario economy. What he didn't say is that the reason the Ontario economy is performing as well as it is is because we are so heavily export-dependent. The United States auto industry is booming and we are the net beneficiary of that. If that should change and if we find ourselves in a position where the United States economy takes a dip, we will immediately feel that. It will automatically reflect on a lot of the things that we now export to the United States, and we will suddenly find that we are in a more difficult situation.

The officials at treasury went on to say -- and were quite proud of that fact -- "We understand all of these things, we understand these things could happen, but you should be aware that we have a $650-million cushion, a contingency fund that is in there, and if any of these dire things that might happen do happen, we are in a position to weather it because we have this $650-million cushion."

My concern is, what would have happened this year if that $725-million windfall from the lowered interest rates hadn't been there? What would have happened if the increased revenues of close to $2 billion hadn't been there? That $650 million would have been gone, would have been finished. Not only would that $650 million be gone, but you would be in a net deficit position on that item alone.

I really feel the government should take a look at what it is doing, because the first part of the so-called Common Sense Revolution is easy. When you send prisoners from halfway houses back to prison, most people other than their families don't really care. They think, "They're prisoners; they should be in jail." No problem with that. When you go after welfare fraud, other than those people who are perpetrating that fraud, who is going to object to taking taxpayers' money that is being fraudulently received and cutting it out? Nobody. There's no problem. When you talk about ending duplication, when you talk about ending redundancy, who is not going to support that? Hardly anybody, except of course those people who are going to be directly impacted by it.

But now you're down to the nitty-gritty. You're down to the short strokes. I've been here for a while and I can tell that just by the responses I'm getting from constituents. Just because they're constituents doesn't necessarily mean they're supporters; they cover the whole spectrum of political alliances. Suddenly, I have people who tell me they've never called in their life who are concerned about the fact that Branson hospital is going to have its role changed.

Tomorrow morning at my constituency office, I have a group of parents who want to talk to me about education. These aren't teachers, these aren't school trustees, these are parents who've called me. Again, I have no idea what their political affiliation is. They said, "We would like to come to talk to you about our concern with education."

What is happening is that when you're out there -- and I haven't seen this before -- there is a muttering from other than what my colleague Mr Bradley calls the chattering classes, the people who call into the talk shows. These are ordinary citizens who are saying, "I like what these guys are doing, but they are starting to do things that are creating some problems and I want to talk to you about it."

My message really is: Eliminate waste, no question; eliminate duplication, no question; eliminate those areas where economies and productivity can be improved, absolutely; but when you start cutting into the core values of what's made Ontario what it is, then you're starting to tread on areas that are fraught with danger not just for one party but for all parties. What you are in danger of doing is fracturing this very fragile thing that is Ontario, this very thing that has made this the kind of place that we are all proud of, that we hold out as a model for other jurisdictions around the world, and once it is gone, it is gone.

I say to you in closing, I caution you. Do what you have to do, but just don't do it blindly. Do it in a way that we preserve those values that have made Ontario the jurisdiction that it is.


Mr Bradley: Thank you very much for the opportunity to participate in the debate on this important bill which the government wishes to proceed with tonight. I think it probably will receive that, because it is largely an administrative bill. It is, however, in the context of several things that are happening. It's a budget bill. Therefore one has to discuss the entire budget if one is to discuss a budget bill, and I'm going to take advantage of the opportunity to do so now.

For instance, if this bill makes the government more efficient, perhaps the government will then be in a position to keep the worker adviser office open in Thorold, Ontario. This is a Workers' Compensation Board operation. It's actually independent from the Workers' Compensation Board, but it assists people who have claims with the Ontario government's Workers' Compensation Board.

These are largely people who aren't fortunate enough to have a large union with the expertise and the resources to carry out this responsibility. Local 199 of the CAW in St Catharines has that resource, has the necessary trained people and assists its members. However, there are many people who don't have that kind of union or don't have a union at all and they require the services of this office. Within the budgetary policy of this government should be the necessary funding to continue this office operation in Thorold at the present time; not to reduce it by 30% but to continue it, because already the volume of work at that office is tremendous.

The people in Hamilton may say, "Why don't you simply transfer that to the Hamilton office?" but my colleagues who represent areas such as Stoney Creek and Flamborough and Dundas and the city of Hamilton recognize fully that that office is also a very busy office and cannot take on more capacity.

In addition to that, an appropriate allocation should be made for the operation of the Ministry of Labour office in St Catharines and other communities to deal with the many complaints that are forthcoming in regard to the Employment Standards Act, particularly as employers put more pressure on some of their employees in the present circumstances, armed with the change in legislation by this government. So I call upon the government within its budgetary policy to maintain this operation.

We talked earlier about people being able to shop on Boxing Day. I'm wondering how many people will be able to spend as much money on consumer goods as they have in the past when they're going to have to pay more for rent because this government is abolishing rent control in Ontario. They will say they are not. Clearly any objective observer who looks at the policy of this government will recognize that rent controls are in effect gone on a progressive basis, that is, over a few years in this province, because as soon as a person moves out of an apartment, that apartment then becomes eligible for a dramatic increase.

This will not make a substantial difference immediately in areas where there's high vacancy -- it will in the long run -- but it will in areas where there's a very low vacancy rate existing, such as Metropolitan Toronto. I feel for those people of modest income who will see some dramatic increases in their rents.

Over the years, governments have tried to provide sufficient funds for landlords to be able to carry out repairs and renovations to buildings and to be able to make a profit on their operations while at the same time maintaining rent controls, but we have a circumstance today where this government is implementing rent control as part of its budgetary policy. No doubt once again the fund-raisers will be full of the huge landlords. I'm not talking about the small landlords, I'm talking about the big landlords across this province who will be sending large donations to the Progressive Conservative Party.

Again, the Minister of Municipal Affairs will be delighted because there will be a building boom for those large halls to hold the Tory fund-raisers. That is simply the case as well with the special deal he's giving to developers at the expense of surrounding municipalities and municipalities across Ontario, because they will now be restricted in the development charges they can apply in order to maintain their services and provide new services in the community, and this at a time when the transfers are being cut back considerably by the province. I can't believe that even the Tories on council, the apologists for this government, those who worship at the idol of the Common Sense Revolution, will be able to defend this among their own colleagues on city, regional and county council.

We're seeing some substantial changes being made to the Workers' Compensation Act, and this relates to government budgetary policy as well. Workers in this province, who have been protected in years gone by, those who have been unfortunate enough to be involved in an industrial or workplace accident, have been able to obtain compensation and rehabilitation services and, where they're unable to return, have been able to obtain a pension which would allow them a decent standard of living.

This government is vastly changing the rules and is not taking into account some of the recommendations made in the report by the Honourable Mr Jackson, the member for Burlington South. As he travelled around the province and listened to some of the people who made representations, one of the things he recommended, and I saw it in his recommendation, was that banks be --

Mr Marchese: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I don't believe there is a quorum.

The Acting Speaker: Would you check to see if there is a quorum, please.

Clerk Assistant and Clerk of Committees: A quorum is present, Mr Speaker.

The Acting Speaker: The Chair recognizes the member for St Catharines.

Mr Bradley: I was worried, along with the member for Fort York, about whether there was a quorum. I was in mid-sentence, I recall -- that much I do recall -- talking about the Workers' Compensation Board changes, the changes to the act which will adversely impact upon workers in this province.

There isn't anybody in the province -- worker, worker adviser, representatives of unions, representatives of business, employers -- who didn't see a need for efficiencies at the Workers' Compensation Board. Everybody had problems and wanted to see those problems solved. What we're seeing instead, I'm afraid, are takeaways from workers in this province. I know there will be rallies and public meetings across the province where this will be drawn to the attention of the government.

I also wonder how this will help the people who are employees of businesses which were closed down, that is, businesses which employed people for a number of years. I think of Foster Wheeler in St Catharines, a major industrial component of our community, long-time, which has severely downsized and restructured and, who knows, may disappear some day. I think of Kelsey-Hayes's Conroy division, in the centre of the city of St Catharines, which recently closed its doors and left its employees out in the cold because it ceased its operations in St Catharines. I think of Court Industries. Court Industries has been quite successful and I'm pleased with that, but one of its sections moved to the United States. I have seen Cadbury Schweppes, the Mott's division, closing down and leaving 175 people out of work in my community. I think of Phona Corp, which closed its doors, and the list goes on. Even General Motors has lost a lot of employees in our community.

When you talk to someone who hasn't been to St Catharines for about 15 years and they come back -- perhaps they've been overseas -- and you ask them, "How many people do you think are working at General Motors in St Catharines?" they'll probably say, "Well, just under 10,000." In fact, there are now about 5,200 people or 5,300 people working at General Motors.

Our community has seen a tremendous impact of a downturn in the economy. What I'm concerned about -- I directed a question to the Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism, and I directed this to the Premier as well, about his view of those corporations which today are making unprecedented profits while at the same time turfing people out the door.


I go back to a point which I think is important to all of us. When a corporation was not making money, when it was losing money, when its sales were down, when its services were not being purchased, we all recognized that there would be layoffs. None of us liked it, we all lamented it, but we understood why. What people have a hard time believing today is that companies can be making unprecedented profits while still laying people off, while still turfing people out the door. I find that most unacceptable.

When the Premier attended a conference in Davos -- he may have had the minister with him at the time -- one of the topics that was discussed on that occasion was business ethics and how they apply to people. In fact, it was the sponsor of this conference who raised that issue with industrialists and politicians who were there, and how we address this. I think there's an obligation to people, when they're making a lot of money, to maintain those employment levels so we have people working in our communities. I'm pleased to see it when that happens. I'm not opposed to profits, because profits mean that a company should be thriving. What I'm opposed to are huge profits at the expense of workers, in other words, when the workers are turfed out the door where those profits are being made. I think we as a society have to address that.

I look at the agricultural land that is missing in our community. My friend the member for Wentworth East is here this evening. I look at his community, and I know, just as in adjacent Grimsby, people say: "Isn't that great? There's progress." They build those warehouses along the highway that make you think of going into east Cleveland as you drive in. Yes, they may employ a few people, and yes, all the subdivisions are being built, but in Grimsby they're largely for people who have nothing to do with Grimsby but simply want to use the price of those homes and then they take a hike to Toronto or perhaps to other places. If tomorrow General Motors or Ford or Chrysler were to put a huge plant in Grimsby, one would understand using up that prime agricultural land, but we're certainly not doing it on an appropriate basis now.

Mr Marchese: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: Mr Bradley was saying a lot of important things that I agree with. I think the Tories should be listening to the speech, and there's no quorum in the House.

The Acting Speaker: Is there a quorum?

Clerk Assistant and Clerk of Committees: A quorum is present, Speaker.

The Acting Speaker: The Chair recognizes the member for St Catharines.

Mr Bradley: I'm pleased again that the member was concerned about a quorum and has ensured that there is one here.

If you want to see a positive impact on the provincial budget and this budget bill and the general economy, you will want to preserve our agricultural industry and our agri-tourism industry. A proposal went before cabinet to approve a subdivision called Twenty Valley Estates. This subdivision is built on an important part of escarpment land, land which is conducive to the growing of grapes. Those who have ventured into the Niagara Peninsula -- I know the Minister of Economic Development has been there -- will recognize the importance of the wine-producing industry in Ontario and the grape-growing industry which supplies that industry. What we have when we allow agricultural land to go willy-nilly, holus-bolus to unnecessary development is that we find we are losing an important industry in our province.

I also see Niagara on the Green being approved by the local government, the regional government, completely contrary to the official plan of the regional municipality of Niagara. We're going to have big-box retail right out on the highway, along with some subdivisions, in a place it simply doesn't belong. I implore the government of Ontario, if it has a final decision on this, to turn down this development. I would like to see that land used for agricultural purposes. It is not zoned for agricultural purposes. It is instead zoned for industrial purposes, I guess you'd call it prestige industrial. If it's zoned for that purpose, that's the purpose it should be used for: high-tech industries, computer industries. The land is conducive to that. But instead we have a huge development taking place out there, which is absolutely ridiculous.

I want to also talk about the transfers to municipalities. My good friend the member for Rosedale is here; the member for St George-St David is here this evening. I noticed, as perhaps you did, an article on him in last weekend's Toronto Star -- very favourable, and showed him with his dog, Tory -- and I was delighted to read all about that.

But I want to tell him that municipalities are feeling the impact of the cut in his transfers to them. In years gone by, if municipalities did not receive at least a 5% increase, we heard a howl from many of the Tories who sat on those councils. Today the cat has many tongues in those local councils, because some of the Tories are apologists for what you're doing, instead of, as some do -- I must give some of them credit -- challenging the government. All you are doing is transferring the cost to local municipalities, so they have to make either severe cuts in essential services, and one need only look at the condition of local roads to know what some of those services are, or they have to increase the municipal property tax, which is regressive because it does not take into account a person's ability to pay.

The municipalities are feeling the impact of this government's fiscal policy, and some of these people who were on municipal councils in years gone by and who counted upon the appropriate financing coming from the provincial government, which has sources of progressive taxes, not regressive taxes, must be deeply disappointed in this government's fiscal policy as it relates to municipalities.

Now the government is closing hospitals all over Ontario, and I know that's going to continue. I hope the people of St Catharines are watching, because we are going to be next. They're going to send in their hospital-closing commission, as I call it, and they're going to close hospitals unless the community indicates clearly its opposition to this.

What they've done is set up a local commission. It's ably headed in our area by Rob Welch, who is a former regional councillor, and he and his group have gone around the Niagara Peninsula in what I think is a useful exercise, a very useful exercise. They're consulting to determine what the needs are in terms of health care and how they can be best met.

The real problem is that they are dealt a hand, if we can use a card analogy, which isn't very lucrative. In other words, they've been told they have $38 million less in hospital funding to work with. Well, I can expect that this commission is going to come up and say, "We're going to have to do something drastic to our hospitals." But if you simply sent out the commission and said, "Let's not look at the levels being reduced yet; you tell us objectively what the needs are, what efficiencies can be effected, what restructuring can take place," I submit to this Legislature that what would happen is that we wouldn't get recommendations to close hospitals in our part of the province.

I well remember, because I watched the debate between the leaders during the last election. Robert Fisher, the eminent journalist from Global Television, during the leaders' debate --

The Acting Speaker: Excuse me, members. There are too many conversations going on. I would appreciate it if you would confine them to something that's acceptable or carry them on somewhere else. There are a lot of people interested in the comments the member might be saying.

Mr Bradley: That's very kind of you, Mr Speaker. I know that you think carefully and compassionately about members of the Legislature trying to be heard.


I'm trying to reach the Conservative members because I hope they will put the breaks on what the government is doing. But they will want to be reminded, because I didn't hear one Conservative in Ontario talk about closing hospitals in the last election, they'll want to hear what Premier Mike Harris said during the leaders' debate on whether or not his promise to protect health care meant that he would not close hospitals. Here's his answer. This is in the debate. This is what people are watching. This was what convinced a lot of people to vote Conservative, because of what the Common Sense Revolution presented, the plan that you call the Common Sense Revolution. People wanted to know, "What does this mean for health care?"

Robert Fisher asked Mr Harris whether this meant he would not close hospitals. Here's the answer from now Premier Mike Harris when he was the leader of the Conservative Party, leader of the third party. Premier Harris said, "Well, certainly I can guarantee you that it's not my plan to close hospitals."

This is a surprise to the members, to those in Thunder Bay, to those in Sudbury, to those in Sarnia and district, to those in Pembroke, to those in Ottawa, to those across the province, in Wiarton and other places. This is a surprise, because they clearly understood from that statement that the government would not be closing hospitals.

They can manipulate the words around all they want about restructuring and so on. Clearly people did not believe there would be hospital closings. I'm convinced that my good friend, who was a Conservative candidate in St Catharines, Dr Archie Heide, who worked so hard to build up hospitals in St Catharines and to provide the necessary services -- I can't believe that he would have believed when he was a Conservative candidate that Premier Mike Harris, through his health minister and through a huge commission out there under Bill 26, would be wanting to close hospitals.

But that's a very real reality, because what this government has done successfully -- and I guess as a politician, some might admire you; I do not. But you've successfully intimidated people at the local level of government and in transfer agencies so that district health councils are running scared, so that local hospital restructuring commissions are running scared, so that hospital administrators don't want to say anything because they're afraid if they register a complaint it will be their hospital that's closed. We have a conspiracy of silence out there, silence until you actually make a decision on which hospitals you're going to close. I can tell you, when you come to close hospitals in St Catharines, here's one member who will not sit idly by to allow you to close those hospitals.

I know out there the chattering classes, those who engage in crackpot realism, will say, "Well, it looks like we're getting $38 million less, so I guess we'd better cut off our leg at our ankle because if we don't, the government will cut it off at the hip." What I'm saying is that you don't have to cut it off at the ankle either; you simply have to defend those services that you have. Yes, try to make them efficient; yes, try to avoid some of the duplication that might be there; yes, try to do a good job. But don't go around closing hospitals that people have worked so hard to establish and develop, hospitals that provide essential service to people.

Just ask somebody today who was in the hospital 10 years ago and now in the hospital today what the service is like. The poor nurses who are in there have a challenging time. They are overworked, they are overburdened and there are fewer of them and other hospital workers. So you see a substantial change in the quality of health care as a result of this government's severe cutbacks in funding for hospitals in this province.

There's also the loss of jobs. The member for Renfrew North said not only was it a loss, the hospital that was closing in his community, of medical care to people and that's the most important, but it was also a substantial loss of jobs in the community, people who had jobs who were able to live in that community. This is the impact on each of our communities.

I say to the government, enough of this closing hospitals. You didn't promise that during the campaign; you suggested the opposite. Enough of this to feed your crackpot tax scheme that you want to implement when you don't have a balanced budget.

I know where you think you're going to get some of the moneys: You're going to get the money from video lottery terminals, they call them the one-armed bandits, or the electronic slot machines that you want to put in every bar and every restaurant on every street in every neighbourhood in the province.

Why are you doing it? The Premier got up in the House and he was kind of apologetic and tried to suggest that they wouldn't be going into those places. Well, there's only one motivation, and that is greed on the part of the government for that money, because the Premier knows and the Treasurer knows and everybody in the government caucus knows that money will be bled from desperate people, from vulnerable people, from addicted people and will come into the coffers of the government. It will not be from rich people, unless they happen to be addicted. It's not going to be from the rich people of our society, from privileged people.

The member for Guelph shakes her head. Those who've gone into those places where there's extensive gambling will tell you, if you wanted to say who shouldn't be in there, that's exactly who's in there. The government, when it opens these establishments, knows that's the case. You're going to be doing that in every bar and every restaurant, so people won't have to go now to a casino, so people won't have to go to a racetrack; people will now simply have to go to the local bar or restaurant.

Young people will be affected by this. Young people will be addicted to it. Young people will be allured to it. Young people will be attracted to this --

Mr Gilles Pouliot (Lake Nipigon): Seduced.

Mr Bradley: "Seduced," the member for Lake Nipigon says -- to this form of gambling. If they had a conscience over there, they wouldn't be doing this, but they don't have a conscience, obviously. I should be fair. Some of them who didn't show up for the vote that day obviously have a conscience, because they didn't show up for the vote, because they would have been ashamed standing in this House voting for video lottery terminals in every bar and every restaurant on every street in every neighbourhood in Ontario.

I want to look at a couple of other problems that exist. I wonder how the budgetary policy and this bill will affect those who are receiving family support. You've made an absolute disaster out of that situation. Why? Not so much because of the decision you made but because you made this decision rashly and tried to implement it quickly.

I happen to think that the regional offices of the family support plan were valuable tools, because they allowed people to visit them on a personal basis to deal with their many problems. The government decided that shouldn't be the case, that people shouldn't deal directly with people but they should have a 1-800 number, a central number that people could phone into, and they centralized it. I disagree with that move, but if you're going to do it, then do it right. But you're so anxious to effect these huge cuts in services to people to feed that tax cut that you did it in a fashion which caused nothing but chaos.

Who are the victims? Well, the victims are the children of broken marriages, children who were receiving, in the past, support payments. As I mentioned when we dealt with this bill previously, what you did at least was unite formerly warring spouses, because we're getting telephone calls from women who are saying, because it's largely women who are receiving the money: "I am not getting the money, but I know that my former husband is having it deducted at source. Where is the money?" The husband would phone and say: "It's being deducted, but my children aren't getting it. I'm not a deadbeat dad, but this money is not getting to my children." The place is in chaos.

What did you do when the member for Welland-Thorold and the member for Sudbury East went in with a camera to take pictures? There was a suggestion they should be charged. I thought it was some kind of break-in. When I first heard the news, I thought they were breaking in in the middle of the night and that there was nobody around and that they were taking these files out. Then I find out all they were doing was filming these boxes that were lying around the building. While I don't want to dwell on that, because I think to dwell on that is to detract from the main problem, that main problem being the chaos in the family support plan, I do want to say that the government overreacted in that particular case, because all we saw were the boxes lying around, and we all expected that indeed that's where these things were. So you've botched that.


There are schools across this province that are not being appropriately funded. Senator Gibson school in Beamsville has been waiting for its addition now since this government has been in power and there was a suggestion by the member that it would be at the top of the list. What happens? The children are crowded in that school, and of course they have larger classes now than they used to have and those who are special needs children.

Bette Stephenson, when she was the Minister of Education, Colleges and Universities, brought in Bill 82 to address the needs of children with special needs. But what's happening now is that those needs are not being addressed and we're seeing a decline in the quality of education that's available to students because of the lack of resources which are there.

I want to as well say that the environment is being neglected in this province. Instead of bolstering the Ministry of Environment and Energy, instead of allowing it to have the staff and resources to carry out its mandate, the government is slashing that budget. The previous minister is here this evening, the member for Guelph. I said when she was the minister that what was happening was she was not given the resources, the staff, the tools and the budget to carry out her responsibilities because this government had no priority for the environment. Instead, you are letting members loose at cutting environmental regulations.

While everyone looks at every regulation to see if in 1996 it's needed and applicable, I can tell you there are a lot of regulations in the field of the environment that may annoy polluters but are essential to protect the general public and essential to have a level playing field for those corporations which spent the money, which trained the employees, which were good corporate citizens. There are a lot of them in this province, and they lament the fact that governments will allow their competitors to get away with indiscretions in the field of the environment, because that makes them less competitive. That's why the government has to maintain that environmental component.

I saw an agreement just signed over the Niagara River. It's not worth the paper it's written on, because there are not the exact details in that agreement to clean up the river that are necessary, not the specific goals set, not the specific monitoring necessary to measure whether those goals are reached and not the language in that agreement that is necessary.

A good agreement was signed in 1987, but it was signed only because the province of Ontario refused to sign the nonsense that was presented to us. The Americans were eager to sign, the government of Brian Mulroney wanted a big signing ceremony, but I looked at that agreement and determined that in fact it didn't have the necessary provisions within it to be an effective agreement for cleaning up the Niagara River, which flows into Lake Ontario, the source of drinking water and recreational water for hundreds of thousands and perhaps millions of people in Canada and the United States. Yet we have an agreement signed this past week that is virtually meaningless. I notice that some of the objective observers, scientists, looked at it and said it was not what it was trumped up to be.

I would hope the minister would go back at that, that the Premier would say, "This isn't good enough for Ontario," because, I can tell you, much of the problem is on the American side. But it won't be solved unless we Canadians, unless we in Ontario, insist that the Americans deal appropriately with those toxic waste sites which are almost immediately adjacent to the river and which are leaching the most deadly substances into the Niagara River.

I notice as well -- I don't know what it has to do with this bill, but while we're on it we may as well talk about it -- Consumers' Gas apparently has a billing that has come out that has annoyed a lot of people. They said: "Guess what? We didn't calculate correctly this past year, so we want to go back and get money from you, consumers, money that we think is justified." Consumers are calling our constituency offices to complain of that, and I think they have a justified complaint. But no doubt this government is cutting back within the auspices of the Ministry of Consumer and Commercial Relations on the watchdogs that look carefully at this, the Ontario Energy Board being one of those.

The government seems to want to have big government that's not so close to the people. W. Darcy McKeough from Chatham-Kent, in the late 1960s, into the 1970s, implemented regional government in many areas of Ontario. It was supposed to save money, it was supposed to be good for overall planning, and in some cases some of that was achieved. But I don't want the new version of W. Darcy McKeough showing up in the Niagara Peninsula saying, "We don't need our local municipalities, all we need is one huge regional government," because I can tell you that will not be responsive to the needs of individuals within our communities and I suspect the same could be said of many of the communities represented by all members of this House.

I ask the members of the government caucus, put a check on the Honourable Al Leach, the Minister of Municipal Affairs, and put a check on Premier Harris, the Premier of this province, because I know there can be a lot of problems that originate if you implement this. The member in the chair at the present time, the delightful member for Mississauga South, recognizes the importance of the city of Mississauga and the progress which has been made under my good friend Mayor Hazel McCallion.

I know she would not want to see Mississauga disappear into some morass called Peel where there's only one government in Peel and people don't have access to local municipalities. I know she will pass my good wishes along to my good friend Ms McCallion, who I understand is furious at this government for what it has done in a bill dealing with development charges, but I don't want to talk about that now because it's not within the auspices of this particular piece of legislation.

I want to look at the transfers you have to universities and colleges. If we are to be competitive, everybody says -- Conservatives, Liberals, New Democrats, people with no political affiliation, people in business, people in labour, people in professions, people from all walks of life -- you must have a highly trained, well-educated population to be able to compete in the global economy. Whether we like the global economy or not, it's here. Perhaps we'd prefer it isn't. Perhaps we would prefer we didn't have to compete with other countries, but we have to. That's why we need a good investment in our community colleges and our universities, not simply a reannouncement of money that the NDP was allocating, but a genuine investment in the future of this province.

Brock University has been trapped in a formula which pays it less money than I believe it's entitled to. I know it's a very complicated formula they use, but I hope that the minister of all education will certainly look into this matter, determine that Brock has been underfunded and provide that university with its fair share of resources.

The bill in and of itself is a fairly innocuous bill. It's largely housekeeping. It's largely administrative. I suppose if we had more resources in the opposition we might find provisions of the bill that may be less benign than the government would suggest, but at first glance it is one of the bills which is of less consequence in the province than many others.

I want to hope, and I do hope, that the provisions of this bill will help young people obtain employment opportunities. Those of us who came out of the schools of Ontario a number of years ago had a lot of employment opportunities and could almost name those opportunities. I feel sorry for students today who come out probably better educated than the generation previous, and in many cases at a later stage in life in certain professions, but are unable to obtain good employment positions after their investment in education.


I mention the word "investment" because they are paying much higher tuition fees now than they were six or seven years go. Even the NDP, which is opposed to raising tuition fees, had to raise them 42% to meet their obligations. But that's enough now. They did that because they had to. I know they didn't want to. I talked to many of their members and they said: "Please don't hold us accountable for this. We didn't want to do it."

I didn't agree at the time, but I at least knew they were doing it and not liking to do it. They did not rub their hands with glee. They did not say, "It's time to get the students," as many, I think, on the government benches today believe it's time somebody paid for that. But I did want to note that, knowing my friends from the New Democratic Party did not want to do that, because they were concerned about education, but now they're saying, as we are, "Enough is enough, no more increases, no more of a burden on those students," because what it means in our society is that the children of the wealthy and the privileged will have more opportunities at education than the children of those of lesser means.

That is what we see in the United States. We see polarization. We see the rich getting richer, the poor getting poorer and those in public office often serving the needs of the privileged and the rich, when those who need our assistance most are those who are people of disadvantage, who didn't have the opportunity, who didn't know the so-called right people, who didn't have the connections, who are unable to obtain good jobs to put themselves through university or community colleges.

If there's one thing that can provide equality of opportunity, it's an education system. A publicly funded education system does that. We can't determine the outcomes. I can't say that given these opportunities, somebody's going to succeed and somebody's not going to succeed, nor should government be in the position of making that determination, but government does have an obligation, in my view, to guarantee equality of opportunity.

I was addressing students at Ridley College, which is a private school -- not many children of individuals of low means, in terms of financial means, would be attending Ridley College -- and what I said to the students at that time, because I was invited to address them along with my good friend Tom Froese from St Catharines-Brock to present different viewpoints on economic issues, was that it was important to have an appropriately funded public education system so that those who are not born into privilege, so that those who do not have high financial means are able to have about an equal opportunity to succeed in life, to take advantage of opportunities that would be provided and that's our responsibility.

We can't get everybody a Cadillac, we can't ensure that everybody has a 54-inch television set, we can't ensure that everybody can go to Paris every year on a holiday, but at least we can guarantee that they will have a good education, a solid health care system which serves all of us and the infrastructure and community services which are equal to all in our society. That's what our obligation is and I hope this bill provides at least some means of achieving that.

I want to thank members for their indulgence. I know they were on the edge of their chairs as I was speaking. I noticed several members on the government side were nodding. I don't know whether they were nodding off or nodding in agreement; I'm going to assume they were nodding in agreement while I was speaking and I want to thank them for their attention.

I simply make one request of the government members and that is that you pass the message back to the real power, the whiz kids in the Premier's office, the senior civil service, the advisors to the government. I only ask that you convey that message that I presented this evening to those individuals so we can have that kind of society in Ontario.

Mr Mario Sergio (Yorkview): I'm pleased to join the debate on Bill 93 as it nears its completion. I think the members are impatient to get on with it and approve it as we finish the debate tonight. Let me add my few words as to why we are at this stage pushing one bill, not of great importance as it is here tonight, a housekeeping bill more than anything else.

It is called Bill 93, the Good Financial Management Act. I really don't know if it is what it is called, a good financial management act, but the government seems to pride itself on changing the names of the various already long-established bills. For some reason they may find some consolation if they think that by changing the bills they're going to improve the bill itself. We have seen that with a number of bills such as the WCB reform and the family reform bill, but the contents of those bills continue to remain the same.

As I said before, and it doesn't make a heck of a difference as it trickles down from the content of the budget speech, what the budget really did deliver at the time some six months or so ago, what it does mainly is it allows the government to gather all the funds held in the various Ontario securities, also from surpluses from crown corporations, those funds to be deposited in the consolidated revenue fund which would help, at the end, the government to conduct the business as it sees fit.

I think it has been said --


The Acting Speaker (Mrs Margaret Marland): I would like to call the House to order. There is a great level of noise and it is increasing and I do not think it's fair to the member for Yorkview. Only one member has the floor and that is the member for Yorkview. I think it would be kind to show respect to him while he has the floor.

Mr Sergio: Thank you very much, Madam Speaker. I am pleased to see that indeed you are very attentive to what is going on and what is being said in the House, and I think although this may be a fait accompli, it still carries a lot of importance.

We have heard from previous speakers that this is strictly to streamline and consolidate the business of the government. I think what this bill does is it finalizes the effects of the budget, as it was presented some six months or so ago, to carry on the business of the government, and that's fine. But what we have heard time and time again is it is not what the government is doing; it's how the government is going about it, how the government is conducting its business, how the government is introducing the various many bills and how the government is --


Mr Sergio: Madam Speaker, did I hear one of the members say, "Shut up, Mario"?

The Acting Speaker: No, and I am listening.

Mr Sergio: Madam Speaker, if that is the case, I can stand up here all the time that is entitled to me to speak in the House. If some of the members do not wish me to speak to this House, I'm very, very sorry, and I don't want to --

The Acting Speaker: I am listening very intently to the member for Yorkview, and I am aware, as I addressed a few moments ago, that there is a lot of noise in the House. No, as Speaker, I did not hear the comment you referred to and I would ask for you to continue the debate, the member for Yorkview.

Mr Sergio: Thank you very much. As you have said, Madam Speaker, it's quite possible that during noisy interference we may not clearly hear what's being said from the other side.

But let me say this, and I'd like to pick up where I left off --



Mr Pouliot: Tony told himself to shut up. No, Mario. I'm listening. I'm sorry.

Mr Sergio: Especially at this particular time of the night a little bit of cordiality is welcome, and I don't mind it, Madam Speaker.

Let me say that the government wants to get on and streamline the financial business of the government, and that's fine -- it's how the government is doing it, how the government is going about it, how the government is accomplishing exactly that. Sure, they want to get on with the 30% rebate to the rich people, of course, because they need a nice holiday perhaps during the holiday season.

Mr Ford: More rich guys sitting on there than you know.

Mr Sergio: Yes, of course, the rich guys. But where is the money coming from to conduct those businesses? It's coming from a number of areas, and they haven't finished yet. The funny thing is that they haven't even reached halfway yet, but that's where the money is coming from. I just remind the government that if they haven't finished, they can only get it from the same sources they have been getting it from over the past year and a half.

The money is coming from the health care system, from closing hospitals, from cutting funds to education, from cutting benefits to injured workers, from the environment, from laying off thousands of people. The government should know better than anybody else that they should be concerned about creating more taxpayers and not imposing more taxes. It's coming from borrowing some $6.5 billion a year for the next four years. This will shoot the total provincial debt to over $120 billion. They are getting their money by making cuts to Wheel-Trans, by imposing copayments, and shame on this government: Just over the last few days we heard that anyone who is lying in a hospital bed, probably in a corridor waiting for proper accommodation, a bed in a nursing home, has to pay $40 a day immediately while they wait for accommodation in a nursing home. Can you believe that? The law as it is in our province --

Mr Pouliot: Polarization. If we don't get the money, out you go, out the door.

Mr Sergio: But it's not even that. It would be okay for somebody languishing in a hospital corridor to pay the $40, provided they would be receiving the same attention, the same care as if they were in a nursing home. Well, they are not. They just cannot receive the same health care, the same attention to the same needs as if they were in a private room in a nursing home.

What's really shameful is that the law of this province which deals with seniors and other members of our society who have to be accommodated in a nursing home -- they only have to start to make payments after 60 days, and what this government has been doing lately is imposing the fee, the $40 immediately. Now, isn't that nice. I think this is a wonderful gift to the most needy in our society: those seniors. Statistics show that 70% of those seniors do not have any friends or relatives and some 60% of them don't have anyone within a radius of 160 miles. Can you imagine that?

So where's the money coming from? We see a government that, because of its misguided, misdirected policies, will go to any extent to get money to accomplish some of its goals. We see a government that will go to any extent even to approve, to legalize more casinos, of course. Now we'll be enjoying going to the new opening this coming Saturday, and the government should be very happy. I think it's going to be another very successful casino and that it's going to bring a lot of money into the coffers of the provincial government.

They have just legalized the one-armed bandit, so called, or slot machines, as most people would call them. The government of course would call them VLTs. If we ask average citizens on the street what a VLT is, they wouldn't know. The government has imposed another fancy name and they call them video lottery terminals.

It is not, as I said before, what the government is doing but how it's doing it. They're doing it by imposing their will without attaching any seriousness to the consequences of those acts. While on the one hand they say, "We like to listen to the people, we want to go the people," what do we see on a daily basis? They're coming with proposals, rubber-stamping them, steamrolling them through this House without any little consideration whatsoever.

Yesterday I think this government approved Bill 81, the so-called Fewer Politicians Act. I think we have to take into consideration that it's useless for us, for the government, to travel throughout Ontario, hold public hearings and say, "We want to go out and listen to the people," and then come into this House and act as if we had never gone out and listened to the people. That is the most shameful, arrogant thing we can do to the people of Ontario. They expect a government that would go out, listen to the people, come to this House and make those necessary changes according to the will of the people.

What the government has done in pushing through the legislation as it did, and it's doing and I'm sure it will, is that it has created two types of people, created havoc among those most in need, divided our communities -- those who have it, those who don't and those who have too much -- and the government continues to pander to those particular groups.

We have seen, because the government want to accomplish its goals, what we used to pride ourselves in as universality. That's gone. Equality, fairness, they're gone.

Interjection: That's a big lie.

Mr Sergio: Madam Speaker, I heard that quite clearly, "That's a big lie." Is it possible, Madam Speaker, that you didn't hear it? I know that the member who said it is laughing. Now isn't that fun?

The Acting Speaker: Would you take your seat, the member for Yorkview. As Speaker I did not hear that comment. I would ask any honourable member who may have made that comment to withdraw that comment, but I did not hear it and I don't believe that the table heard it. I say to the honourable member, please continue the debate.

Mr Sergio: I didn't expect that the honourable member would have the decency to get up in the House and apologize for what he has said. I could hear it clearly from this side, Madam Speaker, but I am sure that you were speaking to somebody else and you probably missed it. But I will continue with my time left.

The Acting Speaker: I would say to the member for Yorkview, if you know which honourable member said that and you wish to name that honourable member, I will ask that member to withdraw, but I have already asked the members if they did make that comment. Unfortunately this is the second time I have made that request, and if there is no response, there is nothing further that I can do. I would suggest that you continue the debate. Thank you.

Mr Sergio: I wouldn't embarrass the member, Madam Speaker. That's okay.


I just want to continue and finish my few minutes. It's sad that we are dealing with a very important piece of legislation. I don't think I'm speaking against it because, as I said, it's a housecleaning thing; it's a particular time of the year. What we have seen in this House from some of the members, and it's quite sad -- I feel sorry for some of the members because next election people will not forget. I think we have some good members on both sides of the House, and because of some we lose the essence of our debates.

The Acting Speaker: I would ask the member for Yorkview to speak to Bill 93.

Mr Sergio: I am, Madam Speaker.

Mr Ron Johnson (Brantford): You're self-righteous. You're a joke.

The Acting Speaker: The member is not in his seat, and I did just hear your last comment. I would ask you to return to your seat and withdraw that comment.

Mr Ron Johnson: I withdraw.

The Acting Speaker: Thank you. Please continue.

Mr Sergio: The government wants to accomplish its goals, and that's fine.

To sum up, there is absolutely nothing wrong if the government wants to pursue its goals, its policies. We have been saying all along that it should not be done on the backs of the poor, the destitute, the most needy. We have said all along that the government would be better and would save a lot of face if they were to come to the people and say: "You know what? We have goofed. We have made a promise well before the election but we realize that it's costing too much." It's causing too much pain; it's causing too much disparity; it's causing too much anxiety among all classes of people, among the unemployed, the sick, the poor, youth, students, even among those who are holding a job today for fear that tomorrow they may no longer have that particular job.

Those are the reasons. I realize that the bill has very little importance at this stage, that it is something for administration purposes solely. But we are saying please think about it. Think about what you're doing to a lot of people in Ontario, because eventually the people who are now suffering the consequences of the actions of this government are going to be judge and jury.

It's fine to say, "We told the people what we were going to do and now we are doing it." I have to take exception to some of these comments because they are being said quite often in the House. I carry the Common Sense Revolution here. I wouldn't leave home without it, believe you me, because it's got a wealth of information for both sides of the House. If the government says, "We are doing exactly what we said we would do," I truly take the government to task on that because I, the first one, would be very happy to see the government do exactly what the they said they would do in the Common Sense Revolution. The problem is that they are not doing what they said they would do. That's where we differ. That's where I have a problem; that's where the people of Ontario have a problem.

There could be someone out there in the professional-business sector who will be doing fine, but don't continue to tell me here in this House that what you're doing to the people of Ontario -- when you cut hospital beds, close hospitals, cut education, day care and everything else. You didn't say that in here.

I won't prolong because I think the night is coming to a close and there are other speakers as well. I wanted to express my feelings on the bill. As I said before, it's more or less housekeeping amendments. I think it's going to move through the House, and I believe the sooner the better for the government, as they want to try and get their finances in place and see if they can reach their goal. I wish them luck. If they do, I think they will have to tell that to the people. If they don't, they will have to go to the people and say why they didn't. On that note, I will end my notes and wish everyone well.

The Acting Speaker: Questions and comments? Further debate?

Mr Pouliot: Thank you, Madame la Présidente. I've been watching carefully the way you conduct the order of the House. I know I can only mention those rare opportunities in English and en français, but let me assure you two words qualify it. En espagnol, in Spanish, it's muy elegante. You're doing an excellent job and you're to be commended, Madam Speaker.

What brings us together on this Thursday, December 5, at 25 to 11 -- and I don't intend to leave that I've reported to the highest order; I just want to establish that this is live -- is what would appear to be not all that important perhaps. It's Bill 93, An Act to amend certain statutes administered by the Minister of Finance to promote good management of the Province's finances, to implement certain provisions of the 1996 Budget, and so on. Not uncommon. In fact, after every financial statement, after every budget, the Minister of Finance has to come up with a bit of a mixed grill, a potpourri. As you will expect as I go through this very, very serious address, you will find in the first order, and this transcends party affiliation, that humour does not become everyone in this timbre indeed. Not uncommon at all.

Therefore, what we have today is 10 different parts making Bill 93. We don't expect to oppose for the sake of opposing. It deals with intricacies. We don't see any interruptions of consequence in the normal flow of running the Legislature in its statute.

The first part deals with the Financial Administration Act. It gives the Treasurer of the province of Ontario the flexibility, the latitude, to consolidate. It gives an opportunity, for instance, if we were to take the advent of video slot machines, video lottery terminals -- it's a fancy word. The money will now be allowed, because the powers of the Treasurer are being enlarged, to get into the vortex, the general fund. You know from experience that ministers of finance, along with their good friend the Premier of the province, like to have a general fund. They don't see the need to have dedicated funds. They want the money to flow directly into that black hole, into the quagmire, and then they want the power to be able to dole it out. That way they have control over the purse.


When the money rolls in, there will be absolutely no scruples. Damn the principle -- the money will roll in. Accountants won't get in the way nor slow things down when the VLTs, that proliferation, start hitting the streets, and they'll have them anyplace. If you're a worshipper, if you see the need to consult your spiritual leader, the local church, don't be surprised if you find those dreadful machines in the back of churches. Their appetite is insatiable. They will stop at nothing. You might even see them in public washrooms. They will be all over. In fact, a cynic could mention that at the intensive care unit you might have a heart monitor in the slot machine.


Mr Pouliot: Well, is it to catastrophize to have them -- why not have them in the classroom? There's no morality here. So the little ones, as long as the handrails are safe and are in conformity with the labour standards, they too can go and make an offering out of their little Dalmatian piggy bank, turn it upside down and grab every penny to satisfy the tax cut for the very rich because, make no mistake, that is what it's all about.

I thought I would address part I of the bill, and I repeat the amendment. There's nothing complex about this. Once you read between the lines, it tells you the story. These people are ready. They are, again, insatiable. They give themselves a little more power than they should. The bill permits the Minister of Finance to authorize crown agencies to make "payment by cheque or other method from the consolidated revenue fund" -- the vortex, the big fund. The Minister of Finance may impose terms and conditions on authorization.

Mr Bradley: That sounds dangerous to me.

Mr Pouliot: Well, indeed.

You better cosy up, Madame. Don't get caught on the wrong side of "Love me, love me not," because if you get past the relationship between him and the other, don't look too far off the pillow, Madame, because they're very compatible when it comes time to hand the takes. You see, the money will come rolling in from all over because they really need it, but when it comes time to dole it out, you'll find a great deal of hesitancy with that hand.

They're about to embark on $3 billion worth of cuts and they tell us that the tax cut will create all kinds of jobs. They're taking more out of the economy than they're putting in. Thousands of nurses, front-liners, people who provide an essential service will be told --

Mr Marchese: Gone.

Mr Pouliot: I can do that too, thank you -- will be told, "Out the door." Teachers will told they're history. Class sizes will balloon to 35 or 40.


Mr Pouliot: You can hear the kind of laughter, the kind of mockery, treating these dire circumstances as mere bagatelles, just dust that stands in the way of what they wish to accomplish.

They're cutting $3 billion. They're fighting on so many fronts. I saw one of them the other day. He was going through the phone books and I said to him: "Can I help you? What are you doing?" He said, "Well, there are three groups we haven't antagonized and we're going to call them because we've put ourselves under a state of seige." The firefighters, the police, the judiciary, nurses, doctors, schools, teachers -- Madam, you can go on and on and on. Three billion dollars because they're on the hook. They must deliver the taxes. But you've read it. In fact, it was in Report on Business, that business section of the Globe and Mail which, because of my critic's role, I've learned to read since I've been appointed. Over the years I've read it even better because I was intrigued to find out about my enemies. You know, $1.4 billion net profit, the Royal Bank, one of the six chartered. It's embarrassing.

Mr Bradley: Gilles, are they adding employees?

Mr Pouliot: Oh, no, they're not. In fact, two years ago, and you'll get this, when they first reach the $1 billion after all the deferrals -- I mean, they couldn't hide it any more, so they had to declare over $1 billion profit. Once you went through the document, you found out in small print that they had received a couple of hundred million dollars from the research and development provision --

Mr Marchese: It's true. I read it too.

Mr Pouliot: -- to help them install computers. They really needed it.

Mr Marchese: It's $300 million.

Mr Pouliot: They were going to do it anyway, but they went to --

The Acting Speaker: I would like to remind the member for Fort York that not only are interjections out of order, but you are not in your seat and you are interrupting the debate. Thank you.

Mr Pouliot: Madam Speaker, I must say to you, I must live with my good friend, but I must also commend you on being consistent and doing an excellent job.

Let's go back to the Royal Bank. We want to wish them well. If the profit was ordinary, if it was not associated with the irony of telling 5,000 people they're no longer needed, they got their pink slips -- I recall vividly, and you do too, that when a corporation, especially a large corporation, made a profit, the shareholders got a little better. Their reward on risk on investment was enhanced; they got a little more divvy. People were not let go -- quite the contrary. Here was an opportunity to have employment. Not in the case of the la Banque Royale, and maybe they're not alone in that group of six, the group of chartered, and they lobby very well. They start lobbying the day after the revision of the Bank Act, which takes place periodically, and they only stop the day before. So they continuously lobby.

Lobbying with those people is not a vulgar trade. They don't advertise by way of cards. It's the most honourable, the most cartelian, monopolistic kind of leaning, mostly by hook, some will say by crook under immunity -- not a nice conglomerate if you're an ordinary person. It's been written that the toxicity level can indeed take on extraordinary proportions. There's no fairness. You talk about the bank charges. Oh, if you have collateral, if you're one of the rich ones, you can perhaps latch on to -- well, people would know a lot more how those work than I do -- a consequential line of credit. What does it say? Where's my paper here? It says prime plus 1%, I guess, or prime plus 0.5%. You can get money at 4.90%, but for those of us who don't have the same means or the same sophistication, because we've been busy making a living, ordinary people, with those people you don't talk much.


You go cap in hand, you beat the path between your small business and your home in an ordinary working people's neighbourhood and you say little, for they decide on your lifestyle. They help the polarization. They have helped with the erosion of the middle class that pays for all this. There's a risk associated with what this government is doing. They will have you make believe at committees -- and they do very well. They will profess that all the stars are aligning in the right position, that things are well. They take all the credit for it but don't ask them to carry the blame.

They'll tell you they've created 127,000 net jobs. There's been a dislocation. Some of those jobs are mere jobettes in the service trade. They don't pay too well. They are naturally, more often than not, non-union jobs, but they're jobs.

Mr Bradley: Minimum wage?

Mr Pouliot: Yes, minimum wage. Not quite the $1 an hour, 60 hours a week, that some would wish to see.

Low interest rates: For 40 years, interest rates haven't been this low. I was at the Province of Ontario Savings Office the other day to get the few dollars I need to cooperate, and it said one year, 2.75%, and then on the GIC it said 4.75%. It's not too long ago we used to be able to establish yields of 8%, 9% and 10% on five-year guaranteed investment certificates. So you have low interest rates that should provide incentives.

You also have an astounding recovery in the export market. Ontario, being the manufacturing heart of Canada, can only benefit. You have housing starts that are at a very good level and yet house prices are not going up because you have an inventory. Those stars are well aligned. You have Mr Greenspan who just underwent a presidential election. You had decreases in interest rates. Things are not going too bad.

Oh, but you also have consumer debts, the excesses of the 1980s, at a record level. You have a very low rate of savings, the lowest it's been in more than two decades: 5.4%. You have to factor the other side, trying to establish equilibrium. You also have the relationship between household debt and household income in real terms, and then you begin to understand as you see the decrease. Less money will be forthcoming in the economy. It should really be rolling. Make no question, no doubt about it, things should be much rosier than they are, but in the meantime the rich are getting richer.

Hon Al Leach (Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing): That's good.

Mr Pouliot: You could be right. They don't want it this way, I know that, not imputing motive to any person or anyone, but if you do it at the expense of others -- I'll ask you a question: If you ask Ontarians, "Are you paying too much tax, are you paying the right amount of tax or too little tax?" almost inevitably people will look at their pay stubs, at their revenues, and will say, "I'm paying too much tax." So the government says, "We will give you a tax break."


The Acting Speaker: Minister.

Hon Mr Leach: You've got to think about that once in a while.

The Acting Speaker: Minister.

Hon Mr Leach: Local 183 owns more bank stocks than anything else.

The Acting Speaker: Minister, interjections are out of order and we are trying to keep the debate flowing. The member for Lake Nipigon has the floor.

Mr Pouliot: The same train of thought: You ask the same people, just ask them, "Are you paying too much tax?" The likelihood is people will say: "It's a burden. I shouldn't pay as much tax as I'm paying now." It's almost a normal reaction.

If you were to ask them, "In order to stimulate the economy" -- that's what they say -- "we will put more money into your pocket. Are you likely to spend it? We hope that you spend it so it will trickle down or trickle through and you will buy more products on the shelves and therefore create more jobs," if you were to say that one fortunate individual, as talented as she or he may be, because they make a very large sum of money, they make a lot of money -- they're the chief executive officer or president of the Royal Bank, any one of the chartered banks. At the Bank of Montreal Matthew Barrett brings in, I don't know, $1.7 million or $1.8 million -- thank heaven for disclosure -- and that one person will save $150,000, as we go instalment after instalment.

I have to say, morally speaking -- and I'm not jealous or envious, not at all, I'm not -- does it make sense that on the other end, you go and tell -- and I know there are more of them -- people who are day care workers who make $22,000 a year "Jane, we're going to give Matthew Barrett 200,000 bucks a year in a tax break, but you're going to take a hit for 4,000 bucks a year. I'm sorry"?

If I go home at night, and that's what it's all about, I have some difficulties with that. I know it's not badly intended. I know you wish to be consistent, because they also pay a lot more taxes, I'm quite aware. I'm aware that there's been a stipend, percentage-wise, for those who make less. That's okay.

Then I ask myself, and I want to ask you, if you have -- and they complain about the debt, about the deficit, and that has to be reconciled. It makes little sense to have to spend $8.5 billion, $9 billion, and it will go to $9.4 billion a year. Look at all the good we could do with that, if we didn't have to pay the coupon or the debenture holders, but you see, as you embark on a $3-billion tax cut my mathematics tell me that if you work to put the $3 billion directly against the credit card, against the debt, you would get 100% impact, you would reduce your deficit by $3 billion, but if you take that money and you put it into a tax cut, will it filter through? In some cases, with those who are beyond moderate means, to Switzerland, or will I find them in Grand Cayman, in Liechtenstein -- I don't know those places -- in the Bahamas, one of those tax havens?

K.C. Irving: does the name ring a bell, the legacy of the Irving family? You've heard of the Bronfman family. They just left -- no, they didn't leave; $2 billion left before they closed the loophole, then the loophole was shut tight. What am I saying, $2 billion? Pretty soon, we'll be talking about real money. Everything is relative, except for the thousands of people who are in a climate of anxiety, who have asked the government, said, "Hey" -- you pat yourself on the back. You spin things your way. Okay. That's fair. Take credit for everything.


But what about the cuts? Who's going to pay for all this? You've got to go and get $3 billion out of there. You've got to make ends meet. You've got to go by the Common Sense Revolution, that document, that commitment, because you've said: "People are asking for a government that will do what they said they would. At last, we have a government that does what they said."

Let's look at the checklists before they come up with the little puns. The 725,000 jobs. You want to make a bet? It's not likely to happen.

They will balance the budget. The Common Sense Revolution says, "We'll balance the books by the end of the first term." But under Confederation, you're only allowed -- the term is not to exceed five years. But they say, "Well, we'll throw in another year for good measure." It becomes 2000-01. So it's not going to be done in the first term, but they've committed to do it after.

"We're not going to touch health. Not a penny out of health." Do you believe this? Have I got a deal for you. We can't buy the Brooklyn Bridge any more and lease back. That's the next gimmick coming.

"We're not going to touch education, not going to touch classroom education." Teachers out the door by the thousands, pounding the pavement, but nothing is impacted. It's all up here, you see. "Your imagination is too fertile."

The general assistance welfare recipients can't deal with them any more, because they're on their knees, the devotees are on their knees in front of the altar of the rich. Be careful. What you are seeing is the deliberate and systematic erosion of the middle class. People who carried the can, who paid the freight, for all this, especially for those, enough.

They move up the food chain, because they never have enough in that kind of ideology, and they're on the hook so badly that Pac-Man has to deliver. The very same people, we Ontarians who might say, "At last we have a government that will deliver on what it said it will do," we're the very same people who are going to toss the rascals out of office if they dislocate the system. They're on the hook for a 30% tax cut, politically speaking, because that's all they're talking about. They could have got the same result with an incentive of 5%, more manageable, more reasonable, but of course you did not know that, because you were sitting quite low in the polls. In fact, some of you had to answer those ads in the paper looking for a candidate, and by coat-tailing some of you found yourselves here in the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.

I had one of them -- he said he was lost. It was a sad sight indeed. He stopped me on the street and said, "Sir, can I ask you a question?" I said: "Of course. If I can help you, I shall." He said, "I'm a newly elected member of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario." I said, "Well, well, well." He said, "Where is it?" Then I pointed it out to him. I said: "It's right there. Take the subway. That's how you get to the Leg. You take the subway so you can get there." Then I saw him ask someone else, and I was told after, because we didn't see him for the first week, that he had gone to Ottawa. It must have been my accent; he didn't believe what I told him. He asked somebody else and he said, "I'm a newly elected member of Parliament," I suppose. So the poor person ended up in Ottawa, then finally, after a week, found himself here. I'm not going to name the person, because I know what human frailties are; it wouldn't be fair. It would go beyond the farcical --

The Acting Speaker: I remind the member for Lake Nipigon that he is speaking to Bill 93.

Mr Pouliot: Madame you're so right. When one refers to Bill 93, there is so much that one can say, yet so little time. I have searched long and hard for virtues associated with le projet de loi 93, avec tout le grand respect qu'on vous doit, Madame, mais je parlais des taxes. Je parlais. There is a great deal of relevancy. Everything connects. You cannot have one part of the bill without talking about another part.

Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): It's a seamless web.

Mr Pouliot: That's right, seamless. I know the government of the day is not prepared to capitulate. They're not going to throw in the towel. It's not in their nature. Many of them have always won in life. Some of them try to convince us that they've made money the old-fashioned way, that they've earned it. Others have really made it the old-fashioned way: They inherited the money. No matter which one you address of the two, it all comes out the same.

I remember sitting there, not too, too long ago, and we were in the midst of a recession. It was the most acute recession since the big one, the Depression. We had difficulties, and we kept being reminded, although times were very difficult, that we could lose our credit rating, and if we did so, it would cost us more to borrow, not only locally, but we would become more vulnerable towards the international market. It had been some years that Ontario could no longer shoulder its own debt, so we had to go abroad to do that.

I recall vividly, so clearly, when people like the Dominion Bond Rating Service used to come and cast the spell of possibly higher interest rates, and we would be judged very harshly. Those people couldn't care less who the government of the day is. It's not their mandate, it's not their duty in life. They're all saying, "Beware, you've gone too far." They're saying that if you fail to achieve your objective, if you shave only 1% off the projection, and 1% is no big deal, you will have to borrow another $2.8 billion or cut.

Mr Marchese: They're bankrupt.

Mr Pouliot: I hear one Conservative there saying that they're bankrupt. That's a start. Let Hansard record that one Conservative member sitting beside the Minister of Municipal Affairs said they're bankrupt.

The Acting Speaker: I have previously asked the member for Fort York not to interject. You are now sitting on the opposite side of the House, a long way from your own seat. I would like you to return to your seat or remain quiet. Thank you.


Mr Pouliot: The Dominion Bond Rating Service, these people are ultra-conservative. They're correct, and they would not float $2.8 billion in the public domain if they weren't right about their forecast. This is a caution of the highest order. They're saying: "Government, be careful. Attention. You may dislocate." You've already announced, on top of the dummy that has no hand, $7 billion worth of cuts, with $3 billion to be defined here shortly -- they'll have to -- and can you imagine another $2.8 billion? Wouldn't it be a lot simpler to take the promised tax cut to clear up the credit card, the debt, the deficit at least? Then you could indulge in some largess, give people a reward, because we've had to tighten up our belts.

In a few months they'll be announcing -- you'll be here, Madame, and I will be watching your reaction very carefully because I know you care, when they announce closures. Hospitalville, right down the street here, the place where a child was born, where a parent passed away -- a sacred trust, a relationship between that institution and its citizens -- and one day you will cross the street and go to that hospital and it will be padlocked. You will no longer have access. The grand finale. There won't be a shortage; it will be sum total, never to return. That's the reality. This is no joke here.

Your schools will suffer a great deal too. Your transfer payments to municipalities -- you know what's going to happen? The reeve in a small town, in a hamlet, in a small village, they're going to strangle them. They'll tell them: "You're on your own. You can do whatever you wish, but we'll only give you so much money." They have a panel coming up and people are confused, are anxious. Anxiety leads to fear. They don't know. They have their panel called Who Does What.

Mr Wildman: To whom for how long.

Mr Pouliot: You're right. It should be the who sleeps with whom panel, the who pays for what panel. Leave the people alone. The same trick has been thought about for the last 30 years. Come clean. But no, you want to give them a piece of highway to clean and to maintain. There is no exchange here. You are downloading on the municipalities, you're downloading on the school boards, you're going to shut hospitals down. And most of that could have been avoided if, instead of the tax cut that benefits those who have more, you had come to your senses and spread it more evenly among the people who have paid the freight for decades, who made Ontario great.

You have a choice; it was in your hand. In lieu of this, you've upset the applecart. We can no longer be comfortable with the digestive process. You're going too far, and I hear it, and you're going too quickly. You're hurting -- no one means to do that, but those are the consequences -- people who have just started to get back on their feet. People don't wish to be extraordinarily wealthy, but they want that peace of mind. They want their rightful place under the sun. That's what it's all about. Nothing else matters, really. Sometimes during bad times, when it is dark out there, when the negative drag cycle has hit, when it is very dark they want to see the stars, that tomorrow will get better.

They want a government to be more predictable, not a government that will polarize, not a government that will fight all the time, not a government that will push those who cannot push back. I don't meet people as individuals, members of the government, who want to hurt people. I haven't met a bad person there. If they go down Yonge Street and they see an increased number of panhandlers, of homeless, of desperate, I don't see one member across as a member of the government who doesn't say, "Oops, not only could that be me, but no one in society feels completely immune when you see a sister or a brother having a difficult time." It costs and it reflects on, to a large extent, every one of us.

But when you feel this way and yet when you enter the chamber, when you go back under the mantra "for it is written," when you get the manifesto which is the Common Sense Revolution and you forget about all that, someone has to tell you one day, "Not only do I disagree but you're warned, if it goes bad you have to carry the guilt." Remember the pat on the back, take credit for every good thing? So when it goes bad, oh, we'll know where to point. I don't say this by way of threat or ultimatums. It wouldn't be becoming here.

Suffice it to say that the best way to reconcile a deficit is to pay down the debt. If you have a credit card and you have a $5,000 limit, which is quite a large sum on a credit card for ordinary people, and because of circumstances or by way of excess or frailties you're near the $5,000 and you get a note from the sponsor of the card, you start tightening up. You start bagging it and you don't go to the cafeteria. You bring your own lunch, maybe a little Thermos of coffee. Be a little more spartan and frugal. Forgo that second tie that you'll buy for the year. Buy one tie, you'll be okay. Use the old ones. I know I do. You pay down the credit card. That's commonsensical. We all know this.

Or, once you've reached the limit, you go on a big-time binge. Oh, this is it. I'm going to throw the biggest possible party. No time to pay down the credit card. I've arrived. Maybe I can get into the Boulevard Club, or maybe I can go and dance at the Toronto Club, the Canadian Club. Why not? Those places that I've never had access to all become possible by way of raising my limit.

No. You go home. While others go on cruises and to those establishments, you go for a walk and you pay down your debt.

That's not what they're doing. One third of what they take in is the provincial income tax; close to a third, maybe 30%. They take in $46 billion, $47 billion. Feel your purse, Madame. That's what they take in. And 30% of that is called the PIT, provincial income tax. They're taking $47 billion, spending $55 billion, 56 billion. You need not be a mathematical genius emanating from the U of T. You're in the hole, you're behind the eight ball, $8 billion.

Then there's the magic of compounding. You pay interest on interest on interest, and you wish that things would go well because you have a revenue problem. Well, I'll tell you what, with high respect, they're taking money out of revenue, they're taking another $5 billion. They say, "We're taking $5 billion out, but we still want to pay the debt, so we have to cut."

At the beginning they cut the excess. Then they go to the bone, then they go for the heart, then they dislocate. There's nothing left. There's a lot of fear. The trick here, the irony here is that that can be avoided if you make the right choice. This is not a shell game. There are two choices: that of putting 100 cents on the dollar against the tax or that of taking the chance, because you're on the hook, to put money in people's pockets with unfair distribution and further polarize our society.


I thank you, Madame. When it comes to the intricacies, this bill is a facilitator. It's housekeeping. It addresses what falls between the cracks after every budget. In terms of the essence, the spirit and the intent of this bill, we will be supporting the bill. In fact, it is quite commonsensical and necessary by its very nature in the statutes that it addresses. We would also urge the government to extend the practice to also go after second and third reading.

The Acting Speaker: Further debate?

Mr Wayne Wettlaufer (Kitchener): That's a pretty hard act to follow. Last week, when I spoke in the House to extend the sittings to midnight, I didn't realize that I was going to be one of those speaking at this late hour. But I am pleased to speak in support of Bill 93, the Good Financial Management Act, 1996.

As everyone in the House knows, good financial management is absolutely essential to the successful operation of any organization. Whether it be a one-person entrepreneurial operation, a major corporation or a government, good financial management is an ongoing goal and an ongoing process. Professional financial managers, once having attained their current goals, will establish a new set of targets with the intent of doing more for less. Doing more for less means increasing efficiencies and improving performance, while at the same time decreasing operating expenses.

That's what this bill is all about and I think the Finance minister should be complimented on it. It's a bill that the previous government didn't have the courage or the wherewithal to carry out, and it is now necessary.

The Acting Speaker: Does the parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Finance wish to wind up the debate?

Ms Bassett: Yes. All I would like to say at this late hour is to thank the opposition and thank everybody who spoke, my colleagues, for their input and their support of this very necessary bill. As we all know, it is to streamline government. As the member for Lake Nipigon made perfectly clear, it's the things that fall through the cracks in any budget we have to pick up to make things better. That's really the sum total of what I have to say.

There's one last little thing I'd like to just mention that the member for Wilson Heights pointed out about the retail sales tax. I thank you for mentioning the cultural community because the cultural community, the ticket prices, will not be affected at all. Most ticket prices, just to clarify that one small matter, are exempt from retail sales tax, and any ticket prices up to the year 2000 on smaller theatres are exempt from any sales tax. That should allay any fears that you have or anyone else.

The Acting Speaker: Ms Bassett, the parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Finance, has moved second reading of Bill 93. Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry?

All those in favour, please say "aye."

All those opposed, please say "nay."

In my opinion, the ayes have it. I declare the motion carried.

Shall the bill be ordered for third reading? Agreed.


Ms Bassett, on behalf of Mr Eves, moved third reading of the following bill:

Bill 93, An Act to amend certain statutes administered by the Minister of Finance to promote good management of the Province's finances, to implement certain provisions of the 1996 Budget and to implement other aspects of the Government's agenda and to amend the MPPs Pension Act, 1996 / Projet de loi 93, Loi visant à modifier des lois dont l'application relève du ministre des Finances, à favoriser la bonne gestion des finances de la province, à mettre en oeuvre des dispositions du budget de 1996 et d'autres éléments du programme du gouvernement et à modifier la Loi de 1996 sur le régime de retraite des députés.

Ms Isabel Bassett (St Andrew-St Patrick): Given the late hour and the fact that I've spoken already on this bill, I will defer my time.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs Margaret Marland): Further debate?

Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): I would like to indicate that I am prepared to relinquish my 90-minute speech this evening in the interests of expediting this bill.

Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): On behalf of all of my colleagues' insanity, we would be able to defer to Mr Wettlaufer if he can be found.

The Acting Speaker: Further debate? Ms Bassett, the parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Finance.

Ms Bassett: In closing, again, I'll say thank you to my colleagues on both sides of the House for their input on the Good Financial Management Act, those who spoke today and tonight. I'm pleased to support this legislation because it will reduce waste and duplication and make government more accountable and responsive and fair to the taxpayers of the province. Again, I want to thank the members of the House for supporting this legislation.

The Acting Speaker: Ms Bassett has moved third reading of the bill.

All those in favour of the motion, please say "aye."

All those opposed, please say "nay."

In my opinion, the ayes have it. I declare the motion carried.

Resolved that the bill do now pass and be entitled as in the motion.

Hon Rob Sampson (Minister without Portfolio [Privatization]): Madam Speaker, it being close to 12 o'clock, I move we adjourn.

The Acting Speaker: Mr Sampson, the member for Mississauga West, the Minister without Portfolio for privatization, has moved adjournment of the House. Does the motion carry?

Interjections: Carried.

The Acting Speaker: This House stands adjourned until 1:30 of the clock on Monday, December 9.

The House adjourned at 2330.