36e législature, 1re session

L151 - Mon 27 Jan 1997 / Lun 27 Jan 1997





































The House met at 1331.




Mr Bruce Crozier (Essex South): I rise today to pay tribute to a very special constituent of mine, Jasper Miner, who passed away last week at the age of 86. Mr Miner, the last son of world-renowned naturalist Jack Miner, continued his father's conservation work at the Jack Miner Bird Sanctuary in Kingsville well into his 80s.

Jasper Miner was a man who truly held his father's love and appreciation of nature. For the countless visitors who made their way to Kingsville, Jasper Miner was the public face of the bird sanctuary, entertaining all by driving his all-terrain vehicle among the geese, prompting them into flight for what became known as the sanctuary air show.

His dedication to conservation and his devotion to public education at the sanctuary were instrumental in keeping the work of his father alive for future generations to enjoy. Jasper took special pride in the banding of hundreds of birds each year in order to further our knowledge and appreciation of wildlife, and wild geese in particular.

A deeply religious man, Jasper Miner held deep respect for his fellow persons and all things under the sky. He will truly be missed, not only by the people of Essex South but all those who share a love and respect for nature and are dedicated to its preservation.


Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-Woodbine): East End Network is a network of community agencies in the east end of Toronto that are involved in linking residents to community and social services that are so needed. They have been dealing with the impact of the government's cuts, particularly to social welfare spending, and what it means in families' lives as they see the demand on their organizations or agencies and their services increase.

They decided they needed to do something to allow people to express their point of view and they started a card campaign, "East Toronto Speaks Out Against the Provincial Cuts." Almost 1,000 people filled out these cards, which I'm going to send over to the Premier for his information: 87% of the people who filled out the cards said they'd had cuts to their income; 84% said there was more hunger and hardship in their families; 76% said people were spending less in their families; 86% said they had seen more people borrowing or begging for money; 79% believe there is more crime or violence as a result of it. It goes on to deal with issues like hopelessness and fewer jobs and more evictions and more homelessness.

Some of the individual comments written on the cards were very instructive, like: "a hopeless future to look forward to"; "children feeling helpless and dealing with more worries"; "cuts to school programs and welfare affecting independent and homeless youth."

This is a litany of community opinion. It is an important opinion to listen to. I hope the Premier will take the time to review it.


Mr Joseph Spina (Brampton North): It gives me great pleasure today to recognize the outstanding accomplishments of my riding's biggest employer, Chrysler Canada.

This past Friday morning I was fortunate enough to be in attendance when Chrysler rolled off the one millionth LH sedan at our flagship Bramalea assembly plant located in my home riding. Chrysler's Bramalea assembly plant has been producing top-quality Canadian automobiles since 1987. Its current product line includes the Chrysler LHS, Concord, Intrepid and Vision.

Operating in a just-in-time environment, the workers and management of Chrysler produce 1,072 cars per day -- that's 68 units per hour -- a great accomplishment by any standard.

These accomplishments are outstanding not simply because of the numbers but because behind the numbers is a great story. They are rated the number one North American plant within Chrysler, voted the best plant among the Big Three by the well-respected Harbour and Associates report, and awarded the "Best car built in Canada" award three years in a row by the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada.

The commitment and hard work of Chrysler Canada and its union people is a demonstration of the confidence in Ontario. I ask all members of this House to join me in congratulating the management and staff of Chrysler's Bramalea assembly plant and the rolling off of the millionth LH sedan. Maybe there be a million more.


Mr Gerard Kennedy (York South): We see by the headlines this weekend that health care is once again in the news, news created by this government, how Ajax and Pickering General hospital has notified of 201 layoffs, how health and social service workers are taking the brunt of the job cuts in the health system, and how doctors are now warning patients not to go to hospitals alone without their families because of the nature of the cutbacks. The health care crisis in this province has reached a dangerous state where physicians have had to actually start warning patients with that kind of advice.

In Ontario, where once our health care system was the envy of countries around the world, we now have the laying off of hundreds of nurses because this government's plans to gut health care are now putting patient care in jeopardy. An entire floor of Mount Sinai Hospital just down the street is being closed, with the layoff of 94 registered nurses and 50 beds being shut down. That's in addition to 69 nurses at Oshawa General, 88 at Ajax and Pickering General, 387 at Toronto Hospital and so on and so on, and yet this government refuses to take responsibility. This doesn't even mention the hundreds of nurses who are being laid off in communities affected by the government's hospital destruction commission.

There is no point talking any more about our having the best health care system. It's rapidly being dismembered. Why are people speaking out now? Because they no longer have any confidence that this government has a plan. The Ontario Nurses' Association, the Ontario Hospital Association and the College of Family Physicians all say they don't believe integrated health care can be brought, because this government does not have a plan for making that system happen. What we have instead is a sad state of affairs with our hospital system falling apart.


Mr Floyd Laughren (Nickel Belt): On Thursday of last week a demonstration was held outside this Legislature. This is not a rare event these days with this government in power. The people protesting are employees of this government. They work in the print shops and mail rooms of government ministries.

Fifteen ministries want to privatize their print shops and mail rooms for the sake of privatization. More than 120 employees are affected, many of whom have worked for 10 to 15 years at the lowest-paid jobs and a significant number of whom have some disabilities. These people will have an extremely difficult time exercising bumping rights, or even finding another job. If employees stay with the new employer, they face wage cuts, loss of benefits and pension rights.

If the government really wanted to save money, they should ask the people who do the jobs now where savings can be found. The government could look at reorganizing existing services to provide better service more cost-effectively. None of this occurred. Was there a cost analysis comparing reorganizing existing services with privatization? The union has asked this question and the government has yet to respond.

This government is on a privatization bent like we have never seen in Ontario. They believe that the private sector can do things cheaper and better than the public sector. The changes occurring in the Ontario public service are a direct result of this government's pro-privatization stance. We have the first minister of privatization in Ontario. They want to privatize Hydro, TVO, the Ontario Clean Water Agency and the LCBO, but the majority of Ontarians don't want their public services in private hands.


Mr Ted Chudleigh (Halton North): I was pleased to have the Minister of Health, the Honourable David Johnson, visiting my riding and the long-term-care facility at Georgetown District and Memorial Hospital last Friday. The minister, however, was there for more than just a visit. He announced the government's investment of $1.95 million in capital funding to increase long-term-care services for area residents in Georgetown and Halton region.

This long-awaited announcement is welcome news. My community has been chronically underserviced in this area, having the lowest number of long-term-care beds per 1,000 of population over the age of 75 in Ontario. This is good news for all area seniors who, when in need, have a local option to remain in their community, close to their family and friends.

This announcement reaffirms our government's health care commitment to all Ontarians to spend future health dollars where they are most needed.

Renovations to the Bennett Health Care Centre will provide 57 new beds. The total cost of the project will amount to $3.9 million, half of which will be covered by the hospital.

I want to conclude in paying tribute to the hard work and dedication of the present and past hospital boards and the many volunteers who have devoted a countless number of hours in raising funds for the community project. I salute these groups for their efforts and the community spirit in making such a worthwhile project a reality. It shows once again why Ontario is a great place to live, why Ontario is a great place to work and raise a family, especially in Halton North.



Ms Annamarie Castrilli (Downsview): As the end of Ramadan approaches, I rise to comment on the significance of this happy occasion for Ontario's Muslim community, a significant community in our multicultural society.

Ramadan is the ninth and holiest month of the Muslim year, which follows the lunar calendar. It marks the period during which the holy book, the Koran, was first revealed to the Prophet Muhammad, peace be to him. He in turn urged followers to learn it by heart and obey its commands.

It is a time of abstinence. This peaceful act of denying oneself gives Muslims a realization and an appreciation for poverty and hunger and allows them to overcome selfishness. In doing so, they feel closer to God, to each other and to all fellow citizens.

Fasting is one of Islam's five pillars of faith. As such, it is respected as being the fundamental or cardinal worshipping principle of Islam.

As Ramadan ends, Ontario's Muslims will join with over one billion Muslims worldwide and celebrate the thanksgiving festival of Eid-Ul-Fitr. The celebration can include a morning service, a charitable donation and visits to friends and relatives.

I would like to take this opportunity to wish all our Muslim brothers and sisters who are observing the holy month of Ramadan the very best and happy Eid Mubarak in advance on behalf of our entire Liberal caucus.


Mr Len Wood (Cochrane North): I direct my statement today to the Minister of Northern Development and Mines on no strategy or plan for the north.

In a press conference you gave last week in Sault Ste Marie you announced that a specific northern investment strategy has been developed to respond to the higher service delivery costs in the north. You said, "The strategy surpasses the former northern support grant ratios and will ensure that northern Ontario gets its fair share of support when the changes in municipal-provincial relationships start taking effect in 1998."

The so-called northern strategy is part of a province-wide reserve and not specific to northern Ontario. When a reporter at the press conference suggested it was not a northern strategy at all, you responded, "That's right." You then added that an eventual northern strategy will be worked out and that you assume it will happen.

I'm greatly disturbed by your remarks. First of all you make this phoney announcement about helping northerners. Northerners don't buy it, Minister, and you owe an apology to northerners for pretending that your government has developed a strategy to respond to their specific needs when it obviously hasn't. Second, as the Minister of Northern Development, you are the one responsible for developing a strategy for northern Ontario and you're supposed to stand up for northerners.

It's quite clear that you're not doing your job. We can't live on assumptions. We demand real action and we want it before this whole disentanglement mess takes place.


Mr Terence H. Young (Halton Centre): This government's Who Does What initiatives are about removing $5.4 billion from the property tax bill, or 60% of the total. In exchange, we are moving services that should have been delivered locally all along on to the property tax. The result will be an end to waste, overlap and duplication and it will create improved accountability for the property taxpayers of this province.

But don't just take my word for it. John Ibbitson of the London Free Press writes:

"In many ways, the changes simply bring Ontario into line with the rest of Canada.... For years, Ontario governments struggled to reform the province's education system. Powerful school boards repeatedly raised teacher salaries and property taxes faster than the cost of living. Meanwhile, student test scores lagged behind British Columbia's and Alberta's. Education Minister John Snobelen rushed in where other education ministers had feared to tread."

In addition to being out of touch with fiscal reality, as they have been for the last 10 years, the opposition parties are out of touch with what taxpayers and parents want for their children when it comes to education. They should stop blindly defending vested special interests and start acting responsibly on behalf of the taxpayers of Ontario.


The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): On Thursday, January 23, 1997, the member for Beaches-Woodbine (Ms Lankin) brought to my attention some material that she had downloaded from the Internet. The material dealt with the same subject matter that I had previously had brought to my attention by the member for Oakwood (Mr Colle). My ruling of Wednesday, January 22, dealt quite specifically with this particular issue. Subsequent to that ruling, the minister rose in his place, apologized and indicated that it was an inadvertent error. He did in fact apologize to the House.

Following Ms Lankin's point, the government House leader said that the government respects the ruling given and will be reviewing its communications packages to ensure that in future they all comply with the new ruling. I would expect also that each and every ministry will have read the ruling and understood the ruling so they will in fact comply for future communications packages as well. I accept the word of the government House leader in this regard and I am confident that the ministries will take note of this ruling.

I say to the member for Beaches-Woodbine that I am of the view that a reasonable amount of time must be allowed for that review to take place. It seems reasonable on all sides of the House that the government be given some window of opportunity in which to adjust its plans and make the necessary changes. Although I appreciate the fact that you brought this point of order forward, I think it's incumbent on myself and the rest of this Legislature to allow the government an opportunity to conform with that particular order, and I would expect it will.

It makes no sense, further, to go back retroactively and have me review previous advertising campaigns during previous time. From this point forward, the government will be expected to follow the ruling that was made. I think they have given us their undertaking, and as honourable members I think we should give them the opportunity to put that house in order.

Mrs Lyn McLeod (Fort William): On a point of privilege, Mr Speaker: As you know, I gave notice on Thursday of my intention to bring forward a point of personal privilege and that I would hold it until today, respecting the fact that you did not want to consider new points of privilege while we were in the middle of a debate of censure.

The point of privilege I wish to raise follows very directly from the ruling you gave last week that says government actions that imply legislation has passed or will most certainly pass regardless of the outcome of any debate or vote taken in the Legislature constitute, in effect, contempt of the legislative process and of the Legislature.

You'll be well aware, Mr Speaker, that on Thursday morning last week the Minister of Education indicated his intention to name two co-chairs to the Education Improvement Commission. He also named the two specific individuals who would be appointed as co-chairs. That Education Improvement Commission is not yet established in law, because the law that would establish it is only in second reading. Furthermore, the commission itself is to implement the legislation that is currently before the House and has only had second reading and has not yet gone out for public hearings.

I believe that the actions of the minister, in announcing at this point not only that he intends to appoint two co-chairs but who the co-chairs will be, are very clearly, following your ruling, contempt of the legislative process, show a disregard for legislative debate or for at least the possibility that that piece of legislation may not pass through this House. They certainly show a complete disregard for the public input that is to be received during public hearings, which the government has indicated it intends to hold.

I would say further that given the fact that the Thursday morning the announcement was made -- and I respect your ruling just offered that there needs to be some time line for the government to be able to incorporate the significance of a ruling -- was the day after a ruling had just been made that the government had been in contempt of the Legislature, the Minister of Education taking immediate action in order to put in place a process that was not yet established in a law on a piece of legislation being debated in the House either was very much in-your-face not only contempt of the Legislature but disregard for the ruling of the Speaker that week, or else it was very clear evidence that the government simply doesn't get the significance of your ruling. I'd ask you to consider this further as contempt of the Legislature.

Mr Bruce Crozier (Essex South): On a point of privilege related directly to this, Mr Speaker: In addition to what my colleague has brought to your attention, there have been orders in council signed by the Premier and the names of these two appointees to the Education Improvement Commission have been sent to the members of the government agencies committee. You well know, sir, that they then can be called before that committee and we could find ourselves in the ludicrous position where we have to call these individuals if we so choose before the committee, review their appointments and, as has been pointed out, the legislation for which they're being appointed hasn't even passed second reading.

I would ask, Speaker, that you take these appointments of order in council and their possible appearance before the government agencies committee under consideration as well.


Hon David Johnson (Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet, Minister of Health, Government House Leader): Mr Speaker, your ruling last week I think was fairly clear in terms of the communications and the marketing, that the advertising the government does relevant to various programs should not presuppose that the final debate has been held and the final vote has been held.

Nevertheless, in terms of the planning of various issues I think you, Mr Speaker, and members of this House would agree that a government does have to do certain background planning. Now that doesn't presuppose any particular debate in this House, any particular vote in this House; it's simply part of the ongoing planning process. But clearly the government, as you indicated earlier and as I indicated in my comments last week, will be reviewing all of its advertising in light of your ruling. At the same time, there needs to be work behind the scenes to ensure that proper planning and proper processing take place, and I think that's the light that this should be considered in. It's certainly not any violation of the ruling you made last week, which the government fully intends to comply with.

The Speaker: If I could ask the member for Essex South, I'm having difficulty understanding your point of privilege, if you could quickly state it again.

Mr Crozier: Certainly, Speaker. The point of privilege is that the names of the appointees to the Education Improvement Commission have already been signed -- the orders in council have been signed by the Premier. The time in which they could be called to appear before the government agencies committee could expire before the legislation that would enable them to be appointed is even passed. In other words, I suggest that the legislative process has not yet been followed and that it simply could be a done deal before the legislation is even passed. It's premature.

The Speaker: I appreciate the points of order brought forward by the members for Fort William and Essex South. I will take those in consideration and report back at the earliest time.



Mr Dalton McGuinty (Leader of the Opposition): My question is for the Premier. It has now been a couple of weeks since the mega-week announcements and the smoke has cleared and it is perfectly clear to all objective observers in this matter that the net impact is going to be a property tax increase to be shared collectively by property taxpayers throughout the province in excess of $1 billion.

The list of those opposing your scheme, as you well know, Premier, is growing every day. Those opponents could hardly be categorized as being nay-saying leftists. Listen to some of those who oppose it: The Board of Trade of Metropolitan Toronto, Moody's bond rating agency, the Canadian Taxpayers Federation and, of late, 24 of the 25 GTA mayors. Everybody knows that dumping the costs of welfare and seniors' long-term health care will cause property taxes to skyrocket. Premier, you've had time to reconsider. You now better understand the arguments against this. Will you now reconsider and go back to the drawing board?

Hon Michael D. Harris (Premier): I think a lot of people are concerned when there are changes being made. You have used the very incorrect figure of $1 billion, which would be about 8% of the taxes collected now by municipalities. We think your $1 billion is all wet, that when you look at the year 2000, of $6.2 billion in education, we believe that municipalities will find their costs will, if not stay the same, go down and that there will be savings there for them to go down.

Nobody knows for sure how much they'll be able to cut taxes. It obviously depends on various municipalities across the province. What we have heard is a number concerned about whether there's an uneven impact of the changes --

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Answer, please.

Hon Mr Harris: -- and we're certainly willing to sit down. We have a year to work this out with our partners and I'm quite confident we'll be able to do that.

Mr McGuinty: Premier, you've got to admit that there is virtually universal condemnation for what you're doing. You can't ignore the fact that municipalities right across the province are starting to calculate now and come up with their own numbers. You would not or could not produce the numbers, so municipalities have taken it upon themselves to come up with numbers.

Kingston has determined that additional costs to it will be in the neighbourhood of $23 million; Brantford, $18.5 million; Niagara, $43 million; Sudbury, $105 million; and in Ottawa they're looking at $500 in new property taxes per household.

You can't just dump costs on property taxes so you can cut income taxes. Not only is it intellectually dishonest, it's unfair to our seniors and our poor. I want to ask you again: Are you going to back down? Would you reconsider? Would you forget your plan to dump more than $1 billion on to property taxpayers and go back to the drawing board?

Hon Mr Harris: Let me just set the record straight on a few things. We don't plan to dump any costs over and above the tax capacity that's there for municipalities. As I have said --


Mr Frank Miclash (Kenora): There is only one taxpayer.

The Speaker: Order. Member for Kenora, come to order.

Hon Mr Harris: -- that is there, along with the education coming off the property tax, somewhere in the order of -- I have the figure here -- $11.5 billion. What we are working towards is having that $11.5 billion that is now being collected in property taxes and available exclusively for municipalities -- our goal is to make sure that when we finish the transfers we have, we do not increase that capacity. What we believe is that by sorting out and with the efficiencies that are there, that will allow municipalities to reduce that $11.5-billion --

The Speaker: Thank you. Final supplementary.

Mr McGuinty: Premier, you don't have to believe what I'm saying, but of the dozen or so municipalities that have crunched the numbers, not a single one has been able to determine there are going to be fewer costs. In fact they've all come up with additional costs. The Toronto board of trade calculates from the business perspective that small businesses in Metro are going to have to pay as much as $7,900 more each year in property tax. Brantford Mayor Chris Friel said you were "insulting the intelligence of every taxpayer in the province" when you talk about property tax decreases.


If you won't listen to me and you won't listen to the business community, listen to your backbenchers. The members from Hamilton, when they saw the numbers in Hamilton-Wentworth, said --


Mr McGuinty: Well, ask them how they feel about the $121-million increase in new property taxes the people in Hamilton-Wentworth are going to have to withstand this coming year. Tell me how increasing property taxes is consistent with the Common Sense Revolution. Tell me how adding $1 billion to property taxes is common sense.

Hon Mr Harris: It is not consistent with the Common Sense Revolution and that is why it will not happen. What is consistent with this government is lower taxes: lower property taxes, lower income taxes, lower payroll taxes. The only thing that higher property taxes is consistent with is the record of the Liberal government from 1985 to 1990, when 231 municipalities had mill rate increases of 40% or more: Lakefield 82%, Port Hope 69%, Oshawa 67%, Temagami 61%, Whitby 57%, and so on and so on. That's the only consistent record of massive property tax hikes; that was from the Liberal government. Under our government we would expect property taxes to go down.


Mr Dalton McGuinty (Leader of the Opposition): My second question is also for the Premier. What you're doing, and I'm sure you understand this, is moving essential services, through which we care for our most vulnerable, back on to the property taxpayer. This is something that we have taken decades to move away from. You're turning over the care for our chronically ill seniors to our municipalities. You are telling our smallest towns that they are responsible for ensuring poor children get the food and clothing and shelter they need. Why are you going against the recommendations of every expert who has ever addressed this subject? Why are you dumping responsibility for the poor and seniors' health care on municipalities?

Hon Michael D. Harris (Premier): We are asking, in exchange for $6.2 billion of tax relief on education, for our municipal partners to share in the delivery and costs of human services, those services to help people who need help. They already are involved in a number of those areas, as you very well know, and I think Mr Crombie recommended that they be even more involved. Mr Crombie talked about some funding, about who would pay for things.

There are two things here: There is who does what, and we believe and agree with Crombie that closest to the people you will find the best compassionate decisions made for people; and who funds what, which is a different issue. We think 50-50 is a very fair way to do that. I can tell you that under our proposals we'll have better services, helping more people, without the massive property tax increases we had when you were in power.

Mr McGuinty: So we're very, very clear on this, Crombie, handpicked by you, an expert on this matter, who spent considerable time studying it, recommended against this. He said you don't transfer welfare and long-term care into property taxes. That's your own expert.

Let's talk about the numbers for a minute. By your own admission, there is $1 billion in new costs being dumped on the property taxpayers, but you're only providing $300 million to cover those new costs, and that's because you've killed a $700-million fund. When it nets out, the $300 million is all that's available to cover the new costs. That's a difference of $700 million. When you add the Crombie numbers, that's when you come up with a total net cost, factoring in all of your rainy day funds, of a billion new tax dollars to be added to property taxes throughout the province. Municipalities are going to be able to do a lot of things under this new regime, but one thing they're not going to be able to do is print money. Given that you're shortchanging municipalities by more than $1 billion, how can you possibly expect them to provide these essential services?

Hon Mr Harris: Mr Crombie recommended that municipalities deliver welfare, closest to the people making those decisions.


The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Premier.

Hon Mr Harris: Mr Crombie recommended that municipalities deliver welfare services. He felt that was the government closest to the people, that they would know the files better, that they could deliver the services most efficiently. Given the $6.2 billion in tax capacity, because we will now fund 100% of education off the residential property tax, what we have determined is that we should fund it 50-50, that we should be partners in making decisions and in developing the programs, and in addition to that, the province would pick up any significant upside liability with a special fund.

Of course what happened under the Liberals, because they would not be so generous with municipalities, is property taxes went up 160% in Mattawan township, 39% --


The Speaker: Thank you. I think it's probably safe to give the entire Liberal caucus a warning at this point in time rather than picking and choosing. I'd ask you to come to order. It's difficult to hear the answers and it's better --

Mrs Sandra Pupatello (Windsor-Sandwich): We get a different answer every day, Mr Speaker.

The Speaker: With the greatest respect, I'm not going to have a debate and it's really out of order to heckle the Speaker. That really sets it down right there. Final supplementary.

Mr McGuinty: Again for the record, David Crombie begged you, he pleaded with you not to download social services on to municipalities because he fully understood both the economic and social implications of so doing. You obviously do not. Let's recap.

You tried to fool the people into thinking that this was going to be a wash for municipalities. That has proved to be untrue. You tried to tell us property taxes were going to go down by 10%. That clearly is not the case. You said there was a new $1-billion fund, but when you subtract the old $700-million fund it turns out that your $1-billion fund is in fact only $300 million. You said there was a rainy-day fund for welfare, but we now find out municipalities are going to have to pay for it.

Premier, nothing your government has told us in the last two weeks has turned out to be true. I'm going to ask you again: Will you forget this madness? Will you go back to the drawing board -- take all the time you need; this is very important stuff we're talking about --

The Speaker: Thank you, leader. Premier.

Hon Mr Harris: Quite frankly, I want to say directly to the leader of the Liberal Party and to all who are watching that it is your complete lack of understanding of the numbers that led to the $10-billion, $11-billion deficit in this province, that led to massive property tax increases, that led to income tax increases, corporate tax increases.

Mr Gerry Phillips (Scarborough-Agincourt): That is a distortion of reality. That is a lie.

Hon Mr Harris: Listen, we are prepared to be judged by the numbers. What we are doing by the year 2000 will lead to the kind of capacity that we believe property taxes can be reduced, in some cases up to 10%, which is totally contrary to all the misinformation that you are talking about across this province.

The Speaker: I'd ask the member for Scarborough-Agincourt to withdraw that comment that he put on the record.

Mr Phillips: In deference to you, Mr Speaker, I withdraw it.



Mr Howard Hampton (Rainy River): My question is also for the Premier. It's about a memo that the Ministry of Municipal Affairs has put out to employees in that ministry, employees who staff the telephones and deal with complaints and calls that come in about your megacity proposal and your downloading.

What's amazing about this memo is that it says that staff are supposed to tick whether someone's in favour of megacity or against it and staff are supposed to tell callers that their comments are going to be passed along, meaning into the minister's office, but then further down in the memo it says: "Do not fill out any call forms. Do not document any comments. Do not pass on any concerns or criticisms you hear. Do not forward any comments. Never promise a call back." Don't you think it's a bit dishonest of your government to be telling people who are concerned about these issues that their comments are going to be passed on and then you --

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Thank you.

Hon Michael D. Harris (Premier): I'm sure the minister has a perfectly logical explanation for what you speak about.

Hon Al Leach (Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing): It's only common sense, which is probably why the member across doesn't understand it. Certainly we want to get information from callers. Yes, we ask them if they have any comments on the amalgamation of the city of Toronto and I want that information passed back to me. It's important that we know what people think, and because the members opposite won't put second reading through so that we can get to debate and have public hearings on this issue, we're relying a lot on phone calls directly to us from the general public.

Mr Hampton: The Premier obviously doesn't appreciate the importance of this and the minister just contradicted his own memo. I'll read the memo for you again. It says, "The minister's office has been swamped." This memo tells your staff who are answering the phones, "When somebody calls up, tell them that their comments are going to be passed on, tell them that their comments and concerns are important," but then later on in the memo it says, "Don't fill out any comment forms, don't pass on any comments, don't pass anything on, don't tell them they'll get a call back."

Minister, you were cited for contempt in this House last week. Now we've got a memo from your ministry that is being completely dishonest with citizens. It's telling them that their concerns are important and then it says later on, "Don't pass on any comments." Who's right, you or your memo?

The Speaker: Leader of the official opposition, I appreciate the fact that you're talking about a memo being completely dishonest, but with due respect, that directly reflects back on the minister and the ministry.

Mr Hampton: Speaker, maybe you could help me out here.

The Speaker: You can only help me at this point in time, and you can help my by withdrawing the comment about being completely dishonest.

Mr Hampton: Speaker, I withdraw the comment about being completely dishonest.

I want to ask the minister, who is right here, them or you?

The Speaker: That's fine. We're now at the minister's part.

Hon Mr Leach: The member is holding up a piece of paper that I personally haven't seen, but I know that the staff at the ministry have been asked to take messages on amalgamation. There is a lot of interest being shown by the people of Toronto, and as soon as we can go out to hearings and have public debate, they'll have an opportunity to come and personally ask members of this Legislature about our proposals. In the meantime, I still encourage my staff to take calls, to take messages and provide the information to my office.

Mr Hampton: We've shown this memo to a few people and we've asked them, "What would you conclude from this?" I know the Premier doesn't take this issue seriously, but I think you should, Minister. I really think you should in view of last week.

Are you prepared now to completely withdraw this memo? Are you prepared to admit that this is deceptive, telling people that their comments and concerns are important but then instructing staff not to pass on any comments, not to pass on any concerns, to treat the whole thing like a public relations matter? Are you prepared to say that's completely wrong and are you prepared to start listening to the people of Toronto? Are you finally prepared to start listening to them instead of trying to snow them?

Hon Mr Leach: I can assure the member opposite that I will continue to encourage my staff to take messages and to pass that information on, and I will also try and get the members opposite to pass second reading of this bill so that when the member says, "Give the people of Ontario and the people of the GTA and the people of Toronto an opportunity to take part in the debate, provide us with their information, provide us with their comments, tell us about their concerns," we'll be able to do it, instead of blocking it at every step, instead of interfering with the democratic process. Just get out there, put this bill through second reading so that we can get out to the people of this province.

The Speaker: New question.

Mr Hampton: I would just say to the minister that I think this memo shows contempt for the public, but I'm not surprised at that, coming from you.


Mr Howard Hampton (Rainy River): My question is to the Premier. Last week, while people were trying to deal with your mega-download announcements, you quietly launched another attack on the environment, on human rights, on pay equity and on workers' rights. You released this report. You call it Cutting the Red Tape, but I read through your report, and some of the things that are in it are truly disturbing.

Let's take the Human Rights Code and let's take a woman who has been the victim of sexual harassment. We know that the Ontario Human Rights Commission is swamped with complaints now, but you're planning in your so-called red tape review to make it even harder for a victim of sexual harassment to file a complaint. There will be new time lines and she will bear the onus of proof. I call that punishing the victim. Can you tell me, Premier, how making it more difficult for someone who is the victim of sexual harassment is cutting red tape?

Hon Michael D. Harris (Premier): The minister responsible for the Human Rights Commission is not here today, but let me assure you of a couple of things. The red tape commission reviewed a number of ministries, a number of regulations, a number of procedures to see if we couldn't streamline them to make it more efficient, to make it better, particularly in this case, and easier to understand for women, for those who may be making a complaint, and these are recommendations to the ministry and to the government.

Probably that recommendation was made because the backlog and the lack of access to the Human Rights Commission under the former government was probably the biggest disgrace to human rights in this province, and so we have looked, and we encouraged the red tape commission to look at the procedures that were there: Can we help those who have complaints? Can we help them better? Can we streamline the process to deal with this horrendous backlog, which in effect was justice denied under the NDP government. So we'll look at those --

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

Mr Hampton: Premier, I would say to you, don't be patronizing to women and other people who have to deal with these issues. What you're doing is making it much more difficult for them to bring a complaint before the Human Rights Commission. You are making it more difficult for victims of sexual harassment and other human rights issues.


Let's just move on to pay equity. Your report also says that you would change the regulations so workplaces where you've got 100 employees or less would not be subject to pay equity. What this means is that women who work in those businesses would in effect be pushed into wage ghettos. Can you explain to me how pushing women into wage ghettos is removing red tape, how denying fair pay to women has got anything to do with red tape? Can you explain that?

Hon Mr Harris: You come up with probably the silliest of accusations and ask me to explain. I can't explain how your silly mind works. I can't explain how you think that is anti-women. I can't explain any of that. Only you can explain that.


The Speaker: It's tough to rule when you can't have order. To the Premier, it certainly isn't parliamentary to refer to anyone in that fashion. I ask you to withdraw.

Hon Mr Harris: I would certainly withdraw either "silly" or "mind" or both, whatever you say, Speaker.


The Speaker: Order. Are you on a point of privilege or order, or are you just heckling at large? I'm sorry?

Mr Tony Martin (Sault Ste Marie): On a point of privilege, Mr Speaker: Either he withdraws or he doesn't. You use the same measure for them as you do for us.

The Speaker: With all due respect, the member for Sault Ste Marie, the words were there, they were withdrawn and in fact it was in order. The tenor and the tone I can't control, and you're asking me to; it's impossible. It was withdrawn as far as I'm concerned.


Mr Hampton: I'll read the recommendation. It's not in my mind; it's recommendation 114 in a report your government has put out: "Amend relevant sections of the Pay Equity Act to exempt either small employers (fewer than 50 employees) or preferably small and medium-sized employers (fewer than 100 employees) from its application" -- in other words, do away with pay equity for women where there are 100 employees or less. You're right, it's silly. It's incredibly damaging.

I want to ask you about the environment. You also say you want to relax regulations on the storage and transport of PCBs; you want to make recycling voluntary for industry; you want to reduce testing of industrial sewage that can find its way into our drinking water. Premier, can you tell me how attacking the environment and allowing more pollution has anything to do with red tape? Can you tell us that, please?

Hon Mr Harris: You know, we had a red tape commission to review all the regulations, not the purpose. The purpose of the regulation is to protect the environment. When it comes to pay equity, which was part of your question, this government, upon taking office, added money to pay equity. We're paying more money now, added to it, the budget for pay equity, higher than the New Democratic Party, at the same time as we inherited an $11-billion deficit, so we are looking: Are there ways that we can streamline the regulation on the environment so we protect the environment? We'd like our dollars to go directly to people who need help. We want to fight pollution. We want to fight those areas that are there. We just don't want to waste money on it.

Mr Hampton: Allow more pollution, force women into wage ghettos, deny women fair pay, that's what you're all about. Deny women fair pay, pollute the environment.

Hon Mr Harris: So while the member busts a gasket interjecting and screaming and yelling --

The Speaker: The leader of the third party, I want you to come to order, and it's a warning. You must let the answer be put. Premier.

Hon Mr Harris: While the member screams and yells about pay equity, if you'd like to put our record and the amount of dollars we're putting into pay equity against yours, go ahead. We're spending more on pay equity, and have increased the budget, than any government in the history of Ontario, and I think you're going to find that when it comes to protecting the environment, this government will take a back seat to nobody in the country and nobody certainly in this Legislature.


Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): My question is for the Premier. Last week your government was found in contempt of the Legislature by the Speaker of the House for engaging in self-serving, blatantly partisan Conservative government propaganda ads. In his ruling the Speaker said, and I quote:

"I feel that it is wrong for a government to attempt to influence public opinion through advertising that is paid for with public funds -- which, I might add, are not available to the opposition -- instead of through debate in this House."

Despite this ruling, a series of clearly partisan propaganda ads funded by the ministry of Municipal Affairs and the Ministry of Education and paid for by taxpayers continue to appear on our TV screens. Premier, will you now do what is right: withdraw these TV ads immediately, save Ontario taxpayers the hundreds of thousands of dollars you are squandering on this propaganda and respect the ruling of the impartial Speaker of the Ontario Legislature?

Hon Michael D. Harris (Premier): We take the Speaker's ruling very seriously. I think he ruled there was a prima facie case with regard to one pamphlet. I think he also indicated he reviewed the TV ads and found them quite in order. I might add, not only are they in order, but the total government advertising bill will be less than half what it was in any year that the Liberal government was in power.

Mr Bradley: Premier, you and your spin doctors have tried to narrow this to one pamphlet, to one piece of propaganda, when everybody is talking about your entire propaganda ad campaign. Every time taxpayers in this province see your face on the television set in self-serving government ads, reading the propaganda on the teleprompter, they should know they are paying the shot.

The Speaker of this House has found your government in contempt of the Legislature because of a propaganda pamphlet produced and circulated by your government at a cost of approximately $300,000 to Ontario taxpayers. Remember, you were going to be different. You're the penny-pincher. You're the Taxfighter. Will you now ask the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario to reimburse the taxpayers of this province for that $300,000 ad put out by the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and condemned by the Speaker of this House?

Hon Mr Harris: I would like to read into the record what Mr Speaker said. He said this: "On the contrary, the commercial" -- the commercial you are referring to -- "does nothing more than explain in a simple and general way the government's philosophy and its broad reform agenda." He is of the view that that is quite in order and quite legitimate.

We are very different from the Liberals. In the last year you were in power you spent $22 million on government advertising. We will spend less than half that amount of money. And by the way, I would say we're explaining much more positive programs than you were trying to rationalize away for $22 million.


Mr Tony Silipo (Dovercourt): My question is to the Premier. Almost everyone is realizing that your scheme to download services on to the property tax base is a disaster. What's startling and what's interesting is the number of voices that are coming in opposition to your scheme from good, solid Tories.

We had a slew of them last week. On Friday Gordon Chong was on Studio 2, saying that your mega-download of social services would cost Metro taxpayers $1 billion. The day before, he joined the board of trade and the United Way in a press conference, both of those groups calling on you to drop your download, saying it will lead to big property tax hikes that would drive both businesses and homeowners away. Then on Friday even the 905 mayors -- that's the home of most of your backbench members -- said your mega-download is all wrong and should be abandoned.

With all these voices, particularly these Tory voices, coming to understand what is going on, have you finally understood how wrong it is to download welfare and other social services on to the property tax base?

Hon Michael D. Harris (Premier): Let me assure you, we listen to all voices. We don't ask people when they phone or write in, "Are you Liberal, Tory, NDP or any other?" We listen to all voices. We listen to the London Free Press: "Downloading responsibility is good for democracy. Local government is closer, more responsive to the voters." We listen to -- I think York region feels it will lead to a tax cut or less costs for the region. I think I heard that on Friday.


But what's most important is that the changes we are talking about presume a couple of things: One, the status quo is not acceptable. Clearly all the municipalities, all the parents with children in school, all the taxpayers told us that, and they told you that loud and clear in the last election: that the status quo needs to be changed and we have to find better solutions.

The second thing is that, come 1998, 1999 and 2000 as we implement these changes, we have committed to municipalities that we're prepared to work with them to ensure there is no added pressure on --

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Premier, thank you. Supplementary.

Mr Silipo: Premier, we will see whether you listen to all voices. But knowing that you don't listen to all voices, I thought it would be useful to bring to your attention those voices that you might indeed listen to.

Nobody is talking about defending the status quo, Premier. I know that you like to keep going back on that horse because it allows you to then justify in your mind at least all of the cuts and all of the slashing that you do, which you're doing only and foremost to be able to fund the tax cut. That's the only reason you're into this game.

More and more of your political friends are realizing that's what you're doing, and they're saying, "It's wrong." We all agree that changes need to come about, but more and more of your friends are also saying that downloading social services on to the property tax base is the worst thing you could be doing.

Premier, will you come to your senses? Will you realize that is wrong and will you retreat from that stupid course of action that you embarked upon?

The Speaker: Order. I think what we're trying to do here is maintain a level of debate that is beneficial to this place. "Stupid course of action" I think doesn't bode well as the Premier's comments didn't bode well to your leader. I would ask the member for Dovercourt to withdraw and let us try and rise above those kinds of comments.

Mr Silipo: I withdraw that comment, Speaker, if you find it unparliamentary. I would just ask the Premier, will you withdraw from that ill-advised course of action?

Hon Mr Harris: Thank you very much, Mr Speaker. It is indeed that you're asking us to go back to the status quo.

Mr Silipo: We are not, and you know it.

Hon Mr Harris: I thought you would since you were the government of the status quo. That was your policy. If even you are saying that the status quo and the way you governed was terrible, fine, I accept that, and I thank you for realizing that a year and a half too late.

But what I think is important is this: We have to make some changes and what we have committed to do is to make sure that we will consult with municipalities. We'll work this out with them over the next year or two or three. Some things will take two or three years to phase in and we're very confident that (a) the public will get better services and (b) we will lessen the burden on the property taxpayer.

I would say with respect to the income tax cut that it will be financing itself. You will see when the figures come in for the end of the year that the revenues to the government of Ontario in spite of the tax rate reductions will actually be higher, the reverse of what it was under the NDP.


The Speaker: Thank you, Premier.


The Speaker: You promised me no more heckling, member for Lake Nipigon.

New question, member for Nepean.


Mr John R. Baird (Nepean): My question is to the Minister of Community and Social Services. One of the greatest challenges every society faces is how it can address the needs of its most vulnerable citizens. Irrespective of party or ideology, I know that every member and every citizen across Ontario would like to see us alleviate child poverty in our province.

Recently, we've heard a great deal about the federal government and the provinces meeting to discuss a national child benefit to help alleviate child poverty in Canada. Could the minister inform the House what the position of the government of Ontario is with respect to the creation of a national income support benefit for children?

Hon Janet Ecker (Minister of Community and Social Services): I'd like to thank the honourable member for the question. Ontario is looking forward to continuing the discussions we're having with our other provinces and Ottawa. We're meeting again tomorrow as we try and narrow down the options to actually have a child benefit in this country that might well help address the issue of poverty of children. I must say it has been a remarkably non-partisan exercise that we have been engaged in.

One of the things we are trying to ensure as we move forward with this is that it continues the incentive to make sure that families can get into the workforce, be working and not pay any penalties. The other concern, of course, is that some of the administrative options that were being looked at, because of their complexity, would actually mean we would be lowering our welfare rates in Ontario to try and match this benefit from Ottawa. I don't think that's an appropriate step for us to take. I look forward to working further with them on this. It's a very important initiative.

Mr Baird: Some other provinces have stated that they already have introduced a child benefit for children. Could the minister tell this House if those initiatives in other provinces have made a difference and how they compare with the province of Ontario.

Hon Mrs Ecker: Yes, some of the provinces have attempted to do a child benefit on their own. I think it's worth noting, however, for example in British Columbia, that with some of the work they have done a sole-support mother on welfare with two children, even with their additional benefit, would still obtain more benefits here in Ontario than they would get in BC. I think also we have one of the most generous earning exemptions for those on social assistance, to encourage and keep them and get them into the workforce.

There are a number of things we have been doing: the child nutrition program, our healthy babies initiative, the money we've allocated for pre-school children with speech and language difficulties. There are a number of initiatives we have undertaken. We hope we can come to an agreement among the provinces and Ottawa that will allow us to improve and make even better the programs we want to have for children in poverty.


Mrs Lyn McLeod (Fort William): My question is for the Premier. Premier, Thunder Bay businesses are absolutely reeling from your double whammy. They now know that they're going to have to pay their share of a municipal property tax hike that will be a minimum of 20%. That increase could be as high as 40%, depending on how much of the municipal support grants you took away Thunder Bay is able to beg back from you. Now our businesses have realized that on top of this huge increase in property tax that will result from your government's unique version of a mega-dump, they will still be paying for education taxes. Premier, do you have any idea at all of the impact of this huge property tax increase on small businesses and on jobs?

Hon Michael D. Harris (Premier): We expect no tax increases, unlike the 40% under your party, and therefore it will be a positive impact on jobs across the province, including Thunder Bay.

Mrs McLeod: I think both the Premier and the Minister of Finance should stop talking about the sheer myth of property taxes decreasing, because every community that is looking at its numbers is seeing the kind of increases in property tax that Thunder Bay is seeing. The reality in Thunder Bay is a minimum of 21% and as much as 40% if we can't get back a little bit of the support grants you've taken away. Businesses understand that is on top of their continuing to pay property taxes to support education.

The Thunder Bay Chamber of Commerce understands the impact, Premier, if you don't. They have said very clearly: "The impact on local business will be severe. We are just starting to turn our community around. We do not need this additional tax."

Small business in my community means jobs. We have already been devastated by your job cuts. If small businesses in our community can't survive this property tax increase, we'll lose even more jobs. Are you so desperate for dollars to pay for your tax cut that you don't care how many jobs are lost?

Hon Mr Harris: I want the member, who I know cares very much about businesses and jobs in her community, to be able to go back with a great deal of confidence and tell the municipality that unlike your government nothing we are doing will put pressure on their property tax.



Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): I have a question of the Premier. Too many questions remain about the sequence of events that led to the shooting of Dudley George at Ipperwash last September. The faxes your office published from the member for Lambton to your office give a broad outline of the government's role leading up to that tragic event. One fax that the member for Lambton sent to your office just before the shooting had attached to it a letter from a constituent who referred to natives as "hooligans" and urged the government not to back down. The quote was: "If people are hurt, so be it.... all levels of government have adopted a non-confrontational approach when faced with natives.... This must stop."

The member for Lambton said he totally agreed with that.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Thank you. To the member, I'm sorry and I appreciate it, but we all get the same amount of time for questions and I must put it.

Mr Wildman: Well, there is not a question I have put, Mr Speaker.

The Speaker: Well, then, Premier.

Hon Michael D. Harris (Premier): I think we would all agree that the shooting in the Ipperwash incident is one that concerns us all, is something nobody is very happy about, obviously, particularly this government, acting, as all governments have, in as fair and as reasonable a way as we can in these situations.

As the member is aware, there are criminal charges that have been laid as a result of the shooting. We will await the outcome of those charges before any further action is taken. If at that particular point in time it is deemed appropriate, if there's more information we believe could particularly avoid anything like this ever happening again, then we'd be prepared to take further action at that time.

Mr Wildman: The member for Lambton was quoting, in agreement, the statement, "If people are hurt, so be it." Could the Premier clarify for us if anyone in the government ordered the immediate removal or arrest of the natives as a result of this advocating by the member for Lambton. Also, could the Premier please explain what the fax means when Mr Beaubien says, "I can take the heat -- but will not be the fall guy." The member for Lambton has refused to explain what that means, what he was saying he would not be the fall guy for. I assume the Premier has read this fax, since it went to his office. What did the member for Lambton mean when he said he would not be the fall guy? The fall guy for what?

Hon Mr Harris: You have to ask Mr Beaubien that. I would assume he meant for anything that takes place there. Nobody was asking him to be the fall guy for anything. Nobody is the fall guy. Nobody gives direction to the police, certainly not I, not the Solicitor General and certainly not a member of caucus. But I can tell you this: The member for Lambton had very grave concerns about the safety of natives and non-natives within his riding during a very tense situation around the Ipperwash situation that took place a year ago September.

I think he was frustrated. He didn't want anybody, native or non-native, to be hurt. He was trying to let people in the government know of his concern. We were aware he was concerned. I was concerned. All of Ontario was concerned. Natives were concerned. But to suggest that any member of this government would ever give direction to police on how to carry out their duties is irresponsible.


Hon Elizabeth Witmer (Minister of Labour): I am pleased to rise and respond to a question which the member for Hamilton Centre posed on Tuesday, January 21, concerning an issue relating to the Ministry of Labour investigation into two fatalities which occurred at Dofasco in Hamilton on January 17. It is my understanding that the employee co-chair of the Steel Cat Task Force Incorporated Joint Health and Safety Committee is participating in this investigation.

Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): I appreciate the response from the minister. I would point out to the minister, however, that it's my understanding that these actions you announced today didn't take place until after I'd raised this with you in the House. I've since met with members of the Steelworkers union as well as members of the families of the workers who died there and they're not satisfied to date with the action of your ministry and they're certainly not satisfied with your refusal to acknowledge that you'll call an inquest. We need an inquest into the two deaths that tragically took place at Dofasco in Hamilton and we need you to announce that today on their behalf.

You've got a record of not caring about injured workers. You've gutted the WCB, you've eliminated the Workplace Health and Safety Agency, you've taken away rights under the Employment Standards Act and you announced the other day that you're watering down the right to refuse unsafe work. Today I understand you refused to meet with 30 injured workers who already had an appointment with you. Minister, that's your track record and that's why nobody believes you're sincere.

Hon Mrs Witmer: It's unfortunate that you pursue that line of rhetoric. As you well know, we are trying and we are doing what no other government has done before to make the workplaces in this province among the safest in the world. We've indicated that we are setting targets. We are actually travelling to other parts of the world because other countries are recognizing that the initiatives we're going to take are going to save lives and are going to prevent injuries and illnesses --

Mr Christopherson: What a lot of garbage. Nobody believes you. All you've done is take away rights from workers.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Member for Hamilton Centre, I ask you to withdraw those comments. They're certainly not parliamentary.

Mr Christopherson: I withdraw the comments.

Hon Mrs Witmer: I would just conclude by saying there's a very intensive and extensive investigation taking place at Dofasco, and certainly at the end of the day recommendations will be made.


Mr Rick Bartolucci (Sudbury): My question is to the Premier. Your government's dumping of responsibilities on to northern municipalities has everyone in the north in shock. Your Minister of Northern Development and Mines's announcement last week in Sault Ste Marie has done little to appease the fears that we have in the north. The more you talk today, the more we see that you really don't have any type of strategy to offset the extra costs.

Premier, will you guarantee today that Thunder Bay will get back the extra $15.2 million this dumping is going to cost them, that the city of Sudbury will get the extra $13.1 million it's going to cost them, that the regional municipality of Sudbury will get the extra $105.4 million that your dumping is going to cost the region? Will you tell the House today that they will get this money back, that your mega-dumping will cost them 0% in a tax increase?

Hon Michael D. Harris (Premier): We've been very clear that we believe that any changes -- us paying for education, the municipalities paying a bigger share of welfare -- will in fact have zero impact on taxes, and then we have indicated, as we work our way through that over the next year or two, that to deal with any discrepancies that may be there we've allocated $2.5 billion.

Mr Bartolucci: That really doesn't appease the fears of the people in the north.

On December 19 your Minister of Northern Development and Mines and your Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing mutually agreed that it costs more money to deliver services in the north, approximately 16.2% more to provide these services. Will you tell us today, tell the people of the north, how much extra money it will cost the entire north because of this mega-dumping of responsibilities and how much extra money the entire north will receive because of this dumping? The people of the north don't want adjectives like "significant." We want to know how many real dollars it is costing the north and how many real dollars it is going to get back.

Hon Mr Harris: I would be happy to empower you to go back and tell them, and I will tell them directly and anybody who's watching, that we don't believe that these changes will cost one single dollar more to anybody in northern Ontario, in Toronto, in southern Ontario, in eastern Ontario or in western Ontario. We understand that some changes are taking place, and contrary to the 40% increase in property taxes when the Liberals were in power, we believe that property taxes will remain frozen in spite of inflation and perhaps decrease.

We're prepared to stand by our three- or four- or five-year record -- I don't want to prejudge how long we go before an election -- against your three- or four- or five-year record, apples to apples. Who downloaded on municipalities more than the Liberals? Nobody.



Mrs Marion Boyd (London Centre): For the Attorney General: You and your ministry keep trying to make the public believe that the problems you created by destroying the family support plan have been resolved, and it's just not the case for hundreds of families in this province. Take my constituent Cathy Richardson, two of whose three children are supposed to receive $400 per month. They did receive that under the support deduction order until November, when only $76 was received by FSP. Although the payor's employer has confirmed, and the FSP office confirmed on January 3, that the full amount was deducted, was sent to FSP and was cashed by FSP, Cathy and her children have received no money. Minister, you destroyed this plan. What do you say to Cathy and her children?

Hon Charles Harnick (Attorney General, minister responsible for native affairs): I have indicated that I cannot comment on individual cases. What I can say is that I believe that the family support plan, now the Family Responsibility Office, has a much brighter future than it's ever had before in the sense that we are now automating the way cheques are delivered to people. That wasn't the case before. We're now finally going to have an office that can chase people who aren't paying their family support orders, and we can do that with some success by suspending drivers' licences, by referring matters to credit bureaus, by getting private sector collection agencies involved.

What we're trying to do is take an office that has traditionally been losing $100 million a year and not collecting that money pursuant to orders and try to start collecting that money and getting the money to women and children. That's been a big problem with this plan since its inception, and we finally passed a bill in this Legislature that will permit us to collect the monies.

Mrs Boyd: The family support plan did not lose money at all. In fact, it made three times the amount of money that it cost to run that office.

You talk about automating this plan. Cathy Richardson is on a direct deposit system. That money came to the Family Responsibility Office and it has not gone to Cathy Richardson. It's gone somewhere, but it didn't go to her. You put all of your faith in this automation and it clearly isn't working. What's more, Cathy Richardson, once she contacted that office on January 3, has had a refusal consistently from that office to deal with her because they say they need 30 days to deal with her kind of situation and they won't speak to her until February 3.

It's a lot of nonsense that you've improved this plan. We bring up case after case where families do not have the money they need in order to feed themselves and clothe themselves and keep themselves in shelter, and you keep saying everything's fine. What do you say to all these people? What are you going to do about this situation?

Hon Mr Harnick: Nothing has ever been fine in the family support plan, now the Family Responsibility Office. When the member says that the family support plan made money, I don't think it was intended to make money. What it was intended to do was collect money for people who need it, who have orders, and the fact is that the orders haven't been complied with. Payors haven't been paying, and the reason they haven't been paying is because the plan has never had the authority to chase the people who aren't paying. Now we can suspend drivers' licences, we can refer these things to credit bureaus, we can get third-party collection agencies to go out and collect the money --


The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Order. If you want to have a little debate, you can do so outside. The member for London Centre, you have to come to order.

Hon Mr Harnick: We're trying to set up a plan that will effectively collect more money and that will put money in the hands of women and children, not a plan that every year was running $100 million behind in its collections.



Mr Rick Bartolucci (Sudbury): This petition is to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario. It's the first of many, I hope.

"Whereas the private member's bill introduced by Rick Bartolucci, MPP for the riding of Sudbury, limits the number of pupils that may be enrolled in a class in a school in Ontario; and

"Whereas this limit depends on the grade level of the class; and

"Whereas studies have concluded that there are clear benefits from smaller class sizes; and

"Whereas there is greater student involvement and interaction; and

"Whereas there is improved student performance; and

"Whereas there is the opportunity for greater individualization; and

"Whereas smaller class sizes allow for more varied and constructive education for students;

"Therefore, we, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to support this private member's bill as it enhances classroom education."

I affix my name to it as I agree with it.

The Deputy Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): We'll just wait for a minute. If members want to leave the House now, please do so. There are too many people standing.


Ms Marilyn Churley (Riverdale): I have a petition which reads:

"Stop Megacity Madness: Citizens Have Democratic Right to be Heard."

"To the Legislature of Ontario:

"Whereas `bigger government is not better' and the Mike Harris government has no right to dictate a megacity upon the citizens of Metro Toronto; and

"Whereas the megacity is being imposed on 2.3 million citizens in Metro Toronto without giving people a voice in the future of their cities and neighbourhoods; and

"Whereas a megacity could lead to mega property tax increases, mega user fees and mega cuts in services; and

"Whereas the Tories never proposed abolishing local government in favour of bigger government during the election campaign;

"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislature of Ontario as follows:

"To give the 2.3 million people in Metro Toronto a say in the future of their cities and stop the imposition of a megacity."

I will affix my signature to this petition.


Mr Dwight Duncan (Windsor-Walkerville): A petition to the Legislative Assembly from Ben Bennett and a group called No No in Guelph:

"We, the undersigned, urge the province to call an immediate halt to the tendering process for the proposed Hanlon Expressway/Wellington Street interchange project and instead implement modifications to the existing traffic signal system and add warning lights on the Hanlon Expressway."



Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): I have a petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.

"Whereas the Mike Harris government is attacking workers' compensation benefits and the rights of injured workers; and

"Whereas Tory plans include taking $15 billion from injured workers and giving $6 billion to employers, including the government's rich corporate friends; and

"Whereas Cam Jackson, the former Minister without Portfolio with responsibility for gutting the WCB, refused to hold public hearings, choosing to meet secretly with business and insurance industry representatives; and

"Whereas the WCB has about $7.6 billion in assets and its unfunded liability has been steadily shrinking; and

"Whereas the Jackson report and WCB legislation are just part of a coordinated attack on occupational health and safety protections for working families in Ontario; and

"Whereas Tory plans also include abolition of the internationally respected Occupational Disease Panel; and

"Whereas the government needs to hear the message that taking money from injured workers and lowering incentives for employers to make workplaces safer is not the way to make Ontario a better place to live or work;

"Therefore, we, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to hold full, province-wide public hearings on WCB reform; to listen to the voice of the people calling for improved occupational health and safety protection; and to tell the Tory government to call off its attack on the dignity and standard of living of injured workers and their families."

As I am in support of this petition, I add my name also.


Mr Mike Colle (Oakwood): I have a petition entitled Stop Megacity Madness: Citizens Have Democratic Right to be Heard.

"To the Legislature of Ontario:

"Whereas `bigger government is not better' and the Mike Harris government has no right to dictate a megacity upon the citizens of Metropolitan Toronto; and

"Whereas the megacity is being imposed on 2.3 million citizens in Metro Toronto without giving people a voice in the future of their cities and neighbourhoods; and

"Whereas a megacity could lead to mega property tax increases, mega user fees and mega cuts in services; and

"Whereas the Tories never promised abolishing local government in favour of bigger government during the election campaign;

"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislature of Ontario as follows:

"To give the 2.3 million people in Metro Toronto a say in the future of their cities and stop the imposition of a megacity."

I affix my name to this petition.


Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-Woodbine): This is a petition to the Legislature of Ontario.

"Whereas we, the undersigned, believe that helping reduce crime and abuse in our communities is our responsibility as employees of the Ministry of Correctional Services, as professionals in related fields and as concerned citizens;

"Closing institutions which provide specialized services to women and treatment to men does not achieve that goal;

"Physical, emotional and sexual abuse is often transmitted from one generation to the next, with tremendous cost to society;

"Treatment aimed at breaking the cycle must include the abuser so that another generation of children is not raised with the same destructive lessons;

"As Mr Ross Virgo stated, the Ontario Correctional Institute is `a therapeutic community known around the world for their techniques';

"Research statistics support anecdotal evidence that we are effective in changing abusive behaviour;

"A therapeutic community cannot exist in a superprison;

"Save victims and money by keeping what works open."

I have affixed my signature.


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

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

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

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

I have affixed my signature to it.


Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): I have a further petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario regarding the health and safety of workers in this province.

"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; and

"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."

Mr Speaker, I add my name to theirs.


The Deputy Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): The member for Oakwood.

Mr Mike Colle (Oakwood): Speaker, I move that we proceed to orders of the day.

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

Orders of the day.

Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-Woodbine): "All those in favour." There was a no.

The Deputy Speaker: I didn't hear a word.

All those in favour of the motion proposed by the member for Oakwood that we move to orders of the day? Is it agreed?

All those in favour will say "aye."

All those opposed will say "nay."

In my opinion, the ayes have it.

Call in the members; a 30-minute bell.

The division bells rang from 1506 to 1536.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Mr Colle has moved that we proceed to orders of the day.

All those in favour please rise and remain standing and be recognized by the Clerk.

Those opposed?

Clerk of the House (Mr Claude L. DesRosiers): The ayes are 76; the nays are 0.

The Speaker: We now proceed to orders of the day.



Resuming the adjourned debate on the motion for second reading of Bill 103, An Act to replace the seven existing municipal governments of Metropolitan Toronto by incorporating a new municipality to be known as the City of Toronto / Projet de loi 103, Loi visant à remplacer les sept administrations municipales existantes de la communauté urbaine de Toronto en constituant une nouvelle municipalité appelée la cité de Toronto.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): The member for Oakwood has the floor.

Mr Mike Colle (Oakwood): If I could continue where I left off a week ago, the one thing that is quite clear in all the media hype and all the propaganda about this megacity bill which is being proposed is that it is really a Trojan horse, and I think this government has itself exposed that the megacity bill is a Trojan horse for the most dramatic dumping of provincial responsibilities on to the property taxpayers of Metropolitan Toronto and all of Ontario.

Never in the history of this province have we had a provincial government that basically is walking away from its responsibility for care for seniors, care for the elderly; now it's going to be on the property tax. Welfare, social services, even family benefits are going to be on the property taxpayers of Metro. Public transit is going to be 100% on the taxpayers of Metro. Subsidized housing, social housing, is now going to be on the property tax. That is why this government has rushed into proposing this megacity, that is why they're doing this and that is why it's a package.

Bill 103 is part of this unprecedented offloading, dumping, downloading of provincial responsibilities on to those least able to pay, that is, the property taxpayers of Metropolitan Toronto.

That is why the government wants to ram this bill through. That is why the government, as you know, even tried to pre-empt debate on this. They tried to give the impression to the people of Toronto that this bill was already law. That is why the minister was found in contempt, because he tried to give the false impression that there's no use resisting, that there's no use fighting the megacity bill because this is a decree.

Where this is more evident is not only in the propaganda campaign which is trying to say that this proposal is already law, but even look at the bill itself. It has two unprecedented sections in it which impose a trusteeship over the 2.3 million people of Toronto and also a transition team of Tory technocrats which will oversee the government. Those two unprecedented impositions of trusteeship and the transition team are done without any public input; in other words, the day the bill was introduced, on December 17, the trustees took over their roles, just as that contemptible pamphlet went door to door almost the same day the bill was introduced and the Ministry of Municipal Affairs tried to tell people: "Don't debate this bill. Don't look for the other side of the story except the government decree as being law." That is why so many people are coming out against the megacity proposal, because in essence it is contrary to basic democratic due process.

I know this government always talks about a government that wants to hear from people and I know the members are offering referendum legislation, but listen to what the Minister of Municipal Affairs says about referendums. This was in the East York Mirror last week. It's called, "A Talk with Al Leach: Referendum Like Holding a Cuban Election."

The minister was asked, "What would it take for you to recognize the referendums?" This was the East York Mirror to the minister. You know what the minister replied? This is the minister who says he wants to hear from people. "In my view, a referendum is not democratic." That's what the minister said. He said: "It's like a Cuban election. You have one candidate to call the vote, so you have one question then you call a vote."

That is what is so upsetting to people, that even though the citizens of Metropolitan Toronto and all the six municipalities have said they want to hold the referendum, that they want to hear from people, the minister is saying the referendum is not democratic. He's saying, "We will ignore it," and his own Premier says he will ignore the referendum. That is why people are so upset. They're not upset about whether there are changes in boundaries; they're upset about their democratic rights being denied.

When a minister of a party that espouses referendums says, "In my view, a referendum is not democratic," you can see the stage they're setting. They're going to ignore, and they've said it categorically, the results of the referendum. They say: "We don't care what you say. Go ahead and do it. These are Cuban elections." That's what the minister is saying. That is at the heart of the opposition to this megacity imposition, forced amalgamation.

This is from a government that always says bigger government is bad government. This bill will introduce one of the biggest governments in Canada, the same size as Alberta, with one of the biggest bureaucracies that's going to oversee a budget of over $7 billion. They're saying that is better government because it's bigger. That's what they're saying.

Then it talks about layers. In the GTA we're going to have three layers of government in the 905 area. They're going to have local government, regional government and then the new GTA level, three levels of government they're imposing on the 905 area.

Inside Metro there are going to be about four or five; you can't stop counting. There's going to be the mega-layer, then there's going to be the GTA layer, then there are going to be appointed community councils, appointed neighbourhood councils under the control of the mega-councillors or the mega-mayor. So there's going to be more government, less accountability.

What this debate really gets to the heart of is that this government is doing this for one reason: They want to ensure that their dumping agenda is carried out. They want to dump over $1 billion on to the property taxpayers and they're dumping the most volatile services.

They're taking education, which is now more controllable because they've knocked off grade 13. They've knocked off junior kindergarten -- the demographics show there are going to be fewer young people in that category, so they've taken that over and they're going to control it out of Minister Snobelen's office.

What are they going to give to the property taxpayers of Ontario and of Metro? They're going to give homes for the aged, long-term care, transit, child care, welfare. Some of these services have gone up 200% or 300% in cost and will continue to escalate because the population is aging.

Then it's doubly unfair to Metro because Metro has most of the social housing in the GTA. They've got the greatest number of caseloads in welfare. They've got an aging infrastructure stock of housing that needs over $500 million in retrofits. They're dumping that on to the property taxpayer. No wonder the mayor of North York says that this megacity will bankrupt North York and its taxpayers, because never mind paying for social housing, they cannot afford to pay the millions needed to retrofit the housing this government is downloading and offloading on to the people, the taxpayers of Metropolitan Toronto.

The board of trade has unequivocally stated that this mega-dumping is going to imperil the most economically viable city in Canada. Last Thursday they had a press conference and said that the megacity and the mega-dumping will result in a $7,900 increase per business in Metro -- the board of trade. They also said "an average increase of $350 per property tax in Metro." That's what this package of megacity and mega-dumping will result in, a property tax explosion, and if you add that to the minister's, whatever he calls it, actual value, market value, mega-value assessment system --

Mr John Gerretsen (Kingston and The Islands): Current value.

Mr Colle: -- current value, he's just trying to change the name, but everybody knows what it is -- this new system of market value is going to impact again on hundreds of thousands of taxpayers in Metro. So you've got the double whammy of the dumping of all these services on to property tax, then a whole new property tax scheme.

The Minister of Finance and the Minister of Municipal Affairs have the numbers on each property in Metro neighbourhoods and they refuse to give out those numbers. Three impact studies show the property tax impacts in Metro, three studies that the Minister of Finance said are confidential cabinet documents.

We know what would happen if those three impact studies on the property tax increases were released. The public would see that this scheme, this megacity scheme with all the new taxes and so forth, is going to be, as the board of trade said, a fiscal disaster for Metropolitan Toronto. Even USA Today had an article last week saying:

"Isn't it ironic that just a month or two ago Toronto was proud of its new reputation as being the most livable city in the world and all of a sudden this megacity dumping is comparing Toronto to a bombed-out city?"


This is having reverberations right across North America, this mad agenda that doesn't add up, a mad agenda which is trying to do everything it can to block public input on this. That is why they don't want to listen to the referendum. That is why they try to do everything they can to just push propaganda at people, whether it's the KPMG report, which should have been written on Swiss cheese, it's got so many holes in it, or all the government ads or all the government propaganda that was done not according to proper procedures.

We know the government is trying to ram this thing through without the other side having its say. That's why the people of Metropolitan Toronto want the hearings to go out to the communities. They want them to go out to Etobicoke, North York, York, East York, Toronto, Scarborough. Let the hearings go out there, because they want to see and hear at first hand what this legislation will mean to their future community.

We can't get them to go out. They're saying, "Well, this is a central location; we have to have it here." The committee room here will only hold 50 people. I'm sure if you had a public meeting on this megacity proposal you would get hundreds and hundreds who want to be there to see and hear what the real facts are. That's why the government is afraid to take it out to the community, even though in the East York Mirror the minister was asked the question, "Is there a plan at this point to take these hearings on to the road to go to East York and Scarborough?" What did the minister say? Leach: "I'm sure we will do that. I agree to that. No problem."

We've heard him say that in the House, yet the House leader is saying, "No, we can't go out to the communities of East York and Scarborough because we've got television here." We should remind the House leader that television hookups are available in all the municipalities, in the city halls. We could easily do the television hookups and house 200, 300, 400 or 500 people who want to be there when their communities are being dismantled.

The hearings should be out in the public realm; they shouldn't just be contained here for a few hours a day, a couple of days a week. We want three, four, five weeks of hearings, every day of the week. They should be going out because the people are crying out. That's why every Monday night throughout this metropolitan area there are hundreds of people, if not thousands, trying to find out what is going on and what is going to happen to their city. Tonight again there will be another couple of thousand people at the Metropolitan United Church, and they will be there because they're very concerned about a government that's not listening, a government that won't listen to alternatives.

It's strange that this started off as a process where there were a lot of good alternatives out there, yet the minister is refusing to look at alternatives. There's one that's very clear and one that keeps coming out, and people ask, "Why won't the government look at it?" That is what Hazel McCallion is saying, it's what Greenberg is saying and it's what Anne Golden is saying, that you have to have a viable GTA government model along with independent, balanced cities that make up the federation within the GTA, and if you have this mega-monster in the middle, it doesn't work, because you've got one big giant with all the rest, so the balance doesn't work in the GTA, you don't have the competitive, innovative, flexible cities.

Why doesn't the government look at the process and allow for the process to get it out of this swamp it's in? Use the referendum as a way of finding out what people really want. Find out whether the people of Scarborough really want to be part of the megacity or want their independence. Use the referendum as a good way of finding out what people feel. Listen to the referendum. Maybe the majority in Scarborough or the majority in Etobicoke or the majority in North York will want to go one way or another. Use that as a way of shaping the new GTA. Maybe it comes down to being only two or three or four or five cities that want to be part of the GTA; they don't want the megacity.

Use the input. Use the scholarship of the Golden people who worked on it for about a year, use Greenberg and his recommendation about a balanced GTA and use the common, hard-nosed political sense of Hazel McCallion that says the megacity is a mega-mistake, that you have to have balanced cities that work together. That is the logical, rational way out. It could be done quickly, because most of that has been researched. It's been documented.

But you know why the government won't listen to Greenberg, won't listen to Golden, won't listen to McCallion? Because their agenda is simply to mega-dump their responsibility on the taxpayers. That's what they want to do. They want to dump welfare, social housing, child care and public transit on to the property taxpayers.

Therefore a balanced GTA that works cooperatively and works into the 21st century is going to be ruined by this government. In fact, this megacity proposal is going to create such an imbalance that it's going to create a chasm between the 905 and the 416. This exercise started off as a way of correcting that, but as the board of trade said, this now has turned into an exercise where the very future viability of Metro is in peril because of the pig-headed attitude this government has towards what is better for the GTA, what is better for the province and what is better for the citizens of Metropolitan Toronto.

The solutions are staring you right in the face. The options are there. They've been quantified. They've been essentially detailed by experts, from an academic sense and also from a political sense. These experts have said: "Go ahead and create new governance models but do it right. Do it where you take into account the fact that there is an economy for the whole GTA, but don't put more roadblocks between the cooperation between the 905 and the 416." This government is doing just the opposite. In fact, it is going to aggravate the thing even more.

Look at the costs that are being downloaded on Metro. This is the peril that Metro is in. It's ironic that the minister went to the board of trade to make his announcement, proclaiming the greatness of the megacity. On Thursday the board of trade had to come back and say: "Minister, your figures don't add up; your rationale makes no sense. You're going to destroy Metro."

Do you know why they said that? Because this minister is going to dump $290 million of general welfare on to the property taxpayers of Metro; $350 million of family benefits costs on to the property taxpayers; $200 million in long-term care being dumped on to the property taxpayers; $369 million worth of housing, and that doesn't include the hundreds of millions they'll need to retrofit the housing in Metro. TTC, child care -- $51 million -- hostels, ambulance service: All dumped on the property taxpayers of Metropolitan Toronto.

As you know, David Crombie in his report was unequivocal, saying, "This is the worst thing you can do"; that is, dump the most volatile of services on to the property taxpayer. As you know, the property tax is the most regressive of taxes, so what you'll do is put the most volatile services on to the property taxpayers.

This taking education off is basically letting the province off the hook, because they can just control one thing. The municipalities and the property taxpayers are going to have to find out how to control the cost of long-term care. All the professionals in this field say this is utter madness, asking municipal property taxpayers to control the cost of long-term care and to fund it.


This is a ticking tax time bomb for Metropolitan Toronto. That's what megacity is. It's the most destructive package ever unloaded on a city in North America. This is something they wouldn't even do in New Jersey, Louisiana or Alabama. Only here in Ontario we've got this government running amok with some kind of backroom rejigging of basic, sound economics which says you can't unload soft services that are so volatile on to the property taxpayers.

This is again a situation that has made Conservatives like Joyce Trimmer, Gordon Chong, supporters of the megacity like Metro Chairman Alan Tonks say this is going to be a tax explosion for Metropolitan Toronto. The board of trade, again, I might mention how much they supported the government until they realized what the hidden agenda was behind megacity. The hidden agenda is basically to dump, offload provincial responsibilities on to the property taxpayers of Metropolitan Toronto. We've heard accounts of what it's going to be all across Ontario, not to mention what it'll be in Metro.

Let me quote again from the fact that there are so evident solutions in this process. What is most disturbing is that there's no chance to have the alternatives put on the table, just like the rent control debates, when the minister said: "I've made up my mind. We're going to do it. I'm not listening." That is why in the rent control legislation there wasn't one amendment. The same thing proposed in the white paper was put forward in the legislation. What is so frightening about this thing is that they won't listen.

As I mentioned, Ken Greenberg, an expert urban planner from the Toronto firm of Berridge Lewinberg Greenberg Dark Gabor Ltd, has been involved in municipal affairs and municipal issues for a lot of years and he gives the government some very interesting advice. I put it on the table again for some of the backbenchers to listen to. He says:

"Disentanglement and simplification yes, but not the loss of local vigilance which explains much of our livability and distinctive urban culture. The fierce determination of existing cities from amalgamation is not to be viewed cynically as a knee-jerk turf protection. They embody a complex history of fine-gain negotiations that have resulted in cities that work. The various city halls throughout the region are well-used civic places that evoke real pride in their citizenry."

I point to a city like East York that is a small city but probably one of the most efficient cities in Ontario. They have a community that is so well-knit that they help each other, they volunteer. The chairman of the East York campaign, Team East York, is the former mayor of East York, Alan Redway, and a very strong, lifelong Conservative. But Alan Redway feels so strongly about the destruction of his community that he stood up and said to his Conservative colleagues: "This is wrong. This is pigheaded. Listen to us before you proceed on this road to destruction." I know they have been categorizing people: "It's just the left saying this" or "It's just self-serving politicians." These are your own respected leaders like Alan Redway, who is saying, "Listen to the people of East York before you bulldoze into this."

I'll continue to quote from Greenberg, who I think reinforced what Alan Redway is saying. "There is an alternative model," and that's what I've been saying. "It too is conceptually simple. It acknowledges the need for two tiers of governance, one for the entire urban region known as the greater Toronto area where the big issues are played out and another made up of the constituent cities with a demonstrated ability to stay in contact with their citizens."

That is what, as I said, Greenberg is saying, Golden is saying, McCallion is saying, that there's no need to dictate the abolition by forced decree of the six cities. Let the cities and their elected officials and the taxpayers decide through the referendum. Listen to them. Some of those citizens may decide they want the megacity. That's fine, but listen to them. Don't say to them that the referendum doesn't count because they're using PIN numbers, as the Premier said, and telephones. This is part of the new legislation the Minister of Municipal Affairs is allowing to happen; it's part of the new process on referendum.

Listen to the people when they go and speak out on the future of their communities, and listen to people like Ken Greenberg. Listen to David Crombie, who said you can't unload welfare on Metro; it's going to kill it. That is what megacity will do. It will create such diverse pressures on Metro that it will have to do one of two things: dramatically cut services or dramatically increase property taxes. That's what the megacity leaves as the alternative to the people of Metropolitan Toronto, and it's totally unnecessary. The most disturbing thing about it is that there are viable solutions, there are viable ways out that talk about rational economic and political ways of doing this right. We will never have another chance at this for a long time.

People who care about their cities and their neighbourhoods are saying: "Listen to us. Listen to the experts." Even Paul Pagnuelo, the Ontario chairman of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, is saying that this is going to end up with mega-tax increases. Andy Sancton, professor of urban economics, urban politics, University of Western Ontario, who studied amalgamations in North America, said that this megacity will increase costs by 20 to 30 per cent.

Wendell Cox, who may be the most renowned Tory-type privatization, downsizing expert in this field, has said that by making a city this large, you're going to guarantee greater costs and less democracy. Wendell Cox, who is known as a person who looks at the dollars and cents, said that on two fronts he is against the megacity proposal, because it's going to increase costs and diminish local democracy and make governments less efficient, less competitive, less innovative, as Jane Jacobs has said repeatedly. She said that what you're doing by this megacity is reducing the potential for benchmarking, reducing the potential for competitiveness.

So the experts are saying it and the ordinary people on the streets of Toronto, the streets of East York, the streets of York, the streets of Scarborough, are saying, "What does this all mean to me and my neighbourhood and my property taxes?" As a result of the last two weeks, I think everybody is in a state of confusion and disbelief, because now they know that their own friends -- the board of trade, Gordon Chong -- have said that this doesn't add up. There is a billion-dollar gap that will mean more property taxes, will mean less accessibility.

The government thinks it will be able to get away with this because it's got the majority. They have said unequivocally: "We're going to do it. It's a fait accompli." Their advertisement says: "We've done it. We've made up our minds. We don't care what the opposition thinks. We don't care what the mayors think or the councillors think. All we care about is that we're right and we're going to barge ahead."

When they do that they're forever setting the citizens of Metro against this forced new puppet government they're going to impose. Forever people will say, "This was not right, this was not acceptable, because you did it without our concurrence." Sure, the government will think: "We have won the day. We have forced this legislation through. Aren't we great? We won."

But there are people all over Metro who are saying, "We will never forget this government for refusing to look at the viable alternatives, the alternatives that have been put forward on the table as being economically, politically viable." This government is going to risk the economic future of Metro and one of the most successful urban centres in the world. This government, it seems, does not appreciate the investment that people have made in this city, people who have stayed behind, invested in small businesses, invested in their homes, renovated, got involved in community groups, got involved in their churches and synagogues, got involved in their mosques, got involved in their community, made this community a success story to be lauded across the world, and this government says: "It's so bad. It's broken. There's an emergency. We'll get rid of it. We'll put you under trusteeship." This is what they say to the most successful, dynamic community in the world.


I think it was Richard Gwyn who said in the Toronto Star this weekend, "Toronto works. Why are you risking it?" It's not as if we're talking about a city that isn't working. It's a city despite its challenges -- people coming from all over the world, people coming with all kinds of different viewpoints who have been able to live next door to each other and achieve economic successes, cultural successes, educational successes -- and this is being refuted by Bill 103, the megacity bill.

What's it saying to these people who have made this city safe -- and sure we've got some problems -- who have made this city work -- and sure we've got some unemployed -- who have made this city and its neighbourhoods and its other cities clean, as I've mentioned before? Is there a city the size of North York that's cleaner? Is there a community that's more cohesive than East York? Is there a city that's taken on more challenges than the city of York, with its population that has been coming from all over the world, with unemployment and so forth? They've taken on that challenge and provided quite well despite all the problems we have in Scarborough or Etobicoke. They've done very well with these challenges. The government now comes along and says: "We don't care what you did. We are going to make it to our liking."

The most basic premise of democracy is that you give the people a right to be heard. It's shameful for this government to keep on blocking and belittling the referendum process, as the minister has done, when all that people are saying is: "We want to be heard on this issue. We want a say. We want to be part of the process. We don't want to be shut down and shut up. We want to be able to have a vote and we want you to respect the vote and not to belittle our partaking in the referendum."

These are all the things people are saying. They're saying it in church basements. They're saying it in the Annex. We were at a meeting in the Annex last week with 500 people all saying one thing: "Right or wrong, we want the facts. What is the megacity going to do to our neighbourhoods, our services? What's it going to do to our property taxes?" They want to know that, and you know what the government's response is.

We must realize that fundamentally the megacity bill has to come back to what people want, respect what people want, because these are taxpayers. They've built these cities. They've built the neighbourhoods. They've made the schools work. They've made the community centres work. There are thousands of vibrant neighbourhoods, and they've worked so well because the city governments were able to pay attention to them. If four or five ratepayers go to Scarborough council, Scarborough council listens. They may not always agree with them, but they listen. If four or five citizens go to Toronto council, they get listened to. Paying attention to those small things, as Greenberg says, is what the secret of Toronto and Etobicoke and East York is all about.

It's not a perfect system. It's a system that needs some reform and some change but it doesn't need dismantling, it doesn't need destruction, because not only do you destroy Metro, you destroy the whole GTA. What this government is doing, and its plan is quite clear as of last week, is that when it dumps all its responsibilities on the most vulnerable in Metropolitan Toronto, it creates a wider gap between the 416 and the 905. This exercise originally was about a level playing field. Now with a megacity you destroy the future.

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

Mr Tony Silipo (Dovercourt): I'm glad to comment briefly on the presentation made today and last week by the member for Oakwood, and I'm looking forward to the opportunity I'll have to debate this bill a little bit later on.

I just want to say that I agree very much with the member for Oakwood in the stress he has put, particularly in today's part of his presentation, on the whole process of democracy and that what this government is doing in proceeding with this bill in the way they have been doing is trampling upon the very essence of democracy and the democratic process as we know it. Those are words which I certainly don't use very lightly, but they are the conclusion I come to as one who sees the way in which this government continues to behave on this issue of Bill 103, and indeed unfortunately being reflective of how they behave on a number of other important bills.

Here they are, wanting to make significant changes to the way in which the municipal government of Metropolitan Toronto, with the 2.3 million people who live in Metropolitan Toronto, is established, and yet they have, to this day, continued to say they don't believe that the people who live in this important region should be given an opportunity to express their opinions through a referendum. They believe, and the minister continues to say, that isn't important to them, that they will simply disregard those results.

They can continue to say that, but it will be another thing to actually see them continue to impose this legislation against the will of the people as expressed through a referendum. That is why I'm happy that at least to date we have had the government give in and agree to having the referendum take place prior to the legislation being imposed, because that, I think, will put the government really in a position to have to make a decision about whether they want to continue to ignore the role of the people on this issue.

Mr John Hastings (Etobicoke-Rexdale): It's most unfortunate to have the description of the member for Oakwood's presentation today named as a presentation. I think it's more of a rant than it is a presentation. For example, let's take a couple of minor considerations in this whole thing of the obsessive rhetoric with terms like "destruction," "the loss of democracy," "higher taxation."

Let's take a look at the existing status quo: We have in Metropolitan Toronto, in terms of taxation, a highly inequitable, unfair taxpaying situation. The member for Oakwood talks about an attack upon the vulnerable. Well, I would comment to him that the status quo, which he so readily embraces and vigorously defends, in essence is actually an attack on the vulnerable taxpayer in Metropolitan Toronto.

I don't know if the member has travelled around Metro; I hope he would have. If his eyes were open he would see that in the present situation, in terms of property assessment in all the six cities, we have been ravaged by the recessions of the past few years. We have a whole litany of empty buildings, whether they be in downtown Toronto or in the suburban cities. I suppose that seems to be justification for keeping the status quo in terms of property taxation, that we're considered to be a world-class city if we have a declining property tax base. You have fewer commercial and industrial taxpayers to pay the freight. That seems to be quite acceptable.

Well, it isn't at all acceptable to the government of this province, and that's the rationale for moving on a new, unified city.


Mr Gerretsen: First of all, let me congratulate the member for Oakwood for putting the whole matter of the megacity into its proper context in this hour-and-a-half debate.

It's interesting that since the Premier's come back there's already been agreement reached that this bill will not be given third reading until the referendum has been held some time in early March. It was interesting that prior to this the rest of the members in the government couldn't agree to that.

The second thing we now want to clearly establish is that the government will agree to at least one public meeting in each one of the six city halls that are involved in the megacity proposal. That's really what we're asking for and I think it's very reasonable.

Let's also remember that there are two issues here that are very closely connected, not only in Metro Toronto but indeed throughout the entire province, wherever amalgamations take place. We're talking about restructuring, amalgamations, so that we can create larger units so that there will be a larger tax base to pay for some of these costs that have been dumped on municipalities.

In my own municipality of Kingston, for example, a headline today in the Whig-Standard read: "Swapped Costs Shock City Staff." They have calculated -- and this is not a partisan political document; this is a calculation for the city hall staff by a highly respected CEO and treasurer -- that the extra costs to the city of Kingston alone will be $23 million. As a matter of fact, $25 million will come off the property tax roll by taking education off, but $48 million, being made up in welfare, day care, social housing, long-term health care, public health programs, special care homes, transit etc, will be added on, for a net increase of $23 million, which will cost the citizens of Kingston, based on last year's tax system, an extra 20% in taxes. There's a non-partisan calculation of what you're doing to this province. Shame on you.

Mr Rosario Marchese (Fort York): I want to congratulate the member for Oakwood on his remarks around Bill 103. I agree with him when he sounds the alarm around the particulars connected to this bill. People have a lot to fear. The member for Etobicoke-Rexdale talks very generally, but always non-specifically, about the issue of, do you support the status quo or not?

Mr Hastings: Where have you been for the past --

Mr Marchese: This person from the other side says that there are not going to --

Mr Hastings: Hundreds have left. Wake up.

The Deputy Speaker: The member for Etobicoke-Rexdale.

Mr Marchese: The member for Etobicoke-Rexdale, please, calm down a second so I can respond to your remarks.

He speaks very generally about the fact that things are not working, that the status quo isn't working, so they have a plan.


The Deputy Speaker: The member for Etobicoke-Rexdale, I don't want to warn you again.

Mr Hastings: Why don't you apply that to your own participants over there sometimes?

The Deputy Speaker: Have a little more respect for the Chair; otherwise I'll ask you to leave.

Mr Hastings: I may just leave anyway shortly.

The Deputy Speaker: Well, please, there won't be any debate then.

Mr Marchese: The member for Etobicoke-Rexdale says the status quo doesn't work, so they come up with a plan, and the plan is, "We're going to amalgamate the cities," even though Leach and Harris and all the others said before the election, "We won't do that." Then they have another plan, and the other plan involves the dumping of other services on to the municipality and the taxpayer. That's their plan. Is that the problem they're trying to fix, to put on the local taxpayer more of those costs? Because that's what it means, and the alarm is quite appropriately being raised by the member for Oakwood. Thank you for that opportunity.

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

Mr Colle: In terms of the member for Etobicoke-Rexdale, what I referred to in my presentation was that there is an alternative that's part of the future. If you listen to Golden and Greenberg and McCallion, where you create the GTA with competing, balanced municipalities, that is what the clear alternative is. The government's refusing to look at that.

In terms of the comments from the members for Fort York and Kingston and The Islands, they recognize that this government is refusing to listen to alternatives, refusing to listen to the citizens. What is most disturbing about this whole debate is that people all over Metro know that if this megacity plan goes through, what the board of trade predicted last week is going to happen 10 times.

There is going to be a flood of people leaving Metro because of the tax-dumping on Metro. If there's been an exodus out of Metro because of the tax differential, after megacity you won't have anybody left to pay the taxes, and that is why the board of trade and Conservatives like Gordon Chong and Alan Redway are saying: "Listen to the alternative. Don't barge ahead with this myopic view, because there's too much at stake."

What's at stake is the most successful city in North America, maybe one of the most successful cities in the world, where people want to participate, where they want to give to their community but they won't stand for being dictated to, they won't stand for being run roughshod over. They're saying to listen to them on the referendum, look at the alternatives, listen to the experts who are saying there's a better way, not just the megacity dumping.

The Deputy Speaker: Further debate?

Mr Silipo: I want to begin debate for our party in noting that we are now into the third day of debate on this bill and we're at the point where the third party is beginning its debate on this. I know the members opposite will say, "That's because of the bell-ringing that you did, otherwise we would have had more debate." But the point we have been trying to make through this whole discussion is that what is important to us first and foremost on this bill, as it is on many others, is that the government respect the democratic process, respect the democratic rights of the citizens of Metropolitan Toronto and respect the democratic process that is at the heart of this Parliament and of our traditions as a parliamentary democracy, not to ram through this bill without appropriate hearings and without listening to what people across Metropolitan Toronto and indeed even outside of Metropolitan Toronto have to say.

Yes, we have done some bell-ringing, but we have done it because we have needed to bring the government's attention to that very essential point, and it's fair to say that we've seen some results from that. Upon returning from his overseas trip the Premier stood in his place and agreed to what his Minister of Municipal Affairs had refused up until the day before: to ensure that hearings take place on this bill in a way that those hearings will still be taking place while the referendum on Metropolitan Toronto is being held. If the amalgamation of the six municipalities in Metropolitan Toronto is rejected, as I fully expect it will be rejected, by the people of Metropolitan Toronto in the referendum to be held on March 3, it will then put the government in a position of having to decide whether it wants to insist that only it knows what's best for the people of Metropolitan Toronto, as opposed to the people themselves, and continue to impose, continue to ram through with this bill, which makes no sense to anyone except of course to Mike Harris and the cohorts around Mike Harris.

The question of democracy is first and foremost in our minds in terms of how this bill should be dealt with. It hasn't been dealt with democratically so far and it needs to be dealt with democratically. I want to speak a little bit about that.

I also want to speak about another important aspect of this bill which troubles us very greatly: We see it very clearly as one of the first steps, and we've seen in the introduction of the other bills and the other measures during the mega-week, as it's been called, the first week of January of this sitting, the government introduce other measures, which clearly position this bill within those measures which collectively have as their objective to download on to the property tax base not just millions but billions of dollars in costs that are now borne at the provincial level, where they should be. I want to talk about that as well.

Madam Speaker, I'm reminded that before I proceed I should ask -- I should have done this at the beginning, and I apologize -- for concurrence of the House to be able to split this 90-minute opening time with my colleague from Fort York. I would ask that at this point.


The Acting Speaker (Ms Marilyn Churley): Agreed? Agreed.

Mr Silipo: We have made that request, and I appreciate the House agreeing to it, because to us it's more important that we have as many people as are able to speak to this bill. We don't know what's going to happen beyond today. This being the third day of second reading debate on this, we may very well see a time allocation motion come as early as this afternoon. We will see by 5 o'clock if such a motion has been tabled. I would be interested if it is tabled. I'm sure somebody will bring it to my attention.

We will see if the government is so insistent on proceeding with this that it will go to those measures as opposed to allowing sensible debate here, but more importantly, allowing debate to take place outside of this Legislature, allowing the people of Metropolitan Toronto who want to be heard an opportunity to be heard on this bill. We know that as of today there are over 600 people, and the numbers keep growing by the day, who have asked to speak to the committee that will be dealing with this bill.

We know that discussions are still going on between the House leaders in terms of how this bill is going to be treated, but I just want to say for the record that although on the very key point of ensuring that the government will not try now to ram through this bill prior to the referenda in Metropolitan Toronto taking place -- it has agreed to that -- we still have not heard clearly enough decisions from the government that respond to the requests by hundreds of people to be heard on this issue, and that for us is essential.

Secondly, we have not heard clearly yet from the government on the question of ensuring that these hearings will be held not just here at Queen's Park but indeed in the different parts of Metropolitan Toronto, and we have specifically suggested and requested in the city hall chambers of each of the municipalities being affected by these changes, because those are also places that people are very used to being at. Those are also places that will house, quite frankly, many more people than can be housed in a committee room here.

Mr Gilles Pouliot (Lake Nipigon): And it's friendly.

Mr Silipo: My colleague the member for Lake Nipigon says they're friendly. They are quite friendly as surroundings. They also allow for the televising of those hearings, as they would be televised if we were holding them here in the evenings or after the hours of the sittings of the Legislature. All of those things can be accomplished if only the government sees itself in a reasonable fashion and comes to that reasonable conclusion and says, "Let's sort out a way in which the many hundreds of people who want to be heard on this important issue get an opportunity to be heard."

Why is that so important? It's important on any significant change, but it is particularly important on this bill, given the way in which the government has chosen to act. We have throughout question period, throughout other pieces of debate that have taken place on this bill, raised many of these points, but they need to be reiterated, they need to be repeated, in the hope that somewhere along the line someone, whether it's Mike Harris himself or someone around him, might actually listen, might actually say, just as they did on the issue of ensuring that the referendum is allowed to proceed before the bill is finalized, either, "This makes sense, Premier," or, "Look, it's just politically too hurtful for us to proceed without some semblance of respect for the democratic process."

The reason we continue to stress that is not just because of our strong belief in the need for the democratic process to be served here as we would want it to be served anywhere else, but we do it also for one very fundamental reason, and that is that what this government is doing, what the Mike Harris government is doing in imposing Bill 103, not only in the way in which it's doing it but in the substance of what it's doing, is completely contrary to what it promised in the last election it was going to do.

It's completely the opposite to what Al Leach said, to what Mike Harris said, to what other members of this government said that they were going to do. What is flabbergasting is to see the minister responsible stand in his place, as he did just the other day when he was introducing this bill and speaking in the opening debate, and say: "What exactly did we promise in the Common Sense Revolution?" -- with respect to this issue -- "We said that Ontario would have less government. We said there should be fewer politicians, there should be less bureaucracy and there should be less overlap and duplication. This legislation will help us reach those goals."

That's what he said. That's the way he's now trying to get out of the very clear promise that Mike Harris made not that long ago. In fact, it was on April 3, 1995, that there was a major debate, involving the three party leaders at the time, on the future of Metropolitan Toronto. Do you know what Mike Harris said at that time? He talked about -- not downloading, and I'll want to come back to that -- but specifically around governance he said that the Metro level of government in its present form must go. Clearly at that point he was saying that changes, if he were the government, would come about. I don't quibble with the fact that it's been on the record.

Here's the key part which neither the Premier, in questions I've put to him, nor Minister Al Leach has dared to quote back when they have quoted from this very report. What they said was:

"The Metro level of government must be totally restructured. Responsibility for the delivery of some services should be moved to the local level. Others, such as transportation, should be structured on an expanded regional basis beyond the current Metro boundaries. Some services may have to be assumed by the province."

Any reasonable person reading that, any reasonable person listening to Mike Harris in that debate quote from the Mike Harris Task Force on Bringing Common Sense to Metro, the task force chaired by Joyce Trimmer, co-chaired by Al Leach, supported by Dave Johnson, with the member for High Park-Swansea as one of its members -- it clearly was talking about envisioning change in the governance structure of Metropolitan Toronto, the change coming about, in their view, by eliminating the Metro level of government, maintaining the local level of government, that which we know as the individual cities or, in the case of East York, the borough, and then restructuring the services, some of them being moved down, some of them being moved up to the province and others on a regional basis.

What do we have instead? We have the elimination now of the local municipalities, the creation of one large city, one megacity, and we have, yes, the beginnings of something to deal with the regional structure. But there's no way that Mike Harris and Al Leach can get away from the fact that they said to people during the election that they would maintain the lower level of municipal government in Metropolitan Toronto. They were so clear.

I still don't know whether what we're hearing from the minister and the Premier these days is really an attempt to pretend that what they promised was something different or is really just an attempt to escape from what they in fact promised. But people know that what they promised was to maintain the local level of government and to make whatever changes they were going to make by eliminating the Metro level of government and restructuring the services, some up and some down.

People in Metropolitan Toronto would have been much more understanding of what the government is doing had they said they were going to look at changing all levels of government in Metropolitan Toronto, but that's not what they said. People in Metropolitan Toronto, justifiably, can be angry, can be upset when they see that what this government is doing now, in proceeding with Bill 103, is completely contrary to what it promised it would do in the election. This, from a Premier who likes to pride himself on keeping his promises.

We've talked in this House many a time about the wisdom or truth or untruths of those other statements. Obviously in our view, and I think in the view of many people across the province, the Premier isn't keeping some of the other big promises he made around jobs -- remember the 725,000 jobs? -- on maintaining funding to the health care system, the health care envelope that wouldn't be touched, and we're seeing that promise trampled on; the promise to keep classroom spending -- remember that other one? -- and the minister cutting initially $400 million from that, first pretending it wasn't going to affect the classroom, then admitting that it was going to affect the classroom but blaming the school boards for that and then compounding that by saying, "We're going to take another $600 million out of the system."

Even on those other big issues we have reason, and the people of the province more particularly have lots of reasons, to doubt what the Premier of the day is saying about keeping their promises. But he's the one who parades around saying, "We're going to keep our promises," and here is a very clear case where they are not. Here is a very clear case where they are doing completely the opposite to what they said they would do in the last election.


For that reason if for no other, it would be incumbent upon this government, if it wanted to proceed in this direction, to put out that proposal and then say, "We're going to listen to what people have to say and we will see through the course of those hearings and that discussion if this is the correct course of action to take." But that's not what they're doing. What they are doing is proceeding on a decision they clearly had made some time ago, and even the way in which this decision was introduced in the House, they didn't come to it by saying: "We've changed our minds. For all these reasons we believe now that this is the best course of action." No, the decision kind of trickled out bit by bit from the Minister of Municipal Affairs. We asked him in the House one day, "Is this what you're looking at?" "No, it's not" -- steps outside in the scrum, "Yes, it is." So piece by piece we managed to get the story out, first that it was the minister's preferred option, then we saw as the days wore on that it was becoming and indeed had become the government's preferred option to the point that they would not listen to any other suggestion.

Then they tried to put a process on top of that. When they realized that they were very empty in terms of having any process at all, they asked Mr David Crombie to see what he could do with this issue. What did Mr Crombie do? They were hoping, they were expecting that Mr Crombie would come back and say, "Yes, amalgamate all the municipalities in Metropolitan Toronto," but he didn't do that. While that may have been his own preferred position, even he said very clearly, "Don't muck around inside Metropolitan Toronto unless you are prepared to deal first with what is the key issue relating to the greater Toronto area," and that isn't how to govern inside of Metropolitan Toronto; it's an important issue but it is not the key issue.

The key issue is to look at the greater Toronto area as one economic entity and to recognize that any changes to governance, any changes to structuring, any changes to delivery of services have to take into account and have to start from the basic premise that the metropolis now is bigger than Metropolitan Toronto, that the economic entity is bigger than Metropolitan Toronto and that therefore what you need, Mr Crombie said, as Anne Golden had said before him, is a way to bring together, first in terms of delivery of services and second in terms of some kind of governance structure, that reality at a greater Toronto area level.

That's where I think this government should be acting first. That is the big mistake they are making in not proceeding to deal with that reality. If they were a government that was truly concerned with how to restructure the governance and the delivery of services in the greater Toronto area in a way that would last for the next 20, 30, 40, 50 years, they would be dealing with that issue first and foremost.

We know we have instead a government that likes to deal in small, cheap political symbols. So it's quite convenient for Mike Harris to be able to stand up and say: "Look at all the politicians we have now inside Metropolitan Toronto. We can get rid of half of them. Just with a stroke of a pen we can get rid of half of them," and all of a sudden people are going to think they're getting better service; people are going to think they're going to get cheaper services; people are going to believe they're going to get more streamlined governance and services.

It's a bit of a con game because it doesn't get at the real issue in terms of the greater Toronto area needing to be looked at first and foremost, and second, there is no proof whatsoever that even Mike Harris's theory and Al Leach's theory about one megacity resulting in fewer costs will be true. There is no proof whatsoever of that. On the contrary, if you want to base the projections on any realistic examples that exist, then the conclusion you would come to is that it's going to cost more, not less, if you go to one large city.

At a simple argument level, people get drawn into this argument that says, "If you have seven municipalities now and you go to one, surely it's going to be cheaper." The logic just seems to be there, and we have to understand that that is exactly what Mike Harris and Al Leach are preying upon. It's that simplistic way of looking at things that says, "If now you have seven local governments and you bring them together into one, surely that means that it's going to cost us, the taxpayers, less."

The only area in which it's going to cost people less in a very small way may be in the number of politicians who are there, but go one step beyond that and it's going to start to cost more, a lot more, because at the end of the day, the basic cost of delivering municipal services, just like the basic cost of delivering any good public service at whatever level, lies not in the head honchos, lies not in the bureaucracy of management -- yes, you can find some savings in any restructuring on that level -- but the basic cost and the large percentage of cost lie in the hundreds and, depending on the case, the thousands of people who actually deliver the services. So the only way that you can find savings at the end of the day is if you are really wanting to cut services, and unless that's what Mike Harris also wants to do, then you're not going to find the savings.

The one support that the government has for itself, the one report they have managed to bring about that supports their theory, points out the famous KPMG study. Remember that? It says that yes, you can find some savings, maybe a couple of hundred million dollars -- I don't want to sound like a couple of hundred million dollars is not a lot of money; it is, but it isn't a lot of money in the scheme of the things we're talking about -- but even if they were right, and that's a big if, they themselves admit two important things would have to happen.

First of all, most of those savings would be found not as a result of restructuring, not as a result of the amalgamation, but indeed as a result of just looking at better ways to do things which could just as easily be done in the present structure of delivery of services, in the present structure of the six local governments in Metropolitan Toronto.

Second, they say the impact of those kinds of savings would mean 4,500 fewer jobs, 4,500 fewer people delivering those basic services; not 4,500 fewer senior administrators or bureaucrats, but 4,500 fewer people delivering basic services like garbage pickup, like social services, like child care and on and on, many of the basic services that we take for granted sometimes at the municipal level.

That's the only way you're going to find those kinds of savings, so that's also a bit of a shallow promise and a bit of a shallow point, to say you're going to find these big savings: not unless you're prepared to gut services as they're being offered today; not unless you're prepared, as this government is obviously prepared, to say, "We'll have those services delivered through the private sector," which sometimes can offer them for cheaper, but how? By ensuring that the people who deliver those services will make less and less and less.

That's of course a very significant part of what the Mike Harris government is all about. It's about lowering wages. It's about lowering the quality of life for people. It's about saying you have to take less, you have to accept less.

Mr Marchese: So we can compete with Mexico.

Mr Silipo: So we can compete, as my colleague says, with the likes of Mexico.

This is the same Premier who has just been in the Far East promoting Ontario, appropriately so, but in doing that, he and the Prime Minister at the federal level, but the Premier in this case was vaunting the many good things about Ontario and indeed the many good things about Toronto: that we have a highly skilled workforce, that we have a good transportation service, that we have a good series of social services, that we have a variety of services. They just happen to be the same services they are stripping away, piece by piece. The things they are on the one hand vaunting and saying, "This is what makes Toronto and Ontario the best place in the world to live; come and invest here," they are at the same time tearing away piece by piece. People are beginning to understand that that is a main objective of this government.


Of course this government would rather just impose this bill; of course this government would rather just ram through this bill. They know that if they dared to listen to the people of Metropolitan Toronto, they would have to turn around and say: "Oops, we goofed. Sorry, we can't do this." It is so regrettable, because here was an opportunity, a government that was prepared to act, a government that had said, "Yes, we're going to make some changes."

I have to say, and I want to say very clearly, that the will to make some changes in terms of the governance structure within the GTA is a good thing. I do not want for one second to leave the impression in anyone's mind that, in opposing so strenuously Bill 103, I am supporting the status quo. I believe fundamentally that there has to be change in the way local government works within Metropolitan Toronto, between Metropolitan Toronto and the rest of the GTA, and primarily within the GTA, at the GTA level itself. I welcome the willingness of the government to make some change, to look at some change, but I abhor and I oppose strongly the machiavellian way in which they have gone about making their decision about what is best, in their view, for the people of Metropolitan Toronto and the GTA, and second, the substance of what they are doing itself.

They have not addressed the problems except in the simplistic notion of trying to say to people: "Look at what we're doing. Look at how we're doing this. We're eliminating all these politicians." Somehow they want to project that as having resolved the problem. That isn't going to resolve the problem. They know that in their hearts.

I think the most interesting part of this process is going to be when on March 4 we all wake up and have the results of the referenda in Metropolitan Toronto, which, unless I'm reading so incorrectly what's going on, will show opposition to what the government is doing. We will then see what Mike Harris and Al Leach have to say about that. That will be the real test of how obtuse they are. That will be the real test of whether there is any inkling of common sense really there other than the words they like to use. If there is any inkling of common sense left, then what we will see is the government having to take account of a real rejection by the people of Metropolitan Toronto of their megacity scheme and having to take account of the will of the people as expressed through those referenda.

We've heard on this the government continuing to say: "People can go ahead and have all the referenda they want, but we're not going to listen to this because it doesn't really make any difference to us at the end of the day. We've made up our minds." Some people might say, "What's the point of the referenda?" and the minister has even stood in this House and mocked the process that municipalities are using.

On one occasion he stood up and was mocking the fact that the various municipalities are using different ways of holding the vote, different from the traditional method -- some are doing the phone-in system; some are using a mail-in ballot -- until we reminded the minister that of course these measures they are using, these methods of holding the referenda are exactly the same ones that he introduced himself in Bill 86 only some weeks ago and lauded as being more progressive and even cheaper than the traditional method of holding referenda. Now instead we see the minister trying to mock those municipalities that are taking advantage of that process.

The other interesting contradiction that I have just been fascinated to see is how, in dealing with this issue, the minister in particular and others have said they don't like this referendum in Metropolitan Toronto, they have really no appetite for it, and yet about a hundred yards from here in one of the committee rooms we have been debating during the same time frame a proposal from the government members to proceed with a report that will eventually result in legislation that will allow for referenda to be held, and not just referenda initiated by the government but indeed referenda initiated by citizens' groups.

What an interesting contradiction for members of the same government, to be on the one hand saying, "Yes, we want to have the people have greater say; we want to have the people have the ability to hold referenda, to require that referenda be held," and here, where there is such a clear expression through some of the larger municipal governments of this province, requests for a referendum, a decision for a referendum to be held supported by citizens groups and many hundreds of citizens throughout Metropolitan Toronto, this government is saying, "You can hold all the referenda you want, but we're not going to listen." Isn't that fascinating?

I think the day will come when the government will have to listen, because if they won't listen, then they will have to deal with the fallout of that. I just want to point out on that very point the statement made by somebody with respect to what happens if the government actually decides to ignore the will of the people. This individual put it this way: "If the government has the gall to ignore the people, they won't last long." This individual was the same individual who chaired that task force. These were the words of Joyce Trimmer, speaking to a meeting in North York a few short weeks ago where she described the decision of this government as a complete flip-flop from the position they held at the beginning of 1995.

So when I stand up and say to the Premier and say to the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing that what you are doing is completely contrary to what you promised in the election, it's not just me saying that; it's also Joyce Trimmer, one of the people who actually co-authored the very report that was the basis for the position Premier Harris and Minister Al Leach took into the election. If people like that are telling you that what you are doing today is completely the opposite of what you promised in the last election, then you should listen to them.

You may not want to listen to me, you may not want to listen to other members in the opposition, you may indeed not want to listen to hundreds of people out there who are telling you that what you're doing is wrong, but surely you have a great difficulty in not listening or at least acknowledging that what you are doing is completely the opposite of what you promised when the person or people who are pointing that out to you are your own political allies; is, as in this case, one of the individuals who actually authored your position on this.

The question of democracy, the question of process, the question of how this government deals with this is for us a fundamental one, but the other part of it is that in the game the Tories are playing, in the game Mike Harris is trying to play there is a little bit of sleight of hand, and that comes in a couple of ways.


I mentioned earlier that one of the things this government likes to be able to do is to keep its message simple, talking about, you know, "Look at all the politicians we are dealing with," and they can point to Metropolitan Toronto and say: "Look, it's overgoverned. We need to reduce. We need to reduce." Of course, as the mayors themselves pointed out when they put together their report, if the approach was a commonsense one then what they're doing wouldn't make much sense.

They say there are too many politicians in Metropolitan Toronto. If you look at the ratios that exist in some of the other parts of the GTA, then they should be crying for change in those areas. You look at places like Brampton, for example, where the ratio of local politicians to electors is 1 to 15,000 almost as compared to, for example, the city of Toronto, where it's 1 to 37,000, or the city of North York, where it's 1 to 39,000. You look at other communities like Milton or Oakville: Milton -- 1 to 3,000; Oakville -- 1 to 9,800.

What do these numbers show? These numbers show that if overgovernance was a real concern that the Tories had and Mike Harris had, then the place they should start is not in Metropolitan Toronto but indeed in the 905 area, because according to these figures that's where there is overgovernance, that's where there is such a ratio of municipal politicians to electors, to the population even, and that's where changes need to be made.

But of course we know that this government isn't about to make any changes to the 905 part of the GTA. Why? All you have to do is take a look at that map that OSSTF is good enough to send us once every election where they colour-code the ridings according to political party. You look at the 905 area and right now it all happens to be Tory blue. So of course Mike Harris wouldn't dare make any changes in the 905 area because then he'd have a whole bunch of backbenchers very upset at him. It seems for some reason in the 416 area inside Metropolitan Toronto they're prepared to sacrifice some of those seats, in part because they'll have fewer of them as a result of the changes they've made to reduce the number of seats, whereas in the 905 area there will actually be at least one more, or one and a half, depending on how you look at the boundaries.

What we are seeing here again is a very crass, opportunistic, partisan action taken by Mike Harris and company. That's what this is about. It's not about better governance for the GTA. It's not about finding the best solutions for Metropolitan Toronto. It's about sheer partisan politics. As bad as that is, what's also fundamentally behind the actions of this government, and we've seen this is spades through the announcements made during the first week of January here at Queen's Park, the so-called mega-week announcements, is that what's going on is a major downloading of costs on to the municipal tax base.

We've seen, yes, the government say, "We're going to take education off the property tax," in and of itself a useful thing to do, but coupled on the other side of the coin with a push down on to the municipal tax base, not just as the Premier wants to pretend of an equivalent amount, but we know at the end of the day of a greater amount than the money being spent now on education, the $5.4 billion of education spending that's borne now by the property tax base, or the residential portion of it.

We know what's going to happen at the end of the day is that we will see more of these services being paid for through the property tax. What services do these include? They include social services, welfare, long-term care, the cost of looking after our seniors into the future and they include child care, just to mention a few. Those also happen to be the costs that are going to grow, because despite some drop that we are seeing now in the cost of welfare, in the rolls at least, the costs are still showing as increasing, and indeed they will increase, unfortunately. Long-term care can only go up if we're serious about providing the level of care that's necessary for our seniors into the future. The property tax base is just not the base that should be paying for these.

People ask: "What's the difference? It's all taxes at the end of the day." Mike Harris himself said it, again in that April 3 debate I mentioned earlier, when he said: "When we talk about different levels of government and who should tax and pay for what, let us remember there is only one taxpayer. We must end the old politics of downloading one government's problems on to another." Those are the words of Mike Harris on April 3, 1995, words he's clearly chosen to put aside because what we see Mike Harris doing today is completely the opposite of what he said on April 3, 1995.

We see Mike Harris now involved in the biggest downloading of costs on to the property tax base that any provincial government has ever been involved in. We see Mike Harris pushing on to the property tax base, on to the most regressive form of taxation, costs that have no reason being there, costs like social services, like health care. Those are costs that should be paid for through the general income tax system, just as education should be. If the logic applies to one, then the logic should equally apply to the other. Of course, this isn't about logic; this is about how Mike Harris can download enough so that he can take another $600 million or $1 billion out of the education system, and he can do it a lot easier if the control is here at the provincial level than if it's at the school board level.

At the same time, he can push down on to the municipal tax base those other costs like welfare costs, like long-term-care costs, like other health care and social services costs that are going to increase, and then say to the municipalities: "If you don't want these costs to increase, then cut somewhere else. Get rid of other services. Privatize services. You can do all sorts of things." Then the people will blame the municipalities for those cuts or, on the other hand, will blame the municipalities for the increases in property taxes that they will sometimes, and I hope often, choose in order to maintain the basic level of services we have now.

It's a con game, it's a game that at the end of the day is only being put in place because what Mike Harris, Ernie Eves and Al Leach have to do through this exercise, whether you call it a mega-week exercise, whether you call it the Who Does What or the Who Does What to Whom exercise, what they want to do and what they have to do is to find $3 billion worth of cuts in order to finish paying for their provincial tax cut, for the phoney tax scheme that they believe will create the jobs that we haven't seen so far with half of the tax scheme being implemented.

That's what it's about. It's not about better government in Metropolitan Toronto; it's not about finding a way to deal with the needs of the greater Toronto area into the future; it's not doing that. If it was about doing that, then this government would have followed the advice that David Crombie gave to it when he said: "First and foremost, find a structure to deal with governance at the greater Toronto area level. Second, take two to three months and look at what possible amalgamations you can make inside of Metropolitan Toronto at the lower level and between Metropolitan Toronto and the GTA municipalities surrounding it." Those would have been the actions of a wise government, if it had taken that time and if it had taken that course of action.

As pressing as the problems around governance are with respect to civic government in Metropolitan Toronto and the other part of that on the school board side, as pressing as those may be, they are not the most pressing problems we have in terms of either governance or dealing with taxation and the delivery of services in the greater Toronto area. The most pressing issues have to do with how you set up a structure that governs into the next half-century at least, and how do you then make sense of governance at the local level in a way that sorts out the responsibilities between that greater Toronto area body and the local individual municipalities in a way that says: "The local municipality does this. In the greater Toronto area we will provide for the delivery of services such as transportation, public transit, those kinds of services that need to be clearly coordinated at the broader level."


You don't do it by jumping in and saying: "We're going to mess around inside Metropolitan Toronto. We're not going to touch the 905 area, because that's where our political allies are." You don't do it unless, of course, you're Mike Harris, and unless, of course, your agenda has got nothing to do with streamlining government and has everything to do with cutting and slashing and pushing down on to the property tax base those costs in a way that means that for the average family the cost of services will go up.

The average family will be paying more at the end of the day, even when they take into account the little benefit that they will get from the provincial tax cut, because that benefit will be more than eaten up at the end of the day by the additional costs of user fees, direct and indirect tax increases at the property tax level. Whether people are homeowners or whether they're tenants, they're going to get hit. They're going to get hit with bigger increases or they're going to see severe slashing in the level of services they are now getting. It's one or the other. You can't have it both ways. That's going to be what we will see.

If you're Mike Harris, that makes sense, because you know that the people who support you if you're Mike Harris are going to benefit. The powerful and the rich among our society are going to benefit from the tax cut. Indeed they're even going to benefit from all of this downloading, because at the end of the day the benefit they will get from the provincial tax cut for them will mean something, but only for them, only for those who are making $200,000; only for those who are making $150,000 and more will there be some benefit.

I would suggest that even some of those at the end of the day will see that what they've lost if they live in Metropolitan Toronto may not be worth the price of those extra dollars in their pockets, because what we will have lost in Metropolitan Toronto is any sense of a relationship between local politicians and the people they represent. If what you have at the end of the day is fewer politicians having to respond to larger numbers of people, then it only follows that what you have from that is a bureaucracy that is more distant from the people and a bureaucracy that, even as well-meaning as it might be, will never be able to respond to the local concerns that citizens have.

Whether it's garbage pickup or whether it's the delivery of child care services and any of the myriad issues in between, they will never be able to respond in quite the same effective way as a local politician who knows how to listen to his or her constituents. That is the beauty of local government. You know that. You were there, Madam Speaker. I was there on the other side of it, on the school board side.

We will be dealing one of these days with the other half of this megalomaniac approach this government has taken, this megacity approach, because of course we're seeing here in Metropolitan Toronto at the same time as we are seeing the creation of this megacity that there will also be the creation of a mega school board. Imagine, one school board with over 300,000 students, 500 schools, trustees who will have to somehow look after about 25 schools each, and by the way, on a yearly stipend of $5,000. So don't look for anybody who is going to spend any amount of time doing that job.

That's the world Mike Harris is taking us into, the world where democracy counts for less, the world where accountability counts for less, the world in which the relationship between the people and the politicians they elect to represent their wishes gets distanced more and more, the world in which there is greater centralization of power to fewer and fewer people and the world in which there is greater centralization of the wealth into fewer and fewer people's hands. That's the world Mike Harris is taking us into, day by day, piece by piece.

I think people are beginning to see this. I think people are beginning to understand what is happening. I think people are beginning to see what the Mike Harris agenda is all about. When you have, as we saw last week, groups like the board of trade --

Mr Terence H. Young (Halton Centre): Tony, you're depressing me.

Mr Silipo: Somebody says I'm depressing them. As long as it's a Tory member, that's fine. Maybe if I depress you enough, something will go off in your head and you will see that there is not any logic to what you're doing.

Just the other day, this past week, we saw some more clear signs of that understanding and more good Tories beginning to voice their objections to what the government is doing. One of them described himself as a recently excommunicated Tory member.

Mr Marchese: Mr Chong.

Mr Silipo: Mr Chong. I think he was joking about that part because he's still a card-carrying member, as far as I know. He was pointing out that what this government is doing in downloading these services, particularly the social services costs, on to the property tax base is just completely wrong.

The board of trade, a group not unknown to support this government, made the very same point, again, that what they are doing is wrong.

The mayors in the 905 region are supposed to be the political allies of this government and they're saying, "My God, if they're doing it to Toronto, it's also going to affect us." They also understand what's going on, they also understand that with this downloading they too will get hit, maybe not as hard as Metropolitan Toronto, but they too will get hit. They too see that it's illogical to shift on to the property tax base costs for the so-called soft services: social services, welfare, health care, long-term care, child care. Those costs should be borne by the provincial income tax system, not the property tax system.

If those folks are saying now that what the government is doing is wrong, I can just imagine the discussions going on in the back rooms of the government as they are trying to grapple with how they are going to get this revolution back on the rails, how they're going to get this train back on the rails, because it's clearly going off the rails.

They won't admit it, I don't expect them to admit it, but when you see some victories that we are winning -- and I don't mean "we" in terms of us on the opposition side, I mean that the people out there are winning -- such as the Premier coming back from his overseas trip and within minutes of being in this House saying, "Yes, we'll allow the hearings to go on beyond the referendum" --

Mr Douglas B. Ford (Etobicoke-Humber): A reasonable man.

Mr Silipo: A reasonable man? Perhaps. I don't think so. There's a lot more I'm going to have to see from Mike Harris before I put that adjective next to him. A reasonable man? I don't think so. But if he continues along those lines, maybe it shows that he's beginning to understand that his train is going off the tracks, that he's beginning to understand that you can't continue to take for granted the people of the province, that he's beginning to understand, as Joyce Trimmer says, "If they have the gall to ignore the people, they won't last long," that he's beginning to understand that you cannot make decisions in a way that takes people for granted.

If you believe at all in the democratic process, you have to take heed of what the people are saying, and the people are saying they don't agree with this downloading, they don't agree with this tax cut if it means sacrificing the basic services we have developed as Ontarians. They're saying, "If that's the cost of the tax cut, then we don't want it," and specifically on Bill 103 they are saying, "It doesn't make sense to do what you're doing." It's undemocratic, it's not what the people of Metropolitan Toronto want and they and we are going to oppose you to the hilt on this.


I only hope that little retrenchment we saw from the Premier so far will be but a first step as we continue to point out to the members opposite how wrong they are in what they're doing. Now that they've agreed to some form of hearings, and more importantly to hearings that will go beyond the referenda, I say to people who are interested in this issue, people who have any interest at all in maintaining the democratic process in this province and within Metropolitan Toronto in particular, to take the referenda process, to use it to say clearly to Mike Harris that what he's doing on Bill 103 and what he's doing in downloading the various services on to the property tax system is wrong. Then let's see Mike Harris proceed, if he will, to impose this decision against the will of the people. I don't know that he'll do that, but let's see what happens.

My trust is with the people out there who continue to believe that even this government at some point has to begin to listen to what people are saying. I think the next three or four weeks will be very telling in terms of where this government is going and whether it is prepared to begin to understand that getting elected once every four or five years does not give you a licence to strangle democracy, and it certainly does not give you a licence to dismantle all of the good things about this province that make us the envy of the world. That's a mandate that no government, not Mike Harris today and no government before him and no government after him, will ever be given by the people of this province, because at the heart of the changes is the process of democracy and that process of democracy doesn't stop with an election every four or five years; that process of democracy is ongoing. That process of democracy demands that the government of the day listen to the people it purports to represent, especially when it brings forward directions and actions that are contrary to what it promised it would do during the election.

That is the way in which any good government that wants to retain the support of the people has to behave. That's not the way in which this government is behaving, and unless it's prepared to change its ways, the people will remember.

The Acting Speaker: Further debate?

Mr Marchese: I want to congratulate my colleague from Dovercourt on the tenacity with which he is fighting this bill and this government, and on his strong support for democracy in allowing people in Metropolitan Toronto in particular to have a say so that at the end of the day, one way or the other, people will have had what they need, and that is to be a part of this process and not to be excluded.

A year ago or so we had a government on the other side -- and I will get to that because I want to talk about Mr Leach and some of the things he said prior to the election. But he announced a little while ago something that in Metropolitan Toronto became very distasteful. He announced the amalgamation of all the cities, and he said in the region outside of Metro, "You will have a facilitator to guide you through this process of possibly amalgamating in your own regions."

When the people of Metro saw the differential treatment they got, they became very upset and very angry. They could only deduce that it was for political reasons, which are clear to me and becoming clearer to everybody else. The reason people in the 905 region are being treated differently is because they have supported this government strongly, and they continue, it appears, to support this government, whereas in Metropolitan Toronto it's a little different. They didn't have the same level of support as in the 905, so they thought they could do in Metro what they want. But it's backfiring, because people in Metro are saying: "We don't want autocracy in our area. We want the same level of treatment as everybody else, and not just in the 905 area but across Ontario."

They're getting a facilitator to guide them through this process outside. We get no facilitation here in Metropolitan Toronto and we believe that is wrong. I'm not the only one, as a politician, saying it's wrong. People in Metropolitan Toronto are saying it's wrong. They're very, very worried about what is taking place, because what happens in Metro they fear is also going to happen outside of Metro.

While people outside of Metro relish the thought that we are the only ones who are being beaten up, many are beginning to understand that this government is after them as well. Yes, they have found a common enemy in Ontario by fighting Toronto specifically and attacking Metropolitan Toronto, but that's a short-lived attack. It's a short-lived pleasure that people are getting, because as we've seen in the announcements, the assault on all municipalities is happening as they dump all of the other services that should properly be funded by the province of Ontario.

First of all, people are angry that we are getting different treatment here in Metro. I tell you frankly, we don't like it. Very few people in Metro like it. As I talk to the member from Brampton, he tells me how some people call and say, "You're doing a great thing by amalgamating Metro." Of course, because he thinks he's not going to be touched by it all, but he will. I will get to some of the comments to show how he's going to be touched, how people in Brampton are going to be touched by it.

The government says it wants to amalgamate because it will be cheaper. There is no evidence for that whatsoever. The Premier and the minister gleefully talk about all the great savings when you amalgamate: "So many different people are gone. One body will deliver the services." Everybody should feel happy to know, because the Premier has told us, there will be savings, and only because the Premier's told us. Is there any evidence for that, Mr Premier? None. There is no evidence for that whatsoever, but it doesn't seem to faze this Premier or this minister or the members of this government. They just pray that they can convince the majority of people that this vague, general plan that they've got for Metro is working and that they will save some money.

Professor Andrew Sancton, in his review of all of these amalgamations across Canada, has discovered of course that there is no evidence for this. He says, "There is no academic evidence to suggest that consolidation produces savings." That is a conclusion that Professor Sancton has made in his review of all the studies.

In another study that I have here in front of me, a number of other people abandoned their efforts to amalgamate. "Further indications," Professor Kitchen says, "are that in Rotterdam, after a recent review, a decision was made to preserve local municipalities in response to public reaction to an amalgamation proposal." Similarly, in Portland, Oregon, of all places, a decision was made to preserve local cities. In a number of places in the world where they were considering this, they came to the conclusion that bigger is not better, that centralizing the services is not necessarily better whatsoever and doesn't save any money.

This government is moving contrary to the direction people are offering through their studies, and it almost makes no sense. Usually, as some other study from Newfoundland, the provincial government's amalgamation proposal and economists' perspective, says, "Provincial legislators ought to demonstrate to the public why accepting any amalgamation proposal is in the public interest."

Usually it is incumbent on governments to show that what they are doing is in the general interest of the public. They have offered none. There is no evidence. There is only the word of Mike Harris that you are going to save. Well, I suggest to you that by listening to Mike Harris you're going to have to accept a bigger tax bill; that's what's coming. That is why people need to think about this alarm that many people are raising -- not just from the opposition ranks but by many others as well.


Here's another one, "Sounding the Alarm," where the Toronto fire chief, Peter Ferguson, was reported to have said, on December 16: "There's been no active fire service participation in the process. I don't know who they're drawing on for expertise. It shouldn't go to the consultants and the number crunchers. We should have some input."

People like that have a great deal of credibility in their communities, and they're worried. People like that are worried. Not only have they not been consulted, but they think this process is moving in the wrong direction.

My colleague mentioned people from the board of trade, an interesting article.

Mrs Margaret Marland (Mississauga South): I think the Liberals should be here listening to you.

Mr Marchese: They should, but we probably have a quorum.

Here's a headline, "Business: Tory Plan a Threat to Metro." "Soaring taxes will speed up exodus to the suburbs, says board of trade. The board of trade warns changes to result in property tax hikes."

It's not just people in opposition who are raising the alarm and are very worried about what you're doing; we have now come to the point where even your own allies are very worried. If they weren't worried, they would not have had a press conference with a banker and the board of trade and the United Way to tell you that they're very concerned about what you are about to do. The very things you say about why you need to change the system are the very things this group of people is saying are causing the opposite of what you intend.

When you have members talking about the fact that we need change, that the status quo is wrong and we need change to make Metropolitan Toronto stronger, people like the board of trade, your friends, people like bankers generally, your friends, and the United Way, an institution that's very concerned about what will happen to services, have held a press conference to tell you to go slowly, to reflect on what you're doing and hopefully decide that you are on the wrong track of this issue.

I understand you wouldn't want to listen to the rest of us, but surely you would want to listen to them, because normally this is your sounding board, not mine. When a banker says, "Oh, let's not attack the banks too much," while that same individual makes $3.5 million, I don't get too worried about that kind of comment, but people like yourselves should, because this is your sounding board, as opposed to mine, and if he's sounding and they're sounding the alarm, it seems to me that you people over there should listen to that kind of comment.

We have got here a problem that is very massive. You have now taken the education portion out of property taxes. It's $5.4 billion. Your minister and your Premier talk happily about how this is a great thing you have done. Change was necessary, people have clamoured to eliminate the education portion of the property taxes, and you've finally delivered. I can see the faces on the other side smiling about the fact you've kept that promise. It's great, you took out the education portion of property taxes. You've done a good thing. That's something I have supported for a long time. You take the education portion out of property taxes and you fund it provincially. I believe in that very strongly. I recall, during another debate, when some of your members over there agreed with what I said.

Mr Jim Flaherty (Durham Centre): Good. Stop when you're right. Stop right there.

Mr Marchese: When you tell me, "Good," and, "Stop right there," you're missing the point. The fact of the matter is, you haven't done that. What you have done is taken that portion out of property taxes, and you are replacing that with an equivalent amount. Not only that; you're going to add to that.

Some people were not much worried about this issue of amalgamation. I suspect there are a lot of people who didn't think this is too bad an idea, although many of that group that has been organizing against this particular bill do. But once you have added the dumping of all those services that properly belong to the province, you have gained new enemies out there. You might have been able to convince some of the people that amalgamation was a good thing -- you might have been able to achieve that on its own -- but when you dump these other services you have created a whole new enemy out there, not just in Metropolitan Toronto, but everywhere.

You have created enemies of people who believe that welfare should not be something that the taxpayer or the owner of a home should subsidize. They say that the provincial income tax is the place for that, and I agree. Long-term care is something, they argue, that should be funded by the province and not by the property taxpayer, and I agree with them. Long-term care is going to be a very expensive thing. You haven't calculated that long-term cost. You've only calculated the initial transfer of your costs, but you have not calculated the cost of some of you seniors, who will soon become seniors, that we will have to support you through the property tax. We're going to have to support a whole lot of seniors to my left and in front of me very, very soon. We're not talking later. That's a problem.

Mr Pouliot: Some of them are healthy, thank heaven.

Mr Marchese: Healthy or not, those services need to be funded by the province through an income tax system.

They have passed the cost of housing completely on to the municipalities. That's a wrong thing to do, very wrong. Housing --

Mrs Marland: I'm going to rise on a point of order. It's getting too boring. Mr Speaker, I'm raising a point of order which actually isn't in our procedural book --

The Speaker: It probably it isn't a point of order, to the member for Mississauga South. I appreciate your interjection and your frankness. The member for Fort York.

Mr Marchese: Housing has been passed on or will be passed on now --

Mr Wayne Wettlaufer (Kitchener): Tony, if I had known that Rosario was the one who was going to be speaking, I wouldn't have given you consent.

Mr Marchese: Mr Speaker, I want to -- I got their attention. Thank you very much. I got their attention so I don't need you any more. Thank you.

The Speaker: You always have my attention.

Mr Marchese: They're passing on the full cost of housing to the municipalities. One would never have dreamed, in this place or outside this place, that this government would have the fortitude to pass on welfare, long-term care and housing. No one would have believed they would do that.

Housing is a costly business, especially public housing. A study we did in 1994 showed that the costs to retrofit those buildings are in the area of $230 million. I didn't see the government calculate that into its costs, into what they are transferring to the municipalities, but municipalities have added those figures up and they know that they're going to pick up the cost of housing. It's in the area of $240 million. It wasn't added up.

Mr Ford: How come?

Mr Marchese: How come? Because the housing stock is old. It's approximately 30, 35 years old, most of it, and that needs repairs. Yes, some money was put in, but a lot more money has to be put into that sector to be able to keep up the buildings. Municipalities not just in Metropolitan Toronto are worried, but outside of Metro. They're worried about the additional costs they're going to pick up for long-term care, for housing, and they are also worried about welfare because there will indeed be another recession, as there has been every five to seven years, and people will face greater costs.

Mike Harris says, "Don't worry, we'll help you out when the time comes." Nobody trusts Mike Harris, the Premier of this province, to help them out when the next recession comes about and they're facing bigger bills on housing, long-term care and welfare, and they now have transportation. Outside of Toronto and Metro the subsidy to transportation by the province is very high, somewhere in the nature of 70%, 80%, depending on different communities. They know they're going to pick up that cost. Libraries have been passed on to the municipalities. All the responsibilities that properly should remain in the hands of the province have been passed on.


The government has done other calculations, and I will get to them, but they've also added market value assessment or a combination of the two. We're not quite clear yet which the minister thinks he's got to offer here in Ontario. But we have market value assessment introduced in Ontario, and that is going to raise people's property taxes to begin with. Without this dumping of other additional things, people in Metropolitan Toronto, Etobicoke, where the Speaker lives, and other places of this metropolitan place are going face a tax hike without having to get the additional costs that will come as a result of the dumping of all these other services.

In my riding 90% of the people in the heart of downtown are going to get a tax increase, in my area of the city, right in the heart of downtown. That's what makes us different. It makes us different here in the city of Toronto because we are able to keep a big residential component in the heart of Toronto. We do that because, by and large, people like to live downtown. I tell you this: Market value assessment here in Metro is going to hurt a lot of people. They're going to face a property tax hike just with that action alone. Add to that long-term care and welfare and housing, transportation, libraries and the like and people know they're going to get a tax increase. Gilles Pouliot knows that; others know this. I think many people are beginning to know that even on the other side, because their constituents are beginning to worry about that.

Add to that the fact that this government says, "We're eliminating the business occupancy tax." That's $1.2 billion. It's got to be made up somehow. The municipalities have to make up $1.2 billion. Mr Ernie Eves said: "That's not a problem. The municipalities will have to deal with that." How do they deal with that? Somebody has to pay, and either the residential sector has to pay or the other businesses that own those properties will have to pick up the $1.2 billion of the business occupancy tax. That wasn't figured in; that was not calculated in the figures. Mr Speaker, I'm not sure that some of the members heard: $1.2 billion has to be made up when they get rid of the business occupancy tax. It's a problem.

They have another feature in there called the tax differential between the condos and the residential sector, the rental buildings. There is a very big differential between the two. In fact, the rate that rental buildings are paying is four times higher than the condominiums. So Mike Harris says: "That's okay. We will now introduce enabling legislation that will permit municipalities to deal with that tax differential." That might be all right for Ernie Eves and Mike Harris to do but it's not all right for the municipalities. They know if they do that, that difference has to be made up somehow, that somebody is going to have to pay that difference, that someone is going to have to pay. Property taxes will still be high for one group or another or for most groups.

What have you added, as a summary that is important for people to understand? You've taken $5.4 billion out of education and you have added an equivalent amount of welfare and transportation and housing and long-term care and libraries and so on. Add to that the additional costs of welfare in the next recession; add to that the long-term-care costs of many seniors, most of you and others who are coming on board in the next five or 10 years; add to that actual value assessment in Metropolitan Toronto in particular and across the province; add to that the $1.2 billion of the business occupancy tax and the elimination of the tax differential between the rental buildings and the condominiums, and you've got a big property tax bill on your hands.

You can either believe Mike Harris on this, the Premier, or believe those who are crunching the other numbers on the other side. But that's okay. A lawyer from the other side said you can believe Mike Harris or you can believe us. You just have to trust your own instincts. You, as an electorate out there, have to trust your own instincts. Do you believe Mike Harris when he says, "You're getting a tax break from us"? He might be giving you a tax break if you're wealthy through the income tax cut, but I tell you this, you are not getting a property tax break from the dumping of this bill, of these measures, on to municipalities.

I have to tell you, Mr Lawyer on the other side, people are going to have to swallow a big horse pill to believe you. It is a big horse pill that people in Ontario have to swallow to believe you. From my touring of the province on a variety of issues, including rent control, people are concerned about what you're doing and rightfully so. They no longer believe this government in terms of the steps that you are now venturing in.

Some people across Ontario were not unhappy when you attacked the poor through welfare. They probably thought that was a good thing. Many of us disagree with that, but some of your supporters thought that was great. Finally we have a government that's going to be autocratic enough to be able to cut the services and the benefits of people who are the lowest and poorest of our members in society. Some were happy you did that. I was completely against that and I believe that when you attack the most vulnerable people, you are doing a disservice to yourselves and our society.

Some did not mind your attack on the Employment Equity Act that we had and you repealed. You made a lot of people happy about that, because all of you before the election made it appear that people of colour were getting the jobs because of employment equity. White people said to themselves, "It isn't unemployment that's creating the problem; it's the fact that employment equity is giving jobs to people of colour," and that was a distortion of the truth. But it worked for a lot of people. Then you gave them an income tax cut and people loved that. You told them, "Finally I'm going to give you a tax break. You deserve it. You've been paying too much," and many liked that. That was a good, healthy pill that you gave them.

But when you give them this other horse pill to swallow, this other horse bill -- bill and pill -- about dumping all of this other stuff on the property taxpayer, I tell you, you are going too far. You have reached a threshold of reasonability that most people will not stand for. You have permitted for a democracy to grow in Ontario, especially Metro, because of the malodorous actions and policies of this government, and I thank you for that.

I thank you because people needed a reason to get involved and you have given them a reason to be involved. When governments go too far with their policies, you then have to confront an electorate that's prepared to attack you and defend themselves and defend their communities because the amalgamation of their cities in their minds and mine is an ice pick in the heart of Metropolitan Toronto, and with the dumping of these services on to Metro in particular, it's worse.

With the amalgamation of boards of education, which is the real disguise to get $500 million out of Metro, people in the education sector are realizing all of this is a front to take money out of Metro, and you're doing it. Your attack on trustees which your Reform public loves is but a disguise to get to the $500 million from Metro that you desperately need to fund that misguided income tax cut.


People involved in education understand that the real fight here is not the fact that you have just assaulted trustees in all of the province, that the real fight is not just around amalgamation, because they all know the savings of that are very little, if any. In fact, we're not even sure there has been any study that shows that amalgamating a few boards is going to be any less costly. We don't know. That is the claim you make, but no study that I've seen shows there will be savings.

People are beginning to understand what this is all about. They are sorting out the garbage you are espousing, which is to say that trustees are the enemy, and because we have 123 boards, that is the enemy we need to attack. They're understanding the separation of that versus the fact that this government needs to get out of the educational system approximately $1.2 billion if not close to $2 billion, as I argue.

You're going to have to deal with that issue because you've made a promise not to cut one cent from education, which you've already broken, but you need more money than the $400 million or close to $800 million you've taken out of the educational system. You need more money than that, so you are devising a way to assault teachers as well, because that is one of the areas you have to get to to get money, but you will make it appear that this is not an assault on teachers or students, that it's really an assault on non-classroom education. From my long years as a trustee and teacher, the few dollars that are left outside of the classroom all connect to the classroom. They are all related to classroom education.

You might smile and talk gleefully about how smug you appear and how right you appear in your direction, but people are learning that what we have in our hands is an autocracy, a government that behaves as if there is no democracy, a government that has decided to operate as if there were no people out there who would oppose them, a government that has decided they don't need to listen to the public, and up until a couple of weeks ago Mike Harris said he wasn't going to listen to anybody and Monsieur Leach said he wasn't going to listen to anybody either. Then Mike Harris came back a couple of days ago and he said: "Oh, we had it all wrong. We are going to listen. We are going to allow for the referendum to take place. But," he added, "we are not backing down."

My deduction from this statement is that he pretends or he is giving the illusion that he's going to listen to people through the referendum, but he says, "We are not backing down," which leads me to believe that this man, this government, have no respect for the democratic process, that they will forge ahead in their misguided policies no matter what the people of Metropolitan Toronto and other places have to say.

What do I urge people to do? I urge people, those who are listening, like the Speaker is listening intently, I can tell, to write in to the minister and to the Premier and other ministers who might have an interest in this, through a letter signed by you, but on the front page write "Private and Confidential" so the minister gets it in his little hands and Mike Harris gets it in his little hands. If you don't write "Private and Confidential" on that letter, it's going to go through the bureaucracy and it will take four years to be able to get a response to your letter. So write a letter "Private and Confidential." Please do that.

Sign those petitions and meet with your Conservative members. Meet with them. Look them in the eye as you tell them and as you raise your points and wait for their answers. You want to look them in the eyes as they tell you why they think what they're doing is right. Don't phone them, simply. It isn't good enough. Writing is good but meeting with your MPPs is more important than that.

Tonight there is an important meeting at 56 Queen Street East. It is going to be a mega-meeting against the madness of the amalgamation of Metropolitan Toronto and I urge everybody watching to come down; it's at 7:30 tonight. Last week there were 1,500 people. I wager that, because I see democracy growing, there are going to be 2,500 in that church. The space is not big enough to hold the people. I tell you, they're going to be overflowing and it's going to get bigger. Next week we're likely to see those numbers growing yet again, to 3,500.

Democracy has a way of growing and Mike Harris cannot but listen, even though he pretends that he will not. He will listen, so keep up the pressure, meet with the Conservative members across Ontario and let them know what you think.

The Speaker: Questions, comments?

Mr Tony Clement (Brampton South): I want to thank the honourable member for Fort York for his comments today and I want to assure you, Mr Speaker, and through you the audience at home, that this is a government that does respect democracy, which is precisely why we are quite encouraged that the debate is going on today. Quite frankly, we are looking forward to the public hearings, which we always said, and which the Premier and Minister Leach always said, would be part and parcel of the ongoing discussion on how to create a government within Metropolitan Toronto that will service the needs of the community and the citizens within Metropolitan Toronto in a way which is sustainable, which is respectable and which respects accountability.

There are those who disagree with us. The opposition quite obviously has a different point of view, and I certainly respect that and look forward to their point of view at the public hearings, but to suggest that we are denying a democracy not only calls into question the public hearing process, which we are very much committed to, but also lends credence to the types of things that are going on within the six cities at present.

Once again, I feel compelled to draw to your attention the fact that the six cities claim that they are doing a series of referendums when in fact it is nothing more than a glorified and expensive $2.7-million public opinion poll. If one reads the Toronto Star today, one finds out how the six cities are starting to fund only one side of the issue, and I repeat, only one side of the issue: $4,000 is going to Dragon Times Productions so that "quite respectable street artists and musicians" can do some sort of street theatre to explain the position of the anti-unified-city proposals. If that's how they want to spend taxpayers' money, I want no part of it.

Mr Gerretsen: Let me just say I find this whole debate about public hearings very interesting. Let me first of all say that I'm a total believer in the public hearing process, but I think as well that public hearings ought to be meaningful. It seems to me, just from having been in this House for the last year and a half or so, that the public hearing process we've set up here really isn't all that meaningful.

Let's face facts and let's tell the people of Ontario exactly where we're at. If you have public hearings after a bill has had second reading, when we've taken probably anywhere from two or three days to five or six, seven days to stake out our positions here as to how we stand on the bills that are presented to us, both from the government side and from the opposition side, then really the public hearing process isn't all that meaningful.

It seems to me that the public hearing process is much more meaningful if you do it at the front of the exercise, before people stake out their positions on it. It would be akin to a municipality having a public hearing process, for example, by a planning committee on a matter that might be rezoning etc after the council of that municipality, which is going to be the ultimate decider, had already staked out its position as to where it stood on that particular issue. That's one problem I have a real difficulty with, the whole public hearings process.

Maybe what we ought to do in this House at some point of time is take a look at our roles to make sure that the public hearings are meaningful and do something about it before second reading.

Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): You can't do it that way.

Mr Gerretsen: You may not be able to do that right now, but I'm sure that the rules can be modified to accommodate that.

The other issue the people of Ontario should not lose sight of is the fact that this whole amalgamation and annexation issue is closely related to the dumping of social services on municipalities. As I've already indicated in the case of my particular city, our city hall staff has indicated that it's going to cost $23 million more under the new proposed system.


Mr Pouliot: I've learned a lot through the remarks, very timely indeed, and insightful, of the member for Dovercourt and the member for Fort York.

I want to share with you that I couldn't help but notice the irony or maybe the cynicism of the member for Brampton South, who felt the need to remind the House that "We respect democracy." How profound. Must you read like the scripture and remind yourself to convey, to preach to others? What the opposition, our party, is asking for, through the voices of my two distinguished colleagues, is six real weeks of hearings, because what's happening here is not revenue-neutral. This is sorcery.

On the one hand the government says, "You shall save the education portion on your tax bill," yet on the other hand they will go at the very heart of social programs and say: "The population is getting older. You take it. You pay. If you can't, you do without. You take the policing," or you take it away. The list goes on and on. It's not revenue-neutral. It's the closest cousin to hypocrisy, and they're downloading on municipalities -- Mr Speaker, I know that you are very alert, sir.

The Speaker: I'm alert enough to know that you can't say that. I want to ask that you withdraw.

Mr Pouliot: Mr Speaker, I was referring to the cousin, not to the government, but I will withdraw anyway.

Suffice it to say that this kind of façade, this thinly veiled, deliberate and systematic --

The Speaker: Thank you very much.

Mr Hastings: I'd like to pick up on the theme of the member for Lake Nipigon, talking about a veil. I would think that you would only want to use a veil in the more mystic, religious experience or context. We do not use a veil on this side at all. What you see is what you get.

Mr Pouliot: Yes, what I see is what I get.

Mr Hastings: Absolutely. Good-looking, articulate, sophisticated.

Let's get back to the actual business case that we're dealing with here today. I would like to go back to some of the remarks of the member for Kingston and The Islands when he was talking about wishing we could have a really good public hearings consultation process.

The Speaker: The member for Etobicoke-Rexdale, you're commenting on the interventions offered up by the members for Fort York and Dovercourt.

Mr Hastings: I'm completely ignoring them, though, Speaker.

The Speaker: Then you can't participate in questions and comments.

Mr Hastings: I'm beginning to wonder about this Speaker.

The Speaker: That is not a new rule; it's a rule that's been around for quite a while.

Mr Hastings: Are you going to allow the existing time that you've utilized on my 18 seconds? That's not fair --

The Speaker: No, I'm not.

Mr Hastings: Incredible, but what would you expect?

Let's get back to the wish or the hope for public consultation and hearings. You're going to get many weeks, but to the opposition: We could be doing this sooner, but over the last two weeks, since we arrived back here on January 13, I haven't seen a lot of substantial cooperation in terms of actually getting this bill into committee.

Mr Wildman: Why should we be cooperating?

Mr Hastings: Exactly, see?

The Speaker: Thank you.

Mr Silipo: Speaker, I know that you would not want me to belabour this point, given the time, so I just want to say, on behalf of the member for Fort York and myself, that we always appreciate responses. Even though the member for Etobicoke-Rexdale may not want to respond to us or listen to us, he may want to ignore us, he won't be able to ignore the people out there.

I want to say to the member for Brampton South that I'm glad he's looking forward to the public hearings. I hope he will listen to what we're going to hear during the public hearings, because what he will hear is virtual opposition to what his government is doing, and this from someone who prides himself -- and I know he's very genuine -- on his strong beliefs about the need for a referendum law in this province.

If he sees what is going on in Metropolitan Toronto as simply a glorified public opinion poll, then I say to the member opposite, look again, because you're missing the point. You're missing the point of citizens and local governments up in arms against a government that's spending $8 million advertising its agenda. There's hardly a one-sided advertising campaign going on. If there is, it's in favour of the government, not in favour of those opposed to the megacity. I want to say to you that what is going on is a real outrage being expressed by the governments and the people in Metropolitan Toronto against what Mike Harris's government is doing.

We can have hearings and we will have some hearings -- we already know you've agreed to that -- but there's a very big difference between the nine days of hearings that your House leader has offered up so far and the weeks of hearings we believe need to be there in order to really hear the people who want to speak, in order to really listen to what people have to say on this very important issue. We will see over the next few days the test of this government in terms of whether you really believe in democracy. So far you haven't shown that you do.

The Speaker: It now being past 6 of the clock, this House stands adjourned until 1:30 of the clock tomorrow.

The House adjourned at 1807.