36e législature, 1re session

L222a - Tue 2 Sep 1997 / Mar 2 Sep 1997














































The House met at 1331.




Mr Michael Gravelle (Port Arthur): This past week, a municipal restructuring commissioner sent in by Mike Harris and Al Leach told a packed crowd at the Jellicoe community hall that the towns of Beardmore, Geraldton, Longlac, Nakina and 25 other townships surrounding them would cease to exist as of January 1, 1998. In their place will be one new municipality called Greenstone, a municipality larger than many countries and one that will have but one mayor and eight councillors to represent this extraordinarily vast area.

It's difficult to know what the greater insult is. Is it that the municipality spent so much time over the past several months working with the commissioner on devising an upper-tier form of government only to have it rejected out of hand by Commissioner Gray, because it's now clear that was never an option for this government; or is it that the government seems intent on stamping out the identity of communities in our part of the province whose history and survival should be celebrated, rather than scorned?

The fact is, this forced amalgamation is part of the government's master plan to further reduce the voice of northerners. By taking away the northern support grant, they seem intent on actually killing some of our northern communities. Now, by reducing the number of municipalities, they hope to further still our voice.

I would advise the Premier of one thing today. Yes, you can change our names and reduce our numbers, but you will be accountable at some point in the not-too-distant future. I can tell you, the people of northern Ontario and Beardmore, Geraldton, Longlac, Nakina and all the townships will neither forgive nor will they forget.


Mr Tony Martin (Sault Ste Marie): The Latin-American theologian Gustavo Gutierrez says this:

"Our view of the past must not be impelled by nostalgia but by hope. It is not a fixation on the painful and traumatic events of the past, but rather a concern about contemporary poverty and a conviction that only a people which has retained its memory can change its situation and build a better world."

I had the privilege yesterday of marching in my community with a large number of men and women who remembered yesterday the contribution that the organized labour movement has made to the quality of life of communities like Sault Ste Marie in Ontario and indeed in Canada over the years.

In the midst of the anger and frustration, I sensed, in talking to the folks I came in contact with a tremendous feeling of solidarity against a known enemy attacking them from every direction, not remembering the very valiant fights that were fought on the picket lines, the sacrifices that were made over the years by our forefathers and foremothers as they fought for health and safety conditions in the workplace, as they fought for better wages, as they fought for benefit packages that we all benefit from here.

I would say today to all those who marched in Labour Day parades yesterday --

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Thank you.


Mr Jerry J. Ouellette (Oshawa): It is with great pleasure that I rise to address the House regarding the Second Marsh wildlife area, situated at the east end of my riding of Oshawa.

The Second Marsh is a provincially significant wetland of about 123 hectares that is home to some 361 species of plants, 265 species of birds and 27 mammal species.

A Lake Ontario shoreline wetland, the Second Marsh is unique in that it is one of the few remaining wetlands adjacent to a sizeable urban centre. As an environmental habitat the Second Marsh plays a vital role in maintaining the ecological and environmental health in Oshawa. This urban wetland is a breeding habitat for wildlife, and contributes to nutrient storage, flood control and water purification.

The value of the Second Marsh to the community of Oshawa is evident in the recreational and educational opportunities it provides.

The Second Marsh wildlife area is a predominant area that was showcased to the judges for the National Communities in Bloom program. The marsh was a significant part of Oshawa's success in this program.

As a member of one of the member groups that contribute thousands of volunteer hours to the Second Marsh, I would like to recognize and congratulate the tremendous value the organizers and volunteers contribute to the Second Marsh. Wetlands such as these not only contribute to our communities, but to our whole environment as well.


Mr Pat Hoy (Essex-Kent): Today a new school year began for 810,000 children who ride school buses in Ontario. For the past two years I've been working on a piece of legislation to protect those children. Bill 78 received the unanimous support of this Legislature almost a year ago. Bill 78 puts teeth in the law which is supposed to protect children. It gives the law a mechanism to gain convictions which cannot be made now.

Mr Palladini can crow all he wants about the new school bus safety measures in Bill 138. That is bull roar. Nobody is fooled. All he has done is raise the fines. If you can't get a conviction, it doesn't matter. Police do not have the resources to follow 16,000 buses around the province.

This morning a new school year started in Windsor. In the midst of all the government's media hype about the protection of increased fines comes a report of two vehicles in Windsor which blatantly passed a school bus.

The minister's bill is a failure. If it doesn't work on the first day of school, one of the few times when police can afford a safety blitz, when is it going to work? It leaves children at risk from speeding drivers. Eleven children have been killed and over 80 injured in the past 10 years by drivers who ignore the school bus warning lights.

The government must pass Bill 78 or introduce vehicle liability --

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Thank you. I say to the member for Essex-Kent that I'm going to reserve on "bull roar," by the way. The member for Beaches Woodbine.

Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-Woodbine): We'll all quite look forward to that ruling, Mr Speaker.


Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-Woodbine): I rise today to state my very real concern about the recent announcements of cuts in the speech pathology program, and in particular the stuttering treatment program at the Clarke Institute. These cuts have been attributed directly to cuts in funding by the provincial government.

At a time when the provincial government has indicated its desire to invest in children's programs, one of those programs being an increase in money available for speech pathology, many of us who recognized that the need was so great and that money that was being reinvested after the cuts would do little to address the need, hoped however that it would stem the tide, that it would stem the haemorrhaging of the system, yet now we find the program at the Clarke has had to be cut as a result of cuts in the provincial funding.

It is a world-renowned program. The program there, particularly the part of the speech pathology program that deals with stuttering, has helped many people move from an impediment in their speech to being able to learn to speak, to operate in productive employment. It has been a godsend for many people.

This is an issue of disabilities, and a disability that can be overcome. I urge the government to take another look at this. We shouldn't lose this world-renowned program, this program that really helps people get over disabilities.


Mr E.J. Douglas Rollins (Quinte): It is my pleasure to rise in the House today to congratulate the employees and management of Autosystems of Belleville. For the second year in a row, General Motors has recognized Autosystems as being "the best of the best" among its 30,000 parts suppliers, naming the company the best headlamp supplier in the world.

After 10 years in business and more than 10 million headlamps shipped, Autosystems has amassed several industry honours. Those honours included GM's Mark of Excellence award in July 1990, Ford's Q1 award in 1994, and more recently certification in the QS9000, an impressive industry standard set by the three major automakers.

President Don Warren said: "Since the first day of business, Autosystems has recognized that doing a first class job every day is critically important to success." That philosophy continues to pay dividends as the company has been awarded contracts for five more headlamps for various vehicles coming on line in the near future.

The success of Autosystems demonstrates that Quinte is a great place in which to do business. I would like to encourage other manufacturers to come to Quinte and to learn for themselves what Autosystems has learned, that we are the best in the world.



Mr David Ramsay (Timiskaming): With the recent breakout at the boot camp, I think it's time for the Harris government to re-evaluate some of its privatization initiatives.

I think they need to understand that companies, in order to make a profit, are going to shortchange some of the conditions inside a prison. Companies benefit from every dime not being spent and corrections is a very labour-intensive industry. Staff-inmate ratio, training and preparation of staff have an important role to play in determining the cost of institutionalization and the quality of life in the prison.

The pressures of the work with a hostile and manipulative clientele make Ontario jails challenging places to work, resulting in lower pay, less benefits, fewer and less qualified employees doing monotonous routines, which will only make matters worse.

In the Harris government's zeal to reinvent government, we should remember there is a great deal of difference between privatizing and contracting out the pickup of garbage and hiring a corporation to run a jail. The privatization policy also promotes a failed crime control approach and subscribes to the idea that incarceration can win the war against crime.

What the Harris government needs to be talking about is the need to develop viable crime prevention policies. We tend to deal with the symptoms and not with the causes of crime, and the privatization debate impedes the development of alternatives to the prevailing correctional policies.

The major challenge is to reinvent corrections as a public service and not as a private business.


Ms Shelley Martel (Sudbury East): In the Common Sense Revolution the Conservative Party promised no new user fees, but beginning yesterday, September 1, northern motorists now are hit with a new vehicle registration fee: $37 to register a car, $21 to register a motorcycle and $2 more for registration of certain commercial vehicles. This is a new user fee, plain and simple.

The government has tried to argue that the fee is fair because the money will be used to improve northern highways. The government conveniently forgets that northerners already pay more because we pay at the pumps. We consistently pay more for gasoline than anywhere else in the province and that is why our NDP government removed the vehicle registration fee in northern Ontario.

If the government truly wants to improves northern highways it would take some of the $1.9 billion in new gas tax revenues it will receive this year and apply some of that to northern highways.

But to demonstrate how desperate the government is to pick the pockets of northerners, consider the case of Mazie McGlade, a constituent of mine. The new registration fee went into effect yesterday, September 1. Her birthday is on August 31. When she went to get her registration stickers on August 23, she was told she would have to pay the new fee because the office was closed on August 31. So even though the fee did not take effect until yesterday, she had to pay $74 for her two vehicles.

This is a money grab. The government should do the right thing: remove the registration fee in northern Ontario.


Mr Frank Klees (York-Mackenzie): Today thousands of classrooms throughout York region are empty when they should be filled with secondary school students beginning their new school year. They're empty because their teachers have been on strike, and for the past number of weeks students and their parents have lived with the uncertainty of whether classes would start or not.

Well, they didn't start today and that's not fair to students, it's not fair to their parents, and frankly it's not fair to the many teachers who would prefer to be teaching. It's also not fair to many single-parent families and families with two parents working who have to make other arrangements.

Fortunately, a tentative agreement has been reached and classes are scheduled to begin tomorrow. I am hopeful that this agreement will be ratified and that the education of York region secondary students can begin and continue uninterrupted.

I call on the Minister of Education to turn his attention to this very important issue and ensure that contract negotiations for the teaching profession are in future conducted within a more professional framework, a framework which will not involve the withdrawal of services from Ontario's students.



Mr Grimmett moved first reading of the following bill:

Bill 154, An Act to amend the Highway Traffic Act with respect to the suspension of drivers' licences / Projet de loi 154., Loi modifiant le Code de la route en ce qui concerne les suspensions de permis de conduire.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried. Short comments?

Mr Bill Grimmett (Muskoka-Georgian Bay): If enacted, this bill would require the suspension of the motor vehicle licence of anyone convicted of impaired operation of a vessel. This is a very important issue in my riding. It will put drinking and boating on the same level as drinking and driving and it will place a major deterrent before anyone who is considering having a drink before they operate a boat.


Mr Baird moved first reading of the following bill:

Bill 155, An Act proclaiming Victims of Violent Crime Commemoration Week / Projet de loi 155, Loi proclamant la Semaine de commémoration des victimes de crimes de violence.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried. Any short comments?

Mr John R. Baird (Nepean): This bill would commemorate the victims of violent crime and aims to foster awareness of victims' issues in our society and the reform of our criminal justice system.



Hon David Johnson (Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet, Government House Leader): I move that the Vice-Chair and the clerk of the public accounts committee be authorized to adjourn to Edmonton, Alberta, to attend the annual meeting of the Canadian Council of Public Accounts Committees in September 1997.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.


Hon David Johnson (Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet, Government House Leader): I'm not sure that this is precisely a motion, but I believe we have unanimous consent to observe a moment of silence in memory of Diana, the Princess of Wales.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): The government House leader is seeking unanimous consent for the House to observe a moment of silence as an expression of condolence over the passing of Princess Diana. Agreed? Agreed.

The House observed a moment's silence.




Mrs Lyn McLeod (Fort William): My question is for the Minister of Education. You have mercifully backed away from your intention to give students who are having learning difficulties large Fs for failure on their report cards. Instead you're going to give them an R, which you say will mean extensive remediation is needed. The problem is that your $533 million in cuts to education has already forced boards to cut back on their special education programs and to let go of remedial teachers.

You could provide some immediate reassurance that your talk on Friday about help for students with learning difficulties is not just part of your most recent public relations campaign. You could provide that reassurance by restoring the $533 million that you have already cut from the education budget so that special education programs and remedial support could be put back into the schools. Will you commit today to restoring the $533 million you have cut from education?

Hon John Snobelen (Minister of Education and Training): The member for Fort William once again is poorly informed, and perhaps her staff have not done the proper research. I'm sure she must be embarrassed by continually standing in the House and providing information which is just blatantly wrong.

First, if the member opposite checks on the report card, she will find there is a box that is checked by a teacher when the student has a special need and when they are on an individual lesson plan. That's on the report card, and it's there obviously to reflect those special needs and those special circumstances.

If she checks, or has her staff check, she will find that not one cent has been reduced from special needs funding by this government -- not ever, and won't ever be. If she checks again, she will find in the guidelines we have put out for the allocation model, which we are working on now, that we are committed to special funding for special needs students. We think that what has happened in the past with the general legislative grants program isn't sufficient for those special needs students, and that's why we're addressing it in particular.

Mrs McLeod: Minister, I remind you of the question. The question was whether you were prepared to put back the money you took out of education. I gather the answer is no. I don't find that reassuring and I don't think parents or educators across the province will.

You are about to take over the entire responsibility for deciding how much money is going to be spent on education. There is a very real fear out there that your idea of what is fair and equal means taking every student down to a common denominator that will be far too low to meet the needs of any student, let alone a student with special needs, that it will be a financial bottom line that works for you and the Treasurer, for the provincial budget, but doesn't work for kids in a classroom.

In boards like Ottawa, Toronto and Windsor, to name just three, boards where they have been spending more to meet the needs of their students, your new funding model is going to mean, without question, larger class sizes, less special education and probably the loss of junior kindergarten.

You love to talk about excellence in education, but you are likely only going to be prepared to pay for average. Do you think average will be okay when it comes to keeping class sizes down or providing special education programs?

Hon Mr Snobelen: The member for Fort William is just plain wrong. Everything that she has said in the last couple of minutes is exactly the opposite of what this government has been saying over two years, what all our actions are directed to. All of our directions are this: finding out what each individual student in this province needs for a first-class education and providing that funding. That's why we've done all the work we've done over the last year. That's why this government has taken the responsibility for funding education, so that each student in this province has an opportunity for a high-quality education, an opportunity that has been lacking in some cases because your government failed to fix a broken funding system. We will.

Mrs McLeod: I suggest to you it's very difficult to make judgements about right and wrong when nobody has any idea what this minister or his government plan to do when they take over control of all education funding.

Minister, I suggest to you that since no one knows what you're actually going to do when you control the funding, we can only go on the basis of the evidence to date, and the evidence is very clear: It is all about cuts. It is about cuts to the funding for junior kindergarten, it is about cuts to the funding for adult education, it is about $533 million worth of cuts by your government alone and it is about boasting that you're going to be able to cut aid even more. That is the evidence. No wonder people are worried about what's going to happen to education when you're the only one left in charge.

I want to take you back to something your own consultants said a year ago. Ernst and Young said to you in the report you commissioned on the financing of education that before you try to come up with a new funding formula you need to get a better understanding of the reasons why some boards spend more than others. So, Minister, I ask you: Will you give those expert task forces you have set out the time they need to go and get a greater understanding of what the real needs of quality education would be and what they would cost, board by board, or are you prepared to settle for averages because they fit within your provincial budget?

Hon Mr Snobelen: Once again, the member is wrong. We have never said we would settle for averages; as a matter of fact, quite the opposite. We believe we have to identify the needs of individual students, something that has been lacking in the past, one of the reasons why some of our students in Ontario have been second-class students by virtue of the funding available to them. We will take care of that.

In addition to that, the expert panels are out there looking to see and quantify those costs on a geographical basis. We understand and we've said very clearly from the beginning that there are different costs in different parts of Ontario, that different students have different needs. That's why we're doing the hard work we're doing now, building on 16 months of work that was done by a committee that reported to us last year. We're building on that to get a better funding system.

What I can guarantee the member opposite is this: We will not sit on our hands. We will not watch as the funding system makes second-class students of some of our young people in Ontario. We will not do that, unlike your government.


Mr Gerry Phillips (Scarborough-Agincourt): My question is to the acting Premier. He will appreciate that there's growing concern across Ontario about the impact of the Harris government on 1998 property taxes. During a briefing with ministry officials, we have had it confirmed that the province, when it takes into consideration the elimination in 1998 of a $666-million municipal support grant program, is adding about $660 million of new costs on to property taxes. That's from the ministry officials.

At the same time the government has said to the taxpayers that they should expect property taxes will be cut, average 5% to 10%, over the next three years, taking into account that the province is adding about $660 million of extra costs to municipalities, is it still the Harris government's intention that property taxes will decrease 5% to 10% over the next three years?

Hon David Johnson (Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet, Government House Leader): This government has said all along that the unconditional grants would disappear. The amount of money left in the unconditional grant is about $670 million. The province of Ontario said at the same time that the other transfer of authorities and the switching of funding, which in a general sense municipalities have been requesting for many years, would be revenue-neutral, and indeed that is the case. The transition teams composed of members of the government and of the municipalities continue to work on that issue, but there will be a revenue-neutrality in the rest of the switching.

It is the government's view that municipalities, with the ability now to be accountable for various services, to have the full responsibility for those services, will indeed be able to reduce the costs, just as the province has reduced costs, and not only will they accommodate that reduction of $670 million but have the opportunity for reduced taxes.


Mr Phillips: I appreciate your confirming that they are going to be picking up another $660 million of costs.

The province now is a key player in setting the property tax rate, as you know. The province now will set about one third of the property tax rate, about a quarter on residential and half on businesses, so the question is obviously in people's minds. You've told municipalities that their property taxes should drop 5% to 10%. The province is going to set one third of the property taxes. So people are anxiously awaiting the government's answer. You've told the property taxpayers to expect a 5% to 10% decrease.

Is it the government's intention to reduce its property tax rate by 5% to 10% over the next three years?

Hon David Johnson: The portion of the property tax that the province will have control over pertains to education and the province will have that responsibility. Half of the cost of education will be funded by the province of Ontario and half of the cost of education will be determined through the property tax by the province of Ontario.

I think the evidence has been that Ontario is very concerned about the cost of government all across the board. Indeed, we have taken steps to reduce the cost of government through all ministries over the last couple of years, internally, the administration of the province. The complement of staff for the province has been reduced over the last couple of years. I think you can count on the province of Ontario being very sensitive to the taxpayers of Ontario and making sure that they get the best value for their dollar.

Mr Phillips: Again, I will say to the public: The government has said property taxes are going to drop 5% to 10%. The province now is setting one third of the property tax rate. You have told municipalities to reduce theirs by 5% to 10%. We are expecting a commitment from you today to do the same thing or to acknowledge that you have misled the people.

I will go on to a supplementary on social housing, and that is, nobody believes that social housing should be put on property tax. Mike Harris handpicked 14 people to serve on the Who Does What committee and they unanimously said, "Don't do it." The municipalities said, "Don't do it." AMO said, "Don't do it." Mike Harris is fond of saying, "We did what the municipalities wanted." They said, "Don't do it, it's a huge mistake." You are dumping $900 million -- and a majority of social housing is seniors. I say to the seniors of this province, the government of Ontario is abandoning you.

My question is this: Will you table today the study, any study that recommends that social housing should be put on to property tax?

Hon David Johnson: What I would say is that municipalities, for years and years, have been asking the province to sit down -- through the Liberal government, through the NDP government, through this government -- and to rationalize the services and the funding for various services that are shared between the province and the municipalities. It has been the municipalities' view -- and municipalities have run a fairly tight ship over the years, much tighter than the province of Ontario over the years -- they've said, "Look, if we can divide the services so that the municipalities are accountable for certain services and fund certain services, then it'll be more effective, more efficient for the taxpayer." That's exactly what we've done.

Earlier this year the association of municipalities and many of the mayors and councillors came forward with a formula and they said to the province of Ontario, "We're not 100% in favour of what you were doing earlier in the year, but here is a new formula that we're putting forward." The province has accepted that formula and that is the formula that's being put into place.

Mr Phillips: That's not true.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Member for Scarborough-Agincourt, you can't say that.

Mr Phillips: What he said is not true.

The Speaker: No, we've determined that that is out of order.

Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-Woodbine): I got kicked out for that.

The Speaker: I know.

Mr Phillips: I withdraw that, Speaker.


Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): Today students across Ontario went back to school not knowing what the future holds for them this autumn. Many children have already experienced this government's cutbacks and know there are more to come. Some children couldn't start school this year because their junior kindergarten programs have been cut. Yet the minister persists in saying that he can get more for less.

The minister is continuing to swing the axe. He's forcing the closure of up to 12 schools in Ottawa and up to 20 schools in Toronto. Schools are continuing to lose special education assistants, speech pathologists, and students can't get the special needs help they need. Does the minister really believe that his new report card and his rewritten curriculum are going to make parents forget about overcrowded classrooms, closed schools, old and worn-out textbooks and materials and closed libraries?

Hon John Snobelen (Minister of Education and Training): The member for Algoma has said many things in his question. As always, most of them are absolutely without truth, they are not --

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): You can't say that. You must withdraw.

Hon Mr Snobelen: All right, Mr Speaker. Let me say that they are not factually correct.

I can say this directly to his question: Yes, I expect that a standardized report card across the province that clearly indicates how a student is doing will help parents. And yes, I believe that a new, improved curriculum that spells out standards year by year by year will vastly improve the environment for teachers, for students and for parents, vastly improve it over your failed Common Curriculum. Yes, I believe that.

Mr Wildman: It's not just me or members of this House who are saying this. Last spring I toured Ontario's schools to hear about cutbacks at first hand and talked to administrators, teachers, parents, students, support workers. They made out report cards based on the new report card formula, although they gave the minister an F, mainly because they said he doesn't listen well.

I'll give you some examples: an Exeter parent who doesn't want her daughter continuing to be taught in the crowded classroom she had last year; a Kingston parent whose daughter has special needs and says the government's cuts are stripping her daughter of her opportunity to develop to her potential; a Port Dover student whose special education teacher was lost because of cuts. These stories are endless in these report cards.

When is the minister going to start listening and provide adequate funding to ensure quality education for all students in Ontario?

Hon Mr Snobelen: I'm pleased to report to the member for Algoma that we're not waiting, that we're doing that right now. We have expert panels working on what the correct amount of funding and the correct way of funding are to make sure that every student in the province has an excellent education.

I want to point out that, yes, classroom sizes grew while your government was in power, particularly as a result of the social contract. Yes, that's true. It's regrettable, but that's the deal your government cooked up with people during your term.

We think it's wrong. That's why we're moving to take control of funding, so we can make sure those services are available for students and to make sure those classrooms will be classrooms that the teachers can work in and students can learn in. That's what this government is doing.

Mr Wildman: How can the minister be so misinformed? I'm so disappointed in his response. I'm appalled by his ignorance. Perhaps the reason is that the minister only attends new school openings, like he did this morning in Mississauga, and doesn't go to many other schools in the province.

How about a grade 8 student in Cobourg who could not use a desk because there weren't enough in his classroom, or some classrooms where students had to stand because they were too crowded, or one school in London where a woodworking class ran out of wood halfway through the school year? These are serious problems that the minister has to address, and his rhetoric doesn't address it.

The Speaker: Question, please.

Mr Wildman: Is the minister going to introduce a funding formula that will not pull out the rug from under thousands of students in Ontario, forcing more junior kindergarten program cuts, special education cuts, loss of psychologists, social workers, speech pathologists, technical programs, sports and other extracurricular activities? Will the minister prove me wrong by assuring everyone in Ontario that his funding formula won't lead to lowering everyone to the lowest common denominator --

The Speaker: Thank you, member for Algoma.

Hon Mr Snobelen: In direct response to the question from the member for Algoma, absolutely yes. We will be introducing a funding formula that will meet the needs of every student. That's our intention. That's why we're doing the hard work right now.

I can assure the member for Algoma that at the end of the day we will be moving forward to making sure that the students in Ontario take their rightful place at the head of the class and that student performance in Ontario is the best in Canada. That's what our objective is.


The Speaker: Member for High Park-Swansea, maybe you could finish this outside.



Mr Tony Martin (Sault Ste Marie): My question is for the Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism. Gasoline prices across this province continue to be high following the long weekend. On Thursday of last week, your colleague the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations introduced a resolution on gas pricing, calling on the federal government to appoint a special investigator to review the gas price situation and to make recommendations. Yet just a week before, you told reporters, "It's not the purpose of this government to interfere in corporate actions." You defended the free enterprise system.

Minister, I believed you and that your words were the true reflection of this government's agenda. Last week's resolution was total hypocrisy, grandstanding at best. Will you prove me wrong and, in a show of good faith, commit to debate that resolution in this House this week?

The meeting of the ministers from across this country is happening September 10 and 11, and we don't have enough time, unless you agree to debate that resolution this week in this House, to do something with it.

Hon William Saunderson (Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism): I'd like to refer the question to Mr Tsubouchi.

Hon David H. Tsubouchi (Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations): I agree with the member that it's a great idea for us to get together and become unanimous on an issue that has a great impact on the people of Ontario. I think all of us agree that gas prices in the province are outrageous. I believe Mr Martin is sincere in what he's saying because of the area he represents, as are our members. We're all concerned with this.

I must say, the Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism has indicated his concern with the issue in terms of contacting Mr Manley. I think it's important for all of us to debate this issue, to get on with it, to have unanimous consent. I agree with that.

However, what I would like to see is the House leaders from the opposition parties get together with our House leader so we can find the appropriate time prior to the conference, so we can take this unanimous agreement to defend the consumer of this province.

Mr Martin: Minister, you're the government. Let's schedule it.

People are angry about the high gas prices. It was particularly felt over this long weekend when many Ontarians travelled across this province. Now it's September, and while people are returning to school and work, they still have to pay those very high gas prices.

Your government tabled the resolution on gas pricing last Thursday aimed at the federal government. I agree that the federal government has a role, but I understand that Prince Edward Island has the Island Regulatory and Appeals Commission, the regulating body that controls the price of petroleum in that province. Minister, Prince Edward Island has proven that the province has a role to play. Will you commit to a similar program to PEI's to control gas prices in this province and prove that you're sincere about wanting to take some action on this?

Hon Mr Tsubouchi: First, I believe the member understands that it is with the consent of the House leaders that we arrange the schedule on many of these matters. We certainly want this to happen. I convey to the member that if you want this to happen, convey that message to your House leader so that when they get together we can have this resolution. It's extremely important.

With respect to the Prince Edward Island situation, it's going to be on September 10 that I will be speaking with my counterpart in PEI. We want to make sure this will have some applicability to the province. If it's good, I see no reason why we can't look at this.


Hon Mr Tsubouchi: I might remind his colleagues, who are currently hooting away in the House, that you had five years in which to do something. The situation is not new. In fact, I will certainly pose the same question to you.

But I think we need to do this, need to do something. Certainly we'll be speaking to PEI. I think it's up to us to protect the consumer of Ontario from outrageous prices. The member, if he agrees sincerely, will get his House leader to arrange for us to debate this issue.

Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): Point of order, Mr Speaker: I would ask for unanimous consent to ask the government House leader to debate it today.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): The member for Algoma is seeking unanimous consent to debate the motion on gas prices. Agreed? No. I hear a no.

Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): Point of order, Mr Speaker: Since you're mentioning House leaders, I'd be delighted to give unanimous consent today to bring in a predatory pricing law in the province of Ontario under your jurisdiction.

The Speaker: Unanimous consent for a predatory pricing law? Agreed? No. Final supplementary.

Mr Martin: The government is obviously not serious about this issue. You're not going to debate this resolution and you're not going to follow the lead of PEI. Will you at least reverse your decision on the charging for motor vehicle registration for people who live in northern Ontario? Will you do that?

We've asked repeatedly for your government to recognize the fact that consumers in northern Ontario routinely pay 10 cents more a litre for gasoline. It has been said repeatedly in this House by my colleagues that northerners have no choice, that they have to drive their cars. Minister, will you at least commit to having the motor vehicle registration fee eliminated for vehicle owners in northern Ontario?

Hon Mr Tsubouchi: I suppose I question why the member wants to actually debate a resolution. If he feels so strongly about it, just agree to it right now. Forget about the debate and just say: "Yes, we agree to this resolution. It's good for the people of Ontario."

Let me say something to the member for St Catharines. Obviously, the member for St Catharines has had somewhat over 10 years to think about this. You had five years when you were in power. It's been 10 years. You've had a lot of time to put your mind to it, even though you did nothing about it when you were in. Come on. We've got to have something that makes some sense to the consumer in Ontario.

Mr Bradley: Here is your chance.


The Speaker: Member for St Catharines, come to order. Everybody come to order.

Mr Wildman: Point of order, Mr Speaker: If the motion is called by the government House leader for passage today, we will agree to give unanimous consent to pass it without debate today.

Hon David Johnson (Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet, Government House Leader): Point of order, Mr Speaker: The government is committed to bringing this motion forward for debate, but I would think it should be done in a manner that allows all three parties to consider it fully, and then we will. We're more than anxious to bring this forward.

The Speaker: Government House leader, I appreciate your point of order, but I have a unanimous consent to put. I'm trying to gather, the unanimous consent was --

Mr Wildman: If it is called today, we will pass it without debate.


The Speaker: I guess that is fairly clear. The House leader for the third party is seeking unanimous consent to call the resolution today and pass it without debate. Agreed? No. I have a no.


The Speaker: He hasn't had a chance to answer the question.


The Speaker: Order. That's out of order and I ask you to withdraw.


The Speaker: I ask you to withdraw. Just withdraw it.

Mr Martin: I withdraw.

Hon Mr Tsubouchi: I might remind the member that successive governments have had a chance to deal with this. If I can go backwards here, Mr Charlton and Mr Laughren made some statements about this in the House certainly, and Mr Kwinter, Mr Rae, Mr Peterson. We have been very clear on this. We have said, number one -- and everyone has acknowledged this -- that it is a federal issue, that we are going to have this discussion on September 10 with Mr Manley, with the federal Parliament.

We have also committed that if they won't do something about it, our government will. That's our commitment. We'll deal with it.


Mr Rick Bartolucci (Sudbury): My question is to the Minister of Education. Yet another school year began today across Ontario. Energetic, eager and excited elementary school students went to school to meet their new, dedicated teachers and their fellow classmates.

Quick phone calls to schools across Ontario indicate a serious problem is again re-emerging, and that of course is class sizes across Ontario. In southwestern Ontario, we have a grade 4 and 5 class of 38 students; in eastern Ontario, a grade 7 and 8 class of 40 students and a grade 3 and 4 class of 36 students; in northern Ontario, a grade 3 class of 36 students, a grade 5 class of 37 students and a grade 7 class of 36 students. Even for the first day of school, that is unacceptable.

My private member's bill, Bill 110, which protects class size, awaits your call to the social development committee. When will you call my bill, Bill 110, an act which protects class sizes, to the social development committee?

Hon John Snobelen (Minister of Education and Training): I certainly agree with the member opposite that there is a frustration for parents in this province when they know that Ontario has one of the lowest ratios of students to teachers in Canada, at something a little over 15 to 1, 15 students for every teacher, and then their student is in a classroom with 30 or 35 or 40 students. They go, "How can this be?" and that's one of the reasons we have asked an expert group, the Education Improvement Commission, to look at that: to say what is the right way of deploying teachers in Ontario, how we can use the qualified professional teachers we have to make sure that we can achieve what we all want to, and that is to have an excellent system of education for our students.

We will receive that report, and when we do, we will look at all the ways we can control class size. But I can say this to the member quite clearly: This government is moving forward with a funding model that will allow us to do that for the first time in the history of Ontario. That's what we're doing.

Mr Bartolucci: On May 15, 1997, Bill 132, the Tartan Act, went to the House for first reading. On June 5, it received second reading and was referred to the standing committee on the Legislative Assembly. On August 21, it was reported for third reading. This private member's bill was introduced by the Conservative member for Hamilton West.

Minister, my bill, Bill 110, which protects children so that they can be educated in classes of meaningful and practical size, passed second reading on February 6, 1997, and currently awaits your call to the social development committee. Seven months later, this hasn't happened. Will you tell the people of Ontario what is more important, the number of blocks in a tartan and the number of threads in each block or the number of pupils in the classes of Ontario? Will you tell the people of Ontario what is more important to the Mike Harris government?


The Speaker: Order, order, order. Would you come to order over there, please? Thank you.

Mr Marcel Beaubien (Lambton): Where's that?

The Speaker: Lambton, I think. Minister.

Hon Mr Snobelen: I want to thank the member opposite for the theatrics. Let me see if I can explain to you what I think is important for the people of Ontario. They want to make sure that the quality of education in Ontario is there for their students, and they want to make sure that that future of education is built step by step, in a way that the foundation is laid for the future.

I can tell you, the way to do that is not some simplistic solution that the member opposite might see. The way to do that is by having the province do the hard work and the homework to make sure the future of education is right. That's exactly what we're doing today. We're building the allocation model to be the best in Canada. We're building the curriculum to be the best in Canada. I can assure the member opposite that unlike your government when it was in power, unlike the previous government, we will address the serious issues. We will address it in a serious way, not in a simplistic way like the member opposite.


The Speaker: Member for Sudbury, I ask you to withdraw those comments, please.

Mr Bartolucci: Withdrawn.


Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-Woodbine): My question is to the acting Premier. This afternoon we begin debate on your downloading bill. In a way that's almost becoming a hallmark of your government, it's another example of how you've rushed ahead so quickly and failed to pay attention to the detail that I'm not even sure you're aware of the full impact of some of what's contained in your bill. I'm talking specifically about the proposed legislative amendments to the Health Protection and Promotion Act, the download of public health to the municipalities and the new guideline for mandatory services.

You've not just downloaded public health, you've totally abandoned any kind of a focus on healthy adolescents, on teen health. Lost is the entire section on healthy adolescents. Part of what is now required for teens is moved under some other programs, like smoking cessation. A little bit of it is kept, but gone is the requirement to provide teen counselling and investigation into teen suicide. Gone is substance abuse counselling and education. Gone are dental programs for teens.

Minister, I have to ask you, do you think that teen suicide or substance abuse among teens is no longer a problem for the provincial government to be concerned about?

Hon David Johnson (Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet, Government House Leader): In terms of the transfer of authorities and the revised funding formula between the province and the municipalities, something I might add that municipalities have been requesting for years and years, if not decades, something your government, the NDP government, tried and failed miserably to address, couldn't get the municipalities on side -- in conjunction with the municipalities, we have been working on a division of authorities. Some of them involve public health, for example, some of them involve various health programs. In a meeting earlier this year, the municipalities brought forward a proposal to the province. The province has accepted that proposal.

I have great confidence in the municipalities. Having served at the municipal level for many years, I have great confidence. You may not share it, but I have great confidence in the ability of municipalities to meet the health care and total programs of the residents they serve.

Ms Lankin: I guess when you don't know the answer, you just spew out rhetoric. I asked you specifically about mandatory guidelines in public health and you gave me a lot of nonsense about your negotiations with the municipalities etc.

Let me ask you about another area under public health, and I think this is even more significant. This is the downloading of all of the funding for sexual health programs. In this province, we have made great strides in ending what was an epidemic of teen pregnancies. If you look at sexual diseases in the city of Toronto, even still today the highest rates of gonorrhoea or chlamydia are in young people under the age of 20. This is a program that was 100% funded by the province because they recognized the need.

Experts in the area of sexual health, of planned parenthood, of dealing with teens and unwanted pregnancies are so fearful that we are turning the clock back and that we are now going to see a turnback of the clock to before the 1960s when we started to make real progress.

Minister, people want you to make a reversal in your decision. Public health needs to remain at the --

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

Hon David Johnson: It's the view of this government that the process will actually improve delivery of local services because it will allow municipalities to tailor programs to the constituents they serve.

Specifically, the ministry will require municipalities to deliver mandatory programs in the family health area, for example, which includes child health, nutrition, sexual and reproductive health; also in the area of infectious disease control, including AIDS and sexually transmitted diseases; and chronic disease prevention, including heart disease, cancer, and preventable injuries.

The province of Ontario is maintaining a control in terms of programs that have to be delivered in a general sense, but within that umbrella, municipalities will have more leeway to deliver the services tailored to their constituents.



Mrs Margaret Marland (Mississauga South): My question is to the Solicitor General. I know that you very well remember the tragic fire which occurred in the city of Mississauga in March 1995 which took place in the Meadowcroft retirement home. Eight residents died as a result of that tragedy, which involved a number of my own constituents.

Recently the regional coroner held a press conference to review the response to the coroner's inquest recommendations. My question today is, would you like to tell this House what has been done in response to the inquest recommendations to help ensure that this type of unnecessary loss of life does not happen again?

Hon Robert W. Runciman (Solicitor General and Minister of Correctional Services): I want to thank the honourable member for her question. The government has made fire safety a priority, as demonstrated by the introduction and passage of Bill 84, which is dedicated to prevention and public education which are undoubtedly the keys to long-term public safety.

Specifically with respect to public education for seniors, the fire marshal's public fire safety council introduced Older and Wiser, a community-based program which kicked off in June of this year.

With respect to the Meadowcroft inquest recommendations, I understand the presiding coroner is satisfied with the progress made. Almost 90% of the recommendations have either been implemented or are under active consideration. In fact the regional coroner, Dr Peter Clark, has stated, "The agencies and ministries have taken their reviews seriously and the risk of death of vulnerable seniors has been greatly reduced."

We remain committed to enhanced fire safety for all Ontarians and especially those who are vulnerable.

Mrs Marland: The Meadowcroft fire was actually the second fire tragedy in Mississauga in a residential care facility, the first being the Extendicare fire in 1979, as a result of which 26 people died. We now have professional opinions that many of these lives could have been saved in both these fires had there been sprinkler systems installed in these buildings. I'm wondering if you can tell us when changes will be made that will make sprinkler systems mandatory in residential care facilities.

Hon Mr Runciman: I'm pleased to report that work on this issue has been ongoing. Changes to the building code, which is within the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, are expected later this year. In coordination with the changes to the building code, which primarily address the requirements for new buildings, the fire marshal has established two committees to develop changes to the fire code which address standards for existing facilities like Meadowcroft.

Again in the words of Dr Clark, "I am most impressed that the proposed changes, especially the changes requiring the installation of automatic sprinklers in institutions, including retirement homes, should go a long way in protecting our vulnerable seniors."


Mr Richard Patten (Ottawa Centre): My question is to the Minister of Labour. During your leadoff speech on second reading of Bill 136, you said:

"The specifics of Bill 136 as they now stand, let me say that they are not etched in stone.... If there are suggestions, from whatever quarter, to improve the bill, we are more than ready to listen and consider them.... Fairness to public sector employers, employees and taxpayers demands that a consistent set of balanced rules be in place to smooth the...restructuring of government services."

We've been hearing, and I'm sure you have too, about the undercutting of the Ontario Labour Relations Board, with its 50 years of experience and almost universal respect throughout the community, except perhaps from this government. In spite of that, you cut their budget by 40%. The bill establishes two new commissions to handle the job. They don't have the experience, the collective knowledge nor the trust which the board has.

Minister, will you consider as one of your options getting rid of these new, costly commissions, both of them, and empower the Labour Relations Board to handle the restructuring process?

Hon Elizabeth Witmer (Minister of Labour): I would indicate to you, as I indicated in my opening statement, that we are quite willing to take a look at all the suggestions that come forward and are prepared to give them serious consideration. As long as we can continue to meet the government's objectives, the government's objectives being to facilitate the restructuring of the hospitals and the municipalities and the school boards, if we can continue to ensure that each individual employee is going to be treated fairly and equally, we are quite prepared to take a look at all suggestions that come our way.

Mr Patten: I look forward to seeing many amendments come forward on the government side.

You said you've met with the police and the firefighters. You've obviously heard how upset they are with the government's proposal to take away the only tool which ensures balance and fairness in their system of collective bargaining. That, of course, is the provision that arbitrators are mutually agreed upon by both parties.

The provision in Bill 136 isn't temporary, and you know it's permanent. This will change the way business is done in bargaining for over 80,000 essential workers such as police, firefighters, nurses. It's a permanent change.

The system of collective bargaining has worked well. Over 85% of their collective agreements are negotiated freely, with no more than 10% to 15% that have been settled by mutually agreed upon arbitrators. Will you remove the essential workers from the provisions of Bill 136 and allow them to continue to negotiate in their fair and balanced system of interest arbitration?

Hon Mrs Witmer: As I've indicated, we certainly are meeting with the stakeholder groups impacted by Bill 136, obviously the employee groups you've mentioned. We're also going to be meeting with AMO and some of the employer groups.

I would just repeat what I said before. We need to remember the long-term objectives. The objectives of the bill are to ensure that we promote negotiated settlements as opposed to arbitrated settlements. We want to encourage people to get into a real dialogue, a real discussion.

We will certainly again be addressing the concerns that have been raised by the stakeholders. As I say, we want to make sure that we facilitate the restructuring process, that we can continue to provide the needed services to people in Ontario and that each employee is treated fairly. But, yes, we are quite willing to take a look at all the concerns and give them our serious consideration.


Mr Tony Martin (Sault Ste Marie): My question is for the Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism again. Hopefully, he'll take it this time.

I want to follow up on the billion-dollar tax grab your government is planning, using Ontario charities as a front. It appears you're also going to be responsible for wiping out dozens of the Ontario small businesses that built charity gaming operations here in the first place. By putting the new large permanent casinos into clusters to be operated by big companies, you have shut out the small players.

I've met with some of these small businessmen in my office, and they're angry because your government has stopped listening. Why are you favouring big business, Vegas-linked casino operators, over small Ontario businesses?

Hon William Saunderson (Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism): I'm going to refer this question to the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations. I'm just surprised that the member over there didn't direct it there in the first place.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Now you have to answer the question. You made a comment; you now must answer the question.

Hon Mr Saunderson: All I can say to the member for Sault Ste Marie is that we are certainly not favouring big business at all in this procedure. The small businesses will be able to participate, just as any business can. If they meet the criteria, if they can compete successfully, there's no reason why they wouldn't. I don't see why the member has this concern. I think he's uninformed, because he should have been paying attention to what we've been saying.


Mr Martin: That's not what the small businesses are telling me, but what can you expect from a government that believes it has all the answers and never listens to people anyway? We knew you were going to steamroll over labour unions and welfare recipients, but never in our wildest dreams did we think you were going to kick the crap out of small business as well.

You're going to soak $1 billion out of our communities by raising the betting limit and establishing 36 permanent casinos, each with 40 tables and 150 video slot machines, and you're going to close down a number of very viable fledgling small businesses along the way. You're willing to run roughshod over some very viable small businesses in this province. You've handpicked a commission to take the blame for all your decisions. That's your pattern; that's the way you do business.

Why aren't you willing to take the time to listen to the men and women in small businesses in this province and get this casino initiative right from the start?

Hon Mr Saunderson: Once again I'm surprised that the member is not as informed as he should be. Had he been reading the material that has been properly distributed, he would know that charities are going to receive from these operations well in excess of $80 million. The most they've got in the past is $10 million. This is a windfall for the charities.

Also on the subject of small business, no government in recent history has done so much for small business in this province: this July, 5,300 new jobs in this province. Employment is up 124,000 in the last five months. The unemployment rate is down to 8.2%, and that's the lowest it's been in a long, long time. Housing starts are up. That helps small businesses.

This man has not been paying attention. He should be ashamed of himself.


Mr Jim Brown (Scarborough West): My question is to the Minister of Environment and Energy. The minister has stated before in this House that smog and air pollution cause about 1,800 premature deaths each year in Ontario. It also takes a toll on the environment by harming vegetation, materials and crops.

On August 22, the minister announced a major initiative to fight smog and air pollution. A number of my constituents have inquired about whether their cars are going to be required to be tested. Can the minister clarify what vehicles are going to be affected by this program?

Hon Norman W. Sterling (Minister of Environment and Energy): This is the first government in this province, even in this country, to implement such an extensive program as Drive Clean. Even though these programs have been known for some period of time, previous governments did not take the opportunity to put forward such an initiative.

Cars and tighter emission standards will improve our air. This program will take effect next year, in 1998. Drive Clean will require the regular testing of tailpipe emissions from passenger cars, light trucks, heavy trucks and buses. Drive Clean will give motorists an opportunity to find out about the environmental performance of their own vehicles. Motorists will be able to avoid the need for future repairs by learning about preventive maintenance. Testing will cost no more than $30 but could be less than $30. This is a tremendous program for the quality of air in Ontario.

Mr Jim Brown: Smog is a problem that affects everyone, but my constituents are particularly concerned about this issue because my riding is in the GTA. My constituents are looking for fast action. Could the minister clarify to the House and my constituents what the specific time line and details are for the implementation of the Drive Clean initiative?

Hon Mr Sterling: This program is going to take place in the greater Toronto area and Hamilton-Wentworth first because that's where it will make the greatest difference in the quality of air. However, if other areas would like this program earlier, all they have to do is have their municipalities send a resolution to us and we will implement this program in other areas of the province if it's technically feasible.

Next year this will begin with trucks and buses across the province for next summer, the summer of 1998, and in the fall of 1998 it will start for automobiles in the GTA and Hamilton-Wentworth area. It will expand to other areas of the province as we become more familiar with the program, as we work out any of the kinks in the program. But as I've already said, we are willing to put this out to other areas at an earlier date if that is technically feasible.

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

Hon Mr Sterling: We think that Drive Clean will be to the air quality as the blue box was to solid waste in Ontario. This is a tremendous environmental step for the people of Ontario and the government of Ontario and we are very proud of this --

The Speaker: New question, official opposition.


Mr Dominic Agostino (Hamilton East): I certainly feel much better hearing that announcement again from the minister.

Minister, I want to ask you about the issue of recycling in Ontario and the regulation. As you know, in view of the Plastimet fire, there have been calls from the fire marshal's office, from all sides, to strengthen and toughen up recycling laws in Ontario and their controls. So I was surprised to see a document entitled "Responsive Environmental Protection: Technical Annex," put out by your ministry, in which it states that you will look at and consider deregulating hazardous waste materials such as batteries, thermostats, photo-processing waste, circuit boards, waste oils sent for refining.

In the document it says, "These changes would allow recyclable materials to be treated as raw materials and to be exempt from waste requirements for transportation, handling and approvals." That would mean that if these recommendations are adopted, these items such as thermostats, batteries and waste oil, could be put in landfill sites, could be treated without any type of certificate of compliance.

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

Mr Agostino: Minister, can you stand up today and assure the House that you will discard these recommendations and have no plans in deregulating --

The Speaker: Minister of Environment and Energy.

Hon Norman W. Sterling (Minister of Environment and Energy): We had a very difficult fire in the city of Hamilton some time ago, a fire that started, evidently, because there wasn't adequate fire protection in that particular building. As a result of that we are very concerned about the handling of recycling material, and my ministry is working along with the Ministry of the Solicitor General and the Ministry of Municipal Affairs to try to come up with a better answer in dealing with recycling material.

With regard to the other material, hazardous waste, which the member is bringing forward, we are looking for new methods and new ways of dealing with these hazardous materials. Up to this point in time we are not satisfied that they have been dealt with in a controlled enough manner, and therefore we are looking for different suggestions to deal with those. We expect to deal with those in our regulatory reform package. We are getting --

The Speaker: Answer, please.

Hon Mr Sterling: We are getting the buy-in of industry to become involved in this and therefore we are looking to improve the system for handling hazardous waste in this province.


Mr Agostino: In view of the Plastimet fire, I am absolutely amazed that the minister would not stand in his place and say that this government has no plans to deregulate and treat hazardous waste such as batteries, thermostats and waste oils simply as non-hazardous material. I can't believe, Minister, that you're not denying and that you would not outright dismiss the possibility that this document here, your ministry document, is accurate and that you have plans to go ahead and do this for the sake of helping your friends in the private sector and helping companies.

What this would mean, if this regulation goes through that you have not denied today you're looking at, is that companies can set up recycling operations for batteries, for waste oils, for thermostats, items that would have lead and mercury. One litre of waste oil would contaminate one million litres of water.

The Speaker: Question, please.

Mr Agostino: This is astounding, that you would not today assure us you're not looking at this. In view of the fire, in view of what has happened across Ontario, can you stand up and assure people --

The Speaker: Member for Hamilton East, thanks. Minister.

Hon Mr Sterling: When this government came in, we found that in many of the cases, while there were regulations in place, what was happening is that hazardous products in this province were not being dealt with in a timely and appropriate manner. Therefore, we were looking for new and innovative ways to deal with these hazardous wastes to ensure that they would be brought back to central depots and that they would be transferred under control from those depots to a proper repository to be disposed of in the most meaningful manner.

As well, we were interested in bringing many of these products back into recycling into new products.

The Speaker: Answer, please.

Hon Mr Sterling: This is a regulatory reform discussion paper and we are looking --

The Speaker: Thank you.


The Speaker: That's within the rules.



Mrs Lyn McLeod (Fort William): I have a petition to the Legislature of Ontario.

"Whereas the undersigned residents living in the city of Thunder Bay in northwestern Ontario are in need of a new regional acute care hospital situated in the city of Thunder Bay to provide the said residents with quality health care services in a modern and up-to-date acute care hospital; and

"Whereas the partial renovation and restructuring of the existing Port Arthur General Hospital, a 65-year-old outdated and antiquated hospital building, proposed by the health services review commission and the Minister of Health for the province of Ontario will not be suitable, adequate or proper to provide such quality health care services to the said residents; and

"Whereas the undersigned residents endorse and support the Thunder Bay Regional Hospital and the trustees of the hospital board and their vision of a new centrally located hospital to serve the northwestern Ontario region;

"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislature of Ontario to reverse the decision and direction of the health services review commission and the Minister of Health to have all acute care services for the city of Thunder Bay and northwestern Ontario region delivered from the renovated and restructured site of Port Arthur General Hospital and to endorse and approve capital funding to build a new centrally located acute care hospital in the city of Thunder Bay."

These petitions are signed by several hundred residents in my community, and I've affixed my own signature in full agreement.


Ms Marilyn Churley (Riverdale): I have another petition which was signed by people who were at the breast cancer international conference which I attended in Kingston, in July I believe. It reads:

"Petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario,

"Whereas cancer claims in excess of 20,000 lives annually in Ontario alone; and

"Whereas cancer treatment costs Ontario taxpayers in excess of $1 billion annually; and

"Whereas the best way to fight cancer or any other disease is through preventive measures; and

"Whereas the Ontario Task Force on the Primary Prevention of Cancer has advised the government to set realistic and realizable targets for phasing out the release of environmental toxins; and

"Whereas the Legislative Assembly on April 18, 1996, passed a resolution to that effect with support from all three parties;

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

"The Premier and the Minister of Health should immediately implement the April 18 resolution and strike a working committee to begin the task of setting realistic targets for the phase-out of persistent bio-accumulative environmental toxins."

I affix my signature to this petition since I agree with it.


Mr Bob Wood (London South): I have a petition signed by 308 people. It reads as follows:

"Whereas the courts have ruled that women have the lawful right to go topless in public; and

"Whereas the Liberal government of Canada has the power to change the Criminal Code to reinstate such public nudity as an offence;

"We, the undersigned, respectfully petition the government of Ontario to pass a bill empowering municipalities to enact bylaws governing dress code and to continue to urge the government of Canada to pass legislation to reinstate such partial nudity as an offence."


Mr John C. Cleary (Cornwall): "Whereas the Ontario government is proposing to completely change the structure of relations between the province and municipalities without any public consultation with Ontario; and

"The restructuring proposes to download on to municipalities the cost of public transportation and essential social services like welfare and long-term care for seniors and people with chronic illnesses;

"The restructuring takes away the power to levy tax on school boards and subsequently any real power over the schools and curricula;

"The actions of the government are not representative of the promise to keep funding at the existing level and do not recognize that different communities don't have the same resources to absorb new burdens and are creating some inequities in access to essential services;

"The government does not show interest in consultation with the population and does not take into account the reaction of the population; it represents a threat to democracy;

"We, the undersigned residents of Ontario, are hereby expressing non-confidence against the government of the province of Ontario because we are concerned with the inequities of the life of the province and the wellbeing of the children, neighbours and communities."

I've also affixed my signature.


Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): I have a petition signed by a number of residents of Ontario. It states:

"We, the undersigned concerned citizens of Ontario, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario for the public to have the right to be informed about proposed bills and that there should be enough time for public hearings about proposed bills;

"We believe the opposition party MPPs should have adequate time to study bills proposed, to have a chance to suggest amendments;

"We therefore do not agree with the proposed ruling of the Ontario Conservatives that they can pass a bill only two weeks after introducing it and introduce two bills during the same two-week period" --

Mr Steve Gilchrist (Scarborough East): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I am reminded the standing orders say that we cannot read petitions. We must only paraphrase them and make reference to them. I wonder if you could direct the member in the future to not read entire speeches into the record.

The Acting Speaker (Mr Gary L. Leadston): The standing orders read as follows, on page 30: "Presentation in House. Member to summarize contents:" "A member may present a petition in the House during routine proceedings under the proceeding `Petitions.' The member may make a brief statement summarizing the contents of the petition and indicating the number of signatures attached thereto."

I find the member's statement appropriate.

Mr Wildman: In that case, Speaker, I will summarize this petition as saying that these 12 people find the rule changes to be --

The Acting Speaker: Order. The Chair recognizes the member for Peterborough.

Mrs Lyn McLeod (Fort William): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I understood you just read an order that said a member, in presenting a petition, may summarize as well as indicate the number of signatures. I'm not sure that you indicated that precluded reading the petition as well as summarizing it.

The Acting Speaker: It very clearly indicates that the member may summarize and may read a brief statement. I accept the statement from the member for Algoma.



Mr R. Gary Stewart (Peterborough): Mr Speaker, I believe in some of these petitions that some of the points that are being addressed are very important. If we can't read them correctly, we've got a problem in this House.

Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): You want to read this?

Mr Stewart: Yes, probably.

Mr Wildman: Wait a minute. You're supposed to summarize it.

Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-Woodbine): Yeah, Mr Gilchrist --

Mr Stewart: Mr Gilchrist can do what he wishes to. I'd like --


The Acting Speaker (Mr Gary L. Leadston): Order. Do you have a petition, the member for Peterborough?

Mr Stewart: Yes, I do have a petition that I would like to read, sir.

"Over half the people of Ontario are women. Only 5% of the money spent on medical research goes to research in women's health;

"Women's College is the only hospital in Ontario with a primary mandate giving priority to research and treatment dedicated to women's health needs;

"The World Health Organization has named Women's College Hospital as the sole collaborating centre for women's health for both North and South America;

"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to ensure the continuance, independence, women-centred focus and accessible downtown location of the one hospital most crucial to the future of women's health."


Mrs Lyn McLeod (Fort William): I'd be happy to present a summary of the petition I have which is presented by a significant number of my constituents who are calling to secure justice for all with prejudice towards none and with compassion for the weak and powerless, and who are urging all those in leadership positions to share their shock at the fact that there would be new casinos introduced across this province without the promised referendum and who are appalled by the fact that we would have new lottery terminals introduced to our community without the consent of the citizens. They have asked that all efforts to install such video lottery terminals in our community be resisted.

I present that petition on their behalf.


Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): In light of the concern of the member for Scarborough East, I will summarize. I have a petition which asks the Ontario government to protect the hunting heritage of the province to continue with the bear hunt.


Mr Bill Grimmett (Muskoka-Georgian Bay): In accordance with my normal practice and in accordance with rule 38(b), I'll summarize the petition I have, signed by approximately 88 residents of Ontario. It confirms that women now have the lawful right to go topless in public and that the federal government has the power to change the Criminal Code to reinstate public nudity. It also respectfully petitions the government of Ontario to pass a bill empowering municipalities to enact bylaws governing dress code, and I present it today.


Mr Michael Gravelle (Port Arthur): Many people across Ontario are concerned about the potential privatization of TVOntario and the campaign has begun. I will read the petition:

"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"Whereas TVOntario/TFO is owned by the people of Ontario; and

"Whereas the Mike Harris government has opposed public support for maintaining TVO as a publicly owned and funded educational broadcaster by putting TVO through a privatization review; and

"Whereas the Mike Harris government has not confirmed that full public participation will be part of this privatization review;

"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to hold open and honest public consultation with the people of Ontario before making a decision on the future of TVO/TFO."

I'm proud to sign my name to it.


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

"Whereas a fire at a PVC plastic vinyl plant located in the middle of one of Hamilton's residential areas burned for three days; and

"Whereas the city of Hamilton declared a state of emergency and called for a limited voluntary evacuation of several blocks around the site; and

"Whereas the burning of PVC results in the formation and release of toxic substances such as dioxins and furans as well as large quantities of heavy metals and other dangerous chemicals;

"Therefore, we, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to hold a full public inquiry on the Hamilton Plastimet fire; and

As I'm in support of this, I add my name to it.


Mr Tony Clement (Brampton South): I have more petitions relating to the issue of toplessness in Ontario, signed by members in my riding from Kennedy Road Tabernacle and Bramalea Baptist Church.

"To the Legislature of Ontario:

"Whereas the Ontario Court of Appeal has ruled that women have the lawful right to go topless in public; and

"Whereas the Liberal government of Canada has the power to change the Criminal Code to reinstate such public nudity as an offence;

"We, the undersigned, respectfully petition the government of Ontario to continue to urge the government of Canada to pass legislation to ban going topless in public places."

I'd be happy to affix my name as well.


Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): I have a petition. It reads as follows:

"Whereas since Mike Harris took office gasoline prices have increased on an average of a dramatic 10 cents a litre, which is over 45 cents a gallon; and

"Whereas this increase in the price of gasoline has outpaced the rate of inflation by a rate that is totally unacceptable to all consumers in this province because it is unfair and directly affects their ability to purchase other consumer goods; and

"Whereas Premier Mike Harris and ministers within the cabinet of his government, while in opposition, expressed grave concern for gas price gouging and asked the government of the day to take action; and

"Whereas the Mike Harris government could take action under Ontario law and pass predatory gas pricing legislation which would protect consumers, but instead seems intent on looking after the interests of the big oil companies;

"We, the undersigned, petition Premier Harris and the government of Ontario to eliminate gas price fixing and prevent the oil companies from gouging the public on an essential and vital product."

I affix my signature to this petition because I'm in complete agreement with its contents.


Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): "To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"Whereas the Harris government has introduced Bill 136; and

"Whereas Bill 136 strips entitlements to employee status and therefore pay equity rights for home child care providers; and

"Whereas home child care providers are predominantly female; and

"Whereas home child care providers are one of the lowest-paid groups of workers in Ontario;

"Therefore, we, the undersigned citizens of Ontario, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to withdraw Bill 136 and its implications for the Pay Equity Act."

On behalf of the NDP caucus, I add my name to theirs.



Mr Carroll moved second reading of the following bill:

Bill 152, An Act to improve Services, increase Efficiency and benefit Taxpayers by eliminating Duplication and reallocating Responsibilities between Provincial and Municipal Governments in various areas and to implement other aspects of the Government's "Who Does What" Agenda / Projet de loi 152, Loi visant à améliorer les services, à accroître l'efficience et à procurer des avantages aux contribuables en éliminant le double emploi et en redistribuant les responsabilités entre le gouvernement provincial et les municipalités dans divers secteurs et visant à mettre en oeuvre d'autres aspects du programme «Qui fait quoi» du gouvernement.

Mr Jack Carroll (Chatham-Kent): I'm pleased today to begin second reading debate of Bill 152, the Services Improvement Act, Mr Speaker. I'd like to advise you upfront that I will be sharing my time with my colleague from Scarborough East.

This legislation allows us to move ahead with changes that will provide better services at a lower cost to taxpayers. In May of this year, following extensive input from our municipal partners, the government announced a substantial change to the provincial-municipal relationship based on proposals submitted by the Association of Municipalities of Ontario.

We agreed to cut residential education property taxes in half and to take on additional responsibility for funding education. This would take pressure off the property tax and give municipalities additional room to fund other services that are best delivered locally.


The changes we announced, our Who Does What package, would bring education costs under control and lead to better services at lower cost to taxpayers. On August 6 we released the preliminary figures that showed the estimated costs of the Who Does What reforms. These numbers are meant as a tool to help municipalities to estimate their future costs and assist them in their decision-making process. They are not the final product. There will be further revisions as decisions are made. What is important is that municipalities do their part to keep costs down and continue to find savings and efficiencies.

For several months now, two implementation teams have been hard at work to make sure the transition is a smooth one. One co-chaired by myself and Terry Mundell, former president of the Association of Municipalities of Ontario, is looking at social and community health services. The other, co-chaired by Mr Mundell and the member for Oxford, is looking at all the other Who Does What changes. A group of chief administrative officers from the municipal sector is also working with provincial staff on the calculation of the financial impacts of Who Does What.

This legislation is another step in the implementation process for Who Does What. It would give municipalities responsibility for program delivery and funding in whole or in part for a number of local services effective January 1, 1998. Allow me to touch briefly on the changes that this bill will make.

The legislation includes measures that would improve and strengthen the system of social housing in Ontario. Social housing is one of the community services needed by low-income people that can be better provided at the community level. Social housing should be provided locally. It should also be integrated with welfare and other health services delivery at the community level to make the entire system work better and more efficiently.

This legislation is the first stage of a three-stage process. It would allow the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing to bill the costs of social housing to upper-tier municipalities, separated cities and district welfare boards in northern Ontario as of January 1, 1998. This approach will ensure simplicity and it will be consistent with billing practices for other services, such as social assistance. The second stage, which is also well under way and involves discussions with municipalities and stakeholders, is on the reform and devolution of the social housing system. The third stage will involve a period of between two and three years, when the administration of the social housing system will be gradually transferred to municipalities. We expect to complete the transfer of the administrative responsibilities of this new improved system to municipalities by the year 2000.

This transfer of responsibilities makes sense. We want to make sure that social housing is more efficient and effective and we want to improve access for people who need help with their housing.

I want to stress two things that the proposed bill will not do. It will not have any impact whatsoever on the tenants of social housing. Second, it will not have any impact whatsoever on the operating agreements between housing providers and the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing.

As of January 1, municipalities would assume 100% responsibility for public health programs. These services will continue to be delivered locally where they can be tailored to meet local needs while -- and this is very important -- maintaining provincial standards.

This legislation will provide direction on how municipalities will fund programs and share costs in multi-municipality health units. Mandatory health programs will continue to be delivered by local boards of health. The province will continue to set program standards for each program and will monitor and enforce the standards. These mandatory programs are currently under review and consultations with stakeholders are taking place. The final version should be available to the municipalities and their boards of health prior to January 1998.

Municipalities will have added flexibility in delivering mandatory public health programs as long as provincial standards are met. The three key programs that municipalities will be required to deliver by legislation are chronic disease prevention, infectious disease control, and family and child health.

The province will retain responsibility for overall disease surveillance and provide vaccines for immunization programs. In addition, the province will continue to fund certain programs, such as the Healthy Babies, Healthy Children program, which will help children at risk and provide them with needed community supports.

Should this House approve this legislation, municipalities will assume 100% funding responsibility for land ambulance services beginning January 1998. Funding land ambulances gives municipalities more flexibility to look at integrating their emergency services to better serve their communities. It gives them the opportunity to find ways to better integrate services, such as firefighting, police and ambulance, or ambulance with other health and social services. The program administration responsibilities of the land ambulance services will be transferred to municipalities by the year 2000. The province will continue to regulate and set standards for the delivery of land ambulance services.

This government will continue to work with municipalities to ensure that public health programs and land ambulance services remain accessible and consistent for all Ontarians.

Children are a priority of this government. We have already increased available spending on child care to up to $600 million, the highest level in the history of this province. As part of the May 6 budget, we announced a new child care tax credit that will use $40 million of the total child care budget to assist lower-income working families. This means we are helping 90,000 Ontario families and 125,000 children.

We are proposing to amend the Day Nurseries Act to make it mandatory for municipalities to cost-share and manage the delivery of child care services. As previously announced as part of the Who Does What initiative, all child care services would be cost-shared 80% by the province and 20% by municipalities. Municipalities will be responsible for cost-sharing all child care services, not just fee subsides but wage subsidies, resource centres and special needs resourcing. This is a positive change that will benefit all children.

This legislation makes administrative changes to the child care system. The streamlining supports the local development and delivery of child care service. By building and expanding on this experience, which is already in place at the local level, these changes will simplify what is now a complex process. Municipalities already have experience in the fee subsidies area. This bill uses and builds on that experience.

We believe that communities are in the best position to design a system that meets their needs and the needs of their clients. However, we realize at the same time there must be province-wide standards and expectations.

This community-based approach to child care, and indeed to all social services, will allow the local community to better meet local needs. These changes will help us bring sense to the current tangle of social and community health services. We are committed to continue working with our municipal colleagues to create an effective system that better meets the needs of children and families.

The Who Does What initiative recognized that GO Transit service primarily meets local and regional transit needs. It recommended that this responsibility should be transferred to the municipalities served by GO Transit. The benefit will be that GO Transit will be more accountable to local communities. The delivery of GO Transit at the municipal level will also encourage greater integration of transit services across the greater Toronto area.


We are currently exploring a number of options for the structure of the municipal governance mechanism of GO Transit, such as the Greater Toronto Services Board. This legislation proposes to amend the Toronto Area Transit Operating Authority Act to enable municipal funding of GO Transit for the interim period until a replacement municipal governance mechanism is in place.

Currently, taxpayers from every region of Ontario subsidize GO Transit's operating and capital deficit by approximately $110 million a year. The proposed legislation would create a mechanism for these costs to be shared by the regions that benefit from GO: the regions of Peel, York, Durham, Halton, Hamilton-Wentworth and the city of Toronto.

My colleague the Minister of Transportation would consult with the affected municipalities to develop a fair cost-sharing formula. We intend this to be a simple, equitable method of cost-sharing to allow GO Transit to meet its capital and operating requirements. Regional chairs who currently sit on the board of directors will continue to have a say in the operation of GO during the interim period.

This legislation proposes that the provisions of the Environmental Protection Act regulating smaller onsite sewage systems be transferred from the Ministry of Environment and Energy to the building code, which is administered by the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing. Municipalities would be responsible for the approval and inspections of smaller onsite systems. This would streamline service through a one-window approach for homeowners and builders. The building industry and the public would only have to deal with one permit, one code, one appeals process and one ministry for smaller on-lot septic systems. This would reduce red tape and the regulatory burden on business, a worthwhile objective I'm sure all members of the House agree with. It would simplify municipal enforcement and provide opportunities for cost saving through the coordination of approvals and inspections. Large-scale septic systems, communal systems and hauled sewage systems would continue to be a provincial responsibility.

Given ongoing discussions regarding northern service delivery, responsibility for enforcing standards for onsite sewage systems in northern municipalities and unorganized territories will generally remain with existing delivery agents.

The rules governing septics would be strengthened to protect public health and the environment.

The government will continue to work with the municipal sector through the provincial-municipal implementation team and the social and community health services implementation team and others to ensure a smooth transition to the new provincial-municipal responsibilities.

Our government has long stated its intention to end the confusion that surrounds who is responsible for what. We have long stated we would work to eliminate waste and duplication. We have long stated we believe the level of government that delivers the service is the best level of government to operate it.

This bill takes the next step in implementing the Who Does What package. It provides a legislative framework for the funding arrangements we outlined on May 1 and the preliminary changes in municipal costs and revenues announced on August 6. These changes will lead to better services and more efficient and accountable government. We are working together with municipalities towards a common goal of less burden on the taxpayer, and that will only benefit the people of Ontario.

Mr Steve Gilchrist (Scarborough East): I am pleased to follow up on my colleague from Chatham-Kent, who has done a tremendous job of laying out the framework of this bill, an important initiative that was first announced in January this year.

You will recall when we first put out the whole issue of the transfer of services between municipalities and the provincial government, when we first set out to recognize and address once and for all the fact that there is far too much duplication, that there is far too much waste, that there is far too little direction to be applied to a number of important issues, because there were too many chefs. Bill 152 is simply the legislative framework that follows up on literally a year's worth of discussion now, all of 1997.

You will also recall that back in April, as a result of working together with the Association of Municipalities of Ontario, the municipalities themselves came back with a response to our original proposals and they themselves have set out the framework that is now embodied in this bill. I am very proud of the fact that we have consulted, as my colleague pointed out, through two transition teams staffed over 80% by municipal politicians, people who are expert in their fields, people who know best how to manage local affairs, and as a result of their feedback and their input, we now have before us a plan that I think most reasonable people at both levels of government agree will work. This bill reflects very much that spirit of dialogue and consultation, and while there still may be a few minor points to iron out, given the Premier's commitment that this whole process will be revenue-neutral, I think it is safe to say that municipalities across this province are falling in line in supporting this bill, as we hoped they would, and as well they should, given that it was their own representatives who have done these negotiations.

We need look no further than the mayoralty race here in the city of Toronto, where one of the candidates has already come out and said that he not only agrees with the perception but that the reality will be, if he is successful, that the city of Toronto will not see any tax increases. We see the same thing from the former MPP Bob Chiarelli, who is running for regional chair down in Ottawa-Carleton. He has made a similar commitment; in fact, he has gone on the record a number of times and indicated that it will be revenue-neutral. He believes that. He absolutely has committed that it will work in his municipality, and if he is elected, he has said that there will not be a tax impact based on what we're doing here today.

As a result of all these efforts over the last nine months, we now have before us a series of amendments to various statutes, all of which have a common theme, and that theme is to determine which level of government is most appropriate for the delivery of a specific service.

I'd like to take my time this afternoon and deal with the most important aspect that touches the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing. That would be the social housing transfer. I think it has been obvious for a long time that the social housing system in Ontario is broken. It's not something that started in the last year or two. The fact of the matter is that for far too many years there has been a lack of attention, there has been a top-down approach to management style; yet the consensus among tenants, housing providers, municipalities and the province has been that there is not only a need to reform the system, that perhaps most important, there is a need to have local views reflected in what happens with social housing in each community.

That is why we asked experts in the field to come up with recommendations, and as has been the case from day one in our government, we have consulted, we have used expert opinions, and I am very proud of the fact that the Advisory Council on Social Housing Reform we established will be tabling their report later this afternoon and they'll come up with a number of recommendations, I'm sure. All of them and all of us agree that we want to make the system simpler, more accountable, more efficient and more effective as we transfer it to the municipalities.

We believe that social housing is one of those community services that is best addressed at the local level. So when municipalities take control of the system at some point next year, we want them to have a system that is less costly and more efficient. We understand the municipalities want flexibility, and we will carefully consider the recommendations of the advisory council on areas of provincial interest and how they will impact as part of the transfer. However, one thing we are not going to budge on will be the setting of provincial standards to ensure that fair and equitable social housing services remain available throughout this province regardless of the municipality. Reform of social housing will not result in a loss or reduction in the number of affordable housing units in this province, and we're also ensuring that low-income tenants will continue to receive their rental subsidies.


We're quite dismayed that previous governments over the last 10 years did allow housing stock to deteriorate. This government is not prepared to allow that deterioration to continue. Our government is spending $215 million to repair social housing buildings, over and above the $100 million in annual funding for ongoing repairs, and that includes restoring the capital reserve funds of non-profits and co-ops which were drained by the former NDP government, just like they drained the northern heritage fund.

Just to come back again, the Advisory Council on Social Housing Reform was created back in June, with a mandate to recommend reforms to the financing, administration and regulation of social housing in Ontario prior to the transfer to the new municipalities.

The seven council members were chosen for their expertise in the areas of finance, property management, federal housing programs and management of private non-profits and municipal non-profits. The council also received advice from representatives from the Association of Municipalities of Ontario, AMO, as well as the Ontario Non-Profit Housing Association, the Co-operative Housing Federation, the Ontario Housing Corp and the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing. The council has met throughout the summer and heard deputations from 20 different groups representing all aspects of the social housing system. It also had a meeting with elected representatives of municipalities as well as municipal staff to hear their views on the subject.

The report, as I say, was issued at 2 o'clock today. It should be noted that there was not full agreement on all issues, and that's hardly surprising. However, a broad consensus was achieved, which is important when one considers just how diverse an issue social housing is.

It's important to note that the council did not consider the negotiations with the federal government. The province has indicated that it supports the federal principles, and the decision to transfer funding and administration to municipalities does not change this position. The province will continue its negotiations with the federal government on this understanding, and we'll provide copies of the advisory council report to our federal colleagues.

Municipalities' main concerns with social housing are the costs, particularly capital repair costs and interest rate liability, as well as the timing for transfer and the overall responsibility to take care of the housing stock. They also expect to have a say in the program operation if they're funding the service. The advisory council's report only addresses the cost concern and the pay-for-say component.

There will be no formal consultation on this report, because we believe it to be a technical submission. The government is interested in hearing the response and reaction of the various stakeholders and we'll be happy to receive any written responses the people may wish to make.

I'd like to take a minute to talk about the background behind the work that has been done by the advisory council and in fact even predates the whole issue of Who Does What. Much has been said about the condition and the cost of social housing. Over the years, there's no doubt that the costs for capital repairs have increased, as well as the operating costs of many of these buildings. In fact, the government is funding ongoing capital repairs while streamlining operations to improve efficiency and reduce costs. These measures should ensure that social housing being transferred to municipalities is in the best possible shape and is being run as efficiently as possible. Here are just a few examples.

The province recently announced that it is investing, on a one-time basis, $215 million to repair aging social housing stock. Non-profit and cooperative housing sponsors will get a $173-million boost to their capital reserve funds. The balance of the funding, $42 million, is targeted for Ontario Housing Corp, for capital repairs and upgrades.

Over the past five years, OHC has spent $513 million on capital improvements to its public housing stock. OHC recently developed an asset management system to report on the general condition of its stock and project its five-year capital funding requirements. This system will enable OHC to properly allocate the additional $42 million in capital funding. A total of $110 million will be spent on capital improvements for OHC buildings in 1997 alone.

I would remind members opposite that it's a somewhat slippery slope they get on with the suggestion that the housing stock is in such neglected shape that the tenants should be overly concerned, because municipalities currently -- and nothing is changed by this law -- have a responsibility via their property standards officers to make sure every building, regardless of who owns it in this province, meets health and safety standards, make sure the elevators work, make sure all the fire equipment is in place and operational. If that isn't the case --

Mrs Sandra Pupatello (Windsor-Sandwich): You fired all the inspectors, for God's sake. Who's going to check now?

The Acting Speaker (Mr Gary L. Leadston): Order.

Mr Gilchrist: If the harpy opposite allows me to continue, if that isn't the case, with the greatest respect, the municipalities know that is really their obligation, and nothing in this bill changes that.

More to the point, it certainly belies the fact that over the last two years OHC has increased the amount it's spending on capital improvements. As a member who has one of the highest densities of public housing in the province in his riding, I'm very confident, having toured all these buildings, that health and safety concerns are being met, and in many respects the dollars we're allocating now will go towards -- I don't want to say "unnecessary," but perhaps in some cases even more esoteric improvements, and by and large the health and safety issues are really not part of this debate at all.

In 1996 the province also instituted a benchmarking system for applying cost reductions to non-profit and cooperative housing providers. Using this system, inefficient providers had their budgets reduced to a greater extent than the lower-cost, more efficient providers. This more equitable method of funding was also applied in 1997; however, no overall reduction was implemented. Higher-cost providers were constrained, while the funding was provided to lower-cost providers. In other words, there is a tremendous incentive for cooperatives and non-profits to operate as efficiently as possible to ensure that their funding stream is maintained and quite frankly to serve as a benchmark to prove to all other co-ops and non-profits that it can be done.

I'm sure all of us have examples in our ridings of cooperatives that run very efficiently. I can think of one in my riding that gets the grand total of $25,000 a year as a subsidy, almost nothing. Out of that, they run undoubtedly, at least from my perspective, the most attractive, the best-maintained, the co-op with by far the greatest sense of community spirit of all the co-ops in my riding. So I know it can be done. We hope this benchmarking system will ensure that best practices will lead to all the other cooperatives following the lead of their own colleagues and delivering services as efficiently and effectively as possible.

The province has also implemented tougher measures for dealing with housing projects that are in difficulty. In recent years, the province has transferred several non-profit housing projects to other providers, emphasizing that non-profit groups must adhere strictly to program requirements or risk losing their buildings. Again, these are all created under certain contracts. I don't think it's inappropriate for the taxpayers of the province to expect all parties to honour their commitments.

If there is a case where the partner in a non-profit or co-op has not met their financial obligations, I should also note the federal government has moved to deal very directly in those cases where there has been an absence of fiscal responsibility.

Significant savings are also being achieved through refinancing the entire non-profit housing portfolio. The ministry has put a process in place that requires financial institutions to compete on mortgage renewals. Substantial savings have been found because of lower interest rates, literally totalling in the hundreds of millions of dollars. As part of the reforms to the social housing program, the province is reviewing various options that will lower the risks associated with increased interest rates in the future. Where appropriate, the province has been locking in low interest rates on projects to minimize risk over a longer term.

In the public housing portfolio, savings have also been found through operational and cost efficiencies. Measures include re-engineering operations to streamline and reduce duplication, implementing energy efficiency measures to the extent we can and improving property management services, all the while reducing controllable expenses and implementing an asset management process which identifies and allocates capital funding based on the need and the condition of the portfolio.


Reform of the entire process should ensure streamlined administration, eliminate duplication and overlap and increase efficiencies. Municipalities will have the flexibility to find savings through better business practices that address the needs of the people living in their own towns. All of this will help to achieve the most important goal of all: providing better service and better housing for people in need.

As well, undoubtedly the largest component of our social housing would be the Ontario Housing Corp, so I think it's appropriate that I take a couple of minutes to give you some background on the Ontario Housing Corp and what exactly will be happening to its various holdings.

Currently Ontario Housing Corp owns the province's 84,000 units of public housing, making it the largest landlord in Ontario and indeed the country. OHC also administers approximately 21,000 rent supplement units in which OHC subsidizes housing units in private, non-profit or co-op buildings, and subsidizes approximately 15,500 additional units owned by the Metropolitan Toronto Housing Co Ltd.

OHC is a provincial government agency established under the Ontario Housing Corporation Act. It currently receives its funding from two sources: rent from the tenants and subsidies from various levels of government, primarily provincial and federal.

The OHC board of directors is appointed by the provincial government and is accountable to the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. The board appoints a chief executive officer and a general manager to manage the corporation.

Fifty-four local housing authorities, though, located throughout the province are responsible for the day-to-day management of OHC's holdings, including here in Metro Toronto. It gets somewhat confusing because the local housing authority is called the Metropolitan Toronto Housing Authority, not to be confused with the Metropolitan Toronto Housing Co. These housing authorities are OHC's agents. The proposed Services Improvement Act would not change the relationship between the OHCs and the local housing authorities.

OHC provides housing for all types of low-income households, including families, senior citizens and single people. Its housing is made available on the basis of need and OHC houses many of Ontario's neediest households, with tenants paying rent based on income rather than on the size or the type of housing provided.

I should remind you that public housing is owned and managed by the province, just to differentiate that from non-profit housing and co-ops which are owned and managed by community groups or municipal providers. In the past two years OHC has focused on taking a more businesslike approach to its assets and its service delivery. While there is still a lot of work to be done, OHC has been getting more value for each taxpayer dollar by finding efficiencies within the organization. When the government decided that the delivery of public housing would be administered at the municipal level, OHC refocused its internal restructuring initiative on streamlining operations to prepare for this transfer.

What is OHC doing to maintain its housing stock? As I mentioned earlier, over the past five years alone, $513 million has been spent on capital improvements to its public housing stock. As a general rule, all these buildings were built before 1975 and clearly are at the midpoint of their economic life cycle in most cases. OHC recently developed an asset management system to report on the general condition of its housing stock and project its five-year capital funding requirements. This way it will know and will be able to demonstrate to the tenants as well as to the taxpayers that the dollars we've put in this year to top up to a total of $110 million will be spent on capital improvements appropriately.

What about the MTHA in particular here in Toronto? Following the KPMG review of the operations of the Metropolitan Toronto Housing Authority assets, immediate steps were taken by MTHA to prioritize their work and remedy the identified problems. The high-priority work has been completed or is almost complete in all the buildings. Five million dollars was spent to accelerate fire code retrofit work and to replace elevators, one of the major deficiencies identified in the KPMG report. A total of $26 million was spent on capital improvements to the MTHA portfolio just last year alone. If that wasn't good enough, for 1997 MTHA has a budget of $45.4 million allocated for capital work as part of the recent provincial budget.

In total across the province, while MTHA is the largest provider, the social housing system, over and above public housing, has a total of 274,000 units, a staggering number. I mentioned already there were 84,000 units owned directly by the province. There are 57,000 municipal non-profit housing units owned by the municipalities, obviously, and 74,000 non-profit housing units owned directly by private non-profit corporations. There are 41,000 non-profit cooperative housing units owned directly by the co-op members themselves; 13,000 units are owned by the private sector in which the tenants' rent is subsidized by the province's rent supplement system; and there are 5,000 units developed under the rural native and urban native programs and owned by aboriginal groups. I'm pleased to note that the largest urban native program is located in the riding of Scarborough East, a fine housing project that goes by the name of Gabriel Dumont.

The federal and provincial governments each have a role in social housing. Social housing is funded and administered by both levels of government. The federal government unilaterally funds non-profits and cooperatives which are administered and controlled under contracts they signed, and that totals about 48,000 units. The Ontario Housing Corp is administered exclusively by the province, but we cost-share in some cases between the province and the federal government, and again to remind you, that's 84,000 of the units.

Federal-provincial non-profits and cooperatives are administered by the province but cost-shared again between the federal and provincial governments, for a total of 49,000 units. Provincial unilateral non-profits and co-ops are administered and funded solely by us, and that's 51,000 units. The remaining units include rent supplement and federal non-profits, privately owned, rural native and urban native, and again, in most cases, the funding is shared between the two levels of government.

In fact, in it's various incarnations, there have been something approaching almost 20 different housing programs over the years, which I think makes it very clear that this is an issue that needs consolidation. It needed a review from the bottom up, and I'm very pleased that over these past two years we have conducted just such a review and, as a result of that, have determined that municipalities are by far best capable of delivering on this important social component.

Again, just to highlight the difference between public housing and cooperative or non-profit housing, primarily it's different ownership. Public housing is owned, in most cases, directly by the provincial government, whereas the non-profits and the cooperatives are owned and operated by non-profit corporations. Our involvement is solely in writing a cheque, as is the federal government's. But the day-to-day administration, the day-to-day operation, decisions about repairs and ongoing maintenance, decisions about any improvements or the purchase of any new equipment would be made exclusively by the non-profit or co-op board.

There's a very different history behind the two forms of public housing as well. Public housing was first built by municipalities. That's a fact that has been forgotten in this debate. In the 1960s the Ontario Housing Corp was created and took over title to what had previously been municipally owned housing buildings. It also took over the role for all future development and the setting of standards for public housing in this province.

In the mid-1970s, as a result of a report commissioned in 1973, a decision was made to cease building these large blocks of public housing that in many cases had not delivered on the true potential, had not delivered on what I think anyone with a social conscience would agree was the necessary integration of people who are living in those buildings. Instead, in some cases, they became ghettos. The sheer density of public housing that was put in any one place overwhelmed the ability of the services to keep pace, overwhelmed the ability of the rest of the municipality to embrace the public housing residents.

I've seen evidence of that in my own riding. Some of the buildings, quite frankly, were built with no public services nearby, quite some distance from schooling, and in almost no cases with access to recreational facilities and easy access to things like libraries. It's small wonder that particularly some of the youngsters in those buildings have found alternative expressions and alternative uses for their time over the years.


I think the decision in the mid-1970s to no longer build that sort of high-density public housing project was quite valid. Instead we moved into the field of co-ops and non-profits. Non-profits were first sponsored by the federal government back in the 1970s, funded unilaterally by the federal government as well. In 1986 all of the provinces began participating. The province began sponsoring non-profit housing all by itself in 1987, so there's a clear distinction between the time when the federal government was involved exclusively, a very brief transitional period, and then since 1987 when the provincial government has been exclusively responsible for sponsoring any non-profit housing.

I should also note that back in the days when public housing was being built, it took a resolution of the local council before OHC was able to actually construct a building. I think that demonstrates to us and to anybody looking back on that history that the municipalities have traditionally played a role. If they didn't think it was appropriate to build public housing, they didn't pass that resolution and the province then didn't shove anything down their throat On the other hand, if they were anxious to get revenue, if they were anxious to see a particular site developed, if they thought it met whatever test they were submitting public housing to in terms of a balance within their community, then they would pass that resolution and the public housing project would go ahead.

Perhaps some of those decisions were not as well considered as they might have been, and the result has been spotty at best, but it cannot be said that municipalities have traditionally not had a role in social housing. They were the deliverer of social housing until the 1960s, they were the final arbiter about whether a housing project went ahead up until the mid-1970s, and it has quite frankly only been in the last two decades that the provincial government took away that input from the community and by and large was able to dictate and do an end run around the normal planning processes that would be put in place by a municipality.

You may know that one of the benchmarks that's always been used -- in fact, the previous NDP government cited it very frequently in any discussion about public housing -- is that a maximum of 8% of the housing units in any community should be public housing or government-subsidized, the thought being that with the revenue stream the municipalities needed for the integration of any group within our society, it was appropriate to set a benchmark.

I should tell you, in the riding of Scarborough East we're at over 25%, and there are many other communities in this province that are in the same boat and clearly outside the maximum that even the previous government, which always told us they had a monopoly on social conscience -- they too ignored their own standard, and as a result communities like mine have been beset with a myriad of problems, problems primarily because at the end of the day the municipality had very few means through which they could stop a project going ahead in the late 1980s and into the 1990s. There are any number of examples in Scarborough of housing projects that were unilaterally opposed by the adjacent community, not on the basis of NIMBYism -- not in my backyard -- but because the local services were not designed to handle the extraordinary increase in density.

I can think of one project in particular that was zoned for 12 single-family homes. Instead we have just shy of 100 units that were built there. There are 100 families with children using the school and obviously using all the other infrastructure in that community. The school just wasn't built -- when the official plan was done, the design was for those 12 homes.

The unwillingness of the provincial governments in these last two decades to accept at face value that the municipalities should have the final, in fact perhaps the sole, say in whether or not housing is built in a particular spot has created a number of problems. We believe that one of the side benefits to the rationalization in the transfer of all these services between the municipalities and the province will be that once again municipalities will be the masters in their own house. They will have that ability, both in their official plan and through their normal planning process, to make sure the needs of their community are reflected appropriately.

Everyone accepts that if there is a shortage of affordable housing, there is a role to be played by the state in one of its forms. We believe the municipality is the appropriate level of government best able to manage that balancing act, best able to recognize need when it's created and best able to ensure that the balance within its community is reflected through good planning practices.

As I mentioned earlier, public housing is older. It's all at least 22 years old. In some cases it dates back to the 1960s and in a couple of cases here in downtown Toronto back into the mid-1950s. It therefore needs more capital upgrades than the newer stock which tends to be the non-profits and the co-ops. The non-profit housing is not in need of major capital expenditures, but we have restored $215 million to their capital reserves, money that was drained away by the previous NDP government. We're very happy to make sure they'll have the flexibility in the years to come to meet the capital needs as their buildings age. We're not going to beggar them, in fact just the opposite. We're making sure they have the dollars available today even though many of these expenditures won't be taking place for five, 10, even more years into the future.

Social housing is subsidized in a number of ways. First off, government pays the difference between the costs, such as the mortgage, the operating costs, the maintenance, capital repairs, taxes, on the one hand, and the rents received from the tenants, on the other. That difference is paid to the provider, so in the case of pure public housing it would be paid to the local housing authority; in the case of a non-profit or co-op, those dollars are paid to the non-profit or co-op board of directors.

There are actually two different subsidies, and this is where it gets quite complicated because there is what's called the RGI subsidy, rent geared to income. Most of the people who live in social housing pay a rent that is geared to their income. For these people the government is subsidizing the difference between 30% of their income and the rent they would have to pay in the private sector, or what's called market rent. If based on your income you're only able to pay -- well, believe it or not, the minimum -- and there are many cases -- is $32 a month. Some tenants in public housing are paying as little as $32 a month, and the difference between that and the cost of the market rents, what an apartment would rent for in that community, is the RGI subsidy, rent-geared-to-income subsidy. But over and above that there's a difference in those non-profits and the co-ops between what the market rent would be and what the actual carrying cost of the building is.

I'm sure in the run-up to the last election -- and it probably was grist for more than one question at an all-candidates' meeting -- all of us heard horror stories about some of the abuses going on in the construction of what's euphemistically called non-profit housing. It may be non-profit for the operators but it was certainly profit for many of the consultants and advisers and speculators. The bottom line was that at the same time the private sector everywhere in this province was building housing at a cost of $100 a square foot, you could take it as a given that every single non-profit that was built and funded by the previous government was done at $200 a square foot, bang on double what it cost the real world to build. The difference, quite frankly, as was revealed in a number of scandals in years gone by, went to consultants and advisers and speculators that flipped land a half-dozen times before selling it to the non-profit.


Mr Gilchrist: That was the NDP, the previous government, you're right. The bottom line is, there is now a tremendous difference between what the market rent would be in a community, let's say, in my community of Scarborough East where an average rent would be in the neighbourhood of $700 a month, and what the carrying cost of the co-op or the non-profit is. In most cases they're up in the $1,500-a-month range. Not only do we subsidize the individual, the RGI subsidy, we subsidize the actual bricks and mortar. They're each about $1 billion, a staggering amount of money. Again, at a time when hardworking people in this province struggle to pay their mortgage every month, these excesses that they saw in years gone by were quite galling and, I have no doubt, contributed to the strength of our election, certainly in the ridings in Scarborough, where we've seen some really bad examples of some of these excesses in the early part of this decade.


The second subsidy, by the way, is known as the bridge subsidy. As I say, it addresses the difference between what everyone in the building, if they were paying market rent, would be contributing and what the province would still have to pay to pay the mortgage, the operating costs, the day-to-day operations of that building.

Let's deal with some of those costs, if I may. Funding for the social housing system in Ontario: The cost last year was $1.45 billion, which is cost-shared with the federal government. The breakdown is as follows: In 1996-97 OHC, including the Metropolitan Toronto Housing Co Ltd -- I'll remind you that that's a slightly different iteration of a local housing authority that operates here in Toronto -- cost $352 million, of which the federal government contributed $211 million. But non-profit housing costs were $1 billion last year, of which the federal government contributed just over 30%: $321 million. In aggregate, then, the cost to the provincial government was just shy of $900 million last year. In fairness, the federal government paid the balance.

As you may know, the federal government has indicated, and has already signed agreements with a number of the other provinces, that they want to get out of the housing business. Much like Minister Allan Rock's admission that the health cuts have hurt the province of Ontario -- and he has taken full responsibility for the fact that the federal government has downloaded over $2.5 billion on to this province, which has complicated our health costs.

Mr David Tilson (Dufferin-Peel): They're going to pay all that back.

Mr Gilchrist: It was a fine admission for Mr Rock. Oh, that others of his colleagues would be so forthright.

But while at the same time they've already signed agreements with provinces such as Saskatchewan that specifically on their face give the province the ability to transfer its housing stock in turn to their municipalities, it became an election football before the federal election. It played very well as part of the overall bash-the-government theme for the federal members, having already been party to all these other contracts with the other provinces, to apply a different standard to Ontario. We shouldn't be surprised. Again Ontario gets the short end of the stick. But when you've got 101 votes to appease, I could see why the housing minister decided to follow a different path.

Right now, we're in an interesting situation, because they made an offer to walk away from their annual expenses on all the housing component that quite frankly would have saddled the taxpayers of this province with billions of dollars' worth of increased costs.

I don't know what the ultimate conclusion will be, but we find it totally unacceptable, since both governments are a party to the contracts behind all these funding arrangements -- if the federal government wants to disentangle social housing, as we have in certain issues with the municipalities, it's got to be revenue-neutral. That's the minimum standard the taxpayers of this province should expect, and we will stand up for their interests in that regard.

I hope at the end of the day the federal government recognizes its responsibility to all the citizens of this country and recognizes the fact that it is inappropriate to sign one contract with Saskatchewan and Quebec and a number of other provinces and apply a different standard here. The bottom line is that we expect nothing more but also nothing less than what is being offered to the other citizens of this great country.

Social housing tenants, if I can give you just a feel of the demographics, as I mentioned earlier, run the whole spectrum. Families, seniors and single households all live in social housing in this province. In the Ontario Housing Corp, about one-half of the tenant households are families, about one third are seniors and one sixth are singles. In non-profit housing, the proportion of families is even higher, 60% of the units, while seniors make up 20% and singles the balance.

These households have lower incomes, from social assistance, pensions or just lower-paying work. Approximately 60,000 tenants in social housing also receive social assistance. This is 36% of the rent-geared-to-income units. The average income of people not on social assistance is approximately $13,000 a year. Up to 10% of the units in social housing are occupied by special needs tenants, tenants who require some level of essential support services to live in the community instead of an institution, and we believe that is an appropriate expenditure. These clients would include frail elderly, physically and mentally handicapped persons, consumers of mental health services. The OHC houses a significant number of tenants who have lived in units for a long period of time. Support services are funded for these groups by the Ministry of Community and Social Services as well as by the Ministry of Health through community-based agencies.

If I could just make a brief comment about legal and financial commitments, I've already talked about how discussions with the federal government are under way to establish an agreement which would unilaterally pass control -- their choice would be to pass it to us -- to anchor federal dollars and to provide flexibility to devolve the social housing to municipalities.

Operating agreements with non-profit and co-operative housing providers govern the actual payments of subsidies to non-profit and co-operative housing. It's got to be remembered that non-profit housing is owned by the non-profit groups and at the end of the day there's approximately $1 billion in debentures against OHC property.

One of the things that is not widely known is that in the course of getting involved in public housing, previous governments, particularly the previous NDP and Liberal governments, bought a lot of what are euphemistically known as scattered units. Most people in this province aren't aware that there are 5,800 single-family homes and duplexes owned by the province of Ontario, including houses down the Beach area of Toronto valued at $380,000. Clearly that was not an appropriate use of taxpayers' dollars. That was not an appropriate expenditure. That was not an appropriate way to deal with housing problems, no matter where you were in the province of Ontario. It was absolute wastefulness and quite frankly has contributed to the extraordinarily high cost of social housing in this province. Per unit, our highest costs are in those scattered units. I think it will be incumbent upon the municipalities in the years to come to rationalize that ownership, and I would encourage them to do that.

At the end of the day, if I can come back to the original point, the bill before us now, Bill 152, is the end of a long discussion process that started back in January of this year. Working with the municipalities, receiving input from a variety of groups -- including even opposition members, although mostly critical -- we've put together a piece of legislation that guarantees that the transfer of services will allow the province and the municipalities to be more efficient, will allow the municipalities in particular to find cost savings, to ensure that the services are still delivered, that there is no cost increase to the taxpayers, no property tax increase, and at the end of the day the taxpayers will know that there is one authority dealing with each service. This makes for a more efficient, a more effective Ontario, and we think it's excellent legislation.

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

Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): I wish to respond to the member by saying that there isn't anybody in this House who, in his heart of hearts, doesn't know what this bill is all about. It's downloading the responsibility and the costs, the burdens, on the local municipalities while the provincial government accepts credit for its provincial income tax cut.

I think Hazel McCallion, the mayor of the city of Mississauga, put it best when she was speaking after one of the discussions with the Premier and the minister. She said that's what it was all about. She said, "Mike Harris and the Conservative caucus want to look very popular with the people, so they will go out and say, `We have cut your taxes by 30%,'" eventually. But of course that is going to cost the government the revenue, approximately $5 billion a year, that would be generated by those taxes, and they are offloading on to the municipalities new and onerous responsibilities which the municipal elected representatives will have to deal with at the local level.


They'll have two choices, or perhaps a combination of choices. One is to cut services even further -- and these municipalities have already gone through the process of cutting a lot of services -- or, second, they will have to raise taxes to maintain those services. Meanwhile, Mike Harris and members of the Conservative caucus can smile and send out their brochures and put their ads in their paper and have their radio reports on CHSC in St Catharines, all saying, "Isn't it nice what the provincial government is doing for you?" when in fact the local elected representatives, as many of the members heard at the Association of Municipalities of Ontario convention here in Toronto, will be left with the tough decisions. I remind you of gas prices. They want to do nothing about it except push the responsibility to somebody else.

Mr Gilles Pouliot (Lake Nipigon): Always interesting indeed, and at times challenging, to listen to the remarks by the member for Scarborough East. He's such a believer. The truth is -- and he wishes to convey that there's a devolving exercise -- this is downloading, this is dumping, this is passing the buck. That's the truth. Call it like it is.

You may be aware that $476 million of federal taxpayers' money leaves Ottawa and comes back to the province of Ontario for social housing. That deal is in jeopardy because what the province does is it takes the $476 million that they owe and then they dump the cost of social housing on to municipalities, telling them, "You're on your own now." When you say it's a wash, it breaks even, no one believes you.

Today, September 2, the people of Thunder Bay -- and they do their own accounting, their good local clerk-administrators: between $44.9 and $47.4 million -- are asking you, member, and your cohorts, "Show us the money." Do you want to give them the guarantee? Because that's what it will cost them. Put it where your mouth is. Where is the money? The only way they will break even is when they tally up the bills and they find the cheque in the mail and it clears the bank. Otherwise, they will believe that you are lying. There is $47 million missing for the good people of Thunder Bay, and the list goes on and on in most municipalities.

Mrs Margaret Marland (Mississauga South): I'm going to respond to the members for Chatham-Kent and Scarborough East for their comments. It's really interesting of course to hear people in this House say, "Show us the money, give us the money." That's what the last two governments did for 10 years and we have a $100-billion debt to show for it.

Hon Noble Villeneuve (Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, minister responsible for francophone affairs): They threw it away, out the doors and windows.

Mrs Marland: We not only have a $100-billion debt --


Hon Mr Villeneuve: You knew where it was.

Mrs Marland: Thank you, Minister -- we also have auditors' reports in the last 10 years which identified in one area more than any other money that was never accounted for. The Provincial Auditor identified in his 1994 report $200 million in the Ministry of Housing that could not be accounted for.

What about the Van Lang Centre in Ottawa? I don't think the previous government really wants us to talk about that. That's where a certain group operated this centre with a very closed board of directors, five people who self-appointed themselves and reappointed themselves every year, and kept empty apartments for their friends who came to visit from overseas. This is not a subject that anybody of the Liberal or New Democratic parties opposite should ever venture into.

What about subsidizing brand-new bachelor apartments for $2,000 a month at the same time that bachelor apartments were advertised in the Toronto dailies, three and four columns, at $400 a month? You talk about money, you talk about downloading, you talk about responsible spending, and that's what our government's going to do.

Mr Gerry Phillips (Scarborough-Agincourt): To the member for Scarborough East, first, let's acknowledge the facts, as the government did today: You've dumped $660 million of extra costs on municipalities. The minister acknowledged that today. You've cut out the municipal support grant of $666 million, so you've dumped $660 million on to property tax, and Ontario is going to know that. They understand how you're funding your tax cut. You're dumping on the municipalities.

Second, let's recognize the Who Does What panel, 14 people hand-picked by the Premier. They said to the government, "Don't do this." I'll use their language: "The panel strongly opposes such a move," moving social housing on to property tax. "We are unanimous in the view that of the choice between placing education or welfare on to the property tax, including housing, it's clearly preferable to continue to rely on the property for the funding of education." So the Who Does What panel says don't do it.

AMO, the association of municipalities, right here says don't dump housing on to the property taxpayers. Why? For the very reasons the member for Scarborough East outlined today. He went through the problems of social housing. There is a huge problem with the deterioration of the capital stock, the buildings. Furthermore he goes on to say -- I'm paraphrasing -- many of the buildings are falling apart. He says the non-profits are way short of being able to carry the cost. There are huge problems in housing. That's what the member for Scarborough East said.

So what are you doing? You've chosen this moment to dump it on to the property tax. You've made your own best case for the mistake of putting on to property tax what rightfully should be on the provincial responsibility. You're dumping a problem on to the property taxpayers and you'll pay at the next election.

Mr Carroll: I appreciate the comments from the members for Mississauga South, St Catharines, Lake Nipigon and Scarborough-Agincourt. I'm surprised the member for Scarborough-Agincourt today finally came to the realization that we are asking municipalities to find $667 million worth of savings in how they deliver services. We have not been shy about admitting to that. That has been part of the program since we were elected, so I'm surprised that just today he came to the realization that we were doing that.

As usual, the opposition members continue to argue for the status quo. When both of those parties were in power, they understood and tried to come to grips with the fact that the relationship between the province and the municipalities should change, that there needed to be more efficient ways to deliver government services for the benefit of the taxpayer. It did involve making some very difficult decisions, which both of those previous governments shied away from. We no longer have the option of shying away from those difficult decisions. We are faced with capital stock in social housing that is in difficult condition. We are faced with $100 billion worth of debt. We are faced with the fact that we have the highest tax load in North America. We must come to grips with some of the areas where we're wasting money.

They argue for the status quo. Everything we bring forward as an initiative they say won't work. The sky has been falling since June 1995. I woke up this morning; it was still in the same place. It has not fallen. Ontario quite frankly is starting to benefit from some of our decisions. We must continue to move forward. The Who Does What exercise is an exercise to allow municipalities the tools to better deliver government services to their taxpayers so that all taxpayers in Ontario can enjoy a reduction in their tax burden.

The Deputy Speaker: Further debate?


Mr Phillips: I wonder if I could get unanimous consent to split my time with the member for Windsor-Sandwich.

Interjection: You don't need it.

Mr Phillips: I don't need it? Well, I've got it; I appreciate it.


Mr Phillips: I want to begin the debate on this bill by --


Mr Phillips: I'll split my time with the member for Windsor-Sandwich.

I begin by saying that this bill is a mistake. I use the Premier's own handpicked panel, the Who Does What panel, because if the public has been watching this debate, the government says, "We're implementing what the Who Does What panel recommended." Remember, Mike Harris handpicked them. David Crombie headed it up, but there were 13 other individuals from across the province to look at this whole disentanglement between municipalities and the province.

Certainly our party is very supportive of finding ways so we make government simpler, we make it more efficient, we make it work better, we increase accountability. But here's what happened. The government made a huge mistake, and Dave Crombie and his panel, the Who Does What panel handpicked by Mike Harris, some of the most senior well-respected people in the province -- the reason I'm raising this is that this bill puts into law what David Crombie and his panel say is a mistake.

They specifically said: "It has become clear to us, however, that the only way the province could carry out its funding responsibilities as recommended by the panel would be to undo much of the work accomplished by the disentangling proposals such as moving health and welfare back down to the property tax. The panel strongly opposes such a move." They're unanimous in the view that it shouldn't be done. For the public, when you're listening to the government say one thing and the opposition another, who should you listen to? I suggest that an independent group you perhaps should listen to is the Who Does What panel. They say this is wrong. It's a huge mistake.

Second, AMO, the Association of Municipalities of Ontario, says it's wrong. We've had now the government acknowledge clearly without any question, Premier Harris has said this is revenue-neutral. "The stuff we're doing in municipalities is revenue-neutral." Today we had an admission it's not revenue-neutral. The government is adding $660 million on to property taxes.

Mr Bradley: That's not revenue-neutral.

Mr Phillips: That's not revenue-neutral, as my friend from St Catharines says. They're adding $660 million on to property tax. That alone is about a 5% increase in property taxes. The government has finally acknowledged that today, "Yes, we are adding $660 million." That's why AMO said, "Don't put social housing on to property tax; it is a mistake."

We've got the Crombie panel, AMO. The third group -- or person -- is the Minister of Municipal Affairs, Al Leach. I was listening the other morning to an interview with Mr Leach on a radio station. They said, "Isn't it a mistake to put income redistribution programs on to property tax?" and social housing and social assistance is an income redistribution program. Al Leach said: "Yes, it is. They should not be on property tax. My own personal belief, they should be on the income tax."

The interviewer, quite correctly, said to Mr Leach: "Wait a minute. You're doing the opposite. You are putting income redistribution programs on to property tax." Mr Leach said: "Yes, but you can't get where we want to go in a day. Eventually it will be back on income tax, but we've got to put it on property tax for a while." Well, I say to the people of Ontario, if he believes that income redistribution programs such as social housing and social assistance should not be on property tax, what are we doing? Why are we passing this law that puts it on to property tax?

Anybody who wants a tape of that interview, it's available. Mr Leach would not deny he said that, and he himself acknowledged it's a mistake to put on to property tax these programs. As a matter of fact, I would challenge the government to produce for the Legislature a single study that has been done on social housing that says it should be on to property tax.

I keep quoting the government itself. I can remember August 6, 1997, when the government put out a backgrounder on the programs. They said, "People who need services cross municipal boundaries to get them," and that's why income redistribution programs, by the minister's own admission, should be not on property tax where somebody will move from one community to another for the services, but on a province-wide revenue base. The government itself points that out.

Today we are dealing with a proposal that puts into law something that Dave Crombie and his Who Does What handpicked panel strongly oppose, bitterly oppose I might add. I remember very well when Crombie and his group got wind of this coming out -- this document's dated December 23, two days before Christmas. They felt it so urgent that they gathered together just before Christmas when they got wind of this and put together a letter to Mr Leach imploring him not to do it. Mr Leach allowed them to have a press conference roughly 24 hours before New Year's Eve -- I remember that well as well -- to try and bury their concerns.

You've got the Who Does What panel saying the government's wrong. You've got AMO saying the government's wrong, saying that in spite -- and periodically here in the Legislature you will hear the government say, "We've accepted AMO's proposal." That is simply -- tread carefully here, Mr Speaker -- simply not true.

Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): It's incorrect.

Mr Phillips: It's incorrect. AMO said, "Do not put social housing on to the property tax." If we are looking for disentanglement, which is what I think prompted this exercise in the first place, the Who Does What panel, you can hardly imagine a more complicated process than the one we're now into. This has not been disentanglement; it has been re-entanglement.

I'll just go down the list: On education, we now find the province is going to set the mill rate. For the first time in the history of Ontario, we now have the provincial government setting one third of the property tax mill rate. The government has made an all-out attack on getting their hands on property taxes. One third of our property taxes in Ontario will now be set, not by your locally elected people, not in the strong tradition of Ontario where we elect people locally, people we have confidence in, we have access to, to provide our local services.

But for the first time ever, the province is now going to set one third of our property tax mill rate. Every time you get a property tax bill now, the province will have set --

Mr Doug Galt (Northumberland): It's finally under control.

Mr Phillips: We've now got a member over here who is saying he likes it. He likes setting the property tax mill rate. I'll say to the people of Ontario that we're now seeing the true face of Mike Harris which is: Bigger is better; control at Queen's Park is better; we know best at Queen's Park; centralization. We'll set one third of the mill rate this year and maybe more in the future."

You want to look at re-entanglement. You've got that. You look now at health care -- and virtually everybody who has looked at health care believes we have to find a way to integrate the whole system, make it a seamless system. The jargon that's used in the health community is: We have these silos: You've got the doctor silo and you've got the hospital silo and you've got the drug silo and you've got the home care silo. We need to tear those silos down and we need to manage the system as a seamless system.

I think there's a lot of merit in that, but what are we doing here by this very bill? Now municipalities will have 100% responsibility for ambulances and 100% responsibility for public health. If you look down the road at health care, much more community-based care where I think the ambulances are going to become more important as people do far more day surgery and are transported home by ambulance -- far more living in their home but are transported by ambulance for some clinical services -- what should be happening is a completely integrated system of health care. But we're building another silo where the municipalities now will have responsibility for ambulances and public health, so rather than disentangling health care, we are re-entangling health care.


I know how we got into this mess. Mike Harris wants to control education. His office has been just salivating at the chance to be in complete control of that education system, and they are going to be. January 1 they're going to set the budget for every school board and whoever controls the purse strings -- you can be guaranteed we will see province-wide bargaining with the teachers and then, dare I say, with the rest of the staff, because there's going to be only one body setting the whole budget for every school board. It is complete central control of the education system, and the Premier, in my opinion, is spoiling for a fight with the teachers.

But that decision was made before the government looked at the ramifications. When you take a substantial portion of education off property taxes, you are determined to add a substantial portion of other costs on to them.

That decision was made before you looked at the consequences of putting things like ambulance services on the property tax, or social housing on the property tax; a huge portion of social assistance, $853 million more in social assistance on to property tax; $905 million of social housing on to property tax. But the government made the decision that it wanted to control education and as soon as it made that decision, then we were down that path of putting on to property tax a large portion of social assistance and social housing.

Again, it's just fundamentally wrong. It is a public policy decision being driven by a political imperative to take control of education. That is not how we should be making public policy in Ontario. We should look at the consequences of this.

I can guarantee you that when we run into a difficult economic time -- and we always do, unfortunately; the economy of every province and every country goes through cycles -- can you imagine how traumatic it will be for our seniors on social housing, for children on social assistance to be going before a council that is faced with a terrible dilemma? How do we provide these services that will clearly go up dramatically in an economic downturn? But in an economic downturn, businesses fail, individuals have real difficulty in paying their property taxes, and there will be those meetings where councils will be put in an absolute no-win position.

But that's what we're approving today. We're approving a public policy in which I challenge the government to come forward with any credible body that has studied this and recommended the government's course of action.

I repeat what I said at the outset of my remarks. I think most people in the Legislature, probably all people in the Legislature, have a good deal of respect for David Crombie. He has proven himself to be an individual who understands issues, a former federal member, a former mayor of the city of Toronto, someone who has actually done work with all governments of different political stripes here in Ontario. His group felt so strongly that two days before Christmas they got together and they begged the government not to proceed with this. AMO has spent the last few months saying, "Listen, you are dumping on to the property taxpayers a substantial extra cost."

Here's what the government does on that, by the way. They said: "Well, we know it's $660 million more dollars, but we told them we were going to do that before, so you can't count that. We told them that a few months ago. They already knew that, so it's not part of the exercise."

AMO will just say to the property taxpayers, "The government has finally come clean and said, `Yes, in 1998 there will be roughly $660 million of extra costs put on the property taxpayer.'" Then the government says: "Yes, but they can handle that just by reducing their expenditures 2% a year. That's no problem for them. They can do that."

Based on my experience with municipalities, they have been operating with a very sharp pencil for a long period of time. I know a lot of the mayors and reeves and wardens around the province in large communities, small communities, who have been operating with a really sharp pencil. Frankly, they find it a bit insulting for the Premier to say: "Well, just go out and cut. You can find another 2% each year for the next three or four years. You can cut another 7% to 10% out of your budget. No problem at all."

I'd like Mike Harris to go to a few of those council meetings where the councils are debating: "What services do we now cut? What new fees do we bring in?" I think I've told this story before. The local fire department in my area charges for false alarms. We've got a seniors' building where the alarm system is up to code, but when people are cooking and what not, it goes off and they're faced with about a $3,000 bill over a three-month period for false alarms. Why? Because my local council, faced with the cutbacks from the province, has had to turn to these fees. I don't think there's a municipality in the province that hasn't introduced some very interesting new fees to try to make up for the cuts by the province.

Before I turn it over to my colleague, I just want to reiterate our concerns with the bill. Number one is that, from a public policy point of view, surely the government will listen to David Crombie and the Who Does What panel, will listen to AMO, will even listen to Mr Leach, the Minister of Municipal Affairs, who said, "Yes, it is wrong to put income redistribution programs on to property tax, and eventually we'll get it off." Why are we putting in legislation something that he thinks is wrong?

Secondly, the member for Scarborough East gave perhaps one of the best explanations of why the government is determined to push this through. He points out that buildings are collapsing so there's going to be a huge capital investment. Many of the non-profit buildings are so far from being able to carry themselves that the province had better get rid of them and give them to the municipalities as quickly as possible. He added a new one that I hadn't hear before and that is that maybe the local council will be less willing to provide social housing than the province has been in the past.

So for all of those reasons, I think it's a bill that is a mistake and patching it up in small ways doesn't change the principle: that, in principle, it's wrong to put on to property tax income redistribution programs, and it's going to be particularly wrong when the province runs into difficult economic times and our property taxpayers are faced with an intolerable dilemma. Do we provide for the essential social services in our community or do we hold the line on property taxes? Very difficult future decisions that we are incorporating in this his bill.


Mrs Pupatello: I'm very pleased to speak to Bill 152, which does make significant changes in how Ontarians pay for social programs in Ontario. What we saw when we had this bill introduced was that for all the words of consultation the government claims to have had with all these people across Ontario, they in fact listened to no one. We're probably seeing the same thing happen today as labour leaders from across Ontario meet with the Premier, finally, in some kind of show of consultation. The truth is that there is really no point in going and asking people their opinion if the government then is not prepared to listen to people who are on the front line when it starts to implement and bring in legislation that affects them very directly.

It's important to note that decades ago cities right across Ontario used to be responsible for social programs, and welfare is a good example of that. In the Great Depression, cities like Windsor where I come from, cities right across Ontario were going bankrupt because they could not afford the social programs any longer.

If I could explain, and I know members here are aware, when you are in a region that is simply not thriving economically the reality is that people will move to go and find opportunity. For those very same reasons, you will find a significantly greater proportion of people in Metro Toronto who are in need of social programs. These are the same people who may have come from outside, from other regions, from rural communities. When they don't have opportunities in their own regions, people will move looking for opportunity, and ultimately, if they don't find that opportunity, they turn to the city they happen to be in to look for that kind of assistance.

Metro Toronto, the city of Windsor and the city of Ottawa for a very long time have had a very disproportionate number in relation to their surrounding counties in having to provide social programs right across Ontario for those people who live there.

When we started this kind of discussion in the city I come from, Windsor-Sandwich, there was significant concern. They said, "Listen, the city of Windsor in relation to Essex county has certainly a higher proportion of individuals who need things like social housing." So over the years Windsor has developed more programs of social housing in relation or ratio to the balance of Essex county.

When the province now decides to dump this program on to cities and towns across Ontario, urban centres are hit in a very big way with this program, far more than other surrounding areas, although they are all being hit.

Some time ago, within the last three weeks, the government in its wisdom all of a sudden decided that they would now pool those social services right across the greater Toronto area. The reason they did that was they saw that Metro Toronto had a huge, disproportionate number of social programs available for its citizens. All of a sudden, the Metro MPPs were getting screams from people in their own backyards saying: "How can you let this happen? It's not logical. You're from a gang who purport to be for common sense. This bill doesn't make any sense. What the government is doing in moving and dumping those services doesn't make good sense."

So for the very same reasons that decades ago those programs were taken off the responsibility of cities and towns and put on to the province, this government has now decided to share those social services across the greater Toronto area. I have got to submit to this group that this same logic should apply in a larger fashion across Ontario, and in fact we have had very good reason for the province to be involved in social services.

I have to say that when it comes time to determine what kind of representative you want to be and why you should even be interested in running as a provincial member, what we always knew is that if you are an MPP in Ontario, you have a responsibility for ensuring provincial programs like social services, education, housing, all the things that matter to people in everyday life, day-to-day things that impact on people. That's your job as MPPs and here you are. The majority of you got here and decided: "Gee, that problem is just too big for me to handle. I'm going to dump that on to cities and towns." That's exactly what you have done.

Hon Mr Villeneuve: Caused by the previous government.

Mrs Pupatello: Je pense aussi que la communauté francophone est d'accord avec moi, Monsieur.

I have to say too that we got called back to the House this mid-August because you had such important things to talk about, you had such grave issues to be dealt with, and all of a sudden I get a sense that you're starting to backpedal a little bit. We hear screaming outside all the protesters, who I think are very supportive of the Liberal position here.

In fact, the MPPs would prefer to be right here in this House instead of being back home in their own ridings, because they went home during the month of July and the government MPPs were in for quite a shock. All of a sudden you started hearing the same things, not by local Liberals but by your local Conservatives. Your local Conservatives couldn't believe that you are continuing down this path even though they have done absolutely everything to try to convince you that where you were going was wrong.

Self-proclaimed, your handpicked group in this whole downloading exercise told you not to do it, and today we're discussing Bill 152 and government MPPs now stand in the House and say, "They're telling us to do that." There's not one person who would ever confirm that, not one of your group, because unanimously they banded together to write you a letter to say, "Don't do this." You don't want to listen to that, but you now have the gall to stand in the House and say that you have consulted. You certainly had them speaking to you, but you clearly were not listening or you simply wouldn't have done it. Now we're going to have problems, but they won't be yours; they're going to be cities' and towns' problems. You think you'll go away with this big image of being the big Taxfighter. The reality is you're going to see tax increases at local levels, and if you don't see that, you will have services disrupted or cancelled. Those are the options that municipal leaders across Ontario have today. We wonder.

You make a show of having all these people supporting you in what you're doing. We don't quite know where they are. You certainly have members here from the Niagara region, and they're saying, "We'll leave Niagara taxpayers up to $60 million in the red." Are the Niagara MPPs in fact not listening to their local people on the front line who are going to be faced with delivering these services? In Sudbury they're saying the impact in Sudbury and its area is approximately $73.6 million.

Don't forget, these municipalities are only giving us numbers that they know, because the minister has admitted to AMO just last week that he doesn't have the numbers yet. How can you possibly stand here and say you're going to have revenue-neutral exchange when the government won't release the figures if in fact they even have the figures?

Sudbury recognizes it will be in a major deficit.

The city of Windsor finally -- I say "finally" because quite frankly you've put municipal leaders in quite a position. They're in a position to bite the hand that feeds them. If they speak out too loudly, you control the purse strings and these municipal leaders are afraid that maybe they're going to get shafted in some other area because they're just not playing along. They're just not being cooperative and spewing the government line for you. In fact, Mayor Hurst of the city of Windsor is significantly concerned; more so, the fellow who actually manages the books for the city of Windsor, Chuck Wills, our CAO. "`No matter how we cut it we now know the order of magnitude we're dealing with,' said Chuck Wills, city chief administrative officer."

These are people who have been in this business for a long time. Chuck Wills is renowned. In fact, we all know -- it was in our press -- that the city of Toronto and area was trying to bring this gentleman up here to work. This fellow knows his business.

Here are the options: "It would mean a 12% tax hike for Windsor property owners if the city chose to fill the shortfall that way." The only other alternative is cutting service.

This is not a Liberal MPP saying this. These are people who work with this on a daily basis. Surely when you were home over the course of your four or six weeks they must have been telling you the same thing. It's not an issue solely in the city of Windsor. The northwest, the Thunder Bay people, are telling you the same thing. Clearly these people who were up in the northern caucus and having their meetings up there heard the same message. I'm sure they're not singing from a different song sheet just for us. "Thunder Bay ratepayers could be facing property tax increases and/or service cuts `of significant proportion.'" Are we the only ones who are hearing this? I don't know what kind of consultation you could possibly have done.

Even in Ottawa-Carleton, an $82-million shortfall, and I have to tell you these people still don't know what your housing figures are.

Mr John R. Baird (Nepean): That's not what Bob Chiarelli said.

Mrs Pupatello: I'd like to know how this member for Nepean, representing the area in the region of Ottawa, could sit in the House and be positive about Bill 152 when his own government will not give out information about housing. How can you possibly sit there and talk to me about this when your own government will not give out figures?


Mr Baird: On two points of order, Mr Speaker: One is with respect to standing order 22(a), where remarks are supposed to be addressed through the Chair and not directly to the members opposite.

My second point of order would be to remind her, I'm in complete agreement with Bob Chiarelli, the former Liberal MPP.

Mrs Pupatello: There's no point being sensitive. Speaker, if the members opposite are going to continue to try to speak out as if they're in opposition, then they too are going to be subject to my railing against their comments. In this case, we have government MPPs who purport to be in favour of this and they too have to agree that their own municipalities to do not even know the cost of social housing that they have now dumped on municipalities. So how can you decide that it's revenue-neutral when you don't even know the number?

I would ask every member on the government side who has spoken to this bill so far to stand up and tell me today, what is the amount of social housing for the city of Windsor? What about Tecumseh, in the by-election? I know what I am hearing in the city of Tecumseh. The people in the city of Tecumseh want to know who is going to pay the cost of ambulance. Gary McNamara goes to the door and the people want to know who eventually is going to pay when the city of Tecumseh, that town in Windsor-Riverside, is faced with the dumping of ambulance service.

Government MPPs have no answer for that. So for them to sit here cock-sure of everything their government is doing and all they say is, "I'm shocked and appalled at how ill-informed you are" -- is this government honestly going to say it hasn't made a mistake since it's been in government yet? I would beg to differ on several counts.

"Suburban Councillor Warns of `905 Tea Party' Rebellion." I don't see any 905 MPPs jumping for joy, now that you realize you're going to have those social costs shared across the GTA. I wonder why that is. Is it because the GTA is going to pay for the share of social housing programs that is serviced in the city of Toronto? Of course that's why the GTA MPPs are not here. They're not happy about what's going on with Bill 152.

The minister has already decided they're going to share across the GTA. That's the very reason it's supposed to be shared across the province, so that you don't have one region paying more than other regions for social programs that clearly are of a nature that should not be borne by property taxes in Ontario. That should be clear to all of you.

As your minister already acknowledged, that shouldn't be, yet you are so clearly driven for your tax cut by a certain period of time, you will stop at nothing, no matter how illogical the path is, to try to find your money to feed that. Instead of making changes in a very appropriate manner, you've put the cart before the horse again.

Right through Bill 152 you've acknowledged, as has your member, the PA to the minister of Comsoc, that after the bill is passed you're going to have consultation about what the mandates are for those services. Don't you think you ought to determine what changes you're going to make to the mandate before you dump them on to the cities and towns?

The municipal leaders of Chatham-Kent surely want to know exactly what that mandate is going to entail. What are you telling the people in public health they have to provide, now that they're paying for it? First you hand them the invoice, "Here, pay the bill for public health," then you're going to enter into consultation. If it's consultation the way you've done over the last two and a half years, the cities can just forget having any real say about what their regions may need in the order of public health.

Then you're going to decide what it's going to be. As Chuck Wills from the city of Windsor said to me some time ago, the bane of cities and towns in Ontario is unfunded mandates from the province of Ontario. Here we go again. The funny thing is, from a most unlikely source, from the gang that's purported to be the big taxfighters, you will be bloating the local property tax in a way that has nothing to do with levels of income. In fact, it is quite regressive. But we should carry on.

We've got people from North Bay. If you thought our Premier would be on steady ground in terms of his policymaking, you would think it would be with the people of North Bay and the civic leaders of North Bay. Surely, they wouldn't tell the Premier of Ontario something that isn't so. But here we have from the North Bay Nugget the people saying to Premier Mike Harris, "Hey, you're going to raise our local property taxes." His answer is, "You can find the savings."

One day you have speakers at your association of municipalities meeting and you're just lauding them with compliments on how wonderful they are, and aren't they terrific, and they're really good fiscal managers, and the next day you're in the House telling them they're terrible and they've got so much fat they're going to have to cut out of the system. You can't have it both ways. Either they're terrible money managers -- bloated, fat bureaucracies -- or they're very sound fiscal managers.

In my estimate, I would say they're quite sound. In the city of Windsor we've actually had a significant fiscal policy for the last 10 years where we are determined to lower the property tax. No Conservative MPP is coming into my city to say we have bloated, fat bureaucracies where they can just find savings so easily. It simply is not the case. In the municipality I come from, and even in LaSalle, where we went through massive restructuring, and have for the past three years, on one day the minister would stand up and say how wonderful we were as an example in the reconfiguration of health care, and then the next day he tells everyone how terrible everyone is because the system is all fat and bloated. You can't have it both ways. So one of us is lying. I will assure you, the people from my riding are telling the truth.

The mayor from the town of North Bay says the net impact of additional costs and lost revenue would translate into more than $20 million annually, a 75% increase. So we're going to have two options in the city of North Bay. Premier Mike Harris, will either be increasing the property tax where he comes from by some percentage, or they're going to lose services in North Bay. Those are the two options for the people of the constituency of Mike Harris.

This poor fellow the mayor of North Bay actually had the gall to publicly denounce the policies of Mike Harris. He got some terrible phone calls from Bill King, the assistant to the Premier: "Don't say anything publicly, for heaven's sake." He couldn't possibly be telling the truth. So they got into quite an argument, King adamantly denying the figures. The truth is the government cannot go to the people and purport to be bringing in tax-revenue-neutral exchanges, and the same government won't even give the people the real figures.

We have people in London; it seems to me we have MPPs of the Conservative Party in the London area. Surely, over the last six weeks when they were at home in their ridings they met with their local officials, and these people said, "You're all wet."

We have two options in the city of London, which, you'll remember, went through significant amalgamation in the last term of the provincial government. You'll remember that well. They already went through various levels of downsizing and changing to be more efficient. These are the people you're saying are now too fat and bloated as bureaucracies, that they're going to go find more savings, because this is a revenue-neutral exchange. If it's revenue-neutral, why do they need to find more savings? In fact, today in the House the government has already acknowledged: "There we go. We're $567 million short." That goes a long way towards paying the amount in the income tax cut you're supposedly giving to people.

What was very interesting in the reaction from the mayor of Mississauga -- again, we have Conservative MPPs from the Mississauga area -- Ontario residents would be asked about municipalities picking up the tab for social services. "Would you really dare to bring in your referenda legislation so we can use that to ask real questions, instead of the fake and phoney excuses these government Conservative MPPs have used for the discussion of referenda?" It goes on. Clearly you can't find any support for the programs you want to bring in, and here you are just shoving it down the throats of Ontario residents through the taxes they pay on their property. I don't think it's appropriate and no one out there believes it's appropriate either.

A number of comments were made today. You started off by saying, "Finally, we're going to lift half, that accounts for education, off the property tax." May I say that the people in my riding and other ridings across Ontario are not going to see the difference, because not only are they replacing that with these downloaded, dumped programs, but they're going to be replaced with even more costs because it's not a revenue-neutral exchange.

Let's talk about the real reason they want to get their hands on that education money. The real agenda of a right-wing reform government is to privatize absolutely everything they can.


Now, we know that there are reformers in the government caucus who have been pushing this charter school idea, pushing the idea of this fat, bloated education system that doesn't work, and for every documented item that this Minister of Education has brought in the House, we'll provide five to ten wonderful stories of Ontario children who do exceptionally well in our education system. It's just more of this propaganda. First you destroy the system so that whatever you create will be perceived as something, and that's exactly what this government is intending in the area of education.

We had a terrible headline in a Saturday paper in Ontario this past weekend, and it said, "University of the Élite." I hope you all recognize that. It was a terrible thing, and it caused me to think back to the days when I was in school and wonder if I could ever have afforded university today. If I had to go back and do it today, could I ever have afforded it? I'm guessing I just might not have been able to do it.

We're not going to know at this point, but we will know shortly, because they're all signing the cheques right now: a 30% increase. Now the YPC movement, alive and well at the University of Windsor, are in for quite a shock this fall, quite a shock indeed, that their own government that was supposed to be pro-student, pro-education, just slapped a 30% increase in tuition on those students. A big surprise for the students, and of course the people who live in Windsor-Riverside have been telling our candidate, Gary McNamara, about that for the last several weeks.

Every time we knock on a door where they have university students in that home, it is the first item that comes to mind. "Why is Mike Harris doing this to our young people? I thought he was supposed to be giving them a hand up, providing opportunities." All that rhetoric that you passed off during your election campaign is coming home to roost. Those people are now seeing the effects of your commonsense, illogical revolution and what it means is more fees, only hidden, not perceived to be costs borne by the provincial government.

I can tell you that it goes on. We have umpteen examples of that. There are lots of ways to tax the people. Mike Harris stood up and said, no new user fees for the disabled, no new user fees in health care, no new user fees for seniors. Well, we know that all went out by way of the dodo bird with this gang, because the people again, as we're canvassing and knocking on doors, the first thing they tell Gary McNamara is, "I'm paying $100 a year now for my prescriptions." Well, isn't that news? Not only that, you tried to scam them for three months and make them pay double. But thanks to the work that we did you reversed the three months. None the less, they're still saddled with an additional $100 a year, and we are talking about people who are on a fixed income.

These are the same individuals who are, in many cases, in social housing programs. These are the people -- you can't just look at 152 in isolation; look at everything that you're doing to the housing system in Ontario. We're at the moment going clause-by-clause through Bill 96 on rent control. We know it's only a matter of time before buildings will completely eliminate the rent control within these buildings. These are the same people you've slapped with user fees for drug costs, slapped with other user fees of every description, and now you're removing rent controls for the very people who are on a fixed income. If you're in a community where there's lots and lots of housing, you could almost say: "You know, there's a choice here. People can move." You cannot say that in the city of Windsor. You cannot say that in Metropolitan Toronto.

Those are the issues. You've all read the same journals as I have about the slum landlords out there who are not fixing their buildings, and at the same time you decide that you're going to go after this gang, and it's the same gang that has the least opportunity to get to their local MPP and make him or her understand what's happening to them. Frankly, it's your responsibility to take care of all Ontarians, not just the ones who write you a cheque at your fund-raiser.

Mrs Marland: You mean like Patti Starr?

Mrs Pupatello: I understand Patti Starr did quite a bit of fund-raising for the PC Party.

Let's look at some examples of ministries that have actually implemented significant user fees right across the board in Ontario -- lots of ways to tax people. Here's a very hidden way that you've managed to tax people.

I remember Mike Harris didn't have the nerve to come into the city of Windsor. He stood on the curb of the airport. The propeller of the plane was still going when he got to the curb of the airport during the last election to say hi, and then off he went again. But what he did say when he was there for 30 seconds was, "No new user fees." Well, look what we have here; lists and lists of user fees, not just across the board --

Mr Gilchrist: Table that.

Mrs Pupatello: Well, he wants to name them. We've got MNR fee increases. Here are the fee increases. This is MNR, just one ministry, a whole slew of new user fees. From the minister we've got Bill 26 ability to allow us to increase the application fee by $5 here, $10 here. The Ministry of Health, for heaven's sake: They've got four pages of new user fees for the Ministry of Health. Who do you think you're fooling? Do you not believe that these people understand that? Have you been to a door in your riding yet of an individual who has been in a hospital? You really have to get out there, folks, and talk to the people back home, because they know what's happening in the health system.

Come down to Windsor. I've asked you. Jack, you came. You decided to sit in on our child task force hearings. This, from the PA, whose minister said that it was a useless exercise we were going through to determine exactly what you've done to children in Ontario. Well, you certainly didn't think so when you wasted your day coming to Windsor for it, and what you heard is the reality, that the cuts you've made to social programs have hurt people. In fact they've hurt predominantly children, haven't they? Well, you were there. You and I both heard the same argument. We're going to talk more on that later, I know.

The good news is that I would encourage many of the Conservative MPPs to come and hear at first hand, because I don't see that you're very prepared to go out and find that information yourself.

Let's talk about seniors. Again, canvassing for Gary McNamara in Windsor-Riverside, they have a significant seniors' population there and they have some significant fees there that they are now facing that are new. Look at this: long-term-care facility program resident copayment fee. See, that's the key word. This government's decided: "Don't say `user fee' because that's what Mike Harris used during the election. If we call it a `copayment fee' people won't recognize it as being the same thing." You obviously think people are foolish. In any event, you've increased the fee, maximum basic. You've increased it every year since you've been in government.

If we move on: Chronic care copayment in hospitals. Now I know you've gotten a load of this one, because surely you must have seniors in your own ridings who are in long-term-care facilities and chronic care. The copayment for people in a chronic care hospital or patients in an acute hospital awaiting placement to a chronic care or long-term-care facility was streamlined to match the basic rate paid by long-term-care residents: $41.16 per day. Now, who do you think is paying that new fee? The revenue generated remains with the facility charging the copayment, so the hospital now, faced with the massive cuts that they face under your government, they're charging people $41.16, the perfect example, and the list goes on.

You're doing the same thing in Bill 152 with ambulance service. You have not told the people across Ontario how they're going to deliver an ambulance service. What we realize now is that they're going to be responsible not just for the cost -- I mean, they're going to get the bill, guaranteed. We're not just getting an invoice that they must pay.

Non-monetary responsibilities: Ensure proper management, operation and use of land ambulance service provided in its area. Ensure necessary supply of vehicles, equipment, information and services.

As you well know, in a significant number of regions all of those local counties are having a look at their emergency service, their 911 service, all of those things, and as my colleague from Scarborough-Agincourt clearly pointed out earlier, you are setting up a system that is supposed to be streamlined, is supposed to be one-access, supposed to be no silos but a seamless system, and here you've taken a significant part of emergency service of health care, like ambulance, and you've dumped it on to cities and towns. The very thing this minister says he's going to do, he's actually doing the reverse in the introduction of Bill 152. It's an illogical move, and the only reason they've done it is because they've got to get it off the books. You have got to find millions and millions of dollars to get off your books because you want to be the big Taxfighter.


When people write the cheque for their property tax, they'll know, and if the cities and towns are smart, they're going to show the pie chart. It's going to have a great big piece of the pie this time and it's going to say, "Mike Harris's piece of pie." It's going to show the amount of increase thanks to the downloading. I think that's a fabulous idea. You may as well know who's charging you for the service. If you don't pay out of this pocket, people, you're paying out of this pocket. That's exactly what this is about. I guess the worst part is that you're paying out of a different pocket for a service that should be provided through the income tax that's generated by the provincial ratepayer. It's not the same thing to take that kind of money off property tax. It doesn't make good sense.

There's a significant concern about child care. As you know, this government introduced significant changes in social services, including workfare. What it means is that there will be more and more people who need to access child care. This government has absolutely buried its head in the sand and determined, "There must be no needs out there." You are already 8,000 spaces short in Metro Toronto alone for people who are on waiting lists for subsidized child care. These are the same, predominantly women, who lack one thing: The one barrier they have to get into the workforce is child care, and you've now brought in new legislation that you expect to pass very shortly that's going to mean they absolutely have to have child care.

Again there's another agenda at work. It has nothing to do with who is paying what etc. In this case it's merely a move to privatize the system. You can't bear the fact that there ought to be provincially run, provincially funded, subsidized day care for people out there, for working Ontarians, predominantly women, who are in need of this kind of support. You're still doing everything you can through legislation to set up a voucher system so that you will take our taxpayers' money and move it into potentially an underground system, into the private day care hands, all the while bringing in changes after the fact that change regulations in providing good, quality child care in Ontario.

I would ask most people on the street, "If I was going to take your dollar, as a taxpayer in Ontario, I want that dollar spent where there is good control and very good regulation."


Mrs Pupatello: I see the Solicitor General has some comments to make. We'll certainly get to that area shortly.

If you asked a taxpayer they would say that if they're going to give you a dollar, you've got to spend it wisely. You have to ensure that if the dollar is for child care, it is coupled with good regulation; that those children will be safe; that we have fences around the backyard; that the children who are going to the day care centre are eating at an appropriate time, are eating appropriate things, that it's not powdered milk, that it is nutritious.

I don't think these things are exceptional as expectations, yet you are setting the stage in the downloading of child care to make towns and cities right across Ontario say, "The pothole on E.C. Row or a child care space." Those are the kinds of decisions you've offloaded from cities and you've put them on to the local municipalities.

I go into the city of Barrie. Are you aware that we have one of the highest levels of teenage pregnancies in the city of Barrie? I would think that the public health unit in the city of Barrie is going to want some say. What have you done in the area of public health, where it's predominantly working in the area of prevention? You've cut 60% of the nursing staff in public health in Barrie. Now you're taking that same unit, giving it over to the city and saying, "Here, you pay for it."

They're already in decline. The nurses there already recognize that they are not visiting all the newborn babies they would like to. But this government wants the big headline that they're doing something in prevention for infants. Right here in Ontario today, we have nurses who work in the public health units who are not getting out there to see every baby that they feel they ought to see. Even the public health nurses have to triage and go by various methods, nothing controlled or standard, to determine who they are going to visit and who they are not. How many of these babies are falling through the cracks? Now you are bringing in Bill 152 to make it worse.

While I'm listening to these Conservative MPPs talk about this -- this is supposed to be efficiency and effectiveness of government -- I would take you back just one week ago, not even a week, where we had the opening of boot camp which the government is going to take a lot of credit for, this fabulous idea for young offenders. The reality is that this government, the Conservatives, these people who are supposed to be such wonderful financial managers, are spending $2.5 million to oversee the care of seven young offenders -- seven. You couldn't even find young offenders to put in that program and you spent an absolute fortune. You snatched young offenders from other areas and other regions who were already in other programs so you could try to fill it up. The child advocate had to go into that facility and yank them back out because it was totally inappropriate. You weren't able to find the young offenders who were bad enough to get in your boot camp in time for your ribbon-cutting. That's about as bad as your family support plan.

This gang who wants to stand today to talk about Bill 152 because it's effective and efficient -- you cannot come in this House with the kind of record you are now developing. You just love to talk about other governments and their history. You've got two and a half years now. You're not new any more. You've been here for two and a half years. This is your legacy of $2.5 million to care for seven kids so you could have a ribbon-cutting and get the big news because you're doing something about young offenders in Ontario. That's what this government is about.

The family support plan: You want to tell people that you fixed the system. It was an absolute disaster, so much so that you sent the Attorney General scurrying around to try to find evidence that the program was working. My phone rang in Windsor and your phones were ringing in your ridings because you knew it was a complete botch-up. Your own Premier had to go out there and say: "It was a terrible job. We did not do that well." And this gang wants to stand today and talk about efficiency and the efficacy of the kinds of bills you're bringing in the House? It's a shame.

In the end, we've got to talk about where people should be paying what taxes. People who truly need help need to be in a position to receive it and they don't have to get caught in a war between who is obliged to provide the service. Historically, over decades and decades of government in Ontario, they assumed the responsibility for social programs. They did it because those same programs were bankrupting municipalities in Ontario, because regionally they could not afford the cost. That is what you're heading us down. You're going to get the big headline because your books are going to balance.

All I can tell you is that I will go out of my way to write to every city and town, and when they send out their tax chits next time around and over the next couple of years, just like they were doing the last five or six years where they were separating out who paid how much tax and to whom, there's going to be a great big new piece of the pie and it's going to say, "Mike Harris's increased tax."

For OPP alone -- we've got a list that's significant. This is not just in isolation; you're downloading all kinds of additional new costs to municipalities. It doesn't just stop with housing, with public health, with child care; it's going on and on and on, acknowledged by the minister when she presented that this was just the beginning. This in fact is just the beginning.

It's no wonder you want to be in the House at the end of August. You don't want to be at home in your riding to hear about it, as we've been hearing about it all along. I can tell you, it's not been a happy or content place to be, listening to your phone ring, because even your Tory friends are telling you it's all wet and it's not going to work.

In closing, I should tell you that I look forward to additional debate on this. What I would truly enjoy is a Conservative MPP being honest, standing and realizing that our property taxes are going up or we're going to lose significant, required services in the province of Ontario.


The Acting Speaker (Mr Gary L. Leadston) : Questions and comments?

Mr Pouliot: I enjoyed the remarks from both the members for Windsor-Sandwich and for Scarborough-Agincourt. Tax chaos is about to hit North Bay. It's a fracas extraordinaire. This is what the mayor of North Bay has to say, and North Bay is where the Premier of the province resides, where he lives: "The net impact of additional costs and lost revenue will translate into more than $20 million annually."

This is what the mayor, Jack Burrows, says, and Burrows knows what he's talking about. Burrows doesn't work for the Premier's office. He's not a Tory hack. He has no bias. But Mayor Jack knows North Bay. He's saying that taxes might go up by as much as 75%. Four months before the transfer of services, Mayor Jack Burrows says, "Where will the $20 million come from?"

He's heard Mr Leach and Mr Harris say that this will be break-even, that it's a wash. But what both the Premier and Mr Leach are not saying is that some municipalities will be big-time losers; 60% at least of municipalities can expect impacting, devastating in some cases, increases in property tax.

The Premier's office response is, "You don't know what you're talking about. We're the only ones who know." This is a quote: "An official in the Premier's office said, `irresponsible and misleading.'"

You say: "Show me the money. Show me the figures." I believe Jack Burrows because he lives in North Bay. He is the mayor of North Bay. I don't believe people who live in Toronto and work for the Premier's office in a political capacity. They're going to get hit big time.

Mr Gilchrist: I'm just going to take a couple of seconds to dismiss the insufferable and conceited arrogance of the member for Windsor-Sandwich, who stands in her place here today and says tuition's going up 30%. She knows full well it can't go up more than 10%. She suggests that 60% of the public health nurses were fired in Barrie, knowing full well the province doesn't hire and fire public health nurses. It is incredible the arrogance she brings to this chamber, suggesting that no one else knows what's going on in this province except the honourable member.

I'm pleased to tell her that I've been three times to the by-election right next-door to her and I've heard a very different message. I note that today the Windsor Star endorsed Fran Funaro, the Conservative candidate down in the riding of Windsor-Riverside and repudiated everything you stand for. They came right out and blamed you and your party --

Mr Pouliot: Don't get your hopes up.

Mr Gilchrist: Don't you heckle too loud, because they blamed you as well and said both of your candidates were the mismanagement for the last 10 years.

But let's go further. The member for Scarborough-Agincourt made a big point earlier in his presentation and suggested it was some great revelation, the $667-million elimination of the grants between the province and the municipality. Let me just read you a quote. It may have been a shock to the members opposite, but it sure wasn't to the president of AMO. In fact, Terry Mundell, AMO president, said about the AMO deal:

"The reality of the situation is that the province told us about a year ago that the $667 million in municipal support grant money was being eliminated. That's the difference in the tradeoff" -- the Globe and Mail, May 2, 1997. So that means they knew a year and a half ago. Everyone else in this province, everyone who bothered to read the budget, everybody who deals with the facts and not your fearmongering and your ill-founded rhetoric, knows that's our expectation.

Mrs Pupatello: Smart-ass. I'll show you where your rhetoric --

Mr Gilchrist: Everybody that contributed to the $100-billion debt has to be part of the saving, and they're going to save $667 million.

The Acting Speaker: I would ask the member for Windsor-Sandwich to withdraw the comment you made.

Mrs Pupatello: I withdraw.

Mrs Lyn McLeod (Fort William): The member for Scarborough East is working awfully hard to find anybody out there who can actually provide some support, supposedly objective support, of his party's policies. When he reaches so far as to cite editorials where the policy is undoubtedly influenced by the beliefs of the new owner of --


The Acting Speaker: Order. Continue.

Mrs McLeod: Thank you, Mr Speaker. I just find it passing strange that he should have to reach to the Conrad Black editorial policy to find support for this party's policies, but maybe I shouldn't find that strange.

I would prefer that we try and use some of the government's own information to shed some light on to this debate. I think that's what my colleagues the member for Windsor-Sandwich and the member for Scarborough-Agincourt have tried to do today.

I've been looking through the material that Mr Leach, the Minister of Municipal Affairs, sent out to us earlier. I wonder whether the Tory members got the same package I did. I wonder if they've looked at the numbers that Mr Leach has been providing as to the net impact on their municipalities. I know that the member for Scarborough East has acknowledged today, perhaps inadvertently, that this is not revenue-neutral, in spite of the fact that his minister keeps trying to say it is. But I wonder if they realize just how significant the offload to municipalities is going to be.

I know these are just estimates. They acknowledge that, because the government has no idea what the real impact on municipalities is going to be. They're going to forge ahead and do this no matter what the impact. But I look at Halton region, for example, with a $33-million net loss, net impact in costs. I look at Hastings, with a $15-million impact in costs. I look at Kent county, $12.6 million. I listened to Mr Carroll participate in the debate and then I look at Chatham district, which I've lost at the moment, which has several million dollars in costs. Haldimand-Norfolk has $9.2 million. Even in the Premier's own riding of Nipissing -- I wonder if the Premier has seen this -- there's $17.7 million net impact in costs.

But they say: "Don't worry. The municipalities can find 2% to offset those new costs." I don't know why the municipalities should have to make savings that go directly into the provincial treasury to pay for the province's tax cut.

Mr Len Wood (Cochrane North): I listened very attentively to the addresses from the member for Scarborough-Agincourt and the member for Windsor-Sandwich. They addressed a lot of the concerns that the people of my riding are talking about. Mike Harris used to be considered the Taxfighter, but now everybody calls him the Taxhiker because he's increasing taxes on everybody in the province of Ontario, one after the other. It doesn't matter if you're senior or if you're younger people in society. With this Bill 152, as has been explained in the comments, when you transfer ambulance service to municipalities, when you transfer social housing to municipalities, the property taxes are going to go up.

This doesn't necessarily only mean if you own a home. If you rent, your rent is going to go up because Mike Harris wants to balance the books on the backs of the ordinary working people out there who rent or own a home. He's doing it to everything, through the municipalities, through the changes he's making to health care, changes he's making to the education system, the students, tuition fees are going up.

It's one thing to campaign during a campaign and say, "There will be no new user fees," and "Taxes are too high; we're going to give a 30% tax break," but you're going to go out and collect billions of dollars and force the mayors and the councillors and the reeves to raise the property taxes to allow Mike Harris to give a 30% tax break to the wealthiest people in the province.

That's what it's all about. There only is one taxpayer out there, and that taxpayer is being attacked severely by Mike Harris and his Conservative government through every service you were getting before. The mayors and reeves in northern Ontario are saying they're going to have to do massive layoffs of employees at the municipal level or raise taxes. Even police services: $500 a house for OPP servicing? It's ridiculous.

The Acting Speaker: The member for Windsor-Sandwich has two minutes.

Mrs Pupatello: I find it quite interesting that every time we start bringing incidents and issues and examples that can only be the truth because we can only use figures that the ministries themselves provide -- all these items I've brought to your attention today are on Ministry of Health letterhead, Ministry of Labour letterhead. These are your figures, these are your numbers. I will not be caught using other numbers. I will only use the government's numbers. We have done that from the very beginning. We only have your numbers to use. These are your figures.

In one year alone, from 1995 through 1996, this Mike Harris government brought in 1,008 user fees. You can call them taxes or you can call them user fees. You brought in 1,008 in one year alone. We're counting now your second year and we'll give that figure to you as well. We're getting the information from your ministries, as well as lots of other information, as difficult as you try to make it. Your own Minister of Housing refuses to give cities and towns the very numbers they need like, "How much does it cost to run the housing project that you're dumping on the city?" The mayor of Belleville, a self-proclaimed Conservative, said: "I have never set foot in the provincial housing projects in the city of Belleville. Why would I ever?" He has no idea what it costs other than that he is now assuming that cost. It's as simple as that.

I'll take all the personal attacks, because when a government party is reduced to simply attacking the speaker so personally, they clearly don't have any other arguments to make and all we can do is to present people with the facts. I look forward to the pie chart when the property taxes start going up and I hope they call it the Mike Harris piece of pie.


The Acting Speaker: Further debate?

Ms Shelley Martel (Sudbury East): Mr Speaker, before I begin, I would ask for unanimous consent to defer our party's leadoff until tomorrow evening, when our critic will be here.

The Acting Speaker: Agreed?

Mrs Marland: What are you going to do?

Ms Martel: I'm going to speak for 20 minutes.

The Acting Speaker: Would you repeat the request?

Ms Martel: The request was to defer our party's leadoff until tomorrow, when the critic will be here.

The Acting Speaker: Do we have consent?

A point of order?

Mrs Marland: No, it is not a point of order; it's further to the request. Their leadoff speaker, who is the critic, is not here and would be able to speak tomorrow night. The leadoff speaker has an hour and the next speaker has 20 minutes now. That means the third party will be going into 20-minute rotations.

The Acting Speaker: That's right.

Ms Martel: I'm going to speak for 20 minutes and our leadoff of an hour would go tomorrow. I would speak for 20 minutes now.

The Acting Speaker: Is there agreement? Agreed.

Ms Martel: Thank you, Mr Speaker. Despite what the Conservative member has said this afternoon about this being a disentanglement process or a negotiation process, it is nothing at all like that.

You had municipal leaders who in January had a gun held to their heads and were told, "These are the services, these are the programs and these are the associated costs which you're going to have the pleasure of offloading on to the backs of your local property taxpayers."

That is what the scenario is all about and that is what we have been dealing with from the beginning with the appointment of the Who Does What panel, a panel of handpicked Tory appointees who had very little public consultation, very little public input from people about their concerns about the cost of the download and the services that were going to be exchanged through the announcements in January, May and again in August, when the numbers still continued to roll out about just how local property taxpayers were going to take it in the necks for the dumping this government is doing.

What we have today in Bill 152 is the legislative framework to allow that dumping, that downloading, that offloading of those services and those costs on to the backs of municipal taxpayers. There is only one taxpayer, and that taxpayer is going to get it in the neck through Bill 152. As we have all seen, as everyone in this House has seen through the three different stages where costs have been outlined, this is not a wash, this is not cost-neutral, this is not revenue-neutral; this represents a huge dumping of costs on to the backs of property taxpayers.

The reason it is happening is because this government is so interested in trying to find some savings to finance its big tax cut for the rich and famous that they are quite prepared to download, to dump, to offload all kinds of costs the province used to pick up on to the backs of local taxpayers and hope that municipal politicians are going to carry the blame for that rather than the folks at Queen's Park. That is what is behind all this: how the provincial government can cut some of its costs to put some money away for the tax cut and do that at the expense of local property taxpayers, who will suffer a cut in services or an increase in taxes and new user fees, or a combination of both.

I don't think that most municipal leaders who were at AMO last week felt a great deal of comfort from the Premier's saying that he promised on his pinkie that the needs of municipalities were going to be met. I don't think very many municipal politicians in the room felt very good about that. All they have seen to date is a Conservative government that has desperately tried to play a shell game with voters and taxpayers. This is a government that has tried to claim the package is revenue-neutral when in fact about a $1.2-billion cost is going to be dumped on to municipal taxpayers, and that comes through a combination of two things: about $550 million, which is associated with the government's own numbers, in services and associated costs which are going to be dumped, and then you have to add in the loss of unconditional grants of some $666 million. For many communities, particularly in the part of the world I come from, municipal support grants in the form of northern support grants make up a significant percentage of the revenues that come into municipalities and then go out in the form of delivering services.

While the government has tried to say, "Oh, the municipalities knew about this a year and a half ago," it is clear from the government's own statements that the government itself refuses to acknowledge in its download numbers that this is a cost to the municipalities. Consistently Minister Leach, in all his public announcements about the costs, has refused to admit that the cut in the unconditional grant, its loss, represents a download to municipalities because it means they have to find the ways and means, which are going to mean increased taxes, to make up for the difference, especially in northern communities.

It is also a joke that in light of this government's conveniently trying to neglect to admit time and time again that that makes up a cost, they also have had the audacity to suggest that by the year 2000 municipalities will be in a position to decrease their taxes by 3%. I don't know which world you live in, folks, but the municipal leaders where I come from are telling you, "You don't know what you're talking about." That comes from the mayor of the city of Sudbury, a former MPP, a former Conservative cabinet minister, who has told you people that you don't know what you're talking about, that you're living in la-la land. We in the city of Sudbury, for example, are going to experience a hit of $46 million, in the region we're taking a hit of $73 million, and there is no way in heaven that we are going to be looking at a tax cut of 3% by the year 2000. We are going to be looking at a tax hike, a significant one, in 1998, 1999, 2000 and beyond to deal with your download costs.

In northern Ontario there isn't a municipality that will be in a position to deal with a 3% cut in local taxes in the year 2000. It's not on primarily because the loss in unconditional grants from this government just won't allow it to happen because those grants make up such a significant portion of municipal budgets in northern Ontario.

Let me give you some idea of the download costs to northern Ontario. This comes as a result of the government figures which were released in August. In the Algoma district we're looking at an increase of $982 per household; Cochrane district, an increase of $1,104 per household; Kenora, an increase of $1,185 per household; Nipissing district, the Premier's home riding, a $949 increase per household; Rainy River district, $1,140 increase; Sudbury region, $913 increase per household; Thunder Bay district, $748 increase per household.

That's how the figures translate. These are the figures that came from the government. I should point out that this doesn't include the download of provincial highways and doesn't deal yet with the download of social housing costs because the government hasn't been good enough to give that to us yet -- never mind the OPP costs. In the east part of my riding alone we're looking at a $517 increase per household strictly for OPP.


Think about it, folks. How do you expect these municipalities to cope? The overall download in northern Ontario is $282.9 million. We get no comfort whatsoever from the vague promise which has been made by the Minister of Municipal Affairs and the Minister of Northern Development that there will be a $500-million fund and a $70-million fund to address special needs. The total download is $1.2 billion. Those special funds combined won't even meet that problem.

We get no comfort from the vague promises about these funds, because to date no one from the government has released any information with respect to the criteria that will be established to access the fund, which communities will be entitled to apply, how long they will be in place, how they will work. None of us is feeling very good about having the minister stand up and tell us special needs will be met, when we have no idea what the criteria will be and when we already know that the total cost of the download by this Conservative government far, far exceeds the amount of money they claim they are going to put back into the system to respond to those special needs.

In Sudbury alone the download cost -- and these were done as of August, when the new numbers came out that were released by the province -- to the city of Sudbury alone is $46.9 million. The download cost in the regional municipality alone, which takes in a number of other outlying communities, is $73.6 million. There will be Conservative members who would like to stand in their place and tell the municipal politicians where I come from that they don't know what they're talking about, kind of like Bill King, who called Mayor Jack Burrows and told him he didn't know what he was talking about.

I tell you that I have more faith in the numbers put out by the people in my community, who live and work in my community and have been municipal politicians there for a long time, along with the staff, who have been in place for a long time, than I do in any kind of assertion from the Conservative backbench that people don't know what they are talking about. Sorry. They work and live in my community.

They know about the revenues, about the expenditures, about what it costs to operate the physical plant and other social services. I'll trust their numbers any day of the week over what I hear from the backbench here, who are trying to say that there is going to be some kind of cut in municipal taxes in the year 2000. These people know what they're talking about; they know what the numbers represent. In our community a $73-million dump by this Conservative government means a huge cut in services that people have had to date, means a huge increase in the taxes we are going to pay, means a whole host of new user fees to compensate for the loss.

I mentioned earlier that the major problem that northern communities will have, that this government wants to fail to recognize, is the impact of the loss of the unconditional grants, of the municipal support grants. In the regional municipality alone 50% of the regional budget is made up by the unconditional grant -- 50%. That is a huge portion. While the government continues to claim that people knew about this, they fail to recognize the impact and fail to incorporate the impact into the download numbers. You have to incorporate that into the download numbers because it does represent a significant loss of revenue. Municipal politicians will be left with no choice but to raise property taxes and cut services to make up for the difference in that grant, and this government has got to start recognizing that reality.

Jim Gordon, mayor of Sudbury, former MPP, former Conservative cabinet minister, said this about the province's proposed $500-million transition fund: "It's a drop in the bucket, where municipalities would have to travel cap in hand basically begging for funding." That is exactly our concern, that at the end of the day, despite the rhetoric of the government that there will be money in place, the funds allocated will nowhere near add up to the overall cost of the download, and it will be impossible for any number of communities to quality because the amount of money necessary to meet their needs just won't be in place.

The town of Nickel Centre, which is in my riding, August 15, after looking at the provincial numbers had this to say: "With the projected cut to the town budget of approximately $4.5 million, town council is worried. What it means is that the possibility of a tax increase in Nickel Centre could be up to, on average, $1,000 per household. That's what it's going to cost our people per household," said John Fera, who is a councillor, "and that's insane." He predicted that 1998 was going to be a devastating year, with either tax increases or cuts in services to local residents.

The mayor, at the same time, addressed the Conservative rhetoric that by the year 2000 somehow municipalities are going to be able to cut property taxes by 3%. "`We already have the lowest mill rates in the region,' Hayduk said. `How are we going to reduce our expenditures any further?'"

He's right. The Conservative members just don't seem to understand that when the municipal politicians from my part of the world say, "This is a huge cost for us," they mean it and they know what they are talking about. They are telling you clearly that they will not be in a position to cut taxes by the year 2000; they will be in a position in 1998 of having to dramatically increase property taxes and cut services and introduce new user fees all at the same time, just to cope with your offload. It's not revenue-neutral, and people from communities in the part of the world I come from are telling you that again and again.

The northern mayors have been so concerned about the download and about what it means to lose the municipal support grants that they requested a meeting with the Premier, which he did not participate in and instead passed on that responsibility to the Minister of Northern Development, but they also sent out a press release at the end of June when they first made the request for the Premier to meet, to explain to him very directly the importance of the municipal support grant and why it was false and ridiculous for the government not to acknowledge the impact of this on the download numbers.

People should know that the northern support grant was actually established by a former Progressive Conservative government in 1970 to recognize the special needs of northern Ontario. The purpose of the grant was to replace some of the mining grants and the forestry stumpage fees that were collected and sent to northern Ontario in recognition of how much revenue went out of northern Ontario into southern Ontario coffers. The government of the day made a commitment that the revenues that came back to the north would never be less than the former mining revenue payments and the unconditional grants; they would always be equal so that we would never suffer a loss.

Northern municipalities were to be compensated because they had smaller bases from which to tax, because the income levels were lower than they were in a number of cases in southern Ontario and because in northern Ontario we have higher costs for services at all levels, because of our geography, because of our winter conditions. The grant compensated all those things and it also was established by a former Conservative government to compensate those municipalities that were not able to tax mining companies and underground facilities even though those same mining companies added a significant burden to the infrastructure in each of those communities. It was a way to recognize that reality and compensate accordingly.

The northern mayors have said to this Premier and the Minister of Northern Development that, in 1997, $105 million of the $155 million pay to northern municipalities was attributed directly to the northern support grant. With the elimination of the northern support grant, northern municipalities will be hard-pressed to make up for this shortfall when making their 1998 budgets.


Let me give you an idea of what the per household cost will be because in northern Ontario the per household cost of the loss of the this grant is very significant, much more than it is in southern Ontario. In 1997, the grant entitlement in southern Ontario was about $48.4 million. In northern Ontario it was $102.8 million. When it is cut, the average loss per household in southern Ontario is $105; in the north it's $480. That's the loss of the grant alone per household and that doesn't even begin to address the costs associated with the services, many of them social services, which this government is adamant it's going to dump on municipalities.

That's why last week the northern mayors provided this document to the Minister of Northern Development and encouraged him to recognize the differences in terms of need with respect to the grant between north and south and encouraged him to understand that, like a former Tory government, this government had to recognize the special needs of northern Ontarians by putting in place a fund that was going to deal with this download.

After the meeting, a number of the northern mayors -- there were five of them in attendance -- were asked how they felt by the media, whether or not they had not been able to make their case, whether or not they thought the Minister of Northern Development and Monsieur Leach, who I gather joined the meeting a little bit late, understood. The mayors made the comment that the ministers did commit to the principle of fairness and equity -- and I've heard this government talk about fairness and equity before so I don't find any comfort with that commitment -- but they would not recognize that some of the special funds that they are talking about would be committed to northern Ontario. So the mayors went away very sceptical that the government understands and that the special needs of northern Ontario will be met.

As I conclude, let me say that Bill 152, which we are dealing with today, represents the legislative framework to allow the dumping of services and the dumping of the costs associated with those services on to municipalities. This is what this bill is all about. This whole process has had nothing to do with negotiation, has had nothing to do with disentanglement. It has had everything to do with this provincial government trying to offload as many costs as it possibly can on to the backs of municipal taxpayers so it can find some savings for the big tax cut it wants to give to its rich and famous friends.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Questions and comments?

Mr Galt: It's interesting to hear the member for Sudbury East talking about the mayor of Sudbury, Jim Johnson, and the drop in the bucket. He would have to go out cup in hand, begging and looking for money. I'd like to bring to your attention that I think that's traditionally been the problem. One of the biggest roles of municipal politicians has been to lobby the provincial and federal governments for funds rather than managing their own resources. They've been supplying services and going out trying to lobby for all kinds of money. Then, once they get it, they do not necessarily spend it in the wisest way, but if they were managing their resources, which is what we're encouraging them to do, then I think the municipalities would be much, much better off.

I was interested in hearing the member's comment that there's only one taxpayer. She's absolutely correct. I'd like to bring to her attention the fact that for the first time in living memory of most of us, and particularly for the Fraser Institute, tax freedom day actually backed up. In the past, it was moving ahead by leaps and bounds. As a matter of fact, in a 10-year period, from 1985 to 1995, tax freedom day moved from May 25 to June 26, a full month, 31 days, a 12th of a year, that people now have to pay taxes, work for that solid month and give to governments at various levels. It's extremely unfair as far as I'm concerned. Here in Ontario we're now saving from last year to this year for an average working family of two $1,600 -- $1,600 less that they'll have to give to government out of their hard-earned money. Right now, the average family of two, with two working, is spending $29,000 in taxes. That's half of their income. I find that's just a crying shame that a family making that kind of money has to give half of it --

The Speaker: Further questions and comments?

Mr Michael A. Brown (Algoma-Manitoulin): I'm just absolutely amazed by the comments that just preceded me. Mayor Jim Gordon can't manage the money of the people of Sudbury? I think that will be interesting news in Sudbury very shortly.

Mr Bradley: A former Conservative MPP?

Mr Michael Brown: Yes, a former cabinet minister in a Conservative government who can't manage money. Very interesting.

I'm going to speak more to this debate when it comes around to our rotation, but I think it's important for people to understand that one third of the local tax bill that's going to show up is being levelled by the Harris government. They're going to determine the rate, they're going to determine how much is allocated to education. One third is going to be decided here.

I look around for disentanglement. Where is there disentanglement? All there is is Ernie Eves's and Mike Harris's big hands being shoved down into the wallet of the property taxpayer. That's what's going on here. There's a huge shift as the provincial government tries to find new and innovative ways to get their hands in the pockets of the property taxpayer. There's a huge shift. It's the general philosophy of Conservative governments all across the world: find ways to shift to the property tax.

I'm surprised we haven't seen a poll tax suggested here. I'm really surprised that we haven't seen a poll tax, another way to reach down, blame somebody else and at the same time inhibit services.

This government, which promised a 10% reduction in property tax just a few short months ago, is going to devastate services across this province.

Mr Gilles Bisson (Cochrane South): To the comments of the member for Sudbury East, I think she hit it bang on the head. She made three points in her speech.

One of them is this fallacy that the government is trying to make, that this whole downloading is going to be a revenue-neutral exercise. She demonstrated quite well that in community after community in northern Ontario -- and it's the same for the south -- it means there's going to be a net loss when it comes to the amount of money being downloaded on to municipalities and what they're left with. She pointed out that in communities across the north we're going to see tax increases through individual tax bills of residential property owners of anywhere from $900 to $1,400 per year, not even talking about the rest of the download that's coming, such as the transfer of police services by the OPP, which will be charging a levy of about 500 bucks.

The other point she made which I thought was a very good one is the whole notion -- and I think the Tories would understand this -- that the municipal mayors and the municipal aldermen are probably best situated to decide how to spend a lot of those dollars when it comes to local services. She went to the great pain of stating the obvious, that those local councils are in a better position to make those decisions. What's the comment that we get from across the way? The member for Northumberland gets up and turns around and says, quote, unquote, he's not confident that the mayors will spend the money in the wisest way, so therefore the government's got to tell them how to do things. What utter crap.

The other point is that he's mixed up in who are the mayors of the various communities. He stands up and he turns around and he calls Mayor Jim Gordon Jim Johnson. I would think at the very least, he would know --

Mr Joseph Spina (Brampton North): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: He just said "crap." I believe that's unparliamentary.

The Speaker: Member for Cochrane South.


The Speaker: Tell me what he said.

Mr Spina: "Utter crap."

The Speaker: Can you put it in context for me?

Mr Spina: He's saying that the comments made by our members were "utter crap," insinuating it was a lie.

The Speaker: The language is offensive. I would ask you to withdraw, please.

Mr Bisson: I withdraw the word "crap," and replace it with "crock." How's that?

The Speaker: That's not good enough. Just withdraw or don't withdraw. I don't care, one or the other.

Mr Bisson: I withdraw.

The Speaker: Thank you. Questions and comments.

Mr Spina: The member for Sudbury East made it sound as if this government is totally and absolutely ignoring the needs of the north. She waves this little book around called Fairness and Equality for the North, which was created by FONOM and which is an excellent booklet. It was an excellent presentation created by the members of the northern municipalities. What she totally ignores is the fact that no government in the last 10 years has sent more ministers, more parliamentary assistants and had more consultation with the members of the north than there ever has been.

In the beginning of AMO, myself and the minister, on the Monday, met with no less than 20 delegations, a private meeting between Minister Leach, Minister Hodgson, myself from Northern Development, Mr Grimmett, the member for Muskoka-Georgian Bay, representing the Ministry of Finance, in a private meeting with the executive of NOMA and FONOM. They were very pleased at the end of that meeting with the assurances received by Minister Leach and by Minister Hodgson.

We have created something called Team North which the member totally ignores. Jim Rule, the CAO from the city of Sudbury, is at the table to represent legitimately the concerns of Sudbury in that area. Joe Mavrinac, the mayor of Timmins, is present. David Court, the director of social services from Algoma --

Mr Bisson: Mr Speaker, on a point of privilege: The member talks about knowing everything about the north and says Mavrinac is the mayor of Timmins. I can guarantee you that the mayor right now is Mayor Power. The mayor of Kirkland Lake is --

The Speaker: Okay, well taken. Responses.

Ms Martel: Let me begin with the member for Brampton North.

Mr Spina: Mr Speaker, on a point of order: He stood up on a point of order and blew out the last 20 seconds of my time.

The Speaker: He stood up on a point of order and blew out the last 20 seconds of his. Member for Sudbury East.

Ms Martel: With respect to the member for Brampton North, a couple of things. He says we've had more northern ministers in northern Ontario under this government. There were six ministers from northern Ontario under our government and in our government the Minister of Northern Development and Mines actually lived in northern Ontario, which is more than I can say for this government.

With respect to what the mayors had to say after the meeting they had with the Minister of Northern Development, this is what Steve Butland said: "Butland and the other mayors worry that none of the money is specifically earmarked for the north. The Sault's mayor said, `Ministers Leach and Hodgson wouldn't give that firm guarantee Monday' but hopes meetings like this will help drive the point home." They weren't very happy at all. They got no specific commitment to anything at this meeting.

Let me go back to the document that has been put forward by the mayors. I'll give you one specific quote. Here it is:

"A Mike Harris government will work closely with northern municipalities to forge a new and better working relationship. As part of that new relationship, we will end the downloading of services to the municipal level. No new mandates will be enacted unless appropriate funding is allocated."

This comes from the Conservative Party's Voice for the North, promises that they made in northern Ontario in the last election, which only bought them the two same seats they already had and no new ones.

Northern municipalities, northern reeves and mayors are saying, "Live up to your commitment." We've got a download problem of $292 million in northern Ontario before provincial highways and before housing is even added in. What are you going to do in northern Ontario to make sure municipal taxpayers aren't picking up that whole cost? We haven't heard anything.

The Speaker: It now being after 6 of the clock, this House stands adjourned until 6:30 of the clock today.

The House adjourned at 1804.

Evening sitting reported in volume B.