36e législature, 1re session

L223a - Wed 3 Sep 1997 / Mer 3 Sep 1997















































The House met at 1332.




Mr Mike Colle (Oakwood): For the last two years, the citizens of Metro Toronto have been under a reckless attack by the Mike Harris revolutionaries. The revolutionaries have arrogantly refused to listen to the ordinary people in Metro and in the riding of Oriole. Finally, tomorrow, the same voters who have been ignored and run over by the Harris bulldozer will have an opportunity to send Queen's Park a wake-up call.

The voters in the Oriole by-election will be able to remind the Harris revolutionaries that they don't want the downloading of social housing on their property taxes. The voters of Oriole don't like classroom education being decimated by the cutbacks in their children's schools. The voters of Oriole will be able to say no to the closing of 11 of their community hospitals in Metropolitan Toronto. The voters in Oriole will be able to say no to the downloading of prescription user fees on seniors. With their votes, the voters of Oriole will be able to remind Harris that removing rent control is going to hurt tenants in Metro Toronto. Tomorrow the voters who voted no to the megacity will be able to tell Mike Harris that it wasn't right to ignore the 400,000 people in Metro who voted no in the referendum.

Like many people in Ontario, the voters in Oriole are fed up with an intrusive government that constantly interferes in the everyday life of citizens. They are fed up with a daily barrage of orders from Queen's Park that dictate how they should live their lives. Tomorrow they will be able to tell the Harris revolutionaries that people don't like being --

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Statements. Member for Beaches-Woodbine.


Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-Woodbine): Yesterday during question period I put a question to the government around the downloading of public health and particularly the change in mandatory guidelines, the weakening of mandatory guidelines. The answer indicated in spades that the government had not looked at the detail contained in the changes they are making. It's like so many other things: This government bulldozes ahead and doesn't look at the implications, doesn't look at the consequences of the detail of implementation.

In this case they have changed the mandatory guidelines and have totally eliminated from the mandatory guidelines a focus on adolescent health. What does that mean? It means that certain programs that were mandatory, like counselling and intervention and research in terms of teen suicide, like counselling and education in terms of teen drug abuse, are completely gone from the mandatory guidelines with this download. We know that with the downloading pressure in terms of cost and with the demand that there be about a 15% cut from public health budgets, many of these programs are going to be jeopardized.

I also want to talk about the issue of sexual health programs for teens. In the past this was something that was 100% funded by the province. It wasn't shared with municipalities. The province has decided to maintain 100% funding for vaccinations. I urge them to maintain 100% funding for sexual health programs. We don't need to see more unwanted pregnancies, more unwanted sexual disease among our teens. This is an important public --

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Thank you.


Mr Jim Brown (Scarborough West): It is with great sadness that I rise in the House to pay tribute to the memory of Diana, Princess of Wales. All of us here today, and indeed the entire world, mourn her untimely death. Her sons, Prince William and Prince Henry, are now without mum. They will not have their mother to give them the kind of nurturing care that they have come to rely on in their young lives as adolescents and students. They have lost as only children lose when a loving parent dies.

It seems only yesterday that we were watching her walk down the great aisle of St Paul's Cathedral, wedding bouquet in hand, to begin her new life as a member of the royal family and an international celebrity and promoter of charitable causes.

It was Diana who led by example. It was she who touched people suffering from AIDS and other diseases and so brought inner healing to their hearts and their minds. Diana reached out to people across the globe. She was truly at home amidst the cultural diversity of the world, which was her great joy.

It was she who walked among children maimed by land mines to let them know that the world had not forgotten them. She hugged victims of cancer and embraced people suffering from debilitating diseases. In so doing, she made them feel the electrifying glow of her personal royal charisma.

It was she who made us all feel special with the warmth of her smile. A tragic figure to the end, Diana herself understood what it means to suffer in silence. This is why her personal outreach to others was so sincere and genuine.

I join with members of this House in extending our sincerest condolences and prayers to the family and friends of Diana, especially her sons, Prince William and Prince Henry. We have all suffered a great loss in the untimely passing of Diana, Princess of Wales and queen of our hearts.


Mrs Sandra Pupatello (Windsor-Sandwich): We have an opportunity tomorrow in three ridings across Ontario to have a referendum on the Mike Harris government. What I can tell you is that the people of Windsor-Riverside are prepared for a referendum on the Mike Harris government. We know that Conservative MPPs, those in cabinet and those who sit on the back bench, have had little or no effect on changing the course of the Mike Harris government. Even those cabinet ministers who sit at the cabinet table and have refuted the kinds of policies that Mike Harris has brought about have had little or no effect on changing things in their own ridings.

What we know in Windsor-Riverside and what Gary McNamara has been very clear about is that health care is the number one issue. The people in Windsor-Riverside have an opportunity to speak to that tomorrow and we expect to hear that loud and clear. What we believe is that you should have reinvested in health care and you haven't. Windsor will be your number one area where you could reinvest and have not. Other MPPs who sit in the House today, Conservative MPPs, have had absolutely no effect in their own ridings, which are suffering significant health cuts and absolutely no reinvestment.

I would like to say that we will be there tomorrow. We will be there pushing for Gary McNamara so that he will be here in this House with us fighting for health care and fighting for reinvestment in health care. It is absolutely the number one issue in Windsor-Riverside.



Mr Peter Kormos (Welland-Thorold): This year Legion Week is being celebrated from September 14 through to September 20. On Saturday, September 20, Royal Canadian Legion Branch 17 in Thorold is going to be honouring four of its members. Gord Stevens, Raymond Gonzalez, Gordon Boucock and Andrew Barry will be receiving their 50-year medals. That is, among them, 200 years of service to the Royal Canadian Legion and service to their communities.

Of course, this outstanding service is preceded in the case of all four of them by distinguished and honourable service in the armed forces, in the case of these four gentlemen, of both Canada and the United States: service during wartime, which included service in the merchant marine, in the American navy and in other branches of the forces, service which they performed as young men fearlessly and with great dedication to their country and to humankind and service during which they witnessed the incredible sacrifices paid by oh, so many of their comrades who paid the supreme sacrifice in those great struggles.

I'm proud of Royal Canadian Legion Branch 17 and exceptionally proud of these four gentlemen, and I'm pleased to join Branch 17 in honouring them and honouring all of their comrades, as are people in Thorold proud of them, people across Ontario and people across this country.


Mrs Julia Munro (Durham-York): A Durham-York constituent of mine believes recycling is just a way of life but his commitment to the 3Rs has resulted in the Duclos Point resident being selected as a recycling hero.

Maurice Thompson was chosen as Georgina's adult hero in the town's annual 3Rs contest and he was one of three finalists for outstanding individual in the annual Ontario Waste Minimization Awards presented by the Recycling Council of Ontario.

Thompson buries all garden cuttings and the enriched soil resulted in foot-and-a-half high marigolds last year. Thompson composts all organic kitchen waste, uses fallen twigs as kindling, collects wood for firewood and reuses nails, uses rags instead of paper towels, uses vinegar or soda for cleaning, returns plastic bags to stores, recycles paper, tin, glass and plastic, uses dishwater on roses rather than applying insecticides. He takes old books, magazines and other reading material to the library.

The outstanding individual award recognizes a person whose perseverance and determination over the years had a measurable impact in reducing waste and promoting the conserver ethic in the community. "What I'm doing," he modestly says, "is nothing special. Anyone can do it. I wish more would."

We all echo that sentiment. My congratulations to Georgina recycling hero Maurice Thompson.


Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): For a government that is so eager to recklessly rush into major disruptive changes in the province and trample on the rights of the disadvantaged, the Harris Conservatives are reluctant indeed to take on the giant oil companies as they gouge consumers at the gas pumps in Ontario.

Oh, our fearless Premier is prepared to huff and puff and make populist noises once he hits the skids in the polls, but is he prepared to take action right here in Ontario within in his own jurisdiction, to call the oil barons on the carpet face to face, to indicate displeasure with the gas pricing policies of the oil corporations? Is Master Mike eager to pass a predatory gas pricing law to prevent the corporate captains of oil from forcing independent retailers out of business?

Obviously not. The Petro Premier is prepared to point fingers and call upon others to act, but Macho Mike is nowhere to be found when the need for action is in his own backyard.

It looks as though the real position of the Harris regime can be found in the words of the Minister of Tourism and the Minister of Energy, both of whom acted as apologists for the oil barons, one suggesting that our gas prices are comparable to other jurisdictions and the provincial government had no intention of intervening in the free market, and the other, like his Republican colleagues in the USA, fingering gas taxes as the real culprit when only the oil companies' take was on the rise.

Lots of blarney, lots of bluster from Fearless Mike but no action. To paraphrase Shakespeare, it is a tale told by a Premier, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): I ask the member for Durham East to withdraw his comments earlier made in that statement.

Mr John O'Toole (Durham East): I withdraw.


Mr Floyd Laughren (Nickel Belt): I want to bring to the House's attention what is happening with the move towards privatizing TVO. Earlier in the summer, the Tory government decided they had to follow up on the commitment they made in the Common Sense Revolution to privatize TVO. In accordance with the privatization review framework, they awarded the adviser position to Rothschild Canada. The next step in the framework is public hearings to hear suggestions and comments about TVO from Ontarians.

The privatization secretariat wants to report back to cabinet with options and implementation plans before the end of October. If this is the case, then when are the advisers going to start the public consultation process? If the framework is to be followed, then public consultation must occur within a few weeks. The many supporters of TVOntario are waiting to hear from the government as to when and where they can make their statements of support for TVO.

This government is just plain wrong in trying to privatize TVOntario. TVO works. It is an innovator in children's educational programming with programs exported around the world, its audiences for all programs have increased 60% over the past three years, its membership has increased 35% over the past four years, and membership revenues continue to exceed expectations -- all this while TVO was owned by the people of Ontario.

It's important that the people in Windsor send Wayne Lessard to this Legislature to continue the fight against the privatization of TVO.


Mr Ted Chudleigh (Halton North): On August 16 the Milton Optimist Bagpipers captured glory on the world stage by taking first place honours at the World Pipe Band Championships in Glasgow, Scotland. It gives me great pleasure to pipe up in the House today and acknowledge this tremendous feat.

The 20-member band, led by pipe major Gail Brown, beat 59 other bands from around the world for this prestigious title. Only one other team outside of Scotland managed to win a world title at this event. However, what makes the win all the more remarkable and satisfying is that the group only started competing in their category this year.

On behalf of Halton North and this Legislature, I would like to congratulate all the members of the world title team and also the Milton Optimists and their friends and family who supported Gail and her team in attaining this high achievement.

This win proves once again that Ontarians, when competing on the world stage, are equal to the task. I ask members of the House to join with me in congratulating the Milton Optimist Bagpipers.



Mr Marcel Beaubien (Lambton): I beg leave to present a report from the standing committee on regulations and private bills and move its adoption.

Clerk at the Table (Ms Lisa Freedman): Your committee begs to report the following bills without amendment:

Bill Pr78, An Act respecting the City of Scarborough

Bill Pr84, An Act respecting Japanese-Canadian Cultural Centre.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Shall the report be received and adopted? Agreed.



Hon David Johnson (Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet, Government House Leader): Mr Speaker, I believe we have unanimous consent with regard to waiving notice for ballot item 96. I seek that consent.

I move that notwithstanding standing order 95(g), the requirement for notice be waived with respect to ballot item 96.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Is this for unanimous consent or the motion? No, you don't need consent. Is it the pleasure of the House the motion carry?

Speak to it? The member for Beaches-Woodbine.

Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-Woodbine): I don't intend to take long to speak to this. I just want to draw a point to members of the Legislature. As you know, we have recently undergone rule changes in this Legislature, rule changes which members of the opposition opposed bitterly and which we believe deny fundamental rights and balance to this Legislature.

Many of the rules, as they have been changed, as opposed to enhancing the rights of individual members as the government has argued, in fact take away from the rights of individual members. But I want to point out that here we have an opportunity before us today to actually enhance rights of individual members, a member who failed to file notice for their private member's bill who seeks to get it heard in the slot that's available and we're being asked to give consent to that.

What I would say is that despite the fact that the government has proceeded with such draconian rule changes that are fundamentally anti-democratic, our caucus believes in enhancing the rights of individual members and therefore we will be supporting this motion today.


Hon David Johnson: I won't be long, but apparently consent was not required for that particular motion. I was just being polite in terms of asking for it.

At any rate, the observations I've had with regard to the new rules are that they have indeed worked quite well and that a number of members of the Legislature have been involved in the debate. More and more members who apparently didn't have the opportunity previously have had the opportunity to be involved in the various debates. We think that's a healthy thing.

Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): One of the problems that happens with the rule changes is the fact that if there is to be any discussion of anything taking place, the government has front-end-loaded all of these matters so that question period gets pushed back further and further into the afternoon. It makes it more difficult of course for the electronic media to be able to cover anything but the first stories out of question period, and it ensures that on certain days, if there happen to be delays because of the number of bills introduced or for whatever reason, question period might not even take place because the new rules call for the government business, no matter what it might happen to be, to commence by 4 pm.

When I hear the government House leader extol the virtues of the rule changes, we should know that we have consented today, as we would in normal circumstances always want to consent, to accommodate individual members of the Legislature as they make changes for the matters that take place in private members' public business on Thursday morning. That's what you have seen through this particular motion.

We are more than happy to agree to it, to allow that to take place within the government caucus. We are always prepared to be cooperative in those matters, but to suggest that the rules are doing anything other than allowing the government to push its business through in record time with as little debate as possible is really stretching it.

So I say to the government House leader that we are happy to comply with this request today and other requests of this kind to accommodate our friends on the government side or in other parties.

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



Mr Dalton McGuinty (Leader of the Opposition): My question is for the Minister of Health. Minister, I have spent a considerable amount of time in the last few weeks knocking on doors in various parts of the province and I can tell you, as you are probably very much aware, that the number one issue out there is health care. People are reeling from the news that their hospitals are to be closed, that up to 15,000 nurses are going to be laid off and that there is no community-based care yet available to accommodate this change you are causing.

I want to focus on one thing in particular. In Metro you have ordered the closure of six emergency wards. I'm wondering if you understand the full consequences of that action. Twenty-five thousand patients who would normally attend at those six emergency wards will no longer be able to do so. They will have to go elsewhere. My question is, where are they going to go? I ask you to be specific in terms of your plan and your funding for those 25,000 patients.

Hon Jim Wilson (Minister of Health): As the honourable member knows, the government didn't take these decisions; the restructuring commission took the decisions. The restructuring commission has also ordered that comprehensive plans be in place to ensure that before anybody moves anywhere, the whole area of emergency services is thoroughly thought out.

A review is under way. As you know, the government has not officially responded in any way to the Metropolitan Toronto report by the Health Services Restructuring Commission. We too are seeking some of those answers at this time.

I can assure the honourable member that, as in the case of Sudbury, where we actually saw an increase in the capacity of emergency room visits with the closure of two emergencies there and amalgamation into one, you're actually going to have more capacity in the system, in a modern, full-service emergency in a modern, full-service hospital. We'll be looking for the same results in Metro Toronto.

Mr McGuinty: I just want to remind the minister, in case he doesn't fully understand, that tomorrow the hospital restructuring commission will not appear on ballots. It will be your party, my party or the third party. People fully understand who's behind, who's pulling the strings in terms of the hospital restructuring commission.

I want to give you a specific example of something that happened here on the weekend of August 15 to 17. Three of six emergency wards that you are closing were so busy that they declared themselves to be full and issued redirect orders to the ambulance services.

In particular, Northwestern said that during that weekend they were full for 30 hours; Wellesley said they were full for eight hours; Women's College said they were full for six hours. Those three hospitals issued orders or requests to the ambulance services saying, for a total of 44 hours, "Don't bring them here, because we're full."

Minister, what are you going to do about this? They're straining already and you haven't even closed these. You're going to send them elsewhere. What are you going to do with these people?

Hon Mr Wilson: It's quite obvious to everyone involved in the process, except those trying to make political hay out of the process and bring us back to the dark ages of health care reform in this province that the Liberals seem to be stuck in, that the commission has ordered that capacity be available in the hospital buildings that remain. I say to the honourable member that the very fact that he's bringing up the suggestion that hospitals are routinely going on automatic bypass with respect to emergency services tells me the status quo needs fixing.

Mr McGuinty: Let's follow this up for a minute, because I find it very interesting. The minister has asked that Northwestern hospital be closed. He intends to merge that hospital with Humber Memorial. During that same weekend, August 15 to 17, Northwestern said, for 30 hours, "Don't bring them here, because we're full." It just happens to be that the same weekend Humber Memorial said, for 29 hours, "Don't bring them here; we're full." What you're going to do is compound the problem. Those who cannot go to Northwestern are supposed to be sent to Humber, where they also will not be received.

I ask you once again, Minister: What is your plan? What are the specifics? What is the funding to deal with this very critical problem?

Hon Mr Wilson: The honourable member always conveniently forgets to talk about the $2.1 billion in historic cutbacks by the federal Liberal government to this province in health care. But having said that to the Liberal across the way, I would also say that restructuring is about putting more resources into those emergency rooms so they don't have to go on bypass. Restructuring will mean, not the old days of fewer nurses and fewer doctors and fewer resources, but full-service, 24-hour emergency rooms in full-service, modern hospitals. That's the goal of restructuring, in spite of the $2.1-billion cut from the federal government.



Mr Dalton McGuinty (Leader of the Opposition): In the absence of the Minister of Education, my question is for the Deputy Premier. It is perfectly obvious from that reaction that these people have not been at doors in this province for some time.

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


Mr McGuinty: Minister, let me tell you about something else the people are very concerned about in Ontario today. They're concerned about what you are doing, your government is doing, to education. They understand that there has now been cut after cut after cut. Some $533 million to date has been removed from education. We've experienced the loss of junior kindergarten programs, special education programs, French immersion, library services.

People in Ottawa, Toronto and Windsor are especially concerned about news of late that you're going to be introducing a new funding formula. They're wondering exactly what it's going to mean to their communities, and in particular of course to their students. I want to give you an opportunity to allay those fears by telling us right now that you're going to guarantee that individual boards across the province will not have their per pupil funding levels cut.

Hon Ernie L. Eves (Deputy Premier, Minister of Finance): The leader of the official opposition knows full well that the Ministry of Education has not made final decisions with respect to funding formula yet. But he mentioned a few communities in his preamble, and I would ask him a question in return: Does he not feel that students in Manitoulin Island are entitled to the same education in the province of Ontario that students in Mississauga are?

Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): Of course.

Hon Mr Eves: If "of course" is the answer from the member for St Catharines, why didn't your government do that when they were in power for five years?

Mr McGuinty: It's important for the minister and his colleagues to recognize what they have done to education in Ontario thus far. They have cut junior kindergarten in 25 school boards, they have cut special education programs in 27 school boards, they have cut library services in nine school boards, and they have gutted adult education. At a time when everybody knows we've got to be able to get these people back on their feet so they can get work, you have gutted adult education in Ontario.

Once again, people are worried about what you are about to do to students when it comes to per pupil funding formulas in this province. I'll give you the opportunity once again to allay those fears and provide us with your guarantee that they will not be reduced.

Hon Mr Eves: We have no plans to do anything to students except improve their education in the province of Ontario. That's the only plan this government has with respect to education: to see that the $14 billion that's being spent on public education in this province is spent in the classroom providing better education to our young people.

I would like to quote to you from the Sault Ste Marie Star: "The unfairness in the current range of per pupil spending means that whatever the worries and pains that inevitably accompany change, the provincial government is right to move quickly. The existing disparity cannot be allowed to continue, because children in disadvantaged jurisdictions continue to suffer while we dither over the analysis." I couldn't have said it better myself.

Mr McGuinty: Those boards are not asking that you bring others down; they're asking that you bring theirs up. There's a big difference.

In Ottawa, they fear that if their per pupil funding levels are dropped to the median, we're going to lose anywhere from six to 12 schools, we're going to have junior kindergarten eliminated, we're going to have our special education programs cut. In Windsor, they fear music, French immersion and their arts programs and programs for the disabled will be cut. There are similar fears in boards like Toronto, Hamilton, Sault Ste Marie and Sudbury.

You alone, Minister, can allay those fears. I'll ask you for the final time: Please stand up in this House here and now and guarantee us that the per pupil funding will not be lowered for any boards in the province of Ontario.

Hon Mr Eves: We are spending $14 billion on public education in this province. Unfortunately, not enough of it is finding its way into the classroom. We are doing things that will provide more equity and fairness in the education system and improve the quality of education of our young people. I always thought that was what an education system was all about.

You're talking about the concerns of people in Windsor, Ontario. Perhaps you should talk about the new curriculum that the Minister of Education has introduced. Helen Arbour, principal at John Campbell Public School and one of 100 local education officials to receive official orientation, says she's received very positive response from teachers: "No one is questioning it.... We've just got the feeling we are in good shape."

Why didn't you quote that person from Windsor, Ontario, or thousands of others like her across the province of Ontario? They understand what we're doing. We're trying to improve the education system for our young people in Ontario.


The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): I would like to take this opportunity to introduce to the House and Legislative Assembly that we have in the Speaker's gallery today Ms Eleanor Norrie, MLA for Truro-Bible Hill in Nova Scotia. Welcome.


Mr Howard Hampton (Rainy River): I have a question to the Deputy Premier. This is about the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing and the advisory report on social housing reform that he released yesterday. There were a lot of words in that report, but none of the words dealt with the central issue, which is your downloading of social housing costs on to municipal taxpayers. You know those taxpayers, municipal taxpayers.

I've got another report here done last November for the board of the Ontario Housing Corp. It says that the 84,000 units of public housing that you plan to download to municipalities need over $530 million in repair work done to them over the next five years. Your government is dumping that $530-million cost on to municipalities after only paying for $69 million in repairs this past year and $42 million in transition next year.

Minister, how can you say the download package is revenue-neutral when you're going to push off this $530-million bill?

Hon Ernie L. Eves (Deputy Premier, Minister of Finance): I am sure the leader of the third party would agree -- well, maybe he wouldn't agree. Perhaps that's the wrong way to preface the question. I don't think there is any doubt that the social housing stock in this province has been deteriorating for many years now: not just the last two years, but for many years. That is exactly why this government asked a panel of experts to come forward with some recommendations.

I also would like to point out to the leader of the third party that the government understands, as part of the Who Does What exercise, that social housing stock needs to be upgraded. That's why we've set aside $215 million above the $100 million a year that is already in the budget to upgrade social housing stock.


Mr Hampton: Let me do the math for the Deputy Premier. You put a total of $100 million last year and this year and you say you might put up another $200 million. Even giving you credit for that -- we haven't seen that money but let's give you credit for that -- it means municipalities are still going to be short over $200 million on the social housing side alone.

If you read this report, it talks about paying for the cost of replacing doors and windows that are going to come to the end of their useful life in the next year or so. This is not luxury; this is about the fundamentals of someone's home, the fundamentals of having a door that works, windows that work etc.

Are you going to hand over the buildings and then watch them fall apart? Is that part of the strategy? No matter how you add it up, you're shortchanging the municipalities. You expect them to pick up at least $200 million, probably closer to $500 million. What are you going to do?

Hon Mr Eves: To the leader of the third party, not all municipalities in the province agree that turning over social housing to them is not the way to go. As a matter of fact, I would refer you to the report of the Peel social housing authority. According to the report, the benefits of local control include "savings through staff restructuring, consolidation of administration, enhanced purchasing power, improved long-term maintenance, the elimination of confusion on the part of the public and easier complaint resolution."

Going to the regional municipality of Halton and their social housing body, they "have endorsed the concept of management of public housing stock by Halton Non-Profit Housing Corp, the municipal non-profit housing provider in our region," says the chair of that social housing corporation.

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

Hon Mr Eves: They are working with the province and with municipal governments to try to provide better social housing stock in the province, which, I might add, the federal government --

The Speaker: Thank you very much.

Mr Hampton: First the Deputy Premier tried selective figures and now he tries to cite selective authorities.

Deputy Premier, the mayors of the largest cities in Ontario were so upset about this issue that they demanded a meeting with the Premier and the Minister of Municipal Affairs. They got that meeting on August 11. The mayors say that the Premier promised them an independent study of housing costs. That's how worried the mayors of the large cities in this province are: They want an independent study. They believe you have forgotten that there is only one taxpayer in this province and that you're trying to shove it down on them so they take all the blame.

Your own report, even as selectively as you read it, says you're shortchanging them by hundreds of millions of dollars a year.

The Speaker: Question, please.

Mr Hampton: When are you going to give the mayors of the province the independent study of social housing costs so they can have some confidence that you're not shortchanging them to the tune of --

The Speaker: Thank you.

Hon Mr Eves: This government, more than any other government I can think of in the province's history, certainly understands that there is only one taxpayer. You don't want us to reduce taxes to taxpayers. You voted against legislation reducing taxes to taxpayers in the province.

I would like to talk to you about what the president of the Ontario Non-Profit Housing Association has to say about the report. She welcomes yesterday's release of the report of the Advisory Council on Social Housing Reform. Margaret Singleton, president, was quoted as saying, "We believe the council's report points the way towards achieving much-needed reforms to social housing in this province."

I would say to the leader of the third party that we have supplied Who Does What numbers, including social housing, to the implementation team, comprised of municipal representatives. They have the numbers. They were made available to them last Thursday, as I recall. They are available to the implementation teams and we are seeking their advice as to how we proceed.

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

Mr Hampton: I would say to the Deputy Premier that the mayors of large cities want an independent study. You promised it and you should deliver it.


Mr Howard Hampton (Rainy River): To the Minister of Health, you have your share of downloading as well. I want to ask you specifically about the downloading of ambulance services.

After January 1, 1998, ambulance services will be paid for from the property tax base. You won't pay for them any more; property taxpayers will pay. By January 1, 2000, the delivery of ambulance services -- which means first-response emergency medical services -- will have been taken over completely; they won't be part of the health care system any more.

You say none of this is going to be of concern, but I say to you that there are big issues here. The issues are the delivery of timely response and the training and qualifications of ambulance staff. The public of Ontario would like some assurances. Since you are taking ambulance services out of Ontario's health care system by making them a municipal service, how can you guarantee there will be trained and qualified --

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Thank you.

Hon Jim Wilson (Minister of Health): I say with all due respect that it's a very bizarre question, given that this Legislature is sited in the municipality that 100% runs the ambulance services, called Metro Toronto. They do an excellent job and they're known in North America as one of the better ambulance services. The province pays a portion, but the municipality pays the majority of costs in Metro Toronto. So we have a success story right here.

We also have a success story and an award given to the government recently because 90% of our ambulance officers in this province are now trained up to the paramedic level. No other jurisdiction in Canada can say the same.

Mr Hampton: This is indeed bizarre. This is a minister who's going to turn the ambulance services upside down and inside out, but he then tries to argue backwards and say that historically the system that is, is a good system. We agree: The system that is, is a good system. Why are you going to wreck it?

Minister, let me put it to you this way: There are supposed to be some regulations with this bill which point out what the responsibilities are going to be for training and qualifications. Why haven't we seen those regulations? Why haven't we seen clearly from you an indication of what the standards will be and who will be accountable for those standards? Why haven't we seen that yet?

These are very important details. In your system of health care that you're pushing us towards, good ambulance services are going to be more important than ever. People need to see the details. Who's going to be accountable for this? Who's going to ensure there are trained ambulance attendants? Who's going to ensure that everybody meets qualifications? Can you answer that, please?

Hon Mr Wilson: We've made it clear on a number of occasions, and we've certainly made it clear with our municipal partners, that the ambulance standards of this province, which are among the highest in North America, will remain the same. The Ambulance Act will remain intact.

The reason there's no hidden agenda here and you haven't been able to find, as you say, the answers to your questions, is that we've been absolutely forthright from the beginning. We govern this place with a success story called Metro Toronto. What you fail to mention to the taxpayers -- you mentioned in your last question the single taxpayer; I'll remind you that you can't just say that but you have to believe it and you have to do it. You sure didn't do it in your five years in office; you sure didn't believe it. What you have to believe is that there is waste and duplication now.

We're in the ambulance business, municipalities are in the ambulance business, the private sector is in the ambulance business. We need to streamline that and put every dollar towards enhancing our ambulance services, and I know our municipal partners are up to that. Maybe you and your party aren't up to this, but our municipal partners are up to the task.

The Speaker: Final supplementary, member for London Centre.

Mrs Marion Boyd (London Centre): Currently, 90% of the province has the benefit of paramedics staffing those ambulances. These people are highly qualified. They have the ability to defibrillate, to administer narcotics and other powerful drugs, to perform surgical procedures like tracheotomies. Your ministry currently funds the training of those paramedics, but there is nothing to guarantee, and in fact your officials would not guarantee, that you would continue to fund after the year 2000, when you've downloaded these services on to the municipalities, the very essential training of paramedic ambulance attendants.

Given what you've said today about how the download will not affect the quality of the already excellent services in this province, will you commit today that your government will continue to fund the training of ambulance attendants in paramedicine?


Hon Mr Wilson: We don't intend in any way to disrupt the success we've had with that program. That's a commitment from the government. We're at 90% now; we're aiming for 100% in the province. We're currently working out with our municipal partners how that will occur; it requires money. Obviously, we're working with our partners to make sure that happens.

Don't forget, though, that we've freed up over $2 billion off the property tax by the province taking 50% of the education tax. There's a significant amount of money there from our single taxpayer, which you say you believe in, to help out with these programs. I tell you that the commitment is there and that we're having the discussions with our partners right now. It would be premature to say who pays for what.

We have said in other areas, where we have to ensure that we maintain provincial standards and the excellence we have -- we have said in public health, with the announcement of our healthy babies program -- that yes this government is willing to pay for, as part of the new arrangements, province-wide programs. We're having those discussions with respect to ambulances and municipalities right now.


Mr Sean G. Conway (Renfrew North): My question is to the Minister of Energy. It was three weeks ago that Ontario Hydro publicly indicated that it had received a report that contained some very serious criticisms of the operating standards and deficiencies of its nuclear power reactors. Shortly thereafter, senior Hydro management outlined its so-called recovery plan, a plan which was indicated to cost something then in the range of between $5 billion and $8 billion.

Minister, are you confident that Hydro's so-called recovery plan is in fact going to do the job and have you taken any steps to have independent assessment and evaluation of Hydro's recovery plan?

Hon Norman W. Sterling (Minister of Environment and Energy): As I mentioned before, this is a recovery plan put forward by Ontario Hydro. They are still in the stages of producing data to my officials to justify the decisions that have been made. I will be consulting with them and the AECB, which I've asked to comment on the recovery plan to ensure that my primary concern, that is, that the safety of these nuclear reactors be improved, actually takes place.

Therefore, we are in the process of still receiving data from them and will decide at that point in time how best to deal with those data. I've asked those who I believe are the greatest experts in terms of nuclear safety in Canada, and that is the AECB, for their advice and will be relying very heavily upon it.

Mr Conway: Safety is obviously one very important aspect of this debate, but cost, particularly for alternative energy, is going to be another very important aspect of this. The news over the last couple of weeks suggests that the plan changes every day. The plan was announced three weeks ago. It was supposed to cost between $5 billion and $8 billion. Now we find out that it's gone up by at least $1.5 billion in just a few days and there are reports this week that the real cost has been understated by several billions of dollars.

My question to you on behalf of the taxpayers and ratepayers of Ontario is, since the Hydrocrats, the people who gave us this mess in the first place, have themselves developed the recovery plan, and since their credibility is not all the best these days, have you as Minister of Energy undertaken steps to independently assess whether or not this so-called recovery plan developed by Hydro management is a good deal and the best deal, not just on safety but on cost, for hydro ratepayers and Ontario taxpayers?

Hon Mr Sterling: As the member knows, I have talked with him and the critic for the third party and we are in the throes of setting up a legislative committee to have a public process with regard to examining this particular plan. But the answer is yes. I have, along with my colleague, the finance minister, been looking at the recovery plan from not only the safety standpoint but from the financial aspect as well and will be engaging different kinds of experts to deal with that.

As I mentioned in my previous response, I am relying of course to a great extent on the AECB in terms of the safety aspect of this plan, because it is very difficult to get that kind of expertise even worldwide.

So the answer is yes. We are looking at their plan with financial experts, and I, along with my colleague the finance minister, am looking into the economic soundness of this plan.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): New question, the member for Nickel Belt.

Mr Floyd Laughren (Nickel Belt): My question is to the Minister of Energy on the same matter raised by my colleague from Renfrew North. In the last couple of weeks the estimates for this recovery plan, designed by the same people who got Hydro into the problem it's in now, have gone from a little over $5 billion to somewhere in the ether of $10 billion and still counting. How can you possibly have any confidence in those numbers given the fact they're coming from the same people who got you into this jackpot?

Since it's a couple of weeks since you talked to the critics in the opposition parties, will you now reconsider your decision to appoint a legislative committee, which will be dominated by government members, and instead appoint an independent commission or inquiry to look into the whole matter of how we got into this mess with Hydro and where we go from here, which is even more important?

Hon Mr Sterling: The member will know that his leader asked the same question. My response to it is the same as my response to him. I believe that, number one, members of the Legislature and the public should have an open process where they can be involved in dealing with the recovery plan, making their comments with regard to it.

The second and most important part is that because there is such a significant safety component with regard to this plan, timeliness is very important. My hesitation with going to another mode of inquiry or investigation is that the timeliness of an inquiry is normally a lot longer than it is with regard to a legislative committee. I've indicated to my colleagues that we cannot wait on some of these decisions. We must take some decisions in the near future. Therefore, I believe this is the best mode to get those decisions made, and made in a reasonable manner.

Mr Laughren: No doubt you believe that, but I must say to you, Minister, that it's two weeks ago, more than that, since you actually talked to the critics. If you're so concerned about timeliness, we have still not seen the terms of reference for this legislative committee. We don't think it should even be a legislative committee, quite frankly, but what's holding up the terms of reference? The last thing the people in this province need, and quite frankly the last thing any of us want to see, is some kind of whitewash of the problems surrounding Ontario Hydro.

I ask the minister once again, in view of the fact that you seem to be so concerned about timeliness on this issue, why have you not given us the terms of reference so we can look at them and make sure that they're complete, that the terms of reference cover everything that needs to be covered concerning the problems surrounding Ontario Hydro and particularly the nuclear division? I ask the minister, finally, will you now make a commitment to examine the possibility of an independent inquiry into the operations of Ontario Hydro?

Hon Mr Sterling: I believe I made my position clear before. I'm working with the House leader to work out the terms of this particular committee so that it can work in conjunction with other committees of the Legislature, so that it will have the necessary time to examine this very, very important issue in detail and come up with significant recommendations, which I will take seriously and we as a government will take seriously in making decisions as to how this particular problem, which you know has been evolving over a long period of time, can be solved.

This will perhaps be the most enlightening process with regard to Ontario Hydro that we have ever had in this Legislature, seeing the two issues of not only the significant safety report, which is our primary focus, but also the fact the government has indicated that electricity restructuring is on the horizon. These two issues will converge together so that the legislative committee will have a real opportunity to get hold of this issue once and for all.



Mr Tom Froese (St Catharines-Brock): My question is to the Minister of Transportation. As my riding of St Catharines-Brock includes the Great Lakes, the Welland Canal and the St Lawrence Seaway, naturally my constituents and I are interested in shipping issues. I understand that the federal government will be giving millions of dollars in assistance to the port of Churchill in Manitoba. Will the federal government be making any assistance available to Ontario facilities such as Port Weller Dry Docks in St Catharines?

Hon Al Palladini (Minister of Transportation): I want to thank my colleague from St Catharines-Brock for that question because it is very important. To answer your question very directly, no, Ontario is not getting any funding from the federal government. One of the things that is happening, however, is that it seems the federal government is going to be investing over $40 million through the port of Churchill, Manitoba. They have decided to do so despite the fact that this particular port has a shipping season of only 14 weeks and much of the rail line that the federal government is subsidizing is built over permafrost and is unsuitable for conventional hopper cars.

The port would require one million tonnes of grain per year to cover its operating and capital costs, yet this port over the past 10 years has averaged barely over 285,000.

Mr Froese: I'm very concerned, like all Ontarians, that the federal government is not reinvesting Ontario tax dollars back into Ontario communities. Can the minister advise the House what he intends to do about this situation?

Hon Mr Palladini: I have written to the federal Minister of Transport to express my opposition to using federal dollars to support one province over another. I feel that is not the right way to go about doing things. I will also be speaking to our own Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs to see what can be done to get fair treatment for Ontario. I'm really glad that the local MP in the Thunder Bay area, Mr Joe Comuzzi, has expressed his opposition to this move by the federal government.

At this time, I'd like to encourage my colleagues here in the House from Port Arthur and Fort William to speak up for Ontario. Let's make sure that Ontario gets its fair share when it comes to special projects.


Mr Dominic Agostino (Hamilton East): My question is to the Minister of Environment. I have a copy of an environmental site assessment report that was prepared for your ministry in January 1997, previous to the fire on the Plastimet site. This environmental assessment report showed at that time that copper was 20 times higher than the minimum acceptable level. It showed that lead was 50 times higher than the minimum level. The same report showed that zinc was 60 times higher than the level.


The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Members, can you come to order, please. Thank you

Mr Agostino: This report showed that three very toxic, dangerous metals were present on the site and you were aware of it at least in January 1997.

Can you outline for the House what steps your ministry took when you were aware of this report in order to protect the residents, the kids near the site, the individuals who worked on that site and the environment? Can you outline those steps for the House today?

Hon Norman W. Sterling (Minister of Environment and Energy): Because this is a very specific question, I can't outline all of what my ministry did with regard to this report. It's my understanding that the ministry looked at the site with regard to whether or not any of these materials would be moving off the site because of rain or emissions or anything of that nature. They then looked at the locations of these particular substances and I believe determined that this particular business, if these materials were isolated from the other parts of the business, could be carried on in a safe manner. That's my understanding. I would of course like to have the opportunity to stand corrected when I would be able to talk to my officials in a very specific manner on a very technical question.

Mr Agostino: This is not a technical question. This was a site assessment that your ministry asked for. Clearly it showed three very high levels of materials, of metals, that are dangerous. The levels of lead went from 50 before the fire to 60 afterwards. A number of steps were taken to secure the site.

Nothing was done, when your ministry became aware, to secure the site. Kids were playing next door. Kids had access to that site. Workers who worked for Plastimet were exposed to the site, were exposed to lead levels 50 times the acceptable level, copper and zinc levels that were high and exceeded the minimum standards of any industrial site across Ontario.

Your ministry failed to notify the residents of this danger. You failed to notify the workers on the site. You failed to ask the company to secure the site. You exposed this community in January 1997, prior to the fire, to these dangerous levels of these chemicals, to these dangerous metals, without taking any proactive action.

The Speaker: Question, please.

Mr Agostino: It is unconscionable, and I ask you again today to come clean. Tell the people of Hamilton why you kept this information from them and why you --

The Speaker: Thank you very much. Minister of Environment and Energy.

Hon Mr Sterling: I do not know that this information was kept from anybody. I believe the report was a public report.

As I understand it, these particular materials were in the subsurface and therefore were of no danger to anyone on the surface of the property. There are many sites in Ontario where there are contaminants in the soil from previous industrial use years and years and years ago. Accepted environmental practice is to cap off these particular sites and use them for some kind of limited purposes.

This particular fire would not have occurred had the fire code been lived up to in the city of Hamilton. The problem relates to the cause of the fire. The fire was not caused by any environmental report or environmental reaction to this. The fire was caused by the fact that there weren't sprinklers there and the code was not followed.


Mr Tony Martin (Sault Ste Marie): My question is for the Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism in the hopes that today I might get an answer instead of a lecture.

Yesterday I tried to get some answers about why this government won't listen to the small businesses involved in charity casinos. Today, let's move on to another group of small business owners who are trying to get your attention: the companies that work with charities to distribute break-open tickets, sometimes called Nevada tickets. Your government is in such a hurry to grab more gambling revenues that you're going to put these companies out of business as of October 15. These small businesses are trying to tell you that your plans will be bad for charities, bad for competition and bad for Ontario. Why won't you listen to them?

Hon William Saunderson (Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism): I'm very happy to respond to the question from the member for Sault Ste Marie. First of all, as he knows, we are going through an examination of the Ontario Lottery Corp, and they provide all the supplies that are needed to play the various games. I have to say to the member that he should know this review is going on, and we expect a final report by approximately the middle of November.

On small business, there is no reason why small businesses that provide services to the gaming industry cannot compete with the bigger businesses. I just can't understand why he keeps referring to this question all the time. This government, as I said yesterday, has done more for small businesses, whether it's providing gaming materials or whatever, than any government in recent history.


Mr Martin: This question wasn't about the lottery corporation. Your plan re the break-open tickets, Nevada tickets, calls for allowing one manufacturer and one distributor of break-open tickets after October 15. Roughly 60 companies that have been licensed in this field will have to close their doors and put their employees on the street. So much for this government's commitment to competition.

You would rather grab more gambling revenues than take the time to listen to the businesses in the break-open ticket industry. They could explain to you how this is going to cost charities more while putting more money into the government's pocket. It amounts to twisted logic for a government which has a minister for privatization to wipe out 60 companies in a competitive industry and replace them with a government-licensed monopoly. What will it take to slow you down and make you listen to these people?

Hon Mr Saunderson: In response to the supplementary question, I would like to say to the member that I would like to discuss this matter further with my associate Mr Tsubouchi, who is not here today, and we will come back and talk to you about this matter at a later time.


Mr Jerry J. Ouellette (Oshawa): My question as well is for the Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism. Employment remains an important issue in my constituency, the riding of Oshawa, as well as in the entire province. As you are aware, Oshawa has a strong automotive manufacturing base which in 1995 employed the equivalent of over one third of Oshawa's labour force. Automotive manufacturing directly accounts for 85.6% of the goods manufacturing jobs. This makes the status of Ontario's automotive industry a significant issue in my riding of Oshawa.

Recently, I've been hearing conflicting reports about the level of production in the automotive industry, and some of my constituents have expressed some concern. Could the minister clarify the status of the automotive industry in Ontario for my constituents?

Hon William Saunderson (Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism): I'd like to respond to the question from the member for Oshawa. It's a very good question. I want to say that the auto industry globally is going through some very major restructuring because of the various market needs. There may be some reductions in some areas as far as workforces are concerned, but there are many, many expansions taking place in other areas.

The Canadian Vehicle Manufacturers' Association says that the vehicle assembly sector is headed for a record production year in Ontario. Vehicle production is up 8.5%, following a record production last year of 2.3 million units, and Canadian consumers have pushed auto sales up 16% over the first seven months in 1997. Total auto assembly employment stands at 45,000, which is a large number.

Last week we met with the Canadian Vehicle Manufacturers' Association here at Queen's Park, and I'm happy to say that they said $1.8 billion in new automotive manufacturing investment is being made in Canada.

Mr Ouellette: The parts industry is also a significant employer in Oshawa and the region of Durham, supplying several thousand skilled jobs. I have toured the local PPG, A. G. Simpson and other parts manufacturing facilities and have seen the auto parts industry undergoing significant restructuring over the past several years as greater demands have been made from global competitive markets. My constituents are just as concerned about the auto parts industry as they are with the auto manufacturing industry. Can you outline the state of the auto parts industry for my constituents?

Hon Mr Saunderson: In response to the supplementary, I'm very happy to say that the auto parts sector is certainly growing at a very fast pace. Shipments are about 10% ahead of what they were last year and the employment in this sector is up 4%, at about 85,000 workers. There has certainly been a new surge in auto investments. Since the beginning of this year, 1997, there have been at least six new auto plants opening in Ontario, and the Bank of Nova Scotia reports that the Canadian content in North American vehicles has doubled in the last 10 years, so that partly accounts for the development.

The auto industry is booming, and I think it's going to continue. I'd like to say that I'm happy to have had the chance to have an opportunity to provide an update on a very, very important industry in Ontario. It creates a lot of jobs and a lot of economic development. We should all be very proud of this industry and encourage it.


Mr Pat Hoy (Essex-Kent): My question is to the Minister of Transportation. For two years I've been working on legislation to protect children. Bill 78 received the unanimous support of this Legislature almost a year ago and was referred to the resources development committee. Democracy demands that Bill 78 be heard.

Bill 78 puts teeth into a law that is supposed to protect children. It gives the law a mechanism for convictions which are not being made now. You know that driver identification is the problem. You can crow about school bus measures in your bill. Nobody is fooled. The only thing you have done is raise fines. If you cannot convict, fine levels are irrelevant.

Over 30,000 Ontario citizens signed a petition which I presented to you supporting vehicle liability. They want Bill 78 to be given the same chance as bills by government members Froese and Ross. They were heard in committee within a month.

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

Mr Hoy: What are you afraid of, Minister? When are you going to allow Bill 78 to go forward to the resources development committee?

Hon Al Palladini (Minister of Transportation): I've acknowledged the member in the House for his contribution through his bill. This government also reacted and certainly incorporated portions of his bill into our new road safety bill.

I want to say to the member that we are committed to making sure that safety is practised on our highways. Our children are very important to us, and I believe we have addressed certain concerns. There's still a lot more to do, and I certainly appreciate the member's comments, but we want to target the driver, not the owner of the vehicle. This has been the government's agenda all along. That's why we got rid of photo-radar, because all it was was a tax grab. We want to make sure that we target the driver, the culprit, not the vehicle, and until we can do that, we will not be able to accommodate the member.

Mr Hoy: Protecting children's lives is not a tax grab. Minister, quit stalling. Eleven children have been killed and over 80 injured in the past 10 years by careless drivers who ignore school bus warning lights. Yesterday, CBC television in Windsor filmed two vehicles that flagrantly passed a bus with its signals activated, one car after the other.

You're not kidding anybody. Your bill is a failure. Most of the convictions which do occur each year happen during the back-to-school police blitz. The police cannot follow 16,000 school buses day after day to make their convictions. If fines are not a deterrent, as witnessed in Windsor on the first day of a new school year with all your media hype and a police blitz under way, face the facts, Minister: Your bill is not protecting Ontario's school children. When will you introduce vehicle liability?

Hon Mr Palladini: When the member's party was in government, I'd certainly like to see what they did. But the Ministry of Transportation is continually working with the school busing industry. The resources committee dealt with vehicle liability, and it was defeated. We are on the right track. We want to target the culprit, not the vehicle.



Mr Howard Hampton (Rainy River): I have a question to the minister responsible for native affairs. I've raised this issue before, as you know, concerning the Big Grassy First Nation and the provincial highway which crosses that first nation. There is a bridge which has been in very serious condition for some time. The first nation has come to the table and they have worked very hard to get an agreement in principle so that bridge can be replaced.

Imagine their surprise when they talk to your government and find out, after doing all their hard work in terms of reaching a settlement over that bridge, that your government is not prepared now to replace the bridge. Your government is going to insist that local people, tourists who come to the area, continue to drive over a bridge which has only one lane and which your own people tell you is unsafe. Can you tell me why? They've done the work; they've come to the table. Why aren't you going to replace the bridge?

Hon Charles Harnick (Attorney General, minister responsible for native affairs): It's my understanding that a negotiation has taken place at Big Grassy to determine the ownership of certain lands there. I believe a land claim settlement is at hand and I hope we will very shortly be in a position to announce that.

I think it's the intention of the Ministry of Transportation to initially go in and assess the bridge -- we haven't been able to do that up to this point in time -- and to then determine how to make the bridge as safe as it possibly can be made, temporarily, while design is taken a look at for the ultimate replacement of that bridge. That's my understanding.

Mr Hampton: Minister, that's not good enough. This is a bridge which thousands of people cross every spring. The primary industry of that part of Ontario is the tourism industry. Local school buses cross it, local people have to cross it every day, and thousands of tourists have to cross it.

Your government has literally delayed this process for two years. We were very close to an agreement two years ago. The first nation wants to know -- they've reached an agreement -- why you're not now going to replace the bridge. Let me put it to you. The first nation will go out and borrow the money to begin replacing the bridge this fall. If you will agree to reimburse them next spring, they will go out and they will get the money, they will get the engineering firm to replace that bridge this fall so that people don't have to travel under an unsafe bridge. What's your answer?

Hon Mr Harnick: Certainly I can tell you that there was nowhere close to an agreement on this particular issue two years ago. I can tell you as well that we have worked very hard to come to an agreement in principle on the land issues so we would then be in a position to deal with the repair and ultimate replacement of the bridge. That is my understanding in terms of the sequence of events that the Ministry of Transportation has to undergo to ultimately replace the bridge.

It was originally a two-lane bridge; it is now down to one lane because of the safety issue. It has been a one-lane bridge because it has been deemed to be safe and now the Ministry of Transportation, because the land claim issues have been able to be resolved, will be in a position to deal with the Big Grassy bridge.


Mr Tim Hudak (Niagara South): My question is to the Minister of Transportation, and it concerns the need for a traffic signal at Highway 58 and Northland Avenue in Port Colborne. As the minister knows, this is a growing area in the city of Port Colborne, a growing city, that has seen an increase in traffic volume. The intersection is in a residential neighbourhood, with a home for the aged, an elementary school and a home for the disabled. Unfortunately, a very serious accident occurred last night. My thoughts go out to the teenage pedestrians who were involved in the accident, and their families, at this difficult time.

Councillor Bea Kenny in Port Colborne has had remarkable foresight on this issue and has called for a traffic signal at that intersection since being elected. I have joined with her in her campaign now for about a year or more to bring that light to that intersection. My question to the minister is, can he make a commitment on the changes he will make to that intersection to improve the safety at Highway 58 and Northland Avenue in Port Colborne and the time frame when the light can go up in that city?

Hon Al Palladini (Minister of Transportation): I certainly thank the member for Niagara South for the question. I am sure the member knows this government's commitment to safety on our highways. I agree that this particular intersection currently has only a stop sign at the cross street. With the increased traffic volumes, certainly it is necessary to install traffic signals. Installing these traffic signals will reduce motorists' delay and also assist pedestrians attempting to cross the road. I would like to assure my colleague that the signal design is well under way and construction is going to be scheduled for the early part of the year.



Mrs Lyn McLeod (Fort William): I have a petition addressed to the Parliament 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."

I have a petition signed by literally hundreds of my constituents. I have affixed my signature in full agreement.


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

"Further, we, the undersigned, request that the Ministry of Environment and the government of Ontario take responsibility for the immediate cleanup of the fire site."

On behalf of my constituents, I add my name to theirs.


Mr John C. Cleary (Cornwall): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: On August 27 I read a petition to the Legislative Assembly regarding the court decision on women going topless in Ontario. I would like to take the opportunity to make a correction. The Hansard notes read the petition had 130 signatures while in fact it 1,030 signatures. Thank you.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): That is not a point of order, but I certainly will look to see it corrected.


Mr Bob Wood (London South): I have a petition signed by 200 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 Alvin Curling (Scarborough North): To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"Whereas many questions concerning the events preceding, during and after the fatal shooting of Anthony Dudley George on September 6, 1995, at Ipperwash Provincial Park, where over 200 armed officers were sent to control 25 unarmed men and women have not been answered;

"Whereas the officers involved in the beating of Bernard George were not held responsible for their actions; and

"Whereas the Ontario Provincial Police refused to cooperate with the special investigations unit in recording the details of that night; and

"Whereas the influence and communications of Lambton MPP Marcel Beaubien with the government have been verified through transcripts presented in the Legislature; and

"Whereas the trust of the portfolio of native affairs held by Attorney General Charles Harnick is compromised by his continual refusal for a full public inquiry into the events at Ipperwash; and

"Whereas the promised return of Camp Ipperwash to the Stony Point Nation by the federal Ministry of Defence and the serious negotiations of land claims by both the provincial and federal governments could have avoided a conflict;

"We, the undersigned, request that a full public inquiry be held into the events surrounding the fatal shooting of Dudley George on September 6, 1995, to eliminate all misconceptions held by and about the government, the OPP and the Stony Point people."

I affix my signature to this petition.


Mrs Marion Boyd (London Centre): I have a petition to the Honourable Lieutenant Governor and the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.

"Whereas the provincial government is abandoning its responsibility to provide good care for people who live in long-term-care facilities by defunding and deregulating the sector; and

"Whereas the resulting staffing shortages lead to loss of quality care, decreased resident security and more workplace injuries; and

"Whereas the selloff to for-profit operators of the care for our frail elderly residents raises questions about accountability, accessibility, working conditions and quality of care and pits frail residents against robust profits; and

"Whereas the provincial government has a responsibility to ensure that funding, staffing and standards provide a level of care which promotes dignity and respect for those who live and work in long-term-care facilities;

"We, the following undersigned citizens of Ontario, beg leave to petition the Parliament of Ontario to provide adequate funding for the care of residents in long-term-care facilities, to establish and enforce provincial standards for care in Ontario long-term-care facilities and to impose a moratorium on the selloff of care for vulnerable residents to the for-profit sector."

There are approximately 25 of these petitions, each signed by 10 individuals, and I'm proud to affix my signature.


Mr Tony Ruprecht (Parkdale): I have a petition addressed to the assembly of Ontario.

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

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

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

I am proud to affix my signature to this document.


Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-Woodbine): I have a petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.

"Whereas over half the people in Ontario are women and only 5% of the money spent on medical research goes to research in women's health; and

"Women have special medical needs since their bodies are not the same as men's; and

"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; and

"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; and

"Without Women's College Hospital, the women of Ontario and of the world will lose a health resource that cannot be duplicated anywhere;

"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."

I am in complete agreement with this and I have affixed my signature to it as well.


Mr David Ramsay (Timiskaming): To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"Whereas many questions concerning the events preceding, during and after the fatal shooting of Anthony Dudley George on September 6, 1995, at Ipperwash Provincial Park where over 200 armed officers were sent to control 25 unarmed men and women have not been answered; and

"Whereas the officers involved in the beating of Bernard George were not held responsible for their actions; and

"Whereas the Ontario Provincial Police refused to cooperate with the Special Investigations Unit in recording the details of that night; and

"Whereas the influence and communications of Lambton MPP Marcel Beaubien with the government have been verified through transcripts presented in the Legislature; and

"Whereas the trust of the portfolio of native affairs held by Attorney General Charles Harnick is compromised by his continued refusal for a full public inquiry into the events at Ipperwash; and

"Whereas the promised return of Camp Ipperwash to the Stony Point Nation by the federal Ministry of Defence and the serious negotiation of land claims by both the provincial and federal government could have avoided a conflict;

"We, the undersigned, request that a full public inquiry be held into the events surrounding the fatal shooting of Dudley George on September 6, 1995, to eliminate all misconceptions held by and about the government, the OPP and the Stony Point people."


Ms Shelley Martel (Sudbury East): I have a petition addressed to the Honourable the Lieutenant Governor and the Legislative Assembly of Ontario. It reads as follows:

"Whereas the provincial government is abandoning its responsibility to provide good care for people who live in long-term-care facilities by defunding and deregulating the sector; and

"Whereas the resulting staffing shortages have led to a loss of quality of care, decreased resident security and more workplace injuries; and

"Whereas the sell-off to for-profit operators of the care of our frail elderly residents raises questions about accountability, accessibility, working conditions and quality of care and pits frail residents against robust profits; and

"Whereas the provincial government has had a responsibility to ensure that funding, staffing and standards provide a level of care which promotes dignity and respect for those who live and work in long-term-care facilities;

"We, the undersigned citizens of Ontario, beg leave to petition the Parliament of Ontario to provide adequate funding for the care of residents in long-term-care facilities, to establish and enforce provincial standards for care in Ontario long-term-care facilities, and to impose a moratorium on the sell-off of care for vulnerable residents to the for-profit sector."

This is signed by 60 residents of the province of Ontario, and I have affixed my signature to it.


Mr Mario Sergio (Yorkview): I have yet another petition from residents in my area which is addressed to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.

"Whereas an application has been submitted to the Ministry of Environment and Energy for a certificate of approval for the development of a crematorium and a columbarium at the northeast corner of Jane Street and Steeles Avenue West in the city of Vaughan; and

"Whereas the residents who live in close proximity to this proposed crematorium are extremely concerned about the harmful environmental effects resulting from the emissions to the atmosphere, they seriously fear the spread of contaminants from this planned six-furnace high-rise crematorium and are alarmed about the long-term effects on their health; and

"Whereas there is a further apprehension in this high-density residential community that due to budget considerations and cutbacks, the Ministry of Environment and Energy will not take the time to effectively, openly and fairly listen to, consider and assess the community's concern on the huge ramifications;

"Therefore we, the undersigned citizens of Ontario, petition the Legislature of Ontario as follows:

"We call upon the Ministry of Environment and Energy, which has the primary responsibility for protecting and enhancing a healthful environment for the present and future wellbeing of the people of Ontario, to:

"(1) recognize that we, the citizens most adversely affected by this proposal, have the right to participate in government decision-making;

"(2) honour its commitment to safeguard our environment and therefore reject this proposal for a crematorium of such a large scale and literally at our doorsteps;

"(3) acknowledge that the health of thousands of residents will be at risk and thereby refuse to grant approval for this project."

I concur with the contents and I will affix my signature to it.


Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-Woodbine): I have today a number of petitions in a series of ongoing petitions with respect to Wellesley Central Hospital. These are signed by over 600 individuals who are of the Wellesley Central Hospital Staying Alive campaign. The petition reads as follows:

"We, the undersigned, are opposed to the decision of closing Wellesley Central Hospital.

"We see this as cutting services which will negatively affect the overall health of our community.

"We are deeply concerned about our future health care for the treatment of acute illness and for emergency care.

"We support the alliance between Wellesley Central Hospital and Women's College Hospital as the only solution."

I am in complete agreement with them and I have affixed my signature to these petitions.

The Acting Speaker (Ms Marilyn Churley): Further petitions?

Mr Gerard Kennedy (York South): I have a petition to the Legislative Assembly:

"We, the undersigned, are opposed to the decision of closing Wellesley Central Hospital.

"We see this as cutting services which will negatively affect the overall health of our community.

"We are deeply concerned about our future health care for the treatment of acute illness and for emergency care.

"We support the alliance between Wellesley Central Hospital and Women's College Hospital as the only solution."

I present these 326 signatures as part of the 60,000 signatures collected by the Wellesley campaign and affix my signature.


Mrs Lyn McLeod (Fort William): To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"Whereas the Harris government's Bill 136 will effectively suspend all labour relations rights for municipal, health and school board employees affected by provincially forced amalgamations; and

"Whereas the Harris government's Bill 136 will hurt average workers in every community across Ontario including nurses, teachers, firemen and police officers; and

"Whereas the Harris government's bill will decrease the quality of health care as well as the quality of education delivered in Ontario; and

"Whereas the Harris government's Bill 136 was designed to provide the government with sweeping powers to override long-standing labour negotiation rights for workers including the right to negotiate, the right to strike, the right to seek binding arbitration and the right to choose a bargaining unit;

"Therefore, be it resolved that we, the undersigned, support our MPP Lyn McLeod in her opposition to this legislation and join her in calling upon the Harris government to repeal Bill 136 which creates a climate of confrontation in Ontario."

This is signed by 85 people in my constituency and I've affixed my signature.



Resuming the adjourned debate on the motion for third reading of Bill 143, An Act to authorize the payment of certain amounts for the Public Service for the fiscal year ending on March 31, 1997 / Projet de loi 143, Loi autorisant le paiement de certaines sommes destinées à la fonction publique pour l'exercice se terminant le 31 mars 1997.

The Acting Speaker (Ms Marilyn Churley): Further debate? Seeing there is no further debate, I will put the question.

Ms Bassett has moved third reading of Bill 143. Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry?

All those in favour, please say "aye."

Those opposed, please say "nay."

In my opinion, the ayes have it.

Call in the members; a 30-minute bell.

The division bells rang from 1513 to 1537.

The Acting Speaker: Would the members please take their seats.

All those in favour of the bill, please stand one at a time.


Arnott, Ted

Baird, John R.

Bassett, Isabel

Beaubien, Marcel

Carr, Gary

Carroll, Jack

Chudleigh, Ted

Cunningham, Dianne

Danford, Harry

Doyle, Ed

Ecker, Janet

Elliott, Brenda

Eves, Ernie L.

Fisher, Barbara

Flaherty, Jim

Ford, Douglas B.

Fox, Gary

Froese, Tom

Galt, Doug

Grimmett, Bill

Harnick, Charles

Hastings, John

Hodgson, Chris

Hudak, Tim

Jackson, Cameron

Johns, Helen

Johnson, David

Jordan, W. Leo

Klees, Frank

Martiniuk, Gerry

Maves, Bart

McLean, Allan K.

Munro, Julia

Mushinski, Marilyn

Newman, Dan

O'Toole, John

Ouellette, Jerry J.

Parker, John L.

Pettit, Trevor

Ross, Lillian

Runciman, Robert W.

Saunderson, William

Shea, Derwyn

Smith, Bruce

Spina, Joseph

Stewart, R. Gary

Turnbull, David

Villeneuve, Noble

Wilson, Jim

Witmer, Elizabeth

Wood, Bob

The Acting Speaker: All those opposed, please stand one at a time.


Bartolucci, Rick

Boyd, Marion

Bradley, James J.

Brown, Michael A.

Christopherson, David

Cleary, John C.

Crozier, Bruce

Curling, Alvin

Hampton, Howard

Hoy, Pat

Kormos, Peter

Kwinter, Monte

Laughren, Floyd

Martel, Shelley

Martin, Tony

McLeod, Lyn

Miclash, Frank

Patten, Richard

Phillips, Gerry

Pouliot, Gilles

Pupatello, Sandra

Ramsay, David

Ruprecht, Tony

Sergio, Mario

Silipo, Tony

Wildman, Bud

Wood, Len

Clerk of the House (Mr Claude L. DesRosiers): The ayes are 51; the nays are 27.

The Acting Speaker: I declare the motion carried.

Be it resolved that the bill do now pass and be entitled as in the motion.


Hon David Johnson (Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet, Government House Leader): I am pleased to read government notice of motion number 31, the resolution on gas pricing:

Whereas the gasoline pricing practices of large supplier/retailers continues to be a problem which threatens consumers with unreasonably high and non-transparent prices and undermines the important role played by independent gasoline retailers in Ontario; and

Whereas gasoline pricing is an issue of common interest to all provincial governments and Canadian consumers; and

Whereas ensuring fair competition in the marketplace is the responsibility of the federal government under the Competition Act; and

Whereas this Legislature has already unanimously passed a resolution calling on the federal government to exercise fully its powers under the Competition Act to stop anti-competitive practices that threaten the survival of small, independent gasoline retailers; and

Whereas the federal competition bureau is of the opinion that no marketplace problems exist in the gasoline industry which violate the Competition Act as currently drafted;

Be it resolved by this House that the government of Ontario call upon the federal government to address this problem of national dimensions by amending the Competition Act to address pricing practices within the gasoline industry and appoint a special investigator to review the situation and make recommendations to ensure that Canadian consumers benefit from competitive and transparent gasoline prices across this country.

Be it further resolved that the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations table the resolution of this Legislature at the forthcoming meeting of federal-provincial-territorial ministers emphasizing the support of all parties in this House.

My comments will be short. I will be sharing my speaking time with the member for Hamilton West, the parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations, who unfortunately is absent today and would very much wish to be part of this; and the member for Etobicoke-Rexdale and the member for Brampton North.

I would encourage all members of this House to support this resolution, particularly those members who for some time have known that it is the annual rite, I suppose, that the gasoline prices go up. The consumers of Ontario are very rightly upset by that practice, and it appears to have no logic, rhyme or reason other than the fact that it takes more money out of their pockets. I'm sure that when the NDP was in power, when the Liberals were in power, the same situation presented itself.

We have a resolution which calls upon the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations to take the resolution of this House to a meeting of ministers which will take place next week. We'd like him to go armed with this resolution, which I'm sure other provincial governments would support, to tackle the federal government and have the federal government, under the Competition Act, appoint a special investigator to review this annual situation that comes up right in front of weekends in Ontario whereby the gasoline prices go up by enormous amounts so that people are forced to pay a greater amount of money, which is most irritating and seems to have no logic other than for perhaps a profit motive.

I hope that all members of the House will join with us in supporting this resolution. Now I'll now turn the floor over to the member for Hamilton West.

Mrs Lillian Ross (Hamilton West): I'm pleased to rise and address the resolution tabled on August 28 by my honourable colleague Minister David Tsubouchi. First I want to thank members of the House for agreeing to debate the important issue of gas pricing today. I'd also like to acknowledge the member for Quinte for his hard work and effort in February of this year, when he brought forward a similar resolution asking the government to take some action. That resolution was unanimously passed in this House at that time.

I'm asking this House for all-party support of this resolution so that Minister Tsubouchi may be able to present the unanimous expression of the Ontario Legislature when he meets with his consumer colleagues at the next consumer ministers' conference in Regina on September 10 and 11.

It has already been established that competition in the gasoline marketplace and gas pricing are the responsibility of the federal government under the Competition Act. We're asking the Honourable John Manley to take action. We are asking the federal minister to exercise his responsibility under the powers of the Competition Act to eliminate anti-competitive pricing in the retail gasoline marketplace across this nation.

Mr Tsubouchi could not have been any clearer last Thursday. This is a problem of national dimensions that can only be solved by amending the Competition Act in order to address pricing practices within the gasoline industry. Resolving this issue will require a great deal of cooperation from everyone involved, and "cooperation" was the key word during the last consumer ministers' meeting held here in Toronto last year. In his closing remarks following last year's consumer ministers' conference, Secretary of State Martin Cauchon said, "This meeting is an example of how governments can achieve a high degree of consumer protection in the marketplace by working together, sharing information and resources, using the best technologies available to benefit all Canadians."

Ontario needs to present a united front to the oil industry in order to have the required impact and to force that sector to stop abusing Canadian consumers. No other Ontario government has actually taken action on this issue. We don't believe that's good enough. Minister Tsubouchi has written to Canada's gas refiners demanding that steps be taken to resolve this issue. He has met with the Independent Retail Gasoline Marketers Association and other independent gasoline retailers to discuss issues such as retail margins.

I believe the next logical step is to take the opportunity that is before us at the consumer ministers' conference in Regina and see what level of support we will receive from the other provinces and territories. The federal government has so far resisted taking action that would protect consumers in Ontario and across this country against the undesirable market practices being conducted by petroleum companies relating to gasoline pricing. We must persuade the federal government to reconsider its position by putting pressure at the consumer ministers' conference. Failure to do so goes against the spirit of the agreement on internal trade signed by Ottawa and all provinces and territories.

Provincial ministers have already stressed the need to build on the agreement on internal trade and to strengthen the Canadian marketplace for the benefit of consumers and businesses. This government is committed to providing consumers with a fair, competitive marketplace, whether it's at the gas pump or at the front door of their homes. Anti-competitive practices such as those that our resolution asks Ottawa to address do not help anyone. They are bad for business, they are bad for the marketplace and ultimately they are bad for the consumers. In this resolution we are demanding that Ottawa ensure fair pricing in the retail gasoline marketplace and that it appoint a special investigator to review the situation and to make recommendations to ensure Canadian consumers benefit from competitive gasoline pricing.

Previous inquiries on alleged collusion among the large oil companies have failed. Experience has shown us it is not easy to prove any attempt of influencing a competitor to raise or lower his prices. But every consumer who goes out for a drive, particularly on weekends in summer, can see the inexplicable increase in gas prices at the pump. While this is certainly a problem that plagues Ontario consumers on weekends, the trend is clearly national and is quite frankly unacceptable.

Although we all agree that there is a problem, gathering sufficient evidence to take action has so far eluded those who tried. The appointment of a special investigator is therefore paramount to succeeding where others have failed. Only a person with designated powers stands a chance to solve this problem and make the appropriate recommendations to amend the Competition Act. That is why I am seeking today expressions of support from both opposition parties and all members of the House for Minister Tsubouchi's resolution. This will enable Minister Tsubouchi to have the full backing of the Ontario Legislature in presenting Ontario's position to the federal-provincial consumer ministers' meeting in Regina. I certainly look forward and hope that we will gain the support of this House for this action.


Mr John Hastings (Etobicoke-Rexdale): I'm quite delighted to join in this resolution presented by the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations and to follow the parliamentary assistant for the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations on gasoline pricing.

In my estimation this is a good resolution in terms of trying to act in concert with the federal government to appoint a special investigator to get at the cause of gasoline pricing. It seems to me that if you have specific information on price trends, on how the prices in the past few weeks have risen to astronomical levels in some parts of Ontario, particularly in Metropolitan Toronto, northwestern Ontario and northern Ontario, and even in the mid-eastern parts of Ontario as you get towards Algonquin Park --

Mr Floyd Laughren (Nickel Belt): Free enterprise.

The Acting Speaker (Ms Marilyn Churley): The member for Nickel Belt, come to order.

Mr Hastings: It seems to me that if you have good comprehensive pricing information through a special investigator that the federal government has the authority to appoint through the Combines Act, then I think, in concert, we can get somewhere.

There is often a great deal of political debate as to who is responsible and who didn't act before etc, or did act before, and one of the ways of not going about this is to bring in price regulation, because I would argue that if you are going to have pricing regulation on this commodity, you would have to have pricing information based on every product and service in the marketplace. In our estimation as a government, intervention by price regulation is not the way to go, but to get information and to morally persuade the large oil corporations is certainly a good way to go.

Let me put it on the record that previous governments have used this issue to their own particular purposes at that point in time, but it is noteworthy that in May 1986, when Mr Kwinter was the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations and was asked a question in this House about whether there was any possibility of regulating the price of consumer gas, he said very clearly, and I want to make sure we're quoting him correctly: "Are we going to bring in legislation to roll back the prices? The answer is no." We have it on the record that that party, while they are perhaps favouring that kind of intrusive regulatory model today, certainly did not do so when they were the government of the day 11 years ago, so for them to stand here and to demand that Ontario introduce pricing regulation on gasoline prices is a non sequitur in our estimation.

Furthermore, I want to point out that if you look at the Liberal red book that they ran on in the last election -- I was just going through it -- it's quite interesting to note that on practically every issue, whether it's health care, violence against the family or education restructuring, you would think, "Oh, this must be the Common Sense Revolution." The wording is almost the same until you look at the front of the document and it's got a different leader's face and name on it.

It's very interesting. I can't find in this document which they value so highly -- they're always trotting out their version of our version of the Common Sense Revolution, and if they want to point it out, it wasn't in the CSR, but we also want to have on the record that this issue, which is a perennial, as the member for Don Mills has mentioned, is absolutely silent in here. There is no position of the Liberal Party, in its campaign of 1995, bringing in this issue. There is no referencing back to the historical record. Let's have that on the record as well.

What are the options? The options are to support this resolution to get the federal government to recognize its federal responsibility --


Mr Hastings: They're not very good when it comes to acting in concert. They don't want to hear about their federal brethren in Ottawa who play an essential role. They are the government of Canada, so we can't do this on our own. We need their cooperation. We need their assistance in being able to get to the root cause of perennial gasoline price increases for consumers in this province, regardless of where they live.

A lot of people have not experienced much in the way of a benefit, salary or wage increase over the last eight years, except in specific sectors of the economy, so if their standard of living in terms of gross income has been almost stagnant for the last decade, we as a government, in concert with the federal government in Ottawa, can work together to get to the root cause of this situation and to bring some degree of control and dealing with the oil companies in terms of whether there is real price collusion going on under the federal Combines Act. The members opposite may not want to hear about the responsibility of the federal government to deal with that.

Mr Laughren: Oh yes, we want to hear it.

Mr Hastings: Let's remind the member for Sudbury that in point of fact we can do a great deal about this if all members of this House support this resolution so that the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations, Minister Tsubouchi, can take it to Regina and get the other fellow members of fellow ministries, consumer and commercial or whatever they're called in the respective provinces, to deal with this issue with Ottawa, instead of trying to create political division around it, and there's great opportunity for that.

I think the remarks that we have placed today, the direction we're prepared to take, is an honest attempt to deal with an issue that affects an awful lot of people, consumers in my riding and in all the other ridings of this province, and it's incumbent on us to work with the federal government. We as a provincial government have very seldom attacked the federal government on issues. We have certainly presented our viewpoints.


The Acting Speaker: Order, please.

Mr Hastings: If there's ever a joke of the day, it's when these folks across the way --


The Acting Speaker: Member for Essex South, come to order.

Mr Hastings: So we want to get very political about it. Let me go back to the red book again. Big, big silence. Unless they can point to the page where it's in here where the member for Essex campaigned on this particular --

Mr Bruce Crozier (Essex South): Where is it in the CSR?

The Acting Speaker: Member for Essex South, come to order.

Mr Hastings: I already reiterated that it was not in the CSR. We already pointed that out to you, but you do not like to be reminded that it was not in the red book, member for Essex South, and I'll lay you a dollar to a doughnut that you didn't even campaign on the issue in the 1995 election. If you want to get into the political rhetoric game, I can do that. I'm trying to speak about this in the context of working together with the federal government and dealing with this issue, whereas all you would want to do is price-regulate it, contradictory to what your minister said back in 1986. But that's so traditional of the folks across the way, we know.

I think this is a good motion and it's a way to deal with the issue.

Mr Joseph Spina (Brampton North): I am here today to address the issue as part of this motion about the reintroduction of the vehicle registration fees in northern Ontario. The issue is really about investment in the northern economy and fairness to taxpayers. No one, not even the opposition, will dispute that improving highways is critical to the continued development of the northern economy. As a guy who grew up in Sault Ste Marie and lived there till I was in my mid-20s, I fully appreciate the value, the need and the necessity of good highways in northern Ontario and the ability to get around. This government demonstrated its commitment to the north by increasing spending on highways last year by $40 million.


Mr Frank Miclash (Kenora): On a point of order, Madam Speaker: I don't believe we have a quorum in the House on this most important issue that we're discussing here this afternoon.

The Acting Speaker: Clerk, could you check to see if there's a quorum.

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

The Acting Speaker ordered the bells rung.

Clerk Assistant: A quorum is now present, Speaker.

The Acting Speaker: The member for Brampton North.

Mr Spina: This government demonstrated its commitment to the north by increasing spending on highways last year by $40 million, an increase we will maintain over the next five years. In fact, it's an unprecedented $200-million increase in highway spending over three years. No previous government has ever committed such a large amount of funding to improve northern highways. We've done so with the respect for the taxpayer that is the hallmark of this government.

I'd like to point out that every single dollar raised from the licence fees in northern Ontario goes towards highway spending. The current fee revenues in the north account for only $20 million of the $40-million annual increase we've budgeted for highway improvements throughout the north. Taxpayers in northern Ontario need only examine the past practices of former governments to determine whether they're getting value for their tax dollar.

The third party, I grant you, eliminated the vehicle registration in 1991. Cost to the province? About $20 million in revenue. How did the NDP pay for it? Simple. They merely slashed $20 million from the northern highway budget. They gave northern drivers a break with one hand and they picked their pockets with the other. The budget, when they took office in 1990, was about $108 million. In 1991 it was increased, to their credit, to $136 million. But in 1992, after the fee was dropped, the expenditures dropped to $115 million.

Once again, we have both the Liberals and the NDP promising to eliminate the fee. How would they pay for it? They would once again play a shell game with taxpayers' money and slash highway spending throughout northern Ontario.

This government will not insult the intelligence of northerners by indulging in a fiscal sleight of hand. We will not sacrifice northern highways and risk the future of northern Ontario's economy. Where the Liberals and NDP showed little concern for northern highways and the people who travel on them, this government has shown the courage to change things.


Mr Spina: This is interesting. The member from one of the northern Ontario ridings, Mr Miclash, Liberal MPP for Kenora, said, "The residents of northern Ontario shouldn't have to pay the annual licence fee just because we have to pay more for gas." But the irony of that statement is this: Gasoline taxes in this province are the only flat tax in the entire system. It doesn't matter whether it's 75 cents a litre in northern Ontario and 50 cents or 55 cents or 60 cents a litre in southern Ontario; the same amount of taxes are being paid. The difference is the amount of revenue that's generated by the oil companies.

The difference here is that there is not a free enterprise system for the oil companies in this country. The oligopoly that has been created must be broken up. That is the reason there are excessive gas prices. It can only be broken up in this country by collusion, if you want to use that word in a positive sense, between the provincial ministers, despite what the people in Ottawa choose or choose not to do. That is what we must do. We will invest our $200 million needed to fix the highways in northern Ontario, deteriorating after 10 years of Liberal and NDP neglect. The vehicle registration fee is small price for a large investment in real growth.

I therefore support the minister and wish every success in achieving the objectives of this resolution.

The Deputy Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): Further debate?

Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): Mr Speaker, I'll be sharing my time with Mr Crozier, Mr Phillips, Mr Bartolucci, Mr Kwinter, Mr Miclash and Mr Ramsay in our initial hour we have on this.

I want to say first of all that this is a most amusing afternoon in one way and an encouraging afternoon in another way. It's amusing in that there isn't anybody in the province who for one minute believes that this government had anything it was going to do about gas pricing until such time as it hit the skids in the polls. Then all of a sudden they became interested.

I've directed several questions to ministers. Some of the government members themselves know and -- I'm going to give them the credit -- in the back rooms of the caucus would surely be speaking to the government ministers appropriately and saying, "It's time this government, the provincial government, did something about gas prices."

But you see, Mike Harris and his colleagues are large as life when there's credit to be had for something. They're there to take credit for anything good that happens. But when there's responsibility, and responsibility that's clearly within the jurisdiction of the provincial government, they take a hike. The Premier takes a hike. I read a statement today that, if I could find it, I would read again because it so expressed the views of the people of Ontario about gas pricing.

I directed a question to Bill Saunderson, who is the Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism. I have asked him a number of questions about this. All he has done over this period of time is defend the oil industry, apologize for the oil barons in this province. I was shocked and appalled but not necessarily surprised, because I know that you people on that side believe you should never interfere in what you call the free market, even if this isn't a free market.

When my friend Norm Sterling was Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations -- Norm needs a third hand because he's pointing in all different directions at somebody else whenever there's blame to be assigned -- I asked him, "Have you called in these people and told them what you think of the gas prices?" He kind of mumbled, "Yes." But when he got out in the hallway he couldn't be pinned down on it.

In a supplementary question I asked him, "Are you going to apologize the way your Republican friends in the US do by saying, "`It's not the big companies doing this; it's the gas taxes'?" My good friend Norm Sterling said, "Yes, of course it's the gas taxes." The Premier didn't agree with that this week. Norm must be on the outs with the Premier again over that.

Question after question is directed; it goes to the minister; they bounce it over to the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations, and all he does -- he had Jan Dymond, a consultant hired at $2,600 a day, to advise him on how to answer questions in the House after the day he said people should buy tuna at a certain price, that they could all buy tuna.

What they did is that they filled his briefing book with old, stale quotes from the past and history and pointing at somebody else. I said, "Why don't you do something else?" My good friend the member for Quinte, who knows the issue better than anybody in this House in my view -- I won't ask him to rise in the House; he's a member of the government caucus, and that wouldn't be fair -- in his heart of hearts I'm sure would like to see his own government, the government he was elected to be part of, take action to stop predatory pricing practices by the major oil companies. I would agree with him if he said that. In fact, he brought a resolution forward. I would have liked to see a bill at that time that would have had the provincial government end the practice of predatory pricing, but he wasn't allowed to do that. I admire him because he knows the situation and the circumstances well.


I was reading some of the answers that I've had over the years to these questions, particularly from the present administration. I have right here with me now some of those responses. Even way back in February, I asked certain questions of ministers concerning this matter.

I asked the Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism, the Honourable Bill Saunderson, who has now been silenced by the government, about this. I said: "You have within your jurisdiction provincially, without looking at the feds or the local government or anybody else, jurisdiction to end predatory pricing. Will you give an undertaking to the House today that your government will introduce provincial legislation to define predatory pricing as an offence outside of the federal Competition Act; that is, not allow the major oil companies to undercut the independents, put them out of business and remove all competition?"

Here's what he said. I thought the member for Quinte was going to fall off his chair when the minister gave this answer; he was probably certainly worried about it. This is Bill Saunderson speaking on behalf of the government, on behalf of Mike Harris, on behalf of the cabinet, on behalf of the Tory caucus. He said the following: "If you travel across Canada, I think our prices that I see at the pumps these days are quite fair." Can you imagine that, someone on behalf of this government saying the prices are quite fair? Then he said: "When one travels outside Canada, our prices here are also comparable -- and I say that again, `comparable' -- to what I see going on in the world. There are certain areas that are closer to gas and oil production facilities and therefore pay a lesser price, but I think under our circumstances our prices are quite fair."

This is rather interesting. Let me tell you, as my friend from Nickel Belt will know, having served in this House many years, that's the real position of this government. They really think the prices are fair, and all along they've been saying this.

But a poll came out and then another poll came out and another poll came out. Polls between elections, let me tell you, don't mean much, but here the polls came out and the government had taken a dive. "What can I do to sound like a populist? I know I sit at the tables with the corporate captains, I know I'm a friend of the oil barons, but I've got to say something. The oil barons will know I really don't mean it if I say it," thinks Mike Harris in his mind. So he blurts something out about the prices being unfair, even after his Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations of days gone by, now the Minister of Energy, said, "Oh, it's the taxes."

Remember Newt Gingrich, the Republican House leader in the United States House of Representatives, the Speaker of the House? Newt and the boys from the Republican Party said, "Oh, it's not the oil companies, it's the taxes." He wanted to apologize. He didn't want the oil companies to take the hit. All we've had from this government for the last several months is apologizing for the oil companies. I can't believe you would continue to apologize for them.

Then right out of the blue comes the Premier. With the by-elections coming up and being down in the polls, the Premier decides to do a complete reversal, at least publicly.

Mr Tony Martin (Sault Ste Marie): Absolutely.

Mr Bradley: The member for Sault Ste Marie isn't fooled by that. He knows the Premier is simply putting on a show, because if you want to --

Mr Gerry Martiniuk (Cambridge): Just like you are.

Mr Douglas B. Ford (Etobicoke-Humber): Don't mind him. He's an old gas man.

Mr Bradley: There are interjections from the Conservative benches there. I must be hitting some soft spots over there at least.

Mr Hastings: Are you going to vote for it?

Mr Bradley: The member from Rexdale says, "Are you going to vote for it?" You don't think we're stupid enough politically to vote against it, do you? This is a trick resolution that points somewhere else. If you vote against the resolution, they say, "Well, you don't want to do anything about gas prices." And you know something? The smart boys in the back room in the Premier's office are saying: "We've got a good idea. Why don't we frame a resolution that all the parties will have to be able to vote for, because if they don't, we can say, `Ah, you see, they're really for high gas prices.'" We won't be fooled by that. If you think you can fool the opposition with that, you can't. It's meaningless.

What is not meaningless is the fact that you can take action in this province. There are several jurisdictions in the United States and several provincial jurisdictions in Canada that have taken action. The province of Quebec has a predatory gas pricing law. The member from Rexdale should know that. That law was brought in because what was happening was that his friends the oil barons were charging to their own people, their own retailers, a certain price, and to the independent retailers they were charging a higher wholesale price.

Mr E.J. Douglas Rollins (Quinte): They are today.

Mr Bradley: "They are today," says the member for Quinte, and he's absolutely right. What does that do? That means the independent has to take much less of a profit or lose money. I've had people who own independent stations. I should say, by the way, it's not even the retailers who are supplied by the major oil companies, let's say Shell or Esso or one of the major oil companies, and they use names like Beaver and other names they have for these companies. It's not the retailers' fault. They're the victims. The retailers have to meet their commitments. When a big oil company comes in and says to them, "We're going to charge you this new high wholesale price," they can't absorb that so they've got to put their price up.

It's worse for the independents, because what they'll do is sell to their own people at one price, and to the independent operators, the only people who provide true competition, because they're not under the thumb of the oil companies, they charge a higher price. I had one in my own community. A person came in and showed me the figures. She said, "How can we compete when down the street the price of gas retail from the big oil company is less than what they're charging us wholesale for the new load of gas?"

The member for Quinte, as I say, knows better than anybody else. I want to say, if anybody in this province wants to know anything about this, he knows 10 times as much as I will ever know about the pricing of gasoline because he's been in the business. I want to give him his credit. He knows it inside out. I appreciate the fact that the whiz kids have said, "Oh, we can't let the member for Quinte get up and speak because he knows too much about it."

It reminds me of Mr Smith, the member for Middlesex, when we were talking about the issue of planning. He was a professional planner. I was trying to get him in a committee to give some opinions on it, because he has some expertise, more expertise than most of us in the committee.

Mr Hastings: Oh, you think he is politically stupid?

Mr Bradley: He had been silenced, I say to my friend from Rexdale, by the bosses on that side. It's unfortunate when that happens. They silence the very people who know the most. My friend from Chatham-Kent knows that's the case.

When I want to know where this government stands, I simply look at the answers I got before. I've read one. Let me give you Mr Saunderson's answer again, February 20. He went on to say the following on behalf of Mike Harris -- Macho Mike, as I call him now. On behalf of the whole cabinet, on behalf of the whole Tory caucus, here's what my friend Bill Saunderson said:

"But let me just tell you over there," meaning on this side of the House, "that we on this side of the House believe in the free enterprise system. We don't intend to dictate to companies what they should and should not do, provided they act within reason. I have no intention of interfering with the free enterprise system, the pricing system. If we were to do that we would be a laughingstock, sir. It would be a big mistake for this province. We would not attract business to this province.

"What we have now is a system that encourages businesses.... We're open for business."

So what does he say? He said the government would be crazy to do this, would be foolish to do this, and I believed him then. I didn't agree with him, but I said, "Well, at least Bill's speaking on behalf of the right-wingers in that government" -- and that's virtually everybody -- "on behalf of the Premier." That's the answer he gave.

Then all of a sudden there's a conversion on the road to Damascus. The Premier is converted. He reads the polls and he's converted. He takes up the -- what kind of standard would it be? He took up the gas gouging standard and said, "I'm going to stand up for the people of this province," and everybody laughed in the province because they know that he is the friend of the corporate captains of the oil industry. He is not going to stand up.


What is Mike's solution? He says: "I'm going to get tough. I'm going to say, `The feds should do something.'" Even though he has it within his own jurisdiction, even though it's within his own backyard to be able to pass a law in this province prohibiting predatory pricing -- it's within the jurisdiction -- he won't do it. He wants to point somewhere else: Let somebody else do it. Let somebody else take the flak for it from the corporate captains.

Then I thought, if he's not prepared to do that, surely he will call the oil barons into his office and say, face to face, "I am dissatisfied with this." But no, he doesn't want to do that because that would be offensive to the people who are his friends, so he doesn't do that.

Then I thought maybe he'll set up some kind of provincial inquiry, because we have a Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations -- at least a ministry; there's part of it left. We have a Minister of Energy, who was kicking around a couple of weeks ago but is not kicking around this week. Either one of those people could set up this special investigation. But what does he say? He says, "No, no, let the federal government do that." "I'm going to get my big brother after you," says Mike Harris -- big, tough Mike. But I'll tell you something, if there were credit to be gotten, he'd be front row centre, elbowing everybody else out of the way to take credit.

When you make those pronouncements, when you go before the television cameras, when you put on the big show, when you get the headline, then surely you should be able to back it up with action in your own jurisdiction. That's what they're not doing and that's what this government's afraid to do. They're happy to point a finger somewhere else. They know we'll get unanimous consent to that in this Legislature, no problem, because, of course, we're not foolish enough to fall into your trap.

But we know where the real responsibility lies and the people of this province are going to be demanding that their government take action, not that they pass the buck, not that they point the finger somewhere else, not that they continue to apologize for the oil giants, the oil barons, the corporate captains of the oil industry; but instead that they stand up for independent operators in this province, for retailers in this province and, most of all, for the consumers of this province who see gasoline as a needed product.

This is something you can't do without, particularly people in rural and more remote areas. They need this. This is essential. That is why I am calling upon this government, within its own jurisdiction, to take action and to quit passing the buck to somebody else.

Mr Crozier: It's a pleasure for me today to have an opportunity to speak to this resolution. At the outset, I'd just like to read from the resolution and refer those who may be watching to what is contained in it. One of the "whereases" is "gasoline pricing is an issue of common interest to all provincial governments and Canadian consumers." I don't think anybody would dispute that. I also think that it is equally a concern to all governments in the great Dominion of Canada.

I'd like to refer to a letter, and there has been some debate already as to what authority federal and provincial governments have. What I'd like to lay out today are what some of our options are. I think what the people of Ontario want, and I know certainly what the people of Essex South want, is action. If that's cooperation between all the provincial governments and the federal government, then that's exactly what they want. If it's the federal government acting on its own, they'd like that. If it's the provincial government that can act on its own, they'd like that. But what they'd like is something done.

We've been at it since last February, as the member for St Catharines has pointed out, in asking about gas prices. More recently, over the past week or so, we asked about gas prices. When the Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism gave his answer, it would appear as though everything was okay, there was no point in moving ahead. I think even the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations to some extent voiced that opinion, that things are as they should be and there's nothing much that we're going to do.

But then, as the member for St Catharines said, suddenly, within the last few days, the Premier has decided, notwithstanding what his minister said, there is something we should do. Harris said in a scrum this morning, "We have to find out whether regulation of prices have led to lower prices across Canada." He said we have to look to see if regulation of prices has led to lower prices across Canada.

Obviously the Premier himself is considering regulation as one of the options. He said he wants to see an active, competitive market, pointing to how beer companies are competing to consumers' benefit for lower prices. Beer prices have to have the approval of the provincial government. He has clearly given an example and said that he's thinking about regulation.

All I want to do today is to point out some of the options that are available. When it comes to the federal government, I think we should attempt to clarify where their authority is, and, as I said at the outset, if they can do something within their authority, then I think we would all want them to do that.

In a letter dated August 22, written by John Bean, who is the assistant deputy director of investigation and research, division B, criminal matters, in Industry Canada, to Mike Haines, the assistant to a federal MP:

"Further to your telephone conversation of August 22 with Mr Chandler concerning gasoline pricing and specifically the question of regulation of gasoline prices by the federal government, it is our information that this would fall outside the scope of federal legislative power.

"The regulation of a particular industry operating in a province is normally a matter of `property and civil rights,' a subject that is within the exclusive provincial jurisdiction, pursuant to subsection 92(13) of the Constitution Act, 1867. Jurisprudence has determined that this is the case even if aspects of the industry may extend beyond the boundaries of the province," in other words, nationwide. "The regulation of a specific industry, for example, to control the prices of a commodity, is not within the federal `trade and commerce power' under subsection 91(2) of the Act. The Supreme Court has limited the scope of the trade and commerce power to circumstances that affect trade as a whole rather than a particular industry.

"The regulation of gasoline prices would not fall under any of the specific federal powers such as banking or pipelines. The federal government can set gasoline prices using powers set out in the Energy Supplies Emergency Act, RSC 1985, but only in national emergency circumstances. The constitutional basis for this legislation falls under the federal power to legislate for the peace, order and good government of Canada."

So we have an indication, at least in the opinion of one, where the clear jurisdiction of the federal government lies. Much has been said about the federal act on competition, and I want to refer you to an example of how the federal government can and has acted very recently under the federal Competition Act. This is Ottawa, March 18, 1997:

"Investigations by the competition bureau into practices of several major gasoline companies have produced no evidence to support allegations of price fixing, anti-competitive behaviour and misleading advertising."

A second allegation was made that Ultramar of Canada's -- incorporated as Value Plus -- marketing campaign was predatory pricing. That was not found to be the case.


"A third allegation addressed the issue of abuse of dominant position as related to Ultramar and other regional and national petroleum companies. The investigation found no evidence to support the allegations that the companies were squeezing the margins available to independent petroleum marketers with the intent of forcing the independents out of business," which is predatory pricing. "In fact, the margin between crude and retail prices has been shrinking for all firms over the past decade. The evidence indicated that declining margins being earned by large and small Canadian petroleum companies are the result of competition and the restructuring of the industry."

I give quotes from this gasoline inquiries report to indicate that, yes, the federal government has the power and when called upon should use that power to investigate the gasoline prices, as they are a concern -- any fraudulent attempt by the gasoline and the oil companies to regulate and have non-competitive gasoline prices.

Let me give you an example of the comparison of prices from July 4 through about August 25. This is an example where regulation by a province can affect gasoline prices at the pump. On July 4, 1997, in Toronto the price of a litre of gasoline was 51.9 cents. In Charlottetown, PEI, where they do have regulatory prices, it was 59 cents. The next week, July 11, in Toronto it was 55.3 cents, up 3.4. Charlottetown stayed at 59. On July 18 in Toronto, the price was 53.9, down 1.4 cents. The price in Charlottetown was 59 cents. On July 25, in Toronto the price of a litre of gasoline was 55.4 cents, up a cent and a half a litre. In Charlottetown it remained at 59 cents.

My point is that there are other options which seem to be working in other provinces, and I suspect the minister will hear that when he goes to his meeting in the next week or so.

A couple more comparisons: On August 8, 1997, in Toronto the retail price of a litre was 58.1 cents, up 5.2 cents from the week before. Charlottetown remained the same as it had been for over a month, at 59 cents. On August 15, Toronto was at 60.8, up another 2.7 cents, and Charlottetown stayed the same, at 59 cents.

There are other options. There are options that can be taken immediately. They don't have to wait for further investigation. Let's say it is possible that further investigation would find that there is no collusion. I am not going to draw any conclusion, because we simply don't know, but it's something that we, from time to time, should certainly find out. But gasoline tax was mentioned earlier. I want to point out that the Taxfighter, Mike Harris, has a bit of a history when it comes to gasoline tax. In the 1981 budget, when Mike Harris was a member of the government of the day, lo and behold, he voted for a gasoline per-litre price increase of one cent and a diesel price increase of 1.1 cent per litre that amounted to a revenue of over $135 million that year. I'm not going to call that a tax grab. Some people would call that a $135-million tax grab on fuel prices that Mike Harris was part of.

If we look at taxes, we can make a comparison across Canada. The statistics are accumulated by the government of Canada, but this brochure is put out by the Petroleum Communication Foundation in Calgary, Alberta. Just to give you a very short comparison, although it compares all the provinces and the Northwest Territories, the province of Ontario, when it comes to the tax that the provincial government puts on a litre of gasoline, is the fourth-highest in the Dominion of Canada. The fourth-highest is what the provincial government taxes a litre of gasoline. When you look at the federal tax on that same litre of gasoline, it is the second-lowest in the Dominion of Canada.

Those in the retail part of the petroleum industry, as recently as last weekend, said to the province of Ontario: "If you want to affect gasoline prices immediately, reduce the tax. You're the fourth-highest in the country." We like to say from time to time that we're either average or below average when it comes to taxes, but with these taxes we're the fourth-highest. Federal taxes are the fourth-lowest.

There are some options open to this government. We all want lower gasoline prices, without question, so what we should do is look at these options and take the best course that will get us there the quickest and in the fairest way. I think the people of Ontario, particularly the people of Essex South, will appreciate that. Perhaps the government might even consider rewording this resolution so that it asks for cooperation rather than condemnation of anyone.

Mr Monte Kwinter (Wilson Heights): I am pleased to join in this debate. As in the old cliché, it's déjà vu all over again. The member for Etobicoke-Rexdale referred to a response I made in the House in 1986. What he didn't say is what went on during that exchange between myself, as the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations, and my critic, who is now the Solicitor General of Ontario, who was the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations in a previous government.

In my response to him I read back to him his response. Then he asked me another question and I read back the response of his predecessor. Then when he asked the third question I read back the response of his predecessor's predecessor.

So what we have is an issue that keeps going around and coming around without resolution. One of the problems we have -- and it really is almost comical to see the flip-flop this particular government has taken, with the Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism taking a classic small-c conservative stand, that "The free market should work, and why should we be regulating one particular segment and not another?" and then the Premier coming out and saying that consumers are being gouged, that there's collusion. Even the wording of this resolution, in its second line, refers to the situation where the prices are unreasonably high.

Who is determining that this is unreasonably high? It's unreasonably high in comparison to what it was the week before or two weeks before, but there isn't anyone, I say to my friend from Quinte, who really knows what the right price of gasoline should be. All they know is that last week it was 57 something and now it's 62 and that is unreasonable. It may not be unreasonable. It may be eminently reasonable, but that is not the issue.

The issue we have is that we are an automobile-driven economy. It is not practical, as some columnists have been saying -- "If you want to get the price of gasoline down, walk, take public transit." That is not going to work.

We have to decide as a government, do we see this in the same way as we see health care and education, that transportation with the automobile is so critical to the wellbeing of the economic state of this jurisdiction that we are going to intervene in the pricing?

That's a decision that you as a government have to make. I can tell you, that has far-reaching implications if you do it. Then you decide, maybe the price of milk should be regulated, and then maybe the price of bread should be regulated, and then maybe the price of something else should be regulated. You really have a philosophical problem.

I was listening to the member for Brampton North. He said, "We've got to break up this oligopoly." In economic terms, that's silly. You don't break up oligopolies; you break up monopolies. Oligopolies mean that there are few people in the particular sector, and the reason is that there are barriers to entry. It costs one pile of money to finance a refinery. The petroleum industry is not regulated in the sense of its marketing. It may be regulated in the sense of environmental controls, things of that kind, but it's a free market. Anybody who has the money, who has an inclination to think they can get the right return on their investment, can be in the petroleum business.


The only time we can see historically was when Standard Oil was controlled by the Rockefellers. They had a monopoly. The government decided that was not in the best interests of consumers and they broke it up. Now you've got Standard Oil and all these other companies that are offshoots of the original Rockefeller petroleum industry.

We have a situation where -- this is political, all the posturing whereby whatever government happens to be in power gets up and says something because they feel it's required. I had a call today from one of my constituents, asking me what I was going to do about gas prices. He said: "I'm going to get after the government. I'm really going to go after them and tell them they've got to do something." But in reality, what can you do?

The one thing you can do is what my colleague from St Catharines talks about. There's nobody who can tell me what the price of gasoline should be, in the same situation with insurance. Nobody can tell me what it costs to insure a car. All I know is that last year my insurance bill was $600 and this year it's $900 or $1,000, and that's ridiculous, but that $600 may have been the best bargain you ever got in your life. It doesn't matter. All I know is this is what I paid then and this is what I'm paying now. There's something wrong with that.

If we take the recommendation of the member for St Catharines, we can say, "Let the marketplace work, but because it is an oligopoly and there are only a very few players, let's make sure that they treat the independents fairly and that predatory pricing is outlawed."

Let's talk about the pricing of gasoline. In the Toronto market, which is one of the most competitive gasoline markets in the world, one of the major problems we have is that independents can go over to the United States and buy gasoline on what they call the spot market. They go over and they buy a tanker of gasoline, drive it over the border, all legitimate, everything aboveboard, and decide they're going to sell it at X and make money, because they've bought it at the right price.

Gasoline is one of the most price-sensitive commodities we have. It is so strange that someone will drive by and see 57.1 and remember that a mile and a half back it was 56.8, and they'll turn around, drive back to pay the 56.8 and spend far more money getting back there than they're possibly going to save by doing it. But that's the nature of the business.

When people say, "How come all the prices go up at the same time?" -- what happens is someone decides, "This is the price," and if it's less than what the competition is charging, they have to meet it. How could you possibly have a gas station on one side of the street selling at 56.7 and the other one selling at 58.9? Who's going to buy it? Nobody. They're going to see the two signs and they're going to go to where the price is. That is why the prices are always the same. Everybody plays chicken as to how high or how low they think they can get away with, and everybody follows suit.

We really have a situation where you have to make a basic, fundamental decision: Are we going to intervene in the marketplace? I'm not saying there isn't a case to be made for that, if it's decided, as I say, in the same way that health care, education, all these things the government has to subsidize because the individual couldn't possibly afford to pay for the whole thing by themselves, so we collectively have to make sure it's available.

If you make that decision, then you're really on the slippery slope where you say: "Why are we stopping with gasoline? Why aren't we into a whole range of other commodities?" Again, I would find it very strange for this government in particular to go on that path, because it is absolutely contrary to everything this government has indicated it stands for.

How do we deal with it? We deal with it by raising it as a public issue. You have to understand, from their perspective the oil companies are trying to get a return on their investment, and if they don't get it they will either leave the market -- and lots of them have gone. Do you see any more Texaco signs around Ontario or in Canada? No. They're out of the business, and the reason they sold out is because they felt that part of the market was far too competitive.

You have to understand, there's upstream and there's downstream. That's another problem: How do you evaluate what the price should be? Because they can control whether they apportion profits upstream, which is at the stock side, where the crude oil comes in, or downstream, after it has been refined.

There's another issue. I think the member for Etobicoke-Rexdale was trying to recommend that the minister, when he goes to the ministers' conference, have a universal pricing system across Canada. That's not going to work either, because you should know, and I'm sure most of you do know, that all the gasoline that comes into eastern Ontario comes from the Middle East and all the gasoline that comes through western Canada comes from Alberta. The reason for that is it just costs too much money, interestingly enough, to transport the crude oil from Alberta to the east. They can buy it cheaper by bringing it in by tanker from the Middle East. When you have two different markets and two different suppliers, it is very difficult to try to even it out.

That gets us back to this basic decision: Are we going to intervene in what is a private business? If you make that decision, you take the responsibility of doing it. I'm not saying you don't do it, but it would seem to me that the key thing we should be doing is seeing where the province can really intervene to minimize the impact on what is really an essential commodity. It's absolutely essential. I can't fathom a situation, if there was no gasoline, how this economy would work. It wouldn't work. Our trucks wouldn't run; our people couldn't get to work because public transit is only available in certain parts of the province in an effective and necessary way.

What you can do, I suggest, and I keep repeating, is make sure you minimize the problems, and one of those is to make sure the market really does work. You have to understand, the independents do not refine it and, as a result, they have a lot less flexibility. The major oil producers can decide arbitrarily, "Let's shift our profit upstream, and we'll meet any competition and we'll match any price."

I think you saw reported in the media, or someone talked about it in the House, where an independent came in, had bought on the spot market in Buffalo, brought his tanker in, undercut the majors by a significant amount of money and the station owner called his supervisor and said, "The guy across the street is selling at," whatever it was, "four or five cents below my market price." They said: "Fine. Reduce it to one cent a litre." What do they care? They'll lose on that one station for a few days and they drive the guy out of business.

Again, if you drive up to a station and one guy's selling it for a cent a litre and the other one's got it at 53 cents a litre, where are you going to buy it? They have that ability to decide where they're going to have their marketing thrust and where they're not.

Before I finish, I just want to talk about the north. The north has its own unique problem. The problem is that it is not as competitive as it is in, say, the Metro area, because it doesn't pay someone to go over, buy gasoline on the spot market and haul it up to the north. It's far too expensive. So because there isn't the competition, they charge a price they can get away with. That's how the market works. In the Metro areas they can't charge that, because there is competition and because of the price sensitivity of gasoline. The price is really market-driven and there are people who are market-makers; they determine what the price is, and all the majors have to do is decide whether they want to go with it or not, and invariably they will. They have no choice.

That is the situation. As I say, I find it very interesting that almost on a regular basis this debate takes place and each government takes a position. I just find it strange that this particular government has taken two positions, one diametrically opposed to the other. I suggest that if you're going to direct your efforts you direct them in support of my colleague from St Catharines, who has recommended that we come up with some kind of legislation to prevent predatory pricing so that at least, if we're going to do something, we give our independents a fair shake.


Mr Rick Bartolucci (Sudbury): I am pleased to be able to offer a few comments in the five minutes I have to discuss this. The way I'd like to discuss it today, rather than as being in opposition or in government, the first, second or third party, is that I'd like to speak to you the way I believe our constituents think. Our constituents, from any riding in Ontario, are tired of people passing the buck. They're tired of the provincial government putting the onus on the federal government. They're tired of the government saying it was the Liberals' fault or it was the New Democratic Party's fault. They're tired of the New Democratic Party saying it's the federal Liberals' fault.

What they want is people to come together and give some concrete ideas. What I did with a constituent is that I sat him down and talked to him for a few minutes about what we've tried to offer this government by way of ideas or solutions to the problem, something they can do at a provincial level. Obviously, the resolution is going to be supported, there's absolutely no question of that, but it's a resolution with fluff but not very much body.

It would have been much better if this resolution had been passed very early on and then the government did something concrete, as was suggested by the former member for Ottawa East when he introduced his private member's bill, Bill 10, An Act respecting the Price of Motor Vehicle Fuel. This was introduced October 17, 1995, but because he wasn't a member of the government, his private member's bill isn't going anywhere. This has 15 excellent ideas that the government could have used. Any one or a combination of these 15 ideas would have helped solve the dilemma we have today.

Then the member for St Catharines introduced the idea of predatory gas pricing legislation, a very positive idea, so that the independents could survive, so that there would be some form of competition in Ontario, which naturally would help the consumers of Ontario.

Then I wrote to and discussed with the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations the idea that a commission should be set up, a commission to investigate when prices rise to see if it's acceptable and justifiable, so that the consumer in Ontario would be protected. Again, nothing has happened with regard to that recommendation.

Just last week, the member for Kenora -- I know he will be addressing this -- discussed the idea of a consumers' advocate so that the consumer could be protected. Again, we see no concrete action from the government. What we do see is a resolution, a resolution that will do nothing for the problems consumers in Ontario experience with price at the gas pumps, whether it be in Windsor or as far north as you want to go. But you find, when you start in Windsor and go north, that the price continues to escalate as you go.

I want to take exception to one thing the member for Brampton North, the parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Northern Development and Mines, said when he said there is no difference whether a person pays 75 cents or 54 cents a litre because it's a flat tax. Let me tell you, there is a big difference in northern Ontario in whether we have to pay 75 cents or 54 cents. That's why we have launched the "Northern Ontario New Tax: Yours to Discover" postcard campaign. The one break we had this government is imposing back upon us, and we want to get rid of it, that is, the $37 to get our vehicles re-registered. We believe that's wrong. We believe that's a tax grab. We believe that's contrary to what Mike Harris said back in 1987 when he said, "Any northern member who comes down here and does not fight for his people does not deserve to be re-elected and does not deserve to come back in this Legislature and may be in for a big surprise when the time comes." Mike Harris, listen to your own words.

Mr Miclash: I am pleased to have the opportunity to partake in debate of the government's resolution this afternoon, but I have to tell you one thing. It's not that my constituents are pleased, because they certainly are not. The Harris government's decision to impose a $37 vehicle tax on northerners is not something that is standing well with the people of northern Ontario.

I have to say that in my part of the province people are used to it. It's not just a weekend fad, where prices go up before the long weekend. People in my part of the province are used to paying over 60 cents a litre. For people who have to depend on their vehicles for transportation, who don't have the public transportation afforded to the folks here in southern Ontario, we feel that's asking just a little too much, along with Mike Harris reimposing the $37 vehicle tax on northerners. I'm happy to be able to speak to this resolution today, but the people in southern Ontario must realize that we live with that reality to begin with.

We have heard all the promises in the past. I must go back to one promise that I thought was unique, one that I know my constituents really thought was a unique promise, and that was the promise to equalize gas prices across the province. Of course, that was in the 1990 election campaign material of a person who became the Minister of Northern Development, Shelley Martel. Shelley had the idea that we were going to equalize those gas prices across all of Ontario. I read from the Dryden Observer:

"During the 1990 provincial election campaign, many New Democratic Party candidates ran on the promise that the NDP government would equalize gasoline prices across Ontario if elected into office.... Four years later, with a strong NDP majority in Queen's Park, the government still has not directly dealt with the issue of high gas prices in northern and northwestern Ontario."

I think my constituents would have been happy with equalizing gas prices across Ontario, a promise that later was broken -- a lot of frustration in terms of an issue of long standing in this House.

I received a letter at one time from a summer student, a student employed as a gas attendant in Dryden who then continued to university after the summer. He says:

"The most frustrating part of the job was having people ream me out constantly for the high price of gas in the Dryden area, as though I set the gas prices.... I asked the trucker that brings our gas why gas was so much cheaper as soon as one gets across the border to Falcon Lake." That is of course in Manitoba. "Even in Kenora, it can be three cents cheaper per litre, up to 10 cents less in Manitoba.

"He said it was not transportation costs, because he hauls to places in Saskatchewan and Manitoba that are farther away than Dryden, and their price of gas is still cheaper than ours. He also said that dealers in Ontario buy their gas at higher costs than retail rates in Manitoba, according to the price list he had."

Based on that letter, I came into the House just the other day and had a question for the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations. I asked him why Newfoundland can have a consumer advocate, a consumer advocate who would take a look at what this constituent has brought forward, a consumer advocate who would take a look at why constituents of mine in Sandy Lake are paying $1.29 a litre compared to somewhere around 60 cents a litre here in southern Ontario.

I told the minister that he had an example in Newfoundland where this was being done. His answer was no, that it was not possible that we would want to have somebody go out there and act on behalf of the consumer as an advocate to find out what the true reasoning was. As I said earlier, northerners are truly fed up with not only this government, but other governments, blaming other people, not taking on the responsibility for what they have.

At this time I would like to move an amendment to the resolution by adding the following:

"That in addition to the other provisions of this resolution, the Ontario government implement provisions which would limit the opportunity for predatory pricing, limit the damage that could be inflicted by discriminatory pricing practices and restrain the ability of refiner/marketers to create arbitrary price zones."


The Deputy Speaker: The member for Kenora moves that the resolution be amended by adding the following: "That in addition to the other provisions of this resolution, the Ontario government implement provisions which would limit the opportunity for predatory pricing, limit the damage that could be inflicted by discriminatory pricing practices and restrain the ability of refiner/marketers to create arbitrary price zones."

Mr David Ramsay (Timiskaming): I'm very happy to be able to take my place in this House and talk to this resolution and now to the amendment of this resolution.

Having been a northern member representing the riding of Timiskaming for over 12 years now, this has been a perennial issue with northerners and it's sort of sad that it only gets the full attention of the Legislature when finally southern Ontario gets hit from time to time, as they do, with high gas prices, and then it becomes the issue right across the province.

As my colleague from Kenora said, we suffer from this all the time on a day-to-day basis, all year round, all four seasons and it's not a seasonal hit as it is here in southern Ontario. With the great distances we have to travel to work and to see family in northern Ontario, it's a doubly hard burden for northerners to take.

I think that moving this amendment is the right thing to do here today because what this does is maybe combine what the Ontario government's idea is of going after the feds to take care of this with this amendment that says, "Well, maybe we can do something here also in Ontario." Maybe the combination of this thing is the right thing to do, that maybe we should sit down from a provincial perspective with the federal government and once and for all work this out and come up with a national system that would, if not totally regulate, at least supervise and keep constant vigil on the fluctuation of gas prices in this country, because it's very important for all provinces and all regions of this country and all regions of this province that in order to be productive citizens, in order for our businesses to be profitable, we ensure a basic energy cost for transportation. It's, very important.

Maybe this is the way to do this, with this amendment and the resolution. I think you're going to find you're going to have all-party support. I would hope the government party, the Harris government, would take a very close look at this amendment, that they would consider adding it to their resolution, and look upon it as a friendly amendment so that both of us here in the Legislature of Ontario and in the House of Commons can work on this issue.

This part that the provincial government would work on would implement provisions which would limit the opportunity for predatory pricing. Predatory pricing is where the main gas companies would sell gas to their own distributors at a much cheaper price than they would to the independents to try to put the independents out of business. That really has to be stopped, "limit the damage that could be inflicted by discriminatory pricing practices," that the same price out of the refinery has to be sold to all retailers, regardless of what company they work for, and that would be very important, "and restrain the ability of refiner/marketers to create arbitrary price zones." This would greatly help eastern Ontario and northern Ontario, where from time to time prices are extremely high and extremely exorbitant, and that puts an undue burden on the people in our areas.

I'm really encouraged that the House is debating this this afternoon, that the government has put forward this motion to ask the federal government for help, and that the Liberal caucus here has put forward an amendment to this that I think is helpful, that really maybe stops this game of pointing blame, as each government seems to do, that it's a federal responsibility versus it being a provincial responsibility, and maybe for once, if we could all agree on this together, we can say this is our problem collectively and both the provincial level and the federal level could say, "Let's work on this."

Let's call in the big boys from the gas companies and really start to put some teeth in some regulation here that would demand of them to have some fair pricing of energy across this province. I think that's the way to go and I'm certainly going to be supporting this.

Mr Howard Hampton (Rainy River): I have listened intently to the speakers who have addressed this issue so far and I am a bit perplexed. I've listened to a number of the Liberal representatives and I'm not sure if they are supporting this resolution or not supporting the resolution. Hopefully, we'll get some clarity on that as the evening proceeds.

Let me say here and now that I will support the resolution. I do not think this is a perfect resolution, but I will be supporting the resolution and I want to point out why I'll be supporting it and what I think the critical issues are.

This is a critical issue. It's a critical issue for a couple of reasons. First of all, it's very clear that Ontario consumers across the province are being gouged in terms of gasoline prices. Secondly, if you are from northern Ontario, and many of us here in the Legislature are, you are being doubly gouged. The problem is twice as bad if you happen to live in a smaller city or a smaller town in northern Ontario.

Thirdly, there is another issue which creeps into this. I had some of our staff do some comparative pricing on this issue. I happen to live in a border community, so people in my community, if they don't want to pay the ripoff gasoline prices that oil companies are forcing on consumers in my community, can go across the border into Minnesota. Similarly, in a community like Welland which is on the border, if people don't like the ripoff prices that are being charged, they can go across the border and shop in the United States. Similarly in Sault Ste Marie, if people don't like the ripoff prices that are being charged by oil companies in Sault Ste Marie, Ontario, they can go across the border into Michigan.

Similarly Windsor: Let me give you an example of the difference. In Windsor the price today is 61.9 cents per litre. In Detroit across the border it is 45.8 cents per litre in Canadian funds. What that means -- and I know what it means because I live in a border community -- is these price differentials, the price gouging on the Canadian side of the border in Ontario will drive Ontario consumers across the border to buy gasoline, but once they're there buying gasoline, the temptation is to buy a lot of other things as well.

It's really a three-pronged issue here: Ontario consumers are being gouged across the province, consumers in northern Ontario are being gouged twice, and this will lead very quickly, if action isn't taken, to a whole repetition of cross-border shopping which hurts border communities tremendously and hurts the Ontario economy tremendously. This is a very serious issue.

I want to say something about where I think the tools lie to address this. Clearly, the federal government has the tools to address this now. They have the Competition Act, they have the standing commission which looks into competition policy. The federal government is equipped to deal with this now.


Even if the federal government were not equipped to deal with this, there is historical precedent which shows that the federal government can take action to deal with prices and wages when it feels there are unjustifiable increases. I point, for example, to the Anti-Inflation Board which was established by a Liberal government in the 1970s, only the problem they identified then and the problem they went after was people's wages, not necessarily prices. The federal Liberal government at this time has the tools to take action. If they don't feel those tools are adequate, they have shown precedents before that they are quite willing to pass legislation to go after something like this.

With that in mind, I find it passing strange indeed that the federal minister says he doesn't see there's a problem. I have to tell you, there is a huge problem, and at the federal level this problem has been referred to many times over the last couple of years and the last couple of summers. What it amounts to is this: The current federal government has a lot of excuses.

Let me give you some of the excuses they've used in the last couple of years. One summer they used the excuse: "The US refineries have closed for repairs. That's why Canadians are paying higher gas prices." I guess they mean that all the refineries in the United States all closed, and all closed at the same time. That was one excuse.

The other excuse that was given -- and I invite you to look at the profit levels of the major oil companies in this country -- was, "Record profits year over year aren't high enough yet."

Then there was an excuse, "There's a supply-demand imbalance." I guess that means consumers demand the gas and the oil companies reduce the supply. The following summer there was another excuse trotted out by the federal government, and it was, "Record profits year over year still aren't high enough."

This is the kind of action we've got from the present industry minister in Ottawa, John Manley. He has simply denied, summer after summer, occurrence after occurrence, that there is a problem. I would suggest to you that is the real issue with the Liberal government in Ottawa. They have declined to recognize that there is a problem at any time when it's happened over the last five years.

But the tools to do something about this clearly already exist for the federal government. The tools are already there. Why the federal Liberal government refuses to act, I can only guess at what the reasons are. They're too busy defending the profits of the oil companies to take a look at the prices the oil companies are charging.

I want to go a bit further. As I said, I will be supporting this resolution. I'll be supporting it despite the fact that it is not a perfect resolution. Let me tell you why it has some imperfections. The reality is that if the current Conservative government of Ontario really wanted to push for action on gasoline prices, the resolution would say that should the federal government fail to use the tools that are available for the federal government to use right now, the province will enact its own legislation.

To me, that would send a very clear message to the federal government and to the oil companies. The message to the federal government would be, if you're on the side of the oil companies and you're going to behave to protect the oil companies, you're not concerned about the prices consumers are paying, then the Ontario government's going to take action. It would send a message to the oil companies that one way or another they'd better bring their prices down or risk being regulated.

That's what should be in this resolution, a clause that says clearly that if the federal government is more interested in defending oil company profits, if the federal Liberal Industry Minister is more interested in defending the oil companies than he is in stopping consumers from being gouged by high gas prices, then Ontario will act. It's very clear the provinces can regulate. The province of Prince Edward Island has a petroleum products act which in effect regulates gasoline prices and heating oil prices on the island. Why did they take action? They took action after they couldn't get the federal government to act. I would say this is open to the Ontario government at this time. If the federal Liberals won't act, if they won't enforce their own legislation, then the Ontario government should step in and protect consumers. That is the long and the short of it. That is why this is an imperfect resolution.

I want to go a bit further here and just delineate how and why folks in this province are, in some cases, being gouged twice, and also to expose some of the comments that have been made earlier. In northern Ontario, consumers are being gouged twice because prices are high in northern Ontario generally, and during the summer months, on weekends like the civic holiday in August, like Labour Day, yes, the oil companies push them higher. So consumers in northern Ontario are being gouged that way, but consumers in northern Ontario are also being gouged because this government, the Harris Conservative government, imposed a new motor vehicle tax on September 1.

The government may say, "It's a fee." Let me cite the member for Nipissing, who is now the Premier, who said so loudly and so clearly a few years ago, "A fee is a tax by another name." What you've done is you've imposed another tax on northern Ontario drivers. It's a $37-per-vehicle tax. I would say to the government, if you want to be sincere on this, if you want to even appear sincere in your concern about price gouging in terms of gas prices, then for God's sake do away with your $37 motor vehicle tax in northern Ontario, because you're part of the gouging process here. You are definitely and clearly part of the gouging process.

I heard a half-hearted excuse from some of the government members. They said, "This new motor vehicle tax in northern Ontario is going to be used for more road repair work." Let me be clear on what's happened. This government, when they assumed office in June 1995, immediately cancelled all of the road repair and maintenance contracts across northern Ontario. No money was spent in 1995. In 1996, they further cancelled the road repair and maintenance contracts in northern Ontario.

What they're doing this year is they're pulling some of the money that was scheduled to be spent in 1995 forward, and they're pulling some of the money that was scheduled to be spent in 1996, and they're putting it into 1997 and they're saying, "We're spending more on highway and road maintenance." This is not going to fool anybody. Give it up. What you did is you totally cut the budget in the summer of 1995 so there was no road repair and maintenance work, you totally cut the budget in 1996 so there was no road repair and maintenance work in northern Ontario that summer, and you've put a little bit of that money now into 1997 to try to make yourselves look good. It's not going to work The fact of the matter is, if you average it over four years, you are spending less than ever on road repair and maintenance work in northern Ontario and your motor vehicle tax is nothing more than a tax grab.

Hon Chris Hodgson (Minister of Natural Resources, Northern Development and Mines): Wrong again.

Mr Hampton: The Minister of Northern Development and Mines --

Hon Mr Hodgson: Get the numbers. Let's get the numbers out.

Mr Hampton: Let's get the numbers out and have a look at them. Look at what you cancelled in 1995; look at what you cancelled in 1996; take those and try to add them into 1997. You are down in terms of how much you are spending and how much you're doing for road repair and maintenance in northern Ontario. You're trying to spin that by the public, and it's not going to work.

I want to get back to the issue of cross-border shopping, because that is very critical here. The reality is, if you allow gas price differentials of 20 cents a litre in places like Welland, Niagara Falls, Windsor, Sarnia, Sault Ste Marie, Thunder Bay, my community of Fort Frances, you will start a process of cross-border shopping again which will literally affect not just those small operators who are trying to make a living selling gasoline; it starts to affect the whole retail sector in those communities.


I would implore this government, if you're serious about this, first of all do away with your motor vehicle tax, the $37 per vehicle, which just adds insult to injury to people all across northern Ontario. Then amend your own resolution to say very clearly that if the federal government will not use the tools at its disposal, if they will not use the Competition Act, if they will not use the officials and the bureaucracy that has been set up in Ottawa to look at these issues, then the government of Ontario will pass legislation similar to what Prince Edward Island has passed to properly force down the gasoline prices.

I'll tell you something: If you amend your resolution to say that, if you put that in your resolution, I believe you will force the federal Liberal government to take the action they should have taken. If they don't, they're going to be incredibly embarrassed because it will be clear and evident to everyone that they are more concerned about the record profits of oil companies than they are concerned about the pocketbooks of consumers who are being gouged at the gas pumps.

Second, even if the federal Liberal government won't take action, I suggest to you that merely threatening to bring in your own gas regulation legislation will have a profound impact upon the gas pricing behaviour of oil companies in Ontario. They don't want to be regulated; they don't want to have their behaviour exposed. The mere threat that you will do it will force them to start backing down.

If you are sincere in this, the tools are at your disposal. Take a harder line with the federal Liberal government, put in a clause indicating that you are prepared to bring in your own regulatory legislation, and for God's sake do away with the discriminatory motor vehicle tax in northern Ontario, which is simply adding insult to injury.

Speaker, I want to share my time -- I was informed by the table officers that I could share my time if I addressed this to you -- with the member for Nickel Belt and the member for Sault Ste Marie, who I believe are ready to speak at this time.

Mr Martin: The issue of gasoline prices as it unfolds before us here in this House and across the country in the federal Parliament is obviously a very hot potato.


Mr Martin: I'm in the wrong seat. I'm just so churned up about this issue that I'll speak from anywhere on it. I appreciate my colleague from Algoma making sure I'm in the right spot.

This issue is a political hot potato that neither the government in Ottawa nor the government here in Toronto is willing to grab in their hands and do something with. That's unfortunate, because as the gasoline gouging issue unfolds in this province, people are being hurt, communities are being hurt and the economy of the province is being affected in some very serious and significant ways.

We heard the leader of our party, the member for Rainy River, speak a few minutes ago about the issue of cross-border shopping. He said: "It's going to happen. That phenomenon is going to get worse." I have to say to you that it's already happening. I was speaking to a small business person who runs a corner gas station in Sault Ste Marie. She said that last week when she heard the announcement by the Michigan government that they were going to increase their tax on gasoline, this was going to be good for the petroleum sector of business in my community because at that point things were working out fairly well. They were having a good summer. People were coming across the river to our side, tourists for the most part, and fewer people were going over to Sault, Michigan, to pick up their gasoline, so they were doing quite well. When the Michigan government decided they were going to raise taxes, she was, to say the least, somewhat ecstatic because it was going to improve her lot.

Alas, only a day or two later she found out that the petroleum industry in Canada was actually going to increase the cost of gasoline to us by three times the amount that the Michigan government increased it in that state. So she was up on this big high and then bang, down again, because she knew what was going to happen. People were going to drive up to her pump, see the cost of gasoline and say, "Forget it." It's only 10 minutes across the river and that is where they were going. That is what is happening. I talked to people over the weekend when I was home. People who had decided not to go across the river to pick up their gasoline any more are doing it.

We have a hot potato here. We have the provincial Conservative government in Ontario not wanting to deal with it. We have the federal Liberal government in Ottawa not wanting to deal with it. Who is left? We have the newly rejuvenated NDP opposition in Ottawa taking a stand. My colleague the NDP member for Regina-Lumsden, John Solomon, just last week had a press conference in Ottawa and made a statement about this particular issue, and it's not the first time. Mr Solomon, in his critic portfolio and in his interest in his own constituents, has been working on this issue for a long period of time now. I have at least four or five pages of notes here, of stands Mr Solomon has taken, committees he has chaired and commissions he has been part of, trying to send the message to the government in Ottawa that we have a problem here of collusion and gas gouging that is hurting the people of this country in a major way.

Let me just share with you a couple of the comments of Mr Solomon last week to the people and to the federal government. He said: "The oil industry believes that either Canadians will sit idly by and pay these unjustifiably high prices, or that Canadians won't notice these increases, or that Canadians will buy the oil industry's latest incredible excuse for price gouging: tight gasoline supplies in the eastern US triggered by the shutdown of several key US refineries for unforeseen repairs. If this is their justification, why have gasoline prices in the US increased less than one cent a litre but in Canada they're up by 10 cents per litre?" That's what Mr Solomon had to say.

I suggest to you that we have here a case of collusion of major magnitude, and it is not just the industry. It's the industry and the two levels of government that stand to benefit by any increase in gasoline: the federal Liberals in Ottawa and the provincial Tories in Ontario.

There is a formula in place -- this was shared with me by my colleague from Nipigon today and he will expand on it just a little bit when he gets a moment to speak this afternoon -- that says very simply and clearly that when the price of gasoline goes up, the federal government gets more money in its coffers and the provincial government gets more money in its coffers. If that doesn't show you justification for a collusion between three organizations, then I don't know what does. If that is not a smoking gun of some sort, nothing is.


The argument I'm making here today is that neither the provincial Tory government in Ontario nor the federal Liberal government in Ottawa is willing to do anything about this issue except shoot at each other. It's really a joke.

Over the last week or two anybody who has been watching the newspapers and seeing -- one day Mr Saunderson made the case the federal government really believes, which is that the free market should dictate and the price of gasoline doesn't matter, that that's the way it is and we have to deal with it. Then we had Mr Harris coming back, once he took a census of what people felt about this, saying: "This is awful. This is gouging. We have to do something about it. Let's call the federal government." Then we had the federal government coming back, once they'd been hauled on the carpet over this by Mr Harris, and Mr Manley said in a statement today that Mr Harris is out to lunch on this, that he doesn't know what he is talking about.

I think you're both out to lunch. You should both get down to business and do what you were elected to do: Protect the consumer of this country and this province and take on the gasoline industry, take on the petroleum industry.

If you think that's impossible, as you say it is, just take a look at the little province of Prince Edward Island, the smallest province in the union. They passed legislation and put it in the face of the petroleum industry: In Prince Edward Island they could not raise gasoline prices except where it fitted within the regulation that's in the bill.

I will end my few comments and turn the floor over to my colleagues by saying once again to the provincial Tory government, to the federal Liberal government, get real. Get down and get this job done. Stop playing with the people. Stop colluding with the industry. Take the vehicles you have at your disposal and do something concrete about this very disturbing and difficult issue that faces us today.

Mr Len Wood (Cochrane North): This is a resolution that I'm sure every member in this House is going to support.

I was pleased to see that Mike Harris overruled Mr Saunderson when he said that gas pricing was fair right across this province. We know that drivers out there are getting burned. That's one time I could congratulate Mike Harris, when he agrees that prices are too high, and for the resolution coming forward.

But I don't think it's gone far enough. I think there's going to have to be stronger wording in it or amendments brought to it that will force the Liberal government in Ottawa to make the changes that are necessary. They could investigate and come up with the changes and force the gas prices down if they wanted to, but the Conservative government in Ontario would have to put a message in there that they are willing to do it if the Liberals in Ottawa do not want to do it.

In northern Ontario there are three or four good reasons why drivers feel they're being gouged. There's no public transportation in most of the small communities in northern Ontario, so you end up having to have at least two vehicles to be able to get around.

Gas prices have always been 10 to 12 cents a litre higher than in southern Ontario. The prices that are being paid in southern Ontario now, at 59 and 60 cents, are prices we've been paying in northern Ontario for a number of years. Now in northern Ontario they're up to 70 cents, in some communities they're 75 cents and in some they are 79 cents. In Hearst and Kapuskasing they were all 69.9 cents in the last weekend. The Northern Times in Kapuskasing has been covering the articles on it.

Two days ago Mike Harris, and Ernie Eves, the finance minister, decided to put a tax on all vehicles in northern Ontario. They decided that it's not enough that gas prices are high up there -- "We're going to introduce a brand-new tax on all the vehicles in northern Ontario, $37, starting on September 1."

That's in addition to the high gas prices we're paying, the long winters we have to put up with and the conditions we have that nobody else around here has.

I was convinced earlier that a Premier from northern Ontario would be standing up for the people of northern Ontario. We have a Minister of Northern Development who should be standing up there, but it seems they've all ignored northern Ontario and they've written it off and they're picking the pockets of people in northern Ontario. It's not right, it shouldn't be allowed, and they should take off that registration fee immediately and force the price of gasoline down.

Mr Gilles Pouliot (Lake Nipigon): I'll be brief and to the point. No question that we're being gouged in this kind of ménage à trois. There are three culprits: the big oil companies, the federal government and the provincial government.

Make no mistake about it: Harris can get up and say, "I know there's some gouging," and yet when we look at the revenue for the province, this government expects to take in $1.9 billion this year, $25 million more than last year. Premier Harris could have said, "No, you're being gouged, so during the summer months, during the gouging period when the frenzy is at its highest, when people in the riding of Lake Nipigon and Fort Severn are paying $1.50 per litre, I, Mike Harris, will represent the people of Ontario and cut the tax to make up." Not only does he do nothing, but he has the gall and the audacity, because we give so heavily at the pumps, to say: "You're going to give more. Starting now you will pay $37 more to get your licence."

Competition only goes so far, the essence of the free marketplace. When it comes to North Sea oil -- and I track those things almost every day; I don't miss too many days -- you look at North Sea oil in the morning, the overnight market, then you look at Texas crude, and prices in the past months have been anywhere from $19 to $21, which is consistent with the marketplace. In other words, on the futures market there have been no real increases. It's when it leaves them that the fracas begins to unfold. It's when it leaves them that the main players, the boys' club, get together and do some price fixing, nothing short of that. Who pays? The consumer, again, again and again.

Our position is a curse on both your houses at the political level. The federal government and this provincial government have an opportunity through the tax system to lessen the pain impacted on the pockets of consumers. We don't have a choice. We need it to go to work. We need it for medical expertise. We need it, our sons and daughters, going to college. We need it more because we're up north, and yet it's only when they feel the pain down south that they begin to understand what we've been saying for years.

This issue, this argument, is residual, is perennial; it never goes away. What we're asking is that you take the tools, in lieu of this resolution that is not very strong, take the bull by the horns, and show them that the people are boss. We make them rich. This is an opportunity to enact a cut in provincial fuel taxes so that the consumer can benefit, nothing short of that.

The people of Lake Nipigon, the largest geographical riding in Ontario, have been suffering in relative silence for far too long. Let justice be done. Do what you should do. Stand up, get off your knees, get out of the back pockets of those who can run the fastest and do justice for all the consumers.

Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): I rise to support the resolution, but I regret that it appears there's a lot of insincerity in this resolution. I put this --

Hon Cameron Jackson (Minister without Portfolio [Seniors Issues]): Now you're a psychiatrist.

Mr Wildman: No, I'm not a psychiatrist; I look at the facts, I look at the statements.

Members of the House raised issues about the increasing price of gasoline. I pointed out that the gasoline price in Wawa last week was 72.5 cents a litre. I understand that in Chapleau today it's 73.5 cents a litre. Other members raised the price of gasoline in their communities, raised concerns about it, and what was the response of the government? The Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism said the government wasn't interested in doing anything. He actually said that the prices weren't outrageous, that this was just the market and the market should be allowed to operate, and that the government believed in free enterprise and didn't want to intervene.


Then we had the federal Liberal government basically saying there is no evidence. Mr Manley, the minister responsible, says that even though the Bureau of Competition Policy falls under his jurisdiction, he doesn't have any evidence that could get a criminal prosecution. Suddenly, the Premier of this province is converted at the gas pump, and he says: "There is gouging going on. We should move a resolution and take this resolution to a conference of federal and provincial ministers, to try and get the federal government to act."

I might have thought the government was really sincere about that, that maybe the provincial government wants some action at the national level, that maybe they are concerned about consumers of gasoline in this province.

What happened at the beginning of this month, thanks to the budget that was brought in by the member for Parry Sound as the Minister of Finance last spring? On September 1, northern Ontario, that part of the province that has been gouged all along with high gasoline prices and is now facing a compounded situation, had an imposition of a tax on motor vehicles.

Our government took the motor vehicle licence fee off motor vehicles in northern Ontario because we recognized the prices of gasoline were higher for drivers in northern Ontario. At the time we took it off, that price was lower than it is now. This government that claims to be concerned about the consumers in Ontario has increased the price, has brought in a $37 vehicle fee, a tax on northern drivers.

This government isn't sincere about trying to protect consumers. If it was, it would move on its own. The federal government isn't sincere about trying to protect consumers. They say there's no evidence of collusion. It's about time somebody stood up for the consumers, for the gasoline users in this province. I hope that in passing this resolution we will have some action by the federal Liberal government and by the provincial Conservative government together to move to protect the drivers of Ontario.

Mr Laughren: I'm pleased to take part briefly in this debate. I find it almost weird the way this debate has taken place. We have the free-enterprise Tories, with their neo-cons and Reformers in their midst, calling for more government intervention in the marketplace. Are these the Tories we see, day after day, standing up on their hind legs and demanding that there be less government intervention? Are these the same Tories? I don't understand it.

The other thing I find very strange is that the Minister of Northern Development hasn't taken part in this debate today. He had every opportunity. He hasn't taken part in the debate at all. He's the one who sat idly by while the Minister of Finance for the province of Ontario socked it to the northern Ontario drivers with a $37 tax on September 1.

One of the members opposite -- I can't remember whether it was the member for Brampton North or the member for Rexdale-Bedrock -- said, "If you take away the $37 fee, where's the money going to come from?" Wait a minute now. Are these the same Tories who reduced our provincial income taxes and don't ask where the money's going to come from? They say the reduced taxes will create more revenue, so why wouldn't that apply to the tax on motor vehicles as well? There are a lot of contradictions taking place over on the other side.

Not only that, the provincial government wants to refer the problem to the federal Liberals who have said, "There's no problem." So wait a minute now. The provincial Tories are saying, "We want to refer this problem to the federal Liberals," and the federal Liberals already have said, "There's no problem." The federal Tories are saying, "We want to refer this problem to the federal Liberals," and the federal Liberals already have said, "There's no problem." On what do you base your faith that the federal Liberals -- God bless their souls -- are going to do anything about this problem? They don't think there's a problem so why should they do anything about it? I don't understand this. I'm missing something. There's a piece of the equation missing and I don't know why that is.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): I'm sorry to interrupt you but I want to just do a quick introduction, if you don't mind. Thank you, member for Nickel Belt.

In the Speaker's gallery is the Reverend, the Honourable Fred Nile from Parliament House in Sydney, Australia. With him is the Honourable Bryan Vaughan, of the Parliament of New South Wales. Welcome to both you gentlemen.

To the member for Nickel Belt, I apologize.

Mr Laughren: It was an appropriate time to intervene, because I want to conclude my remarks by saying that I am going to sit down now because -- I'll tell you why before you applaud -- I want us to have time right now to vote on this resolution, right this afternoon. So let's get on with the vote on this resolution.

The Speaker: Further debate?

Mr Laughren: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: Would it be appropriate to ask for unanimous consent to vote on this resolution this afternoon? I would ask unanimous consent to vote on this resolution before we have to make time for the Lieutenant Governor to come into the chamber.

The Speaker: The member for Nickel Belt is seeking unanimous consent to vote on this within the next five minutes. Agreed? No. Further debate?

Mr Frank Klees (York-Mackenzie): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I wonder if we could seek unanimous consent to include Bill 142 in that vote.

The Speaker: There was no consent on the original.

Interjection: I thought there was.

The Speaker: No, there wasn't unanimous consent.


The Speaker: What are you on about?


The Speaker: Point of order, member for Sault Ste Marie.

Mr Martin: I just wanted to explain to the member that the gouging they're doing of the poor and the weak in this province is not the same as the gouging --

The Speaker: That is not a point of order. That's a point of debate, I'm sure of it. Thank you.

Mr Bill Murdoch (Grey-Owen Sound): Who says so?

The Speaker: Member for Grey-Owen Sound, how are you?

Further debate?

Mr Bernard Grandmaître (Ottawa East): I can assure you, Mr Speaker, that we're ready and willing to vote on this motion. Whenever the time comes we'll stand and we'll let you know exactly where we stand on this issue.

We've heard a lot of gouging and gas prices, especially from northern Ontarians, but I want to tell you that eastern Ontario is suffering as well. In Ottawa East, you can drive down Montreal Road and you could have the very same prices, and they're in the 62s and 63s. I think it's very unfair. I think this government has an advantage. I know that when Mr Harris was sitting on this side of the House he was always complaining about gas prices, not only in northern Ontario but right across the province of Ontario. Now he's accusing the oil companies of gouging the consumers and I think he's absolutely right.

But now he's blaming the feds. He's saying the federal government should move on this and not the provincial government. The feds are pointing a finger at the provinces and the provinces are pointing the finger at the feds. I think we should resolve this. Ontario, being the leader it is, should take the lead role and do something about it. Through the Constitution, they can regulate prices in the province of Ontario.


This government has a golden opportunity, not only today to please the by-election voters, but has a major role to play in controlling oil companies. After all, it's fine to have their support -- they always support the Tory government -- but the Tory government has a responsibility to tell oil companies that enough is enough. We are reasonable people in the province of Ontario. You're trying to balance your budget. You've promised no tax increases, and yet gas prices in the province are continually climbing.

Mrs Sandra Pupatello (Windsor-Sandwich): What about user fees?

Mr Grandmaître: And user fees. I think it's a user fee. You use your car and it becomes a user fee. You don't believe in user fees, you don't believe in tax increases.

Mrs Pupatello: That's what they said.

Mr Grandmaître: Exactly. That's what you're saying. I think you have a golden opportunity to stand today and say: "We're going to do something. We're going to work with the federal government and lower the gas prices in the province and satisfy our consumers." After all, you don't want to appoint an Ombudsman to fight for consumers in the province, so now it's your opportunity to do something and do it right and protect consumers, not only in northern Ontario but right across the province of Ontario.

Mrs Pupatello: I am pleased to join in this debate. I find it interesting, in terms of timing, that the government has selected today of all days to discuss the resolution. We've been talking about road safety issues. As members of the opposite party have indicated, there is significant concern about roads, the prices you pay, consumer concerns about roads. We have the perfect example today, where the member for Essex-Kent talked about what we were going to do with bus safety.

Here we were in the House today during question period asking, "Why won't you at least call a bill to committee?" We already brought this bill forward in private members' hour and it was passed. I believe it was passed unanimously by all members of the House. We had a golden opportunity to do very much to improve road safety when students are going back to school, when those young children are back on school buses and heading back to school and back home again.

We had an incident in Windsor where we had a CBC journalist with a camera rolling who stopped and watched the children coming on and off buses yesterday. What happened when that camera was rolling was that the cars were wheeling right by the bus, even though it had the stop signs out and all the lights flashing. Obviously, the bill the minister wants to present in terms of road safety isn't sufficient. We have the perfect example in my home town. It's not working.

The member for Essex-Kent since his election has been begging the government to do something right away, offering up the bill. The bill was passed by members in this very House. In fact, you were saying all the right words, that you wanted this safety measure and you wanted it quickly.

You'll recall that the member for Windsor-Walkerville, our transportation critic, came forward with truck safety measures because of those flying wheels that were actually killing people. We begged the government: "Here's the information. We did your homework for you. Here are regulations you can bring in. Here's a bill you can pass to make the roads safer." We begged you to do it right away.

The government waited and waited again, and then they came out with a big fancy photo op, saying that here it was. Well, we continued our conversations with the families to see what was happening and what kind of contact they were getting from government. In fact, they weren't hearing anything at all, and even they realized the Minister of Transportation was doing all this as a photo op. You wanted all the big headlines as if you were really doing something, but in the end you didn't want to do it. All those people who pay all those big prices to go to your fancy fund-raisers were talking to the minister on the side, saying, "You know, this really isn't very good."

We had members of our caucus coming forward with actual detail that members of this House could bring into law and in the end you did nothing about it.

All of a sudden the consumers are at the gas station recognizing that the price is going up. Our member from St Catharines was on this the first day it was happening, after that first long weekend. He stood and begged, asked the Minister of Economic Development, "What are you doing about this?" That minister of this same government stood in the House and said: "There's nothing wrong with this. As a matter of fact, we can't be regulating gas companies."

That was your Minister of Economic Development. Is he not part of the same cabinet? Does he not sit at the same table? While Premier Harris is out talking to the press and getting all the stories about, "Boy, he doesn't like the gas gouging," you've got this minister at the cabinet table, and what was he saying? Our member from St Catharines told us that he said: "This is fair. Don't be doing this to companies. It's not a Conservative government position to get involved in regulating an industry."

We've had lots and lots of examples of that, and this is just another. We know that the Minister of Economic Development usually speaks off the top. We asked him what he was doing about youth employment one day, and he stood up on his feet and he said, "We're going to freeze that wage for young people." That was the kind of response we got from the Minister of Economic Development.

Within two days of the minister being on his feet in the House saying they were going to do absolutely nothing about gas prices for consumers because it wasn't the government role to do anything -- yet the stories continued and the consumers became more and more outraged. The headlines were there, and all of a sudden they realized what a golden opportunity they have.

The Speaker: Member for Windsor-Sandwich, I'm sorry to interrupt. If you could stop the clock for her time, I'd appreciate it.

I'd just like to inform the House that the Lieutenant Governor is waiting. I'm at the call of the House. It is the Lieutenant Governor, and I'm just seeking direction from the House. There's now five minutes for royal assent.

Hon David Johnson: Obviously, the third party and the government are prepared to vote on the issue at this point and call Her Honour in.

The Speaker: What I'm saying is, is this an appropriate time that we can adjourn the debate?

Hon David Johnson: If the opposition is not finished, then yes, I would suggest that course of action. I don't know if they're finished or not.

Mr Wildman: We have no further speakers. We would like to vote.

Mr Bradley: Mr Speaker, we're prepared to vote after we have our speakers who wish to speak on this issue this evening. We'd be happy to accommodate the government by voting on this later this evening after we have our speakers who are on this evening.

The Speaker: Then the debate is adjourned, as I see.

Hon David Johnson: That means that the opposition is not prepared to deal with this item yet, in which case I would suggest that the debate be adjourned and, Mr Speaker, indicate to you that Her Honour awaits royal assent to certain bills.

Her Honour the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario entered the chamber of the Legislative Assembly and took her seat upon the throne.


The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): May it please Your Honour, we, Her Majesty's most dutiful and faithful subjects of the Legislative Assembly of the Province of Ontario in session assembled, approach Your Honour with sentiments of unfeigned devotion and loyalty to Her Majesty's person and government, and humbly beg to present for Your Honour's acceptance a bill entitled An Act to authorize payment of certain amounts for the Public Service for the fiscal year ending March 31, 1997.

Clerk of the House (Mr Claude L. DesRosiers): Her Honour the Lieutenant Governor doth thank Her Majesty's dutiful and loyal subjects, accept their benevolence and assent to this bill in Her Majesty's name.

Son honneur la lieutenante-gouverneure remercie les bons et loyaux sujets de Sa Majesté, accepte leur bienveillance et sanctionne ce projet de loi au nom de Sa Majesté.

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

The House adjourned at 1804.

Evening sitting reported in volume B.