L233 - Mon 22 Sep 1997 / Lun 22 Sep 1997
The House met at 1332.
ROYAL CANADIAN LEGION
Mr Pat Hoy (Essex-Kent): Yesterday in my home town of Merlin, I had the opportunity to join in the annual drumhead service, which is held across the country to celebrate the beginning of Legion Week, which runs through to September 27.
Legions are a focal point in our communities across this country for the spirit of fellowship and goodwill which personifies their membership. As Canadians, it is important for us to give solemn remembrance to past Canadians who fought and died to preserve the freedom of this country. Legion activities help us to remember so that the sacrifices of so many will not be in vain.
The valuable work done by the Legion in local communities, in every hamlet, town and city in Canada, makes it the largest service club in the country, operating in almost 2,000 communities and donating an estimated $30 million to benefit individual communities. Legion members also contribute thousands of hours of volunteer service. Legion members contribute to Scouts Canada, student bursaries and awards, visitations to hospitalized veterans, and community and youth projects too numerous to mention.
The Royal Canadian Legion enjoys an outstanding record of community service, legislative progressiveness and national consciousness-raising. I am sure the entire Legislature will join me in recognizing Legion Week and in offering thanks to Legion members for their sense of commitment and dedication.
FAMILY RESPONSIBILITY OFFICE
Mr Wayne Lessard (Windsor-Riverside): After my nomination in April of this year, I organized a meeting of individuals who were having problems with the family support plan. There were about 30 families in attendance. All of them had accounts that were in arrears.
I've checked on those cases and I can report that almost all of those accounts are still in arrears, their regular payments are late, and these families are experiencing a great deal of financial difficulty. These families depend on this money. The money is owed to them. It helps them provide housing for their children and food and clothing.
They tell us that it's next to impossible for them to speak to anyone at the central office. When they correspond in writing, there's never any response from anyone at the plan office. Up until August 15 of this year, we had a direct line that case workers could call, but since August 18 there has been no response to any of those calls. The line goes directly to voice mail, so there isn't anyone that can be contacted at that office.
The family support plan has been renamed the Family Responsibility Office. The family support plan was put in place to support families in their efforts to receive court-ordered payments, but it appears, with this new name, that families are now being told that no one is responsible.
NIAGARA GRAPE AND WINE FESTIVAL
Mr Tom Froese (St Catharines-Brock): I want to take this opportunity to thank the Premier, Ministers Tsubouchi and Villeneuve and my Niagara caucus colleagues for visiting my riding last Friday, September 19. They took part in the celebrity kickoff breakfast for the Niagara Grape and Wine Festival at Market Square in downtown St Catharines. After the breakfast, they visited Chateau des Charmes Wines in Niagara-on-the-Lake, where they met with Dr Paul M. Bosc, president of Chateau des Charmes, and Ontario Wine Council members.
There, the Premier helped plant a transgenic grapevine, a stress-resistant vinifera vine that will revolutionize the grape and wine industry, as it can withstand up to minus 25 degrees Celsius. This scientific breakthrough is very important to all the wine-producing regions of Ontario because the industry at present accounts for more than $280 million annually in sales, and directly employs about 1,400 people. Just imagine the positive impact this stress-resistant grapevine can have on those wine sales and job creation prospects.
I want to thank everyone involved in the Grape and Wine Festival kickoff and encourage all Ontarians to visit the Niagara region over the next couple of weeks. Again, on behalf of my constituents, my thanks go to the Premier and to Ministers Tsubouchi and Villeneuve for their recognition and support.
EDUCATION IMPROVEMENT COMMISSION
Mr Michael A. Brown (Algoma-Manitoulin): It's a sham. I rise today to again appeal to Mike Harris to rein in Dave Cooke and his commissars.
Last summer, Dave Cooke and his accomplices arrogantly dismissed the democratically elected chair of the Sudbury public education commission. The chair, Louis Bourcier, who is also the chair of the Espanola public board, was summarily dismissed, a blatant disregard of local democracy.
Now I have a letter from the North Shore Board of Education, signed by Robert Whitehead, the chair. He says in part:
"I do...feel it necessary to share my concerns with you. I must also point out that I am not the only one with these concerns. Trustees from many small boards have shared this perception with me. The role of the individual trustee in small communities, especially in northern Ontario, has become irrelevant, if not redundant.
"This may be the government's objective," Mr Whitehead says.
"...It would appear that unless the Education Improvement Commission support majority recommendations of local education improvement committees, that the process becomes a sham, especially when applied to restructuring.
"If the process is a sham," he says, "then those communities outside these larger dominant cities should be informed, especially in northern Ontario, where because of distances, meetings and travel are so costly."
Mr Rosario Marchese (Fort York): As a former educator, I want to make some comments on matters as they relate to education. I have to tell you, ever since M. Snobelen has perpetrated a crisis in the education system, people like me have been very worried, educators across the province have been very worried, and teachers particularly, and parents, in the area of Peel have been very worried about what M. Snobelen, the Minister of Education and Training, is doing to teachers, children and the parents worried about the educational system.
We know that these folks are Tory mercenaries dedicated to cutting taxes for their rich friends. They're mercenaries. This is all about giving money away to those who don't need it, and as a result of that, they have to take money from the educational system. This is what this agenda on education is all about.
Does anybody think they have spent adequate time reflecting on educational changes that are going to improve the educational system? Absolutely not. These changes all have to do with taking money out of our school systems and that's what this is all about.
He uses reform as an excuse to bleed money from our Ontario system. These are agents of deception, and the public watching should know this. I urge the teachers who are here and watching to fight this government on the changes that are about to be announced.
COURTICE COMMUNITY COMPLEX
Mr John O'Toole (Durham East): It's a real pleasure to see the new pages and their fresh faces here today.
I have some good news to share from my riding of Durham East, which I am very pleased to share with the members of the House today.
An official ceremony was held September 13, 1997, to mark the opening of the new Courtice Community Complex. The $700,000 project was completed under the Canadian-Ontario infrastructure works program, with each partner -- federal, provincial and municipal -- contributing one third to the total cost. The funds were spent on the provision of a leisure pool, fitness centre, community hall and a brand-new library.
This project is an excellent investment in people, in community and in our future. The Canadian-Ontario infrastructure program is not about bricks and mortar; it's all about improving people's lives.
I wish to thank all the community for their contribution and congratulate Minister Marilyn Mushinski, who opened the official ceremonies; Stephanie Creighton, chair of the library board; Mayor Diane Hamre; Ian Smith, campaign chair of the Courtice Community Complex; Brad Greentree and all the hard-working volunteers; and, more important, the chief librarian of the area, Cynthia Mearns, for her hard work and commitment to bring services to the people in my riding of Durham East.
Mrs Sandra Pupatello (Windsor-Sandwich): As the House is aware, we have been chasing the Minister of Health and asking him repeatedly to release funding to Windsor-area hospitals. The response to that has been a cut, over two years, of $28 million, this at the same time as our hospitals are forced to spend over $6 million each on restructuring costs over the last two years, none of which has been rebated by the ministry.
What we found out in Windsor is that restructuring is a very costly process. I suggest to all members of this House that you will be finding out this same thing. As they are being forced to close and to merge, it is indeed an expensive process.
Because our hospitals have had to spend over $6 million each without being reimbursed by the ministry, as they should be, and as in only this last budget has money for restructuring costs been added, we unfortunately have lost hospital services before our community was prepared to accept those services in other ways.
Today's newspaper: "Mom Dies After Missed ER Diagnosis." This in a Windsor hospital leads many Windsorites to ask questions: Is this because the Minister of Health has once again failed the Windsor community, when indeed he should have come forward with funding that we identified was requested, namely, $110 million which has yet to arrive at Windsor's doorstep?
Again I ask the Minister of Health to come forward immediately.
NORTH BAY DAYS OF ACTION
Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-Woodbine): Today marks the official kickoff of the North Bay Days of Action, and this next week promises to see many activities, many people working hard together to bring home a political point to the Premier of this province.
As I reported last week, Phil White, the owner of a North Bay deli, is honouring the protest with a special sandwich named for North Bay's MPP, Mike Harris, called the Sink Harris Sub. Another speciality on his menu is the Great Golden Banana, a frozen banana dipped in chocolate and nuts, "much like our MPP," says White.
As the activities begin, there are ordinary people bringing forth their points of view of why they are participating. For example, Trevor Knight from North Bay, a support worker at a group home for five developmentally handicapped people which was closed as a result of the Harris government cuts, says: "The Bay Days provide everyday people with an opportunity to stand up and have a voice. I will be joining thousands of people to show the Premier that by not caring or listening, his political days are numbered and we're taking back our Ontario."
Diane Gallupe from Callander says: "I'm participating in the Days of Action because I'm tired of seeing the social network that my parents and grandparents worked very hard for slip away."
People are joining together. The Days of Action are launched today. There will be activities all through this week. We invite people from across Ontario to join with us in making the political statement to Harris: "This is our Ontario. We're going to take it back."
ROBERT "JACK" HARRIS
Mr Jim Brown (Scarborough West): I rise today in this Legislature to honour the memory of a former member of this Legislature who represented Beaches-Woodbine.
Major Robert John Harris was born September 16, 1917, in Toronto. He passed away on June 12 of this year in Toronto East General Hospital. The hospital was founded by his father, Joseph Henry Harris, in 1929.
Jack Harris was an MPP in the Beaches from 1962 to 1967. In that time he served as chief government whip. He made several noteworthy contributions to this country and province and to the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party.
He was a veteran of the Second World War. He entered the war as a lieutenant captain of the 48th Highlanders regiment, and after five years of wartime service in Italy, France, Holland and Germany, Mr Harris returned home wearing the rank of major.
He was elected to the Legislature in a by-election in 1961. After only one year in office, he returned to the polls in 1963 for a general election which he also claimed. He also served as vice-chair of the Ontario Liquor Control Board.
His service to the community was commendable. He was a director on the board of governors of Toronto East General Hospital. He was a member of the board of the Toronto East Young Men's Christian Association. He was a member of Acacia Lodge, the Royal Canadian Legion and the Scarborough Golf and Country Club.
He and his wife of 49 years, Mary, were both active members of St Aidan's and St Saviour's Anglican churches. His funeral was held at St Saviour's Anglican Church on June 14. A capacity crowd filled the church to pay tribute to a beloved member of the community. A piper from the 48th Highlanders played the lament.
Mr Harris is survived by two children, Jodie and David. He was predeceased by his son William.
He will be remembered well in East Toronto for his countless contributions to the community, and I'm honoured to recognize him in the House today.
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS
CITY OF YORK ACT, 1997
Mr Colle moved first reading of the following bill:
Bill Pr90, An Act respecting the City of York.
The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.
EDUCATION QUALITY IMPROVEMENT ACT, 1997 / LOI DE 1997 SUR L'AMÉLIORATION DE LA QUALITÉ DE L'ÉDUCATION
Mr Snobelen moved first reading of the following bill:
Bill 160, An Act to reform the education system, protect classroom funding, and enhance accountability, and make other improvements consistent with the Government's education quality agenda, including improved student achievement and regulated class size / Projet de loi 160, Loi visant à réformer le système scolaire, à protéger le financement des classes, à accroître l'obligation de rendre compte et à apporter d'autres améliorations compatibles avec la politique du gouvernement en matière de qualité de l'éducation, y compris l'amélioration du rendement des élèves et la réglementation de l'effectif des classes.
The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry?
All those in favour, please say "aye."
All those opposed, please say "nay."
In my opinion, the ayes have it.
Call in the members. This will be a five-minute bell.
The division bells rang from 1349 to 1354.
The Speaker: All those in favour please rise one at a time to be recognized by the Clerk.
Baird, John R.
Ford, Douglas B.
Harris, Michael D.
Jordan, W. Leo
Ouellette, Jerry J.
Parker, John L.
Runciman, Robert W.
Sterling, Norman W.
Stewart, R. Gary
Tsubouchi, David H.
Young, Terence H.
The Speaker: All those opposed please rise one at a time to be recognized by the Clerk.
Bradley, James J.
Brown, Michael A.
Cleary, John C.
Conway, Sean G.
Morin, Gilles E.
Clerk of the House (Mr Claude L. DesRosiers): The ayes are 55; the nays are 37.
The Speaker: I declare the motion carried.
Hon David Johnson (Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet, Government House Leader): I move that, pursuant to standing order 9(c), the House shall meet from 6:30 pm to 9:30 pm on Tuesday, September 23, 1997, and Wednesday, September 24, 1997, for the purpose of considering government business.
The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry?
All those in favour, please say "aye."
All those opposed, please say "nay."
In my opinion, the ayes have it.
I declare the motion carried.
STATEMENTS BY THE MINISTRY AND RESPONSES
Hon John Snobelen (Minister of Education and Training): This government is committed to the goal of having the highest student achievement in Canada and providing that education in the most cost-effective way.
Ontario has not kept pace with the other provinces or countries. The Globe and Mail recently described Ontario as the caboose at the end of the education train. We're not satisfied with that position. We're working to provide our students with a strong grasp of the skills they'll need to have successful careers in today's competitive economy.
Last year, we announced our intention to move Ontario students to the head of the class. We've been meeting that commitment by introducing a clear, challenging, consistent province-wide curriculum, regular province-wide testing and a standard report card. These initiatives will ensure that students have the skills to move ahead and that parents can clearly understand how their child is progressing. We're building a new four-year secondary school program which is streamed and has a more rigorous curriculum. We have passed legislation that will reduce the number of politicians and bureaucrats and will remove waste and duplication.
Now we're taking the next step in our comprehensive plan for education. A few minutes ago, I introduced the Education Quality Improvement Act. The act is the result of months of hard work. I want to recognize the efforts of the many people who have contributed to this bill. First, the contribution of the Education Improvement Commission. Their recent report, The Road Ahead, provides insight into the importance of limiting class size and raising the level of student achievement.
Currently, school boards and unions often make agreements that increase class sizes. Parents are concerned that large classes affect their child's ability to learn. We share that concern. Under our proposals, boards would no longer be able to increase class sizes.
In their report, the EIC recommended that students would benefit from more instructional time in the school year. It makes no sense to me that Ontario students receive fewer hours of instruction than students in Switzerland, Jordan and Slovenia. We recognize that student achievement goes up when students spend more time with their teachers. The EIC indicated that although elementary teachers spend the same average number of hours in the classroom as teachers in other provinces, high school teachers do not. We believe high school teachers should be able to spend more time with their students. If this bill is passed, it would allow the government to set standards for the amount of time teachers spend in the classroom.
In addition to the EIC, I also want to recognize the fruitful discussions that we've had with parents, teachers and school boards. Their positive suggestions have helped ensure the introduction of good, effective legislation.
This bill would help to ensure a smooth transition to new school boards by improving the governance of schools, increasing parental involvement and simplifying the financing of the education system.
The bill proposes that advisory school councils would be established in every school. This would increase the opportunities for parents in the community to become more involved in the education of their children. School councils would advise principals on student discipline, student safety and on local priorities.
The bill proposes that the province would be responsible for setting all education property tax rates. We promised to cut residential education property taxes in half. Today I'm pleased to announce that we're keeping that promise. This legislation would introduce a province-wide, uniform residential education tax rate beginning in 1998. Residential education tax revenues would be cut from $5 billion to $2.5 billion and the rate would be frozen.
In this act, along with the two fair municipal finance acts, the government would make property taxes fairer and more consistent across the province. With these changes, owners of residential properties with the same assessed value would pay the same education property tax, no matter where that property is.
A uniform rate structure for residential property taxes is fair and is consistent with this government's plan to ensure that students across the province have equal access to high-quality education. It makes sense to pay tax at the same rate for a common service that benefits us all. This approach would solve the problem of spiralling education taxes. School boards would no longer need to be in the taxing business.
As I announced last Friday, the bill would not limit free collective bargaining. During the transition and after, unions and school boards will bargain freely under the provisions of the Labour Relations Act. Negotiations for a first collective agreement would begin on January 1. Existing terms would continue during the new negotiations.
The bill would allow us to set standards for quality. These standards would include the amount of instructional time, length of the school year and enhancing student access to professionals with the special expertise that they need. These are educational standards that should not be used as a bargaining chip.
We know that the best options are those in which teachers, school boards and the government work together. We've listened to their input. We've found flexibility in meeting our objectives without compromising any of them and we will work together to build a new, better, more accountable education system.
This bill is a significant step forward for our children.
Mrs Lyn McLeod (Fort William): What a hypocritical piece of verbiage. This has nothing to do --
The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Order. Order, member for Scarborough East. I ask the member to withdraw.
Mrs McLeod: I withdraw, but I tell you that none of this, none of it, is about educational reform and it certainly has nothing to do with "education quality improvement," to quote the name of the act. This is all about money and control and about nothing else. It is about this government and the Minister of Education wanting to control the purse-strings and make all the rules and then dump all the responsibility on to local school boards to make it work, and all the blame on to teachers and school trustees when it won't work.
It cannot work. It cannot work for students because this government has already squeezed the educational budget and Mike Harris needs even more money, at least another $1 billion for his tax cut. Boards and teachers are going to be forced to do battle to figure out how to make the minister's new rules work, when the minister has no intention of providing enough money to give this a fair chance.
We have just had a new omnibus bill for education tabled today. We cannot know yet all the details of what the minister is doing in this bill. I do know that in his statement, because this bill is at least something about collective bargaining for teachers, there is no mention that he is going to repeal Bill 100, the bill that currently governs teachers' bargaining rights. With the repeal of Bill 100 he removes the Education Relations Commission, the sole body which has ensured that students' jeopardy in the event of a strike is monitored. He's taking away all protection for students in the collective bargaining situation.
It is clear that this government is trying to avoid a province-wide fight, which the government has realized it can't win. I don't know why they wanted to pick that fight in the first place, because Mike Harris didn't need to fight at a provincial level. He can leave all the fighting to the local level and just wash his hands of the responsibility of it. That's what the Minister of Education wants to do with this bill today.
It's going to be a little tougher in education to wash their hands of responsibility, because they are going to control all of the dollars, and now they want to control class size so that they can say, "We've limited class size." The problem is they won't give the boards enough money to reduce class sizes. They're going to expect the boards to find the money by cutting somewhere else. The minister even suggests that boards and teachers have reached "agreements that increase class size" in the past. He could have taken time to get the grammar right, but I'll let that go. I do want to say that the only situations in which I have ever seen agreements reached between boards and teachers that increase class size is when they are forced to do it by government cuts and that's the only way they can save junior kindergarten or keep class sizes in grades 1 and 2 lower.
Now the boards are going to be forced to cut preparation time and see extracurriculars disappear and maybe 6,000 to 10,000 teachers' jobs so that the Minister of Education can cut another half a billion dollars in prep time. They're going to be forced to contract out custodial and secretarial services in the hopes that part-time and temporary help will save dollars. They're going to be forced to replace guidance teachers and technology teachers and teacher-librarians and music and art and phys ed teachers with non-teachers. They'll be forced to do all this and much more because this government will set class sizes but they will not fund them.
The government may be stepping back from provincial fights, but it is creating conditions for bitter, divisive battles at the local level, battles between teachers and trustees and between parents and trustees, battles which cannot achieve anything but to hurt kids, because this province is putting all the responsibility on local boards and it is taking away all the ability to find local solutions that work for students.
The government is indeed taking over taxing property for education. They don't know yet how it's going to be done; that's one of those details for the future, like funding formulas, which we will not see for at least two months, the minister says.
I think Ottawa and Metropolitan Toronto should not take much assurance from the statement that taxes are going to stay in the community, because of course the province is going to tax homes 50% less for education; they've dumped all the other services on the property tax base. But it is very unlikely that the province is going to give Toronto and Ottawa back any more dollars for education, so the students in those areas are still going to lose out by millions and millions of dollars.
This minister continues to give a distorted picture of what happens in schools. He notes that class sizes are larger than the number of teachers would indicate. How naïve can he pretend to be? He knows where those teachers are: They're in kindergarten classes and in grade 1 and 2 classes, where you have fewer students than you do in other classes; they're in technology shops and labs, supervising smaller numbers of students for safety reasons; they're in special education classes. That's where the supposedly missing classroom teachers are, and when John Snobelen takes control, they will undoubtedly disappear.
The commission said one thing that this minister has refused to answer to, and that is, "Put money back into education." Until he does that --
The Speaker: Thank you.
Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): It's interesting that this minister cannot ever speak about anything related to education without bad-mouthing the system. To describe Ontario's education system as "the caboose at the end of the education train" indicates the whole attitude of this minister, who has attempted to create a crisis and undermine the confidence the people of Ontario have in the education system ever since he was appointed to this portfolio.
The fact is that this government intends to take $1 billion more, over and above what it has already cut out of classroom education, despite the promise the Tories made in the last provincial election. His euphemism, "the most cost-effective way," is simply a way of the minister saying he intends to take another $1 billion out of education. However he tries to dress it up, he cannot ignore the fact that when he says school boards in this province are going to have the same sort of funding, are going to have the same sort of service and the same system of taxation for that common service across Ontario, what he's talking about is a race to the bottom in terms of quality of education in Ontario for the students of this province.
The minister tries to say he is not limiting free collective bargaining. In other words, he is saying that because he said he was going to withdraw the teachers' right to strike that they've had for over 20 years in this province, and because he was going to take principals and vice-principals out of the bargaining unit and because he was going to end the situation where members of the teaching profession must be members of the federations in order to teach, somehow he has not affected free collective bargaining.
Here's news for you, Minister: Teachers have been bargaining on behalf of the students as well as themselves for 20 years in this province and they intend to continue to do so. You cannot take the right to determine class size, to determine pupil-teacher ratio away from free collective bargaining and argue that you haven't affected free collective bargaining. You're limiting free collective bargaining through this legislation.
The minister tries to ignore the fact that teachers don't just negotiate their working conditions; they negotiate the educational conditions for the students in their classrooms. The teachers are concerned about the quality of education as it relates to the kids in their classrooms. The teachers know that a government that is determined to take $1 billion out of education is not interested in the quality of education for students in the classrooms of Ontario. The fact this government has said it can do that without affecting quality education indicates either the minister doesn't understand how education funding works in Ontario or he doesn't care. I suspect it's the latter of the two.
The minister cannot say he will make regulations with regard to the length of the school year, the length of instructional time and at the same time say he's not affecting free collective bargaining. The fact is that teachers are determined to protect their right to negotiate not only on behalf of themselves, but on behalf of the quality of education and their students in Ontario.
There is another piece of legislation before this House that is going to return the right of cottagers in cottage country to vote for school boards. After seeing this legislation, I don't understand why it makes any difference who gets to vote for school boards in this province, because school boards are completely emasculated by this legislation. On the one hand, the government is taking the money away from the school boards and, on the other hand, they are going to regulate class size. The fact is, the school boards are not going to be able to make that circle square. You can't take the money out and at the same time protect class size. Class sizes have increased in the past when money has been taken out of education. If you take a billion dollars out and at the same time make a regulation on class size, all it is is an attack on the teachers and on the students of this province.
The government can't have it both ways. Either they're interested in protecting the quality of education, they're interested in local autonomy and local decision-making by school boards or they're interested in taking the money out. The bottom line with regard to all the moves by this government is that they are interested in taking as many tax dollars as possible out of education; they are not interested in protecting the quality of education or free collective bargaining in this province.
The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): I'd like to take the time to introduce in the Speaker's gallery Mr Peter Nagle, member of Parliament for Auburn, Sydney, New South Wales. Welcome.
The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): I wish to welcome the 12th group of pages to serve in this 36th Parliament:
Alexandra Ainley from Simcoe West; Cecilia Bastedo from Muskoka-Georgian Bay; Robert Bevilacqua from York Centre; Meghan Brooks from Wentworth North; Mary Jeanette Burch from Bruce; Matthew Chomyn from Etobicoke-Humber; Katherine Colucci from Mississauga South; Biko Franklin, Wilson Heights; Bradley Griffin, Hamilton West; Lee Ann Harris, York South; Christian Kimmerer, Oshawa; Nicole Lamothe, Windsor-Sandwich; Catherine MacDonald, Kingston and The Islands; Philip MacDonald, London North; Michael McLellan, Wellington; Brian Murnaghan, Willowdale; Daniel Olma, Dufferin-Peel; Krista Renaud, Grey-Owen Sound; Sarah Rice-Bredin, Port Arthur; Lisa Ventola, Halton Centre.
The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): We have a deferred vote on a motion for changes to the membership of the standing committees; a five-minute bell.
The division bells rang from 1418 to 1423.
The Speaker: For the record, as you are seated, it's Michael McLellan from Wellington. I have a typo here, so I mispronounced it. Thank you. And if you believe there's a typo --
All those in favour, please rise one at a time and be recognized by the Clerk.
Baird, John R.
Eves, Ernie L.
Ford, Douglas B.
Guzzo, Garry J.
Harris, Michael D.
Jordan, W. Leo
McLean, Allan K.
Ouellette, Jerry J.
Parker, John L.
Runciman, Robert W.
Sterling, Norman W.
Stewart, R. Gary
Tsubouchi, David H.
Young, Terence H.
The Speaker: All those opposed, please rise one at a time and be recognized by the Clerk.
Bradley, James J.
Brown, Michael A.
Cleary, John C.
Morin, Gilles E.
Clerk of the House (Mr Claude L. DesRosiers): The ayes are 62; the nays are 38.
The Speaker: I declare the motion carried.
Mr Richard Patten (Ottawa Centre): On a point of privilege, Mr Speaker: You will know with the rule changes that it is required that members file a written note to the Speaker at least one hour prior to when this may be brought up. I have done so. In the interests of time, I would like to read the body of my point of privilege. It's pursuant to standing order 26(c).
I believe that the time allocation motion on Bill 136 is compromising my privileges as a member of this assembly, specifically the provisions related to public hearings. According to the time allocation motion, I have only one hour of the next sessional day between the end of public hearings on Bill 136 at 5 pm, Friday, September 26, and the time required to file amendments to the legislation with the committee clerk at 10 am, Monday, September 29, to fully consider the values of the presentations at the hearings, give weight to possible amendments, have amendments drafted in legal form.
While the standing orders are silent on the specific allocation of preparation time for clause-by-clause, I submit to you that in the case of controversial and complex legislation such as Bill 136, in the absence of all-party agreement, the practice, the precedent, the usage and the custom has been to allow for a reasonable period of preparation time for the filing and consideration of amendments in committee.
I respectfully request that you rule on my point of privilege and find that the time allocation motion on Bill 136 indeed infringes, in practice, in precedent, in usage and in custom, on my privilege as a member of this assembly in being able to carry out my duties.
Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): I would like to add the concerns of our caucus in the same matter. Not only is it impractical to expect that amendments can be concluded in such a short period of time, but without having the actual amendments to Bill 136, which the minister has announced are going to cause a major rewriting of the bill, how do we know what amendments we are offering to an amended bill when we haven't seen their amendments? The whole time allocation motion very much denies our rights, as members of this House in opposition, to provide effective, considered, responsible, credible opposition to the government when (a) we don't have the time to do the job and (b) we don't have the information.
If I can, I would also say that today the subcommittee meets. The hearings are supposed to start tomorrow. The advertising has not started. How does anybody even know when they're going to speak this week since there is no preparation time and, again, what is it they speak to when they make a submission when we haven't seen the government's amendments?
This is a very serious matter, Speaker, and I would urge you on behalf of both opposition parties to give it as much consideration as you can.
Hon David Johnson (Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet, Government House Leader): This is just a normal process. The time allocation motion that's been put forward --
The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Order.
Hon David Johnson: The motion put forward specifies four days of public hearings.
Mr Michael Gravelle (Port Arthur): What on?
Mr Christopherson: What on?
Hon David Johnson: On Bill 136.
The Speaker: Order. Members of the opposition, I ask you to come to order. I listened to your points of order. With respect, the government didn't heckle. I ask you to do the same.
Hon David Johnson: Clearly, many members will speak to the bill. They can speak to the amendments they wish to put forward. There is no difference in this particular committee from any other committee. There have been extensive consultations that have taken place over quite a period of time through the Ministry of Labour with various interest groups. These public hearings will be an extension of that.
All parties will be represented on this committee. They have four days, which is four days more than we had during the social contract period, I might add for the benefit of the third party. There is a weekend period between the final day of the public hearings and the clause-by-clause. There is the ability over that weekend period to consider any amendments that are coming out of the process in the clause-by-clause period, two days of clause-by-clause.
There is nothing unusual about this. Indeed, this is the kind of process this House has undertaken with many other bills and I don't think there are any particular grounds to rule this out of order.
Mr Patten: The government House leader knows full well that this is not a normal procedure. I contend that only in cases in which you had all-party agreement would you have such a short period of time in which to consider, draft and submit your amendments. When the House leader says that this is normal, that this is procedure, this is the procedure according to the new day and the new thinking of this government and their rule changes, to try to not allow members to fulfil their duties and responsibilities in the most adequate way possible. In this particular instance it does not provide an opportunity to do such.
Mr Christopherson: I will be very brief. The government House leader speaks to the issue of consultation and the fact that they had consultation. You, Speaker, and the rest of this House and the whole province know that there was absolutely no consultation with the labour movement when they brought in Bill 136 -- none whatsoever. The issue for us on privilege -- and of course we had the political debate around the time allocation and how we felt about that, but this very much is a matter of privilege, given the fact that these are not normal circumstances, and the government House leader knows that.
His minister, the member sitting right beside him, stood up last week and announced a major gutting and rewriting of Bill 136 but has still not provided the written amendments. What exactly are we expecting people to comment on next week, and how are we supposed to consider input, such as it is, at 4:59 on Friday, when from 5 o'clock until Monday morning at 10 is the only time we have to make the amendments? I would point out that that afternoon we begin debating on those amendments.
Speaker, with regard to the time allocation motion, our privileges as members have definitely been breached and we would ask you and implore you to look at the fact that the announcement last week changed the ball game significantly from any other we've ever experienced in the history of this province.
Hon David Johnson: There's no basis on which announcements of amendments that the government is prepared in a general sense to consider would affect the flow of the committee activity.
The public is invited to come and reflect upon the bill, to give their views on the bill and how the bill would work. There's no difference in this. Because certain amendments were suggested in a general context does not take away from the ability of the deputants to come and speak to the bill and to what they would like to see in the bill.
The Speaker: I want to thank the members who made their positions known, the members for Hamilton Centre, Ottawa Centre and the government House leader. I thank the member for Ottawa Centre for submitting the motion in the proper form before the House today.
Let me just say first off that this time allocation motion is by its nature a time allocation motion, meaning that certain privileges and rights that we expect under normal procedures in fact suffer. There would not be any need for a time allocation or a guillotine motion if the government at the time didn't in fact decide this is what needed to be done to push through whatever piece of legislation they were dealing with.
The argument that you're making, that you are suffering personally because of that time allocation motion, may be a very valid argument, but by its very nature that's what happens when governments introduce time allocation motions. That's what fundamentally is designed to happen. You're dealing with a bill rather more quickly, considerably quicker, than you would in any other normal way. In fact, Erskine May, in the 21st edition, speaks to it very clearly on page 408:
"Allocation of time orders," or guillotine motions
"In many sessions in order to secure the passage of particularly important and controversial legislation, governments have been confronted with the choice, unless special powers are taken, of cutting down their normal program to an undesirable extent, or of prolonging the sittings of Parliament, or else of acknowledging the impotence of the majority of the House in the face of the resistance of the minority. In such circumstances resort is had sooner or later to the most drastic method of curtailing debate known to procedure, namely, the setting of a date by which a committee must report, or the allocation of a specified number of days to the various stages of a bill and of limited amounts of time to particular portions of a bill. Orders made under this procedure are known as `allocation of time' orders, and colloquially as `guillotine' motions. They may be regarded as the extreme limit to which procedure goes in affirming the rights of the majority at the expense of the minorities of the House, and it cannot be denied that they are capable of being used in such a way as to upset the balance, generally so carefully preserved, between the claims of business and the rights of debate. But the harshness of this procedure is to some extent mitigated either by consultations between the party leaders or in the business committee in order to establish the greatest possible measure of agreement as to the most satisfactory disposal of the time available."
The bottom line is simply, yes, you're right, but time allocations are designed to do just that. I don't find that there is any privilege that's been usurped here.
Mrs Lyn McLeod (Fort William): My question is for the Minister of Education. A parent came into my constituency office on Friday afternoon with his 12-year-old daughter. He wanted her to tell me about her class at McKellar Park school. She's in a split grade 6-grade 7 class with 31 students. It's actually the smallest intermediate class in that school. They have exactly seven mathematics texts for these 31 students. The photocopying budget has been cut by 20% again this year and the teacher is buying pencils for the students out of his own pocket.
Minister, you're about to take control of both the financing of education and the setting of class sizes. Will you provide enough money to lower class sizes and provide textbooks for every student, or will you expect local school boards to cut teachers' salaries and contract out school maintenance and use non-teachers in the classrooms so they can find the money to meet your new rules?
Hon John Snobelen (Minister of Education and Training): The references that the member for Fort William makes today to a lack of classroom supplies in some cases, to large class sizes, are exactly the reason why we made a commitment some months ago to take over responsibility for the funding of education, to make sure every student in Ontario, no matter where they are, has the opportunity for a first-quality education. That's the reason we've lifted that burden from school boards and taken it on as a province. The bill I put forward today would allow us to advance on that, would allow us to make sure that we have control of class sizes for the very first time in this province. I think it's a step forward for the students of Ontario.
Mrs McLeod: I'm sure we know -- perhaps you don't, Minister -- that nothing you have done today is about educational reform or about bettering education for students. It is all about money. So I want to talk to you about money and I want to talk to you about students.
Your cuts have already forced boards to shut down junior kindergarten programs. Your cuts have already devastated adult education. Your cuts have forced cuts to special education and library services and physical education and guidance and music. Your cuts have already meant teacher layoffs and larger class sizes and fewer courses for secondary school students to choose from.
Minister, you cannot fix any of this unless you give school boards the money to fix it with. You are going to make all the rules. You are going to control all the dollars. You are going to dump all the blame for what happens on the local school board. Will you at least give back the money you have stolen from education and guarantee there will be no more cuts?
Hon Mr Snobelen: The member for Fort William will know that there has been a tradition, there has been a problem with spiralling education property taxes across the province. I don't think that's any --
Mr Gilles Pouliot (Lake Nipigon): It's all right to steal, but not to lie.
The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): The member for Lake Nipigon, you must withdraw that comment. It's out of order.
Mr Pouliot: All I said, Speaker, is that it was all right to steal, but not to lie.
The Speaker: I don't need an explanation.
Mr Pouliot: I will withdraw it.
The Speaker: Thank you very much. Minister.
Hon Mr Snobelen: I know it won't be any news to the constituents in the member's riding that there have been spiralling education costs on the property taxes. The bill we've put forward today would allow this government to take responsibility for funding. We've said we're committed to making sure that there are sufficient funds available for every student in the province of Ontario. We intend to be held to account for that promise. We will be. We have experts working with us to make sure that happens.
We just put a bill in the House that will end spiralling property taxes for education, that will end spiralling class sizes, which is the other way that education has been deteriorating in the province. It will end both of those things, and the member for Fort William just voted against its introduction. I don't understand that.
Mrs McLeod: Where education taxes have been raised, they have been raised to make up for this government's cuts and to try to protect their board's ability to meet the needs of students. Minister, you talk about equity, you talk about funding formulas that will meet the needs of students, but you're not going to show us the funding formulas for at least two months. People look at what you have done and nobody believes you when you talk about fairness for students.
The Lakehead Board of Education has looked at what it will cost to extend the school year, one of your promises. It will be an extra $274,000. They don't think you're likely going to pay for that with some new money. They've looked at your funding formula proposals for special education and they fear they are going to lose half of what they now spend to meet the needs of their special needs students. They've looked at your proposals for plant maintenance funding and they come up as much as $3 million short.
Minister, boards are looking at this and they are afraid of what you are about to do to them and to their students; teachers are afraid of what you are going to do to them and to their students; and parents are afraid of what you are going to do to their children. Will you get past meaningless words and arbitrary formulas and show us where the money is, Minister?
Hon Mr Snobelen: I can show you clearly where the money has been going in education over the course of the last decade. I think the member for Fort William should know that. I believe we've had a number of studies done in Ontario that have suggested doing what we are doing in this bill, which is having the province take responsibility for making sure the funds are there for our children in their classrooms. We will do that. In order to do that, we have sent out some expert panels who will be reporting to us very soon, who will help us set the perimeters for a first-quality education and who will help us make sure the funds are there for our students.
Unlike the member opposite and her government, we do not measure our success by how much we spend. We measure our success by how well our students are doing, and that's where the member will see the improvement.
Mr Gerard Kennedy (York South): My question is for the Premier. I'm here to talk to you about one of the people who doesn't seem to quite fit into Mike Harris's Ontario. Her name is Stella Matthews. She's 81 years old, she lives in the Cambridge area and she is being looked after by her daughter, Gail Jones, and her son-in-law, Alan Jones, who is here in the gallery watching. They provide 24-hour care. But Premier, since May they have been threatened with the loss of the little bit, the four to five hours of nursing care or homemaker care they get. They are being threatened with the loss of that, and it will happen on Thursday unless somebody in your government is accountable.
Premier, we wish for you to be accountable. I'm sending across to you a picture of Ms Matthews to show you the circumstances. She is being cared for at home in an advanced state of multiple sclerosis --
The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Question, please.
Mr Kennedy: -- with machines that clear her throat, that feed her, but the family cannot do this alone. Will you undertake today to guarantee they will get an answer from the Ministry of Health and from your government today --
The Speaker: Thank you. Premier.
Hon Michael D. Harris (Premier): I think the Minister of Health should respond directly to this.
Hon Jim Wilson (Minister of Health): I thank the honourable member for the question. I know it's a follow-up to the correspondence he sent to me earlier.
My understanding of the case is twofold. One is that the community care access centre is continuing to provide services, and there is an appeal pending before the Health Services Appeal Board. That's all I can say at this point, except that we are encouraging the community care access centre to continue to provide the services to this individual.
Mr Kennedy: Minister, you should be aware that tomorrow lawyers that you've hired for the community care access centre, private sector lawyers for your ministry, are going to go in to argue that Stella Matthews, who's 81 years old and bedridden, can't be heard at that appeal. So your staff have waited until the nth hour and they've made submissions. Mike McDonald, who's a pro bono lawyer for the family -- we don't know what would happen if this family had to hire a lawyer -- is here today. He has to go in tomorrow and argue against your ministry just for the right to be heard.
You didn't promulgate sections 72 and 73 of the Long-Term Care Act. It's a very good likelihood that this Health Services Appeal Board won't hear Stella Matthews's case tomorrow and she will lose her care on Thursday.
Minister, it is the height of irresponsibility to put a family providing this intense level of care through this kind of anxiety and stress and grief. Will you end it? Will you do something about mediation, about some other solution? Will you promise to do it today?
Hon Mr Wilson: The honourable member knows I can't comment further on this rather complicated case, that it is before the Health Services Appeal Board, which is a quasi-judicial tribunal. We have to respect that process.
Mr Kennedy: It is important for the whole province, because Stella Matthews is one of what will be many people who will no longer stay in hospitals because this government tells them to leave quicker and sicker, who have been told in rosy language that home care, all kinds of advanced care, will be available for them.
What you did was cut their care from 35 hours down to 19 hours and help create conditions that have led to the situation today where their care is going to be lost altogether. Will you at least inquire into the conditions of where home care is being cut, where this family will lose their care once the Health Services Appeal Board tells them they can't hear it tomorrow?
Minister, you're the only person they can go to. If you don't stand up today and say you'll take some responsibility, then on Thursday this family, and this gentleman here, who says he provides 24-hour care, that his wife sleeps beside his mother because they don't get enough help, that she's got sleep deprivation because they don't have enough care from the government --
The Speaker: Question, please.
Mr Kennedy: This gentleman says his mother-in-law is at risk because of the government. Will you tell him he's wrong?
Hon Mr Wilson: The government didn't take any of the decisions in this case to date. We've increased home care. The case is a little more complicated than the honourable member lets on. Let me just tell you that if the appeal isn't dealt with tomorrow, we will look at the case. Of course we'll look at the case and of course the ministry is involved.
Mr Kennedy: Why wait?
Hon Mr Wilson: "Why wait?" the honourable member says. Because I respect the quasi-judicial process. There is nothing I can do -- and you know that, Mr Kennedy -- while this is before the Health Services Appeal Board.
Mr Howard Hampton (Rainy River): I have a question to the Minister of Education. There is one question bothering everyone in this province who is concerned about education. That question is, how much more money is the Harris Conservative government going to cut from our children's education?
Minister, you've assumed complete control over education funding, and we understand that your ministry officials have been shopping around possible funding models. My question to you is this: Is it true that the funding model you are now working on would cut the education budgets of every board of education in the province except for the poorest 15? Is that the model you're looking at?
Hon John Snobelen (Minister of Education and Training): To the leader of the third party, I want to be very clear that we have made a promise, and that promise is to meet the needs of every student in the province of Ontario for a high-quality education. The reason we are addressing the funding of education in this bill that we introduced today is because we know that the funding formula that currently exists, the general legislative grant programs, makes second-class students of some of our young people in Ontario, and that's not all right with this government. That's why we are working very hard to make sure we can do that, to assure every student in Ontario a high quality of education, because every student in the province is important to us.
Mr Hampton: I asked the minister a very specific question, one that I thought it would be easy for him to answer. I didn't get an answer. What I got was a dance, so let me try again.
Minister, you've said over and over again that you intend to cut a further $1 billion from our children's education in this province. You've said it on several occasions; it's been reported on several occasions. The legislation being introduced today will give you the tools to make those cuts. It's clear that's what it's all about.
The question is, when are you going to tell people how much more money you're going to take from their children's education? When are you going to release your funding model? Answer my question. Is it true that you're working on a model that will cut every board except for the poorest 15?
Hon Mr Snobelen: The leader of the third party is wrong. We have made a very clear public promise. I'll say it again: We'll meet the education needs of every student in Ontario. We'll make sure they get a high quality of education. We'll make sure they don't get the mediocre education that your government left them. We'll make sure that changes.
But let me tell you this: On the funding of education, we have got the expert panels which will be reporting to me in the very near future. When the expert panels have reported, we'll go out and make sure that their recommendations work in the real world on a board-by-board, school-by-school basis. We'll make sure it's right. Then the province will assume the responsibility for education so that we can make sure every student in the province has a high quality of education.
Your speculation is just that, sir; it is speculation. We are going to let the experts tell us what it takes to make sure every student in this province has a good education.
The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Final supplementary.
Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): The minister's confidence in experts is quite scary.
The minister has said today that he intends to set regulations to limit class size, which many people in the province would welcome, but at the same time he is going to continue the cuts and take another $1 billion out of education, thus removing almost all of the flexibility for school boards, particularly because he, the minister, will be setting the mill rate and determining the taxation. Boards will no longer have any financial flexibility.
Surely the minister understands that limiting class sizes means that many school boards will need more classroom space and many will need more teachers, particularly at the elementary level. Does the minister intend to increase funding for capital construction and to hire more teachers for school boards so that the funding will be adequate to meet the needs of current and future enrolment in Ontario?
Hon Mr Snobelen: The member for Algoma is quite right when he says that the bill I've introduced today would have the effect of limiting flexibility. Flexibility in increasing property taxes, yes, it will certainly limit that; we'll put a cap on that.
It will also limit flexibility in terms of increasing school class sizes so that we can't have what happened under your government, sir, where we had a 7% increase in class sizes across the province in response to your social contract. Yes, we'll take that flexibility out so that we can't have ever-increasing class sizes, so we can't have the results like in Metro separate, where JK went from 18 to 21, grades 1 and 2 went from 23 to 25, grade 3 went from 28 to 31 and grades 4 to 8 went from 32 to 35 as a result of the negotiations.
Yes, we'll reduce that flexibility, but we'll provide lots of flexibility to get our students to the top of the class in terms of their performance.
PUBLIC SERVICE AND LABOUR RELATIONS REFORM
Mr Howard Hampton (Rainy River): I have a question to the Premier. A whole bunch of people across Ontario, both public sector workers and public sector employers, are wondering now what public sector labour law will look like since your Minister of Labour announced that she is gutting Bill 136.
Here is the situation, Premier: You brought in time allocation, which shuts off debate, the hearings start tomorrow, but no one has seen the amendments, so no one now knows what is in Bill 136. This is a very strange way to deal with important legislation, legislation that is critical to our public services.
Premier, don't you think that public sector workers and public sector employers and the people of Ontario deserve to see what is in your public sector labour law before they go to public hearings and try to talk about it?
Hon Michael D. Harris (Premier): I know the Minister of Labour can respond.
Hon Elizabeth Witmer (Minister of Labour): As you know, we have been engaged in consultations now throughout the course of the summer and we announced changes on Thursday last week which reflected the fact that we had listened and consulted and we were prepared to make the changes and announce them at this time. In the course of the weekend we have continued to meet with all the major stakeholders and we have shared with them the details. In fact, those meetings are continuing now. In some cases we will be meeting with those stakeholders a second time in order that they understand the details. All of it has been prepared and the amendments will be ready next week. We have all this week for the people in Ontario to respond to the changes we've made.
Mr Hampton: This is the most absurd situation I have ever seen in the 10 years I've been around this Legislature. The government brings in time allocation --
Mr Hampton: Premier, if you want to answer the questions, you can, all right?
The government brings in time allocation, shuts off debate, then the minister stands up and says, "We're going to gut the bill." Now hospital executives, hospital boards, don't know what the labour law is going to be for the public sector. Municipalities don't know what the labour law is going to be for the public sector. Workers don't know what it's going to be. Unions don't know what it's going to be. The minister says there are amendments but she won't show them to anyone. It's as if she's got to hide them away.
Minister, this is absurd. If you want people to be able to contribute to Ontario, show them your amendments so people can see what the proposed law is going to be and then hold the public hearings. At least have that much respect for democracy.
Hon Mrs Witmer: I think the member is somewhat in error when he comments about the amendments. We indicated last week that we are prepared to make changes to the legislation. Tomorrow we will publicly share again with the members of the committee the details of those changes, just as we're doing as we meet now with AMO, with the hospital association, with the OFL, with the police. In fact, we have already indicated to you, unlike what you used to do, the direction we're headed and we are giving people an opportunity to respond to the changes we're making. They have all week.
The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Final supplementary.
Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): Minister, you can appreciate how we might feel about what you say in this place and what you do, given what you did to your promise about travelling around the province and listening to everyone who deserved to be heard.
The majority on the subcommittee of the resources development committee are not buying what you're saying either. They know there is a need to hear the amendments before we have any kind of public input. That committee recommendation goes to the full committee today. Since it's your government backbenchers who form the majority on the committee, will you stand today and urge those government backbenchers to support the subcommittee's recommendation that you indeed table those amendments before the hearings to try to save some shred of credibility, of whatever is left of your reputation in this matter?
Hon Mrs Witmer: I would indicate to you that unlike your government, which had not one day of public hearings on the social contract and which passed the social contract in about three weeks, we have been consulting since July on the bill. In fact, we have even moved forward and indicated to you the changes we're prepared to make and you now have an opportunity to respond to the changes we're proposing.
The Speaker: Order.
Hon Mrs Witmer: I would just conclude by indicating that I know it's a surprise to the NDP that we have done exactly as we said we would do, and that was to listen, to consult and then to bring forward changes.
Mr Christopherson: You broke your promise. You couldn't tell the truth if your life depended on it.
The Speaker: Member for Hamilton Centre, I ask that you withdraw that comment. That's unparliamentary.
Mr Christopherson: Speaker, she did not tell the truth.
The Speaker: I give you one more opportunity to withdraw it, member for Hamilton Centre.
Mr Christopherson: With great respect, I cannot do that.
The Speaker: I name the member for Hamilton Centre, Mr Christopherson.
Mr Christopherson was escorted from the chamber.
The Speaker: Minister?
Hon Mrs Witmer: This week there's an opportunity for public discussion on the changes we introduced last week, and tomorrow afternoon I will be sharing with the committee further detail on those changes.
VIDEO LOTTERY TERMINALS
Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): I have a question for the Premier. It has become apparent today that the report from CISO, the Criminal Intelligence Service of Ontario, is becoming increasingly public. Indeed its contents were the subject of the lead story in the Windsor Star today, which of course headlines the criminal element involved.
You have recently announced 44 permanent casinos, the majority of which will operate year-round, 24 hours a day, and which will contain up to 6,600 video lottery terminals in total, electronic slot machines that are the most alluring and most addictive form of gambling.
The criminal intelligence report states: "Legalized gambling has never replaced illegal gambling. In fact it compliments it. Experts indicate that the introduction of new legal games brings in new players, a significant number of which yield to the lure of illegal gambling activities to satisfy their interests."
Premier, in view of the contents of this report, in view of all the problems that are arising, will you agree to place a moratorium on the spread of video slot machines by keeping them out of the 44 permanent charity casinos and bars and restaurants in Ontario?
Hon Michael D. Harris (Premier): I know the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations will answer that.
Hon David H. Tsubouchi (Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations): I have made inquiries and I have been advised that it is not a CISO document. I haven't seen the report, obviously, but I will say this. There are a couple of indications in the news report of what the concern is. Certainly one part of that is the concern about the poor regulation that has taken place in the bingo industry.
This is a follow-up, I believe, on the CISO report of last year in which certain concerns were addressed and indicated. I am pleased to tell you that despite how poorly the bingo industry had been regulated by prior governments, as of October 1, 1996, the commercial bingo halls have now had to comply with stringent standards regarding internal controls, tracking of paper and audit requirements.
I will also indicate to you that the report from last year, because that was a concern, the member for St Catharines certainly raised it, indicated there was a concern at that point in time about bingo halls, break-open tickets and Monte Carlo nights. It was particularly critical of security at Monte Carlo nights. This is the reason why we're moving to permanent charity gaming clubs.
Mr Bradley: I don't recall mentioning bingos or anything else. I recall video lottery terminals or electronic slot machines, which are the most addictive and alluring form of gambling that we have in the province, and the spread of them to 44 permanent casinos around the province and ultimately to bars and restaurants in Ontario.
Minister, will you assure the House on behalf of the Premier, since the Premier would not, despite what he said during the last election campaign, that this government will never allow the placement of video lottery terminals in bars and restaurants in the neighbourhoods of the towns and villages and cities of Ontario, and will you ensure that those illegal machines which may be in existence today are taken out of existence by the policing of members of the police forces across Ontario?
Hon Mr Tsubouchi: We have indicated already that we are looking at video lottery terminals with respect to the racing industry and race tracks and also with respect to charity gaming clubs.
The member seems to be concerned about illegal gaming, as we all are, as I am. I certainly applaud his raising this point. We are a government that believes in providing tools to combat illegal gaming in this province. We have indicated already that we're going to be dedicating about $7 million for additional resources to combat illegal video lotteries and other illegal gambling in this province. This is an increase of the OPP's illegal gaming unit from six officers under prior governments up to 35. We're seconding about eight officers from Metro and we have special prosecutors to make sure we carry through. In addition to that, we have increased the complement of enforcement officers on staff to eight.
The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Answer, please.
Hon Mr Tsubouchi: Just to give you an indication, quickly, in 1993 only three charges were laid by the NDP government's --
The Speaker: Thank you very much. New question.
Mrs Marion Boyd (London Centre): My question is to the Minister of Health. Last Friday, I issued a press release exposing the critical shortage of intensive care unit beds in the city of London. All of last week and continuing over the weekend, I understand, there were no intensive care unit beds available at either hospital. Of course, we know that means staffed beds, not the actual bed itself but beds that are staffed by the professionals who care for the patients. When this kind of problem occurs it means that major surgeries have to be cancelled, that there is no capacity to deal with accidents, that patients who are too fragile to be transported have to be looked after in emergency rooms or recovery rooms.
The doctors, nurses and hospital officials in London, who are cooperating fully with you on your restructuring plan, are begging you to begin to reinvest some resources into the critical care units in London to enable them to ensure that critical care is not jeopardized while restructuring goes on. Yet your member for London South says bad news is good, that the crunch indicates your plan is working. Minister, do you agree with the member for London South?
Hon Jim Wilson (Minister of Health): I think my colleague from London South was pointing out that the NDP cut ICU beds during their time in office by 30% in London. We've not cut one ICU bed in our almost two and a half years in office. You should have put out the press release when you were in office and cut 30% of the ICU beds.
Having said that, the good news that my honourable colleague was pointing out is that the commission is ordering that we go from the current low level of beds and bring back some of the beds that the NDP government cut. They're suggesting we go to 75 or, as indicated in a letter today from Mr Dagnone, the CEO of the London Health Sciences Centre, we probably should go from 75 to 80 ICU beds. We'll be encouraging London to do exactly that.
Mrs Boyd: Minister, you encourage all you like. Does that mean you're going to fund those beds? Does that mean you're going to end some of the cuts that you've made to funding? Hundreds of millions of dollars have come out of those hospitals and you say you're going to encourage them? Encourage them with the money.
Let's listen to what these doctors and nurses say. First of all, Janet Robertson, a 30-year operating room nurse: "I am sick and tired of hearing that patient care is not suffering. I'm seeing very sick people suffering because of the funding cutbacks."
The head of surgery at St Joseph's said that unless funds are made available for staffing additional ICU beds, the whole system is in danger.
Mr Dagnone, whom you just quoted, said, "This is the toughest year I have ever seen in health care." He also said:
"We are having serious difficulties in finding that next bed for that next emergency patient.... We do not have the capacity to meet the demand that is out there.... We are putting a lot of volume through and putting it through with fewer resources."
How long is this going to go on? You try and put the blame on other people. You've been the minister for a year and a half. When are you going to take responsibility?
Hon Mr Wilson: I was astounded that the member who cut the beds had the gall over the weekend to put out a press release blaming this government, that has not cut ICU beds. That credit goes to the London Health Sciences Centre.
Yes, there is pressure on ICU beds because they're getting more referrals. When Mr Dagnone is talking about never seeing a year like it, he's getting more referrals from the outlying areas, and because of our $35-million investment in cardiac care, London Health Sciences Centre has been asked to do an extra 200 cardiac surgeries. He points out in his remarks to you, to the media and to me that those 200 surgeries all eventually have to go through ICU and it's putting pressure on the beds.
The commission is recognizing that pressure. It's asking the government to fund more beds, to restore the beds the NDP cut, and we're going to do that.
Mr Tim Hudak (Niagara South): My question is to the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations. Minister, I know your ministry is moving towards self-management of a number of business sectors that your ministry currently regulates. I support these measures and encourage you in that. In fact, I sat on the justice committee for Bill 54, the Safety and Consumer Statutes Administration Act, and I know it's part of your ministry business plan.
On behalf of the travel agents in particular from Fort Erie, Port Colborne and Wainfleet, my question today is, what progress has the ministry made towards the smooth transition to self-management and how are you ensuring that consumers are protected in this process?
Hon David H. Tsubouchi (Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations): The government clearly indicated our intention in Bill 54 to move towards industry self-management in industries that were felt to be mature. This would include certain functions such as administration, licensing and some of the enforcement functions.
We will ensure that the consumer is protected because we're talking about self-management and not about self-regulation. The government still retains our regulatory functions to set standards and monitor the performance of the Travel Industry Council of Ontario. TICO started operations on June 25, 1997, and also manages the travel industry compensation fund.
To ensure a seamless transition to the new self-managed, non-profit organization, MCCR will supply staff and technical support for the first six months. Our ministry will maintain responsibility for consumer protection since the consumer legislation and regulations will still fall under our responsibility. We also have indicated we will have government representation but also consumer representation on these councils.
I would like to take this time to quickly applaud --
The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): You'll have to do that in the supplementary.
Mr Hudak: I'm pleased to hear there's success emanating from Bill 54. I'm also pleased to hear that you'll still maintain representation on the board.
The other side of the coin is, how can we maintain consumer protection? What steps can the ministry take to make sure that the interests of consumers are satisfied?
Hon Mr Tsubouchi: As I indicated earlier on, part of what we're trying to do to ensure that the consumer is protected in Ontario is that we have a government ministry official who has been appointed to the board by the name of Sue Corke. Second, we have a couple of representatives from consumers, one of whom is Lillian Morgenthau, who represents the Canadian Association of Retired Persons.
I'd like to emphasize that what we're doing here is self-management, not self-regulation. We will continue to regulate and monitor the industries. We have the right, of course, to appoint members to sit on these industries. We have the right to require annual reports and reporting back on individual cases. Certainly the important thing to remember here is that we will maintain the regulatory function.
Since June 25, TICO has laid charges under the Travel Industry Act. They have taken some steps such as suspending travel agents' registrations, and they have conducted a number of investigations.
Mr Gerard Kennedy (York South): I want to go back to the Minister of Health with regard to the situation of Stella Matthews. You said you had to wait for the Health Services Appeal Board. You're aware that the Health Services Appeal Board cannot hear -- at least in a number of cases in the past they have actually decided they cannot hear appeals on long-term care.
If the Health Services Appeal Board tomorrow says they can't hear Stella Matthews's case, she will be left without care come Thursday. Why are you sending expensive lawyers in to prepare briefs, to prepare cases -- we understand there are two sets of them, for your ministry and for the community access centre -- when you know in advance that Ms Matthews will be turned down on a technicality of your government's making? You have not made that board available to hear appeals on home care. Will you stand up today, perhaps with this new information, and perhaps change the way you can respond to this as a result? The Matthews family would much appreciate it.
Hon Jim Wilson (Minister of Health): The honourable member is making it sound like the family is not receiving care now. My understanding from the community care access centre directly is that they are continuing to provide the home care while this very complex matter is being dealt with before the appeal board. I have never heard, except for the allegation made today during his press conference in his office at 1 o'clock, that the family is going to be cut off come next Thursday or whenever.
Our assurance is the community care access centre will continue to provide care, and they all have a right to appear before the Health Services Appeal Board. We have to respect that process. I don't know what the outcome will be tomorrow. I don't even know whether it will all be solved tomorrow. It's just that we're going to try to keep providing care and see what the appeal board says. That's the best I can tell the honourable member at this point.
Mr Kennedy: I spoke to the people in your ministry. They directed that care would continue only until Thursday -- your ministry, not the community care centre. Both your ministry and the community care centre are arguing tomorrow in this quasi-judicial court that Stella Matthews cannot be heard. They've got her running around in a loop that doesn't end -- except on Thursday. They have said conclusively they will not provide care beyond September 25.
At least today, if you, like many of us here, disagree that they should be pushed to the precipice like this, to not know whether that care will be there on Thursday, will you agree to ensure that that care is there for the foreseeable future until this family can get the care and the attention it deserves?
Hon Mr Wilson: I cannot comment further on this case.
FAMILY RESPONSIBILITY OFFICE
Mr Wayne Lessard (Windsor-Riverside): I have a question for the Attorney General with respect to his mismanaged family support plan. It has been over a year since the regional office closed in Windsor with respect to the family support plan. Women who are owed support can't get through to the 1-800 line. Their faxes and their letters go unresponded to, and they don't get the cheques because they are either lost or delayed.
I want to tell you about Sharon Stockford. She lives in Windsor. She has been receiving money from the plan since 1990, and she had never had any problems until January of this year, after the regional office was closed. She has been trying to find someone to listen to her since June of this year, to inform them that one of her children is no longer residing at home. She recognizes that the payor is paying too much and that she is not entitled to the money. She is worried that she is going to be penalized later on.
Regular payments have been bungled since January, and she knows that this is going to complicate her payment schedule. When are you going to start listening to women like Sharon? When are you going to clean up this mess? When are you going to take steps to ensure that women can be heard and their problems dealt with?
Hon Charles Harnick (Attorney General, minister responsible for native affairs): I appreciate the question, because I understand that the Family Responsibility Office attempted to contact your constituency office last week to find out if there were any cases that you needed assistance on. Apparently, your phones weren't turned on, and someone from the NDP caucus office said to call back a week later.
If there is a problem, the member has been advised to let us know and we will look at it. But the member knows quite well that there can be a number of reasons that money isn't flowing. It can be as a result of the employer, the payor and sometimes indeed because the court has ordered certain adjustments to be made.
The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Answer, please.
Hon Mr Harnick: I can tell you that the Family Responsibility Office distributes money within 24 to 48 hours of receiving it. If the money is being received, if there is no court order preventing a --
The Speaker: Thank you. Supplementary?
Mrs Marion Boyd (London Centre): It's really interesting that the minister can always pretend somebody else is to blame. Quite frankly, Minister, if you don't care about the women and children who are suffering because they can't get their money, maybe you care about your friends the employers. We're getting more and more phone calls in our offices from employers who are furious about the way they're being treated by the FSP office.
I'll give you an example. Cathy Plinke, who works with Canadian Custom Countertops Inc in London, called my constituency office on Friday. Cathy had kept on receiving phone call after phone call from the FSP office demanding payment of moneys that had been remitted on the part of an employee, and each time she told them when the cheque had been remitted. On Thursday, FSP called four times, and each time the call was from a different worker and she had to give the same answer. Finally, on Friday, after another rude phone call from FSP when your staff member slammed the phone down in her ear, Cathy learned from her bank that the cheque had already been cashed.
Minister, this is a small business. There are small businesses all over this province that are experiencing great difficulty because you've messed up the program. When are you going to deal with the mess you've caused at the family support plan?
Hon Mr Harnick: We have made great strides in making it easier for employers to deal with the family support plan. We've introduced electronic banking. We've provided software programs so that the employers can much more easily than ever before remit money to the family support plan. The indications are that we are distributing money coming through the family support plan faster than it has ever been distributed before. Not only that, we continue to clean up the mess left by the regional offices. We are now down from 90,000 pieces of backlogged information to 38,000, things that had been neglected in the old family support plan for years, going back to 1993. We are making great strides in making the plan more accessible to the employers who help us distribute the money.
Mr John R. Baird (Nepean): There has been a tremendous concern in my constituency of Nepean in the last 12 years over the increase in welfare caseloads. There is a real understanding that welfare caseloads go up when unemployment rises, but my constituents have been very concerned that in the 1980s, as the unemployment rate dropped, the welfare caseload actually went up.
The provincial government has adjusted the welfare benefit rate. They have clarified the criteria. They've cracked down on any fraud in the system. Can the minister tell my constituents about not just the success of the welfare reforms in Ontario but specifically tell us how Ottawa-Carlton's performance has been, compared to the rest of the province?
Hon Janet Ecker (Minister of Community and Social Services): If we can do this over the comments of the Windsor-Sandwich member across the way, who seems to be unaware that what we've seen in Ontario is a marked break in the practice of the last 10 years on welfare, where we saw a 113% increase in the number of people on welfare -- what we've seen in the last two years in Ontario is 218,000 fewer people, and that is translated in the region of Ottawa-Carleton into 6,600 fewer cases of people trapped on welfare. That's a 12% decrease. That shows that not only is there job growth in this province, but also that our welfare reforms are working.
Mr Baird: Minister, my constituents were concerned because in Ottawa-Carleton we're creating so many jobs that if the welfare rate went up like it did in the 1980s, we couldn't afford to pay it. Considering that the decrease has been a double-digit drop in the welfare caseload in Ottawa-Carleton, could the minister tell us specifically how the hardworking taxpayers, hardworking families, in Nepean will benefit from these reforms?
Hon Mrs Ecker: One of the exciting things about what is happening with the welfare caseload is not only that it is a win for those individuals who are no longer trapped on welfare, and we know that the majority of them have left welfare for employment-related reasons, but the other good news is the savings for taxpayers. In the Ottawa-Carleton area they have saved over $14 million in the last two years because of these reductions.
If you're looking to try to put that into some sort of perspective for the public, this province is helping to fund two new high schools in this area, in the member's riding. Each one of those high schools costs about $10 million. That gives you some sense of what these savings can mean for taxpayers.
SERVICES EN FRANÇAIS
Mr Bernard Grandmaître (Ottawa East): My question is to the minister responsible for francophone affairs. Monsieur le Ministre, le 4 novembre 1996, je vous ai posé une question en Chambre sur le transfert des services du niveau provincial aux municipalités. À ce moment-là vous avez été très vague. Vous avez parlé du rapport Qui Fait Quoi. Maintenant que l'étude Qui Fait Quoi a été déposée, est-ce que aujourd'hui vous pouvez devenir plus précis dans votre réponse et rassurer la communauté franco-ontarienne que tous les services provinciaux qui seront transférés au niveau municipal seront garantis à la communauté francophone de l'Ontario ?
L'hon Noble A. Villeneuve (ministre de l'Agriculture, de l'Alimentation et des Affaires rurales, ministre délégué aux Affaires francophones) : Merci à mon collègue d'Ottawa-Est. Comme vous le savez, le gouvernement de l'Ontario a tous les modes de prestation pour livrer les services en français à mesure que le transfert se fait des responsabilités du niveau provincial au niveau municipal. Maintenant, en vertu de la Loi sur les services en français, nous allons certainement desservir les régions qui sont sujettes à la Loi 8 et désignées.
J'ai eu l'occasion de rencontrer l'Association des municipalités franco-ontariennes. J'ai rencontré mon collègue des affaires municipales avec l'AMFO et nous en avons discuté. Nous allons faire cette étude, ainsi que desservir, programme par programme, et l'AMFO nous appuie fortement de ce côté-là. Je peux rassurer mon collègue d'Ottawa-Est qu'avec le soutien d'AMFO et avec les négociations qui vont se produire, nous allons bel et bien continuer à desservir notre francophonie ontarienne comme elle le connaît.
M. Bernard Grandmaître : Laissez-moi vous rassurer que j'ai rencontré l'Association des municipalités franco-ontariennes la semaine dernière, et c'était un des sujets d'inquiétude non seulement au niveau municipal de la communauté francophone.
Monsieur le Ministre, votre collègue le ministre des Affaires municipales était beaucoup plus précis que vous l'êtes aujourd'hui. La semaine dernière, le ministre des Affaires municipales disait qu'il était pour faire l'évaluation, que chaque programme sera évalué, mais par contre, aucune garantie ne sera donnée que les services seront maintenus. Je vous demande aujourd'hui, comme représentant de la francophonie en Ontario, est-ce que vous allez garantir que tous les services transférés au niveau municipal vont demeurer tels qu'ils sont aujourd'hui ?
L'hon M. Villeneuve : Je peux certainement garantir à mon collègue que les négociations se font programme par programme. Et puis, comme vous l'avez dit, mon collègue des affaires municipales lui a donné l'assurance aussi. Puis l'Office des Affaires francophones en Ontario va certainement travailler conjointement avec le ministère des Affaires municipales pour assurer que les services que nous connaissons en Ontario dans le moment vont continuer.
Ms Marilyn Churley (Riverdale): I have a question for the Minister of Education. Parents in my riding of Riverdale, a downtown east end Toronto riding, are very worried that you don't understand the special needs of inner-city schools. I understand you're going to be meeting with some of the Toronto parents, and I appreciate that, but there are schools in my riding where up to 90% of the students are new Canadians and need ESL, there are children who live in deep poverty, there are kids who need a space at school to do homework and need supplementary instruction after school, and those are just a few of the special needs.
We know that your funding formula is going to remove funding from the Toronto Board of Education. So I want to know today for the parents and kids in my riding, what measures are you going to take to ensure that these very special programs that are so badly needed in the schools in my riding remain intact?
Hon John Snobelen (Minister of Education and Training): I want to assure the member opposite that we do understand that there are different circumstances around the province of Ontario. In some parts of large urban centres like Toronto, we obviously find different circumstances than we would in smaller towns.
To do that, we have set out in our allocation model a foundation grant, a basic grant which we'll use across the province, and then seven special purpose grants. One of those is a language grant which will help to support, among other things, English-as-a-second-language students. They'll have a special grant which will help to meet their needs. The second is a learning opportunities grant which will support a variety of different programs which are necessary to help students who are at a greater risk of failure because of the social or economic circumstances they're in. We have addressed that very specifically in the allocation model and we'll make sure the funding is there for those programs.
Ms Churley: First of all, Minister, I would appreciate it if you would come to some of the schools in parts of my riding and see for yourself what the teachers have to deal with within some of these schools. It is a very tough job. When you stand up today and talk about these grants, I guess the important question again is, we do not want to see things reduced to the lowest common denominator.
What I would ask you then in terms of those grants is, can you guarantee that the amount of money that goes to the schools from these grants will at least equal the amount of money that the schools are now getting from the board to ensure that the programs are at least as good as they are now? God knows they could use some improvement, but I can assure you that if they don't get the same funding, because they're already stretched, the kids in my riding who need these special programs are really going to be in trouble.
The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Question, please.
Ms Churley: Minister, can you assure me of that today?
Hon Mr Snobelen: I can assure the member that our intention is not just to maintain programs in the province but actually to improve them, particularly those programs for students who need our help the most. That includes special needs students, of course, but also students who come from social or economic backgrounds that require them to have special services in schools. We'll protect those services, we'll enhance those services by using the best practices in Ontario, and that's what our intention is.
As far as visiting schools is concerned, it's my privilege, and really my pleasure, to visit a lot of schools over the course of the school year. I have been to schools in your riding, as you know, and I will be again. I think I'm attending a school this very evening in Toronto to listen to parents and the concerns of parents regarding the Education Improvement Commission. That's my intention this evening. I look forward to visiting more schools, and undoubtedly schools in your riding.
Mr Ernie Hardeman (Oxford): My question is for the Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. Over the past number of weeks, critics in the opposition have been making unsubstantiated accusations about our government's summer jobs program. Could you please set the record straight and tell this House and my constituents about the impacts our summer jobs program has had.
Hon Noble Villeneuve (Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, minister responsible for francophone affairs): I wish to thank my colleague from Oxford for that question. Yes, I am very pleased with what our government has done on summer job programs, particularly with the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. More than 2,800 students have found employment through the summer jobs program. It's an excellent investment in Ontario's youth.
Mrs Sandra Pupatello (Windsor-Sandwich): That's 2,800 fund-raisers.
Hon Mr Villeneuve: I hear the honourable member for Windsor-Sandwich, who about a month ago made this statement: "The Liberal Party has always been supportive of anything you can do for young people." Well, we have, and we're proud of it.
Mrs Pupatello: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I don't think that --
The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): The members for London South and Halton Centre.
Mrs Pupatello: I rise on a point of order because my name was brought in by the minister. We don't think we agreed to hiring people for fund-raising out of the minister's office.
The Speaker: Supplementary? Supplementary?
New question, member for Kingston and The Islands.
Mr John Gerretsen (Kingston and The Islands): My question is to the Premier. Last week, the mayors --
The Speaker: Order. I did call "supplementary," I think three times, so it is in fact too late, but you can seek unanimous consent to get your supplementary.
The member for Oxford is seeking unanimous consent for a supplementary question. Agreed? Agreed.
Mr Hardeman: Thank you, Mr Minister, for the answer. I know the opposition is not fond of hearing good news, and the summer jobs is a good start. Could you tell us how the future looks for the youth thinking of entering the agrifood business?
Hon Mr Villeneuve: To the honourable member and to all of my colleagues, I want to make the statement that the enrolments in the University of Guelph and all of our agricultural colleges are up considerably this year over last year, and those students have jobs when they graduate in the agrifood sector.
Ontario led the nation last year with $5.3 billion in agrifood exports. That is something to be very proud of and a very important economic generator in our province. The agrifood sector has contributed $25 billion to our economy every fiscal year, and this is an increasing number. So let's never, in this House or anywhere else, tell anyone in Ontario that the agrifood sector is not important. It is of utmost importance.
Mr John Gerretsen (Kingston and The Islands): Mr Speaker, I ask unanimous consent that I'll be able to put my entire question plus the supplementary.
The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): The member for Kingston and The Islands is seeking unanimous consent to put his entire question plus the supplementary. Agreed? I heard a no.
Mr Gerretsen: All right. My question is still to the Premier. Premier, last week the mayors of Ontario's 25 largest municipalities representing over six million people met in Markham, as you probably know. They are extremely sceptical about your promises for the plans to push responsibility for social services on to the local municipalities.
As a matter of fact, Al Linwin, the mayor of St Catharines and the chair of this group, said, "We're saying to the Premier it's to the point of not only being unfair but almost dishonest to the electorate of the province." Hazel McCallion says you either know what the impact is and you're afraid to say so or you don't know and you're fumbling. She suspects the first reason, but I'm waiting for you to answer with respect to the downloading, Mr Premier.
Councils need to know exactly what they are going to budget for for next year. You said in the Common Sense Revolution that you would work closely with municipalities to ensure that any actions you took would not result in increases to local property taxes. Premier, the municipalities have now been forced to hire an outside consultant to give them an independent analysis of your downloading plans. Why don't you produce the plans and show that they're revenue-neutral or else do a 180-degree turn, as you did with Bill 136, and take away the downloading of responsibility for health, social services and social housing? Why don't you do that, Premier?
Hon Michael D. Harris (Premier): We of course have done that. We have tabled all the numbers. In fact, we tabled the options. All the upper-tier numbers have been tabled to the penny. We tabled as well options and the numbers that would flow from that based upon how you go from upper tier to lower tier. Representatives of the large municipalities were at the table when all those numbers were tabled. They said: "We don't want to look at them. We don't want to be part of the decision. You make it. It's an election year, don't you know?" So we are making those decisions. They have abdicated, I would say, any decision-making on how you might move that way.
Let me assure the mayors that overall from the province's point of view it is revenue-neutral. We understand that depending on options selected from different municipalities, there will be different impacts. But I can assure them that just as Mel Lastman says, "No need for tax hikes," just as your former colleague, now running for regional chair, says, "No need for tax hikes" --
The Speaker: Thank you.
PUBLIC SERVICE AND LABOUR RELATIONS REFORM
Mr Michael Gravelle (Port Arthur): Despite the government's turnaround on Bill 136, there's a great deal of concern that we have not seen the amendments. Until that's the case, these petitions will be coming forward. This one reads:
"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 Michael Gravelle in his opposition to this legislation and join him in calling upon the Harris government to repeal Bill 136, which creates a climate of confrontation in Ontario."
I'm pleased to sign my name to that petition.
Mr Tony Silipo (Dovercourt): I have a petition signed by almost 300 people in support of Women's College Hospital. It reads as follows:
"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:
"Whereas over half the people in Ontario are women;
"Whereas only 5% of the money spent on medical research goes to research in women's health;
"Whereas women have special medical needs since their bodies are not the same as men's;
"Whereas 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;
"Whereas 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;
"Whereas without Women's College Hospital, the women of Ontario and of the world will lose a health resource that will not be duplicated elsewhere;
"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, Women's College Hospital."
I agree with that petition and I have affixed my name to it as well.
Mr Bob Wood (London South): I have a petition signed by 35 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 continue to urge the government of Canada to pass legislation to reinstate such partial nudity as an offence."
SOCIAL ASSISTANCE FOR THE DISABLED
Mr Gilles E. Morin (Carleton East): I have a petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.
"Whereas the government of Ontario has introduced Bill 142, An Act to revise the law related to Social Assistance by enacting the Ontario Works Act and the Ontario Disability Support Program Act, by repealing the Family Benefits Act, the Vocational Rehabilitation Services Act and the General Welfare Assistance Act and by amending several other Statutes; and
"Whereas Bill 142 and its regulations will have a direct and substantial impact on the lives of many people with disabilities and their families;
"We, the undersigned, respectfully petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario as follows:
"To urge the government of Ontario to release the proposed regulations related to Bill 142 immediately, so there can be meaningful public discussion of the changes that will result from this legislation and to ensure that Bill 142 and its regulations are subject to extensive and public hearings across Ontario so that the people who are affected by this legislation and the related regulations are given adequate opportunity to be heard."
I have signed the petition.
Mr Rosario Marchese (Fort York): I have a petition addressed to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario. It reads:
"Whereas over half the people in Ontario are women;
"Only about 5% of the money spent on medical research goes to research in women's health;
"Women have special medical needs since their bodies are not the same as men's;
"Women's College is the only hospital in Ontario with a primary mandate giving priority to teaching, research and care dedicated to women;
"The World Health Organization has named Women's College Hospital as its first collaborating centre for women's health in both North and South America;
"Without a self-governing Women's College Hospital, the women of Ontario and of the world will lose a health resource that is not duplicated elsewhere;
"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to preserve the comprehensive model of women's health pioneered by Women's College Hospital through ensuring self-governance of the one hospital in Ontario dedicated to women's health."
I affix my signature to this petition.
Mr Bert Johnson (Perth): I have a petition signed by 52 constituents.
"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:
"Whereas communities strongly disagree with allowing women to go topless in public;
"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario as follows:
"To enact legislation to require women to wear tops in public places for the protection of our children and for public safety in general."
I will sign this so that it will be presented in the proper mode.
Mr John C. Cleary (Cornwall): I have a petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:
"Whereas the Ontario health system is overburdened and unnecessary spending must be cut; and
"Whereas pregnancy is not a disease, injury or illness and abortions are not therapeutic procedures; and
"Whereas the vast majority of abortions are done for reasons of convenience or finance; and
"Whereas the province of Ontario has exclusive authority to determine what service will be insured; and
"Whereas the Canada Health Act does not require funding for elective procedures; and
"Whereas there is mounting evidence that abortion is in fact hazardous to women's health; and
"Whereas Ontario taxpayers funded over 45,000 abortions in 1993 at an estimated cost of $25 million;
"Therefore we, the undersigned, petition the Legislature of Ontario to cease from providing any taxpayers' dollars for performing of abortions."
This is signed by 20 residents of Brockville, SD&G and the Cornwall riding.
PUBLIC SERVICE AND LABOUR RELATIONS REFORM
Mr Frank Miclash (Kenora): My petition is to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario. It reads:
"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 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 Frank Miclash in his opposition to this legislation and join him in calling upon the Harris government to repeal Bill 136, which creates a climate of confrontation in Ontario."
You can be assured that I have signed this petition as well.
PROTECTION OF PRIVACY
Mr Jean-Marc Lalonde (Prescott and Russell): A petition against the fingerprinting plan of Mike Harris.
"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:
"Whereas the Premier of Ontario, Mike Harris, has proposed the fingerprinting of all Ontario citizens; and
"Whereas the fingerprinting of Ontarians was never promised in the Common Sense Revolution or in his election campaign; and
"Whereas universal fingerprinting of Ontario citizens is a direct violation of basic civil rights and fundamental rights of privacy; and
"Whereas the Mike Harris government is intervening and intruding into all aspects of daily life, from megacities, user fees, rent controls, and market value taxes, which were never promised in the election campaign;
"Therefore, we, the undersigned, petition the Legislature of Ontario to oppose Mike Harris's plan to fingerprint Ontario citizens and to respect their privacy and to stop creating a mega-government that does not respect the basic freedom and individuality of the citizens of Ontario."
This is signed by over 100 citizens of Ontario.
Mr Michael Gravelle (Port Arthur): The TVO petition campaign calling on the government for consultation in their privatization is sweeping across the province. I have a petition here signed by the residents of Amelia Street West in Thunder Bay, sent in by Claire Cikalik, and I appreciate it. It reads:
"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:
"Whereas TVOntario/TFO is owned by the people of Ontario; and
"Whereas the Mike Harris government has opposed public support for maintaining TVO as a publicly owned and funded educational broadcaster by putting TVO through a privatization review; and
"Whereas the Mike Harris government has not confirmed that full public participation will be part of this privatization review;
"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to hold open and honest public consultation with the people of Ontario before making a decision on the future of TVO/TFO."
I am glad to sign my name to this petition.
STANDING ORDERS REFORM
Mr John Gerretsen (Kingston and The Islands): This is an extremely important petition that is addressed to the Legislature of Ontario. It deals with the draconian new rules that we have in this House. It states:
"Whereas the people of Ontario want rigorous discussion on legislation dealing with public policy issues like health care, education and care for seniors; and
"Whereas many people in Ontario believe that the Mike Harris government is moving too quickly and recklessly, creating havoc with the provision of quality health care and quality education, and
"Whereas the Mike Harris government has passed new legislative rules which have eroded the ability of both the public and the media to closely scrutinize the actions of the Ontario government; and
"Whereas Mike Harris and Ernie Eves, when they were in opposition, defended the rights of the opposition and used the rules to their full advantage when they believed it was necessary to slow down the passage of controversial legislation; and
"Whereas the Mike Harris government has now reduced the amount of time that MPPs will have to debate the important issues of the day; and
"Whereas the Mike Harris government, through its rule changes, has diminished the role of elected members of the Legislative Assembly who are accountable to the people who elect them and instead has chosen to concentrate power in the Premier's office in the hands of people who are not elected officials;
"We, the undersigned, call upon Mike Harris to withdraw his draconian rule changes and restore rules which promote rigorous debate on contentious issues and hold the government accountable to the people of Ontario."
I am in full agreement with that and I have endorsed it.
CREMATORIUM IN VAUGHAN
Mr Mario Sergio (Yorkview): I have a further petition with respect to a crematorium that is being built in the vicinity of my riding in the city of North York. I wish to read it to the Legislative Assembly.
"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, 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, and I affix my signature to it.
TRANSFER OF PROVINCIAL HIGHWAYS
Mr Sean G. Conway (Renfrew North): I'm proud to present a petition signed by hundreds of constituents living in west Renfrew county, which petition reads:
"We, the undersigned, petition the Ontario government to retain Highway 62 from Maynooth to the village of Barry's Bay as a provincial highway, as it is a significant access corridor to and from southern Ontario and is vital to the industrial and tourism sectors of the regional economy here in the Madawaska Valley, and to ensure its prominence as an access corridor on provincial and regional roadmaps. A provincial highway would allow for a consistent level of maintenance and avoid placing an increased financial burden upon local taxpayers."
I'm pleased to affix my signature to this petition which I support wholeheartedly.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
SELECT COMMITTEE ON ONTARIO HYDRO NUCLEAR AFFAIRS
Resuming the adjourned debate on the motion for the appointment of a select committee on Ontario Hydro nuclear affairs.
Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): When I last intervened in this debate, I pointed out that our party would prefer that the government appoint an independent commission to look into the affairs of Ontario Hydro and to give that commission a longer time frame than is proposed in this motion. The government intends to have a select committee which will be dominated by members of its own party and to give it a very constricted time frame, which we don't think will be adequate to properly deal with the very difficult questions that face us with regard to Ontario Hydro.
The great question that lies before us is the government's white paper. The government has indicated that it intends to bring forward a response to the Macdonald commission. I suspect that that Liberal father of free trade will be quite happy, because he not only proposed open competition but a large dose of privatization, and I suspect that this government is going to do that as well. Our caucus supports competition, but only if the environment and the consumer are protected. The kind of selloffs that I think are being contemplated by this government make even less sense now than they did a year ago, when Macdonald made his report. No one is going to buy the nuclear plants now. No investor in his or her right mind would make that kind of investment.
We call on the government to bring forward its white paper so the people of this province will have a better idea of what the government's agenda really is. We can only really evaluate the Hydro nuclear recovery plan if we know where the province is going in terms of competition and privatization. There are a number of questions that the white paper must answer and that the committee will have to consider:
What is the best way of ensuring that competition brings environmental benefits? How much stranded debt will there be, and how will stranded asset charges work in practice? What measures can be taken to ensure that any benefits of competition in the form of lower prices are shared equally among consumers no matter where in the province they live, whether they're in rural Ontario or urban Ontario, whether they are residential consumers or commercial or industrial consumers? Will competition provide opportunities for Ontario entrepreneurs and communities or will it mainly mean more business for American multinationals?
We know that already a number of large American utilities have set up shop here in Toronto and they are just salivating at the prospect of investing in certain parts of Ontario Hydro. What the effects of the recent report about the nuclear division will have on that I'm not certain, but these are issues that must be considered by the committee, if the government is determined to move forward with a select committee.
As I indicated, we are very concerned about the time frame. To suggest that the government must have an interim report in 17 days from the time the motion was first placed was just completely unrealistic and of course is even more unrealistic today, because the motion has not been passed and we are still debating it. In that regard, I have an amendment to present.
I move that the motion be amended by striking the words "an interim report to the House by October 3, 1997 and" following the words "That the committee present" at the beginning of the second paragraph.
Obviously the reason for the amendment is that the current wording of the motion is impractical, considering the date of September 22. It just would not give the committee, if the select committee is established, time to do the work, to do the evaluation, have the witnesses, have the hearings that would be required in order to get an interim report ready by that date. For that reason, the amendment would remove that requirement on the committee from the motion.
I am sure most members would agree that this is reasonable, and I know the minister supports such an amendment. In the spirit of cooperation that is always demonstrated by myself and my caucus, we are moving forward here to assist the government in moving forward, despite the fact that we don't prefer the select committee route. We would prefer a commission that is independent, has no party loyalties to consider, that would be able to properly investigate, and we would prefer, as I have indicated, a much longer time frame so that we can get to the bottom of some very serious and complex questions.
The government appears to be determined to move forward on the select committee. If that is the case, then obviously the time frame must be adjusted to take into account the fact that the motion has not yet been passed. I hope that all members will support the motion, but I would hope that the government, even in the last few minutes, will reconsider and appoint an independent commission.
The Acting Speaker (Ms Marilyn Churley): Further debate.
Mr Sean G. Conway (Renfrew North): Just a brief word, since we have an amendment now before the House. I think the member has offered a helpful and timely amendment, and at the insistence of my House leader, my colleagues and I will certainly be supporting it.
The Acting Speaker: First, we'll vote on the amendment by Mr Wildman. Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.
We vote now on the motion to strike the committee.
All those in favour, please say "aye."
All those opposed, please say "nay."
In my opinion, the ayes have it. Carried.
DEVELOPMENT CHARGES ACT, 1997 / LOI DE 1997 SUR LES REDEVANCES D'AMÉNAGEMENT
Resuming the adjourned debate on the motion for third reading of Bill 98, An Act to promote job creation and increased municipal accountability while providing for the recovery of development costs related to new growth / Projet de loi 98, Loi visant à promouvoir la création d'emplois et à accroître la responsabilité des municipalités tout en prévoyant le recouvrement des coûts d'aménagement liés à la croissance.
Mr Rosario Marchese (Fort York): It is always a pleasure to have a few moments to speak to the perfidy of this government. In this particular instance today, we're dealing with Bill 98. I'll read it for the benefit of the public so they will get a good sense of the kind of money that goes into some propaganda office in the government's office. It's called An Act to promote job creation and increased municipal accountability while providing for the recovery of development costs related to new growth.
Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): How will this impact on the fund-raisers?
Mr Marchese: It will, and I will speak to that, member for St Catharines. I will speak to that because this is part of the bill.
Just to speak to the title for brief second, you will recall that this is something of a favourite subject of mine, because the government, as you have observed, spends a great deal of time on titling the bills. I am sure they know that every cent -- and they spend a lot of cents on this -- is well-spent, because the spin is important. I'm convinced the Premier's office has an office called the propaganda office to promote the re-election of Tory members. That is probably paid by every taxpayer that these fine Tories know all over the province.
In the end, even their own members are beginning to understand there is something underneath that slippery carpet that they need to unearth, and they are unearthing it as they deal with each and every one of these bills. There is nothing in this bill that promotes job creation, we know that, and there is nothing in this bill that deals with increased municipal accountability. I will speak to that as well.
For the benefit of those who are watching, and I know there are many who are watching --
Mr Bradley: I will be watching.
Mr Marchese: Thank you, member for St Catharines. I know you'll be back for the two-minute rebuttal, and I appreciate that.
The Deputy Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): Order.
Mr Marchese: I want to give some background; not context in this particular instance, but background.
You will recall when this government introduced the bill originally, municipalities were to pick up 10% of costs for hard services such as water, transit and sewer, and make a 30% contribution for soft services such as libraries, community centres and recreation centres. That originally was what was in the bill.
You will recall that Hazel McCallion, a good friend of this government, when hearing of this, went ballistic.
Mr Wayne Lessard (Windsor-Riverside): What did she say?
Mr Marchese: I don't have the words in front of me, but everyone knows it because I've used it in other speeches. I don't want to repeat what she said. Hazel McCallion, a good Tory and a good friend of these people over here, when she heard of this, went bananas, and she made it very clear --
Mr David Turnbull (York Mills): I thought you said she went ballistic.
Mr Marchese: Mr Turnbull, she went bananas, and you know that.
Mr Turnbull: Is that "bananas" or "bananas"?
Mr Marchese: The whip is correcting me on the pronunciation of "bananas" versus "bananas." It's the same thing in the end.
So you had Hazel McCallion on the one side saying, "Government, if you do this you are in trouble," and immediately realized that this would be a cost that municipalities simply could not bear. In fact, she knew that if this went through, many of the things that normally would happen in new developments would no longer happen, because they couldn't afford it.
So what did this fine woman do? She immediately slapped a freeze on new development, and then mon ami M. Leach went crazy at the other end too. He scrambled pretty quickly, trying to figure out a way to deal with this emerging problem.
Hazel and others were a problem for this government. In the 905 region, we find Hazel and other Tory mayors, and they weren't happy with this either. They went ballistic as well. Not only Hazel McCallion of Mississauga but other mayors quickly responded by saying, "We will impose a freeze on new development if this government doesn't back away." So you've got on the one hand people who normally are supportive of this government, and not just politicians; you also have a population in the 905 who are strongly supportive of this government. You have close to 60% to 70% of those people supporting them, or at least in the past. I'm not convinced that number still holds. But if 70% or so of those people voted for these guys, they immediately realized, "We've got a problem." Hazel was symbolic and representative of that view of each and every voter in that region, the 905 region just outside Metropolitan Toronto.
You had politicians on the one side screaming bloody murder -- they were worried that such people could infect politically the views of the poor electorate in that area so they had to do something -- versus the other side, which is the Urban Development Institute, of which you will recall, and I have mentioned this often in the past, Morley Kells, the Conservative member in the House, was the president, and you had the Ontario home builders and other developers who showed initially their political muscle in getting this particular bill for debate.
You had in this ring of fighters the developers, but quickly my good friend M. Leach and others discovered that you had the other fighters in the other corner. You had Hazel, an admirable foe, a tough foe, and you had the other people who vote for you guys on the other side. They were caught in this fierce battle between developers coming to this government and saying, "Help us, please, Conservative government. We're on your side. You know this. We've been screaming for years for help and nobody has listened and finally we've elected you to be the portavoce of our views. Listen to us," and they did. That's why you have Bill 98.
But they didn't realize that in listening to developers, in listening to the Urban Development Institute, the portavoce of corporate views, somehow they would be embroiled in a political mess, and it was a big mess. It lasted for months. They had a fight on their hands, and I'm not sure who won in the end, but it's quite clear to me that in the changes this government has made, the developers suffered a little loss as a result of having to genuflect in front of the powers of Hazel McCallion and the 905 electorate.
The Deputy Speaker: Member for Fort York, please address your remarks to the Chair.
Mr Marchese: As opposed to whom, Mr Speaker?
The Deputy Speaker: As opposed to your colleague to your left. Procedures are very clear: Address your remarks to the Chair.
Mr Marchese: Speaker, I appreciate --
The Deputy Speaker: No argument, please.
Mr Marchese: Well, Speaker, I'm going to look at you as I speak but I will remind you that it would be very difficult for any human being to sit here and address you in everything I say. Surely a member has got to move around --
The Deputy Speaker: Please take your chair. You are showing a lack of respect for the Chair. Procedures are very, very clear. Address your remarks to the Chair, and if you can't, then I'll stop you.
Mr Marchese: I will do my best, Speaker.
Mr John Gerretsen (Kingston and The Islands): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I don't believe we have a quorum right now.
The Deputy Speaker: Could you please check if there is a quorum?
Clerk Assistant (Ms Deborah Deller): A quorum is not present, Speaker.
The Deputy Speaker ordered the bells rung.
Clerk Assistant: A quorum is now present, Speaker.
The Deputy Speaker: The member for Fort York.
Mr Marchese: When the mayor of Mississauga said, "Look, you better make some changes," the government said, and Mr Leach obviously must have had some discussions with her and said, "We are going to consider changes to the bill," and as a result of his initiative to make some changes to the bill, Hazel McCallion relented a little bit. There was a great deal of work. Clearly they had to go back and talk to the developers. I'm sure there must have been a hell of a lot of negotiation going on with the developers, at the same time trying to please Hazel, probably urging the developers to let up a little bit and not criticize them too much as they considered changes to this bill.
She had given a deadline in the past, saying, "If you don't do this by a certain date" -- this was last December 6 -- "we will continue with this freeze," but relented on the deadline, and the 905 municipalities tried to negotiate that compromise. Obviously they arrived at a compromise and were happy about that. I argued, as many municipal politicians argued, that this was going to be very hurtful to their communities, and it was. Even people like Hazel McCallion realized this was a giveaway to the developers. Even if she is well connected to them, she realized the benefit would go to developers and not to her constituency and constituents.
This is another example of a government that was prepared to go too far, too fast, hurting services that people care about.
Hon Al Leach (Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing): The benefits will go to the home buyers.
Mr Gerretsen: How do you know that, Al? You don't know that.
The Deputy Speaker: The member for Fort York has the floor. Order, please.
Mr Marchese: We've seen it over and over again with every bill. This government is going too far, too fast and usually very wrong in the areas they have entered into. It isn't a matter of speed that is the mistake this government makes; it is a matter that they're going in the wrong direction. Imagine, it's like you're travelling north and you as a government are proceeding to travel against that traffic, and not just fast but in the wrong direction, if you understand the image. That's the problem many of us are facing as a public, because they're beginning to understand the wrongheaded policies of the government, and in addition they're going much too fast.
You will recall, Speaker -- and I will touch on this, but I want to get to some aspects of other things the minister has done in the past, to show how they are connected closely to the developers. This act is supposed to promote job creation. This act is supposed to remove some of those development charges, and as a result of removing some of those development charges, they said new homeowners would somehow save money, because whatever costs were saved by not having a development charge, somehow, miraculously, through the alchemy of the 17th century, new homeowners would be able to see a saving. Well, we know that's not true. I'll come back to this theme and I'll touch on a subject I have dealt with in the past as a reminder, to show that what this government does often doesn't lead to those savings.
You will recall the same developers going to M. Leach. This was done not with any public consultation; this was done with no debate, as is customary in that ministry on issues of this sort; this was done with my good friend M. Leach, the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, probably over a cup of coffee or dinner. It probably wouldn't be at Dooney's Café; it would be a place like La Fenice, a good restaurant I will admit, or maybe the minister's office. Who knows? It was over a discussion of that sort but, I tell you, there was no public discussion on this issue.
What is the issue I'm talking about? The issue of the removal of the full-height insulation requirement and the relaxation of the basement drainage protection rules.
Hon Mr Leach: We went out there and we had conversations --
Mr Marchese: No, Minister, you did this on your own. We are in good contact with some of the people in your ministry -- not good contact. These are things we know about, that are public, really. It's not as if I have dug into the ministry to acquire information that is private. There was, as far as I know and as far as anybody knows in this field, no public discussion whatsoever.
Hon Mr Leach: No, wrong.
Mr Marchese: In your two-minute rebuttal you tell me how I'm wrong. I want to hear from you in this regard.
The full-height insulation requirement is no longer necessary. It is something we did as a New Democratic Party government because we felt this was a good thing for new homeowners to have. Full-height insulation is good. The other, the basement drainage protection, is also good. Remember, drainage protection is something you have around the house. It prevents water from seeping into the house. My view is that it was good.
Hon Mr Leach: You've got the economic impact study.
Mr Marchese: Well, okay. This minister probably believes that flooded basements are better and that not having a full basement insulation requirement is perhaps energy-efficient. I'm not sure. I don't find it consistent with energy-efficient methodologies but he obviously believes that. I tell you this: The other developer said, "Minister, if you do these two things, the new homeowner will save $1,000 to $3,000." That's what they said, that there would be a saving. There was no saving.
I worked very closely with an organization called the Canadian Energy Efficiency Alliance and they have done a survey of their members to inquire about these so-called savings. You know what it reveals? It reveals that there were no savings, that the savings were not passed on. In fact, in many cases prices of housing went up, leaving new homeowners with the new task of having to put insulation in their basement on their own.
We have to speak about common sense from time to time, and this government often likes to speak of common sense as well. You figure that one out: You put in full-height insulation in the beginning, as you build the house, versus you, the homeowner, putting in insulation once the house has been constructed. Which of the two options do you believe would be cheaper for the homeowner? It's not a very complicated thing. I think it's simple even for the MPPs on the other side to solve, I really do. I believe that given that this government is so full of common sense, even Tory backbenchers and ministers could calculate the difference between the two. They should, at least. The answer to that is that it's cheaper if you have full-height insulation done when you build the house rather than requiring the homeowner to do it on his own. That's more costly.
Mr Marcel Beaubien (Lambton): Let me ask about windows. Tell us about that.
Mr Marchese: M. Beaubien, it's more costly. If you do it on your own, it's more costly. Why? Because --
Mr Marchese: It's okay. M. Beaubien is a good man. Every now and then I like his responses. That's all right. We know that if this fellow had to do it on his own, it would take a hell of a long time to do. But because people sometimes don't either have the knowhow or the time, they end up hiring somebody else to do that job. Given that they have to hire somebody else after the fact, after the house has been built, surely the Tory MPPs would calculate that it's more costly to do, and it is. The Canadian Energy Efficiency Alliance has through their study determined that what I am saying is correct.
Why would the minister unilaterally have done that?
Hon Mr Leach: It would take about 300 years --
Mr Marchese: I'm not sure I heard that quite clearly, but perhaps in the rebuttal I'll hear it. Why would you do that unilaterally, I ask you?
Hon Mr Leach: I answered. It was quite clear.
The Deputy Speaker: Minister.
Mr Marchese: No, Minister, you said the answer was quite clear. I put the context to the general public that is listening --
Mr Marchese: Always through you, Speaker, to the minister.
Mr Marchese: The minister says that it's quite clear. I've just given the context to explain to the general public that what he did unilaterally, without the benefit of input from those who have traditionally been involved, was made into a decision that was wrong. It was wrongheaded and everybody in the industry knew it, including developers.
Those developers who were brave enough to admit this to us told us frankly that there were no savings. But because the benefit is to the developer, why would the developer go out in public and tell you what the minister did was wrong? They're not going to do that. They're buddies. Why would they, in public, go and say that somehow the minister was wrong when these are the same people who told him and urged him to do this?
The benefits are quite clear: The developer saves money, he pockets it, and that problem is passed on to the homeowner, and the poor fellow, the new homeowner, who can barely keep up with the costs of ordinary life, has to pick up yet another burden.
We know that new homeowners don't have the means, the money, the time or the knowhow to deal with some of these issues or some of these costs. If the government really wanted to help the new homeowner, he would not have done that unilaterally, removed those two basic protections. Simple stuff, but he did that.
Why do I speak about this issue? I speak about it because it's connected to this Bill 98, because this bill says it is An Act to promote job creation. I raise the other issue to give the context, to show that the verbiage on the other side about savings to the homeowner -- because that's what the developers told them. If you remove the full-height insulation plus the drainage on the outside, that wouldn't help the homeowner. If he wanted to do something for them, he should not have done that. Clearly he is taking sides, and he took sides with the developers.
This particular bill has been somewhat improved, I have to say, and improved because of obstinacy and the war that was waged by those in the 905 region. Even the Crombie Who Does What panel strongly opposed the changes to the Development Charges Act. You will remember Grant Hopcroft, one of the members of the Crombie panel, a staunch Tory controller from London, has been vocally critical of the government's decision. It wasn't just an ordinary bunch of people out there who might have disagreed. There are a whole lot of people with political knowledge and expertise who said this was wrong.
With that opposition, the government had to relent and they have made it less harmful. I praise them for that, because at least they listened to the extent that it will not be as harmful as it otherwise would have been. You've got to praise them when they listen. The bill is wrongheaded but the made it palatable by making it less injurious to the constituency.
What they've got now is that the existing municipal tax base will have to pick up 10% of the costs of services such as libraries, community centres and recreation centres. Some costs, such as construction costs for the city administrative buildings, parks, museums and arts centres, will be ineligible for development charge funding. That's completely unacceptable under this bill. Where previously they had the power to charge through development charges for administrative buildings, for parks and museums and arts centres, they now no longer can do that.
I remind you that that flexibility municipalities had to use development charges for the purposes of the public good was a good thing. That flexibility that we as an NDP government provided we argue was good for municipalities. They've taken away that flexibility. Even if they'd made it less injurious; they've taken away the flexibility and are requiring municipalities to pick up 10% of the costs for libraries, community centres and recreation centres.
When you move into a community, as mon ami Gilles Pouliot was reminding me the other day, you are moving into a community. You're not simply buying a home; you are buying a home in a particular community that has services attached to it. You're not going to buy a home if there is no library on that site. You will not buy a home if there are no community centres or recreation centres. You will not buy a home if parks are inadequately provided for in terms of services to maintain them, or museums, for God's sake. These are the cultural elements that provide some humanity to the community in which they live. You don't buy a freestanding home alone; you buy it with all the services and infrastructures that come with it.
This government, with its original mandate, would have destroyed much of that. Now, with municipalities picking up 10% of the tab for libraries and community centres and recreation centres and all the other stuff they cannot fund any more, such as administrative buildings and parks and museums and arts centres, they're going to have a hell of a time. They're going to have a hard time finding the money to provide for these things. Is it far-fetched to say that? Is it an impossibility, these guys will argue, for these municipalities to come up with the money to do these things? I argue that it is. I argue that with the 40% cuts that municipalities have had to endure to their budgets, it is pretty difficult to find the money.
I argue that with Bill 152, the download bill, the bill that dumps responsibility down to the municipalities to provide for themselves, there's going to be a heavy load to bear. I argue, and I blame this government, that as they take education out of the property tax and substitute for that new services the municipalities will have to pick up, such as social assistance, child care, housing, ambulances, police, public health, good God, they're not going to be able to do it. That's why they're worried. That's why Hazel, as Tory as she is, blue inside and out, knows that this is a bill you've got to worry about. She knows because of all the things this government is doing to relieve itself of the responsibility to govern by offloading that responsibility of finance to the municipal government.
It's a funny thing, because in so many other areas this government embraces municipal autonomy, when it suits them. When it suits them, they love to talk about how municipalities in their autonomy are so effective and efficient that they must let them do the dirty deed. When it suits them, they love to give municipalities power. When it doesn't suit them, they take that power away. In this particular instance, it suits them to give this responsibility down to the municipalities. Municipalities are very worried about picking up what appears to be a cost that is not too heavy. But it is a heavy cost.
I wouldn't want to be a municipal politician in the next municipal election. I know there are many candidates who want to show leadership, who feel they have a vision, who feel that somehow, in spite of what this government is doing, they will be able to provide the best political service they can. But this is the worst of times that this responsibility as a politician could befall you. Never in our history have we had to face a government that has cut back so much of its funding to municipalities -- all to service that tax cut, I remind you. Because of the income tax cut, because of that tax cut that largely goes to middle-class people, this government is stuck. It has to find billions of dollars every year to fund the tax cut.
Look what they're doing to education. They're putting a ceiling on the classroom size, they say. It sounds great. But these poor people in the boards of education, without money, are faced with tremendous problems to deal with that particular problem.
Mr Tony Silipo (Dovercourt): A point of order, Mr Speaker: I would like you to ascertain if there is a quorum. I believe we don't have a quorum.
The Deputy Speaker: Could you please check if there is a quorum.
Clerk at the Table (Mr Todd Decker): A quorum is not present, Speaker.
The Deputy Speaker ordered the bells rung.
Clerk at the Table: A quorum is now present, Speaker.
The Deputy Speaker: Member for Fort York.
Mr Marchese: I was telling you how worried I am about the fact that municipalities are burdened with a great responsibility. I was telling you that the Minister of Education has a strong desire -- not he; it's Mike Harris, the Premier; it's their agenda. They have an interest in taking $1 billion out of education, and that in the guise of educational reform. They're doing it because they need cash. They need money right away, so they've got a problem.
They've got to take $1 billion out of education. I tell you it will be a tremendous assault on the education system, on teachers and students. Dianne Cunningham, the minister of women's affairs, would know that, as a former teacher. She knows that this will be very destructive to teachers and students as these people rape the education system for the money they need.
To be a municipal politician, a trustee, in these times -- I wouldn't want the job. They're going to be faced with a severe reduction of services to deal with a shortfall of provincial money that traditionally has flowed to them. They're going to be in a tough bind, I can tell you that, with their electorate, and not this election but the following election when they have to face the public with two things: increased property taxes and decreased services. It's not going to be a pretty sight for those municipal governments.
The Planning Act allows municipalities to require a parkland dedication of up to 5%. That hasn't been changed, but the bill prohibits them from using development charges to fund parks over and above this, as some of them had apparently been doing.
The Ontario Parks Association is concerned that this will mean fewer and less-well-maintained parks. I'm worried. I know municipal politicians are worried about that too. Whereas they had the flexibility in the past and the discretion as municipal politicians to use their powers as they saw fit to serve their constituencies, now that power is taken away from them. That principle of this government that embraces municipal autonomy is in this particular instance corroded, corrupted, dismissed.
I argue that the power the municipal politicians had in the past was an important flexible power they had to service their constituencies. These people, these Tories, are taking that away. They're saying municipal politicians are not responsible or accountable enough to do the job well. In the one instance, with other bills, they say, "Ha, the opposition members don't trust politicians." On the other hand, in this particular case we do. If in the past it worked to give municipal politicians that autonomy and responsibility to be able to make reasoned, commonsense decisions, why take that away? Why would you take it away while at the same time as you pass other bills you tell them: "We trust you, municipal politicians, to do the right thing. We want to give you the power to do the right thing. We want to give you the power, to trustees to be able to cut as you see fit so taxes don't go up. We want to give you the power not to increase property taxes and to do the right thing as we download a thousand services on you."
On the one hand they say: "You guys are good, responsible. You guys are accountable. You guys are efficient." In this particular case they take that little power -- it's a little power -- to make their communities more efficient, more human --
Mr Gilles Pouliot (Lake Nipigon): The essence of life, nothing else.
Mr Marchese: M. Pouliot, mon ami, the essence of life, to make a community more human. It is the essence of who we are.
Mr Bradley: Did you mention the fund-raisers yet?
Mr Marchese: No, I haven't been able to talk about fund-raisers but fund-raisers is a good point, because when they have the big fund-raisers they don't do it like the NDP, where you charge $25 for a little fund-raiser with good food.
Mr Pouliot: This is the mother of fund-raisers.
Mr Marchese: Mothers of fund-raisers, I tell you. When these guys have fund-raisers, they invite the big boys for $500 plates, $1,000 plates if they're good patrons.
Mr Pouliot: And the meal?
Mr Marchese: And the meals are well-paid. With $500 or $1,000, you can have a hell of a meal. I've never had a developer come to my fund-raising event, and it's only $25.
Mr Bradley: Good food?
Mr Marchese: Good food.
Mr Bradley: Maybe I'll come.
Mr Marchese: You should, because we have good Latin American dancing at our events and it's a very allegro type of event. It's not lugubrious, as these people would have it, and they pay a hell of a big buck for a lugubrious event, a Tory event.
When they go helping the developers, it comes with fund-raising; of course it does. You think these guys come to fund-raisers and don't lay out the big bucks for the services these people have provided? I tell you, they do.
Me, instead? I don't worry about the big developers because --
Mr Beaubien: I don't have a big appetite.
Mr Marchese: Mr Beaubien, your developer friends, they're okay, they've got the bucks, they create a human life for their own individual life. But do you think they put as much back into humanizing their communities? I don't think they do that and that's why the Ontario Parks Association is very worried. Sure, you dedicate up to 5% of parkland. Sure, that's okay. But this bill prohibits them from using development charges to fund parks over and above that so they're well-maintained. Isn't that part of the humanity of a community?
If you take that away, what have you got? You've got developers in the golf field, you've got developers in the Bahamas enjoying the good life, the human life, with all of its services. They like those recreational services because they can pay for it. But back home on the ranch they're without the essential services that each one of us breathes for. So people are worried. I'm worried. If someone doesn't expose the perfidy of the Tory agenda we have a problem. Someone's got to do it.
Back to the bill. Again, as they say, this is An Act to promote job creation. Do you remember that? These developers said: "This is going to stimulate house construction. We're going to have a boom. Trust me."
M. Leach, a good defender of that ideology, said, "Yes, of course." Hand in hand. "Of course we're going to do it." He believes this agenda; he believes this ideology. All of them do on the other side. They said, "You take development charges out and we're going to see development and a boom you've never seen before." It's got nothing to do with it. Speaker, even you as a Liberal would know this has nothing to do with it.
Everybody knows the housing boom is driven not by development charges but by supply and demand, the marketplace, the altar of Tory ideology. The Tory ideology says let the market do it; the market will take care of itself.
"If you get development charges out," they say, "We're going to get more housing." It's not true. If people can afford a house, they're going to buy it and if people can't afford a house, they will not buy it. Development charges are sucked up by the developer and the poor homeowner who was told he's going to benefit from this because the savings are going to be passed on is out of luck. That young 30-year-old couple -- because now you can't afford to buy a house before 30, 33, maybe 35, that's when you start buying a house -- these people can't afford it. They go in with this belief that somehow they might believe these guys that they're going to save a few bucks, but they're not saving it. The guy who pockets it is that poor developer who's starving to death.
Mr Bradley: You mean, it's not going to the home buyer?
Mr Marchese: No, it's going to the developer. Those poor developers need the money to be able to travel around, to be able to feed those they lobby, to be able to feed their friends. The cost of living is pretty expensive. You can't be in this big league and not have enough money in your pocket to feed those you lobby. You can't be in the big league as a developer, right, and travel around the world with the big yacht and not have money left in your pocket.
Mr Pouliot: With top-notch polyester.
The Deputy Speaker: The member for Lake Nipigon.
Mr Marchese: Without the money in the pocket they can't do that, they can't keep the style of living -- Speaker, always through you; you notice I'm speaking through you now to the members opposite -- leaving the poor homeowner on his own.
Think of the poor homeowner today. Two people I know, closely connected to my family, one of them making $32,000, the other one was making $27,000 working in one of these clothing industry -- I won't name the company because it might not be nice for them to be named. My good friend's name is Mark. The last name will remain anonymous. The other good friend of mine is Lorena, working in a good service industry where the needs are plenty, young women who have lots of problems. She's working in such a place, providing the best that she can for $30,000, $31,000 a year, working every day, including Saturdays, to provide service to people who are sometimes marginalized, often abused, and sometimes unclear about where their life is going because they've got into trouble or because they've had problems in their family, providing a good service for very little money.
These people are trying to buy a house and, as they add up their earnings, realize that it's pretty tough, and they save money. They're saving money. They have a child so they want to make sure that the child is provided for, that basic necessities are provided for: rent, providing for the child, providing for child care, which is expensive. At the end of the day there's not a whole lot of money left to do what you want. This is the couple that would love to be able to benefit from that $2,000 that M. Leach said they were going to save, remember, by eliminating the full-height insulation requirement and the drainage requirement. They would have benefited from that, but there are no savings, so these poor people are going to have to do this on their own or pay somebody else and pay more for that.
This act to promote job creation, this Bill 98, is to require them to take out development charges for soft services, for things such as libraries, recreation centres, community centres, and the money that's supposed to flow to the homeowner ain't flowing. It's not flowing. It's going to flow to the pockets of the big guy. Do you think that's fair? Do you think, mon ami Gilles Pouliot, it's fair?
Mr Pouliot: I would resign, my friend. You and I would resign.
Mr Marchese: Do you think M. Beaubien, mon ami from Lambton, would find it unfair that this would happen with such a bill? Do you believe, Mr Speaker, that somehow M. Beaubien from Lambton would believe this act would promote job creation and the homeowner would save money? Do you believe he believes that? Do you think he read the bill? I often believe the members don't read the bills, because they uncork a bill with champagne every day. How could you read every bill? Did you see the bill that Minister Snobelen presented today? It was this big. As they uncork all these bills, do you think these people keep up to date?
Mr Bradley: Do you think they will be uncorking the champagne in the Albany Club?
Mr Marchese: At the Albany Club, of course. Where else do you think they go? Do you think they go to Dooney's Café at Bloor and Borden? Absolutely not.
Mr Pouliot: Where is the Albany Club? I've never been there. They have.
Mr Marchese: Oh, the Albany Club, they know this place very well.
But I'm worried, because I really want the members opposite to read the bills. There's so much in those bills that affect their constituencies. But do you see how blind they are often when the bills are introduced? They clap like seals and they say, "It's a great bill." I don't think they have a clue what they're reading, if they're reading. I don't think they have a clue, because many do not read. I don't think they have a clue because so many of these bills are passed with such rapidity that their intelligence, as limited as it might be in some cases, can't keep up. They can't keep up.
What is there in this bill that one could say is good? What can I say about this bill, so as not to appear negative, that could be good? I'm desperately searching for notes in this bill that would help me to praise this government. I can't find a thing.
Mr Bradley: I have something for you.
Mr Marchese: Member for St Catharines, I need your help. Please tell me.
Mr Bradley: They will be building new halls to hold their fund-raisers.
The Deputy Speaker: No. Order, member for St Catharines.
Mr Marchese: The member for St Catharines makes a good point to help out, and I appreciate the help. He says they will be able to build bigger halls now so they can have bigger fund-raisers, to have a greater capacity to hold more developers in -- is that the case? -- so that more and more Tories could benefit from the good work they do for them. That's a good point.
Mr Pouliot: It's a recompense, it's a reward.
Mr Marchese: It is a reward. "I give you something, you give something back." That's a good business practice -- the marketplace, eh? Sure. "I help you out and you help me out." That's the way it works in the marketplace. I tell you, the marketplace of the poor doesn't work that way. In the marketplace of the poor there's nothing to exchange except poverty, but in the marketplace of the fat cats there's a whole lot to exchange. Mayor Lastman knows that. N-o-o-o-body is left out of that particular exchange of the marketplace. N-o-o-o-body in the marketplace loses. We all win. The guys that win, however, are the people who've got deep pockets. The poor guy has nothing to share, and why would you share your poverty with others?
This bill, as I see it, had its genesis in a few developers in the Urban Development Institute sitting down together and saying: "Okay, boys, what have we got next? We've got a good friend across the way. Mike Harris is a good buddy. M. Leach is a good buddy of ours. What new idea do we have that we could approach him with, common sense kind of stuff?"
Mr Gilles Bisson (Cochrane South): A kind of Robin Hood, right?
Mr Marchese: A kind of Robin Hood exchange in the marketplace. They do not hesitate to approach this government, and I tell you, they have no problems accessing this government at all, because in the marketplace money talks. In the marketplace money has power, money gives you access and money achieves results.
This is where I've got to praise Hazel McCallion of Mississauga. She was able to hold back the forces of strength, the forces of capital. You've got to hand it to her, because had she not intervened, we would have had the full weight of this particular bill, where we would have seen municipalities pick up 10% of the hard services and 30% of the soft services. That's what we would have had in the original text of this particular bill. As a result of Hazel McCallion's courageous battle against the mercenaries over there of the ideology of the marketplace -- they would have been stuck with a bill that they would have had difficulties with, and they have shared that with us over and over again.
I had quotes from many of the people who had spoken to this. One of them says that even developers are saying that the benefits of this particular bill are not going to trickle down to the homeowners. I have a person called Hopcroft who said: "The new plan is a serious setback to the relationship between municipalities and governments. We were promised more tools to conduct our business, amid serious provincial cutbacks, and this is a serious limit on that." I had other speakers here that I had quoted in the past, but it is difficult to go through the text and find all that they had to say. But they were all municipal politicians, some of them mayors and some of them connected very much to this government.
I want to speak directly to the general public and say to you that there's always time to be involved in the political process. These bills are opportunities for you to learn about how your community is being affected. It is an opportunity for you to meet with your local member and ask him or her, whatever the case might be, to explain to you the benefits of each and every one of these bills. In this particular case, Bill 98, I urge you to sit down with your member and ask your member to tell you what the benefits of this bill are to you, how this will contribute to making sure you have the infrastructure you need in your community to live a decent human life.
Ask them direct questions about how eliminating or forcing municipalities to pick up 10% of the cost for libraries and community centres and recreation centres is helpful to you. Ask these provincial politicians to tell you how construction costs for city-administered buildings, parks, museums and art centres, the prohibition of these things, the use of development charges for these things, is beneficial to you.
You need to ask them these questions, and if you are not approaching them, they will feel that what they are doing with these bills is somehow palatable and/or acceptable to you. Without your talking to them, they have a licence to do what they want. You can't allow politicians to have such a licence. You can't allow that.
You can do several things. You can write a letter directly to the Minister of Municipal Affairs, the Minister of Finance, and address it "private and confidential" because otherwise it will never get to them. It's true, member for St Catharines. You know; you've been there as a minister. If you don't address it as "private and confidential," it goes to the civil service. Once the civil servants get their hands on that, they've got to read it, they've got to review it and it goes through the various echelons of review, and my God, before you know it, you're out of power and these guys are gone. So don't write a plain letter and address it to the minister, because they're never going to see it. "Private and confidential," this way the political staff of the minister reads your fine words, shares them with the minister and has a good sense of what the public is thinking.
Attend meetings. It's important to attend meetings, at least the meetings that some of these Tories attend, because in my experience not many of them attend meetings. There's a natural fear, quite rightly. These guys are afraid. With all the bills they've been passing, whacking one community and the next, do you think these guys are going to go to the meeting and take a whack from the community? They're not going to do that. They're going to sit home or here at Queen's Park and pretend they're busy. They're going to tell you they couldn't make it to your meeting because they're busy here at Queen's Park.
I tell you, they've got to obligate each and every one of you guys to attend the meetings and be held accountable and explain your bills. If they are not calling meetings and you are calling one and they're not coming, you hold them accountable. They are your public servants and they should be there.
The best approach to these guys is, you've got to see them in their office. They have a duty and an obligation to see you. As elected members they can't tell you, "We're busy and we can't meet with you." Each and every one of us has office hours, including ministers. When we were ministers, we had constituency hours to deal with complaints.
I have heard that some of these guys are not very good at that kind of public accountability, but you've got to hold them accountable. You tell them, "We elected you and you've got to be there." So you've got to have your meeting with them in the constituency office, and I tell you they don't get to see too many people. If they saw 10 or 20 or 30 people either at once or at different times, they would worry. You've got to use your power.
You, as individuals and as a collective, have a tremendous power and you can wield it by using that power you have, by making sure these people explain each and every one of their bills, by making sure that before they come to a meeting, they read their bills.
Some of the people, I must admit, like my good friend from Scarborough East -- I tell you he's good. We may not agree with him because he's so extreme in his ideology, but he is good, I will admit to that, my good friend from Scarborough East. He reads, he's up to date, he's profoundly provocative because he believes in the ideology. But at least this man reads.
You've got to force each and every one of these other people, these other Tories to come well prepared to answer your questions. You guys are going to have a hell of a time. You're going to have a hell of time answering some of the questions these people have if they dare to have the courage to hold you guys accountable.
But a politicized society makes for a good human society, and that's what I'm urging the public to do. The politicization of the public is good. A well-informed public is good. It holds all politicians accountable as trustees, as counsellors, as members of provincial Parliament and as federal members of Parliament.
I urge the public who are listening to do that. Bill 98 is not good news and they should be fighting it.
Speaker, I thank you for your attention.
The Acting Speaker (Mr Bert Johnson): Questions and comments?
Mr Doug Galt (Northumberland): I certainly enjoyed the presentation made by the member for Fort York. It was very high in entertainment but rather low in content and facts and figures.
I was really surprised that he talked quite a bit about people with low incomes trying to buy homes and that this bill didn't fit in with that. That's really what this bill is all about: to ensure that development charges are not excessive and to help the very people the member for Fort York was talking about. He seemed to be just a little confused on that particular topic when he was talking about helping people on low incomes. As I say, that's really what this is about.
He was also talking about and insisting on changing it and being more specific and the 10% on soft services. What it's really about is looking at the misuse that's been occurring in the past by some of the municipalities, looking at reducing the cost of homes and therefore increasing the building, the construction of homes, which is something we're seeing right now, and it's also about wanting to stimulate the economy and creating jobs. That may seem just a little foreign, but that's certainly what we're trying to do.
He talked earlier in his presentation about the tax cut, and I don't know how he got so far off topic with Bill 98 to be talking about the tax cut. But let me tell you, this tax cut has been stimulating the economy, exactly what we wanted it to do. It's creating the kind of consumer confidence in the country that was needed. Look at what's happening even to the federal government, that they're now able to get rid of most of their deficit and they are getting to the point of even thinking about doing something with their debt. It's here in Ontario where our tax cut has stimulated the economy to help that.
We're seeing an increase in housing starts, we're seeing jobs up, we're seeing car sales up and we're seeing housing sales up. That is what the tax cuts in Ontario are doing.
Mr Gerretsen: I am glad the member opposite talked about what the federal government is doing, because the federal government is actually doing it right. It's saying there are not going to be any tax cuts at all until we get the deficit down to zero. You people didn't do that, did you? This province still runs a deficit of over $6 billion and you're giving a tax cut at the same time.
You're also talking about the misuse of development charges by the local municipalities. I challenge you and I challenge the minister and I challenge the ministry to name those municipalities. During the hearings this was brought up many, many times, yet the government didn't have the guts to name any of those municipalities. Do you know why? Because there aren't any.
The other thing this government likes to talk about is the balance of things, how to be fair to everybody. We saw a perfect example about how they're not fair in the House today. You may recall that the Speaker who was in the chair during question period made a mistake. He didn't give the government member, the member opposite, an opportunity to put his supplementary question. What did the whole House do, Liberals and New Democrats together? What did we do? We said: "Yes. The Speaker made a mistake. We'll give him the supplementary question."
I then got up and said, "How about giving me my full question that I was entitled to if we had objected to that member having a supplementary question." What did the government side do? What did the Premier say, as a matter of fact? He said, "No, you won't have it."
If that is a system of fairness, that, "It's only fair if you do it our way," I'll tell you something, Mr Speaker: He's got an awful lot to learn about fairness. It's only a minor, little matter that doesn't mean much in the totality of things, but it shows you where this government is coming from. They are not fair to people of Ontario, and that's the bottom line.
Mr Bisson: I'd like to take this opportunity to comment on the presentation given by my colleague from Fort York. What the member tried to do in his presentation of an hour -- I think he was quite successful -- was show the links in this particular government decision to remove what we call in our jargon soft services away from development charges.
You can't, as the member pointed out, look at that in isolation of everything else that goes into supporting a community and doing development in a community to sustain what are important services for its residents. I think the member linked that quite well.
The problem I have with what the government is doing is that they really have a shortsighted approach to development. They're saying, "Development at all costs." They're not saying we need to make sure that the development is sound financially and ecologically and also in what it means for citizens. They're saying, "We're going to get rid of development charges and that's going to spur development in communities and that's good for the economy and that's good for Ontario."
It might spur some development. I would question how much, because in a lot of communities it doesn't amount to that much of a deterrent to development. But the problem is that they're offloading the responsibility of the developers on to future taxpayers in that municipality. If, let's say, a development in my community somewhere across the bridge, let's say on Riverside, were to expand by 40 or 50 homes, the soft services aren't going to be picked up initially by the developer. It's going to be all those municipal taxpayers within that particular area in the whole community.
I'm saying the government is shortsighted. They're saying, "Let's give our developer friends a break and let's transfer that responsibility of the developer directly on to the municipal taxpayer." I say that is not only unfair for the taxpayers but in the long run is fairly shortsighted politics, period.
Mr Steve Gilchrist (Scarborough East): I'm pleased to respond to the member for Fort York, although it's a bit troublesome here. We have conflicting rules in this House. We're only supposed to respond to the comments made by the original speaker, not the other respondents. But by the same token, he was supposed to have been speaking to the bill before us here today, Bill 98. He spoke about a lot of other things and, unfortunately, only tangentially dealt with some of the issues arising from development charges. One of those was what the province is doing to help low-income families get into the housing market.
I would remind the member opposite that for the second year in a row we've eliminated the land transfer tax for first-time home buyers. We're doing things that are very substantial. Forget the rhetoric. We are actually making it more affordable.
Let's get back to the bill that's before us here today. The Development Charges Act made it very clear at the outset that this was about making sure there's a fair balance between the costs borne by the developers and the costs that should be borne by the cities. Obviously, if any new development goes in and causes an increase in the extent of the sewers or the sidewalks, the roads that have to be put in, it's appropriate for that developer to pay those costs.
Having said that, currently the municipalities have the ability to assess all sorts of other charges for hockey arenas, for libraries, for art galleries that clearly all the other citizens of the city, the existing residents, also benefit from. We don't believe that's appropriate.
But you know what we did? After hearing from the people of this province on the original draft of the bill that was put out there, we cut from 30% down to 10% the percentage of the soft services that are required to be paid by the municipality. Imagine that. Even though you could have a town of 15,000 people and the new developer comes in with a proposal to add homes for 500 more, he could still be faced with a disproportionate cost of that art gallery or arena. We listen to people and we think it's appropriate the municipality still has some role, but the bottom line is we have got to put in a process that is fair to developers, that stimulates investment and creates jobs in the construction industry in Ontario.
The Acting Speaker: The member for Fort York has two minutes to respond.
Mr Marchese: I thank all of the speakers who have spoken and will direct my remarks to my two Tory friends on the other side from Northumberland and Scarborough East.
The member for Northumberland talked about looking for content in what I said and commented on the entertainment value of what I said. I looked for the same in him, and I couldn't for the life of me -- and I think I'm perspicacious enough to pick it up -- see any entertainment, and I desperately looked for content and didn't pick any of that up either. It's funny how perspicacity works.
Both my good buddies from Northumberland and Scarborough East --
Mr Marchese: "Good buddies" -- I take that back. They talk about us in terms of how we criticize, but did you hear the propaganda and the rhetoric on the other side? Their speeches are full of it. Propaganda, perfidy indeed and rhetoric, that's all I see in their speeches. Maybe the public sees something else, but I see propaganda, rhetoric and perfidy -- full of it.
They say this is going to stimulate job creation. It's going to stimulate the pocket of the developer, and that's all it's going to do. We know that and the public knows that. It will stimulate the pockets of their buddies. They know that. Even developers know that the housing market, who buys and who doesn't, is determined by the market force, not by your development charge. Thank Hazel McCallion for bringing these guys down, because originally they were going to charge 10% of the hard costs and 30% of the soft services to the municipalities. Hazel, thank you for your work.
The Acting Speaker: Further debate?
Mr Galt: It's certainly a pleasure to be able to rise and speak on Bill 98, the Development Charges Act. I enjoyed going around during the hearings and listening to the various presentations, and as a result of those hearings this government was listening and has certainly responded.
The Development Charges Act is very important in connection with growth. We want to see growth in our respective municipalities, so it is incredibly important. Just getting one house built represents one and a half or two person-years or thereabouts. It represents all kinds of work for people in landscaping, in developing appliances and the construction of those appliances, in furniture. There's a tremendous spinoff as we are able to get more housing starts occurring in our country. With the changes in the development act and the way we're working this through, we will see a stimulation of the economy, one that will generate taxes and the kind of finances needed for government services in general.
As I look at this act and read it through -- although the member for Fort York suggests that we don't read these, we just turn them out -- as you look through it, you'll find that it's going to make it fairer for homeowners. The way he was spinning it off, it was going to hurt them, and in fact really it's making homes cheaper. He seemed to think all it was going to do was help developers.
It will certainly help finance the infrastructure of new development. It's going to help remove some of the obstacles to growth, and that's something that our party has stood for way back before the election, to get rid of some of the obstacles and barriers to job creation and growth in the province. Development charges, as they have been designed and have been working, were a good idea to start with, but kind of went down the road of getting in the way and costing a horrendous amount, and some municipalities ended up really taking advantage of it and overcharging and hurting the people who were moving into their respective communities.
We see in this bill that we're going to be able to stop some of that misuse of the power that was in the hands of the municipalities and was hurting development. We recognize that there's a certain amount of cost in doing business and that development charges are important to help develop some of those services. Certainly in the past, and now, any capital cost that was related to growth was to help, was to come in to look after that. It was intended to help with some of the hard services, the capital, some of those things such as sewers and water, two very important things that are needed in subdivisions. It was important for roads that would be in the various subdivisions, for transit, for waste management and for homes for the aged. Development charges were intended to help recover some of these costs for these services that were needed for new development.
However, it went way beyond in charging for some of the soft services -- 100% and sometimes more -- necessary for new libraries, recreation centres, hockey arenas, parks etc, facilities that were not necessarily connected with the new subdivision or the new community or industrial park. Often these facilities might be on the other side of town, not necessarily connected with that particular development that was going on, although they were ending up paying 100% of the cost for it. Development charges were never meant to be a cash cow for any municipality.
Mr Gerretsen: No, they're not.
Mr Galt: Unfortunately in some instances that's how they did end up, even though the member from Kingston is commenting that wasn't the way. You'd think a past mayor of Kingston would understand some of the things that were going on.
Mr Gerretsen: We didn't have any, Doug.
Mr Galt: My compliments to the ex-mayor or retired mayor from Kingston that they didn't have any there. That's just absolutely marvellous. We're concerned about the communities that were making misuse of these.
We recognize the importance of the capital costs that these development charges do recognize and help with. Currently they are imposing charges that directly relate to growth, but presently these services include benefits that help the entire community. We were referring just a few minutes ago to things like hockey arenas, art galleries, tourism facilities, convention centres etc. There's no question that the taxpayer is expected to pay a portion of these costs. However, evidence points out that these new facilities in the past have placed an unfair burden with the new development charges that were in place. That was just simply unfair. It was stifling things such as construction, it was stifling investment and it was really affecting job creation in general. As I pointed out earlier, new development is tremendously important. It creates jobs and it is indeed the driver of our economy.
This new act will promote the home construction industry and it will indeed reduce the cost of some of those homes. The member for Fort York was concerned about affordability of homes. That's really what this bill is all about: making homes more affordable.
We hope it may also stimulate rental accommodation, something that has been missing for a very long time. It really got started back in the mid-1970s when some new rental agreements came in, bills on rental accommodation that limited the increasing of rent at that time. As a result, rents have been held down and we've ended up with a tremendous lack of rental accommodation in this province. We ended up with a Ministry of Housing and we've been spending something like $1 billion a year just because of the direction that it went. We were just not developing new rental accommodation.
This legislation will certainly reduce the scope of services that have in the past been eligible for financing through development charges. We're proposing in this act that, for some of the soft services, the municipalities will be expected to pay 10%. We're talking about things like libraries, community halls, hockey arenas and convention facilities. The other 90% could come from development charges, but it's not required that all 90% would come from that.
By setting it at this level, it does accomplish two things: First, it ensures that newcomers coming to a community and buying a new home would not have to carry the entire financial burden, as they were liable to do in the past. Sometimes, as mentioned, these new and existing facilities may be found on the far side of town, where everyone is enjoying them, not just those in that particular subdivision. We believe that really all residents should be helping. New residents, it should be remembered, will also be paying taxes down the road and will be supporting these new facilities as they go on and costs are required.
This particular bill will make the whole process far more transparent and it will be easier for those who have to foot the bill to see what's going on and examine it and understand it much better. It will also make councils far more accountable.
Mr Gerretsen: How?
Mr Galt: I'm glad the member from Kingston asked how. They'll be required to carry out studies and take a really hard look at these new facilities, and also they'll be paying the 10% that will make them more justified. There will be more municipal financial involvement, especially with the 10%, and that will get them more involved and more concerned to take a very serious look at it. They will be paying partly for these new services.
Bill 98 will require municipalities to look at a cost-benefit analysis and end up calculating the actual benefit to the community and to the residents who will be using these new facilities.
During the hearings we heard from many municipalities concerned about the contribution for soft services. We listened to those concerns when it was at 30% in the original bill and we adjusted that to 10%. At the same time it had been set for hard services at 10% for municipalities, and we moved that to zero. This compromise indicates the way this government listens and responds to the concerns of the public.
We're not the kind of government that may push things through, like the social contract that the previous government pushed through with no hearings, just drove it through, wiped out all the collective agreements of the province, of the municipalities and of school boards. They just drove it through without listening; no hearings. This government is one that has hearings and listens and responds.
Let me give you an example as to Who Does What. We had the Crombie study, went out and listened and invited the public and municipal representatives to participate. We listened and we implemented and brought in almost everything the Crombie report recommended. Then we had the transition team sit down and look at it. What did we end up doing? AMO came to us with a recommendation. We looked at it, we could meet our goals, so we said yes to almost everything AMO recommended except the 5% that trustees might be able to continue taxing resident property owners. We said no to that one item, but otherwise we listened and we responded.
More recently, just last week we listened again and responded with some changes to Bill 136. The union leaders came in and met with the Premier and some of the ministers who were connected with that bill. We listened, we looked at it and we responded. We're working with the unions and our goals have not changed. We will still accomplish our goals. We may arrive there by a slightly different route, but our goals are firm and we will arrive at those goals that we intended to reach in the beginning. Our main goal is to eliminate the deficit and reduce the debt that you people started, that you people created and that has caused all kinds of harm to new construction and jobs and the economy in this country.
Mr Gerretsen: You're the ones doing the harm.
The Acting Speaker: Member for Kingston and The Islands, order.
Mr Galt: Mr Speaker, thank you very much for quietening them down and getting a little order here.
Development charges are a real concern to all residents of Ontario, particularly those who are looking for new homes, and also for communities that are poised for growth. Northumberland just happens to be one of those communities that is benefiting from lower development charges, and many of the municipalities in Northumberland have kept their development charges down. As a matter of fact, five months ago I spoke at an economic development workshop in Hope township. There's no doubt in my mind that excess development charges dampen growth and investment.
Northumberland right now is open and welcomes growth. There are many examples across our riding where growth will be enhanced by looking at these development charges. For example, in Brighton we have a growing retirement community where some 800 units will be developed. In west Northumberland, in the industrial park near the mothballed Wesleyville plant, development is on the move. West of Cobourg, in New Amherst, there is an entire new community-based urbanism model now under way. That's the kind of development that is occurring in the riding right now.
Six months ago, I announced in this House that in my riding, in the town of Cobourg, we had regained over 900 jobs in the manufacturing sector that had been lost during the recession. At that point in time, roughly January 1, we had broken even. This was certainly encouraging news. It also indicated that we were poised to move ahead with greater residential and commercial growth throughout the riding.
In Cobourg, by the beginning of April, building permits were up to $4.2 million. That was up from $1.6 million at that time the year before, almost triple what they were in 1996. In manpower employment surveys carried out, 44% of employers in the construction companies were predicting hiring. In manufacturing companies, some 24% of the employers were predicting that they would be hiring within the year.
Bill 98 will certainly help to encourage new growth and new investment in Ontario. I'm looking forward to that both in my riding and across Ontario. That is why I'm very pleased to support Bill 98.
The Acting Speaker: Questions and comments?
Mr Bradley: I have found rather amusing the chronology the member has used in talking about the reaction of municipalities. As we know, municipalities in this province are under siege by this government because of the downloading of responsibilities and financial obligations that have been embarked upon by the Premier and members of the cabinet.
At the very time that our municipal representatives require funds to be able to carry out their responsibilities, the Mike Harris government is taking away from them one source of revenue which was quite legitimate to be able to undertake projects which were of benefit and help and necessity to the various municipalities. So they did not hail this bill.
When they got into negotiations with the government, it was the old story of the government starting out with a very hard line. Then, when they get into negotiations and the government backs down on a couple of items, it's in essence similar to saying: "Thank you for kicking me in the shins. You didn't kick me in the face." That's so often what happens when the government is involved in these negotiations.
There is little doubt, despite what the Conservative government member says, that the main beneficiaries of this legislation will be the huge developers in the province. They will be coming in great numbers to the Conservative fund-raisers and saying, "Thank you," with large donations to the Conservative Party. They are a special interest group that is being looked after by this government, and there is no guarantee in this legislation, as the member admitted, that any savings will be passed along to potential homeowners.
Mr Bisson: This was a most interesting speech, I guess you could call it, by the member across the way, who says: "This is a great thing. This government is making changes to the Development Charges Act and it's going to create all this new development in the province."
Let's look at what this government actually did. They started out by saying they were going to remove entirely the ability of municipalities to charge for soft services on developments, so there would be no development charges on soft services.
Because of Hazel McCallion and other mayors who said, "This is utterly preposterous. You are trying to tell us, municipal governments, how to run our businesses," the government finally backed down. The government is now saying, through this revised bill, you can charge everything but 10% back to the contractor, the developer. In other words, if there's a development charge, they can pass on 90% of the development charge right back to the developer, and 10% has to be borne by the municipality.
This is not going to do anything to increase development. Quite frankly, we're standing here debating a bill that, for all practical purposes, who knows what it's really going to do? What they originally wanted to do was make municipalities pay the entire cost of soft services. Now, because of the intervention of mayors and others in this House, they are in a position where they can still pass on up to 90% of soft development charges to municipalities.
So who are you trying to kid? This bill is going to do absolutely nothing to help development happen in this province in any way, shape or form, because in the end it is still the status quo. The only difference is that they can pass on 10%.
The last point: The member across the way says municipalities were misusing this power. What a thing for a government to be saying about municipalities in this province. It's pretty sad.
The Acting Speaker: Time has expired. The Chair recognizes the member for Scarborough East.
Mr Gilchrist: I'm indeed pleased to respond to comments made by my colleague the member for Northumberland, who, unlike the previous speaker, stayed on topic, and unlike the previous speaker decided to more accurately reflect on what exactly is happening in the province of Ontario, both in this chamber and outside, the investment that's being made by the hardworking people of this province.
We have heard far too often opposite that we don't consult, that we don't listen. This bill is a classic example of exactly how much the government does consult and listen to the affected groups, whether municipalities, developers or people who just were looking forward to buying a home. The bottom line is that a number of very specific, concrete suggestions were made, and they're reflected in the final version of the bill that's now going forward for our consideration in third reading.
The bottom line is that, as the member mentioned, whether it's Bill 136 or this bill or Who Does What, in every case this government has set a track record. Contrary to the mythology that the opposition tries to create, the facts support the argument that we have been listening and we have been responding better than either of the two previous governments. Whether it's Bill 136 --
Mr Bradley: Sound the bugles of retreat.
Mr Gilchrist: The member opposite derides the fact that we listened to labour and we've responded now. You go through labour's alternative. We've made those suggestions, appropriate amendments to Bill 136. But even more appropriate, we had 720 hours of hearings last year. The NDP in their record year had 689. The most the Liberals ever sat was 529 hours, 200 fewer hours of public hearings, the same year that they rammed through 93 bills. In all of 1996, we just passed 10; in other words, 72 hours per bill for the Conservatives, five hours per bill for the Liberals.
You talk a good line in here, but the bottom line is that both of those two parties demonstrated they didn't listen to the people. That's why they were judged the way they were June 8, 1995.
Mr Gerretsen: I must say to the last member, in those days that you were talking about, there were no restrictions on debate. So there must have been some pretty good bills to allow them to go through in a much shorter period of time.
What I want to talk about, though, is the total inconsistency. We heard the member just say that municipalities can't be trusted because they may be using some of the developers' money for museums, for rinks and for other projects. They can't be trusted, and therefore they've got to be limited. Now, they're only going to be limited by 10%, which, as the other member has already indicated, is really a very small amount in the total development framework etc.
On the other hand, they're saying municipalities can be trusted, because we're downloading all these other services on them. We want to download social housing on them. We want to download the health unit costs on them. I know of no other health costs that are actually borne by local municipalities. We want to download policing to municipalities; no more policing grants. You may recall, Mr Speaker, I spoke to you last week about a municipality that actually got a bill for $60,000. They haven't seen a policeman in the last year or two, and yet they're being charged with it, one of the smallest municipalities in Ontario. What else are they downloading? They're downloading ambulance services, which have never been dealt with by municipalities.
You can't have it both ways. You can't on the one hand say, "We don't trust you as far as development is concerned, but on the other hand, here, we want you to pay for all of these services now." Why don't you listen to the mayors of this province who are saying, one and all, that the downloading is going to cost more on the property tax base in this province? Rather than stonewalling them and rather than saying it's revenue-neutral, say the right thing, and that is that you are downloading extra costs on the local taxpayers.
The Acting Speaker: Order. We're in debate. There are comments and questions; there are replies. I want your replies put in that format. If you have the attention of the Chair, then you'll be standing up in your place, and that's the only time you're supposed to be shouting, talking and making noise.
Mr Galt: I'd certainly like to thank my seatmate, the member for Scarborough East, for his very kind comments.
It's interesting he also noticed the criticism from the opposition. First they criticize that we're pushing something through and not listening when in fact we are, and then when we listen and respond, they say we're backing down and chickening out. You just can't have it both ways. We either do one or the other, and I think we're hitting a very comfortable happy medium.
We're listening to the public, we are responding, but we are heading out and going to meet our goals. That's really what it's all about and what's important, the kinds of goals that we established in the Common Sense Revolution, brought out a full year before the election. The election could have been much sooner if they'd gone on the traditional four-year time, but they dragged it out to almost five years.
Mr John L. Parker (York East): What did they do in the fifth year?
Mr Galt: Nothing. I think they sat for three weeks, just a few days, and basically nothing happened legislativewise except they ran up a big debt.
It's interesting how they got sidetracked on to so many different things. I heard the member for St Catharines talking about us kicking somebody in the shins. I think they were kicking people in the face when they were in, because what happened there is they doubled their spending, doubled the budget in the 1980s, when times were pretty good. That's when they should have been paying down some of the debt. Then what did the NDP do in the following government? They doubled the debt. Between the two of them -- talk about getting kicked in the face -- they increased taxes 65 times in 10 years. That's what you did: increased taxes 65 times.
When you talk about downloading, don't forget that the public has pleaded that we take the education tax off residents. We did, we took it all off, and then we responded to the municipalities. When AMO came to us, we said: "Okay. If you would prefer it this way, we'll go 50%." Don't forget also the $570 million that's been set aside, annualized, for hard-hit municipalities.
The Acting Speaker: The member's time has expired. Further debate?
Mr Bradley: I want to begin my remarks by congratulating the member for Welland, St Catharines and Thorold, the Honourable Gilbert Parent, for his re-election to the position of Speaker of the House of Commons. Gib Parent is the Speaker of the House of Commons once again, and I want to compliment him on that because I know all members would want to join me in doing so.
I have found amusing, first of all, the various comments of members of the government. I listened to these bulldogs -- I use that very kindly -- on the other side who talked about how tough they were going to be, how difficult they were going to be, how they were going to stay the course, how they would never back down. And indeed those of us in the opposition said: "You know, you should start out doing something right in the first place. Don't unnecessarily provoke people. Don't move too quickly. Don't move too drastically. Look at the consequences of your actions." The government continued to bulldoze and bully people around the province until they hit the skids in the polls. Then all of a sudden we see a major change on the part of the government.
I listened last Thursday with absolute astonishment as the Premier got up and denounced the union bosses, as he called them, said this government was tough and standing firm, said his government was in a new era of relations where the public sector employees had to understand certain things. He reminded me of Phineas T. Bluster. That was a character in the Howdy Doody show of years gone by when I was a little wee kid. Mr Bluster was a person who was all bluster. He was all wind. He was all huffing and puffing. I saw Mike Harris, Premier of Ontario, get up at his blustering best and denounce the union bosses.
I thought Mike Harris was going to stay the course, just as the citizens' coalition asked him to. I thought he was going to stand firm, as the taxpayers' coalition were urging him to do. Then, all of a sudden, I heard the Minister of Labour get up and almost totally capitulate, though we haven't seen the details yet, to the demands which were made by, as the Premier would call them, the union bosses, and as we would call them, the elected representatives of working people in this province.
One could hear the bugles of retreat being sounded. One could hear the beeping sound as the truck backs up, as it's in full retreat. I was happy to see that, but I wish it were motivated by something other than a dive in the polls. I wish it were motivated by the fact that the government recognized it was wrong in the first place.
The battering that the government was taking day after day from my Liberal colleagues and members of the third party obviously had some effect. Obviously the government knew that it was making militant people who are not normally militant, people who did not want to go out on strike, people who wanted to concentrate on the jobs that they had, on serving the people of this province, on working with the students of this province. I think at last there was a recognition of that. It was late. It was a conversion on the road to Damascus. It was very late coming, but better late than never. You could add to that, better never late.
So we come to this bill on development charges and I hear the government say, "The real purpose is to help people who want to purchase homes, so we're going to cut the cost for them." Yet I look in the bill and I find no provision that would require the developer to pass along that cost which would have been incurred by the kind of development charges that municipalities have been imposing for very good reasons.
I suspect that any savings will go into the pockets of the developers and a certain portion into the coffers of the Conservative Party. The big developers are going to have to say, "You know, we are a special interest group and we're going to have to thank this government." "How can we best thank the government?" the big developers will say. They'll show up at the big fund-raising dinners all around the province. In St Catharines they were overflowing at the Ramada Parkway Inn. You couldn't get near the place, I'm told, for developers and others for whom the government has done favours: deregulating, reducing environmental requirements and so on. I thought from a straight point of view of fund-raising, this was good; good public policy, however, it wasn't.
But I understood at least why this bill was being brought in and I know when it's finally passed we will be able to hear the tinkling of the glasses at the Albany Club as they gather together to celebrate this victory over regular folks in our province, this victory of the developers. They will be thanking them at the Albany Club with the Conservative members.
What does this bode for the province? I remember the municipal affairs minister in Ottawa making a speech -- and I know all of the environmentally concerned supporters of the Conservative government, all 12 of them, will be saying they were shocked at this -- where he said, "I want to see fewer whooping cranes in Ontario and more construction cranes." I'm very concerned when I hear this; not surprised, but very concerned when I hear this. I begin to see unfettered development taking place. Good development everybody wants to see, I assure members of the House, but I see it happening all around the province in the way it shouldn't. I see prime agricultural land being converted into development in this province.
There are places for development, places where the agricultural land is not prime, places where the soils are not conducive to growing good food, places where the climatic conditions aren't special to growing certain crops. But the big developers want to get into the prime farm land.
If you look at the Niagara Peninsula, there are members of this government who would like to see everything paved from the edge of Metropolitan Toronto, Etobicoke west to Niagara Falls and Fort Erie, paved completely, taking away farm land which could serve to assist people in the future for the growth of vegetables, for the growth of fruit, for the growth of food for people in our province. Instead, there are people who want to pave that farm land.
We in the Niagara Peninsula have as an attraction a good deal of rural land, something that is good for the peace of mind of people, something that is attractive to tourists in our province. We used to see this throughout the Niagara Peninsula. Now we have development, we have the paving of the farm land, we have asphalt farmers in many places.
Some of the beauty of the Niagara Peninsula has been lost. Some of the attractiveness which brings my friend Bill Saunderson down to the peninsula on many occasions -- he's a frequent visitor -- is being lost as new developments are proposed. In fact, tonight St Catharines city council is dealing with a development on prime agricultural land. It started out as an autoplex they wanted to build. Now it's a different development.
Is there a place for development? Yes, in the city itself, within the urban boundaries there is still room for development. The land has been allocated for that purpose. Yet we're seeing people who want to pave that farm land. As soon as you allow certain developments to take place, it multiplies.
I feel bad for people in the town of Queenston, where there is a huge proposal for further development to destroy the character of that town. The town of Niagara-on-the-Lake council is opposing this and the regional municipality of Niagara is opposing this, but there are people who want to develop all that and make it look more like it's in the middle of Metropolitan Toronto, where we expect development, rather than on prime agricultural land.
You are taking away from the municipalities, through this bill, an opportunity to gain some funds to carry out their responsibilities. Heaven knows they will need this money, because you have downloaded responsibility, as the mayor of St Catharines has said as the chair of the large municipalities -- and he has said it in much more diplomatic terms than the mayor of Mississauga, who is much more direct in indicating what this government was doing. My good friend Don Cousens, former Conservative member for Markham, now the mayor of Markham, has denounced this government for its downloading. They are saying: "Look, you are placing new financial responsibilities and obligations on our municipalities. At the same time, you are taking away our opportunity to levy development charges which legitimately contribute to services that are going to be required in greater numbers because of new development taking place."
We see user fees taking place now as well, being imposed. I was talking to people in the all-star hockey realm just yesterday. I said, "What will it cost somebody to simply step on the ice now?" They said it was $900 simply to register. Why is that? Because the user fees are going up. The children of rich people will be able to participate, will be able to take part, but other people will not. In our Ontario, I suspect in the Ontario of Bill Davis --
Mr Sean G. Conway (Renfrew North): Mr Grimmett doesn't believe you.
Mr Gilchrist: Neither does Mr Gilchrist.
Mr Bradley: In Mr Grimmett's and perhaps Mr Gilchrist's Ontario, that may well be acceptable. It certainly wasn't in the Ontario of Bill Davis and Bob Welch and Tom Wells and Roy McMurtry and the late Larry Grossman and other icons of the Conservative Party from years gone by.
We are seeing in the Niagara Peninsula a situation where we have unique soil conditions and unique climatic conditions. For instance, the difference between the top of the Niagara Escarpment, which is under assault, by the way, and the bottom of the Niagara Escarpment is on the average 27 more growing days, 27 more frost-free days, so special products, special crops can be grown at the bottom of the escarpment. Yet we see development taking place and money being made hand over fist on these developments by the large developers.
People will be asking, "What about rent control?" A lot of seniors and a lot of others don't know that this government is also removing rent control. That will help to enhance the attendance at the fund-raisers in Ontario as the huge developers are able to up the rents substantially for people out there, well beyond what would be anticipated to be fair, as a result of a bill that is sitting before this Legislature. I wonder how many of those senior citizens who might have voted Conservative because they found some of the Conservative Party attractive will today be in favour of having their rents increased drastically, as the rent control bill will ensure will happen.
I want to share some of the progressive thoughts that are forthcoming from individuals on these development fees. Hazel McCallion said: "We can't afford to let development go ahead. We don't wish to go into debt. We're managing our finances extremely well and we take exception to the interference by the province into the revenue of the municipalities."
There are others who have had certain comments to make that I think are equally relevant. The critics argue the changes to the charges will encourage costly, land-munching urban sprawl and make new development less sensitive to the environment.
"Now we're back to the situation where we're going to have all those cookie-cutter housing developments with no controls on them," said Kathleen Cooper of the Canadian Environmental Law Association. "It's incredibly wasteful," she said, and I agree.
"Developers won't have to pay as much towards additional municipal services when they erect new housing, but the net result will be more subdivisions with large houses and wide lots requiring longer roads, water lines and sewers, making people more dependent on cars," Ms Cooper predicted.
"We're going to see developments in areas that never should see development: in wetlands, in natural areas," warned former Toronto mayor John Sewell.
What they basically said is that anything can happen anywhere. As for making some energy conservation features optional, environmentalists say they'll require furnaces to work harder and pump out more greenhouse gases.
In a report for the government-appointed greater Toronto task force, economist Pamela Blais said, "Sprawl can be costly, forcing taxpayers to subsidize much of the infrastructure for new suburbs." She recommended increasing development charges for building on the outskirts of urban areas.
Here we have what the real purpose is: to make the developers happy and to increase the money coming into the Conservative coffers from the developers. That's the real purpose of this legislation. Otherwise, as you know, Mr Speaker, better than anyone, there would be a clause in this bill which would say, "All reduced charges will go back to the home buyer." If they put that in the bill, at least we could say we knew what the purpose of the bill was. As it is, it is a bill that attacks municipalities, that makes developers happy and that will call for one thing. One thing will happen, I say, because it will be 6 of the clock soon and I'll have to continue my remarks later, but one thing I want to say is that it will start one building boom, and that is, the building of brand-new and bigger halls in which we will hold the Conservative fund-raisers, because there are going to be so many developers wanting to come to the fund-raisers, they'll need bigger halls to be able to accommodate them.
The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): It now being 6 of the clock, this House stands adjourned until 1:30 of the clock tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 1800.