36e législature, 1re session

L241 - Mon 6 Oct 1997 / Lun 6 Oct 1997
















































The House met at 1332.


Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-Woodbine): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I believe that at the time you made a ruling with respect to members in the House wearing buttons that had messages on them, you said there would be occasions on which, with unanimous consent, members of the House could honour certain days or celebrations.

Yesterday of course was World Teachers' Day and the button I'm showing here is the button in celebration of World Teachers' Day, which talks about how public education works. I would like to ask unanimous consent for the members of the Legislature to be able to proudly wear this button in support of World Teachers' Day.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): The member for Beaches-Woodbine requests unanimous consent to wear the button for World Teachers Day. Agreed? I heard a no.


Mrs Brenda Elliott (Guelph): On a point of privilege, Speaker: It's been brought to my attention that remarks I made in the House last Tuesday may have been misinterpreted. It's important for me to clarify the record. It was not my intention to indicate to the House that teachers in my riding are supportive of Bill 160 and I regret any confusion that may have been caused in this regard.



Mr Bruce Crozier (Essex South): Due to the government's objection, I'll have to remove my button in commemoration of World Teachers' Day.

I stand today to give a statement of support by my leader Dalton McGuinty and the Liberal caucus to the Coalition Against a Casino in Timmins.

The Coalition Against a Casino in Timmins is composed of a growing number of local clubs, associations, charities, churches, along with some representatives of local counselling services and concerned citizens. The main objective of the coalition is solely to stop the government's plan to open a seasonal casino in the community of Timmins. Many Timmins citizens are also expressing concerns about the social problems related to casino gambling activities.

"One person standing behind the coalition, who has been publicly opposed to a casino from day one, is Timmins Mayor Vic Power. `They certainly have my support,' said Power.... `There's nothing positive about a casino,' said Power. `There's the damage it does to the family, society and even our outlook on life.'"

With the support of the citizens of the municipality of Timmins, we add our voice to the coalition. In their words, "Our coalition intends to unite forces and take all the necessary actions to prevent the opening of any casino in the city with a heart of gold."


Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-Woodbine): I can't tell you how shocked I am that the government members would refuse unanimous consent to wear a button in this House that celebrates World Teachers' Day.

I shouldn't be shocked, not after listening to the debate last week and hearing the comments from government backbenchers disparaging the work of teachers in this fine province, disparaging the quality of the education they're providing our children. This government has, from day one, decided to pick a fight with the teachers.

There are thousands and thousands of teachers who have gathered together and met in places like Ottawa and York region, today in Mississauga and in Toronto and in northern communities like Ogama and Iroquois Falls, tomorrow in many other places, Wednesday in Belleville -- tomorrow is Hamilton -- amazing numbers of teachers coming out because they are fighting to preserve the quality of education. They will accept nothing less and neither will we in the opposition.

Can this government commit to reinvest every single penny you save from restructuring school boards out there and shrinking the number of school boards, reinvest every penny into the classroom, into improving quality of education? We have asked the Minister of Education a number of times to make that commitment; he has refused.

The minister and the Premier continue to disparage the work of teachers in this province. That's backed up by your refusal to have a statement on World Teachers' Day and your refusal to celebrate the day by wearing the button. Shame, shame.


Mr Steve Gilchrist (Scarborough East): Scarborough city council has recently recommended that the Guild Inn be designated as a property of historical value and interest under the Ontario Heritage Act. I'm certain that I speak on behalf of my neighbours, the residents of Guildwood Village, and indeed on behalf of all residents of Scarborough in welcoming this move.

The main building on the property was constructed in 1914 as a country home for Colonel Harold C. Bickford, and in 1932 the property was acquired by the late Spencer and Rosa Clark, who established the Guild of All Arts, a haven for the promotion of arts and for housing artists during the years of the Great Depression. Among the crafts practised there were weaving, tooled leather, block printing, pewter, copper and woodworking.

During the Second World War the federal government took over the inn for the training of WRENS, and subsequently it was converted to a military hospital. With the end of the war, the Clarks resumed operation of the inn.

In the 1960s, the Clarks sold much of the huge estate, and the community of Guildwood Village was built on these lands.

Throughout the landscaped grounds of the property are architectural fragments salvaged from historic buildings demolished in Toronto, as well as the Osterhout cabin, the oldest existing building in Metropolitan Toronto. The property is a popular site for weddings, parties, art shows, community gatherings and casual walks.

Since our election in 1995, I've called for the guaranteed preservation of this great resource, and I believe that Scarborough council is to be commended for designating the Guild Inn as a historic property.


Mr Pat Hoy (Essex-Kent): I have received a letter from Mrs Lori Drouillard of Windsor, Ontario. On Friday, Lori was picking up her four-and-a-half-year-old daughter from her school bus. As she watched in horror, there were not two, not three, but five cars that passed the school bus when its lights were flashing. She took the licence plate numbers and called the police, who advised her there was nothing they could do.

I get calls on an almost daily basis in one or more of my offices from parents and teachers who are terrified that a careless driver will maim or kill an innocent child. They want to know why Mr Palladini refuses to pass vehicle liability.

Mrs Drouillard says, "The drivers of these vehicles must take responsibility for breaking the law." She goes on to say, "The law now only protects irresponsible drivers, not our children."

Colleen Marcuzzi has said the minister wants to do the political thing, not the right thing. Your job is to protect innocent children, not guilty drivers. Lives are at stake, Minister. Pass vehicle liability. Do it now, for the children.



Ms Marilyn Churley (Riverdale): On Sunday, October 19, at 1 pm there is a rally at Metro Square which everyone who cares about the future of public transportation in Metro should attend. The Toronto Transit Commission has been starved by the Mike Harris government and Metro council may deal with the problem by raising students' and seniors' fares by a whopping 50%.

TTC riders now pay almost 80% of the costs of running the system. That's more than riders anywhere else in North America. There is no way the TTC can survive and maintain quality service for people at affordable rates without assistance from the provincial government. But things are only going to get worse because, as part of the provincial downloading, the Harris government will be contributing 0.0%. If you are a TTC rider, this sure puts that tax cut in perspective, doesn't it?

I spent some time early Friday morning standing at a Danforth subway station with local councillors Jack Layton and Peter Tabuns, alerting people to the problem and asking them to sign a petition. Not surprisingly, with everything else going on, most people were unaware of the issue, but believe me, almost everyone signed without hesitation and expressed deep concern.

Please get involved. Tell Mike Harris to fund the TTC and tell Metro not to increase fares for seniors and students by 50%. The rally is sponsored by the Rocket Riders. They can be reached at 596-0500 for further information. Hope to see you all there.


Mr Jerry J. Ouellette (Oshawa): I rise in the House today regarding the 75th anniversary of one of Oshawa's educational cornerstones, Ritson Public School. Since its first 350 students entered its doors in 1923, Ritson Public School has delivered quality education to its generations of students and holds a special place in the hearts of many of the former students, including such greats as Tata Mary, Tata Sylvia and my mother.

The school is named after a prominent Oshawa educator and citizen, John Ritson, who was the first teacher of a local area school built in 1812 and a Sunday school superintendent. His dedication and commitment to educating Oshawa's youth continues at the school which is his namesake.

The school has always sought to offer increased educational opportunities for its students. One such opportunity at Ritson Public School is a special program that has been a model for similar initiatives around the region of Durham. This program relates to the development, understanding and implementation of acceptable social skills. Programs such as computer-assisted learning technology are being piloted this year as the school adapts to the change in technology in education.

Ritson Public School has grown in its first 75 years and adapted well to the educational needs of Oshawa's youth. The community support and the dedicated faculty and staff of the school are committed to continuing the tradition of excellence in one of Oshawa's earliest schools. I'd like to congratulate Ritson Public School on its 75th year. The school's 75th anniversary celebrations will continue throughout the year, concluding in June.


Mrs Lyn McLeod (Fort William): It is no wonder that government members did not even want us wearing buttons in recognition of the fact that yesterday, October 5, was World Teachers' Day. Across the world, the invaluable contributions of teachers were being celebrated, but here in Ontario there was not a mood of celebration. We were all too caught up in the tension of the educational crisis this government has created.

Isn't it ironic that while the rest of the world focused on celebrating the achievements of teachers, our Minister of Education and our Premier escalated their war on teachers. Our Minister of Education has deliberately picked a fight by describing teachers as underworked and overpaid. Our Minister of Education is so determined to take $1 billion out of the system that he's willing to put non-teachers into the classroom to teach our students. We have a government in Ontario that has already taken $1 billion out of education and still wants $1 billion more, and a Premier who said last week that teachers in Ontario can't be trusted when it comes to delivering quality education.

Why do the minister and the Premier not want to talk about the fact that our grade 4 students came second on the international science and math tests, or that our grade 7 students scored above the international average in science? Where do they acknowledge that our teachers have made that kind of achievement possible, even in classes where their students have a wide range of abilities and even languages? Is the Harris government so determined to prove the system is broken that they still will not celebrate the international award of excellence given to the Durham Board of Education or the national recognition for educational excellence given last week to Red Lake? We should be celebrating the achievement of our students and our teachers.


Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): As things continue to heat up around Bill 160, it becomes clear that the government's agenda is to try and persuade Ontarians that what they are up against is the force of the teacher union bosses, because anybody who is elected in any kind of labour association representing working people at any workplace is automatically labelled a union boss and therefore a legitimate special interest and therefore a legitimate enemy of this government.

The reality, as those of us who are parents see our children going back to school, is that Ontarians are seeing teachers not as a group being used and manipulated by union bosses but rather as individual citizens and neighbours and family members who care about their kids, and when Ontarians think about teachers individually, your whole argument falls apart.

I can tell you that just like under Bill 136, when all our communities, my own in Hamilton included, saw that the 136 debate wasn't just about those workers and those rights, that it was about our communities and the quality of our communities and the quality of life for our families, you will begin to see that you do not have the support you think you do. Ontarians will rally behind teachers because Bill 160 is about our communities, it's about our kids, it's about our families, and you're not going to pick a fight and destroy that.


Mr Gerry Martiniuk (Cambridge): Once again I have the honour to rise in this House on behalf of the White Ribbon Against Pornography campaign, WRAP for short. The week of October 19 to 26 has been declared WRAP Week across Canada. I have distributed the WRAP pamphlets and white ribbons to all members of this House and request that they consider wearing the ribbons starting Sunday, October 19, 1997.

The annual White Ribbon Campaign encourages all citizens to wear the white ribbon as an expression of their concern with the proliferation of pornography and its negative effects upon our communities and the men, women and children living in those communities.

Wearing the ribbon is not a solution but an important method of bringing awareness to this growing problem. It's a simple program with positive results: It educates the public regarding a multibillion-dollar business; it unites all citizens who are concerned; it increases the awareness of police, judiciary and community leaders; and it expresses standards of community tolerance.

I thank all the volunteers in the Catholic Women's League for their hard work in making this campaign possible across Ontario and Canada. I thank members of this Legislature for support of this very important initiative.



Mr David Tilson (Dufferin-Peel): I beg leave to present a report from the standing committee on general government and move its adoption.

Clerk at the Table (Mr Todd Decker): Your committee begs to report the following bill as amended:

Bill 148, An Act to deal with matters relating to the establishment of the new City of Toronto.

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

Pursuant to the order of the House dated September 8, 1997, this bill is ordered for third reading.




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, October 7, 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.

Hon David Johnson: I move that pursuant to standing order 9(e)(i), the House shall meet from 6:30 pm to 12 midnight on Wednesday, October 8, 1997, for the purpose of considering government business.

The Speaker: 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.

Hon David Johnson: I move that pursuant to standing order 9(e)(i), the House shall meet from 6:30 pm to 12 midnight on Thursday, October 9, 1997, for the purpose of considering government business.

The Speaker: 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.

Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-Woodbine): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I would like to ask for unanimous consent for the three parties to make a statement in honour of World Teachers' Day.

The Speaker: The member for Beaches-Woodbine is asking for unanimous consent for each of the three parties to make a statement on World Teachers' Day. Agreed? I heard a no.

It's time for oral questions. Official opposition: leader of the official opposition.

Mr Dalton McGuinty (Leader of the Opposition): Mr Speaker, I have questions for the Minister of Education and I believe he's making his way in now.

The Speaker: I don't know where he is, actually. Stand it down? Your second question?

Mr Gilles Bisson (Cochrane South): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: Unanimous consent that we give the Minister of Education prep time to get ready for his question.

The Speaker: New question, third party.

Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): I have a question for the Minister of Education, who obviously now understands the need for prep time.

The Speaker: I'm going to go back to the official opposition for the first question. Can you reset the clock, please?



Mr Dalton McGuinty (Leader of the Opposition): Minister, there are going to be thousands and thousands of people tonight gathering in Maple Leaf Gardens. They're not going to be there to watch a hockey game and they're not there to attend a rock concert. They will be there to talk about Bill 160 and they will be there to talk about you.

Last week the committee considering Bill 160 received all kinds of letters, in fact hundreds and hundreds of letters, from parents who are very concerned about what's happening with your Bill 160. Furthermore, we now know that thousands and thousands of students have been walking out across the province in expression of their concerns about your Bill 160.

Although we are getting closer and closer with each passing day, a strike is not inevitable. You can do something about it. Just tell us, right here and now, that you're not going to cut one single additional penny from education.

Hon John Snobelen (Minister of Education and Training): I can assure the Leader of the Opposition of exactly what we've been saying for the last year, which is this: We will not have our students subjected to a general legislative grant program to fund education, which hasn't worked in the interests of students. We will not do that.

We will have a new funding system that's based on students' needs. We will work with experts in education, we are working with experts in education to identify those student needs. I can assure the Leader of the Opposition that we will fund every one of those student needs. We will make sure the students in the province of Ontario have the best education system in Canada. That's our intention. That's why this government has assumed the responsibility to fund education. That's our promise. That's our commitment. I intend to be held to account for it.

Mr McGuinty: The minister talks about what he's been saying for the last year and he still doesn't understand that's not good enough. We are still on the brink of a province-wide strike involving 126,000 teachers and 2.1 million students. What you've been saying to date is not working. We're still on a collision course. You've got to get that into your head and you've got to do something about it.

Here is another option for you. We know that it's over a year ago now that you, through secret focus groups and polling, were talking about getting rid of 10,000 Ontario teachers. That's been planted in the minds of our teachers for a long time now. Last week you said, "No, it may not be 10,000, probably closer to 5,000 teachers that we're going to have to let go."

Here is another option for you, Minister. Stand up right now, because I know you are genuinely interested in avoiding a strike, and tell us that we're not going to have one single teacher let go as a result of your Bill 160.

Hon Mr Snobelen: I don't share the Leader of the Opposition's view that we'll have a strike in the province of Ontario, an illegal strike. I don't think that will happen and I've said that all along. I believe in the honour and the professionalism of teachers and I know that they'll honour their obligation to their students and to their contractual obligations.

I know it's surprising to the Leader of the Opposition. He's the person who tabled legislation in this House that would eliminate the right to strike. We haven't gone down that path. We've honoured the right to strike for teachers.

Mrs Lyn McLeod (Fort William): That's not true.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Member for Fort William, you can't-

Mrs McLeod: I withdraw.

The Speaker: Thank you. Minister?

Hon Mr Snobelen: I want the Leader of the Opposition to be assured that we have invited the Ontario Teachers' Federation to meet with us on four separate occasions to work out an early retirement plan that would help us invigorate the teaching profession, and make sure that those who wanted a graceful exit from teaching could do so, and so that, yes, the reductions in the number of secondary school teachers made necessary by asking secondary school teachers to have the average amount of time with their students as other teachers in Canada will be met through attrition.

The Speaker: Final supplementary.

Mr McGuinty: There are a few things we know for sure in all of this. First of all, we know that parents don't want a strike. Secondly, we know that students don't want a strike. If the minister took the time and genuinely expressed an interest in hearing from teachers, he would quickly discover that teachers don't want to strike.

On the other hand, we have a minister who has refused to promise here and now that he's not going to take any more money out of the education system and we've got a minister who has now refused to promise that this is not about laying off teachers. It seems the only person who really wants a strike -- a massive, full-scale, all-out education strike in Ontario -- is the Minister of Education himself, John Snobelen. He's the guy who's setting on this collision course.

Why are you so hell-bent on forcing a strike, Minister, and how is it that common sense in a government could possibly bring us right to the brink so that we're looking at 2.1 million students being put out of school?

Hon Mr Snobelen: I can tell you, from sitting in this chamber day in and day out over the last few weeks and listening to the member for Fort William and the Leader of the Opposition raise again and again issues that simply are not based in fact, that the people who have the most interest in causing a labour disruption with teachers in the province of Ontario are our colleagues across the floor: the Leader of the Opposition, the member for Fort William and the rest of your colleagues.

I can tell you, if you have an ounce of decency or concern about students in Ontario, you'll drop the empty rhetoric, you'll quit misrepresenting the position of the government and you will honestly represent what's in the best interests of our students.


The Speaker: Minister, I would ask you to withdraw that last statement.

Hon Mr Snobelen: I withdraw it.

The Speaker: Thank you. New question, leader of the official opposition.

Mr McGuinty: The second question is for the same minister. That, from the minister whose Premier last week said, "We can't trust teachers to deliver quality education in Ontario." Talk about going into negotiations in a true and genuine spirit of conciliation. It's all there for us.


You have told us from the outside, Minister, that our teachers are overpaid and underworked. Your Premier tells us that they can't be trusted to deliver quality education.

It seems to me, and I may be a little bit old-fashioned in this regard, that our Minister of Education should be saying maybe three things: (1) we value teaching in Ontario; (2) we value our teachers; and (3) we have some basic inkling as to the kinds of challenges teachers have to contend with in classrooms in 1997 in Ontario. It seems to me that's the kind of stuff a Minister of Education ought to be saying. My question for you is, why don't you respect our teachers?

Hon Mr Snobelen: Of course, much of what the Leader of the Opposition has said in his preamble is simply not based in fact. I know that the Leader of the Opposition knows I have stood in my place in this House on many occasions and said that the key piece of our education system, the thing we need to build on, is the expertise and the ability and the commitment of our teachers. I just said that earlier today.

As a matter of fact, I have so much faith in our teachers and I have so much understanding of them as being the most professional teachers in Canada, the best-qualified teachers in Canada, that I believe they can spend the same amount of time with their students in classrooms as their colleagues from other provinces. Perhaps the Leader of the Opposition has not that sort of faith in Ontario's teachers. We do.

Mr McGuinty: So now we have the great friend of teachers. I guess that explains the fact that we've got this wonderful development of the John Snobelen admiration society developing throughout the province. Teachers have been gathering by the thousands and uttering his name on a regular basis. They've met in Ottawa. They've met in Durham. They've met in London. They've met in Kitchener. They've met in Hamilton. They've met in Oshawa. They're meeting tonight here in Maple Leaf Gardens. I somehow just don't get the sense that they sense your deep respect for them, Minister.

Perhaps, though, there's an opportunity here. Tonight, after Maple Leaf Gardens, thousands and thousands of those loyal members of the John Snobelen admiration society will be gathering here at Queen's Park. Will you take the time to come out and say hello, with me, to your friends?

Hon Mr Snobelen: I'm pleased to tell the Leader of the Opposition that I am looking forward to meeting with the heads of teachers' unions later this week to talk about the substantive issues in Bill 160. I will not be there this evening.

I hope the Leader of the Opposition, if he has an opportunity to address people who are concerned about education, will represent the file fairly, that he'll suggest to people who are in attendance that it takes great courage to take on the real issues in education. It takes great courage to ask the tough questions -- courage not shown by your government when you were in power, courage not shown, with the greatest of respect, by the previous government, but courage now shown -- to ask the tough questions for the betterment of the students in Ontario, and that is what we are doing. I hope the Leader of the Opposition will fairly represent that.

Mr McGuinty: Let's talk about the kind of courage displayed by this government to date. They had the courage to cut back on junior kindergarten. They had the courage to cut back on adult education. They had the courage to cut back on special education. Now, that is the tremendously warm and encouraging kind of courage we need to hear in education in this province.

Let's go over this again from the beginning. You won't promise that you're not going to take any more money out of education, you won't promise that this bill is not an exercise to put thousands of teachers out of work, and now you're even refusing tonight to meet with teachers themselves.

Here is your last chance to avoid a strike. Teachers have told us it is second reading that's going to trigger the strike. What have you done? You've sped this process up. You've now closed the debate. A strike is now even closer, compliments of you and your government.

Let's stop debating this bill. Let's put the bill on ice. Stand up right now: "We're not going to go on with debate because we know we're too close to the brink and there is too much at stake. We're going to put it on ice." Would you just tell us that right now so we can all go home and relax a bit more?

Hon Mr Snobelen: Let me be very, very clear that I am interested in and believe it would be fruitful to have conversations with, to have a dialogue with, to discuss the relevant issues with the leaders of the teachers' unions, and I hope to do that later on this week.

I have a faith and a belief in teachers that they will honour their obligations to their students. I have always had that faith in our teachers, although the Leader of the Opposition does not. I will not do what you might do in the same circumstance, obviously from the record, and that is to sell out on our students, to sell out on their futures, to sell out on having the best education system in Canada, because that is the commitment of this minister and this government and it always will be.

The Speaker: New question, the third party.

Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): I have a question for the Minister of Education and Training. If the minister is really sincere in what he just said, then he should prevail upon the government House leader not to call a time allocation motion today and to postpone it until after he meets with the leaders of the teachers' federations.

Last year the minister, in commemoration of World Teachers' Day, said he was committed to changes to our education system that would enable teachers to work as effectively as possible, yet this year the minister is taking away the very tools that teachers need to meet the needs of their students. He has proposed cutting secondary school teachers' preparation time by 50% and he's ignoring the Education Improvement Commission's recommendations to reinvest all savings into education that might come from restructuring our schools.

Will the minister commit today to hold off on time allocation and make a public commitment that any money that is saved from restructuring our education system -- any and all money -- will be reinvested in the education of our students?

Hon Mr Snobelen: I believe the member for Algoma will know that we have a very public commitment to making sure we meet the needs of our students, of having the province of Ontario take accountability and responsibility for that funding finally and at long last.

I want to assure the member for Algoma, and I want to make this promise very clearly: We will not back away from the tough questions and the tough issues to get a better education system for our students and we will not pass the bill on to our students as your government did.

Mr Wildman: What the minister is saying is that he is going to make the students of today pay and they're going to pay through cuts to education.

Thousands of teachers will be rallying, as we all know, in Toronto and Mississauga, Iroquois Falls, Gogama and Espanola today. Tomorrow they are meeting in Dubreuilville, Hamilton and Wawa. Wednesday it's Belleville, Hornepayne, Victoria-Hailburton, Lindsay and Fenelon Falls.

The minister has indicated he won't meet with the teachers here this evening. We've heard reports that the minister is considering a commitment to reinvesting the $1 billion he plans to cut from education if the teachers give up their preparation time and pension funds. Is that why the minister won't meet tonight? Is the minister essentially saying that a reinvestment in the education of our students will become a bargaining chip to offer to teachers in return for them giving up their pensions and their prep time?

Hon Mr Snobelen: The whole premise of the legislation we have before the House today is to not have students be bargaining chips; to be able to guarantee quality instead of bargaining quality, which the member might be used to.

I know the member for Algoma to be a decent person and I am surprised that he would stand here today to talk about making students pay when his government handed them a $41,000 debt and diminished their future, a future we are trying desperately to restore for them. That's the reason we're doing this work and that's why we won't be satisfied with a mediocre education system. We'll have the best education system in Canada because that's what we owe our students.

Mr Wildman: That's exactly the problem. When it comes to the crunch, the minister can only confront. It's time that he cooled down and backed off. It's not just me or other members of this House who are saying this. This morning, 40 religious leaders from the Waterloo region sent a letter to the Premier saying:

"Massive cutbacks of teachers and other resources in our schools under the name of education reform is a misuse of language and upsetting to us. Our children's needs in maintaining the high quality of education provided by our teachers must not be the victims of such aggressive tactics" -- 40 interfaith leaders from the religious community in Waterloo.

These religious leaders believe that the minister is poisoning the atmosphere for real improvements to our education system by not committing clearly to reinvestment of all of the money and to true educational reform.


Will the minister make it clear now, to avoid a confrontation and to back off and cool things out and meet the demands at least of these religious leaders that you reinvest all of the money in the education of our students?

Hon Mr Snobelen: The member for Algoma may have difficulty in understanding what a zero-based budget is, but I'll go through this slowly one more time. A zero-based budget is one where you start with no assumptions about your past spending habits, which we know did not work. We know that your spending habits made second-class students of some of the young people in Ontario, and that was not acceptable.

We are going through the work now of building a funding system that will meet the individual needs of every student in Ontario. And yes, we intend to invest in those areas that matter to our students in the classrooms in Ontario, and we'll make sure that investment is at a level where every single student in the province has a high quality education. That's our commitment; that's our promise. It always has been, it always will be, and that's what we'll deliver.


Mr Floyd Laughren (Nickel Belt): I have a question for the Minister of Environment, who is supposed to be responsible for Ontario Hydro. The minister will know that the chief executive officer, Mr Farlinger, is appearing before the select committee on Hydro affairs this afternoon. I have a report here from the nuclear performance advisory group, which indicated that there were serious problems at Ontario Hydro in its nuclear division. This is dated April 17.

When you were asked if you'd seen the report, you said, "No, but it wouldn't have made any difference if I had, because I wouldn't have done anything about it, I wouldn't have taken any action." We're talking about nuclear safety and the safety of communities here.

My question for you is, how can you possibly be so dismissive of an interim report that bears a striking similarity to the final report in August that resulted in the resignation of the president of Hydro and the future shutdown of seven nuclear reactors? How can you be so dismissive of that report?

Hon Norman W. Sterling (Minister of Environment and Energy): I welcome the opportunity to clarify my statement on television, which was about a 20-minute interview and there were about 10 seconds on the particular interview.

I replied to the questions with regard to this interim report in that I had not seen it. I had asked my staff what this report was about. This report was not new evidence. This was not new material. All of this material, or the great abundance of this material, had been produced in public before. It was not a surprise to anyone. As I understand it from the chairman of Hydro, and you may ask him this afternoon, it was nothing but a reiteration and a benchmark on which the safety committee was to go out and either verify or reject what had been found in the past. As a result of that, that was the reason for my response, that this was not new information which I might have received.

Mr Laughren: This story gets stranger and stranger by the day. Mr Farlinger, who headed up the advisory committee group, is the same person who, despite knowing this interim information, then went to the AECB and asked for a five-year licence for those nuclear reactors. How do you square that? Do you think Mr Farlinger was acting responsibly when he knew there were serious problems which were going to result in the shutdown of those seven reactors? Do you think he was acting responsibly when he then went to the AECB and asked for a five-year licence and even hinted that a 10-year licence would be better? Do you think that's acting responsibly?

Hon Mr Sterling: The member opposite will have an opportunity to ask Mr Farlinger that. I believe there's a response which you can give, but unfortunately I don't have the time in this House to respond because it's a very complex subject.

I would say that Mr Farlinger and I have been in constant communication not only during this period of investigation of the safety of our nuclear reactors but prior to that. I would remind the member opposite that it was Mr Farlinger and Ontario Hydro who took the initiative to engage these people to look at themselves and to examine their own safety. There was no statutory obligation; there was no obligation upon them to do it. So to allege now that there is a coverup by the very people who ordered the investigation I find somewhat strange.

Mr Laughren: That's interesting because I find you strange from time to time as well. I must say I'm puzzled by your role in this whole affair. I'm wondering whether, first of all, you knew anything at all about that interim report back in April, and if you didn't know anything about it, how you feel today knowing that the people at Hydro who are supposed to report to you knew about that interim report, then went to the AECB and asked for a five-year licence, and then said, "No, it's so serious at Hydro that we have to shut down seven reactors and the president is going to resign." How in the world do you fit that with your role as the minister to whom Hydro bosses are supposed to report? How do you feel about that?

Hon Mr Sterling: As I said, the interim report was old news. It was news which not only was there in public written form but also was there and discussed in a public forum, and that was the AECB hearing which decided in December to give Pickering only a six-month licence. If there was ever anything that publicized the vulnerability of our nuclear program to the public, it was that particular licensing action.

In terms of all the chairmen we have had of Ontario Hydro, I would say the present chairman has been more open, more forthright and more resolved to deal with this problem than any other chair of Ontario Hydro before, and I applaud him in his efforts. He will be appearing in a public way in front of your select committee, the select committee of the Legislature, on these matters this afternoon and will be making all these documents -- he will be able to answer all those questions. I don't think we should be ashamed of the performance of Mr Farlinger and the nuclear performance team; I think we should laud it.


Mr Gerry Phillips (Scarborough-Agincourt): My question is to the Minister of Finance and it has to do with Bill 160. We asked the Minister of Education this question last week, but he had frankly no idea what was in the bill.

Bill 160, the education bill, purports to give you, the cabinet, Mike Harris, unprecedented powers. The way we read the bill, the cabinet can set, without any debate, no public input, no opportunity for any debate on it, $6 billion worth of property taxes. You can simply sign a document and $6 billion of property taxes will then be raised. It seems to us extraordinary. It seems to us that's the sort of thing the public should be involved in. It seems to us that's the sort of thing we should be debating here in the Legislature. My question to the minister is this: Why does Mike Harris want to give himself the power to set $6 billion worth of property taxes?

Hon Ernie L. Eves (Deputy Premier, Minister of Finance): First of all, no rates will be set without consultation both with the public and in committee. Bill 160 will be going to committee. Bill 149 will be going to committee.


Hon Mr Eves: The honourable members don't seem to like the committee process; they don't seem to want bills to go to committee.


The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Order. Minister.

Hon Mr Eves: For example, I have made a commitment under Bill 149, and the honourable member knows this all too well. There were some 25 regulatory powers initially outlined in Bill 149 that could be set by regulation. I changed seven of those into amendments of the statute because I, like he, was concerned that the more that can be in statute, the better. I also tabled in this House about a week and a half ago another additional seven proposed regulations; they're all going to be in committee for members and members of the public to debate. I hope, quite frankly, to have more proposed regulations so they can be debated and considered by the committee and the public.


Mr Phillips: I said earlier that if Bob Rae had ever tried to pass this bill when he was the Premier, Mike Harris would have gone berserk, because this bill -- and the public should realize it -- allows the Premier to set a third of the property tax with the stroke of a pen. It is taxation without representation. It's a huge mistake. It should never have been allowed to get to this point in the Legislature. As I say, if Bob Rae were still the Premier, Mike Harris would be so red-faced that he wouldn't be able to talk. It's just wrong.

My question to you is this: Will you agree that it is a mistake and that you will agree now to change the bill so that you cannot set property taxes with the stroke of a pen, secretly in the cabinet room, and that there must be a public vote before you set property taxes?

Hon Mr Eves: The honourable member knows that these things are not done in secret, that they are done by regulation. He knows full well, for example, that there are 68 powers in the Retail Sales Tax Act that are done by regulation. His government did it when David Peterson was in power; their government did it when Bob Rae was in power. The provincial land tax has 11 such provisions.

However, I can tell you this: We will make sure that education taxes across this province are fair. We will freeze the rate on education taxes across this province. The exact rate, he knows quite fully because he has been briefed on this by the finance ministry, cannot be determined until later this fall when all the exact assessment information is in, but he can be assured of one thing: It makes sense for people to pay for a service like education that benefits us all at the same rate regardless of where we live. That is the fair and equitable thing to do. That's what we'll do. That's what your governments didn't have the courage to do.


Ms Marilyn Churley (Riverdale): I have a question for the Minister of Environment and Energy. Today we read in the press that Conservation Ontario, the umbrella group for Ontario's conservation authorities, is selling seats on its board. The first buyer is Dofasco, named last year by Environment Canada as one of the big polluters on the Great Lakes. You have cut conservation authorities by two thirds by now. There is a limit -- you should know this -- to how much cutting you can do before you do exactly what's happening now: drive conservation groups and others to go further and further into the arms of corporate Canada. Does it bother you that a major group that is responsible for public lands is selling seats on its board to raise money?

Hon Norman W. Sterling (Minister of Environment and Energy): This is clearly within the purview of my cabinet colleague the Minister of Natural Resources, who is not here, and I would take the question on notice for him.

Ms Churley: Minister, you are responsible. You are the Minister of Environment, and this is about environmental protection. I would like you to tell me, as the environment minister, that no, you don't approve of this and that you will talk to the Minister of Natural Resources about at least your opinion.

I would say to you that there is nothing wrong with corporate donations. In fact, I would say that corporations should be paying more for the public benefits they receive. The problems come, as you should know, when conservation groups give up control, when groups are so desperate for money that they let corporations run them. I want to ask you now: Will you work with the Minister of Natural Resources and tell Conservation Ontario that you do not approve and ask them to reverse their decision?

Hon Mr Sterling: I have been given some information. I understand Conservation Ontario is seeking to gain support from a whole number of sectors, including the government. We are in a number of areas in the environment, in terms of the overall natural resources we have in this province, encouraging not only people on the street but our corporations and everyone to pitch in and do more than they have in the past.

I imagine that the Minister of Natural Resources, who is responsible for this area, would welcome all of those contributions towards keeping our provincial parks and conservation lands in the best possible condition they could be. We are not excluding anybody; we are including everybody in this endeavour.


Mr John L. Parker (York East): My question is for my good friend and colleague the Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism. I was very pleased to see in yesterday's paper that tourist spending in Toronto is expected to be nearly $5 billion this year. In fact, Kirk Shearer, president of Tourism Toronto, is quoted as saying that the number of visitors to Toronto this year is on track to exceed last year's total by over one million. This proves again that tourism is a very important sector in Toronto.

Minister, can you assure my constituents, many of whom are here this afternoon in the company of one of East York's many fine secondary school teachers, Mr Short, that you recognize tourism as an important contributor to the economy and tell them over the din of the opposition, if you can, what you are doing to promote and enhance tourism?

Hon William Saunderson (Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism): I am very happy to respond to the question from the member for East York. First of all, I agree very much with him that tourism is a very valuable contributor to our provincial economy in Ontario. In 1996, total employment in this sector was 413,000 people, a large number. Total tourist spending was $14 billion last year. That's up about 15% from the previous year.

The preliminary numbers for this year look extremely good and we're expecting very good numbers, which I am sure is very good news to all of us assembled here today. It is the quintessential small business. Tourism is small business. It is the fifth largest economic sector in Ontario.

I'd like to give some examples of the proactive work we are doing to show that Ontario is a top tourist destination. We have a tourist action plan. We have one-stop tourism reservation and information networks. We have a new tourism information signage program. We're celebrating Tourism Awareness Week annually. We support tourist-generating high-profile events by helping out at such events as the Molson Indy.


Mr Parker: I had a suspicion you were going to have difficulty getting that message out. Somehow, the opposition just doesn't like to hear good news.

I appreciate the value of the efforts you just described, but I recognize that the tourism industry is becoming very highly competitive and I believe we have to do everything we possibly can to stay ahead of the game. Minister, do we have any benchmarks or follow-up that enable us to measure these marketing efforts and prove how effective they actually are?

Hon Mr Saunderson: Our government believes in measurement and benchmarks, and so does our ministry. First of all, we noticed the Tourism Toronto announcement that it was expecting 23 million visitors by the end of this year. That's a very good benchmark. The hotel occupancy rate is up almost 4%, and the Kitchener-Waterloo Record reports that tourism spending in their area grew by 7.3% last year.

To keep these numbers growing, we're working very hard with the industry to develop a very aggressive five-year strategic marketing plan. We've reintroduced our domestic advertising campaign. Our TV ads campaigns have resulted in a 50% increase in North American calls to the 1-800-ONTARIO line.

Our marketing plan is supporting events such as the Ontario marketplace event which occurred last week in Waterloo, Ontario, and that is to promote Ontario to international tour operators. Two hundred foreign buyers attended that event, which goes to show dramatic interest in coming to Ontario. Tourism is on the rise.



Mrs Sandra Pupatello (Windsor-Sandwich): My question is for the Deputy Premier. My question concerns cuts you have made to the disabled community. Your promise in your revolution says very clearly that aid to the disabled will not be cut.

Today we spoke with families who are here from other parts of Ontario, whose children are disabled and need special services at home. Gary, aged 38, was born with brain damage. Karen, with cerebral palsy, wasn't expected to live 42 years. David, who is 23 years old, has spastic cerebral palsy.

Minister, their condition hasn't changed, but your support for these families has been cut. Could you explain why you are cutting aid to the disabled?

Hon Ernie L. Eves (Deputy Premier, Minister of Finance): Speaking very specifically of the special services at home program, that program in fact has not been cut, as the member will know. Not only has it not been cut, but as of January of this year we added $5 million to that program. An additional $15 million will be going to the community to increase community services, and $5 million is going to the special services at home program to bring up the number of families it supports. This will bring the special services needs budget to approximately $42 million a year.

Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-Woodbine): Just like your $40 million in child care. You didn't spend any of it.

Hon Mr Eves: I say to the honourable member for Beaches-Woodbine, who insists on interjecting here, that this is one program, quite frankly, where we continued on the support your government gave it. As a matter of fact, since 1990 the total percentage increase --

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

Hon Mr Eves: -- in the special services at home budget has gone up 131%, between 1990 and 1997, and this year alone this government is putting it up --

The Speaker: Thank you. Supplementary.

Mrs Pupatello: I guess my question continues for the Deputy Premier. Allison Ouellette is here today. She's David's mom. Her son requires 24-hour care. You have cut her special services at home from 20 hours to 10 hours. Katie Walters is here. She and her husband, who is 71 years old, have had a 60% cut in their hours, from 12 hours to five hours. There is no evidence of any new funding, just announcements, no proof of any funding. Family after family comes to us from across Ontario, one disabled person after another having their aid cut. Minister, that would make your document a lie.

I ask you again, Deputy Premier, how can you rationalize announcements with no evidence of actual spending when we have proof here today in the House of families whose children are having their aid cut?

Hon Mr Eves: In fact there is evidence of actual spending, and the spending in this program, as I've just alluded to, has gone up 131% since 1990. It's going up 12%, an additional $5 million, this year alone. For example, in the fiscal year 1994-95, 10,488 families, to be exact, were served by this program. They received an average annual stipend of $2,700 a year. The past fiscal year just ended, 1995-96, 11,500 families, exactly, received assistance under this program, fully 1,000 families more, and the aid has gone from $2,700 a year to $3,100 a year.

With respect to her specific examples, I would be more than happy to take them under advisement and take them up with the Minister of Community and Social Services, but I can assure the honourable member that this program has not been cut; in fact it's been enlarged by this government.


Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): My question is to the Minister of Environment and Energy. While you continue in this House to define the need for a public inquiry into the Plastimet fire by how many spin-doctored answers you can give to questions, your Premier seems to understand the law much better. The Premier yesterday said in Hamilton, "If the public feels it needs more answers, then we will look into an inquiry."

The law says, under the Public Inquiries Act, section 2, if it is "a matter of public concern." This is not about how many answers you can give in the House, this is not about how many MPPs speak out, it's not about how many groups speak out, it's not about whether you personally think there are any unanswered questions; it's whether there is public concern.

In light of what the law says and your Premier said, Minister, will you today acknowledge that there is public concern and that you have an obligation to call that public inquiry?

Hon Norman W. Sterling (Minister of Environment and Energy): I read the news article this morning and I read of the Premier's concern. It is my concern that all the people of Hamilton get adequate answers. The Premier said he thought the people were getting adequate answers at this time, which is the position I have maintained consistently over the last month with regard to this.

I have said, however, to the member before, and I'll say it again, the city of Hamilton and the regional municipality of Hamilton-Wentworth have the power to call their own inquiry. Those politicians seem to see that there's a need to look behind their particular processes, and I would ask him to urge his own local politicians to call an inquiry of their own if they see that is necessary.

Mr Christopherson: Minister, you just don't seem to get it. You're not listening to anyone other than your own bureaucrats, who for some reason or other feel they have something to worry about if there's a public inquiry. The fact is, you're the Minister of Environment for the province of Ontario. There are other communities, like Oshawa, Ajax, Burlington, Halton, Niagara, Toronto, in addition to our own local councils, that have said they want this looked at from beginning to end to determine how the fire happened, how adequate the responses were, and whether we could improve your ministry's role as well as that of local communities, because they're worried about their own communities.

My question to you is, will you please stop putting the blinkers on and your fingers in your ears and listen to what people in the community are saying? They want the answers. They want the public inquiry. You have an obligation. Stand up. Take responsibility. Take what you have to take and call that public inquiry now.

Hon Mr Sterling: Last week, this member stood in the House and stated categorically that the city of Hamilton and the regional municipality of Hamilton-Wentworth didn't have the authority under their legislation to call an inquiry. He found out after that he was wrong, dead wrong.

What am I to make of his protestations at this time? We have been doing, along with the fire marshal, a review of our regulations, of our legislation, to determine steps we can take. We believe that can be achieved outside of an inquiry. If the local governments feel that an inquiry is necessary, I invite them to have one.

As well, my ministry is expending its efforts and money on a $1.8-million cleanup of the Plastimet site. This fire was not caused by environmental issues. It was caused by someone who lit a fire in that area, and the fire code was not being followed.


Mr Ed Doyle (Wentworth East): My question today is for the Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. Because my riding has a great rural area, I realize the importance of education in matters of agriculture, and I'd like to direct my question to the minister.

I understand that you attended the inauguration of the new Sudbury campus for Collège Boréal during the weekend, and I wondered if you could agree whether this is an example of the government's strong commitment to education in the province of Ontario.

Hon Noble Villeneuve (Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, minister responsible for francophone affairs): To my colleague from Wentworth East, yes, I was very privileged to attend the official opening of Collège Boréal in Sudbury, the main campus and a number of satellite campuses that will be joined up with Collège Boréal, along with four of my colleagues from the Legislature here and two of my federal colleagues. And yes, it was a very, very impressive opening, a new way of teaching -- teaching via satellites and long distances in the north -- that really recognizes the needs of our students.

Le campus Boréal et ses satellites sont orientés à la fine pointe de la technologie et sans aucun doute montrent un exemple modèle pour plusieurs autres des collèges. Alors, il me fait plaisir de féliciter le président, M. Jean Watters, et tous ses collègues qui ont travaillé d'arrache-pied pour assurer la venue du Collège Boréal, un collège qui va desservir la francophonie du nord pour de nombreuses générations.


Mr Doyle: My supplementary question: I understand that the recently formed partnership between the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs and the University of Guelph has resulted in some impressive enrolment numbers at our agricultural colleges and at the University of Guelph. With the opposition of course constantly spreading doom and gloom, I wonder if you could share these positive numbers with the members of this House.

Hon Mr Villeneuve: The enhanced partnerships with the agricultural colleges from across Ontario with the University of Guelph have been very, very positive and they will ensure a responsive delivery of essential research and laboratory and education programming.

I'm sure members of the opposition will be interested in this good news, and it is good news, because enrolment at Ridgetown, as an example, has reached its highest level, at 180 students, for first-year enrolment, when the average was 150. I want to tell you that when these students graduate, they do find employment in their chosen field, the agrifood sector, at 85%.

That is a success story. We're very proud of it. The enrolment at all our agricultural colleges is up this year and that just shows everyone the importance of the agrifood sector in this province.


Mr Frank Miclash (Kenora): My question is to the Minister of Education. Last night I attended a town hall meeting in Dryden of well over 200 people, and many of those in attendance were awfully concerned about the dismantling of education in Ontario, particularly in Dryden. After listening to the crowd -- we had parents there, we had students there, we had trustees and teachers there -- I have heard that they are certainly not going to be silenced on the cuts that they are seeing in the town of Dryden to the education system.

As a matter of fact, one parent was actually brought to tears when she stood before that crowd and before us as a panel to talk about the erosion of special education services to her child. If you were on that panel, what would you tell that parent, again, who was brought to tears, about the lack of services that she has seen to a child who needs special education service in the town of Dryden?

Hon John Snobelen (Minister of Education and Training): I want you to know that I have heard from parents across the province over the course of two years that, under the old funding system, the wrong services were reduced in education. There was too much money spent on bureaucracy, too much money spent on the political governance of our schools, and not enough money going to the kids who needed it, especially those students with special needs.

The member opposite knows that there has been no reduction in the special needs envelope and yet we have seen some examples where some of those services have deteriorated over the last four or five years. So we are getting rid of the general legislative grant system. We are building a funding model with special needs students entrenched in that model so that we can meet their needs and guarantee that we will meet those needs to parents like the one you have just mentioned.

Mr Miclash: Let me tell you, they are not believing that in Dryden. This morning, over 150 students walked out of Dryden High School to show their anger about the cuts. They are feeling those cuts at the high school level in Dryden, and you don't seem to get it. You just don't seem to get it.

I started off this term asking you to phone a teacher on the front line. You refused to call her. You don't want to listen to what is happening out there. You've created your crisis in education. The parents, the teachers, the trustees, they've all seen it. They feel that you've created that crisis. The students are walking out. The teachers are very, very frustrated. You must be hearing that. I hear that every day. I heard that last night from many, many teachers. We've got students outside right now who have probably walked, as the students in Dryden have walked this morning, to show that they are feeling these cuts.

You are not listening to the concerns of these people. They are now convinced that you have created your crisis, and now that you've created your crisis, they are asking me to ask you to step aside. Minister, will you resign?

Hon Mr Snobelen: Let's talk about what has been created in education in Ontario. The Liberal government, the NDP, the previous government, were willing to allow our students to have a mediocre education, middle of the road, middle of pan-Canadian tests. It didn't offend you. It certainly offends this government.

You were willing to have a system of funding in education in the province where young people in Dryden and other parts of Ontario didn't have their needs met and parents were left not knowing whom to hold to account for that.

This government, step by step by step, is building a better education for those young people in Ontario. We're going to be able to stand here and say that the province is responsible for funding education and meeting the needs of those students. I'm proud of that and so are my colleagues.


Mr Tony Martin (Sault Ste Marie): My question is for the Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism. When your government first got elected, the city of Sault Ste Marie asked for the green light to go ahead with a full-fledged casino. It wasn't going to cost you a penny, but you told them you weren't going to allow any more casinos in the province until you had a province-wide referendum. Well, we have it on good authority that you're not going to do that. As a matter of fact, I have a letter here from the mayor of Sault Ste Marie to the Premier, cc'd to yourself, asking for some clarification on that, referencing the mayor of Point Pelee, who has the same concern. Minister, given that you're not going to do a province-wide referendum, is Sault Ste Marie going to get a full-fledged casino, yes or no?

Hon William Saunderson (Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism): I'm pleased to respond to the question from the member for Sault Ste Marie. He has referred to the casino matter in Sault Ste Marie. He knows that I have spoken many times to the mayor of Sault Ste Marie and I have been in Sault Ste Marie. We have had many discussions about a casino for Sault Ste Marie. I told the mayor, as I think I've told the member before, that until we have a province-wide referendum we will not be establishing any more major casinos like the ones in Windsor, Niagara Falls or Rama. That is the situation. We won't do it until we have this referendum, and I have said this time and time again. Until we have that referendum, we will not be proceeding with major casinos.

Mr Martin: Maybe you didn't hear me, Minister. We have it on good authority that you're not going to do this province-wide referendum.

Let me paint the picture for you here that's being presented out there. On one hand, you're going to force municipalities that don't want them to have these permanent charitable casinos, yet we have in this province municipalities that want full-fledged casinos so they can benefit from the economic activity that will be generated and you're saying you won't allow them to have them. They don't know any more what the process is. Is Sault Ste Marie going to get a casino or not?

Hon Mr Saunderson: Again I say that we'll have to wait until there is a province-wide referendum on a major casino. I might point out to the member for Sault Ste Marie that there are, as he knows, charitable gaming clubs which will be established in the province. They will take the place of the roving casinos, which have not been very charitable at all to charities. It's very possible that an area such as Sault Ste Marie can apply for and get a charitable gaming club. I know Windsor has that opportunity, as do any other centres that have major casinos at the present time. It's very possible that a casino of a charitable gaming club nature could come to Sault Ste Marie. It's up to the area to approve it.



Mr R. Gary Stewart (Peterborough): My question is to the Minister of Transportation. The minister will be aware that in 1989 a convoy of dump trucks surrounded this building in protest. As a result, the government of the day stopped enforcing axle weight limits on the aggregate industry. The minister will also know that this situation continued for seven years, until last year when the province again began enforcing the limits. Minister, what has been the result of the enforcement of this legislation?

Hon Al Palladini (Minister of Transportation): I want to thank the member for the question. Certainly since July 1996 the ministry lifted a moratorium, as we all know, and now the industry is complying with the axle weight enforcement.

We also began enforcing Bill 179, passed under the previous government, which places joint liability on the shipper and carrier for axle and gross vehicle weight compliance. As a result of these changes, 100% of the aggregate industry is now subject to axle weight enforcement. Since July 1996, 2,836 axle weight charges have been laid. The compliance rate has increased from an estimated 15% in 1995 to 40% in 1996-97. I'm very pleased that we are going in the right direction.

Mr Stewart: Although this certainly is an improvement over the present state of affairs, I'm sure everyone would want to see a compliance rate of 100%. What plans does the minister have to further improve this compliance rate with axle weight laws?

Hon Mr Palladini: I agree that when it comes to obeying weight laws, our goal should be higher, and 40% is definitely not enough. Not only would this have a safety benefit but it would also benefit our highways and roads. Right now, my ministry is looking at ways to improve compliance to our weight laws. One way is through box markings, a program developed with the industry. Testing has shown that such a program could increase compliance levels to over 80%. We are very close to making some sort of decision that will help us get to that over 80% compliance. Certainly we will not stop until we get to 100%, because in the best interests of safety as well as protecting our roads, I believe there should be a compliance of 100% from the industry. I'm really happy to say that the industry is buying into this and we are working with ministry staff and industry in making a resolve.


Mr Dwight Duncan (Windsor-Walkerville): I have a question to the Deputy Premier in the absence of the Premier. The Deputy Premier will recall that in 1995 the Premier promised a 10% cut of the casino profits to the city of Windsor. The Deputy Premier was widely quoted in our community in June as saying that the government is still prepared to look at that. Is it the government's intention to proceed with that promise and, if so, when can we expect to see it proceeded with?

Hon Ernie L. Eves (Deputy Premier, Minister of Finance): If the honourable member wants to go back a little further, I believe he was in municipal politics at the time the travelling road show for Bill 8, with the member for Riverdale, then the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations, came to Windsor. I, along with his colleague the member for Wilson Heights, was sitting on that committee.

I introduced an amendment, as he will know, and I'm sure he's checked the record, that would allow municipalities in the province to participate up to 10% from a casino located within their jurisdiction. The government of the day didn't think that was a very good idea and unfortunately voted that amendment down.

However, there have been ongoing discussions, as he knows, with the mayor of Windsor and the city of Windsor with respect to this matter. The mayor of Windsor has come forward to the government with several what I would call quite innovative proposals that perhaps would replace any commitment --

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

Hon Mr Eves: -- that he may see or anybody else may see of any casino profits going to municipalities. I am confident that the government will continue to look at his proposals and requests and that --

The Speaker: Thank you.



Mr Rick Bartolucci (Sudbury): This petition concerns Bill 160 and it's to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"Whereas education is our future; and

"Whereas students and teachers will not allow their students to be sacrificed for tax cuts; and

"Whereas students, parents and teachers will not allow the government to bankrupt Ontario's educational system; and

"Whereas you cannot improve achievement by lowering standards; and

"Whereas students, parents, teachers want reinvestment in education rather than reduction in funding; and

"Whereas students," as is evidenced in the demonstration today, "parents and teachers won't back down;

"Therefore, be it resolved that we, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to withdraw Bill 160 immediately; and

"Further, be it resolved that the Legislative Assembly of Ontario instruct the Minister of Education and Training to do his homework and to be a cooperative learner rather than imposing his solution which won't work for the students, the parents or the teachers of Ontario."

I affix my signature to this petition.


Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): My petition is to the Minister of Environment and Energy and the Premier.

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

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

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

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

I proudly join my constituents by adding my name.


Mr Bob Wood (London South): I have a petition signed by 12 people.

"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 the province of Ontario to continue to urge the government of Canada to pass legislation to reinstate such partial nudity as an offence."


Mr Gerard Kennedy (York South): To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"Whereas Northwestern Hospital provides quality health care to the residents of northwest Toronto; and

"Whereas the government of Ontario and the board of Humber River Regional Hospital are planning to close Northwestern Hospital as early as November 1997; and

"Whereas adequate replacement services are not available and the care of all residents in northwest Metro will be in jeopardy; and

"Whereas there have already been cases of risk to patients due to the rush to close Northwestern this summer;

"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to guarantee that no shutdown of services at Northwestern occurs until replacement services are available, and further to review the quality of health services which will be available to the whole northwest area."

I add my signature to this petition and note for the pleasure of the assembly that today we had all three emergencies in this area closed down, unavailable to patients, and one of them is set to close in less than a month.


Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): I have a further petition, differently worded, but still calling for a public inquiry into the Plastimet fire.

"We, the undersigned, request the Ontario Ministry of Environment and Energy and Environment Canada jointly:

"(1) to conduct a full-scale public inquiry into the Hamilton Plastimet fire to determine the complete nature and extent of the pollution it has caused, the health effects on firefighters and others attending the fire, as well as residents in Hamilton and further afield; and

"(2) to ensure safe, speedy and complete cleanup of the fire site, plus residential and all other areas where chemicals from the fire have fallen out."

I continue to support these petitions.


Mrs Helen Johns (Huron): 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 has exclusive authority to determine what services 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 Legislative Assembly of Ontario to cease from providing any taxpayers' dollars for the performance of abortions."



Mr Frank Miclash (Kenora): I have a petition that reads:

"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"Whereas the new Mike Harris northern vehicle registration tax does not recognize the uniqueness of the north; and

"Whereas Mike Harris should know that gas prices are higher in northern Ontario; and

"Whereas the new Mike Harris northern vehicle registration tax is blatantly unfair to the north; and

"Whereas we have no voice for the north, fighting for northerners around the cabinet table;

"Therefore, we, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to revoke the new tax imposed on the north and convince the Tory government to understand that northern Ontario residents do not want the new Mike Harris vehicle registration tax."

I have affixed my name to that petition as well.


Mr Dwight Duncan (Windsor-Walkerville): I have a petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.

"Whereas Windsor-Essex county was the first community to undergo hospital restructuring; and

"Whereas the community supported the recommendations of the Win-Win report based on a funding model that included the expansion of community-based care; and

"Whereas recent reports estimate that Windsor-Essex hospitals are underfunded by approximately $122 per person; and

"Whereas this represents the lowest funding per capita for hospital services of any community in Ontario with a population of over 200,000; and

"Whereas hospitals across the province have been forced to further reduce expenditures 18%; and

"Whereas these cuts have forced hospitals to eliminate emergency services in the west end of Windsor and cut desperately needed services; and

"Whereas the minister acknowledged that additional funding was necessary in high-growth areas;

"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to call on the Minister of Health to provide appropriate levels of health care funding to hospitals in Windsor-Essex which would allow Windsor Regional Hospital to provide urgent care services for the west-end community and to restore equitable health care funding across Windsor and Essex county."

I join with hundreds of my fellow Windsorites in signing this petition.


Mr Frank Miclash (Kenora): I have yet a further petition that reads:

"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"Whereas TVOntario 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 TVOntario."

I've affixed my name to this petition as well.


Mr Dwight Duncan (Windsor-Walkerville): I have a petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.

"Whereas the Conservative government has cut funding to St Clair College; and

"Whereas these funding cuts have caused hardship on senior citizens by increasing the costs for their programs by more than 400%;

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

"To ensure that all college programs, be they educational or recreational, remain affordable and accessible to senior citizens."

I proudly affix my signature to this petition.


Mr Frank Miclash (Kenora): I have yet another petition, which is on the opposition to the privatization of TVOntario. It reads:

"We, the undersigned, oppose any plans to privatize TVOntario and strongly support TVO's proposal to convert the agency to a not-for-profit corporation. We, the undersigned, strongly urge the government of Ontario to ensure continued access by Wahsa and Wawatay radio to TVO's distribution system. The privatization of TVOntario would jeopardize the excellent educational and information programming provided by TVOntario. The sale of TVO to commercial interests would also jeopardize Wawatay radio network's native language programming, and Wahsa's distance education services, because both depend on TVO's distribution system."

I have attached my name to that petition as well.


Mr Dwight Duncan (Windsor-Walkerville): I have a petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.

"We, the undersigned concerned citizens of Ontario, Canada, oppose the proposed amendments to the Human Rights Code contained in section 200 of Bill 96, the Tenant Protection Act.

"Section 200, which allows landlords to use income information to disqualify prospective tenants, will have a devastating impact on single mothers, the disabled, refugees, seniors and people receiving social assistance, among others. It will severely reduce the housing options for low-income individuals and families, increasing the number of households that are forced into homelessness or into overpriced accommodation.

"If section 200 of Bill 96 is not amended, the government of Ontario will be authorizing discrimination against people with low incomes.

"Thus we, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario that the words `income information' be deleted from sections 36 and 200 of Bill 96."

Having presented an amendment to this effect to the bill, I am proud to affix my signature to this petition.


Mr Gerry Phillips (Scarborough-Agincourt): This is a petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.

"Whereas many questions concerning the events preceding, during and after the fatal shooting of Anthony Dudley George on September 6, 1995, at Ipperwash Provincial Park have not been answered; and

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

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

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

I affix my signature to that.


Mr Frank Miclash (Kenora): I have a petition to the Legislature of Ontario against fingerprinting on the part of Mike Harris. It reads:

"Whereas the Premier of Ontario, Mike Harris, has proposed the fingerprinting of all Ontario citizens; and

"Whereas fingerprinting 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 he 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."

I've attached my name to that petition as well.


Mr Dwight Duncan (Windsor-Walkerville): I have a petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.

"Whereas the government of Ontario is proposing to take away the protections of the Rent Control Act; and

"Whereas the government of Ontario is proposing to allow a landlord to charge a tenant who moves into an apartment whatever the landlord can get away with; and

"Whereas the government of Ontario is proposing to raise the limit of how high rents can increase for all tenants; and

"Whereas the government of Ontario is proposing to make it easier to demolish or convert existing affordable rental housing; and

"Whereas the government of Ontario is proposing to take away the rent freeze which has been successful in forcing some landlords to repair their buildings;

"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to keep the existing rent laws which provide true protection for tenants in place."

I affix my signature to this petition.


Mr Pat Hoy (Essex-Kent): "To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"Whereas the Premier of Ontario, Mike Harris, has proposed the fingerprinting of all Ontario citizens; and

"Whereas fingerprinting 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 into all aspects of daily life, from megacities, user fees, rent controls and market value taxes, which he 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."

I affix my signature.




Hon David Johnson (Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet, Government House Leader): I move that, pursuant to standing order 46 and notwithstanding any other standing order or special order of the House relating to 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, when Bill 160 is next called as a government order, the Speaker shall put every question necessary to dispose of the second reading stage of the bill without further debate or amendment, and at such time the bill shall be referred to the standing committee on administration of justice;

That the committee shall be authorized to meet to consider the bill for eight days during the next recess;

That all proposed amendments shall be tabled with the clerk of the committee by 5 pm on the seventh calendar day following the final day of consideration referred to in the previous paragraph;

That the committee shall further be authorized to meet for clause-by-clause consideration of the bill after routine proceedings until 6 pm, and from 7 pm to 9:30 pm, on the first regularly scheduled meeting day of the committee following the tabling of the proposed amendments;

That the committee shall further be authorized to meet for clause-by-clause consideration of the bill after routine proceedings on the second regularly scheduled meeting day of the committee following the tabling of the proposed amendments; and that the committee shall be authorized to meet beyond its normal hour of adjournment on that day until the completion of clause-by-clause consideration;

At 5 pm on that second day of clause-by-clause consideration, those amendments which have not yet been moved shall be deemed to have been moved, and the Chair of the committee shall interrupt the proceedings and shall, without further debate or amendment, put every question necessary to dispose of all remaining sections of the bill and any amendments thereto. Any divisions required shall be deferred until all remaining questions have been put and taken in succession with one 20-minute waiting period allowed pursuant to standing order 127(a);

That the committee shall report the bill to the House on the first sessional day that reports from committees may be received following the completion of clause-by-clause consideration. In the event that the committee fails to report the bill on the date provided, the bill shall be deemed to have been passed by the committee and shall be deemed to be reported to and received by the House;

That, upon receiving the report of the standing committee on administration of justice, the Speaker shall put the question for adoption of the report forthwith, and at such time the bill shall be ordered for third reading;

That one sessional day shall be allotted to the third reading stage of the bill. At 5:45 pm or 9:15 pm as the case may be on such day, the Speaker shall interrupt the proceedings and shall put every question necessary to dispose of this stage of the bill without further debate or amendment;

That the vote on third reading of the bill may, at the request of any chief whip of a recognized party in the House, be deferred until the next sessional day during the routine proceeding, "Deferred Votes";

That, in the case of any division relating to any proceeding on the bill, the division bell shall be limited to 5 minutes.

Mr Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Middlesex, Mr Smith; the member for St Catharines-Brock, Mr Froese; and the member for Etobicoke-Rexdale, Mr Hastings.

This bill, which speaks to the quality of education in Ontario, is undoubtedly one of the more important pieces of legislation that will be considered by this House this year, perhaps during the term of this particular government. The desire of the government is to follow up on the consultations and the work of the ministry, and of the second reading debate that we've had in this House, some three days of second reading debate that have occurred, and now to take that consultation, that debate and the ministry work over quite a long period of time and send the bill to the committee to have public hearings.

That would take place during the recess period of this House so that the bill could be considered by the committee and the public will have an opportunity to speak to it, and the results of those public hearings will, of course, generate amendments. I'm sure there will be amendments to this bill, as there are to all bills. No matter which government is in place, there are always ways to improve the legislation. Those amendments go through the clause-by-clause and come back to this House for consideration later this fall.

I will say that some of the issues that have arisen and are being considered through this legislation are also the topic of a report I have in my hand from the Education Improvement Commission. The Education Improvement Commission, a committee of seven members, seven citizens of Ontario, was appointed some time ago to look at the state of education in the province and make certain recommendations. In August of this year, they came forward with a report and made a number of recommendations.

Of the two co-chairs of the Education Improvement Commission, one was a respected long-term member of this Legislature and a former Minister of Education under the NDP government, Mr Dave Cooke; and the other was Ann Vanstone, who has served as the chair of the Metropolitan Toronto School Board, again a person who has a great deal of respect in education circles in the province. They were supported by five other commissioners, people with abilities and talents in their own right, and together this group came forward with a number of recommendations.

Some of the issues they spoke to which are of concern to this government deal with, for example, the length of the school year. In many other jurisdictions, the Education Improvement Commission noted that the school year was longer than in Ontario. In Ontario the school year is apparently 185 days long, according to the commission, whereas in for example England, just to pick another country, 192 days; in Italy, 204 days; in Switzerland, 207 days. It is of concern to the Education Improvement Commission that we are not allocating enough days in the calendar year for the students. Perhaps there are some reasons for that, but the commission felt that situation should be addressed.

The commission made note of some of the factors involving the amount of time that is available for students in the classroom through the year. One of those considerations, for example, concerns professional activity days. I think we would all say that a certain number of professional days are necessary. Some of the days concern professional development for the staff themselves. The teachers need a certain amount of time to perhaps upgrade themselves, that sort of thing. Other days are associated with parent-teacher conferences, and certainly teachers need to have time to get together with parents to discuss items. However, there are about 10 PA days, I guess is their term today, and the commission felt that the days should be set to five rather than 10, that five would be sufficient to perform that level of activity.

Another area concerned the number of examination days. Apparently in the secondary school level today there are some 15 examination days that are set aside, whereas the commission felt there should be a maximum of 10 days. Again, this is time that should be spent with the students.

Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): You are debating the bill. You are not telling us why we should be on a time allocation motion.

Hon David Johnson: I think my colleague opposite, the House leader for the third party, would say the students should have that time and bring up those 185 days they have available to learn.

The topic of preparation time was certainly researched by the commission, and the commission did some comparison, in terms of preparation time, with what is available in other jurisdictions. The fact is, at the secondary school level the commission has reported that teachers spend about 3.75 hours per day in the class, whereas in other jurisdictions, according to the report, the amount of time spent in the classroom is longer: in Manitoba, for example, almost five hours; in New Brunswick, four and a half hours. In all the other provinces at the secondary school level, the teachers spend four hours or more in the classroom per day, whereas in Ontario the amount of time spent by the secondary school teachers averages about 3.75 hours.


The commission, in terms of recommendations in and around that area, has suggested that the preparation time at the secondary level be reduced by at least 25%. That's the recommendation of the Education Improvement Commission, that the preparation time at the secondary level be reduced by some 25%. They felt that the preparation time at the elementary school level was appropriate and that a reduction of some 25% would bring the secondary time to about what the elementary school time is and would still leave plenty of preparation time. I gather that is the recommendation from the Education Improvement Commission.

All of this adds up to a concern for the amount of time that is available to our students. We know we have excellent teachers and we know we have bright students and we know we've been spending a lot of money in the system, yet the results we are achieving on tests are not what we would hope for as parents and as residents of the province. I have the results of an international mathematics and science --

Mrs Lyn McLeod (Fort William): For our grade 4 students?

Hon David Johnson: Grade 8 students. The Ontario students scored under 55% in mathematics, in science scored about 57%. When I look at Canada in general, the students in Canada in general scored about 60% on both tests, which is higher than the Ontario level. In Alberta the students scored above 60% in both and in British Columbia almost 65% in science. This is of concern. When we see results like this, it's only natural for parents to have concern, for residents of the province to have concerns.

We have excellent teachers, we have bright students, and we spend a lot of money. Why are we not getting the results we should be achieving? If you take the report of the Education Improvement Commission, they would say that maybe the classes should be limited, that class size may be too large. Certainly this government feels the class sizes should not be allowed to get any larger. The amount of time available to the students is not what it should be. In other countries there are more days. Because of the system, the amount of time that teachers are able to spend in the classroom is certainly less than in all the other provinces, at the secondary school level in particular, less time than teachers are able to spend in provinces such as Quebec or Alberta or British Columbia. These are issues that need to be dealt with.

Then there is of course the general matter of funding the system. We had a few comments earlier this afternoon in question period about funding of the system. My experience over a number of years at the municipal level is that if there's one tax people are concerned about, it's the property tax, and it's the education component on that property tax. I have, as I'm sure all of us in this House have, been out knocking on doors and talking to constituents over many years, and when people say they're concerned about the tax and ask why the tax is still going up, nine times out of 10 they're talking about the property tax and nine times out of 10 it's the education component of the property tax that people are concerned about.

I remember that years ago -- it seems like years ago, anyway. I guess it was about five years ago --

Mr Wildman: It's a good investment. One of those students might give you a heart transplant.

Hon David Johnson: It's a good investment if we're getting value. I say to the House leader for the third party that we're spending a lot of money, one of the highest in spending. Other than the province of Quebec, we spend more money per pupil on education than any --

Mr Wildman: That's not correct.

Hon David Johnson: It certainly is correct.

Mr Wildman: Per pupil we're 49th in North America.

The Deputy Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): Member for Algoma.

Hon David Johnson: I'd say to the House leader, include all the costs and you will see that except for a minor difference between us and Quebec -- we spend a lot of money, we have excellent teachers, we have bright students, yet we're not scoring as well as we should.

If the taxpayers I'm talking to who are concerned about the huge amount of money on their property tax -- and they have every right to be concerned -- felt that we were scoring high on these tests and that our students were getting value, I think they would be more inclined to say: "Yes, I realize I'm spending a lot of money but I'm getting value for it. Our students are really doing well and we should be satisfied with that." But unfortunately, we are not scoring in the highest ranks on these tests and as a result there is concern by the taxpayers.

Year after year I've encountered this. I remember years ago we did town hall meetings -- I believe they still do them in East York -- around budget time. What you would find was that there would always be somebody there to speak to the local municipal budget, there would always be somebody there to speak to the regional budget, which in this case is Metropolitan Toronto, and there would always be somebody to speak to the school board budget. Well, 90% of the questions would go to the school board representative; 90% of the questions on taxes --

Mr Wildman: That's why we need more school boards.

The Deputy Speaker: Member for Algoma.

Hon David Johnson: -- would go to the school board representative, because that's where people were concerned about the level of spending and not getting the best value for their dollar.

With the results of this Education Improvement Commission report, with Bill 160, with working with those involved in the education system, we will have a system where there will be still an immense amount of investment into and immense spending in the school system, but we will find that the students will have more time, we will find that our excellent teachers have more time with the students; we will find as a result that our students will have a better environment in which to learn, and they will learn more and do better on these tests and receive a better quality of education.

That's what the bottom line in this whole issue is about: to have a better system of education so that our students, our future in the province of Ontario, will have that opportunity to have the best possible education for the value and for the money the taxpayers are putting forward.

With those comments, having gone over my time already, I will sit down and allow the member for Middlesex to take over.


Mr Bruce Smith (Middlesex): It's certainly a pleasure to speak on the time allocation motion today and lend my support for the motion that's been moved by the government House leader.

I would echo his comments and agree fully with him that this piece of legislation is obviously very important, and certainly the details and components of it cannot be taken lightly in terms of the reforms the government is anticipating with respect to education in this province.

I think what the motion allows us to do is take this bill to the next stage, the committee stage, where public hearings can be conducted and consultations can be held with respect to the merits of the bill, as well as the opportunity to consider possible amendments or changes that may be necessary to the legislation in terms of the feedback we receive or in terms of the feedback the minister receives from representatives of teachers' federations during his discussions with them this week.

As parliamentary assistant, I've had the opportunity to share in many of the discussions that have taken place and experience the comments and concerns and debate that have been presented by a number of members in this Legislature from various points of view. It's obviously a very passionate issue for many people in this Legislature. It's one that either brings us together or polarizes us, depending on the position you might hold with respect to the legislation itself.

Although I don't want to misrepresent the comments that were presented by the member for Dovercourt and the member for Renfrew North, both of whom are former ministers of education, I would say at the outset it was very clear that they both expressed concern in opposition to the bill, but I think as part of their debate they both recognized in a very articulate fashion the need for change in the education system in this province. Certainly, that's an important position for them to recognize as former ministers of the crown who held responsibility in a very important portfolio such as the Ministry of Education.

I disagree with the Leader of the Opposition today who requested the Minister of Education to put this bill on ice. I don't think that's the responsible action to deal with education in this province and one that I was glad to hear the minister reject in terms of his intention to deal with the changes that must occur.

We've had interesting debate in this House. It has ranged from various extremes, both emotional and very concise, in terms of some of the points of view various members have brought to the forefront in their capacities as members of the Legislature or as members who have had previous experience either as teaching professionals in this province or alternatively as trustees representing various boards of education. Certainly, they brought that experience to the forefront with respect to this legislation. I think that is valuable in terms of the input that is required to move ahead into the future.

I think one of the most important aspects that many have agreed upon is the extent to which this particular issue has been reviewed and studied in this province. We certainly see that since 1950 we've had some 24 separate reviews, two royal commissions, 10 additional commissions and two fact-finding reports in that period of time. I'm not questioning the merits or the motivation of why those reports were done. I trust that the governments of the day did so with the objective of bringing education reforms to this province and I think that provides us with a basis from which we can move forward into the future. Those studies serve as a very good piece of background in terms of what we need to do in the future and where we've been with respect to education in this province.

For those who suggest that education hasn't been reviewed, studied and debated, I would simply say that's not quite accurate in terms of the practice that has been experienced here. As many have seen, governments before us have placed the same importance on education reform, the difference being that the government of the day is prepared to move ahead and act responsibly in terms of bringing those changes to fruition.

The whole issue of education finance, curriculum and quality initiatives I think cannot be looked at in isolation of this particular bill. Too often it's very easy to separate the two issues and try to distinguish between them, but I think they go hand in hand. I would certainly commend the minister's efforts in terms of trying to marry and bring along the quality initiatives at the same time as dealing with some of the tough issues centring around school board governance and the method by which education is financed in this province.

The Education Quality Improvement Act is not about money, and I would emphasize that, or necessarily reinvestments or a showdown with teachers. It's simply not about that. It's about improving the quality of education in this province, and I think that is an important premise for us to move ahead into the future.

As we indicated at the outset and as was talked about during the debate on this particular legislation, the government of Ontario fully recognizes that there will be some transitional issues that will be difficult to deal with. That is why the Minister of Education froze education spending at approximately $14 billion. That funding model will be implemented in September 1998, and during that transition period we have recognized the need to provide a stabilized funding environment. That, as well, has been complemented by a capital construction program of some $650 million.

Too often, it's not easily identifiable what a $650-million investment means, but on a localized basis that essentially equates to about 30,000 pupil places in this province. That's a fairly significant undertaking and one that is important in terms of the capital renewal that is necessary with respect to our schools in this province.

We budgeted in the spring budget $250 million in terms of our share of a proposed early retirement package with teachers in this province. We've seen an additional contribution of $100 million to OSAP, an additional $150 million to the Ontario student opportunity trust fund. So all aspects of the education portfolio are being dealt with, in my opinion, in a very positive way. I recognize the next phase of change is going to be difficult and one that requires some careful management.

In a nutshell, the key component to this is the funding aspect. I recognize that. We certainly know that problems existed with respect to how school boards were financed in the past, that there is inequity in the school system in terms of how different jurisdictions finance the services that students realize in this province.

I often remark, as I travel about the province, my observations: whether they're in a small rural board, a separate board, a public board, the challenges they face in terms of any equity of new opportunities to be realized in the school environment; versus those communities where there's greater access to a more vibrant assessment base; versus those communities that have a very strong assessment base which enables them to provide a higher level of service to students in those particular communities. Those are the issues we see and the issues that are very important and critical in terms of the new funding direction that would be anticipated in the fall of 1998.

From the outset we have heard teachers speak about their concerns. We heard their concerns about the changes to the secondary school year, the implementation date, their position on curriculum, their position on destreaming and streaming. Those are things we've responded to by taking a step back and realizing that we have to take a little bit longer to implement those changes. We continue to work, in my opinion, in a very positive fashion in terms of bringing forth a new curriculum for secondary schools in this province, and we continue to work on a new curriculum for the elementary panel with respect to the remaining subject areas of science, technology, history and geography.

Those are the quality initiatives that, as I said earlier, can't be looked at in isolation of some of the major initiatives that are currently taking place with respect to the manner in which schools are operated and funded.

We heard from teachers as well, and I in my own office, the position articulated by principals and vice-principals on the elementary panel that they need not be pulled out of the federation to contribute to the quality agenda, that they were front-line leaders in terms of their school environment and had the ability and wherewithal and professionalism to deal with that. That's a position I fully accept and one the government recognized. We heard the position of federations that we need not remove the right to strike or eliminate the choice of affiliation with respect to teachers and their choice of federation. We heard and responded to that.

Now we're moving to the next stage of this legislation in Bill 160. All sides, whether it's teachers, government, opposition, can learn from this experience, and the experience I have had is that there's a need for more information. The committee process will allow us to gain additional information. Certainly the teachers I've talked to have some legitimate concerns. They also have concerns that are not really founded in any of the contents of Bill 160, and that's the exchange of information that needs to occur as we move into the next stage of debate on this bill.

We've seen that the system is rather arbitrary, to some extent unfair, and certainly by design it's not achieving the results we want. That's not an attack on teachers. It's a recognition that the system itself needs some changes. I must say that became very apparent to me as I had the opportunity to represent the minister among his other provincial colleagues at a recent conference where we had the opportunity to share different ideas and experiences. I must say that Ontario, while there are many opportunities for change, certainly is behind other major jurisdictions. When I look to Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, Manitoba, Alberta and British Columbia, each provincial jurisdiction is actually in the next phase of its education reform agenda. It's my firm belief that Ontario should be the leader of that reform agenda and not in the position it is in today.

The government has very clearly said that the time has now come to act, that changes must occur, that whether you live in Ottawa, Thunder Bay or London, Ontario, the opportunities presented to you within the education system must be the same. This bill is in part about that; it's about setting the framework and, yes, the regulatory powers for ministers to deal with specific issues, be it prep time, length of school year or the method by which the system is to be financed. Those items are in the bill, I recognize that, but by and large this bill provides a framework that needs further discussion, that needs further input, and I fully suspect we will receive that over the course of the committee hearings in this province in the next month or so.

I recognize that my colleagues also would like to make some comments this afternoon concerning the motion itself and, with that, would conclude by thanking you, Mr Speaker, for the opportunity to briefly address some of these comments and reiterate the government's commitment to bring a fair funding system to all students in this province, to provide for a leaner governance structure with respect to school boards in this province and to provide, wherever possible, the needed resources required to complete the classroom experience both for the pupil and for the teaching professional in that place.


Mr Tom Froese (St Catharines-Brock): I'm pleased to rise to speak on the time allocation motion with respect to 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. As we brought forward this bill, in the time leading up to it and now, we're seeing that there's a lot of misinformation going around the province. I would like to give one example of that.

I have an article here that was in the Ottawa Sun. It's an editorial, actually. It's called "Wool." I'm just going to take excerpts from that document:

"Are union executives pulling the wool over the eyes of their...teachers in their desperate pursuit of the illegal strike which currently looms over the horizon?

"Indeed they are, sir -- and more than three bags full.

"In a document sent out to teachers across the province -- the one titled Tory Teacher Legislation -- the Ontario Teachers' Federation pulled the following on its rank and file.

"It told teachers that `it is the intent of the government to cut elementary teachers' preparation time in half,' with the result of less time for pupil-parent consultation, less time for curriculum development, loss of teaching positions upwards of 10,000."

This is totally false. That's not what the bill does. It goes on to say, "The Ontario Teachers' Federation told teachers that `the government has proposed a 1% rollback and the reduction in benefit coverage by 10%,' with the result that the teachers will `lose (upwards) to $600 a year,' plus money in benefit premiums which will now have to be paid by them." Totally incorrect.

It goes on to explain what the union executives are telling the teachers across the province. It's totally incorrect. It's not true at all. So there's a lot of misinformation out there.

I'd like to bring us back to June 1995 and the campaign --

Mrs McLeod: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I think the speakers have been quite rigorous about challenging the use of the term "not true," and I think the member just used that term.

The Deputy Speaker: I didn't hear it, so it's very difficult for me to rule on it. Did you say anything you feel was out of order?

Mr Froese: I was referring to an article in the paper.

The Deputy Speaker: Do you feel you've said something which was contrary to procedures?

Mr Froese: To go back to June 1995 and the election campaign that led up to the election, if we look at what our government said in its party platform, we see that our government is doing what it said it would do.

I'd just like to quote some of the things that were written in the Common Sense Revolution. Under "Reform Education" it says, "For years now, we have been spending more and more on education, but getting less and less in the classroom." Down a little farther on the page it says, "We believe Ontario's education system is in need of system-wide reform, based on the principles of providing opportunity to students, excellence in curriculum and teachers, and accountability to parents and taxpayers."

We talked about setting goals or setting priorities: "A large part of the problem is how little of our education investment actually reaches the classroom. Under this plan we will move to a system of `classroom-based budgeting.'

"A greater share of our education spending must go to children in the classroom, not to `edu-crats,' consultants and managers."

We also talked about core curriculum. "With a core curriculum set province-wide, and standardized testing at all levels, we know that we can spend more efficiently, while improving the quality of education we offer to students. Central to this reform will be increased autonomy and decision-making for each school, and a significantly increased role for parents and community leaders."

While I'm talking about this, we see that's what's going to be in Bill 160. Bill 160 is enabling legislation to make all of this happen. We talked about the number of school years. We also talked about increasing the number of school days. What we said leading up to the election in June 1995 we are implementing in the bill.

If we go to the Liberal red book during that campaign, they said similar things to what I just read and what we're implementing. On page 40 of the red book: "A Liberal government will bring in a core program and test students in vital areas such as reading, writing, and math. We will give community groups, especially parents, a chance to become more involved in schooling. And we will spend more of our precious education dollars on classroom learning and less on administration."

It goes on to say on page 45: "We must make sure that we are getting value for our dollar. As much as possible, our education dollars must be spent on classroom learning rather than administration.

"The creation of a provincial core curriculum will help save money by eliminating the need for individual boards of education to develop their own core curriculums." They talk about reducing trustees and placing caps on it.

When we go to the Royal Commission on Learning, which was mandated by the former NDP government, they reviewed four areas: accountability, governance, program curriculum and a shared vision. They wanted a shared vision of elementary and secondary education in Ontario. Some of that said the same things the Common Sense Revolution and the red book said as well: a provincial report card. The recommendations were: a high-quality, consistent curriculum; standards for student achievement in English and math in grades 1 to 8; the establishment of a College of Teachers; establishing mandatory school councils; increasing parent involvement; developing a fair funding system. Where have we heard that?

We were saying all the same things. There have been numerous studies. It's a wonder that the opposition now stands up and is critical of this government with respect to what's in Bill 160 because we're doing what we said we'd do. There have been numerous studies. The difference is that our government is finally making the tough decisions to make this happen. We said there has been enough studying done, there has been enough debate; we need to do what we said we were going to do, and we need to make those recommendations.

Then we engaged the Education Improvement Commission, and they came up with recommendations with all the other studies. Mr Cooke and Ms Vanstone finally saw a government that was going to do what it said it was going to do. That's why we have the Education Improvement Commission. A number of their recommendations have come to the government, including the funding formula, how to deal with that; not to increase class sizes beyond the current level; reduce preparation time at the secondary level by at least 25%.


Everybody knows that changes need to be made. We've consulted more than any other government in the last 10 years on these issues and we continue to consult and to listen. As a matter of fact, I met with teachers' federation representatives this morning in my office before I came here to Toronto. On Wednesday, the minister will meet with union reps as well. Hopefully they will be able to come to an agreement on the changes that need to be made that everybody has been saying.

Bill 160 is not about teacher-bashing; it's about finding ways to increase quality and accountability, but at a cost that is sustainable. We're doing more for less. It's not just a saying. We promise to provide the best possible service for the best possible price. That's not teacher-bashing. The minute the government or the taxpayers ask for finding new ways of doing things, it's immediately interpreted as teacher-bashing, but it's not.

I have tremendous respect for the teachers, especially those who are teaching my children in our schools in the area of St Catharines and Niagara-on-the-Lake, but that doesn't mean to say the system is perfect. I know we all agree that the system isn't perfect. We need to find creative solutions and relook at how education is to answer the needs and revitalize the education system.

Bill 160 is not about gutting the education system. Actually, it's quite the reverse. We're finding new ways to raise the quality and accountability, and we're rebuilding. We're saying that the resources need to be in the classrooms, not in buildings, not in board buildings, not in administration. They need to go to the kids and the teachers in the classroom.

We talk about class size as well in the bill, and the recommendations from the Education Improvement Commission. These things should not be in the collective bargaining agreement.

The curriculum needs to be specific as well. It needs to be updated, to be relevant for the 21st century.

The bill is not -- again, it's misinformation -- about replacing qualified teachers. We never said we were going to do that. In fact, it's about supplementing the teachers and having a team approach to teaching. We're already seeing that in our boards: library technicians, computer programming, music programs, job search and guidance. Teachers are still in charge of the curriculum.

This bill is about moving ahead, it's about taking standards out of the collective bargaining agreement, it's about bringing smooth school board integration and, most important, it's about focusing our children and our children's future.

I would like to continue, but I know the member for Etobicoke-Rexdale would like to say a few words.

Mr John Hastings (Etobicoke-Rexdale): It's interesting to join in this debate. I use that word advisedly because in this House we don't seem to get, except perhaps in private members' hour, real exchanges of differences over ideas, over different perspectives, over the offering of alternative policies. Very seldom do we hear that kind of approach from the opposition parties. It has come occasionally. The member for Ottawa Centre has voiced some alternatives regarding Workers' Compensation Board reform, but it is truly a rare instance.

Therefore, it's important to place on the record what exactly is in Bill 160. What is the nature of education reform in the province of Ontario today? As the preceding speaker, the member for St Catharines-Brock, who is immersed in the education stuff much more than I am in terms of seeing all the issues, alluded to, it seems to me we need to look at some of the issues this government has tried to deal with since it got elected.

It has kept its word in many instances. I know there is a great deal of cynicism about politicos by members of the general public, but I think on the nature of education reform we have attempted to carry through exactly what we said we would try to do in the Common Sense Revolution. I would briefly like to review, for the record, exactly what some of those broad-based proposals were and what we have done in terms of implementing them.

For example, we stated that we would introduce a standardized report card. Have we done so? Yes. The Ministry of Education and Training has introduced a standardized report card, replacing the more generalized, anecdotal form of report that so many parents were becoming increasingly dissatisfied with. If you don't believe what I have to say, all that members opposite have to do is go out and test and find out from those members of the public, those concerned parents who are members of either parent-teacher associations or the newly appointed school advisory councils, that an anecdotal description of some elementary student's reading capacity was completely insufficient. Parents want to know exactly or as close as possible where their child stands vis-à-vis the other children in that particular subject matter in that particular grade. That's what we have accomplished with the standardized report card.

Some of the school boards, to their credit, did develop a self-assessment in terms of replacing what they saw even before we got to the point of introducing a standardized report card in Ontario. The Etobicoke Board of Education, to its credit, through the push of some trustees on that board for many years, finally got a replacement of the anecdotal description of what their students were doing academically. That partially satisfied the parents', and in this case the customers', need to find out where their child stood. All you have to do is look at that particular problem and say, "Was there widespread dissatisfaction with the anecdotal approach to reporting on students' progress, students' achievement in Ontario?" Absolutely, there was.

Mr Wildman: Speak to the motion.

Mr Hastings: Isn't it interesting that the member for Algoma is the first to urge us to speak to the motion, yet when it comes to talking about Bill 160, they talk about the kitchen sink and not the stuff that's in here, need I remind you, Speaker?

We have followed through on a standardized report card which I think probably will go through some refinements until we get it pretty close to right. That was the first subject.

Another subject that was raised in the Common Sense Revolution related to the dissatisfaction parents, even teachers, had with the common curriculum. They wanted some change in it. So what has this government done through the Ministry of Education and Training? They set about to introduce specific, precise guidelines dealing with language development and mathematics. There are expected specific outcomes to be achieved by teachers in grades 1 through 8 in terms of language and in terms of mathematics or numeracy skills.

Why was that essential? Undoubtedly it goes back to a broad-based public perception of and dissatisfaction with the nature of the teaching of those two subjects: language arts and mathematics. How can that be confirmed? It can be confirmed not only by parents but by employers. Most of the members of this House at one point or another in their career, however long that has been politically, have met with employers -- small business people, presidents of the larger corporations, what have you, the convenience store operator who is trying to hire a student for the summer -- who needed to have from them some kind of curriculum résumé.

Where were those students coming from? Had they worked in other places? What kind of results had they achieved? What kind of letters had they written? Personally, I have seen letters from many school boards that evidenced very clearly the inadequacy of language in terms of being able to express yourself clearly, concisely and succinctly about what you are trying to write in a letter if you were applying for a job.


The system is the problem at the heart of this whole challenge; it's not the teachers per se. Sure, there are some teachers who have become lackadaisical about how they have approached learning and teaching, but by far the vast majority, I believe -- and I have met many of them -- are working in a system that does need some fundamental change, despite the claims of the opposition that we should continue with the status quo. We have just cited two specific examples -- the dissatisfaction with the anecdotal form of reporting throughout this province and the inadequacies found in language and mathematics -- and we have addressed both of those.

There is a third specific reform that was introduced about a year ago. There was a great deal of controversy over that. The folks who were on the other side said it wasn't necessary, and yet there were recommendations out of the Royal Commission on Learning, many of which are refocused in The Road Ahead, and specifically the College of Teachers, which was passed approximately a year ago by this government, into which the teachers have to pay a fee of approximately $90 to $120 to run that operation.

What is its purpose? Its purpose is to enhance the professionalism of all the teaching professionals in this province, whether they be in the separate or public school situations, whether they be in the elementary or secondary school panels. I think over time it will be shown that the College of Teachers will achieve those objectives in terms of competency and in terms of producing a results outcome type of situation for testing and retesting the merits and the competency of teachers in this province. Not only is that essential, it's mandatory. We have done that.

There are lots of other things we have set out in the Common Sense Revolution, and we have gone a good distance, if not having completed. We have changed the nature of education financing in this province. That's exactly what the public was telling us for years and years. If you look at seniors in this province who want to remain in their homes, they kept saying, "Why is it necessary that I continue to pay education taxes on my property assessment?"

What did we do? We changed the basis of education financing in this province, and it will be found in Bill 160, in terms of the mechanics implementation. We have taken 50% off the property taxes, and that is going to mean an enormous relief to many seniors in this province who had been asking members of the two previous governments to do that. They were even asking long before that, back in the days of the Robarts and Davis administrations. Finally, we have a government that has undertaken that commitment and has lived up to it. That's probably the key arch, the key fundamental in terms of education reform in this province.

When you turn to some of the topics that you find in the whole of Bill 160 which people are getting extremely exercised over simply because -- I've had many people call my constituency office to find out if they could get some copies of it, and we have been able to provide them with some. I asked them, "When you have gone through any parts of it or the whole product, let me know what you think of what's in the bill compared with what you're hearing."

It's interesting to hear back from some of these. I have heard back from three folks now who have said they have gone through portions of it but not the whole thing, and they were surprised to learn that some of the things in here are about as dry as dishwater, that when you look at the mechanics of implementation, there is no controversy about them. Case in point: The qualifications to be elected as a school trustee in this province are laid out very clearly. The qualifications to be a voter are laid out very clearly, and I will get to those very shortly.

What else do you find in this bill? Without going into a lot of the articles dealing with each section, it's very clear that part I of the bill -- I want to put this on the record, because there doesn't seem to have been any other time we have done this in terms of letting people who are reading it or want to get a copy of Bill 160 know what's in it -- deals with the founding of the Ministry of Education and Training. It amends certain bills. It lays out the responsibilities of the minister. Part II of the act deals with attendance rights, and it points out what is to be established under the attendance rights of pupils: "The amendments recast the current attendance rights in light of the new governance and finance provisions. As well, section 10 of the bill amends section 19 of the act to deal with school closing in the event" -- unfortunately -- "of a strike or a lockout."

Part II.1 deals with miscellaneous.

Part II.2 of the act deals with the establishment of district school boards, and this part of the legislation outlines the specifics, the mechanics for how the amalgamated school boards in Ontario will function -- their bylaws, their charter, their responsibilities. If we recall education history, a former member of the Peterson government, who I believe was appointed by the previous administration, went to undertake a scrutiny, an analysis, an examination of the number of school boards in this province. There were at least two reports emanating from that honourable member, and this particular government has heeded some of the recommendations. The thrust of the report, reduced to its essence, was to reduce the number of school boards. What has happened? We have reduced the number of school boards from approximately 168 down to about 76, I believe, because there were an additional six added after some changes due to the geography concerns raised by residents of northern Ontario.

Here is another example of this government's responsiveness to that issue. If we hadn't done it, they would have said: "These organizations are way too large. You have ignored certain Franco-Ontarian elements. You have ignored certain interests of the Catholic community." What did we do? We responded. So here is another example of what was set out in the Common Sense Revolution.

It's quite obvious that the members opposite probably still maintain that the best system is the existing number of school boards, 168, because we certainly haven't heard from them in any of this so-called conflict or clash of ideas as to whether they really do favour the exact number of school boards in existence today. We haven't heard anything about that, and they have failed to make the case as to the rationale for keeping the number of school boards. I wonder why, if one of the possible justifications would be that they would be contradicting particularly the official opposition, the minister who made these recommendations back in the early 1990s. It's very interesting why there has been silence on this issue. Do they prefer the exact number of school boards they have now?

Continuing, not only does this bill deal with the rationale for the Ministry of Education and Training, not only does it lay out attendance rights for students, not only does it lay out district school boards and how they are to operate, how employees' rights from the old existing school boards will continue through this bill into the new amalgamated boards, whether it be in Metropolitan Toronto or northwestern Ontario or eastern Ontario, there has been an argument at the heart of this debate -- for those folks who haven't read the bill or any sections of the bill -- and I think the contention is that the whole thrust of Bill 160, from comments I heard through the member for Brampton South in an exchange he had last week on cable television, is that this government is out to destroy public education.


The boldness of that assertion has to be challenged because on this side of the House, as there is on that side, there are all these folks here who are members of this House, whether you be a member of the government or a member of the third party or the official opposition. Those members are fathers, those members are mothers or grandparents, whatever the case may be.

You have to ask yourself if you're a member of this government and you have children in the public or separate school systems of this province, what godly justification would there be to the assertion that this bill sets out to destroy public education? It does nothing of the kind, because there's nothing in the bill, there's not a section -- and I'd like to see the members opposite when they get to present their side of the argument tell us what section of the bill sets out the public destruction of the education system, because that purely shows the lackadaisical, lazy thinking of members opposite who would join in any critics who make that assertion.

It is not about the public destruction of the education system in this province. This bill deals with the reconstruction, with the reform of many of the things that have been plaguing the education system of this province for many, many years. How do we know that again? All you've got to do is talk to parents, not all parents but a sufficient majority of parents and grandparents who are concerned about the futures of their children and of their grandchildren. If you ignore the problems in the system and let them just fester, what will be the ultimate result if you didn't have Bill 160?

You're going to end up with a group of folks, at least a large number out there, whom you can see when you visit any school -- and I've visited a good number of schools, both Catholic and public, in Metropolitan Toronto, more so in the city of Etobicoke, in the new city of Toronto, and I have seen that many, many people are not satisfied with the way education has proceeded.

Mrs McLeod: Mr Speaker, I believe there is an agreement that we can split our time and I'll be splitting my time this afternoon with the member for Oakwood and with our leader, the member for Ottawa South.

This is a time allocation motion before us today. This isn't even a debate on Bill 160 any more. This is a debate about closing off any further debate on Bill 160. This is provocative beyond imagining, coming at this particularly sensitive moment in the history of relationships between teachers and this government, at a time when this government has repeatedly said through the mouths of its Premier and its Minister of Education: "Oh, yes, we're ready to talk. We've invited teachers to come in and sit down and talk with us. We don't want a strike. We don't believe there's going to be a strike. Why won't the teachers come in and sit down, and we'll talk with them?"

After saying that over and over again last week and over the course of the weekend, what do we see on Monday afternoon but a time allocation motion to cut off debate on this very bill that is pushing teachers up against the wall and bringing education in this province to the very edge of a precipice. It seems quite clear with this cutting off of debate that the government is prepared to give that final push over the edge.

This time allocation motion would be bad enough even if we weren't on the verge of a strike by 126,000 teachers, an absolutely unprecedented action by a group of people who have been driven to that kind of desperation in the need to make their voices and their concerns for education heard. Even if it weren't that particular moment in time, to cut off debate on a bill that is this controversial, that brings about these kinds of sweeping changes, that paves the way, in my view and I hold this view firmly, for the potential destruction of public education in this province, to cut off debate on this bill at this point of time is offensive to this place.

I notice that the government members who have spoken on supposedly the time allocation motion this afternoon have been rather desperate to put their own spin on this bill, to give the government spin as to why Bill 160 is needed, as to why it might be good. I suggest that much of the information they have been provided with by the Ministry of Education is not borne out by the facts and certainly does not present the whole story.

I also note that the members tend not to speak about anything that is related to Bill 160 at all. They're not even trying to put the spin on Bill 160. They're wanting to talk about curriculum and they're wanting to talk about report cards. That's fine. Let's come into the House, let's talk about report cards and curriculum, but it has nothing to do with Bill 160. There's nothing in this bill that relates in any way to report cards or to curriculum, and there is certainly nothing in the discussion about curriculum or report cards or even attempting to put some spin on why Bill 160 might be needed that has anything to do with government's reasons for cutting off debate this afternoon. That's what the issue is today: the sheer provocation of cutting off debate on a bill that is going to present us with such a crisis over the course of the next weeks.

You have to ask once again, why is this government in such a rush? I think we can probably recognize that it is again the bully government, ready to ram through its agenda, wanting to get it through in a hurry. After all, the clock is ticking for the government because it's getting closer and closer. We're past the half-way mark, closer and closer to the next election campaign. They want to do all their nasty stuff, they want to get all the conflict and the confrontation over with early. The clock is ticking. They've got to get these nasty bills done. They know very well that this is not good news. You don't cut off debate on a bill that you really believe is good news. So you get the nasty stuff done early, in a hurry to ram through the agenda, in a hurry to create the chaos that we know is coming.

I also recognize that the government is in a hurry for other reasons. They're in a hurry because they have another bill that's already passed out there, the bill on the amalgamation of school boards. It takes effect on January 1. Do you know what happens when they amalgamate school boards? We tried to have this debate last January, February, March. The government wasn't prepared to listen then. But what happens on January 1 is that these new megaboards take over and there is a temporary transfer of the employment of teachers to the new megaboards.

But do you know what else happens on January 1? Those contracts that are in place have to be renegotiated. Every teacher contract in this province, every school board employee's contract in this province has to be renegotiated beginning January 1 and the negotiations have to be completed by September 1.

This is a recipe for chaos beyond anything we have yet begun to imagine. Every board in the province negotiating every contract, all in the same time frame, all of the contracts, if they're not successfully renegotiated, expiring as of September 1, and those negotiations having to take place under the terms and conditions set out in Bill 60 and under the terms and conditions of this government having taken total control centrally of every decision that affects education. I suggest to you that those negotiations cannot be conducted in any reasonably good faith manner, so it is a recipe for chaos. Yes, the clock is ticking on the chaotic time lines that this government has introduced.

I think there's a rush too because the government knows very well that it needs the taxing powers that are in Bill 160. Government members don't like to talk about the taxing powers that are in Bill 160. After all, this is the same government that was going to take education tax completely off residential property.

They couldn't do that, so the government is now going to tax property for education itself. They're about to bring in their uniform mill rate. It all becomes part of the downloading of additional costs on the property tax base so that this government can begin to find its money to pay for its tax cut. It's in a rush to get its taxing powers so it can go out and raise money for education on the property tax base, even though it said it was going to relieve the property tax base of the cost of education.

But I still don't understand why there is that rush, because I know that as of last week, when it came to the commercial assessment -- because remember, this government never did intend taking education off the commercial property tax base. The businesses in our communities were still going to have to pay 100% of their share of educational costs. This government is taking over the taxing of your businesses in your community to pay for education but it still, as of last week, has no plan as to how to do that. They've admitted that. They don't have the plan. They don't have the numbers. They don't know what it's going to cost the communities, either residences or businesses, but they're in a hurry just to get the power.

We have no idea what they're going to do with it. It would be nice just once from this government to see what they're going to do with these powers, to see what the impact is going to be, to see the numbers, but when you have a government that doesn't even have a plan for how they're going to use the power, we understand why they can't give us any numbers. But they're still in a rush.


The real reason -- for the distress, for the anger and for the frustration -- this time allocation motion is before us today is because it will push teachers in this province into a position where they feel they have no choice but to strike.

I find it truly incredible that the Minister of Education in the House this afternoon could have been on his feet in response to a question from our leader, Dalton McGuinty, who said, "Set the bill aside until there can be some very real discussions," and the Minister of Education assured our leader that he was going to meet with representatives of teacher federations later this week.

Teachers may be on strike later this week; kids may be out of their classrooms later this week. The government's time allocation motion is here today. If the minister is going to meet with teacher representatives later this week, why didn't he stop this time allocation motion from going through at least until later this week? How could any teacher representative out there possibly believe that there will be any sincerity to these so-called discussions that are to go on with the Minister of Education when the very day that he says he's going to meet with them, his government brings forward a motion to cut off debate on the very bill that is pushing them into strike action?

This government is without any doubt at all forcing a confrontation and is going to be leaving teachers with absolutely no alternative but to protest in every way they have the actions of this government. I don't think they can possibly take a government seriously when day after day the public statements of the Minister of Education and the Premier of this province have been simply to lay down ultimatums.

We have to go back and remember how these so-called discussions with teacher federations, teacher representatives began. They began by sitting down at a table where the government laid down the bottom lines. The bottom lines were the words, "Yes, we want to provide a quality of education," and the second line, which the members opposite seem to want to ignore, was that they want to do that at the lowest possible cost. Define "lowest possible cost" for this government. Let's be absolutely clear about it. At that discussion table it was "nothing more to be spent than what was spent at the national average per pupil."

The government has defined its national average; they've defined the lowest possible cost. They have used, in my view, numbers which are erroneous, which are not based on fact, but they have said that to get down to the national average spending per pupil, we can take another $1 billion to $1.3 billion out of the system. I say again that at the discussion with teachers three weeks ago, the bottom line was, "We are not prepared to spend anything more than the national average." That translates very simply into taking another $1 billion out of education in this province.

The teachers tried, and I don't think it was with full consensus of all their members or their affiliates, but the teachers said: "We really don't want to go on strike. We don't want to be pushed to that extreme. We need some breathing time to at least try and get this government to truly sit down and talk with us and understand our concerns for education, our concerns for our students.

"We don't like the government's $5-billion tax cut plan. We never agreed with that. We don't think there should be a single cent from education contributed to the government's tax cut plan. But we don't want our students to be placed in jeopardy. Let's look at the alternative of temporarily using some teachers' pension fund to at least buy some time to look at the government's funding formula, to see what the government is going to do with funding, to see, maybe the government will actually live up to the minister's words and provide enough dollars for education that the needs of students can be met."

If the minister was really prepared to live up to those words by putting dollars on the table instead of taking dollars out of education, then maybe we could avoid this whole confrontation. The government said no. The government said: "Our bottom lines are still that we need $1 billion and we want long-term structural change. We want teachers out."

Let there be absolutely no mistake that this bill is about the government getting the power to do whatever it wants to do. This bill is about the government getting the power to reduce the number of teachers and to save money by cutting the number of teachers we have. If there is any doubt in anybody's mind, I take you back again to January 1997, when the government went to great efforts to send out focus groups to test how the public would respond to the removal of 10,000 teachers. Here's the headline: "Ontario Worked on Plan to Drop 10,000 Teachers."

What did they find when they tried to test this plan with the public not quite a year ago? They found, according to their consultant, "It's going to be trickier than expected." They said, "The issue will require significant managing, since without effective arguments there is likely to be some support for the teachers' position." The focus groups believed that "preparation time is a necessary function for teachers, that it's reasonable for teachers to be paid for it, that reducing it could compromise the quality of education. But through a series of arguments that they can present, this attitude can be changed."

That's what all the preamble to Bill 160 is, all the government spin. It's how you present arguments, whether based on the realities of what teachers are doing with students in our schools or not. It is to present arguments to try and convince the public that we can lose 10,000 teachers and somehow not hurt our students and their education.

I guess the government got a little bit nervous about the public's concern with 10,000 teachers being lost, so last week the minister said: "It's not really 10,000. We're not really going to cut 10,000 teachers, at least not tomorrow. Tomorrow we're only going to cut 4,400 teachers." It was at least the first acknowledgement we've had that this bill and this government's intent are all about having fewer teachers in our classrooms and fewer teachers working with our students.

Don't talk to me about teachers having more time with students. The bottom line is that there's less money and there are fewer teachers. There is going to be less teaching of students. You can't get away from the bottom line of that equation.

This government has been told over and over again by its own commission -- the government House leader, in introducing this time allocation motion today, said that the government was just following the recommendations of the education implementation commission that it had set up.

There was one very significant recommendation of the commission. It's a little bit like reading the platform I put out for education a couple of years ago or better, which I would love to have been able to implement, and not mentioning the fact that there are two fairly crucial things in that platform.

One is that it says there have been far too many changes introduced without consultation with teachers and that has to stop. I wish the government understood what real consultation with teachers was all about, what really sitting down and talking to teachers about what will work with their students in their classrooms really means.

The second thing the government doesn't like to talk about is the fact that we said there should be stable multi-year funding for four years. If we had stable multi-year funding, and not $533 million in cuts on top of making permanent the $425 million in social contract cuts, if we'd had that kind of stable funding, then we wouldn't have 126,000 teachers looking at having to go on strike to try and protect the quality of education in this province against this government's attacks on it.

They don't like to read everything their commission said either. They don't like to realize that their minister is going far beyond what the commission suggested might be managed even in the area of preparation time. They certainly don't like to talk about the fact that the commission said loudly and clearly: "There cannot be more cuts to education. You must reinvest every cent you take out back in the classroom."

Why doesn't the government talk about that? Why, when my leader asks day in and day out for the minister to make that simple commitment -- "Do not take another cent out of education" -- will the minister not respond? He talks about the funding formula, he talks about quality education and meeting the needs of every student, and it sounds wonderful, except that until he shows us the dollars, nobody believes it's going to happen. Until he's prepared to make that basic commitment that our leader has asked for, that there won't be more cuts to education, we know he cannot meet the needs of students.

The government doesn't like to talk about that. They don't like to talk about how many more teachers, beyond the initial 4,400, this government's cuts are going to mean. They don't like to talk about the fact that more than the 4,400 teachers are going to be lost when they start replacing certified classroom teachers with uncertified teachers.

I think the parliamentary assistant for education said: "That's not going to happen. We're not talking about replacing teachers; we're talking about supplementing them." Surely that's not what his briefing note said, because that's not what the commission that reported to the minister has suggested. They've said, "Replace classroom teachers in art and music and physical education and technical programs, as well as in libraries and in early childhood." That's replacement of teachers, and it means fewer teachers, it means less cost indeed, but it means fewer professional teachers teaching our children.


This week, the parliamentary assistant for education and the minister responsible for women's issues -- I'm not sure why the minister for women's issues is up talking about reinvesting money in education when the Minister of Education has steadfastly refused to do that -- have said: "We will reinvest. If the teachers will agree to some of our conditions, we will reinvest." But they didn't talk about reinvesting in teachers. They talked about reinvesting in training programs, in co-op programs. These are good things. Nobody is going to argue with the value of workplace training in preparation for the world of work. But you cannot do it at the expense of the teachers who are needed to provide a quality elementary and secondary school education to our students in the classroom and out of the classroom.

I thought the provocation of this government had reached its peak last week when the Premier said, "You cannot trust teachers and trustees when it comes to quality education." If that wasn't the most provocative, inflammatory statement that could be made, at the same time as the government representatives were saying to teachers: "Come in and sit down and talk to us. We don't want you to go on strike. Come and talk to us." I think this government is forcing teachers into a confrontation, forcing teachers into this kind of fight, when the Premier of this province will make that kind of statement in this sort of heated environment.

I am not going to go into the facts and the total picture of what actually happens as the reason, the background, for increased class sizes. I've had a chance to raise my concerns with the statements the Premier has made and with his failure to acknowledge that the reason there are higher class sizes is as a direct result of the cuts this government has made -- cuts to junior kindergarten, cuts to the operating grants to school boards -- and that the need to deal with those cuts is what has driven class sizes up.

The Premier's attempt to justify this bill that's in front of us by suggesting that it is needed because school boards and teacher representatives have negotiated larger class sizes was so far removed from the reality of what goes on at those bargaining tables as to be something which I have not yet found parliamentary language to express, so I won't attempt to do that today.

The Minister of Education actually said a week ago that this bill has a lot of improvements for teachers. Where? Where are the improvements for teachers? Fewer jobs, non-certified people taking on the jobs of teachers, no ability to negotiate their working conditions. The Minister of Education, in my view and in the view of those thousands and thousands of teachers, 126,000 teachers, is determined to destroy public education. Where is there anything in Bill 160 that has a lot of improvements for teachers?

We have to remember that the working conditions of teachers are indeed the learning conditions of our students. That's why there are thousands and thousands of students who are protesting with their teachers, because they see, day in and day out, two things. They see what the cuts of this government have done to their classrooms, and they know the value of their teachers and the time their teachers spend with them in class and out of class. Students are saying as clearly as they can: "We want a voice, and we want our voice heard. We want this government to hear us say, `Stop the cuts and leave our teachers in the schools to do the job that we value.'" They only wish the government valued that job.

We need to see the government make a commitment that it is not going to make any more cuts to education. If they would just make that basic commitment, I think we would be in a position where people could step back from the confrontation, where we could look at what the needs are and how to address those needs with at least some sense of stability in funding. But instead of that, we have a minister who continues to just talk. We have a minister who keeps mouthing rhetoric, even as he tells other people to drop it. We have a minister who makes no commitment to no more cuts, who is not going to show us the funding formula perhaps until it is too late to avoid a confrontation, and who even if he does show us the funding formula may not put any numbers to it that will allow us to see whether or not there are really going to be efforts made to provide enough resources to meet the needs of students.

Until this Minister of Education and this Premier and this government do that, until they make a clear commitment that there will not be any further cuts, no one is going to believe them when they say this is all about improving the quality of education.

They want to make this an issue of trust, that you can't trust teachers and trustees. My goodness, if anybody has destroyed trust, it is this government when it comes to their commitment to education. They have destroyed trust with $533 million of cuts, including direct cuts of $145 million to junior kindergarten and 50% less funding for adult education and direct cuts to school boards.

This is a question of whether or not this government can be trusted. This government wants total control, and that's what Bill 160 is: total control to do whatever they want to do, whenever they want to do it. We have seen what they want to do, we've seen what they have done, and on neither count does this government deserve the trust of anybody who is concerned about public education.

This government should not be cutting off debate on this bill. This government should be withdrawing this bill. The fact that instead of that they are cutting off debate on the bill before they have even sat down with the teachers is clear evidence that this government wants a fight, that they are pushing teachers against the wall, that they are breaking the system so that ultimately they can destroy public education. I believe that every one of us who cares about the future of publicly funded education will do whatever we can to stop this government.

Mr Dalton McGuinty (Leader of the Opposition): Let me begin by congratulating my colleague, my critic for education, for the outstanding work she has been doing on this particular matter and for her ability to articulate the concerns not only of teachers but also of parents and students and all those who consider themselves friends of public education in Ontario.

At the outset I want to remind people what we're talking about here in Ontario. We're talking about the most radical change to the way in which we deliver public education ever imposed upon the province. We should keep in mind that when we talk about education, we are talking fundamentally about the means by which we can assure ourselves of future success. That's what this is all about. So when we proceed down this path, I suggest that we ought to do so gingerly and delicately, with an understanding that if we screw this up today, we pay for it in spades tomorrow.

The second thing I want to talk about is my capacity in addressing this issue. First of all and perhaps foremost, I am the father of four students. I have a daughter in grade 11, I have a son in grade 9, I have another son in grade 8 and another son in grade 6. As a father, it is vitally important to me that they do well in school and that their teachers do their very best for them so that my children can find success later on in life and hopefully, if they choose to do so, they will stay here in Ontario and find opportunity here.

I can also tell you that I am the son of a trustee. My dad was a trustee with the Ottawa school board for some 16 years, and I can tell you that in that capacity my father would receive telephone calls on a regular basis from parents who were concerned about what was going on in school. Unlike the image the government would put forth, there are many, many good people who give of their time. They are volunteers, by and large, with a little bit of pay, who act as trustees and represent local concerns on their local school board. They work very hard, and in many ways they are the unsung heroes in the delivery of education in Ontario.

I want to speak as well in my capacity as the husband of a teacher, someone who has been teaching for a long time in the public system of education here in Ontario. I know it is high fashion in the eyes of the government to pound our teachers and to suggest that they are all underworked and overpaid, that they are somehow against bringing about any improvement in education, that they are defenders of the status quo, and that the very last thing they might have in their hearts is the interests of their students.


I can also tell you that I happen to have a couple of sisters who are teachers and a brother-in-law who is a teacher, so I have a good understanding of some of the challenges, I think, that teachers have to contend with in their classrooms in 1997. I think teaching has become more complex. The demands that we place on our teachers have grown much more significant over the years.

Is there room for improvement in education? Absolutely. Are all teachers undoubtedly good teachers? No. I don't even think teachers would tell you that. But if we are going to bring about genuine change in the classroom, I think it's important for the Minister of Education at some point along the way to stand up and say: "I value teaching. I value teachers and I understand some of the challenges they've got to contend with in their classrooms."

We have not had that information. We have not had that message sent by either the Premier or the Minister of Education since this government took power in Ontario. Teachers have always been viewed as some kind of an obstacle to be overcome, rather than a resource to be tapped.

I also want to speak of course as leader of my party, the Ontario Liberal Party, the official opposition, and I want to tell you that I have some very grave concerns about Bill 160 and what it's about to do to public education in Ontario. In particular, I can tell you that when I compare what I think I would be doing as Premier of the province. It's important for me to tell people how I think the Premier has behaved irresponsibly on this file. I think what he ought to be doing is making every genuine effort to avert a strike. That's his responsibility as leader in the province. As the foremost leader, as Premier, he's got to manage public affairs. The last thing he ought to be doing is participating in any effort on the part of the Minister of Education to construct a crisis here, to bring this thing to a head so that we cannot help but have 126,000 teachers go on strike. That would be unprecedented in the history of this province.

It's rather perverse that it has taken this government to bring together teachers right across the province, together with trustees, together with students, who have all said: "Hang on a sec. We have some genuine concerns about what this government is doing and we are afraid you're going to cause some irreparable harm to public education in Ontario." It has taken a very special kind of government to bring all of those people together.

What are we talking about here? At the end of the day, what we're talking about is a government that is bent, and I use that word advisedly, on removing another $1 billion from public education in Ontario. To date they've already taken out $533 million. I know the members opposite have heard me say this time and time again, but it's worth repeating.

They are causing serious damage to the delivery of junior kindergarten in Ontario. Over two dozen boards to date have stopped providing junior kindergarten because of the lack of funding on the part of this government. Everybody who has ever given any serious thought to this and has done any reading and listened to the experts and talked to teachers knows that the single biggest indicator of academic success is how ready kids are to learn when they get into kindergarten. Junior kindergarten is an important element in making sure our kids are ready to learn when they get to kindergarten. Everybody understands that in this knowledge-based, global economy we need more education, not less education. We have to fund junior kindergarten, and in fact that is one of the very few commitments I have made to date: If we enjoy the privilege of forming the next government, I will fund junior kindergarten throughout the province.

The other thing that we are doing as a result of this $533 million in cuts so far is that we have made school boards make serious cuts to their special education programs. It seems to me that quite apart from the funding issue there's a question here of right and wrong. What about helping out those students who have special learning problems? Do we not owe them some kind of special duty? Do we not have some kind of special responsibility that our children who have learning difficulties have those special needs met through our education program? Under this government -- it's important for our public to understand this -- we have been making cuts to special education in Ontario.

The other thing we ought to understand is that adult education is under attack as well. Members opposite surely understand the difficulty you're going to have getting a job in Ontario if all you have is your grade 10 or your grade 11, yet at the same time this government is making cuts to adult education. So now, as I understand it, outside Toronto 80% of adult education is under attack or has been eliminated. Outside Toronto, if you've only got your grade 10 or your grade 11, you have serious difficulty now in Ontario in obtaining a high school diploma.

What the government is about is they want to remove $1 billion from education. They have taken out half a billion; they believe they can find another $1 billion. Why do they need that $1 billion? This is not an overly complicated matter. The government promised a $5.5-billion tax cut. Our mothers have all told us, and so have our fathers, there is no free lunch. They've got to get that money somewhere, and they have no reservations whatsoever about removing it from our public system of education. That's what this is all about. It's not an effort to bring about an improvement in education in Ontario; it's an effort to find money to deliver on a foolish, ill-considered, irresponsible promise to deliver us all a tax cut.

Today I once again asked the Minister of Education if he would not ratchet this thing down a little bit, pull it away from the fire, cool things off by just standing up in the House and promising that this is really not about money, that he really is genuinely concerned about bringing about improvement in the way in which we deliver public education in Ontario. He could do that quite simply by saying, "I'm not taking any more money out of education because I feel that public education is at risk in Ontario and we owe it above all, first and foremost, to our students to maintain the number of teachers that are there and the amount of funding that is necessary."

I am not going to apologize for the fact that education is expensive. That's something that is important to me and my party. We owe it to the next generation. Furthermore, if we want to look at it the other way, we owe it to ourselves to make sure they get the very best. Some of that happens to cost money, and I am not about to apologize for that. Good teaching costs good money; there's no two ways about it. We shouldn't apologize for that.

I also gave the minister the opportunity today to pull us back from the edge by promising that, contrary to what he said in the past, he is not about to remove 10,000 teachers from our system of public education, that he's not even about to remove some 4,400 teachers from education in Ontario, that what it's really all about is improving education, and so for that reason he's not going to use this bill to remove teachers from the system.

Again, he rejected that opportunity. All he had to do was stand up and say: "I'm with you on this. It's not an exercise to gut the system of teachers." He didn't say that. He once again refused to make the kind of promise that is so necessary to pull us back from the brink.

Remember what we're talking about here: 126,000 teachers going out all at once; 2.1 million students being put out of their schools; parents having to make alternative arrangements, presuming that they can, having to take days off work, having to find babysitters. You might be able to find a few babysitters, but when 2.1 million students go out at once, how are they possibly going to be able to cope with that? Those parents and those students are relying entirely on the Premier to avert this disaster, to make sure it doesn't happen.

Let's understand that the responsibility for managing public affairs, the responsibility for averting the strike, doesn't lie with anybody other than our elected representatives, and especially with the government. It lies entirely in the hands of the government. If we have a strike, it will be the fault of the government because the government could have averted this. It's as simple as that.

Some people who watch this on TV and who hear the government spin and hear me speak and hear members of the third party speak, and it's understandable, can become confused. Sometimes it's difficult to tell what the truth is in all of this. I have some simple advice for them: trust your instincts. Visit their local school, go in there and count the number of students that are in the classrooms, ask the teachers about the number of textbooks. They might find out as well along the way while they're in there: Ask teachers how much work they are doing for which they are not being paid.

Let's set aside the government's spin for a moment -- trust your own instincts. That's vitally important, and I would ask our public not to lose sight of their own ability, not to refrain from using their own good judgement when it comes to this very important issue.


This is a power grab on the part of the government. This is a power grab when it comes to public education in Ontario. I wouldn't have said this a while back, but now I'm absolutely convinced of this. Nothing less than the very future of public education is at risk here. We're talking about a government that's making efforts, in a kind of insidious way, to undermine public education, to devalue public education, to devalue teaching and teachers.

I can tell you, as a parent myself, that you want the best for your kids because you know it's a competitive world out there. Parents are going to be saying, "Listen, if I can't get it from public education, if I can afford it, I'll go elsewhere." The next thing you know you're into some kind of a death spiral, where people are pulling out because the government's not devoting the necessary resources and is not sending the message to teachers, "We value your work." You get people pulling out and going elsewhere into a system that only our wealthy could afford, and that's a dangerous thing and I'll have no part of that. I am proud of our system of public education in Ontario.

Sure, we've got a few problems and nobody makes the argument that it's not beyond improvement, but I think we ought to be careful as we proceed down that path and we have to ensure that we capitalize on the front-line resources.

One of the single greatest assets we have in public education in Ontario is the goodwill of our teachers. If we don't have the goodwill of our teachers, we are in serious difficulty when it comes to delivering education. We need them. Sometimes you get the impression from the government that they believe education would be great in Ontario if you could just get rid of the teachers. The next you know the minister will be delivering courses on TV by himself, telling us what we should and shouldn't know, and that is a frightening prospect.

The minister can pull us back from the brink. It's not too late. I remain optimistic on this front because I have to. That's a duty my office imposes upon me. That's a duty parents and students right across the province impose upon me. They want me to do what I can to convince the Premier and the Minister of Education that they have the responsibility to avert a strike in this, and there are three simple things they can do.

First, they can say, "We promise we're not about to remove one further penny from public education."

Second, they can say, "We promise we're not about to remove teachers from our classrooms." Class sizes are already too big. I simply don't understand. We had math, we had the new math and now we've got John Snobelen's math. Under John Snobelen's math, apparently if you remove 5,000 teachers from the classroom, class sizes somehow go down. That's something I just haven't cottoned on to. Class sizes are going up. Let's not kid ourselves. That's what's going to happen under Bill 160. Class sizes are going to go up because we're going to have fewer teachers.

The third thing I ask the government to do, if it can't make any concessions on those first two points, is why the rush on this? Why do we have to go to the brink? This has become the overwhelming characteristic of this government. I think people are tired of this. Why do we have to be so confrontational, so divisive? Why do we have to set people apart or against each other, whether it's in health care or social services, and now in education? Isn't it the responsibility of the government to say, "I know the way and we can all go there together"? Isn't that the responsibility of government? It seems to me that's the responsibility of government.

What the government can and should do on that front is it ought to withdraw this bill. Rather than me standing up here and having to face a government that's telling us, "We're about to limit debate on this bill; we've heard enough from you people on this stuff; you're in the way of our agenda, so we want to shut you down," rather than me having to stand up and defend our right to continue to debate this very important bill, I should be saying to the government that I want to congratulate you for withdrawing this bill, for pulling it back, for pulling us back from the brink, so that the parents across Ontario will say, "Thank God we've got a government that understands our predicament and the challenges we face in our homes."

It's hard enough to get up in the morning and get the routine going and get the kids off to school. Seventy per cent of our kids are in homes where the parents are both working. They get out. They work during the course of the day. They come back. They lead a very hectic life. They've got a hectic pace back home. You get the dinner on the table. You help the kids with the homework. You're off to soccer or baseball or hockey or whatever else.

They don't need this government to throw one huge wrench into the works and say, "By the way, your schools are going to be closed and we're not sure how long they're going to be closed for, and by the way we're taking $1 billion out of the system anyway, and by the way, your kids' class sizes are going up because we're taking at least 4,400 teachers out of our schools." They don't need a government to do that. They need a government that says: "We value education in Ontario. We value public education. We are the government that at some point along the way is going to champion some of the things that are good in Ontario."

One of the things of which I am most proud is our system of public education. Again I'm not saying there's not room for improvement. But if we're going to improve it we've got to do it together, and you can't do it without the goodwill and without capitalizing on the expertise of our teachers, who are not, if members took the time to meet with them and to understand, defenders of the status quo. They are for change too, but it's for a much better kind of change, one that will ensure our students get the best possible education in Ontario.

Once again, if the government really has it in its heart to avert a strike, it will make three simple concessions. First, it will promise it's not going to take another cent out of education in Ontario; second, it will promise it's not going to lay off any teachers through its bill; third, and perhaps most important, right now it will take this bill off the burner, it will put it on ice, allow things to cool down and ensure it does everything possible to avert a strike in Ontario.

Mr Mike Colle (Oakwood): I rise to speak to this motion for closure. As you know, this government has established a pattern whereby every time a bill comes up, rather than debate it they want to impose closure. They want to cut off debate because the pattern they're establishing is one of basically stifling opposition and ensuring the public doesn't get an opportunity to find out what's in this legislation. Here's a government that does this. Every week now there's a closure motion, unprecedented, closure motion after closure motion.

Here we have one of the most fundamental parts of this province -- education. What are they going to do? Rather than allowing more debate, more discussion, giving the public more time to find out what's in this bill, they're going to evoke closure, cutting off debate. Do you know why they want to cut off debate? Because they know what they're doing is something that doesn't have the best of motives. Their motives are basically entrenched in ideology. That's the neoconservative ideology which basically demeans public education, that says public education is falling apart, that public education is something that should be basically dismantled and replaced with something else.

As you know, one of the tragic things is that as we move towards this neoconservative concept of education, we are going to possibly follow the American trap, where in the United States only 40% of the students attend public schools, 40% of the students attend public education. In Canada, in Ontario, 90% of our students go to public school and that's a record to be proud of.

Sure, our public schools are not perfect. They need all kinds of reform and they need all kinds of help, but they should not be dismantled and they should not be bulldozed by a government that is basically intent on one thing. They're intent on extracting money out of education to pay for the tax cut. That's the motive here. That's why they don't want debate on this bill. They don't want the public to find out that's what they're doing. That's why they're in such a mad, reckless hurry and that's why they're putting children at risk here. They're putting the children in high schools and elementary schools across this province at risk by this reckless attempt to reconfigure education to the likeness of John Snobelen or Mike Harris.

John Snobelen and Mike Harris aren't the ones who have all the answers. The answers are to be found in the parents, in the teachers, in the volunteers and the experts who are interested in education. They are saying: "Slow down. You are endangering a very precious commodity, and that is our children."


Our children are now being placed at risk as this government marches on to some agenda that is essentially bent on reconfiguring, remaking education -- to what likeness we don't know yet, because they won't even divulge the funding formula. They won't give it to us, because if they do that, then we'll find out what the true agenda is. That's why this government wants to invoke closure, because they don't want people to know what they're up to, because what they're up to is basically dismantling a system that should be invested in and not dismantled.

If you look at what's happening in our local schools, sure, we've got some schools that are in need. I live in an area of central Metropolitan Toronto that has a lot of schools that deal with a variety of children from all over the world, and they are children who need attention. You need money and good teachers to give those children attention.

The schools are not perfect, but I'll tell you, we've got more good things happening in our schools than bad things. We've got many more good teachers than bad teachers. We've got teachers who don't just spend time in the classroom. The classroom is not the end-all and be-all, because teachers also spend time before school, after school, with drama, with music, helping kids with their math, doing athletic programs, outside that box called the classroom.

This minister and this government are fixed on that box and saying, "If it doesn't occur in that box, it doesn't count." I'll tell you, it counts when you teach a kid how to throw a baseball; it counts when you teach a child how to read Shakespearean verse. Those things count too. It counts when you hold a kid's hand and speak to him for a few minutes after school. Those things don't occur in that box, but they count.

This minister is saying, "If it doesn't occur in the box, we're not paying for it." That is a minister who doesn't understand that you can't just teach in the box; you have to realize that there are human dimensions in a school, because a school is more than a building; it's a community that's vibrant, dynamic and living. Our schools have been trying to deal with that vibrancy, and they've been dealing with it as best they can, but all of a sudden now -- if you're going to take $1 billion out of our schools, how are you ever going to overcome the challenges? You're just going to make it even more impossible to deal with the challenges that our families, our parents, our students and our teachers face.

Teacher-bashing doesn't do any good. Day after day, this minister, since he became minister, has been demeaning teachers, saying they were underworked, overpaid, that they had no right to be running the system -- he was going to run the system. That is a difficult position to take if you're trying to rebuild something, when the main builders of it, the teachers, are said to be irrelevant. How do you build it without teachers? How do you build it without parents? The parents and teachers are there daily. They're in the front lines, not the Minister of Education.

You're not going to have a vibrant education system if it's run centralized from Queen's Park, a centralized system of this magnitude. In Metropolitan Toronto, we're going to have a mega-board of 300,000 students. How can you micromanage that from Queen's Park? That's in Metro alone, but they're going to micromanage education all over the province. You can't do it right. Do you know why? You're not dealing with automobile parts, you're not dealing with shoes, you're not dealing with buildings; you're dealing with human beings, fragile human beings who are in their formative years.

You can't centralize and impersonalize that. You can't do it with bureaucrats at Queen's Park who are going to do everything from setting a tax rate to telling kids how many hours there are going to be in a course. You can't micromanage this precious commodity called children from Queen's Park. It won't work. It's a hare-brained attempt to do something that won't work.

That is what this bill is going to do. That's why this government is trying to invoke closure, because they don't want the public to find out that this is a hare-brained scheme that is going to destroy not only a system, it's going to destroy and jeopardize children who need investment in education rather than dismantling, which this government is set upon.

I speak from experience. I taught on the front lines in Metropolitan Toronto for 18 years and I was proud to give 18 years of my life to education. I want to talk about some of the people I saw in schools. They were there from 7:30 in the morning, most of them, until 6 o'clock at night. They were there on Saturdays and Sundays. They were there when the kids needed them.

I talk about Father John Redmond, one of the best teachers I ever saw, who worked seven days a week teaching. Father John Redmond -- they named Father John Redmond school in Etobicoke after him -- set an example of giving to kids seven days a week. I remember Hugh McDougall, a vice-principal who worked around the clock with everything from athletics to organizing school trips to making sure kids got that helping hand. He did not just teach in the classroom and inspire kids there. He went out to the football fields, the hockey arenas, into the neighbourhoods where kids could get that kind of extra support that parents needed. These are people this government is demeaning and trying to put down and bash. There are thousands of Hugh McDougalls and Father John Redmonds out there who are willing to give to kids.

Why would this government now try and say that these people should have a say in education? These are the builders of our future generation. The teachers have to have support. You can't all of a sudden say, "We're going to replace these teachers with outside people now and they're going to do an even better job." What kind of a message does that send to a teacher, if they're being told they're going to be replaced by people outside education who don't have the credentials? What about parents? Do they want these outsiders in the classroom? Maybe they should be asked whether they want them to replace teachers. I think parents should have a say in that.

Certainly, if we go on in looking at what we need in education, we don't need teacher-bashing, we don't need centralized government control out of Queen's Park to tell people in Lucknow or Listowel or Lindsay or downtown Toronto how to run education. The big, fat bureaucrats in Queen's Park and their political masters should mind their own business and they should fund education properly and make sure there's a good system in place. But they should get their nose out of kids' classrooms. It doesn't work when you try and do things from a far, distant bureaucracy here in some bunker at Queen's Park.

Give education back to the parents, give it to the teachers and those parents and teachers will run the system much better than any bureaucrat from Queen's Park will. I have a lot more faith in those teachers and parents in the communities than the bureaucrats, who are faceless. Can you imagine trying to find out who's in charge of a school? Who do you go to? Who do you call if you've got a problem on a 30,000-student mega-board? Who do you call?

I had a young woman call me the other day who said she wanted to run for trustee here in Toronto. She said she phoned the Ministry of Education five times. Every time, she was given voice mail and the runaround. She asked for some kind of information on what instructions she would have to have in the new trusteeship on the mega-board. The Ministry of Education couldn't give her any information. She even wanted to help and she was given the runaround. People are going to be lost in these new mega-centralized boards across Ontario.

This bill does nothing but essentially take money out of education, get rid of teachers and centralize control. How is this going to be beneficial? What benefit is there in this bill? What is there in this bill that's going to help parents with their children? What is it going to do for the music programs? What is it going to do for basic mathematics? Will it have more time for teachers' help? That's the basics of education, not centralized control at Queen's Park with political masters in the ministry dictating to people all across Ontario.

That's what Bill 160 does: It goes against the trend of 50 years of giving local control of education, to centralized control. It has got to be sheer madness to have education run from Queen's Park alone, with everything set out of Queen's Park. Essentially, as the member for Scarborough-Agincourt was saying earlier today, you're going to have taxation without representation on schools. You're going to have taxation by regulation.


Where are the parents going to have time or knowledge in terms of having time to contribute in education? This is taking it away from parents and giving it to political bureaucrats. That's what this Bill 160 is about. That's why the government wants to cut off debate, because they know that as more and more parents are finding out about this bill, they're becoming outraged. They are phoning members of Parliament across the province, disgusted with Bill 160, because this bill is a total fraud.

I know tonight here in Metropolitan Toronto there will be over 10,000 teachers meeting at Maple Leaf Gardens who will be protesting this bill. I speak to my fellow teachers to stand up against this bully government which tries to dictate education. I tell parents all across this province, put your stock in your schools and your teachers and your kids. Don't believe Bill 160 and the Mike Harris government. Their agenda is basically the extraction of $1 billion. Their agenda is essentially to centralize control at Queen's Park and not give you a say in education. That's why they want to cut off debate on Bill 160, because this government doesn't want you, parents, to know what's in this bill.

This bill takes away parents' control. It takes away teachers' control. All it gives is bureaucratic, centralized, dictatorial control over education in this province. It's the worst thing that could happen to education. That's why for the first time in decades, teachers across this province are coming together, standing up, because they know what's at stake. What's at stake is the future of public education, which means education for everybody who needs it and wants it, that is available to everyone. If you take that away, if we go the American style of private education for only the well-to-do, we are destroying something Ontario has developed a world reputation for.

I ask the parents and teachers, stand strong against Bill 160. Stand strong for your kids.

Mr Wildman: I regret very much that we are debating this motion here today. I want to remind members on all sides of the House that we are debating a time allocation motion on Bill 160.

When I first saw this motion tabled last Thursday, I must say that initially I was confused, because last week it appeared that the Premier and the Minister of Education and Training were making some overtures to the members of the teaching profession to indicate that there might be some room for discussion, there might be some room for compromise by the government. The Premier started saying things that we haven't heard since this government came into office. The minister started praising teachers, trying to paint himself as a friend of teachers.

So we have to understand what is going on. I thought then: "Well, they're introducing a time allocation motion. Perhaps the government is tabling it simply to have it there in case they want it, in case they feel they need it." But today, here we are.

Although many members in their interventions in this debate so far have just talked about Bill 160, which they could have indeed done if we were continuing debate on second reading, we are debating a time allocation motion which will cut off debate on Bill 160.

This evening there are rallies all over the province. In particular, there's going to be a very large rally -- no one knows exactly how many people will be there, but there are predictions that it could be as many as 20,000 -- at Maple Leaf Gardens here in Toronto. But there are also rallies in other places across the province this evening: in Mississauga, Iroquois Falls, Gogama and Espanola, and tomorrow in small communities like Dubreuilville and Wawa in my constituency, and in larger cities like Hamilton. Wednesday it's in Belleville, Hornepayne, Victoria-Haliburton, Lindsay and Fenelon Falls. There are rallies all this week in which not the union bosses, as this government is wont to say, but grass-roots members of the teachers' unions, the teachers' federations, are gathering together to express their concerns about Bill 160 and to say they want it stopped.

We have these rallies organized. At the same time, we have the minister, in line with what he was saying last week, who has agreed to meet with the leadership of the unions, what the members of the Conservative Party in this House continue to call "the union bosses," this week on Wednesday.

Initially when I heard the minister say he was ready to meet, it sounded to me like he was trying to cool the situation, back off a bit, get a dialogue going and perhaps avoid a confrontation. As I said, I was initially confused when I saw this motion. After all, we are facing potentially the most serious confrontation in public education that this province has ever seen. We are facing a situation where in fact the education of students in all of the systems of education, in all of the schools of this province, will be disrupted because of a dispute between the teachers and the government.

I thought, when I heard the minister say he was willing to talk to the teachers, that he really wanted to avoid that confrontation and see if there was some way he could back off from the position he had taken with some grace and in some way resolve the concerns of the teachers, who are concerned about the quality of education for their students.

So how does one explain the introduction of this motion for debate today to cut off debate on Bill 160? If the government is serious about wanting to avoid a disruption of the education of students in Ontario, why are they introducing this motion before the minister meets with the leadership of the unions? It sounds to me like the minister and the government are prejudging the results of that meeting. Perhaps it's even worse than that. Perhaps they just decided they are going to meet with the teachers but they don't intend to say anything of importance, they don't intend to put anything forward that might avoid a confrontation, that in fact they are going to force a confrontation.

I see the Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs is listening to the debate, so I'll use an agricultural term. Frankly, this is like waving a red flag in front of a bull. How on earth does this cool things out, by introducing a time allocation motion that cuts off debate on the very day that the teachers are holding their largest meeting and two days prior to the teachers' leadership meeting with the minister? How does that cool things out? How does that avoid a confrontation? It will have the exact opposite effect.

All I can conclude is that this government wants a strike. If they didn't want a strike, why are they doing this? I don't understand it.

Mr Froese: We've been talking about it for years.

Mr Wildman: I'm not talking about Bill 160 here; I'm talking about what we are debating, the motion. Why are we cutting off debate on Bill 160? Why are we not just having a second reading debate here today on Bill 160?


We're saying to the teachers: "On the one hand the minister wants to meet with the leadership, but on the other hand we're going to force Bill 160 through as is, the way it's written, the current draft." It's going to pass second reading. It will be accepted in principle even though we know that the teachers are opposed to the principles in this bill. There is no question about that. The teachers' unions do not support the principle of Bill 160. They want to meet with the minister to see if there is some way there can be changes.

Hon Charles Harnick (Attorney General, minister responsible for native affairs): Teachers' unions. What about teachers?

Mr Wildman: I think there were 6,000 teachers in Ottawa. There were over 1,000 teachers in Sault Ste Marie.

Mrs McLeod: There were 3,200 in Thunder Bay.

Mr Wildman: There were 3,200 teachers in Thunder Bay. My God, if these are just the leaders of the unions, they must be awfully big unions.

Hon Mr Harnick: You said it.

Mr Wildman: We'll see. We'll see how many grass-roots members of the teachers' federations attend the meetings this week.

I guess the Attorney General needs to be convinced. I guess he takes that view that somehow the leaders of the unions are not representative of the teachers who elect them, who choose them to be their leaders. If they are successful -- I don't know whether they will be or not -- in filling Maple Leaf Gardens this evening, will the minister still be sitting in his place saying it's just the unions, just the leaders of the unions, or will he be saying the members of the unions, the people who pay the dues and who choose the leaders, are opposed to what this government is doing? If they aren't, why would they go to the meeting?

I thought the government was trying to win some time, and then they bring in a time allocation motion that cuts off debate. It's contradictory, and the only explanation I can think of -- if there is some other explanation, I would like to have it explained -- is that they are trying to force a confrontation. I do not want a strike that disrupts the education of students in this province. I do not want to have the schools in Ontario close because of a dispute between the teachers and the government over a piece of legislation that is going to hurt the quality of education for students in this province. I don't want that to happen. I thought the government had decided they didn't want it to happen, but by moving this, this is a provocation. This motion being brought today for debate in the House is intended to provoke something, and I fear that it may in fact provoke a strike.

Why would the government want to be provocative? Why would the government move this motion today? Why wouldn't the government simply continue debate at second reading? The only explanation must be that they want the confrontation. There can't be any other explanation. What does this meeting on Wednesday mean, if anything, if the government has decided to pass the bill now and have a vote on it now, before the meeting?

In a way the government is acting like the schoolyard bully. As a child, when I attended school, or later when I was involved in the teaching profession, or just my experience with kids in hockey when I was involved in minor hockey, my experience was that when you ran into a bully, the only way you could deal with a bully was to stand up to that bully, because as long as the bully thought he could terrorize, as long as the bully believed he could scare and intimidate, the bully would continue to bully.

Ironically, sometimes, particularly in hockey, as I recall, it was the smallest kid on the ice who stood up to the bully and said, "No, I'm not going to take this." In many cases they beat the bully in hockey skills and made them look foolish, but in other cases, they actually had to stand up and challenge the person who was trying to bully them. What happens in almost every case in that kind of situation, whether it's in the school yard, on the hockey rink, in the classroom, in the home, anywhere, is that the bully backs off immediately, because essentially bullies are cowards. They try to pick on people who they see as vulnerable or who will not have the support of others.

But when other people -- perhaps they themselves are not prepared or able or don't have the courage individually to stand up to the bully -- see an individual who is prepared to do that, they rally round, because nobody likes a bully. The bully, as long as he's able to intimidate, may have a following, but as soon as he turns tail and runs from somebody who has the courage to take him on, that following usually dissipates very quickly.

That's what this government risks in bullying. They run the risk of alienating a very large segment of the population when they do this to teachers and to the quality of education in the province. Parents are concerned, as teachers are, about the quality of education that their children receive. They do not buy the illogical position that this government puts forward that the way to improve the quality of education in this province is to attack teachers, the very people who are the most important in implementing changes in education, by hurting their morale, by laying them off or getting rid of a large number of them, whether it's 4,000, 5,000, 6,000 or 10,000. None of that improves the quality of education, particularly when the government is obviously determined to take money out of the system.

The government has already taken $800 million and that has hurt programs, it's hurt the quality of education for students. We've seen programs cut, we've seen physical education, we've seen library, music, special ed, art programs all cut back. We've seen junior kindergarten adversely affected, we've seen adult education go the way of the dodo bird in some places, because of cuts that this government has imposed in education despite its commitments in the last election campaign -- $800 million.

I enter this debate as a former teacher, as someone who is married to a teacher, who has a brother and sister who are teachers, who's had three children go through the system and has another little girl who wants to start and hopes that junior kindergarten will be in place next year so that she will be able to go to school, because she's ready. She's starting to read already.

Someone over there, when there was an intervention before, referred to junior kindergarten as babysitting. They don't know anything about it if that's what they think it is. Early childhood education is the grounding that children, individuals, need that affects their whole educational career. The better that grounding, the better they will achieve in school and in life. There are lots of studies that show that, and even Mr Snobelen, the Minister of Education and Training, admits that. So it's interesting that some of his backbenchers still consider it babysitting.

Mr Froese: Who said that?

Mr Wildman: I think it was Mr Pettit. What riding is he from in Hamilton? He's the one who said it.

Ms Marilyn Churley (Riverdale): Hamilton Mountain.

Mr Wildman: Hamilton Mountain. If you want to know who said it, it was he.


The government has already taken $800 million out of education, which has adversely affected classroom education in the province, the quality of education for our students, and the government has talked about taking another $1 billion out. This is where it gets kind of confusing, because last week the Premier first, then the minister and then other members of the Conservative Party said, "No, no, we never said we were going to take $1 billion out." We know the tape. I've seen the tape where the minister actually said it, but the fact that they said, "No, no, we didn't say that," indicated to me that maybe they were going to back off.

In the House, in the Legislature here, we have asked the government to make a commitment. We have asked the government to say that whatever savings they achieve through restructuring of the education system will be reinvested in education, that not one more cent will be taken out of the public education system for our students in Ontario, and repeatedly the Premier and the minister have refused to give that commitment. Why? Obviously it's because they do intend to take money out. If they didn't intend to take the money out, they would get up and say, "We make that commitment." It may not be $1 billion. Maybe it's going to be another $800 million or $500 million or $600 million. They said they weren't going to take anything out this year. They said it was going to be frozen this year and they've already taken $500 million out.

This is not about teachers and education workers; this is about students. This is about the quality of their education in this province. The Minister of Education stated at the beginning that he wanted to significantly change education in the province and to do that one of the ways was to invent a crisis. Well, here we are in October 1997 and he's achieved it. We are facing a situation where every school in the province may be shut down, and if not every one, then the vast majority of them perhaps. All of those kids who should be in those classrooms, should be in those gymnasia, should be on those sports fields, should be learning, will have their education disrupted.

How did we get to this point? We got to it because the minister first cut the education budget by $800 million and cut programs, hurting students. Teachers care about their students. Teachers are upset about that. They're concerned about the effect on the education of their students.

He also then went around bad-mouthing teachers everywhere he went. He said they were self-interested. He said they were overpaid and underworked. He called them a special-interest group. He even intimated that they don't care about students and their learning environment. He indicated that they were only interested in themselves and their own paycheques. Obviously everyone, no matter where they work, is interested in maintaining a job and maintaining their paycheque. That's how we provide for our families, so that's obvious. But to suggest that teachers don't care about students and their learning environment indicates the minister doesn't understand how things work in education.

By alienating teachers and hurting their morale, he cannot improve education for students. Central to the improvement of education is the commitment of dedicated, knowledgeable, enthusiastic teachers. If teachers suffer from bad morale and are alienated from the proposed changes, those changes are doomed to fail, no matter how good they might be.

Also, by making these kinds of comments, the minister betrays a complete lack of understanding of the motivation of most people who become teachers. Why does he think people become teachers? It is not an easy job. I know there are some in this government caucus who think it is an easy job. They look at the number of holidays that teachers have and they look at the number of hours they are actually in the classroom and they say, "Look, these people don't have to work very hard." But how many of us in 1997 could spend the hours that teachers spend with 25 or 30 elementary students, or 35 or 40 teenagers?

I'll be quite blunt. I come from the teaching profession, but as a parent when my own kids were in their adolescence, I was glad that somebody else was teaching them, bluntly, because adolescents, because of all of the things that are going on in their lives, can sometimes be rather difficult people.

So why do people become teachers? They become teachers first and foremost because they like kids, because they care about kids, because they care about students. They also become teachers because they care about their subject matter, in many cases. They care about their program. They think it's important to pass this along to the next generation. They become teachers because they care about learning. They become teachers because they care about students achieving to their greatest potential.

Any of us who have had the opportunity to be in teaching know the rush that a teacher has when a kid does something beyond what we anticipated they were capable of doing. That's why people become teachers: because they want kids to achieve and they want to be able to say that they helped those kids achieve. They want those children and students to be able to develop to their potential so that they can provide for themselves and contribute to society when they graduate. That's why people become teachers, not because they want holidays, they think it's an easy job or they want a big paycheque. The people who enter teaching with those reasons don't last in it very long. They're out of it very, very quickly.

But we've had a minister for the last two years who's been going around the province bashing teachers. Then somehow he expects them to be able to deliver on the reforms he wants to bring in. Teachers, it may surprise some of the government members -- perhaps the Attorney General will be surprised when he finds out that grass-roots members of the teachers' federations, not just the leadership, don't like this government and they don't like the minister and they don't like the program and they're completely opposed to taking $1 billion out of education. They're opposed to the changes and the amount of money that's already been taken out of the education because they know it has hurt the quality of education for students.

Now teachers obviously understand, if they're good teachers, and most of them are, that education must continually change and adapt if it's going to properaly serve the needs of students in a changing, and more rapidly changing, world. When teachers talk about their working conditions, they're not just talking about conditions that affect them in their profession. They're also talking about the learning condition of students. Why is it teachers want to be able to negotiate on things like class size? Because they believe as professionals they have something important to say about what should be done in order to assist students to achieve to their greatest potential, and part of that is how much contact they have on a daily basis with the classroom teacher. That's profoundly affected by the size of the class.


Some people would say: "Then why are the teachers opposed to Bill 160? At least in Bill 160 the government is saying that there will be a cap put on class sizes." Unfortunately, in the bill it doesn't say what cap or caps. What will be the size of classes in the primary grades? What will be the size of classes in the intermediate level? What will be the size of classes in the senior grades? We don't know that. That's all going to be set by regulation.

There is the reason that teachers are opposed, because this bill, Bill 160, that debate is being closed off on because of this motion, concentrates power to make those kinds of decisions in the hands of the minister and his bureaucrats. It takes the decision-making power away from the local community and concentrates it here at Queen's Park, while at the very same time Bill 160 will facilitate a system where the minister will take complete control over funding of education. The Treasurer will set the mill rate for taxes for education right across the province and the Minister of Education and Training will determine what the grants are for the school boards across the province.

Mr Rosario Marchese (Fort York): We'll all be equal then, Bud.

Mr Wildman: Yes, we'll be all equal. We'll be moving people downwards. We'll be equalizing at the bottom. So the effect will be this: There will be no local accountability. School boards will have no say and, as a result of that, the parents will have almost no say because they won't be able to influence the bureaucrats here at Queen's Park. At least when there's a trustee who has to be elected, the trustee has to attempt to be accountable to the ratepayers. Now those ratepayers will not have any access to the person or persons who are actually setting the mill rate. That's going to be done here at Queen's Park.

The teachers' federations oppose Bill 160 for the same reasons that trustees and school boards oppose it. It's a power grab. It's a grab of power, a centralizing of power by the minister and by the Conservative government here at Queen's Park. It's about assuring that the provincial Conservative government will be able to control all aspects of financing of education in the province.

Why does the government want to control all aspects of the financing of education? They say it's because they want equity, as my friend from Fort York indicated. They say they wanted equity, but it's not about that. What's it about is the ability then for the government to ensure that when the government cuts grants to education, there isn't a local authority that can raise property taxes and balance it off. It's about ensuring that less money will be spent on education in Ontario.

Now, we don't know what the number is. The government seems to be backing off $1 billion, so it could be $800 million, it could be whatever, but there's no other reason for the government to do what it's doing in terms of centralizing its control over education here at Queen's Park.

I regret very much that this government which purports to talk about accountability in this particular bill is diminishing accountability. It's diminishing local control. It means that people living in small communities in large school boards will not have much influence over those boards, and it means that the boards themselves will have almost no influence over decision-making in education. So the people who are elected to these boards by the ratepayers will not really have any say, and some faceless bureaucrat here at Queen's Park will prepare regulations that will be then passed behind closed doors by the cabinet, with no input and no say from the parents or the other taxpayers who pay for the education of our students.

Bill 160 is also about constricting the scope of collective bargaining. I have already talked about taking away the right to negotiate on class size. It also takes away the right to negotiate things like preparation time, and this is perhaps the thing that sticks in the craw of most professional teachers. The Education Improvement Commission recommended a 25% cut in preparation time, and this government in this bill is looking at a 50% cut for secondary school teachers, double what the commission recommended.

What does that say? It says that this government doesn't believe that teachers spend the time they have for preparation productively, because if they did spend it productively, the government wouldn't be wanting to cut it. I guess members of the government believe that teachers spend their preparation time in the staff room playing bridge or something. They don't understand what teachers use preparation time for. Sometimes yes, a teacher may in fact take half an hour off. If I had to face 35 young kids every day, I'd need a little bit of time off during education. Just ask the Speaker what it's like having to deal with us every day.


Mr Wildman: The fault is on both sides of the House.

By far, what teachers do most in their preparation time is prepare lessons to teach students, they mark assignments, they research for future classes or projects, they give remedial help to students who need it, either in small groups or individually, and they may spend time talking to parents of students who need help. They may spend time doing that as a group with other teachers or individually. They spend time arranging class trips or getting the equipment needed for the football season or the hockey season, or getting things ready for the school play. That's what they do in their preparation time, and by cutting it by 50%, this government is saying all of those things are not useful, they are not part of educating students, they are not part of the quality of education for Ontario kids.

This government wonders why teachers are upset and angry? The problem, at least in the short run, is if the government moves forward on Bill 160, many of the dedicated teachers who are giving their time to do extracurricular activities are going to stop. They're very angry.

I suppose this government says: "In 160 that's not a problem, because in this bill, we're going to be able to bring in people who aren't teachers to do those things. If the phys ed teacher or the math teacher isn't coaching the football club, we can bring in one of the local sports heroes who may want to volunteer and give his time. If the English teacher isn't prepared to help the drama club with the school play, there may be volunteers from the community who have expertise in that area who will come in and do it." But that misses a very important point. All of those volunteers are already doing that, and they work with the teacher, who has the expertise and the professional knowledge about how to transmit knowledge to young people. They don't have that kind of training.

I once met with somebody who was one of my idols as a child. Because I was involved in minor hockey, I met Gordie Howe once, and it was a tremendous thrill for me to meet Gordie Howe. I started talking to Gordie Howe. I said, "Gordie, how come you have never coached?" He said, "Because I would be a terrible coach." That's what he said. I said, "Why would you be a terrible coach?" He said, "Because everything I do I just do; I don't know how or why." Frankly, he is so talented, it's second nature to him; he didn't have to learn most of it. That's why.


That's why a mathematics genius obviously is a very poor math teacher: because a mathematics genius who can skip about five steps in solving an equation doesn't know how to deal with the individual who doesn't understand all those steps. That's what teaching is about. Teaching is about knowing pedagogy, knowing how to deal with students who don't understand as easily or how to deal with those other students who are so good that they want to move forward more quickly in a particular area.

So we bring in all of these volunteers. I think that is tremendous for the school community, but don't leave them on their own without a teacher who knows teaching and knows students as well. I say that as an individual who was involved in minor hockey that was not part of the school system. I've seen some very, very good coaches in that area and I've seen some disasters.

If we're going to bring people in to help in the school community, whether it's during the school day or in extracurricular activities, do not use them to supplant teachers. Do not say, as the minister has said, that we can use library technicians instead of teacher-librarians. Do not say, as the minister has said, "We will use social workers only, not in conjunction with teachers who understand the curriculum, to advise students." Do not say, as the minister has said, "We'll bring in early childhood educators to teach at the primary level," keeping in mind that they, according to their diplomas, can teach up to age 10.


Mr Wildman: If the government member is saying that the government does not intend to lay off teachers or have early retirements and replace them with these other kinds of people but just simply to assist them, then say it clearly and have the minister say it, because he hasn't said it.

Teachers are very worried about this because teachers see Bill 160 as being about laying off teachers or lowering the number of teachers who are working in the profession when they already see that class sizes are too large in many, many areas. You can't decrease class sizes, as is proposed in Bill 160, and at the same time decrease the number of teachers in the system. The math doesn't work, unless you're intending to put some of these other people into certain classes instead of teachers.

This is indeed a power grab by the government. It's a money grab from our kids. I've heard the minister on many occasions and other members of the Conservative Party say when they get stuck and they come back to the basic mantra, "Well, the previous governments, the Liberal government and the NDP government, have saddled these children with an enormous debt and we've got to cut that debt." What they're saying when they say that is that these kids who are in school today are going to pay, now, by losing programs and hurting the quality of education.

It's not just to lower the debt, even though the minister would like us to believe that, because we know what the government intends to do as well as lower the deficit: The government intends to give an income tax cut; 10% of the highest-income earners in the province will get two thirds of that cut, people who do not need an income tax cut and, ironically, people who probably can afford, many of them, to send their kids to private schools.

So the kids in the public system, the kids who wanted to go to junior kindergarten, the kids who wanted to have music and art, the kids who wanted technical programs, the kids who need special education programs are paying for the tax cut if this government does what it has said it was going to do.

All they have to do to get rid of all these fears is commit here and now that every cent they save will be reinvested in education, that they will not take one more cent out of public education. Just make that commitment. That would diffuse the confrontation right there. But we've given the government every opportunity to say that and the government has refused to make that commitment. What does that tell teachers? What does that tell parents? What does that tell students? What does that tell anyone who cares about public education? It tells them that this government intends to take more money out of education.

Nobody on this side of the House wants a strike. Very few teachers, if any, want to have a strike. Parents don't want to have a strike. Students don't want to have a strike. None of us want to see the disruption of the education of students in Ontario. But by presenting this motion here today, I'm afraid I'm coming to the conclusion that the government wants a strike.

If the government were serious about trying to find a way out of this confrontation, they would not be closing off debate and saying, "We're going to pass Bill 160 at second reading without any further debate," before the government minister has even had the opportunity to meet with the leaders of the teachers' federation. On the very day that the teachers are planning the largest rally in the province at Maple Leaf Gardens, this is a provocation; that's all it is. The government is saying: "You can rally all you like against Bill 160. We're closing off debate and we're going to ram it through." How do you think the teachers are going to react to that? It's just plain stupid unless you actually want to have a strike.

Why couldn't the government have used its head? If it really wants to avoid a confrontation, back off on Bill 160 for at least a week. Why did they have to close off debate? Even if they didn't want to back off on it, why couldn't we just have been debating Bill 160 at second reading today? Why are we debating a time allocation motion which closes off debate and says that we must vote on the principle of Bill 160 here and now, even though they know that the majority of teachers, not just the union bosses that they talk about, are opposed to the principle of Bill 160.

Sure, they may be able to find anecdotally a few teachers who support it, but the vast majority of teachers, whether they're English elementary teachers, French elementary teachers, French secondary or English secondary, in the Catholic or secular systems, are opposed to the principle of Bill 160. None of them want a strike, but they also know from experience as individuals and as human beings and certainly as experienced teachers that someone has to stand up to the school yard bully. Someone has to defend the quality of education for Ontario students against the attacks of this government. Teachers know the effects on our kids' educational programs of the money that's been taken out so far and they fear sincerely the effects of the further cuts this government apparently is going to make.

It's important for students, for parents, for trustees, for education workers and for teachers, for the whole community, to say no to this government's attack on public education. It's important for all these people to stand up for the quality of education for our students in Ontario. This government must not move forward. This government must be prepared to back off and do what the religious leaders in Waterloo area said they should do today: "Back off, think again, talk to those involved, come to a conclusion that preserves the quality of education for our students and doesn't threaten them."

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Mr Johnson has moved government notice of motion number 50. 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. It will be a five-minute bell.

The division bells rang from 1800 to 1805.

The Speaker: All those in favour of the motion, please rise one at a time and be recognized by the Clerk.


Arnott, Ted

Baird, John R.

Bassett, Isabel

Beaubien, Marcel

Boushy, Dave

Brown, Jim

Carroll, Jack

Clement, Tony

Danford, Harry

Doyle, Ed

Elliott, Brenda

Eves, Ernie L.

Fisher, Barbara

Flaherty, Jim

Ford, Douglas B.

Fox, Gary

Froese, Tom

Galt, Doug

Gilchrist, Steve

Harnick, Charles

Hastings, John

Hudak, Tim

Johns, Helen

Johnson, Bert

Johnson, David

Jordan, W. Leo

Kells, Morley

Klees, Frank

Martiniuk, Gerry

Maves, Bart

McLean, Allan K.

Munro, Julia

Murdoch, Bill

Mushinski, Marilyn

Newman, Dan

O'Toole, John

Ouellette, Jerry J.

Palladini, Al

Parker, John L.

Pettit, Trevor

Preston, Peter

Rollins, E.J. Douglas

Ross, Lillian

Runciman, Robert W.

Sampson, Rob

Saunderson, William

Shea, Derwyn

Sheehan, Frank

Skarica, Toni

Smith, Bruce

Snobelen, John

Spina, Joseph

Sterling, Norman W.

Stewart, R. Gary

Tsubouchi, David H.

Turnbull, David

Vankoughnet, Bill

Villeneuve, Noble

Witmer, Elizabeth

Wood, Bob

Young, Terence H.

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


Bartolucci, Rick

Bisson, Gilles

Boyd, Marion

Caplan, David

Churley, Marilyn

Colle, Mike

Conway, Sean G.

Cordiano, Joseph

Crozier, Bruce

Cullen, Alex

Duncan, Dwight

Grandmaître, Bernard

Gravelle, Michael

Hoy, Pat

Kennedy, Gerard

Kwinter, Monte

Lalonde, Jean-Marc

Lankin, Frances

Laughren, Floyd

Lessard, Wayne

Marchese, Rosario

Martin, Tony

McLeod, Lyn

Miclash, Frank

Morin, Gilles E.

Pouliot, Gilles

Silipo, Tony

Wildman, Bud

Clerk of the House (Mr Claude L. DesRosiers): The ayes are 61; the nays are 28.

The Speaker: I declare the motion carried.

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

The House adjourned at 1809.