37e législature, 2e session



Monday 23 April 2001 Lundi 23 avril 2001



Monday 23 April 2001 Lundi 23 avril 2001

The House met at 1845.



Hon Janet Ecker (Minister of Education, Government House Leader): I move that the Minister of Finance be authorized to pay the salaries of the civil servants and other necessary payments pending the voting of supply for the period commencing May 1, 2001, and ending October 31, 2001, such payments to be charged to the proper appropriation following the voting of supply.

The Acting Speaker (Mr Bert Johnson): Mrs Ecker moves government notice of motion number 4. The Chair recognizes the government House leader and Minister of Education.

Hon Mrs Ecker: My caucus colleague Mr Hardeman will be starting off the debate.

Mr Ernie Hardeman (Oxford): I'm indeed pleased to be able to speak to this motion on interim supply.

This motion, as everyone in the House will know, is absolutely necessary so the people of Ontario can continue to receive the services provided by our government, which of course they all depend on.

Mr Speaker, I'll be sharing my time with my esteemed colleagues Mr O'Toole from Durham, Ms Molinari from Thornhill and Mr Galt from Northumberland. We're going to divide this time up fairly and equitably this evening.

I suppose I can't understand why anyone in this House would not support this motion. Only someone interested in obstructing the business of the province of Ontario and interfering with the everyday lives of all its people would consider opposing this motion. As such, I expect it will receive support from all sides of the House. I can assure you that this is a motion to pay the bills, and in rural Ontario we feel that once you have created the bills, it's appropriate to pay them, and that should not take a lot of debate.

As members are aware, this motion for interim supply provides the government with the authority to make payments to hospitals, nursing homes and other health care providers so that Ontarians can continue to get the quality health care they deserve; to the boards of education so that funding to our schools remains uninterrupted; to our municipal partners to help ensure that the people of Ontario receive the quality local services they deserve; and to the people of Ontario through all the ministry programs the province provides that people depend on. Payments are currently being made under the authority of the interim supply motion this House passed last fall, and the term of that motion is nearly up.

As you know, the House rules of the Ontario Legislature limit the period covered by an interim supply motion to six months. The existing motion expires at the end of this month. Payments to all our funding partners and for government programs cannot be made after that date without this motion being passed. To ensure that all the payments scheduled on or after May 1, 2001, are made on time, it is necessary to provide the banking system and the mail system with some lead time. Lead time is especially important in outer areas of the province, particularly in northern and rural Ontario, to ensure there is no interruption of payments to the people and services provided in those areas. I'm sure all my colleagues in the Legislature from northern Ontario can appreciate that concern. As I represent the fine people of Oxford county, a riding with many rural areas, I'm anxious to ensure that no payments whatsoever are interrupted.

It's not good enough to leave enough time so that payments can be made just here in Toronto. All the people in the province are important. As such, the practice has been to provide at least five working days' lead time prior to the end of the month to ensure that payments are made everywhere. Thus, this motion must be passed tonight and without delay.


I want to emphasize the importance of not interrupting payments to our funding partners and the people of Ontario. For example, scheduled payments in early May include payments to recipients of Ontario Works programs across the province, transfers to nursing homes to make sure our elderly are looked after and payments to the children's aid societies to help protect our children from harm.

There's no reason for delay on this motion. The people of Ontario deserve uninterrupted services. Some might consider delaying this motion in order to try to delay our government's bold new initiatives as laid out in Thursday's throne speech. Truly, I say, there's no reason to delay the implementation of this government's plan of action either. Thursday's throne speech laid out a bold action plan that includes reforms that people want in order to make life in the province better. The throne speech presented a package of 21 steps that will lead Ontarians into the 21st century. In it the government outlined a plan that will protect jobs, keep families financially secure and help all Ontario communities grow even stronger.

I have spoken to people in my riding -- business owners, families, public officials and farmers -- and they've told me they want better, more accountable government and continued economic prosperity for their families and all Ontarians. For this reason it's important that we do not delay implementing the important changes they want and need. A good economy and good quality of life go hand in hand. A strong economy lets us support priorities such as health care and education, and offers families hope for a better future.

That's why removing the barriers to job growth and economic success remains a top priority for our government's 21 steps to the 21st century. Sustained growth is essential to protect the gains we've made and ensure prosperity into the future. Barriers to job investment and growth must continue to be removed. That's why I'm glad this government has the courage to continue with its tax cut pledges and will ensure that proposed new policies will not get in the way of Ontario's competitive edge.

The government's continued commitment to encourage economic and job growth is important to the people of my riding. The slowdown in the US economy has had effects on the people at home, whether it be layoffs at an auto plant in Ingersoll, an empty storefront in Tillsonburg or a farmer in southwest Oxford who is facing low commodity prices. Indicators of the slowing economy are visible. This is why a continuing agenda of tax cuts, efficient management of resources and encouraging economic growth is vital.

Approving today's motion for interim supply is partly about fiscal responsibility. The Ontario government must continue to meet its obligations to pay its bills and must be accountable for how those bills are paid. In the same vein, taxpayers expect all organizations and agencies to be accountable for how their money is spent. It is, after all, not the government's money that is being spent but in fact the hard-earned dollars of Ontario's taxpayers. They expect accountability for the use of that money.

I'm pleased that the throne speech included new accountability measures to ensure that all organizations receiving government money are spending it appropriately. As you are aware, the broader public sector institutions such as municipalities, hospitals and schools spend over 16% of Ontario's GDP -- not 16% of tax dollars, but 16% of the entire gross domestic product of the province. That's a huge chunk of wealth earned in this province each year, but there's still little accounting to the taxpayers about how carefully those billions are spent each and every year.

The throne speech promises sweeping reforms that will ensure that all public sector institutions are accountable. Proposed amendments to the Audit Act will empower the Provincial Auditor to make sure taxpayer-funded institutions spend public money prudently, effectively and as intended. I think this is a great measure to help protect the money of our hard-working taxpayers.

As you are aware, much of the money this interim supply motion will allow the government to flow will be going to initiatives to help children and families. The government is committed to ensuring that children get the best possible start in life. That's why the Healthy Babies, Healthy Children program was initiated. The well-being of our children is also the focus of Ontario's Promise, a public-private initiative aimed at providing our young people with the best start possible. This is a great initiative. It will bring all of the resources that our communities have to offer together to help our children.

Last Thursday the Lieutenant Governor, the Honourable Hilary Weston, graced us with her presence, reading the speech from the throne. I am doubly honoured that the Lieutenant Governor will be joining me at an Ontario's Promise community volunteer summit tomorrow in Woodstock. We will be recognizing the importance of so many hard-working volunteers in the riding of Oxford. Community service is a noble undertaking, and we are blessed that so many of Ontario's citizens share their talents to help others.

I'm extremely pleased that the throne speech included an important announcement to help our children as well. The government is going to establish a network of local early-years centres accessible to all children and families. I applaud this forward-thinking initiative.

The important interim supply motion will also allow the government to meet its health care funding commitments. This government is certainly committed to ensuring that every citizen has access to quality health care where and when they need it. I'm proud that health care spending will increase for the sixth consecutive year under this government.

Quality health care is truly important to the people of my riding. Last December I was pleased to join the Minister of Health in announcing a new hospital for the city of Woodstock. Just last Monday I was pleased to join Minister Clement at the rededication of the Tillsonburg District Memorial Hospital, which is celebrating 75 years of service. Later this week I will have the pleasure of recognizing the tremendous efforts of many volunteers in my riding involved in assisting our hospitals and health care service providers in their duties. Clearly, there was strong commitment to quality health care in Oxford county.

But massive year-over-year budget increases cannot be sustained indefinitely. This is why I am glad that the government is taking a lead in assembling patients, nurses, doctors and others to seek consensus on the best way to allocate the billions spent annually on health care.

The motion of interim supply before us is very important. It should not be delayed, because it allows the government to continue to operate and not interrupt any services that people depend on. It should also not be delayed because we should move forward quickly on the ambitious but attainable 21-step agenda to lead Ontario into the 21st century that was laid out in Thursday's throne speech.

The people of Ontario work hard, both at their individual occupations and in their communities. We owe it to them, as government, to get on with the initiatives that will make all of their lives better.

Thank you very much, Mr Speaker, for allowing me to speak to this motion. At this point we'll turn it over to our esteemed member from Durham.

Mr Peter Kormos (Niagara Centre): On a point of order, Mr Speaker.

The Acting Speaker: The Chair recognizes the member from Lincoln on a point of order.

Mr Peter Kormos: Mr Speaker, it's my understanding that this is a rotation, notwithstanding --

Mr Hardeman: No, it's not.

Mr Kormos: Be careful, my friends. Notwithstanding that Tory backbenchers believe it's a solid block, my understanding is that this is a rotation, sir.

The Acting Speaker: The member from Niagara Centre, I'd like to apologize for not having your riding correct, but your point is well taken, that during debate, where time is allocated equally among the three caucuses, it does rotate in clockwise fashion. Anybody who is in rotation to speak will speak when it comes around again. In that respect, I would recognize the member for Scarborough-Agincourt.


Mr Gerry Phillips (Scarborough-Agincourt): Mr Speaker, I'd just indicate that I, too, will be sharing my time, with the members for Windsor West, St Catharines and Scarborough-Rouge River.

I'm pleased to join in the debate on supply tonight, which is the motion to provide the funds for the government to pay its bills. Let me just say to the public of Ontario that the government says, "You've got to pass this thing tonight." The House just came back today. We've been off since the middle of December, and the people in Ontario should recognize Mike Harris has not had a sitting here since the middle of December. We have not been sitting since the middle of December, and the government calls us back today and says, "You've got to pay the bills today. If we don't pay the bills today, people aren't going to get their cheques."

I would say to the government that this is no way to run an organization. We're talking about a $60-billion operation. Ontario deserves a government that knows how to run the operation. To call us back today and say, "We must have supply tonight. We'll have less than three hours' debate, and then we want you to sign the cheques, because otherwise people aren't going to get paid," is ridiculous.

We could have been sitting in January, in February, in March, but here we are, almost at the end of April, and finally they call us back. Mike's been down to Florida monthly, at least four times. Any one of those times we could have been back here dealing with it.

We'll do nothing that will stand in the way of our hard-working civil servants getting their paycheques, and the people in Ontario who deserve it. But I would just say to Ontarians that you couldn't have a more obvious example of the way Mike Harris tries to run this province, and dare I say --

The Acting Speaker: Order. I let it go a couple of times. I think the member you're referring to has a riding, and I would prefer that you use either his riding or his title. I use that with you, and I expect you to use that with other members.

Mr Phillips: Premier Harris could have called this House back when we were scheduled to come back, but he didn't. I noticed in the speech from the throne the term "accountability." Premier Harris wants to hold everybody accountable except himself. For four months we haven't seen him around here, and I gather he will not be here in the Legislature at all this week.

In terms of accountability, we heard a request today: "Let's see the budget of the cancer organization." We can't see that. That's not accountable. I've been trying for 15 months now to find out the details of the 407 sale. No, no, we can't get that. When Premier Harris wants to attack school boards or teachers or hospitals, there has to be accountability. But when we want to hold him accountable, he's nowhere to be found.

So I just say to ourselves, and to the member for Oxford who led off the debate saying, "We must get this passed immediately, because otherwise the bills won't be paid," can you imagine any business in Ontario trying to run its operation like this, saying, "We've been off, we've been closed, we've been on holidays for four months. We're reopening today and we've got to pay our bills," and going to the bank and saying, "Give me the money"?

So I say to the people of Ontario --


The Acting Speaker: Order. I'm glad to see everybody out tonight, and I'd like you to stay with us. The Chair recognizes the member for Scarborough-Agincourt.

Mr Phillips: I just say to the people of Ontario, recognize that we have not been here in the Legislature since the middle of December. The government chose to keep us out of here for four months. The House began sitting today at 1:30. Here we are tonight at five after seven, and the government says, "You've got two hours to approve this spending or else we're not going to be able to pay our bills." Well, we've been out of here for four months. Is that any way to run the province?

We had a discussion earlier today -- it's just typical of the Harris approach to government, whether it be causing chaos in our health care system, in our education system, in the environment, in the municipalities, whatever. So I say to the people of Ontario, another example of the mismanagement of Premier Harris's government.

In terms of the economy, which is one of the reasons we should have been back some time ago -- the new Minister of Finance was sworn in on a Thursday; on Friday he said, "The economy is going to grow at 3.1%, for sure." Three days later, he said, "Whoops, I've kind of got a new estimate. It's not going to grow at 3.1%. It's going to grow at 2.8%." That was three days later. Now we find, of course, that they're saying, "The economy is even worse than we thought."

The member for Oxford said, "Thank goodness for exports driving the Ontario economy." We've heard from the government for the last four years that it wasn't exports that have driven the Ontario economy; it's been their tax cuts. You won't find one single economist in Ontario who would say to you that it was. Every economist will say that exports have been the major, significant contributor to the growth in the Ontario economy.

So I say, and we've said this for some time, 10 years ago 85% of our exports went to the US; today it's 93%. We are the most export-oriented jurisdiction in the industrial world, according to the government, and that's fine. Exports are great. They have driven Ontario's economy. But they had nothing to do with the cut in personal income tax. They had everything to do with the base that was laid many years ago.

The government is proceeding with its tax cuts; I understand that. The government will be implementing corporate tax cuts, according to the government, that will mean corporate taxes in Ontario will be 25% lower than neighbouring US states. You may say, "Isn't that great? We'll be 25% lower than neighbouring US states." It goes on to say -- this is from a government document, Doing Business in Ontario -- that taxes will be 25% lower than in neighbouring US states. But how are we going to do the rest of our plan? It says here that in Ontario employers spend about $2,500 less per employee on health care than they do in the United States. My question is, how are we going to fund our health care system if we want corporate taxes to be 25% lower than in the neighbouring US states?

The government went on to say in this document, "Ontario manufacturing wage rates are especially attractive. When adjusted for payroll taxes and benefits, wage rates in the neighbouring US states can run almost 60% higher than wage rates in Ontario.

"US manufacturers pay, on average, more than $3,100 per employee" for the kind of health care coverage provided by our publicly supported system here in Ontario.

It goes on to say that a KPMG study -- a major consulting organization -- shows the cost of running a firm in Toronto is 26% to 48% cheaper than in Atlanta, Dallas, Chicago, Boston, Jersey City, San Francisco, Los Angeles or New York.

My point is, the government has announced it is proceeding with tax cuts that will mean corporate taxes 25% lower than neighbouring US states. In addition to that, employers will have a cost advantage of $3,100 per employee for health care, because we fund it through public support, public taxes. We will have wage rates in the US that are 60% higher than they are here in Ontario, and we will have costs dramatically lower. I just say to all of us, in terms of tax policy, how are we going to be able to afford to sustain the quality of our health care system and the quality of our education system?

On the job front, we have a problem. There are 4,000 fewer jobs in Ontario today than there were in November. Ontario has lost 46,000 manufacturing jobs. We now have 46,000 fewer manufacturing jobs than we had when we came into the year 2001. It's another reason we have urged the Legislature to get back to work. We have a significant economic slowdown. The government finally acknowledged it. The Minister of Finance, over a very short period of time, acknowledged the significant slowdown, and yet this Legislature has not sat since the middle of December.


I've been very interested in the Premier's comments about health care. I remember -- it was a few months ago -- the Premier said, "Health costs in the province of Ontario are going to go up at least 5% a year." He said you need a 5% increase just to sustain our health care system. That didn't include any improvements to the system, just to sustain it. You all remember that was the argument the Premier used with the federal government. He said, "Listen, we've done our studies. Health costs are going to go up a minimum of 5% every year for at least the next 10 years." I'm now hearing the Premier singing a bit of a different tune. I gather the Premier is now changing his tune to say, "Well, maybe I wasn't quite right on that increased cost. Maybe it won't be going up that much." The documents he produced said it's a minimum of that just to cover the cost of an aging population, with the demands on our system, at least 5% a year. He said to the Prime Minister, "That is the minimum. You have to understand that." Now I gather he's making some changes.

I've been interested in the Minister of Education's announcement of increased spending on health care. It's instructive to note that the government talks about cutting property taxes. The numbers the government gives us show the revenue going into education from property taxes is going up. It's not going down. These aren't my numbers; these are the government's own documents where they show on education that property tax revenue is going up.

Interestingly enough, I'm not sure many people in Ontario realize that the province of Ontario set almost $6 billion of property taxes. Most businesses in Ontario don't realize that the majority of their business property taxes are set not by Hazel McCallion, Mel Lastman and the various mayors across the province, but are set by Premier Harris. He sets the majority. Over half of the property taxes on business are set by the province for education. We'd heard that the province is cutting property taxes for education. The number the government produced for us shows that in 2001, property tax revenue is actually up more than $40 million. It's going up, not down.

When the minister says spending on education is going up, we now find that the province funds nothing on school capital. It is now all in the operating budgets of school boards. So when she announces her increased spending in education, it includes all the provision for capital.

Hon Mrs Ecker: That's not accurate.

Mr Phillips: The minister says it's not accurate. I challenge you to prove I'm wrong, because I am using your own ministry documents. If I'm wrong, prove it.

I'm pleased to participate in the debate on supply. I found it ironic in the extreme that the government led off with this, "We must have this approved by 9 o'clock tonight." We haven't been around here for four months, but, "Oh, you've got to sign now." It sounds like an unusual door-to-door salesperson who says, "You've got to sign this deal." Surely if the government believed what it was saying, we would have been back here weeks ago. But here we are, four months off and now, "Sign a cheque. Sign it tonight. Sign in two hours or else the province is going to collapse."

I just say to the people of Ontario that as you watch this debate, you probably appreciate the challenges we face here. Premier Harris likes to say he's running this like a business. If any business person tried to run their business this way, they would be out of business. They wouldn't take four months off, show up and say, "I want a bank loan tonight."

First it was health care that Premier Harris got his hands on and messed up, cut hospital spending by 20% within the first few months of coming into office. Second it was education; we've never seen education in as much turmoil as it is today, without a question.

Then it was the environment, where the Premier cut a third of the staff, a huge part of the budget, and we have serious environmental problems. Then it's our municipalities, where the Premier ignored the advice of his own hand-picked Who Does What committee, rearranged the arrangements and dumped on to the municipalities another $600 million of costs.

Today we heard that the famed open market is coming to hydroelectricity, but it will all be done behind closed doors with, believe me, hundreds of millions of dollars of profits being made by the investors but the Ontario consumer being left in the dark.

Today we have another example: "Sign the deal. We need supply within two hours or else the province grinds to a halt." Surely this is no way to run a province like Ontario.

Mr Kormos: First, let me apologize to Father Mulligan and his colleagues and friends down in Welland this evening who are celebrating his incredible years of service to Notre Dame high school, to the Catholic community, the community at large, to generations of young people. You see, the Father is being called to serve in Rome, and we're blessed, we're incredibly fortunate in Welland to have had as one of our colleagues, one of our spiritual leaders, one of our community leaders, a man like Father Mulligan, whose qualities and strengths are acknowledged not only locally but by the Vatican.

It's certainly our loss to see him move on. I'm going to look forward to having somebody I can not just call upon but perhaps prevail upon should I be in Rome over the course of the next several years. But I want to join, albeit from here at Queen's Park, the huge community of his friends and colleagues who thank him and congratulate him.

It's interesting. I wasn't sure I wanted to participate in this debate. In fact, you'll recall New Democrats earlier today made it quite clear that they thought it was entirely inappropriate that this government, after stalling the return of Parliament for a month, after having simply fiddled away during the course of the three months prior to March 19 when the House calendar would have otherwise required this Parliament to resume, on its first day of actual sitting says, "Oh, we've got to sit in the evening. We've got stuff we've got to catch up, we've got stuff we've got to do and get done." Good grief, they would have had a whole month to do it if they had come back in compliance with the House calendar.

There are only two opposition parties, but I suspect I speak for every one of them when I say it's been a very frustrating four months. There's been stuff going on down there where I come from, in Welland and Thorold and Pelham and south St Catharines, stuff that very much warrants being raised here in this Parliament, but this Premier and this government and this Tory caucus have made very distinct and clear efforts to ensure that it isn't raised here, because they stalled the return of Parliament well beyond the House calendar return date.

We've endured a winter down in Niagara where senior citizens have faced 100% and 125% increases in their heating costs, people like Mrs Brkljacic up on Broadway Avenue. She hasn't received any increase in her pension. She hasn't enjoyed any of your tax cuts, because with her modest income at the age of -- what -- 90 years now, you see, she doesn't see any tax cut. Mrs Brkljacic understands that the biggest single tax cuts go to the richest people in this province. Your tax cuts haven't helped her pay for the 125% increase in her natural gas heating costs this winter. What are you going to tell this mature senior citizen who has worked hard all of her life? To turn the heat down? She's already got it down as low as a 90-year-old should have to endure.


We wanted this Legislature to be sitting so we could come here and talk to you and your Premier about the need for you and your government to get actively involved in the real issues affecting real people out there, in places like where I come from.

Child care: my colleague from Nickel Belt has been touring the province. I was proud to join her several months ago in Niagara Falls, where I think she kicked off this campaign. She went on to Kingston, Peterborough, Windsor, Sudbury and Ottawa and she's going to be in Thunder Bay. The member for Nickel Belt is going to be in Thunder Bay this Wednesday, joining with the Coalition for Better Child Care and CUPE as they fight to restore subsidized child care to those communities, just like she was down in Niagara meeting with mother after mother, family after family, parent after parent who can't access child care for their kids.

Ms Shelley Martel (Nickel Belt): Tell them about Marney MacLean.

Mr Kormos: Let me tell you about Marney MacLean, a wonderful young woman, a strong woman, a good woman with two teenaged boys. Marney MacLean was working in a seniors' home as a cleaner, working for the lowest of wages but working hard, working with pride, struggling with an income of less than $300 a week, raising two teenaged sons alone; proud of the role she plays in taking care of our parents and grandparents in that senior citizens' home and proud -- not wealthy, not one of your friends -- of her commitment to her children, proud of her commitment to her workplace and her colleagues at work and to the senior citizens who are being taken care of there, proud of her community and proud of the things she and her parents and grandparents had built by working together, things like public education and publicly funded health care and, yes, things like subsidized child care so that women like Marney could go to work, notwithstanding those low wages.

She didn't need child care all day. You see, her kids are both school-aged kids. She needed just a little bit in the morning, because she starts work awful early, and she needed a little bit after school so that she could pick them up and so that she would know they were safe and in a safe place; that little bit of time before school started and that little bit of time after school ended. Marney's arrangements with her mother, the boys' grandmother, had to end because grandma just couldn't do it any more. Grandma tried, grandma wanted to, but she couldn't do it any more.

Marney looked for licensed child care but it wasn't just a matter of a lineup out the door or a lineup around the block; it was a lineup right to the end of city limits. We learned there are 500 to 600 families, 1,200 or maybe 1,800 kids, who are being denied child care down in Niagara region alone. Marney was put into the incredible predicament that if she didn't work and was on social assistance -- your workfare -- she'd get child care. But if she does work, taking home somewhat less than 300 bucks a week, she can't get child care. At the end of the day, though, she's still concerned about the safety of her kids and wants to ensure that they're cared for in a safe place, in a place that she can trust and the kids can trust for that brief period of time when she leaves for work and until they go to school, and after school until she can pick them up on her way home from a long shift of hard work at a senior citizens' home, where she's scrubbing floors and cleaning toilets and doing laundry and all those other sorts of things that cleaning people do in places like that.

Marney was caught between putting her kids at risk and not working. As a result of your failure, this government's failure, to address the incredible shortages in subsidized child care that you've created, Marney has been forced to abandon that job. Of course she can't get workfare because she quit her job, according to workfare. That's called a Catch-22, isn't it? I think that's what it's been called. Catch-22: a wonderful dilemma you've created for Marney and other women like her.

We've been waiting for the chance to come back here and talk to you about people like Marney MacLean and the 600 families -- 1,200 to 1,800 kids in Niagara -- who are being put in the same position as Marney's kids. So don't think we weren't eager to be back here, never mind March 19 but, as has been said, February 19. We would have been back January 19 if you had let us.

Fuel costs for seniors, heating costs, property taxes -- I don't have to tell you, do I, Speaker, that the province of Ontario does not begin and end at the intersection of Yonge and Bloor. The bulk of Ontario is not Toronto; the bulk of Ontario is more like Welland, Thorold, Pelham or St Catharines and communities like that than it is about Toronto -- city councils like Welland's and Thorold's and Pelham's and, I dare say, St Catharines's because of the incredible downloading, the new costs you've imposed upon those small communities that have already cut to the bone. Don't you offend them or their citizenry by daring to talk about challenging them to find yet more efficiencies. They've already cut to the bone. They've already trimmed the fat. They did it long before you came along, and what you're doing is imposing property tax increases. Those are flat taxes. Those are the ones that have no regard for a person's income, aren't they? That means that the senior citizen living on $9,000 and $10,000 a year or less pays the same increase. Think about it, friends: accountability. That means senior citizens, the 80-, 85-, 90-year-old women or men -- more likely women, statistically -- living on $8,500, $9,000, $9,500 a year: yes, my friends, that's the real Ontario.

The minimum wage here at Queen's Park is $78,000 a year. You are the people who wanted a 42% salary increase for yourselves. You thought you had it in the bag. You thought the fix was in. You thought you were going to just rush it through like a greased pig and that nobody'd notice. When the opposition said no to your 42% increase, you said, "We'll settle for a 34% increase," and then you settled for a 20-something per cent salary increase. If it weren't for the opposition and New Democrats standing here saying, "No way, pal" -- don't you dare raid the kitty when you're beating up on single mothers and on senior citizens and on hard-working people, those same hard-working people who have been working for the same minimum wage of $6.85 an hour, those same hard-working people who haven't seen a penny increase in their salaries, by virtue of minimum wage, in the six years that the Conservatives have been in power here in the province while your rich, wealthy friends, the Frank Stronachs of Ontario, the $42-million-a-year salary makers, have seen tax cuts that would choke a horse.

Mr Frank Mazzilli (London-Fanshawe): He's a Liberal.

Mr Kormos: Oh, he's your friend, my friend: John Roth, Frank Stronach, all the big money people. They're the ones you gave the big tax cuts to. You didn't give the tax cuts to the hard-working folks from Niagara Centre. You didn't give the tax cuts to senior citizens who are struggling with huge increases in property taxes, a huge increase in heating costs and what will soon be dramatic spikes in the cost of electricity to light their homes and run the motors that force that hot air through their furnaces. How much more punishment are you going to impose on these people? How more bloodied and beaten up do you want them to be? How do you expect them to retain any sense of dignity, never mind confidence in this government? The folks of those communities lost confidence in this government a long, long time ago. Most of them never had confidence in this government, for good reason.


You will recall that earlier today the New Democrats weren't going to collaborate with the Conservatives, weren't going to play their game of, "Oh, we tried to hide from the Legislature." Yes, the Conservatives tried to hide from the Legislature for four months now. They should have come back March 19, but they broke the House rules. The House calendar said, "Come back March 19." The Tories said, "No, we're not going to." They said, "No, we'll dither out here," because you guys were afraid of the issues that you're being confronted with now. Then you've got the audacity to say, "But you've got to help us. The opposition parties have to help us by supporting this motion to have evening sittings." New Democrats aren't prepared to help you in your flight from question period, and quite frankly New Democrats are going to oppose and resist any effort you make to avoid question period, which includes your evening sittings, because we know what your evening sittings are. Your evening sittings are being here without the scrutiny of the press. Your evening sittings are going to be to ram through legislation without the public having access -- oh, they could be here if they wanted, but they're not inclined to, and you know that, because of the realities of their lives -- without having the opportunity to scrutinize you here in this chamber at Queen's Park. Your evening sittings are all about creating artificial days so you can accelerate the pace of legislation, so that the press gallery hasn't got an opportunity to report and so that, more importantly, especially as you join that with your time allocation, the opposition members don't have an opportunity to debate it.

New Democrats voted against your evening sittings today and New Democrats are going to vote against every effort you make to run and hide from question period, because you got exposed today in question period on your agenda of the deregulation and privatization of electricity and on the huge new costs that's going to create for homeowners, small business and industry across this province. You got exposed today by Howard Hampton and question period will be the forum wherein that occurs day after day. You're going to run from question period, you're going to hide from it, but we're not going to support you in that effort because we've going to vote against every single motion that you put forward that will allow you to have a legislative day without a question period. We believe in accountability. You may not be prepared to expose yourselves to accountability, but New Democrats are going to make sure you're held accountable.

I feel compelled to yield so that the member for Nickel Belt can address you on, among other things, yet one of the other issues that you people had just been, oh, not interested in. That's the doctor shortage down in the Niagara region, and not just in Niagara but in small communities across southern Ontario, because the doctor shortage which has plagued the north throughout your six years has now infected the south.

Again, I've got senior citizen after senior citizen, I've got old-timer after old-timer -- these are good folks, friends. These are people who have worked hard all of their lives. These are people who have paid taxes, and paid them knowing that they were making an investment in their community, in their province and in their country, and you're selling off that investment on them. You're selling it off on them.

These senior citizens are coming into my constituency office; and, by God, instead of standing up and reading your canned scripted speeches, I wish some of you would start talking candidly about the people who are coming into your constituency offices too. I know they're coming into your constituency offices, because they're calling mine after they're there, just like I suspect they're calling my colleague Jim Bradley in St Catharines, just like they're calling the member for Nickel Belt.

After they've been to your offices and get the fluff and the hooey, they call our offices and say, "What is going on? Either my Tory member won't see me because he knows I'm going to talk about something that ideologically he's opposed to" -- something as fundamental as the interests of the poorest people in our society, something as fundamental as the right of working people to organize, something as fundamental as the right of a mother to know that her kids are being safely taken care of while she's at work or while she's at school or while she's at upgrading and retraining.

They're calling our offices, because they're getting told, "Oh, go to another level of government," when they go to your offices to talk about the dramatic increases in their heating costs. They're calling our offices when they get the brush-off from you guys about doctor shortages. They're calling our offices after you apologize for a Family Responsibility Office, a family support system, that now, after five years -- what was that, November 1996?

Ms Martel: Yes.

Mr Kormos: November 1996? The member from Nickel Belt tells me November 1996.


Mr Kormos: We'll get to that. Now, then, five years later, it remains in the same chaos, the same disarray, the same disorganized state that it was in when the member for Nickel Belt broke into, as it was said by the then Attorney General --

Ms Martel: And assaulted the security guard.

Mr Kormos: -- and assaulted the security guard, as it was said by the then Attorney General --

Ms Martel: And trespassed.

Mr Kormos: -- and trespassed and filmed the whole exercise and exposed the lack of candour that the Attorney General had been displaying on a daily basis in the House.

Remember what was happening, Speaker? Remember, the Attorney General was being asked daily, "What's going on at your family support plan office? What's going on? We're getting these complaints."

The Attorney General said, "No problem; everything's moving along there. It's just working like nothing ever could before in your life." We heard that day after day after day, until finally the member for Nickel Belt took matters into her own hands, brought along some of her friends and came back with a video tape that exposed the emperor --

Ms Martel: With no clothes.

Mr Kormos: Not only with no clothes -- buck-naked out on Yonge Street or Keele Street or wherever the heck it was, up in North York somewhere. You still haven't fixed it. The Attorney General of the day couldn't fix it, his successor couldn't fix it, and so what has the Ministry of the Attorney General done? They've done what you do to a dud car. You know the Hyundai you bought that ended up being a rustbucket, a dog? You unload it. You put a quick paint job on it and unload it.

So the Attorney General, effectively acknowledging that they're incapable of fixing the Family Responsibility Office, they're incapable of putting the family support plan back into running order as it was before they dismantled the nine regional offices, peddles it off to the Minister of Community and Social Services.

Ms Martel: He's going to put it on Andersen Consulting computers.

Mr Kormos: He's going to unload it on to Andersen Consulting, because they're going to end up making profits -- American-based, corporate Andersen Consulting, profiteers on the backs of the poorest people in this province, good friends, not just in the back pocket, not just in bed with this government, but literally inhaling the carbon dioxide over the pillow with this government.

Andersen Consulting? This was all about setting up the Family Responsibility Office for total privatization so that, oh, yes, the Minister of Correctional Services' corporate, American, for-profit friends can make even more profit off the backs of the taxpayers of this province -- the taxpayers who, because of your tax cuts for the wealthiest, are increasingly the poorest and lowest-income people in Ontario; the people without the tax cuts, the people like the folks in Welland who are at risk of losing their homes, notwithstanding that they're paid for, because their property taxes are being increased by this Conservative government, because they're being downloaded on to, because their heating bills are increasing, because this Conservative government wants to have nothing to do with them but merely wants to pass the buck.

So you won't see New Democrats collaborating with the Tories when it comes time --

Ms Martel: Or the Liberals.


Mr Kormos: I won't speak for the Liberal caucus. If they choose to vote with the Conservatives when it comes to evening sittings, God bless. Far be it for me to try to impact their policies.

But you'll not see New Democrats cozying up to the Tories in the Tories' effort to avoid question period. You'll see New Democrats doing everything they've got to, everything they can do, and we will do it to make sure you have as much question period exposure as you could ever get.

The Acting Speaker: The Chair recognizes the chief government whip on a point of order.

Hon Frank Klees (Minister without Portfolio): I'm sure all members of the House would want to congratulate the member from Welland on his recent appointment as the House leader for the NDP. We look forward to his reasoned and calm influence in this House.

The Acting Speaker: That is not a point of order.

Mr John O'Toole (Durham): It's really a pleasure but it's also a challenge, I might say, to rise this evening and speak on the interim supply motion. The challenge part is to follow the member for Niagara Centre, who is always entertaining and usually only entertaining. Really, the substance is completely off the mark and I think most viewers realize that. It's typified by one of his more recent actions with the member for Nickel Belt, breaking into the family responsibility office and making fun of those people who were doing their job. That's their attitude, and it needs to be dealt with in a more formal way.

The current motion for interim supply expires, as has been said, at the end of the month. A new motion must be in place. It's more or less a routine thing, I'd call it. A smart government would look at how we deal with these kinds of orders because, as the viewers tonight will see, much of what we talk about has very little to do with the substance of interim supply, which, by the way, is the authority by schedule that would include payments to nurses, nursing homes, hospitals, doctors, municipalities, general welfare recipients, children's aid and supply accounts. They simply can't be paid without this being passed. So it's more or less a formality. I don't believe any member on either side of the House would be voting against this. If they did, it would only be a practical manoeuvre in a political sense, and even there, none of us here wants to make sure those people don't get paid -- I think everyone here.

There have been some suggestions made earlier by the member for Scarborough-Agincourt. He spent a fair amount of time, as he should do as the finance critic, talking about the whole issue of how strong the Ontario economy was. He was criticizing that much of that strength was based on the export strength. If you really want to follow the debate on the anti-government approach about why our economy is based on exports, the reality is that we're living next door to the largest trading country in the world, and it's important, unlike our Prime Minister, who is always bad-mouthing the President and others, to have good relationships with our trading partners. Of course, there is a relationship between the strength of their economy and the strength of our economy.

But I think if you probed what Mr Phillips was saying earlier -- and I do respect his insights in these matters. Quite often they're wrong, but I still respect his insights. What I mean by that is that if our major trading partners are indeed export, it raises the question of accountability. It also raises the question of whether we're competitive. We must be competitive with our trading partners. So I pose two questions to him: if he thinks we should be less dependent on trade, then that means we will have no trade. If we're going to be dependent on trade, should we not harmonize our taxes and competitive standards with our trading partners? That's a larger debate.

But I'm very interested in the finance debate in a general sense, because I had the privilege to be appointed by the Premier to be the parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Finance, and it really is a very informative and educational experience.

It leads to another point I want to establish tonight in the very few minutes that have been allocated to me. Over the period of January up until as recently as this past week, I have been meeting, not just in my riding of Durham but as part of the finance committee -- and I can say it's an all-party process. We travelled and had 10 days of public hearings and pre-budget hearings and those inputs were basically given to the Minister of Finance. But there were three other subsequent tiers of meetings as input to the budget with stakeholders. I believe it was extremely important for them to have the opportunity to speak directly to the minister of the specific ministry, whether it's colleges and universities or whether it's with the Ministry of Health. All of those people had the opportunity to speak directly with the minister they're responsible for as well as the Minister of Finance to see how it all plays out in the budget.

To be there, I guess to some extent as an observer, has been the most educational experience to this part of my time here at Queen's Park. Very, very informative, and I certainly enjoyed it and I'm very appreciative of the opportunity.

But furthermore, the minister has asked me to lead the consultations, which I might say is a very important opportunity for just regular people, normal people, and that consultation is the merger of the Ontario Securities Commission and the Financial Services Commission. As part of that I want to make sure that the viewer today is well aware that there is a discussion paper available out there establishing a single financial services regulator. This consultation paper was just released a couple of weeks ago and I should say that those viewing tonight may want to get a copy of this. You could contact your local MPP. You could also log on to www.gov.on.ca/fin. The preamble to this discussion paper is the most readable part -- it's about 10 or 12 pages if you intend to download it. It really gives you the broader context of the intent of these discussions. In fact, I might add that in my history and my research on this debate on streamlining and harmonizing the one-window approach to investment, whether it's insurance -- life insurance, auto insurance -- whether it's pension inquiries, securities or equities issues, the person that's looking at those decisions of what to do with RRSPs wants a simplified process where there's strong consumer protection, but at the same time they don't want to have to walk through a very complex maze.

I think -- in my limited research on this -- these discussions have really been going on for about the last 10 years. I know that Floyd Laughren, when he was the Finance Minister -- heaven forbid -- had most of the discussions for the merger of the Ontario Securities Commission, which is self-regulating today. Many of those lead-up discussions to that merger were done under the leadership or lack of leadership by the NDP when they were the government.

Moving forward, David Young -- now the Attorney General -- who was the parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Finance of the day, Minister Eves -- did extensive consultation with the stakeholders in the FSCO, which is the Financial Services Commission of Ontario. So we have two organizations: the Ontario Securities Commission, which really looks after the equities and the prospectuses part of the business, and then on the other side we have the Financial Services Commission, which looks after everything from insurance to pensions, credit unions and a lot of financial institutions other than banks, because as you know banks come under the federal government and they've been talking about merging there.

But in all of this, the most important thing in my view is to make sure we have consumer protection. As I'm meeting with individuals and groups, I encourage viewers here tonight -- my name obviously is on the screen the odd time -- to contact me or the ministry. They can get a copy of the report. They can download it.


The input is due by June 29. The draft legislation is part two of this large 220-and-some-page book, and the larger part of it is the actual draft legislation. The draft legislation has a great deal of separation from the actual rules and regulations part of it, but I can assure you that one of the most important oversights is that the Minister of Finance and cabinet have the final say, because as elected people we are responsible and accountable to you, the people, and in this case I'm referring specifically to the person looking at financial issues, whether it's life insurance or auto insurance. They are complex issues which we want to hear feedback on.

In my role as parliamentary assistant, that's what I do in Toronto, and it's a real privilege, but I can assure you, like many members, over the past four or five months I've met with the hospital boards. I've visited physically most of the hospitals in my riding. I've visited the four school boards in my riding. I have met with them. I have also met with the Minister of Education, Janet Ecker, and our boards of education in the area.

Actually, I've been to several schools. It is a treat for me as my wife is a teacher and my middle daughter is a high school teacher. It's a real privilege to be in schools. I just wish we could look over the gorge, if you will, or over the valley and see into the future, that the world of education and what our children need to know is certainly changing. Sometimes when I listen to the opposition, I think it's déjà vu. They want to roll the clock back to the good old days that Earl Manners keeps referring to.

I think there are new, innovative, distributive learning opportunities for our children in the future. We need to have the best teachers in the world. We need to make sure that our children are getting the best, highest-quality education in the world. Whether it's the best teachers or whether it's charters or vouchers, all these things have been brought up for the last decade or so.

I think David Cooke had it right when he started education reform, the Royal Commission on Learning. The For the Love of Learning document has 167 recommendations. Respectfully, they had a royal commission because everyone admitted the system was in serious trouble. I wouldn't blame my five children who are in the system. I wouldn't blame my wife and sisters and family members who are teachers. I think the system generally lacks any sense of accountability to the student.

I don't think it's any more aptly demonstrated than in Toronto. I had a person call me today who said, "Why don't they have all these strikes in the summer or on the Christmas break or the March break? Why don't they have the strikes when the students aren't being held hostage?" I think it's a fair question that should be asked. I personally think they should have the contracts expire at the end of June so that they have from June to September to iron out all these workplace issues.

I think very good teachers should be very well paid. In fact, I would say they should be paid over the grid. I wouldn't necessarily equate a PhD to being a good teacher. I think many good teachers first love children, have experience and bring energy beyond the core teaching time, to before and after and into their community. I think they should be rewarded for that. I think paying them on a union schedule -- years of education and years of teaching -- is rather rigid. It doesn't allow for respect for individual contribution. I think personally -- I'm speaking on my own here -- we should look at some of those innovative ways of rewarding excellence.

By the same token, to think that every child today learns by rote, like we did in my generation, where we sat very obediently with 30 or 35 kids in a class, all learning levels, physics, chemistry, all that stuff.

I would say the respect that's in the school system is absolutely critical, to use a term that our Solicitor General uses occasionally. It's absolutely critical that there's respect for all of the players -- certainly those with the school board, the trustees, the teachers, students and parents. It's more important than anything else.

Minister Coburn, the Minister of Agriculture, will be in my riding tomorrow night. He'll be meeting with the farm leadership group in the region of Duham. I have a great deal of respect for many of those people. On many occasions I have mentioned most of their names in Hansard from time to time. What I'm really trying to get at here is, he's been available to me, as his predecessor Mr Hardeman was, to try to work through and to get input directly from the people on the front line. I believe they are trying to do the right thing, not just with the grains and oilseeds. I believe that Mr Coburn and Mr Hardeman, his predecessor, made a firm commitment to demonstrate that the federal government, it's my understanding, still hasn't delivered the cheques, which is a shame because they're buying the seeds that go into the land, that grow the corn and wheat for the bread we eat. I think that by contributing over the 60-40 split was a good signal. I'd like to see that we look after the horticultural group and the Ontario fruit and vegetable growers as well because the apple producers in my riding have been saying they need support.

As I'm wrapping up here -- I know I have very little time left. Tonight, I had a scheduling difficulty. Tonight, I was having a meeting with the Protect the Ridges group. This is very important. It kind of overlaps natural resources, municipal affairs and agriculture. It crosses many ministries because it affects the Oak Ridges moraine, which is at the very top part -- a beautiful area of my riding. This Protect the Ridges group was basically formed by grassroots citizens who really care about the environment. I'm not even in any political sense trying to make any hay out of that, out of respect for working with them. The leaders in that group would be Debbie Vice; there'd be Kevin Campbell, who is a younger man -- and it's quite tragic that his wife just passed away a couple of weeks ago rather suddenly -- who's been very active; Martin Feaver, another gentleman; and Bernie London. These are four people I've had direct contact with.

But tonight there would be 200 or 300 people at a meeting in Enfield and I'm not able to be there. I have been in contact with probably those four people and others, and I've asked one of the people I work with to go down to show respect, to summarize what actions we're taking. But we also have a very important commitment to work with that group.

The concerns of the Protect the Ridges group are issues related really to the environment. There are things occurring there which -- actually, this isn't even political. It sort of started under the previous NDP government. In fact, it started under the Liberals. This is paper sludge being spread on agricultural land and the need to have a certificate of approval.

I just want to bring some conclusion to that part. There were three fundamental commitments, I believe, in the throne speech to bring this back together. I think the best way to look at this time in this particular government's mandate is, it is pro-growth. We have to look forward to the future. If we're going to be distracted by the immediate economics, planning should involve a longer view. We heard that from many economists, and I believe Minister Flaherty is doing precisely that.

We have to look at fiscal responsibility. The reality of today is that the revenue may or may not be increased or decreased because of some export problems or confidence in the economy, but the fundamental thing here is that there is still growth. At the end of the day, Mr Phillips is going to argue that the growth is 3.5%. We're coming off unprecedented growth in excess of 5% of GDP growth. We're down now to between 2% and 3%. Many of the world's economists, Don Drummond and many others have stated very clearly that we have a much more sophisticated economy with high technology, not just the auto sector, agriculture and a very diversified economy, that we in Ontario should be far better positioned, unlike the time when the NDP recession was exacerbated here in Ontario by absolutely incapable policy-making and incapable leadership, other than Bob Rae, whom I had a lot of time for. But he was surrounded by a band of merry men and women, actually.


I think that accountability, the third piece of this, is extremely important. Accountability for the Liberals may mean the leader being here, but I can assure you that there's a very strong team. Accountability is to the taxpayers, and I think it starts with doing what you say and standing up for it. But you know, the fundamental difference, and I even see this in many of the speeches, the most important part --


Mr O'Toole: I'd like a bit of silence here for a moment; this is very important. The difference between the government and the opposition -- I've thought long and hard about this -- is leadership with a vision and the determination to deliver. I have yet to hear a consistent, coherent --


Mr O'Toole: I'm actually waiting -- the member for St Catharines may want to listen -- I think that Greg Sorbara, if he does arrive here, will put you into another tailspin. And I use the "if." The reason I say that is there'll be another leadership race on the other side. I can see Gerard Kennedy, Joe Cordiano, Sandra Pupatello. Now the problem is, they all admit, and they're barracking, that they have a deficit in leadership and a deficit in vision. They're wandering around in the desert with a complete void of ideas. I feel badly for them. They're lacking any vision. They really don't get the essence of the throne speech.

With that, I have to relinquish some of my time. I have more to say, and perhaps with unanimous consent there'll be time at the end.

Mrs Sandra Pupatello (Windsor West): I'm very pleased to speak to the interim supply bill tonight, because it's important for my community. While our colleagues across the way want to talk about rhetoric, and frankly you can just read it on their Web page, we want to deliver a very specific message about what kinds of things we expect in our community.

When we want to go back to the olden days, the olden days for us in Windsor, those are the days you could find a doctor. Those are the days you could go to a family doctor on a regular basis without waiting weeks and weeks just for an appointment. Those were the days when you could have a specialist appointment and actually get into the specialist within the same calendar year. I do want to go back to those days in my community.

So what I'm saying to you now is, we have already advanced solutions that this government can undertake. In the throne speech we were very disappointed to see more rhetoric, not solution-driven in the area of health care. When we look at my community office in Windsor and what people call about, whether it's needing a family doctor, needing to see a specialist, the kind of health care that people are receiving, they're not happy with it, mostly because of a shortage of doctors, either a shortage of specialists, the wait times, the wait times to have diagnostic equipment for them. These are all areas that point to the need for innovative solutions.

What we hear instead is a discussion that advances the notion of two-tier medicine. So, depending on where you live and depending on your bank account will determine the quality of care that you're going to receive in this province. To that the Liberals do have a vision, and that vision screams "no" to two-tier health care.

Let me tell you that we've already met in advance, repeatedly, with every new Minister of Health that you choose to bring through the revolving door of the health ministry. We have said back in 1997, when we brought forward the application for an underserviced designation for my own community, it was the first urban, southern city to have such a designation. Now if you were to colour the map of Ontario, most of Ontario would be underserviced. This government just recognizes now that in fact we have a supply problem.

We've known about a supply problem for years, but the government is now finally acknowledging it. We need a long-term solution that we believe will be found in the George report, which we are expecting to be released and we expect it to say, "Expand medical schools," and in particular a satellite unit in my own community affiliated with Western university as a satellite medical centre in Windsor as a long-term solution.

In the meantime we have advanced the notion of a nine-point plan of what this government can do today to relieve the problems that the people of Windsor are dealing with because of a lack of physicians. What we need you to do, because most of the category of "underserviced" is just considered underserviced, is designate categories so that you could clearly see where your crises are in Ontario because of a lack of physicians. You would red-flag some areas, of which my community would be one.

Having said that, it also allows the Ministry of Health to designate special protocols for our area to get moving on the kind of care our people need. We're asking for a special protocol to access out-of-country OHIP for certain procedures, for family doctors and specialist care. We need to get rid of the wait-lists. We don't have the supply of physicians to deal with them.

We're asking you to create a special incentive for the doctors who do have to deal with patients who are not their own so that these individuals who are in the workers' comp claim, who are in a workfare claim, who can't even finish their file because they don't have a family doctor to sign the application forms -- and these files go in the file of "closed, not sufficient information," not because these individuals aren't trying to access the system and get to where they need to be but because they have no family doctor to actually complete their application process. It's unheard of. We need some level of incentive for doctors to take care of these people.

We're asking for a review of the method of billing for clinics. We've had a couple of new doctors come into our community, far less than we lose in attrition. However, those who have come in have quickly moved into the clinic system because there is no incentive in the OHIP billing practice that encourages doctors to go into family practice. This needs to change.

I am asking this government to immediately institute a SWAT team to consider that we are in crisis mode for a lack of physicians. By designating this as a crisis measure, we want a SWAT team that will operate almost like an amnesty treaty for a brief amount of time or a window of time that will allow the 450 foreign-trained doctors who we know are currently here to immediately enter the field and practise medicine. The ministry itself acknowledges at least 450 who are trained -- trained in the US. We have people who are physicians who work in Detroit, who live in Windsor, who were trained in the US, who clearly would go through our guidelines with no issue. For this brief window of time in this amnesty period, we are asking you to remove the process you would ordinarily go through to allow these hundreds, who are just waiting and champing at the bit, to practise here.

We are asking you to review the funding of community health centres because, at a minimum, those few that we have in my community are taking some of the burden off and allowing people to go somewhere, but unfortunately the waits are long in those places as well.

We're asking you to do a review of the group practices which make an application to this government and are refused. This kind of funding for a group practice, a collection of doctors prepared to work together, would allow overhead expenses to be covered by some institutional branch of the Ministry of Health and allow them to bring in helpmates, allow them to hire nurse practitioners and dieticians, and get the breadth of service that people deserve when they see a family doctor.

We have a current caseload in our cardiac unit at Hotel-Dieu Grace that is untenable, where people who are waiting for angioplasty out of the London centre, which is our centre for Windsor patients, are waiting triple the length of time to get into the London facility. Our coordinator for the cardiac care program is desperately trying to get these patients in any cardiac centre across Ontario, and none is available to us. Now they are sitting in a $1,000-a-day bed, waiting and waiting, triple the length of time required. I am asking this ministry to immediately approve doing angioplasty right here in my community of Windsor at Hotel-Dieu Grace. We have the specialists who can do the procedure, we have all of the equipment necessary, and the patients are waiting.

Why is this related to physician shortage? We don't have enough cardiologists across the board in Ontario to take care of our patients in a timely fashion. I am asking you to move the procedure to my town so that we can get through that list quickly. We already know that the statistics surely say that our own patients die sooner in my community because of a lack of care in a timely fashion for our heart patients. This is not something that can be acceptable to any one of us, not just the member who represents the region.

I am also asking this group to approve an OHIP out-of-country process for these cardiac patients. We've got to get through that backlog. We are sitting with 20 people waiting in their homes because we don't have room in the cardiac care unit in Windsor, who are all waiting to be shuffled through the London unit. But all of the cardiac units across Ontario are jammed. You need to clear the log-jam.

As for us, we have at least the availability of moving to Detroit at an average of US$20,000 for the angioplasty procedure. In US funds you have already spent more than that by having our patients sit in $1,000-a-day beds in our cardiac care unit at Hotel-Dieu Grace. It makes financial sense to move this backlog. You will actually save money.


Finally, I'm asking this government to consider special locums like they do in the north, where they move specialists through communities on a regular basis. They do a tour where they might appear in that community twice a month or once a month, where they can fit into an already established clinic to do service on a regular basis. If the program exists in the north, then, just as we've managed to get an underserviced designation through a program that initially was just for the north, we too can do that for a locum program. The cost of bringing a hep C specialist doctor back to my community, where our hep C patients have no local doctor to follow them now, if we could find a doctor with that specialty who would be prepared to come to my community on a regular basis, at a minimum, in the interim, we could find some kind of solution for our patients.

Those are the nine points we've advanced on a repeated basis to this government. These are the nine points I'm asking the government to seriously consider as an interim solution because our patients cannot afford to wait.

Ms Martel: It's a pleasure for me to participate in this debate this evening, although I will follow up and reinforce what my colleague from Niagara Centre said earlier, which is, "I don't know why we're having this debate this evening."

Here we are at least a month after this Ontario Legislature was due to resume, which was about the 19th, and the government has gotten into a big panic today and demanded that we sit because they just had to pass interim supply. I say to the government, if you just had to pass interim supply, maybe you should have brought the House back a month ago, like we were regularly supposed to be coming back, so we could have dealt with supply and all of those other important matters that this government has not been dealing with. I think it has more to do with the government wanting to avoid question period, like the one we had today and the ones I hope we're going to continue to have, where we talk about hydro deregulation and how the consumers in this province are going to get it socked to them under that plan etc.

That is what this is all about. We're back a month later so the government could avoid a month of question period, and in a huge panic we've got to sit tonight because the government couldn't get something done that should have been done at least a month ago, had we been here.

Having said that, there were lots of things I wanted to speak about tonight but my colleague from Niagara Centre got a little carried away and so hasn't left me with a whole lot of time this evening. I particularly thought I would talk about the Ministry of Community and Social Services and perhaps patronage political appointments of the Ministry of Community and Social Services. One particular appointment that the government oh so desperately wanted to make was in Parry Sound-Muskoka, where the government tried to foist on a local hiring committee one Ms Pat Tennant, who I'm sure is amply qualified to work in a constituency office but who was not at all qualified to work as a community co-ordinator for the early years project. She was not qualified even by the list of qualifications the government itself gave those local hiring committees in order to hire those local people.

Specifically in her case, she had neither the educational experience nor the experience in a related social service field to be appointed. In fact, had the committee not been directed to do so, she would not have got even an interview for this position in the first place, because she was not qualified. Unfortunately, Ms Tennant's lost her employment in Mr Eves's office when he retired from politics, and the local committee was told to interview her, and then they were told to highly recommend her, and then, when they wouldn't do that, they were told to at least recommend her, which would have allowed the government to hire her. To their credit, that local committee refused to do that and gave to the government the name of the very highly qualified individual who had been selected through an important interview process last fall, whose name I gather the minister still has not confirmed, nor has he confirmed, as I understand it, all the names of the other community co-ordinators, 37 across the province, who were supposed to be appointed last fall.

The minister, just before I leave this topic, said it only happened in that community, but I know in my own community, where they have a very talented, qualified candidate whom I've had the pleasure of meeting, even that local selection committee got a phone call from the children's secretariat in January advising that they had to interview a candidate of choice from the children's secretariat -- ie, a candidate of choice for the Conservative Party. In the Sudbury case, the local committee was not told to highly recommend this candidate or indeed to recommend this candidate. They were told they had to have an interview, which they did.

The person who is qualified, highly qualified, who has been waiting to hear about this employment since last November, is still waiting, and we hope the minister will very soon appoint those 37 community coordinators so this early years project can finally get off the ground.

But I digress, because what I want to talk about this evening is the really serious doctor shortage we are facing in our part of the province. I want to begin by referencing the government's own statistics for the underserviced area program which were released only about two weeks ago. The government's own statistics in northern Ontario show that some 35 communities in the north now need 120 family physicians and 167 specialists. That is 17 more family doctors and 45 more specialists than we needed in December 2000. That's a 27% increase in the last three months in terms of our needs.

Compare that to a year ago, December 1999, when the underserviced area program pointed out that the north needed about 114 specialists at that time. So we now had, from one December to the next, 1999 to 2000, an increase in needs of another 53. That has increased again in the most recent statistics that have been released.

Seniors, students, families right across my riding -- I suspect, right across your riding, Speaker -- cannot find a family doctor. They have to wait months to see a specialist for any type of specialty work. The needs in northern Ontario now with respect to physicians and specialists are at a record high. They are at the highest levels we have ever seen in our special part of the province, which tells me that any and all of the initiatives that this government has tried to bring forward in the last six years to deal with this crisis have not worked. They are not working now. In fact, despite whatever the government has done -- and, frankly, it hasn't been very much, and I'll get to that -- this crisis is growing. More families, more seniors and more students are feeling the effects of that every day, when they have to go to emergency to access medical care because they can't get it because they don't have their own family doctor.

What has the government not done? I'll just give an example from last year alone. This government signed an agreement with the Ontario Medical Association over one year ago. In that agreement with the OMA there was a particular section, section 12. Section 12 committed both the Harris government and the Ontario Medical Association to bring forward new strategies with respect to the recruitment and retention of physicians across Ontario, not only in the north but across Ontario. There was a specific clause in that agreement that was to deal with the very serious problem we have with respect to recruitment and retention. Here we are, over a year later -- over one year since that agreement was signed -- and absolutely nothing has come from section 12 of this government's agreement with the OMA with respect to underserviced areas. There hasn't been one single new, different, innovative, imaginative idea that has come forward from either party to deal with the crisis we are facing and the crisis that it was clear we faced a year ago if the government and the OMA would actually put a clause into the agreement to refer to it. Not one thing has changed. Nothing has come from that agreement to date.


Second, the government made a very specific promise last May in our community of Sudbury that they would come forth with what they called northern retention initiatives, this to deal with the very serious loss of emergency physicians and specialists from not only our hospital, the Sudbury Regional Hospital, but from the four other hospitals and four other major centres in northern Ontario. In fact, things were so bad that on about May 10 of last year the chief of staff for the Sudbury Regional Hospital, the then acting CEO who has now become CEO, and the chairs of the local medical associations held a press conference and, on behalf of some 260 local physicians, announced there would be an impending crisis beginning January 1 with respect to the ability of the hospital to have the emergency physicians and specialists necessary to deliver emergency care.

That was quite an event in our community. We have never seen a galvanization of the medical community over an important issue in such a way. It got large media coverage and, to their credit, those who were present called on the government to immediately come to our community to sit with representatives of our community and of the medical community to determine how we were going to respond to this crisis. Up to that point we had lost any number of physicians, any number of specialists, and those who were continuing to work in the system knew that in very short order we were not going to be able to deliver emergency care to people coming through the door at that hospital. So, senior representatives from the Ministry of Health came to the community in the middle of May last year -- a big gathering, a two-and-a-half-hour meeting behind closed doors. When they came out, the ministry promised that by November 30 they would have in place a package of initiatives they could deliver in our community and the four other major northern centres to stem the loss of the physicians and specialists from our hospitals. They made a very specific promise, a very specific date.

You know that November 30 came and went, and the government made no announcement with respect to northern retention initiatives. The government had nothing to say when the deadline passed. An emergency meeting that was called for December 7 to deal with this issue was cancelled by the Ministry of Health and it was never rescheduled, and it hasn't been rescheduled to this date.

The situation has gone from bad to worse, because the situation on May 17, when the chiefs of staff of all five northern hospitals and the chiefs of nursing for those five hospitals as well came together and told the ministry, for example, about the problem in Sudbury: since January 1999 our community has lost 15 doctors and specialists, including our only full-time thoracic surgeon and our only hospital-based neurologist; 22 family doctors have withdrawn their privileges from the hospital due to heavy workload, leaving 30% of Sudbury's population as orphan patients when admitted to hospital. By November 30, which was the day the government was supposed to come forward with its announcement on retention initiatives, that crisis had gotten even worse. There are only 14 full-time emergency room physicians, when we need 20. We need a specialist in each of obstetrics, general surgery, oncology, paediatrics and orthopaedics, since all of these have left since May. There is still no thoracic surgeon or hospital-based neurologist in place. Our shortage of specialists is 30% worse than the provincial average, and between 15,000 and 20,000 people in our region are without a family doctor.

The situation was so bad that the chief of staff for the Sudbury Regional Hospital wrote to the Premier of the province and the then Minister of Health, Elizabeth Witmer, on January 15, begging them -- he said, "I'm writing you to make a plea for your assistance" -- to do something about the impasse they had dealt with at the Ministry of Health, because nothing came forward despite the meetings and despite the promises, and we had a serious crisis on our hands.

I don't know if the chief of staff ever got a reply from the Premier, but I can tell you this: there haven't ever been any northern retention initiatives introduced in our part of the province to stop the loss of physicians and surgeons leaving the hospital. In fact, Sudbury Regional Hospital, to its credit, made a decision to continue extra payments in order to try and keep their specialists and doctors in place. They got all kinds of hassle from the Ministry of Health for the $6 million that they had paid out of their own budget last year to try and retain those specialists and physicians in place to deliver health care. The ministry gave them no end of hassle in terms of actually reimbursing them for the costs that they incurred because this government did not then and has still not now come up with any solutions to deal with that serious problem in our hospital or the four other major hospitals in the major centres in northern Ontario.

What could the government do if it really wanted to do something good to deal with this shortage, this crisis? You see, the government, according to Dr McKendry, already spends about $65 million on recruitment and retention of health care professionals in underserviced areas. So if the government really wanted to admit that that $65 million isn't really working, if the crisis is worse than ever before and decided they'd do something different, there are a couple of things they could do.

First of all, they could take the freeze off the community health centre program that this government has had in place since it was elected in 1995. We are the beneficiaries of a community health centre in our community, a francophone community health centre that was set up under our government to deal with the very large francophone population, many of whom did not have access to a doctor who spoke French. To their credit, a local group worked for a very long time to put together a proposal which we funded. We know that that model works. It is extremely effective in attracting and retaining physicians. That is because those physicians work in a team with nurse practitioners, with dietitians, with other health care providers to provide a quality service. They don't only provide primary care -- that is, treatment -- but they also focus on prevention and health promotion so that we can keep the population using that service healthy for a longer time.

In my community, the Centre de santé communautaire has had an application in to this ministry for over two years now to increase the operating funding of the main centre so that the two satellites that it operates under its global budget can become full centres too and provide a full range of service, not only in the city of Sudbury but in two other communities in my riding, in Hamner and Rayside-Balfour. They have three physicians who are prepared to come and work full-time delivering service to the francophone population in those two communities if only the government would take the freeze off the operating dollars of this program and allow them to hire.

Do you know that we have now 80 communities in this province that have put in a proposal to the Ministry of Health for a community health centre or that are actively working on a proposal for a community health centre? Communities know that they will be able to keep not only their doctors but nurse practitioners and others in the community if they can work together in a team approach, if they can bill by salary, if they can have some kind of quality time with their families, and they will because they work in a team. Communities know that that particular model would work very well to deal with the doctor shortage we've had. But here we are, six years later, 80 proposals underway, many of them into the Ministry of Health and still this government refuses to take the freeze off so that we can develop new community health centres or expand the ones that are in existence, like my own, and actually allow people to access health care services where they live.

Secondly, if the government wanted to do something with that $65 million, the government could establish a program whereby they pay nurse practitioners to work with physicians in their offices to deliver primary care. We have right now over 160 licensed nurse practitioners who are not employed in their field today because the government has not provided an ongoing mechanism for them to be paid to work in the health care system. We are graduating nurse practitioners every year from 10 universities in this province and we're graduating them into unemployment when their particular skills are more needed than ever before.


If they were allowed to work in a doctor's office, if the government would set up a funding model to allow that to happen, the nurse practitioners could deal with patients who come in who are not critically ill, who have stitches that need to be dealt with, who perhaps have to have medical examinations that could be dealt with, who could do all of those things themselves and leave the burden of dealing with critically ill patients on the physicians in those offices. We could maximize the use of both health care professionals and deal with even more people who don't have a family doctor now if the government would only find a permanent mechanism to allow nurse practitioners to work -- 160 not employed as nurse practitioners even though they graduated as nurse practitioners because there is no funding mechanism in our province to pay them to provide care to people who need it. I know that many physicians in our part of the province would be very happy to have nurse practitioners working with them in their offices if there were only a mechanism for them to be paid.

If the government wanted to do something really important, something that has long been recommended, something that has been recommended by at least one government adviser and maybe by two, but we haven't seen his report yet because the government hasn't released it publicly, so we don't know what Peter George actually said -- but Dr McKendry certainly said in December 1999 that it was time to establish another medical school, and that medical school should be in northern Ontario. The government only has to look at the model that was implemented in Sudbury and Thunder Bay in the early 1990s. In Sudbury and Thunder Bay we now train and license family physicians. Those folks go through their four years of medical training at one of the five established medical schools in this province and then they can apply to get a licence as a family doctor. They can apply in rural Ontario or southern Ontario or they can apply in Sudbury at Laurentian or in Thunder Bay at Lakehead.

I was proud to be part of the government that established the family residency programs in those two communities. We knew that if we could train health care professionals in an ongoing, focused way in our communities, they would be much more likely to stay and practise in our communities.

The family residency program has proven how true that is. As graduates have been leaving the program after their two-year study, they've been tracked through a group in Sudbury. Every year after they graduate, 75% of the two classes open up a practice somewhere in northern Ontario. What's even more important, though, is that five years after they've graduated, tracking over the last three years now has shown that 70% of those family physicians are still in place, working to serve the needs of people in northern Ontario. You can't get much better retention rates than that. Those retention rates from that program are even better than the retention rates from the residency program in southern Ontario, where only 15% of the graduates stay to work in rural Ontario. That is the model upon which this government should build and that is the model upon which a proposal went in from Lakehead University and from Laurentian University to the Peter George panel, encouraging the experts who sat on that panel to recommend to the government to agree to an independent medical school operating between Lakehead in Thunder Bay and Laurentian in Sudbury.

The really neat thing about the model is that the proponents have made it very clear that we need to do things differently than they're doing at the five medical schools. We need to focus on aboriginal health care. We need to have a particular focus on graduating francophones who can deal with people who need health care in their own language. We need to deal very directly with the fact that in only five major centres are you going to have big hospitals and lots of technology, and everywhere else across northern Ontario you're going to have to be much more general in your specialty if you're going to be able to deliver health care in that community. The residents and the interns and the technology just aren't there, and they're not ever going to be there in so many of those small communities that you and I represent, Speaker.

So Lakehead and Laurentian made a submission to the George panel in July, and we yet have received no word about what the recommendations were that were finally made from the panel to this government. That's why I raised the question with the minister today, because the public, especially in northern Ontario, need to know what the panel has to say about the creation of a northern medical school.

It will not be good enough if the panel recommends, and then the government accepts, to have only satellite campuses established at Lakehead and Laurentian. I'm not interested in having a medical school in my part of the province that's going to be run by Toronto or going to be run by Western or going to be run by McMaster or going to be run by Ottawa, because I think we have the capacity and the capability and the imagination and the skills and the medical personnel to run our own medical school independently in northern Ontario; four full years, full classes, a full faculty, in northern Ontario.

I know that Mayor Gordon and the other mayors have been very vocal in also saying to the government, and I've got some of the editorials here -- Mayor Gordon, who is the mayor of Sudbury and a former Conservative cabinet minister, was here for the throne speech two days ago -- that it will not be good enough to have a satellite run by the southern Ontario medical schools.

The time to make a change is now. The crisis continues. If the government really wants to change things in the long term, it should take some of that $65 million that it is currently spending on incentives, which are not working because the crisis continues to grow, and announce that they will establish an independent, full-fledged medical school in northern Ontario where we can actually train people where they need to work and live.

Mrs Tina R. Molinari (Thornhill): It's a pleasure tonight to speak on the motion for interim supply. I'm confident that this motion will receive unanimous consent here this evening. After all, it's a motion that allows us to pay the nursing homes, hospitals, doctors, municipalities, the general welfare recipients, the children's aid societies and suppliers' accounts. Without this motion, we cannot pay all of the services that are necessary.

Thornhill is located in York region. York region has a number of hospitals that have received a lot of funding from this government. It's a growing region. As such, the funding is going to the areas of growth. Of course, York Central Hospital has received funding, and Southlake has received funding.

Also in Thornhill we have the Shouldice Hospital that provides specialized services for specialized care. This hospital also received some funding recently because of the wonderful work they do and how efficient they are.

In the last few months, I had the opportunity in Thornhill to host some round-table discussions and round-table sessions, asking the communities for their input into what the government's future plans and future initiatives are. I hosted these on various topics. The topics were mainly on those that my office has received numerous calls on. One was funding for independent schools, another was transportation and transportation gridlock, and the third one we hosted was to deal with the issues over Ontarians with disabilities. These were very, very well attended. In a number of them, we had anywhere from 20 to 30 people, attended also by local politicians. The one on transportation was one that was attended by a number of councillors, because they recognize that they need to share in finding the solution for the transportation problems.

With that, I also had a meeting with our transportation minister, who is very receptive to listening to input from various communities. I sent him a letter with all of the input that came out. I have two pages full of the input, but I'd like to focus on some of the things that they suggested with respect to transportation.


There was some discussion around the toll roads and the 407 and how people felt about having to pay to use the 407. Some felt if it was going to allow them to get to their workplace or wherever they were going faster, they really didn't mind paying, because there were other roads that are available for them to use that are not toll roads, and if we're going to solve the gridlock problem and the problem of all these cars being on the road, it's not a bad idea to have toll roads in Ontario. They did say they don't want any of the present highways to become toll roads but they are not opposed to any new highways that are created having a partnership with the private sector to provide the service for those who want it, need it and are willing to pay for it.

There was also a lot of talk about better planning and how the municipalities, the province and the federal government need to work together towards that solution. It's a solution that all parties have to work together on.

There was talk about the GTSB and its role. That needs to be improved and more defined on what that role should be.

The one that I found most interesting was the last session we had on dealing with Ontarians with disabilities. It was interesting to hear that some of the people who came either had a family member who was disabled or were disabled themselves.

The biggest topic at that session was on the whole issue around the parking permit for the disabled and how easy it is for anyone to get the disabled parking permit. This is just a blue sheet of paper that anybody can photocopy and laminate, and you can take it with you wherever you go and just put it on your car. They had some ideas on how we could solve the issue of that problem. Quite frankly, some are able to get it too easily. All it takes is a doctor's certificate to be able to get a parking permit. I will be speaking to the minister about some of those ideas that came out, trying to find some solutions so that the parking spaces for the disabled are in fact for the disabled, not for anyone who happens to know a person who is disabled and manages to get that parking permit and put it in their car. Some interesting solutions were around having their picture right on the permit, a hologram that can't be reproduced. So there were a lot of very good ideas that came out of that session.

I will be hosting two more sessions. One will have to do with environment and one will discuss amalgamation, because there are a number of chambers of commerce within York region that are encouraging us to look at more efficient ways to serve our constituents. They're looking at the province to take a leadership role in coming up with some solutions. Certainly we feel that everyone needs to come to the table and be able to offer the solutions for it. We are not going to force it on to any municipality. I think if they come to us with a possible solution, we need to listen. We need to look at it. We can't close our minds and our eyes to more efficiencies for the community.

The people in Thornhill are very supportive of the consultation sessions I am hosting in my community, and I know some of my other colleagues are doing that as well. During the budget process, I know that a number of other colleagues of mine --

Mr Raminder Gill (Bramalea-Gore-Malton-Springdale): I am doing it.

Mrs Molinari: Raminder Gill mentioned that he did it in his riding and his community. So we're a government that goes out and seeks input, gets the consultation and takes that back, recognizing that there's a lot of input we get from the community and you can't say yes to everyone. You can't please everyone because they come with some conflicting comments. They recognize the fact that it's the role of the government, it's our role, to take all of that and then be able to make the decision that best suits all of Ontario and not just one specific community.

I am going to leave some of my time to one of my colleagues, the member for Northumberland, because I know he wants to speak as well, but I do want to talk about some of the wonderful mayors we have in Thornhill. Don Cousens is very supportive and does a lot of wonderful work within the town of Markham. In Vaughan we have Lorna Jackson, who is also very supportive and very active in the community. And of course, Bill Fish, who's the regional chair, is also one who is very co-operative and has done a lot of work with respect to the transportation issue and is working quite well with all of these communities and all of the councillors.

So I'm quite pleased with all the local representatives we have in Thornhill because they understand that the government has a role. They understand that they also have a role and that we need to work together in order to come up with the solutions like transportation, environment, amalgamation and all of the issues that come forth to us in our daily work.

I'm proud to be here and talk about some of the wonderful things that are happening in Thornhill and some of the good people we have there.

I had the opportunity to attend a number of sessions in York region. One was the early learning program which we've recently introduced. Certainly as a government we believe in early childhood learning and we have pilot projects in York region that are doing quite well and there are places that we can emulate through the province of Ontario.

Before I close, I'd like to take the opportunity to welcome our new member from Parry Sound, Norm Miller. I had the opportunity of spending a whole day in the riding canvassing, and I must say that it's a wonderful community. They are very fortunate to have Norm Miller here representing them and he's very fortunate to be representing such a wonderful community. I met a lot of wonderful people there and I'm glad I had the opportunity to do that. Welcome, Norm.

Mr Alvin Curling (Scarborough-Rouge River): In my short time here I just want to express some concerns I have which have been expressed by other people about interim supply. My constituents have asked me what this is all about. I said that the government is looking for some money to pay the civil servants and for some of the programs that are in place and they said, "That's a good thing." I said, "Yes, we should pay the civil servants and do the programs," and then they said to me, "Isn't there something called a budget, where you lay it down and we would know the money is there for a long time?" I said, "Yes." Then I basically explained to them the fact that the government has taken off four months and no one knew where they were, and the fact is that they themselves are now coming back here on this day and saying to us all, "Could you all just approve some money so that we can pay the civil servants and for some of the programs?" They were appalled, because they thought this government was a government of efficiency and they talk about running a business, and they are far from that.

It is really sad to know that since December -- and now at the end of April and going into May, the government is sitting down and saying, "We've got to sit late because we need this money to pay." It's very appalling to know that they conduct themselves in that kind of manner.

We were all elected to serve the people, and I'm not quite sure if the members are around enough or if the Premier is around enough to say that we can exchange some of the concerns that I see in Scarborough-Rouge River for the hospitals and the concerns about the students, as I see as I drive along on the road passing the schools and the kids are out on the roadside here, and this government, which is having a great argument and debate and confusion within the school system -- teachers are just demoralized and they're on the streets -- said, "We won't take any action." This efficient government, this government which has a lot of money, has really not done anything for working-class people or for working families. They have just been brutalized in every way.

So what did they do? They arrived here last Thursday and they set down 21 steps, they say, for direction in the 21st century. I don't think they realize that the 21st century started some time ago. They're way into the 21st century and they just went and announced 21 steps right now of all that -- 21 steps. I can hear the footprints and the beats that are coming. These feet are coming with these 21 steps and are going to play havoc. They're going to put the boots to working-class people right now as they're putting the boots to doctors and they're putting the boots to the hospital system and to education.


In step 10 they talk about bringing about a better system for education and allowing parents and teachers and what have you to assist, and they should be away and not interfere with the running of education conducted from the central office here. What they have done is centralize their power right up in that room in the back there on the second floor, the cabinet there. That's where they've conducted business completely, hidden away from the people of the province, hidden away from the people who have elected them, and the people are concerned. As a matter of fact, they are completely concerned because they feel that democracy has been undermined in every way possible by this undemocratic government that we have here today.

I had noticed of course they are bragging in step 14, but they're going to build another bureaucracy about training and retraining centres in which they are going to deliver training and access to trades and professions.

Studies have been done over and over. We know what's wrong. The one main step, if you want to do that, is to implement all of those studies that have proven that many of the people who are foreign-trained want to have access to their profession. What they have done and what they have kowtowed to is the fact that many of the professional associations have been dictating to government a long time and they don't have the guts to tell the professional associations about access and opening to these people who are trained abroad, who can now have an opportunity to work in this environment, to contribute to their family, to contribute to the economy, to contribute to their children. But many of those well-trained individuals are out there driving taxis or doing other things and this government doesn't have the guts to do it. They just talk about it and they make more studies about it and nothing is done.

It really appalled me to know that here is a government that says they really have the guts to do things and they wouldn't even turn up in the Legislature. They haven't been around for four months. We haven't seen the leader on the first day of the House. On the first day of the House, I would like to see every single member here who is anxious to be a part of this debate. But the leader of the government is nowhere to be found at all. Before he has this 21-step opportunity that he has talked about, we say, where are the details? It's like we say we're going to have a pause for a commercial now. We have to go out and sell it. Sell what? There are no details to this. It's empty, and each day the dribbles will come through, the dribbles of what they will do. And the same old thing will happen and they're hoping that it can carry them through.

They long awaited some of the policies of the Liberal Party, which we have delivered to you, and said, "OK, if you think we're hiding anything, here it is. Here are certain things to resolve some of the problems which you are fighting about. Here they are." They look at it now and say, "It's not workable." And we said, "Where was your policy?" Nothing is there; empty. Not only do they have no policies, they are not even around.

All they have done is make sure they've wreaked havoc with the teachers. They are demoralized, these wonderful individuals who are teachers. Parents are confused. Children are at a complete loss. Students are lost. They are on the streets now, and this government is completely ineffective. They've now come here and said, "We need some money to pay the civil servants. We need some money for our programs." Where is the leadership that you're supposed to be offering? The first thing is, you have to be around to have some sort of leadership. Where is that leadership? It's nowhere to be found across this Conservative government that speaks in a lot of rhetoric and a lot of nice talks. Who has been suffering more than the working-class people and working families out there who are trying their best, who now have to shuffle between getting a babysitter for their children to go to classes and spending more money than is necessary, and very much so talking about their tax credits and what have you, giving it back to the people, but in the meantime, dropping a lot of user fees all over the place and people are paying much more for that, paying much more for programs than before?

I would challenge this government first to appear in the House to debate the programs, to bring forward a sense of the budget and not drag it down. They weren't even ready, with all the holidays and the golfing and whatever they would have done. Our leader, Dalton McGuinty, and we in the Liberal Party were ready from December to be right back here, but you couldn't face that. You had no policy, you had no programs. All you have done is talk about giving back money, and it has produced nothing.

You float on the fact that you have so much money, the time is so great. The new Minister of Finance was so overwhelmed by his position. In his first announcement he said, "Things are so good I'm going to just give out a lot of money. Things have been great; really good for this province." What they have done is they hooked him, brought him back in and said, "It seems there is some sort of recession maybe down the road. Just keep quiet. You don't know what you're talking about."

You know what? They have no plans, they have no policies. They're just talking about having the taxpayers' money, throwing it around as they wish and saying, "You take $200 and solve all the $10,000 problems that you have outside of here. And look at what we have done. We have given back the money into the people's pockets."

But the students are on the streets today. The teachers are demoralized. The hospitals have a lot of backups. Where was that policy? Where was that budget? You are coming here today and asking us, "Please, unanimously, give us approval to pay the civil servants. Give us the pay to do the programs, please."

The whole thing about it all that is so appalling is the lack of leadership. It is so appalling to know that this government bragged and talked about, "We need another term in which to put the hardship, to put the boot to the people," and talked about your footsteps. What I'm hearing is that those footsteps are boots, giving the boot to many of the working-class people, giving the boot to the students, giving the boot to people who would like to be sharing in this great economy that we speak about.

I just want to say we are prepared and ready, and the more policies you want, we will continue to deliver them from Dalton McGuinty and the Liberals. We'll continue to feed it to them. We don't mind. As a matter of fact, we encourage you to use them, because our interest is the people of Ontario, not political posturing. We like to see this province prosper and everybody share in the wonderful wealth in this great province that we have here.

Mr Doug Galt (Northumberland): I've just been sitting here for the last 10, 12 minutes or so listening to the member from Scarborough-Rouge River rant and rage, trying to work up an emotional hype here. All he's been talking about is attendance and when the House does sit or doesn't sit.

What's important is the record. Have a look at the record of this government: 800,000-plus net new jobs created in the last five and half years or so. That's the kind of record I'm proud of, having over half a million people off welfare; welfare numbers that were spiralling while you were in government, numbers that spiralled while the New Democratic Party was in government. That's the kind of record, if I were you, I would be very embarrassed with.

We have a record of cutting taxes by -- the last count I had was 166 tax cuts, but I believe it's gone up considerably since then. That has stimulated the economy of Ontario so that now the revenue coming into the province has increased by some $14 billion, I'm told. That's the kind of record I'm proud of. It's productivity.

What was the Liberal record when they were in government? They doubled spending. They were the favourites for tax, spend and borrow, and they did all three very effectively. Then, what happened with the NDP and their record? They doubled the debt and spiralled us into bankruptcy. That's where we were going. How long did they sit in the last year? I understand it was something like 25 days or even less than that.

What is important to measure is productivity. They get all hung up with counting their marbles or counting the days, when in fact you should be saying what's going on in Ontario today.

They get hung up on gridlock on the highways. Why is there gridlock on our provincial highways today? It's because of the increased number of trucks that are out there delivering goods that people are producing and buying. It's gridlock because of the number of people who are driving to work -- over 100,000 more people driving to work now than were driving to work back in 1995. That's the kind of measurement we need in Ontario.

I look to this vote to continue that kind of productivity in this province, and I certainly hope the opposition is prepared to support it this time, because in the past they have not.


When they oppose and when they do not support a bill such as this, they're voting against health care, a system that's now costing 44% of the operational dollars here in Ontario. They're voting against education, the public system, the universities, the colleges that our young people go to. That is what they're voting against. They're voting against the municipalities and the dollars we transfer to those municipalities. They're opposed to all of those municipalities, some 500 of them out there, when they vote against it. That's the MUSH sector we transfer the money to. They're not supporting our police in Ontario so that we have proper security. When they vote against this bill, that's what they are indeed voting against.

I want to talk just for a very brief moment about some of the dollars that will be transferred. Some $16.8 million will be transferred for construction of a new hospital in West Northumberland. This hospital was approved in our last sitting -- 70% funding. Last Friday was the kickoff of the fundraiser, and with the kickoff they had raised, at that point, $10.3 million in the community of West Northumberland. There is only $2.5 million left to go in that campaign. That's what this vote will be helping to support, to build hospitals such as that particular one. My hat's off to the chair of that fundraising campaign, Bill Patchett, and also his campaign assistant who was looking after leadership donations, Bob MacCoubrey, and also certainly a great big thank you to the Northumberland Health Care Corp board and their chair, Brian Hart.

Late last fall, I had the opportunity to make an announcement in Bancroft about funding for a new health care facility there. The member was very upset that that particular member was not involved. This is a member, like all of those in the opposition, who had voted against funding that particular hospital and funding all health care. I'm really quite confused why they'd be opposed to such a bill as that. It's time they got on the bandwagon and supported what they really believe in. They stand up here in question period and you would think they really believed in health care, yet I expect -- I hope not, but I wouldn't be surprised -- that they'll vote tonight against this interim supply bill.

On another occasion, just to point out how confused some of the members in the opposition can get, when quoted that the $200 tax rebate was going to cost $100 billion -- that quote comes from the Belleville Intelligencer. I wouldn't want to just outright embarrass that particular member, a member who sits in the Liberal Party, but he was only out by $99 billion. On the other hand, what the heck, what's $99 billion between friends? If that had been true, by not paying it back, they could have paid off the whole debt, or just about. It just shows you how confused they can get.

This is so important. Just imagine, if this payment didn't go through this evening, we'd be blocking some of the inspections of our food supplies here in Ontario. They wouldn't be thoroughly inspected. We'd be blocking the inspectors who go out and look after the environment. We'd be interrupting the suppliers who are maintaining our highways and building the infrastructure. Going through my area, they're now putting in the centre barrier, a tremendous safety feature. It's been down to one lane. I hope people don't mind the inconvenience of some of the one-lane traffic.

This payment will go to help nursing homes. It will go for general welfare. We hear so much concern in this Legislature on the other side of the House about people on welfare. When they vote for this, they'll be supporting people who are on welfare. If they vote against it, they'll be voting against those people. Children's aid societies, helping the young and vulnerable in our society, that's where some of those dollars are going. They'll be going to physicians. They'll be going to hospitals.

Health care has increased in Ontario since we took office by some 27%. It increased in the last two years by some 19%. As a matter of fact, when we took office, we were spending some $17.4 billion. This past year, it was over $22 billion and it is still climbing. Thirty-eight per cent of the budget was going to health care when we took office. It's now at 44% and climbing. By 2014, I'm told, probably 100% of all provincial dollars will end up going to health care. We know that is not sustainable, but we do have to support it. I would just plead with the federal government, which agreed to a 50-50 formula, to return partway to that.

In the days of Brian Mulroney, we were getting 18% from the federal government in support for our health care dollars. That deteriorated to 7%. It's now back up to 11%. I plead with the opposition to work with their federal cousins to return the health care slash they made from the Brian Mulroney government and to take it back up to that level of 18%.

The Deputy Speaker (Mr Michael A. Brown): Further debate? The member for St Catharines.

Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): Thank you very much, Mr Speaker, for the opportunity, short as it is, to speak in the House this evening.

I want to say, first of all, for the people who might be watching, that this Legislature has not sat since the middle of December. Can you imagine the absolute furor in Ottawa if the federal Liberal government had announced it wasn't going to bring the House back till late in April? They brought it back in January. I could just hear Mike Duffy and the Conrad Black press and the Toronto Sun and CFTO's Tom Clark, and all those people in an absolute white fury at the thought that the federal Liberal government would keep the House out of session for four months.

But silence was there. I know why you people keep the House out of session. You can get away with it. Did I read one column about it? No. Was there one television sequence on it that the opposition didn't have to prompt? No. You people got away with it. So the wise guys in the Premier's office will say, "Aren't we smart? We put one over on everybody."

You have to go beyond that. You have to look at the democratic system and say, "Is that right?" I don't mind if you're sitting here and you're accountable. We ask the questions and you give the answers you deem to give. If the public determines that is appropriate, that they're more satisfied with your answer than the answer the opposition might provide, I may not like that, but I accept it because that's the democratic process, but when you keep the House out of session for four months and then the Premier talks about accountability, that's just a little hard to take.

We in this House are not allowed to make reference to the absence of members, and sometimes it's wise, because sometimes there's illness and other good reasons for people not being here, but I am very disappointed that the Premier of the province has selected to be in other places this week. I did not say "absent"; I said in other places. Like George Bush, he heads off -- George W. Bush in this case -- to sell the tax cuts, or in his case, to sell what he considers to be the government program.

I think it's the responsibility of the Premier to answer questions in this House. If the questions are questions the public accepts as good questions and the government gives good answers, that's the way the system should work.

The Premier is not a person who is a bad performer in the House. He's a person who has been in the House for some 20 years. He's had the opportunity to be here. It's important for the sense of accountability that we have whoever happens to be the Premier of Ontario in the House to answer questions, and not simply to call the House into session and then go on a road show across half the province.

Mr Mazzilli: He's going to be at a hospital in London tomorrow. You call that a road show?

Mr Bradley: There are some important issues to deal with. They don't simply affect ridings such as mine; they affect some of your ridings, including perhaps even the yappy member for London -- not this one, of course, the other one -- who is carrying on. Not my friend, Bob Wood. He's respectful.

There's the issue of the doctor shortage. I just ask my colleagues in the House what the situation is in their area, because I thought that maybe in St Catharines and Niagara it's different, that it's a more critical situation. What we're encountering right across the province is a virtual crisis in the lack of doctors who are available, not just family physicians, but we also have a situation in the Niagara region where many specialists such as ophthalmologists and dermatologists are in short supply. This is a crisis for many people. It is estimated that there are 20,000 adults in the Niagara Peninsula who are without a family physician.


I think there are a couple of things that happened. One of those that I don't think we looked at as a society was the age of the doctors out there. We had at one time a lot of doctors. I don't think we recognized that a lot of them were getting close to retirement age. Years ago, there were doctors who worked literally into their 80s, who stayed on; they may not have been as active in their practice. Today you're not seeing that as much.

Second, demographically speaking, there are more women in the profession. Women, because they are child-bearing, have a special responsibility in the home as well. So it makes it much more difficult, in fairness to women in the profession, when they are the ones who bear the children and have some additional responsibilities. To ask that they work 90 and 100 hours a week is unacceptable.

We have to look at all of these factors -- the number of people who graduate. Some members of this House may be surprised to know that in all of Canada only 17 ophthalmologists graduated last year. That's for all of Canada.

Hon Mr Klees: I knew you would mention ophthalmologists.

Mr Bradley: My friend from Oak Ridges knew I would mention the ophthalmologists because we have a critical problem there. But I think as a House, as a society -- and this is always hard to do in this House because it is a partisan House -- we're going to have to come up with some ideas, as a collective in this House, for trying to find an answer to this, because it's a critical shortage. Part of it involves nurse practitioners and their appropriate utilization. Part of it refers to primary health care reform and a model that will work to help more people have access to a family physician. Part of it will be incentives.

The member for Niagara Falls had a disincentive resolution or bill before the House that dealt with this issue. It didn't get entirely great support in the House, but it really shows how people are getting somewhat desperate. They phone you, they phone me, and they expect that we're going to provide a doctor for them. We can't do that. Our job is to try to find them.

There are foreign-trained people who are very capable. They have to be brought into our system, and I think we have to find a way to do that more quickly than we have in the past. It wasn't a crisis in the past so we didn't have to find that faster method of bringing those people on stream.

So there are a number of problems out there, and I think as a Legislature, perhaps a committee of this Legislature would look at some solutions to this problem. I don't want to sit here and condemn right now, because it's too critical a crisis to condemn you people. It's most important to ensure that we have some answers.

It was mentioned here that I should congratulate Norm Miller. I want to tell members that after he delivered his maiden speech this afternoon I had the opportunity to both welcome him to the House as one of the members of this House and to congratulate him on his speech. I saw, as he walked down the aisle with the Premier and the new government House leader, the smile on his face that could only be the smile of a descendant of a person who was the Treasurer of this province before, of course, and the Premier for a period of time in Ontario. That knowing smile was there, and we certainly like to see you in the House, Norm. We know you will work hard on behalf of your constituents -- and we always have to say in opposition -- at least till the next election, because they always say that to me in my riding. They always say at every election that I'm going to be gone in the next election. We're all vulnerable to that.

Let me say as well that in designated situations there's a need for some additional hospital funding to allow our hospitals to function in a better fashion. Some people have said they want accountability out there. I don't think there's anything wrong with accountability in the whole system. What I worry about when I hear the words of -- I affectionately refer to two-tier Tony only because there's a little bit of t-t-t in there that you can say and it sounds good. I can say that when my friend Liz Witmer was the Minister of Health, even though sometimes we thought maybe you were moving toward a two-tier system, I thought she would be the person standing against it. I've looked at the book that is read most often by the new health minister, called Code Blue. It's some extreme right-winger who has an extreme right-wing answer to the health care problems. I hear all this talk about how much it's costing and I can see certain people -- not all of them; there are some moderates over there -- in that cabinet who want to move toward a privatized two-tier system. I urge those of you who are the moderates -- I know who some of you are -- to ensure this does not happen.

Interjection: Name names.

Mr Bradley: I won't name names; that gets everybody into trouble.

I'm also concerned about the price of natural gas that we're having to pay now. If you cannot control it -- I never believed in the deregulation of natural gas, but that's what you have now -- I think we have to look at people of modest income and provide to those people -- it's hard to find out exactly who they are -- a bit of financial assistance to help them meet those costs.

You're moving into another area that is very dangerous, and that is the area of deregulation and privatization of hydroelectric power in this province. I warn you not to get into that one. It was a Conservative government that had a lot to do with the building of a good system of providing electric power in Ontario. I'm sure there were some Liberal governments too, but there was a Conservative government that, way back when, provided a good foundation for this. I hate to see you dismantle it while worshipping at the altar of privatization and deregulation. In other words, for an ideological reason, you will turn around now and get rid of a system that for practical purposes has worked quite well for the people of Ontario. I urge you not to move to what California and Alberta and some other areas have moved to.

I want to say as well that if you're looking for a place to save money, I've got it: $235 million worth of self-serving partisan government advertising. You could save $235 million if you would simply renounce that. I was watching a program where they had interviewed someone in Britain. It is an independent position, and I kind of liked that idea. They review government advertising to see whether it's acceptable or not, because there are messages out there, like getting the flu shot, that there's nothing wrong with. I didn't like the Premier's picture on it, but getting the flu shot is legitimate communication, if you don't always try to make something partisan out of it.

So there we are. I say to the taxpayers' coalition -- my friend Frank Sheehan will be listening to my speech at home, I'm sure; he used to be in charge of the local taxpayers' coalition -- that the silence has been deafening in their criticism of this government squandering $235 million on self-serving government advertising.

The last thing I would mention is to remember another book that the former Minister of Municipal Affairs used to read in this House, called Merger Mania. Because not only has Dr Andrew Sancton of the University of Western Ontario pointed out the fallacies of the arguments in favour of amalgamation, but now the C. D. Howe Institute, another right-wing, may I say, think tank, says, "Please do not walk into these mass amalgamations."

With that, I leave members of the Legislature to make a decision on interim supply.

The Deputy Speaker: Mrs Ecker has moved that the Minister of Finance be authorized to pay the salaries of the civil servants and other necessary payments pending the voting of supply for the period commencing May 1, 2001, and ending October 31, 2001, such payments to be charged to the proper appropriation following the voting of supply.

Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry?

All in favour will say "aye."

All opposed will say "nay."

In my opinion, the ayes have it.

I declare the motion carried.

It being nearly 9:30 of the clock, this House stands adjourned until 1:30 of the clock tomorrow afternoon.

The House adjourned at 2121.