37e législature, 2e session



Monday 11 June 2001 Lundi 11 juin 2001



Monday 11 June 2001 Lundi 11 juin 2001

The House met at 1845.



Mr Sterling moved second reading of the following bill:

Bill 57, An Act to promote government efficiency and to improve services to taxpayers by amending or repealing certain Acts / Projet de loi 57, Loi visant à favoriser l'efficience du gouvernement et à améliorer les services aux contribuables en modifiant ou en abrogeant certaines lois.

Hon Norman W. Sterling (Minister of Consumer and Business Services): I'm going to share my time with the member for Etobicoke Centre, Mr Stockwell; the member for Peterborough, Mr Stewart; and the member for Simcoe North, Mr Dunlop.

As Minister of Consumer and Business Services, I have been asked to carry a piece of legislation that includes the cumulative efforts of over 15 ministries. The 15 ministries have identified opportunities for improvements to their policies and programs, or they are dealing with problems that have been brought to them by the attention of the stakeholders they serve.

In general, these amendments are seen as minor amendments to larger pieces of legislation. In other words, they are directed at fixing problems, often administrative problems, but in some cases deal with some substantive issues as well. I'm sure the Minister of Labour, Mr Stockwell, will be dealing with one of the issues that has raised most interest in this bill, dealing with that specific issue and explaining the amendments to his legislation that are included in the bill.

This bill and the previous bills, which have sometimes been known as red tape bills, have been put together to try to make processes clear, so that people, when dealing with government agencies, understand what is required of them, and in some cases to do away with regulation where it is deemed to be unnecessary.

Our government, when we were elected in 1995, was elected on the basis of building a stronger economy, creating jobs, cutting taxes, increasing government efficiency and cutting red tape, as well as removing barriers to doing business in this province. In 1999 we were re-elected on a vision that we had to compete globally and at the same time remain the best place in North America to live, work and raise a family.

Our efforts have produced some very positive results. Look at the employment figures and the number of jobs that have been created in this jurisdiction. We match any other jurisdiction in North America, and in fact exceed them.

Last year a study done by the World Bank and Harvard University, which surveyed 75 countries, concluded that based on Ontario data representing Canada as a whole, this country had the least amount of red tape that new businesses have to face when starting up. The study was based on data for Canada, but solely on the province of Ontario because Ontario represents 42% of the economy of all of Canada. It concluded that it is possible to have regulations that protect consumers and at the same time have an easy-to-use business registration system.

The authors went on to say that the Ontario government has very good economic policies, and that those governments that care about new business in a similar way in which they care for people are most effective and efficient in encouraging new business opportunities. This is exactly why we have introduced the Government Efficiency Act, 2001, the short term for Bill 57, which we're talking about this evening. The act contains rules and regulations responsive to public needs, while eliminating waste and inefficiency. We care for people and we care for businesses. We want fair practices and we want fair rules. We want protection for people and businesses and we want to remove unnecessary red tape for all of our residents.


With the Government Efficiency Act, we achieve these goals. For example, one part of the bill dealing with landlord and tenant laws makes it an offence for a landlord to retain a rent deposit and at the same time refuse to provide occupancy of a rental unit. Most landlords do return rent deposits to prospective tenants, as they are currently required to do. Prospective tenants must go to Small Claims Court to get their deposit back if the landlord refuses to return the deposit. By amending the Tenant Protection Act to require landlords to return a rent deposit if they refuse to provide the unit, and by making it an offence for a landlord to do so, we are giving prospective tenants greater protection against a clearly unfair rule in favour of landlords.

The act will also make it an offence if landlords do not provide evicted tenants 48 hours to retrieve their property. Currently under the Tenant Protection Act, landlords are required to give evicted tenants 48 hours to retrieve their property. However, it is not considered an offence if they don't. The tenant again is pushed into Small Claims Court to get their remedy. Tenant stakeholder groups have expressed concern that tenants are defenceless against landlords who refuse to allow evicted tenants access to the rental unit for the removal of their property. The proposed amendment will help to address those concerns.

Bill 57 also seeks to provide and confirm added protection for children subject to guardianship. Bill 57 will confirm the requirement to serve the office of the children's lawyer when bringing in an application for guardianship or for court approval for the disposition of property of a minor child. The amendment will also clarify that a person seeking to be appointed guardian of the property of a child is required to submit to the court a proposed plan for the management of that property or money. Currently some judges refer applications for guardianship and disposition of property of a minor child to the office of the children's lawyer, where they have not been served, which has resulted in delays of proceedings. The government is making sure that more protection and fair rules are provided to children in special situations.

The bill proposes to establish a two-year limitation period on filing complaints under the Employment Standards Act. The intention is to clarify the period for filing a complaint about a reprisal, a failure to reinstate after leave, and non-monetary violations. The current Employment Standards Act has no limitation on when a complaint can be filed. The only limitation that exists is on the recovery of wages owing where the amount that can be recovered is restricted to the money that was due in the six-month period preceding the complaint. The two-year limitation period would provide the workplace parties with certainty regarding the ability to seek a remedy under the act.

For too many years, previous governments built a wall of red tape in our province, a wall that choked many small businesses and businesses important to certain regions of the province. These regulations killed jobs and damaged communities. But our government had a plan, a plan to foster a cultural shift in the way it does business with business and the way it helps communities.

As another example, Bill 57 is proposing six amendments to the Mining Act which are administrative in nature and which have the support of the Mining Act advisory committee, whose membership represents a wide cross-section of stakeholders in Ontario's mining sector. These include representatives from environmental groups and labour.

I'm not going to go into the specifics of the particular amendments, but what the amendments do is make it easier for lending institutions to deal with abandoned properties, and with chattels that are in those properties as well. It also allows the lenders to deal with potential dangers when the mining industry is no longer there.

There are many other examples in this red tape bill or Government Efficiency Act, 2001. One example is that this bill will rescind some old legislation that we have passed in this Legislature. For the past 10 years, each year we have passed a Supply Act. The supply acts from 1991 to 2000 are now outdated. They're useless and don't mean anything. This act makes an amendment which wipes out all those 10 acts, takes them off the books and doesn't present much opportunity for debate really, or I would hope so.

In essence, the Government Efficiency Act takes a whole bunch of little things that need to be done to a number of acts across 15 ministries in this government. Rather than bringing individual bills on each and every matter to this Legislature, which would take up a lot of legislative time and might, quite frankly, be favoured by the opposition, because what opposition parties like to do in general is stall the government and waste the time of the Legislature, we believe that by bringing them all together and having them of a minor nature, we can better utilize the majority of our legislative time for larger policy matters in this Legislature.

I have heard from time to time -- as you know, I was the government House leader as well in this place -- the opposition complain about the fact that we have to use the rule in our standing orders, which was brought to this Legislature by the former NDP government, that we put forward a time allocation motion. Often the members opposite trot this out and talk about it. That wouldn't be necessary if the opposition co-operated on what I would call minor or low-effect bills like this particular bill. If we are forced to debate this bill for three days, at least, on second reading, then the government will be forced to spend another legislative day after those three days to put forward a time allocation motion and probably another day after that to have third reading and deal with final passage of this bill. That's five legislative days, and I think it costs over $100,000 a day to have this Legislative Assembly open. I think that indeed is a waste of our resources and the fact that we can deal with more significant matters than are contained in Bill 57. That's why I would urge the opposition to debate this bill with reason, not exaggerate, as sometimes opposition parties are prone to do, and bring this bill to a speedy vote this evening, so that we can get on with more important business tomorrow and can spend that $100,000 this Legislature spends each day it's open in a more efficient manner.

I have used about 14 minutes of our opening statement. I look forward to hearing the constructive suggestions of both my backbenchers and the opposition and will be glad to answer any questions they might have.

The Acting Speaker (Mr Bert Johnson): Further debate?


Hon Chris Stockwell (Minister of Labour): I guess I want to start out by picking up on the relevant theme of the minister who was speaking before me. We all heard the comments that were made today during the period when we were recognizing all the old members who came back to this House. I thought Mr Conway's comments were exceptionally good. I thought he ended them on a rather interesting note. Mr Conway suggested that this place has changed, and the same kind of decorum and temperament in this House didn't appear to be here any more. I think everybody who's been here for any length of time -- I look across the floor and I know the member for St Catharines certainly has been, the member for Hamilton West and Toronto-Danforth as well; certainly the member for Welland on the opposition benches; I see my friend from Wellington, he's been here quite a while and, of course, the minister who previously spoke -- could all probably speak to the fact that yes, things have gone differently in the last little while.

A lot of concern that the opposition seems to speak about is the fact that the government moves a significant number of time allocation motions. I, myself, am particularly loath to introduce time allocation motions. I don't particularly think they're helpful for creating an atmosphere of camaraderie or a working relationship that helps foster some form of agreement when it comes to dealing with issues in the House.

I guess you're wondering what this has to do with the bill that's before us today. I'm going to talk sort of extemporaneously at this time about why this side of the House ends up moving time allocations which, again -- I would think I could speak for the minister who just spoke and myself -- we're many times not particularly happy about having to move. But it's a two-way street, and I think the co-operation of being a two-way street probably has a responsibility for us as government, but there is also an equal responsibility for the opposition.

I don't think it's any shocking surprise to the public out there that, as we sit during the afternoon session and tonight, this place isn't exactly loaded with members. Many times you could be speaking to as few as five or six. They're simply here because they're the next up or they don't want to have no members in the House. So a party will throw one or two people in, or in a lot of circumstances we rely on the member for St Catharines. Jim celebrated his 24th year in this place on Saturday and I think it's wonderful. It's a shame that his 24th year wasn't actually celebrated in this place, as opposed to Norm's.

But I guess my concern is this: this bill we debated this afternoon, in my opinion, wasn't the most controversial piece of legislation that's ever come down the pike. I remember sitting through the briefing, and probably the situation was similar to this on any bill. No offence to my members, but possibly three are listening. We stand in our place here and we talk about what's before us. At the briefing before, I said to the member who's the critic for the NDP, who's probably not listening now, who I'm sure isn't -- I'm positive actually now because neither of them turned around. The fact is that you went to the briefing and I said, "If you really want something good to come out of this bill or you have amendments, why don't we debate it for one or two days and we'll send it off to committee?" Apparently this envelope is of much more interest to them and the attention they want to derive than what we're speaking about today. I'm not challenging them. Quite often that's the state of affairs in this place. But it was decided, "No, we're going to take the mandatory three days of debate. We're going to make you move time allocation."

Now, least innocuous of all is this bill before us today. It's even less innocuous.

Mr David Caplan (Don Valley East): Come on.

Hon Mr Stockwell: Well, the member for Don Mills opposite says, "Come on." Possibly the most partisan member here, I wouldn't expect to catch his attention. But I think more balanced members could say, after hearing the explanation of the bill, that you could probably come forward and maybe have some argument that this isn't the most controversial piece of legislation. It was so uncontroversial that the Liberals didn't even send anybody to the briefing. They didn't send anyone to the briefing of this bill and they didn't send anyone to the briefing of the ambulance bill. Not that you didn't send anyone, you sent staff, but there was no political person at either one of those briefings.

But you come in here today and claim that this is the most controversial piece of legislation.

To the point: we have the responsibility for moving time allocation, but you also have the responsibility of ensuring that it isn't necessary to move time allocation on every bill. This has got to be one of those bills.

Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): Oak Ridges moraine. One, two, three.

Hon Mr Stockwell: The member says, "Oak Ridges moraine." I don't want to remind the member, but I will, that we actually acquiesced to your request to have second and third readings. You requested second and third readings and we, through the confidence of this government, agreed. We said if that's how you want to do business, we will co-operate. I can understand why they did it, but if you want to do that, we said, "OK, we'll do it."

I guess the point I'm making, before I get into the guts of this bill, where the member for --


The Acting Speaker: I want to remind the member from Don Valley East and the minister that there is no talking out.

Hon Mr Stockwell: If you're going to have meaningful debate on bills that come before this House, you have to pick and choose what bills you want to have meaningful debate on. It is an impossibility to have meaningful, long-term, exaggerated debate on every bill that comes before the House. It never worked that way under the Liberal government from 1985 to 1990; it never worked that way under the NDP government from 1990 to 1995. But progressively it got worse and worse to the point where today there isn't a bill that comes into this House that you aren't forced to do three readings on and a fourth day for time allocation, thereby jockeying up these, "They've moved more time allocation motions in this Parliament than any other Parliament in the history of mankind," which, quite honestly, out there in the world, nobody cares about. The only ones who care about it are us, and all we end up doing is fighting amongst each other to take four days to talk about a bill that nobody really cares about, at the expense of talking about bills that everybody cares about.

So we're playing one against the other. You say, "You've moved more time allocations," and we say, "You never let us debate a bill for one day," even if it's in an innocuous bill such as this one that just changes a whole bunch of red tape issues that are obsolete or out of practice for good government.

The one part of this bill they may have exception to it is the health and safety part. The only part of this bill that's the least bit controversial -- the member for Welland asked me about it last week -- was with respect to an inspector going to a site to inspect a health and safety issue. That was it.

I would have said at the briefing, had they come, and I've said during question period and I'll say to you today, that the only way an inspector would not go to a site for a full inspection is if he believed it wasn't necessary. I gleaned examples of two cases we have where inspectors have said these cases wouldn't be necessary to take an inspector out, shut down a plant for two or three hours, or sometimes one or two days.

Scenario one: a work refusal stating the worker's supervisor is not qualified to be his boss. Clearly it's not a health and safety issue. However, under the act's current language, we have to send an inspector to the workplace. So we shut down that operation while an inspector got in his car, went to the site and said, "This is not likely to endanger anyone's life," and they started operation again.

The inspectors have said to us, "Listen, there's no need for us to get in a car and travel two or three hours to a site that's been shut down to hear this complaint. We could simply ask the parties to fax us the information, review it and make a decision." That's as controversial as this bill gets.

Example two: the Ministry of Labour receives a notice of a work refusal and investigates. Hours later, a work refusal by another employee under the exact same circumstances. Again, under the act, we would have to send an inspector to investigate. You had the exact, same complaint from the exact, same workplace regarding the exact, same health and safety issue that was filed a mere three hours earlier that was ruled on as not being a health and safety issue. The inspector said, "I don't need to go back out there and look at what I just looked at three hours ago."

So the amendment will help reduce the abuse of work refusals and will enable us to concentrate our inspectors on legitimate health and safety concerns. Let me underline that point, since I have the rapt attention of the third party.


As long as we have to send these inspectors out to investigate these frivolous requests, then they're not doing what they're supposed to do, which is going to real workplaces in real places in Ontario where there is really a danger someone could lose their life or lose their arm or lose their leg or hurt their back. Why can't they go there? Because they're going to these kinds of places.

Surely to goodness the opposition --

Mr Bradley: How many times a year?

Hon Mr Stockwell: I say to the member for St Catharines, you would be astounded how many times a year it happens. There's one sector in the province that represents 30% of all work health and safety calls -- 30% -- and they represent less than 1% of the employees out there.

Mr Bradley: What one is it?

Hon Mr Stockwell: I'm not saying, but there is one group that is there. So rather than having a health and safety inspector out there investigating real issues where real people die in workplace-related issues, we have them going here and the opposition parties defending this as some action a responsible government should take, in a noble sense. I think they believe they're representing the rank and file, but all at risk of those people who truly have their lives on the line because some employers aren't providing safe workplaces.

Mr Bradley: Didn't Bill Davis bring this in?

Hon Mr Stockwell: I expect something a little less thought-provoking from the member for St Catharines, but I wasn't disappointed.

If the argument is, do you introduce legislation and sometimes not foresee problems? Yes, you do. This was introduced a long time ago, 15 or 20 years ago. Times have changed, and we decided that this isn't the best way to have taxpayers' money spent trying to protect people's lives.

I look to the member for Sarnia, who has a lot of places in her riding where people's lives are at risk every day because there are very dangerous workplaces. We never have enough health and safety inspectors, it seems, to get around. Why don't we have enough health and safety inspectors to get around?

Mr Bradley: You fired them all.

Hon Mr Stockwell: We didn't fire one of them. It's because they're answering calls like this.

All I'm saying to this House is that if you would allow us to have the inspector who is a professional, designated inspector -- not me, not the government, not the members, not the PA, not the minister, not the minister's staff, but that professional inspector to say, "Look, I, the professional inspector, don't think it's necessary to shut the plant down, have me get in a car and drive for four or five hours and go out and see a site that I know is not unsafe. My time would be better spent going to a site that I think is unsafe." But no, we can't do that. Why? Because the opposition has to hold this up for three days so they can put another time allocation tick on their belts. That's why we're doing this. The rest of this stuff is so innocuous.

WHMIS: section 36 -- this is what's in this bill, folks -- requiring the employer to keep an inventory of hazardous substances in the workplace will be repealed. Section 36 was passed -- as I see my friends from Niagara and St Catharines thoroughly enraptured with my speech -- by the Liberal government, but I've got opposition members saying, "Why are you doing it? This is terrible." Section 36 was never proclaimed, ever. It was passed in 1990 under the Liberal government; 11 years later it was never proclaimed. Why wasn't it proclaimed? Because WHMIS was adopted. WHMIS is the workplace hazardous materials information system, which was more comprehensive than section 36; therefore, they didn't need to pass section 36. We didn't need it.

But we're going to spend four days arguing about, "Why are you taking out section 36?" so you can put another tick in your belt that you had another time allocation motion, rather than talking about something I know the member wanted to talk about, bills that he thinks are more important, for the member for St Catharines. But that's not important in here. We live in a bubble. What's more important is, "We forced the government to pass another time allocation motion, and they're the most undemocratic government in the history of mankind because they passed 17 more time allocation motions than I ever passed when I was in government."

Mr Caplan: At least you admit it.

Hon Mr Stockwell: I say to the member for Don Valley East, and I'm going to try again because I know you're a student who wants to learn, what happened before and what I said in the --


Hon Mr Stockwell: It's hard to learn when you're talking.

The Acting Speaker: The member for Don Valley East, come to order.

Hon Mr Stockwell: What I was trying to tell you was that the member from Renfrew was saying earlier, what happened before was -- and when the NDP were in government they would bring in bills, like the Liberals, bills such as this. The House leaders would get together and say, "This is a nothing bill. Let's blow it through on a wink and a nod and let's get more hours of debate on Bill X." The House leaders would then negotiate how much time you'd get on Bill X and how much time in committee hearings.

Mr Caplan: You changed the standing orders.

Hon Mr Stockwell: OK, Don Valley East, I'm trying to lecture you here and I can't lecture if you keep yapping, so I've got to lecture. What happens today is that you go to negotiate --


The Acting Speaker: Order. I won't warn the member for Don Valley East again. Bring yourself to order.

Hon Mr Stockwell: What happens now with House leaders, I take it, is that there's no negotiation. There's no discussion about a bill. There's no discussion about committee time. It is all, "When are you going to move time allocation?" "Why?" "Because we're going to debate this bill, this minor bill that talks about parental issues with respect to children and talk about these minor changes to the laws" -- pardon?

Hon Mr Sterling: The Mining Act.

Hon Mr Stockwell: " -- the Mining Act, to make it safer to work in the mining industry, so we're passing regs in the Mining Act, withdraw section 36, which was never proclaimed. We want to talk about that for four days. We don't want to talk about all those meaningful bills because, if we do let you pass this and you give us six or seven or eight days' debate on those meaningful bills, then we won't have any time allocation motions to shove in your face when you move another time allocation motion."

So, do we have a responsibility? Yes, we do. I say to the members opposite, we have a responsibility. You're right. We have a responsibility to give you enough days to debate a bill that's fair and reasonable, provided bills like this and the ambulance bill take one or two days to debate. If you want to go to committee on bills like this or bills like the ambulance bill, you can go to committee. Sure. If you want to have one or two days' debate on the ambulance bill and ship it off to committee, I'm in favour. I don't mind going to committee to have a debate about that bill. But there are only so many days in the legislative calendar, you only have so many days to pass bills and you can't use it. So therefore you end up moving time allocation.

I could walk through this bill, as I've walked through Bill 69: controversial, I agree. I've walked through Bill 139: less controversial, not nearly as controversial as people made it out to be. Bill 147, employment standards: controversial, I agree. There should have been a lot more debate on that. Can't do it. Bill 139: there should have been no debate on it. It wasn't that controversial. Couldn't do it. Had to take four days. Every single bill, regardless of how controversial it is, regardless of how important it is, regardless of how it affects the lives of people in this province, gets the same amount of time and space in this place regardless of its importance to the people we purport to represent. Why? Because we've reached a stalemate among the opposition and the government. There's no trust. I agree with the member for Sarnia that there's no trust. House leaders' meetings just become, "When are you moving time allocation?" Then we move time allocation, and indignation and synthetic indignation reign supreme on the other side. "Another time allocation. The sky's falling. The world will end."

The only ones who care are you and I. Out there, they don't care. They don't. They think you're nuts. They think we're nuts. You tell them, you go out there, you go out to a meeting and you say to them, "Do you know that they've moved 22 time allocation motions?" And everybody will go, "Holy smokes, what the hell's a time allocation motion?" That's what'll happen. And you'll be indignant and say, "It means they've cut off debate on Bill 59," and they'll go, "Holy smokes, what's the hell's Bill 59?"


Mr Bradley: They don't know because you've rushed it through.

Hon Mr Stockwell: There. See? It never ends. He's partisan from the day he was born to the day he dies. He's convinced somebody cares besides him and possibly his sister. But that's it. So when actually a bill comes forward that is meaningful, that should get eight or nine or 10 days' debate where we should have a give-and-take, that should go to committee, you can't because you've got to pass these kinds of bills and they take as much time.

Mr Bradley: There's always a hostage in them.

Hon Mr Stockwell: There's always a hostage? What's the hostage in this bill, I say to Mr Bradley? What's the hostage in the ambulance bill to stop us from saying, "One or two days' debate and go to committee"? What's the hostage? You get your time at committee. You get your opportunity for amendments. I was prepared to go. I made the offer. "No, we want you to move time allocation." "Why?" "I don't know. We just always want you to move time allocation."

Interjection: "That's what we're supposed to do."

Hon Mr Stockwell: "That's our job. We're the official opposition, and the official opposition means, `We want you to move time allocation.'"

Here we go: four days' debate on Bill 57. The most controversial part of this bill, I admit, comes from labour, that says a professional inspector, a civil servant, who gets a complaint about an unsafe workplace may determine in their own mind, "I can hear their complaint by phone or fax or e-mail rather than going to the site every single time." We will be here for four days discussing that most controversial piece of legislation.

The sad reality is that members will stand up and talk about it and they'll have no idea what they're talking about because they'll be given a note and they'll be asked to read the note. I sat in that chair. The beauty of sitting in that chair is that you sit there and listen. You listen to everybody's speech. The problem is, once you've heard one, you've heard them all. There's nothing new offered. The rhetoric and hyperbole are the same. Then there's a time allocation motion and then my friend for St Catharines stands up and screams, "This is the most offensive government in the history of mankind. This is their 27th time allocation motion, and we as a government only moved 16 and the NDP moved 22." If any of them ever get in the government and the same rules apply, they'll be doing the same thing on time allocation that we did.

Interjection: God forbid they do.

Hon Mr Stockwell: And God forbid we do the same thing in opposition. But I get the sense we're in a downward spiral, because that downward spiral only adds up to one thing: we, my friends, all my friends, become more and more irrelevant. Every day in this House we become more irrelevant because we end up talking about issues that nobody gives a damn about, and we start pushing other issues that people actually care about out the door in the same amount of time as we do issues that nobody gives a damn about.

As I said in the beginning, I think this is as much our fault as your fault. I don't suggest the blame is solely on you. It's not; it's on both of us. I'm not so sure it's repairable, because I'm not so sure we're ever going to get back to a stage where anyone trusts anybody. But the sad reality is, we may one day be there and you may one day be here, and it's exactly the same thing happening. You changed the rules; you moved time allocation motions. The NDP changed the rules and they moved time allocation motions. The Conservatives changed the rules and we moved time allocation motions. All that happens is that the speeches absolutely reverse. What used to be fair and reasonable is now an indignant affront to the democratic process, and the rotation just goes on.

I'm going to say that this is a non-controversial piece of legislation. It's a reasoned and thoughtful approach to remove honest red tape from government. It's also a thoughtful approach to create better government for the people we're supposed to work for. This shouldn't take four days to debate.

Mr Bradley: Who's in charge, though, is right here.

Hon Mr Stockwell: I say to the member opposite from St Catharines that he has never, ever disappointed me in that he has uttered at one point in his life every cliché ever known to mankind.

I have no doubt in my mind that regardless of how innocuous, innocent and sincere this legislation may be, we will sit here for four days and prove to the people of the province of Ontario exactly how irrelevant we are.

Mr Garfield Dunlop (Simcoe North): I'm pleased to speak in support of the Government Efficiency Act and the potential benefits this bill contains for Ontario residents.

As my colleague has said previously, Bill 57 continues the government's fight to combat red tape and the unnecessary rules and regulations that stifle job creation and place barriers to business growth. Red tape stifles business. It takes up valuable time and energy, it discourages economic growth and job creation. It also gets in the way of government providing efficient, speedy and ultimately cost-effective services to business and to the public.

My colleague the Minister of Consumer and Business Services has made the point that the Government Efficiency Act would protect some stakeholder groups from potentially unfair rules. He mentioned the Tenant Protection Act and the Children's Law Reform Act. Those are two examples of fair rules that will serve members of the public.

My colleague the Minister of Labour mentioned that public safety would be increased thanks to an amendment to the Highway Traffic Act that would make it mandatory to suspend the licence of a driver fleeing from police.

The proposed changes in the Government Efficiency Act, 2001, are the result of our listening to the voices from the public and business that called for fair rules and efficient and easy-to-understand services. This bill does just that.

There is no doubt that in the last six years Ontario has experienced one of the most impressive periods of economic growth not only in the history of the province but in the history of the whole country. This was done in large part because of the creativity and drive of small businesses.

When this government took office six years ago, it recognized that taxes were too high, bureaucracy was too big and that red tape was strangling the initiative and the innovation of business people across our province. Our program of lower taxes, balanced budgets and elimination of unnecessary red tape has restored economic health and prosperity to the province of Ontario. We must continue on this road. We must continue to exercise vigilance and to remove barriers to growth wherever they exist. That's why it is important to develop an environment conducive to job creation and not to let unnecessary red tape build up and spoil job creation.

Since June 1995, we have passed 13 red tape reduction bills, repealed more than 50 outdated acts, amended more than 200 acts and eliminated more than 17 unnecessary regulations. With this Government Efficiency Act, we continue the work our government started six years ago. We are doing it because this government understands the enormous contribution that small business makes to job creation and because it understands the need for the public to have clear and consistent rules and regulations.

Our government has introduced a host of changes over the last six years aimed at solving the aching problems of excessive red tape. It is a long process, but we are keeping up the fight and we will continue to do so. We have seen some evidence that we are on the right track, in fact that we are leading the way, as a study by the World Bank has indicated that the Ontario jurisdiction is the one where businesses face the fewest ordeals and barriers when starting up. We want to extend that success to all levels of businesses and to all residents of the province.

There are many other changes in this bill designed to improve customer service and streamline government operations for greater efficiency. One of them is the amendment to some environmental statutes. This bill would make it an offence for anyone to give false information to the Ministry of the Environment, its employees or its agents under several environmental statutes. This is a reason why it is necessary to add third parties to the list of those to whom it is an offence to provide false statements.

For a number of years, the Ministry of the Environment has recognized the need to work with others to find practical, cost-effective ways to strengthen environmental protection programs.


For example, new innovative approaches have been developed and have made it important to ensure that accurate information is provided to those partners involved in delivering the environmental protection program. This proposal will help strengthen the enforceability of such an environmental protection program. For instance, the Ministry of the Environment's Drive Clean program is delivered by several third-party contractors who are to fulfill requirements set by the ministry but who are not considered to be crown agents. Test facilities require accurate information about the motor vehicles to be tested, such as the identity and address of the owner and various other details about the vehicle. Additionally, these facilities did not submit test results directly to the crown but to another contractor who maintains the database for the program. As the Ministry of Transportation relies on this database in making licensing decisions, it is clear that information submitted to the database must be very accurate.

While it is anticipated that most of these situations can be addressed by the general language of the act, this proposal also includes the power to make regulations so that partners involved in the delivery of programs can be clearly identified. The bill also contains an amendment to authorize the Minister of the Environment to establish and require the payment of administrative fees in respect of matters under the Environmental Protection Act, the Ontario Water Resources Act and the Pesticides Act.

The ministry has addressed the concerns of the public and the regulated community by making a commitment to ensure adequate public consultation and accountability for future fee-setting initiatives. All fee changes established by the new powers of the minister would include thorough public and stakeholder consultations, including posting on the Environmental Bill of Rights registry, in addition to receiving appropriate government approvals.

The regulated community and the public were informed of the commitment from the Ministry of the Environment to undertake adequate consultation on future fee-setting initiatives through the posting of this proposal on the environmental registry for 30 days, which ended on March 14, 2001. It is necessary to replace regulations for fees with general provisions for the minister to establish fees. It is a question of fair rule, fair practice and consistent government policy.

This proposal is in keeping with the government's commitment to improve efficiency by replacing regulation-making powers with the minister's authority to set and collect approved administrative fees. Other ministries use similar fee structures. For example, the Ministry of Natural Resources uses a fee structure in its fish and wildlife licences. It is also used in the Aggregate Resources Act and in 23 acts administered by the Ministry of Consumer and Business Services. It is clear that using the minister's authority to set and collect approved administration fees would streamline the decision-making process, but it would also maintain an appropriate level of accountability and it would facilitate fee adjustments when needed to ensure accurate service cost recovery.

Under this bill, it is proposed to add a new section, 125.1, to the Ontario Energy Board Act to allow the Ontario Energy Board to levy penalties on licence holders who do not comply with the terms of their licence. These penalties would be appealed to the Ontario Energy Board for a hearing. The prime purpose of this legislative change is to give the Ontario Energy Board the ability to issue penalties for utilities and other participants who are not meeting timelines for retail testing in order to open the electricity market.

A second benefit is that it helps to reinforce the Ontario Energy Board's mandate to protect consumers. Under current legislation, the only recourse the OEB has to deal with non-compliance is to revoke a gas or electricity participant's licence. Since such action might disrupt the market, only extreme cases would actually warrant it. Under this amendment, the director of licensing would be able to impose an administrative penalty on gas or electricity companies where they fail to obtain a licence or do not comply with the terms of the licence, including violating the Ontario Energy Board's code of conduct for gas and electricity marketers. The director of licensing would have the power to levy a fine of up to $10,000 for each day or part of a day on which the contravention occurred or continues.

For electricity, this legislative change would strengthen the Ontario Energy Board's ability to ensure the timelines for market opening are met and the participants will be ready to compete on market opening day. It puts all energy marketers on a level playing field and ensures the rules are clear and fair for everyone wanting to participate in Ontario's energy markets. It also reinforces the board's ability to protect consumers from unfair practices by any gas or electricity marketer.

The bill contains amendments to the Crown Forest Sustainability Act that would clarify the definition of "crown forest" under this act. Specifically, the bill would revise the definition of "crown forest" to include forest on lands owned by provincial government agencies other than the Ministry of Natural Resources. Another amendment would authorize the minister to approve amendments to forest resource licences where such amendments comply with existing land use and forest management plans and when both the minister and the licensee agree in writing. This amendment streamlines the legislative process to regulate changes to forest resources licences.

I would like to stress that these changes remain bound to follow existing land use and forest management planning processes that are based on extensive public consultations. The minister can approve amendments only when the companies involved are in agreement.

Under this bill, the Conservation Authorities Act would be amended to update provisions for municipal representation on conservation authorities in order to reflect the results of municipal restructuring.

Finally, the bill would include a hiatus amendment to the Family Responsibility and Support Arrears Enforcement Act, 1996. The purpose of this amendment is to clarify that arrears which have accumulated between the time a support order is withdrawn from the FRO up to the point where the order is subsequently re-filed are enforceable by that office. Under this act, a support order can be withdrawn from the Family Responsibility Office if both the payer and the recipient agree in writing to that withdrawal. There is also provision under the act that one of the parties can opt back into the Family Responsibility Office. This opt-back often occurs when the payer defaults on the support obligation set out in that order. The period between the initial opt-out and opting back to the Family Responsibility Office is commonly referred to as the hiatus period.

I had a little more prepared, but I'd like to turn it over now to the member for Peterborough.

Mr R. Gary Stewart (Peterborough): It is indeed my pleasure to be able to speak to the Government Efficiency Act, 2001, which is a continuation of the Ontario government's battle for good government. I want to just make a comment. The words "efficiency" and "accountability" are used quite regularly in this House. The unfortunate part about it is that there are a lot of people in this House who do not know what efficiency and accountability are. It has been proven in the past and it will, unfortunately, possibly continue in the future.

It was interesting today, and I want to compliment the member from Etobicoke Centre who was talking about working together. I happened to be in Kemptville today at a meeting on rural economic development in which there were about 25 participants. One of the things they kept saying was, why can't levels of government work together? Why can't the opposition parties in government work together to make this province better? But no, "If we're in opposition, then everything is wrong." I suggest to you that people out there, as the member from Etobicoke Centre suggests, are getting fed up. They're also getting fed up with not truthfully knowing what is happening up here because of some of the rhetoric that's being used.

The bill, I believe, is consistent with the speech from the throne in April and the promises to streamline government and to remove barriers to jobs, investment and growth. That's what it's all about. That's what it has to be about if we're going to continue to make Ontario the province that we want it to be. It has always been the focal point of business; it has been the economic engine of this great country. We've got to continue to do that.

This bill contains changes that will help to move things along. As the member from Simcoe North, or Simcoe Centre, said -- my apologies, Mr Dunlop. Simcoe Centre?

Mr Dunlop: North.

Mr Stewart: North, sorry. As he suggested, there is red tape. I've been in business for a good number of years, and I can tell you that one of the biggest impediments to business, whether it be small, large or I suppose even within your own home -- to expand your house or build additions to it, whatever it might be -- red tape seems to rear its ugly head many, many times. If we are going to continue to move the engine along and keep the engine going, we want to make sure that red tape is eliminated. That's one of the priorities of this government, and it will continue to be.

Some of the changes -- I'm just going to mention two or three of them -- are designed to eliminate unnecessary requirements, clarify sections of statutes and simplify the process.


The bill includes several provisions that would remove out-of-date barriers. I've always been a great believer that when we put in legislation, we should have sunset clauses in it, to go back and revisit on a periodic basis to make sure that it is still working as it reflects on the time and on the future. We've got to revisit to make sure that things are not impeding growth, are not moving the province backwards instead of going forward. The bill, as I said, makes it easier for many stakeholders to proceed with necessary changes in their business without impediment from the government.

For example, the bill intends to modify sections 34.2 and 34.3 of the Corporations Act. These sections from the Corporations Act state that in order to permit social club corporations to convert to a business or a non-share capital corporation, unanimous consent is necessary. Surprise, surprise, you wouldn't get unanimous consent in this House if somebody higher up asked us to do just that, because that doesn't seem the way that it is to be done. Whether you believe it or not, that doesn't seem to be the way, and the unfortunate part of it is that the taxpayer of this province is the one getting the short end of the stick.

As we know, as I mentioned, unanimous consent is almost impossible to achieve. Therefore the bill intends to modify this rule. Instead of unanimous consent, the bill would change this rule into a two-thirds majority of shareholders. The rule of a majority of two thirds ensures that any move toward converting a social club corporation to a non-share capital corporation would receive the strong support of members of that particular club.

Members of social club corporations agree with the proposal, and they feel they can work with it. Isn't that what should be done? It always amazes me that politicians are supposed to know everything about everything and they are the great ones who are going to tell everybody how to do it. Unfortunately, I believe those who are involved, those who do these things are the ones who should set the standards and they should be the ones who direct it to being done the way it should be.

Another thing the bill does, for example, is change the name from the Ministry of Consumer and Commercial Relations to the Ministry of Consumer and Business Services in all statutes in which the name of the ministry appears. It's kind of unique to actually have a title of a bill that describes the bill so that the average person can understand and can identify with that particular bill. Also, it does the same with the Ontario Court (General Division) and the Ontario Court (Provincial Division), changing them to the Superior Court of Justice and the Ontario Court of Justice in all Ministry of Consumer and Business Services statutes in which the names have not yet been changed.

Again, it's called consistency. It's also called making it customer-friendly. As I wander around my riding, this is one of the problems that people have out there. We are not customer-oriented up here. We are not customer-friendly, and I think it's just about time that we changed that and tried to do it.

Also, the bill makes changes to the Ontario College of Teachers Act with the change to establish a roster of non-governing council members from which the college would draw to supplement its panels. One of the problems is that there are major holdups. There are 29 hearings, 11 of which have not yet been scheduled. Why would we not make it easier for those appeals or those hearings to be conducted? There's nothing that aggravates anybody any more than the fact that you are held up for a decision, or it goes on and on and on before people can get any type of decision.

The governing council consists of 17 elected members of the teaching profession, of which 13 are members of the Ontario Teachers' Federation. It's my understanding, and I stand to be corrected, that there are also three members on the council from the independent school systems. It's my understanding that they are not totally recognized by the teachers' federation, but indeed, as far as I'm concerned, they are qualified teachers and extremely dedicated teachers.

There are many other changes in the act, one being to guarantee safer communities and roads -- mandatory licence suspension of those convicted of fleeing from the police. Why wouldn't it be that way? Absolutely. Changes and amendments to the Lakes and Rivers Improvement Act.

I would like to go on, but the bottom line is, as the member from Etobicoke mentioned, this is really unnecessary legislation that shouldn't be debated for three or four days; it should be approved.

The Acting Speaker: The member's time is expired. Comments and questions?

Mr Caplan: There was a recurring theme through the four government speakers who spoke to Bill 57, this Government Efficiency Act. I think the last speaker put it very well. This is unnecessary legislation. That's what the last member said. Other members have said that this is innocuous, this doesn't mean anything.

I can tell you, Speaker, that we've seen red tape bill after red tape bill. I'll give you an example of one item that has been in previous red tape bills, where the government decided to change the definitions of "landlord" and "tenant." A legal standing that had existed for centuries was changed under the guise of an administrative change. So, these are not simply easy, minor, technical --


Mr Caplan: Minister of Labour, it's not in this bill. It has been in previous bills, and that's why there is a need to debate these things, to move amendments to them.

In this bill, for example, we had a couple of the members raise the fact that there are some changes to the Tenant Protection Act, which, by the way, was only proclaimed about three years ago. Here's one of the sections which I think you'll find very interesting. It says, "A landlord is entitled to compensation for the use and occupation of a rental unit by a person who is ... an unauthorized occupant of the unit." What does mean? If I'm a tenant in a particular unit and I decide to have a family member, who is not on the lease, maybe a brother or a sister from another province or another city, come and visit, under this section the landlord is entitled to compensation for that. That's a major change. That's a departure from any government policy.

There's another section: "For the purposes of subsection (3), the carrying out of repairs, maintenance and capital improvements does not constitute harassment or interference with a tenant's reasonable enjoyment of a rental unit." Why is this section in there? That has nothing to do with government efficiency.

The members of the government would have you believe that these are minor, innocuous matters --

The Acting Speaker: The member's time has expired. Comments and questions?

Mr Peter Kormos (Niagara Centre): After the chamber hears from members of the opposition, they're going to be hearing from New Democrats about this. Sure, promoting government efficiency. Like this government's efficiency in managing and supervising the water in Walkerton? Is that what this bill is about? We do have concerns about how many people are going to die as a result of this bill. Quite frankly, very specifically --

Hon Mr Stockwell: Come on, Peter.

Mr Kormos: We've got those concerns about how many people are going to die as a result of what are incredible repeals of significant rights that workers have acquired over the course of years under the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

Sorry, I have a little problem with a government that treats so cavalierly the hard-won rights of working women and men. I'm going to use, during the course of a modest one-hour -- our job is not to help the government accelerate and speed up its anti-labour agenda. Far from it. By God -- my apologies. I promised not to do that. By goodness, we have no intention of collaborating with this government in helping them pursue their agenda of attacking the trade union movement, attacking working women and men. They think that eliminating the Employment Standards Act and minimum wage laws creates efficiency. I'm afraid to say that there are a few bosses out there who would be inclined to agree with them. They think that increasing the work week to a 60-hour work week is creating efficiency. They think that beating up on working women and men, as they have over the course of the last six years, creates efficiency. Well, I've got news for them. I have no doubt that this government has supporters out there who are advocating this agenda, but I'm telling you that nobody in the New Democratic Party is going to be supporting this agenda. We're going to be doing everything we can to slow it down and fix it.


Mr John O'Toole (Durham): Earlier this evening I was listening to the remarks by the Minister of Labour saying that in the bill before us tonight based on government efficiency, most of the issues here, as you would know, deal with what we refer to as red tape or barriers that are unnecessary, and a lot of this is generally housekeeping.

I have to go back to Minister Sterling, the Minister of Consumer and Business Services, who is once again demonstrating it's doing the right thing. But the remarks I really did pay close attention to were those of the member for Simcoe North. He talked about the prosperity that Ontario is going through and has gone through for the last several years since the election of the Mike Harris government. Removing the barriers for people to create their own opportunities and to create their own initiative has to be recognized. Small business is creating, by and large, the vast majority of the number of jobs.

But the pieces of rather routine maintenance of ongoing statutes are important. The Speaker would know that there are a number of scheduled amendments in this and I, for one, would like to concentrate on a couple that some attention has been paid to, which would be in paragraph 2, the Certified General Accountants Association of Ontario: "Two or more members of the association may form a limited liability partnership or may continue a partnership as a limited liability partnership within the meaning of the Partnerships Act for the purpose of practising as a certified general accountant." Here is just one more case where small business people saw this as an obstacle, they saw it as a burden, and Minister Sterling has responded.

There's just one final comment, if I may. For the last number of days, the member for Peterborough hasn't had an appropriate opportunity to speak. It's good to see that he's back.

Mr Bradley: One of the concerns we have, of course, about any of this legislation is that there's what we would call a "hostage" in the bill. Some bills look innocuous, members would agree, and then you look carefully through the bill and you find something that is rather controversial. If only that were removed from the bill, probably in this particular case, a bill such as this, what you would find out is the bill would pass quickly. But it's usually what the government really wants. They throw it in with everything else and it's what they want.

Hon Mr Stockwell: What is it? Tell us.

Mr Bradley: Well, you have to wait for my speech a little later on.

The other thing we're worried about is the Red Tape Commission. My friend from Eglinton-Lawrence has a photograph he's going to bring down. I'm not going to hold it up any length of time because that's against the rules of the House, but there is a photograph that he has of Steve Gilchrist, our member from Scarborough, and Frank Sheehan, the former member of what was then called Lincoln, and they are the co-chairs of the Red Tape Commission. That's got to be scary, even for members on the government benches, to see that those two individuals, whose views are pretty far right, would be in charge of dismantling certain pieces of legislation and dismantling certain regulations which were there to protect the environment and health. I would say even the Solicitor General would be shaking a bit at the thought that two people whose views are very, very far to the right -- even further than the Solicitor General's -- would be in charge of that. That's why we worry. We see who's in charge of the Red Tape Commission and, as I'll outline when I get into my full address this evening, the Red Tape Commission has far more power than even some government backbenchers would recognize.

The Acting Speaker: The minister has two minutes to respond.

Hon Mr Sterling: I did lead off this debate talking about the need to conserve legislative time for issues that have a higher political significance and make a real difference for the people of Ontario in the hope that bills like this would see some kind of speedier passage than has been the norm for the opposition.

I found that when I was in opposition, I had a greater opportunity to really move forward in terms of making this a better place for debate. I served as the negotiator for our party during many of the standing order changes. We were able to change some things and to improve how this Legislature functions. Unfortunately, when you're on the government side, you have a job to do. You have the responsibility of governing, and therefore you are limited in some ways as to the time constraints that you are under to pass legislation, to get things fixed, to get it actually done and those kinds of things.

So I was disheartened that the opposition perhaps are going to press for three full days of debate and another day on the time allocation motion, because I think that is destructive, as the member for Etobicoke Centre said. It's destructive to not only to us, the government -- and sure, you're going to play these up as some major changes in legislation. I don't believe you, but you will say that. In the end it won't make a difference, because the act will pass. But if you do have constructive suggestions, this government will listen if in fact they are put forward with genuine intent.

The Acting Speaker: Further debate?

Mr Mike Colle (Eglinton-Lawrence): I wish to share my time with my colleagues from Sarnia and the garden city, St Catharines. They will share time with me.

Fundamentally, one of the things that we on this side find objectionable about the way this government undertakes such so-called innocuous pieces of legislation is that the public finds out too late sometimes the impact of some of these changes. I'm sure the government probably brought in a team of, who knows, 30 or 40 lawyers and consultants to draft this piece of legislation that will affect the people of Ontario, whether you're driving a car, whether you're in any workplace, workplace insurance. The Ministry of Labour Act is amended. There are dozens and dozens of acts that are affected. The Environmental Assessment Act is changed.

These are acts which may not seem to be impacting on people today, but we've found out in the past that sometimes the most so-called minor changes impact dramatically. In fact, the Canadian Environmental Law Association, commenting on the Red Tape Commission this past year, said that next to the cuts directly to the Ministry of the Environment, the Red Tape Commission probably did more harm to the environmental protection of this province than any other agency.

They did it by stealth. They did it in a way whereby ordinary people, ordinary citizens of Ontario, don't have the time to go through all the legislation to find out how this impacts their drinking water, how this impacts their safety in the workplace. There's very little opportunity for the people of Ontario. So what happens is this new body that the government has set up, supposedly arm's-length from government, with a defeated ex-member here, Frank Sheehan, and another member, Mr Gilchrist, is now going to be making critical decisions about the future health of this province and of people in all walks of life.

You wonder, do ordinary people ever have input into the Red Tape Commission? What's the process? We know for sure that the motto of the Red Tape Commission is, "Getting government out of the way of business." That's their motto.

Mr Bradley: Just like getting the Ministry of the Environment out of your face.

Mr Colle: That's exactly it. The member says it's just like getting the Ministry of the Environment out of the way because it slows things down. It wants to put in regulations. Of all days, when the government members stand up and talk about getting government out of the way of business or reducing government oversight, they call government oversight and government safety protection "red tape." This is the attitude of this government.


We saw today that five ministers were given direct warning about a change made in stealth by this government with regard to protecting water in this province which ordinary citizens never had a say over. You can see the dramatic consequences of that so-called red tape change, irregularities in water quality reports to the Ontario chief medical officer of health. That was a change done by this government, and this is the government that says, "Don't worry about these minor changes. That's not going to impact on you. Pass this." They're telling us today, "Just pass this today. Why even debate it?"

Well, we on this side of the House think the public deserves the right to get some information about what's in all these changes. It's difficult enough for the opposition, which is supposed to be the watchdog of the government, to do it. The ordinary citizens who are going to be impacted by the Lakes and Rivers Improvement Act -- what kind of input have they got from citizens on that? The Conservation Authorities Act: as you know, this government has cut the conservation authorities' budgets in half. They fired 700 people in the Ministry of the Environment. Who is there to make sure that the citizens of Ontario have those protections if you have a Ministry of the Environment and conservation authorities across this province that are gutted by this government? Who is looking after those interests that belong to the citizens of Ontario? They don't belong to this government. This government thinks they bought the province. You don't own the province. The province is owned by the citizens of this great province. It's not owned by business either.

This should be all about making things more accountable, more transparent for the people of Ontario so they can understand the checks and balances. This piece of legislation has a lot of technical changes which we don't dispute. What we do dispute is that there is never sufficient warning, advice or conferring done with ordinary citizens to ask them what they think and to explain to citizens what they think these changes are all about. The government unilaterally, with this kangaroo court commission, the duct tape commission, goes around making these changes --


Mr Colle: Yes, the Red Tape Commission. They consult with Red Green, perhaps, to find out how they should manage this province.

Rather than have a commission that works behind closed doors, why don't they bring in people who are affected by these changes, for instance, all the tenants in this province? There are a number of changes affecting tenants in this legislation. I wonder how many days of public meetings they had with ordinary tenants to give their input on how this bill affects their quality of life, their enjoyment of their property.

There is one piece of this legislation that deals with ongoing maintenance work that takes place in rental accommodation and the processes to make sure this goes smoothly for business. We know automatically that this government is not going to make sure that those construction activities, which sometimes go on all night -- we had a building in my riding at St Clair and Yonge where for two years they used jackhammers, supposedly retrofitting the balconies in a 30-storey apartment building. The tenants tried to deal with this issue. They were unsuccessful. I wonder whether the change in this legislation is done as a result of the tenants' demands to have some rights in this situation or whether this government follows its directive here: getting government out of the way of business.

If the Red Tape Commission, which is the father or mother, whatever it is, of this legislation -- there's the Red Tape Commission: Mr Frank Sheehan, Mr Steve Gilchrist. They are the fathers of this piece of legislation. They said they're here to protect business. What in this legislation and who in the Red Tape Commission are there to protect ordinary citizens of this province? Whether they're people who enjoy our conservation areas across this province, whether they enjoy clean drinking water, whether they enjoy safe highways, who is there on the Red Tape Commission to protect the interests of Ontario citizens? That's the question I'd like the minister to answer. Maybe there's a third person here somewhere to protect citizens. Where is that third person? We know these two who run the Red Tape Commission are here to protect business interests. What about the other 99% of Ontarians, the ordinary taxpaying, law-abiding citizens? Where in this legislation are their protections enhanced?

In the area of workplace safety, they say now inspectors can inspect by phone; they don't have to even show up to inspect the workplace. Did they consult with ordinary workers about this change? Then they say we don't have to have this inspection of biological substances, dangerous chemicals in the workplace. We don't have to have that inspection done by Ontario any more, because Mr Gilchrist and Mr Sheehan said, "Hey, business says you don't have to do that any more. No more inspection by the Ministry of the Environment of this province."

This fits in with their agenda. Their agenda is about saying that the Ministry of the Environment, which they used to laugh about here for the first three or four years -- I remember every time it was, "We've got to get rid of that ministry." They did. Now they're pretending to be green. I even saw the minister on a bicycle today, God help us. They're trying to blank out what they've done systemically in gutting environmental protection in this province for the last six years. They've gutted protections, whether it be in the condition of soil or water or the ability of conservation authorities to have the money to inspect. The Ministry of Natural Resources, which is supposed to be a guardian of protection of our natural wildlife and our ecosystem, our bioregions, has no budget left, basically.

All the protections that are supposed to be there to allow citizens and their children to enjoy this great province are now going to be more compromised, because this government does whatever it can to tilt the balance in favour of their business friends. Ironically, it's usually big business. Small business people are not their friends. They're the ones paying a disproportionate amount of the load in this province.

We can look at another example, which I see no reference to in this bill -- again, they delve into act after act after act: the Liquor Licence Act, the Ministry of Consumer and Commercial Relations Act, the Vintners Quality Alliance Act, the Marriage Act, whatever. Some of them may be innocuous, some of them may be good, but some of them may be dangerous, because I don't trust this government after what they've done for six years to safety protection in this province. This is something we have to be very, very skeptical about. So if we in opposition question what is going on here, it's because we've seen this group in action.

This group said they were going to restructure hospitals. They closed down hospitals in reckless, rapid-fire fashion, closed down six emergency rooms in the city of Toronto and said, "Trust us. This is all good for business. It's good for the bottom line, closing all these emergencies." You can see what has happened. After spending hundreds of millions of dollars, they can't put the thing back together again. We have an emergency backlog, we have doctors quitting, we have directors of hospitals quitting all over the place, because this government is reckless and listens only to special interests. It doesn't listen to the sick and the elderly, the ones who now can't get any home care.

It doesn't listen to the ones who can't get any housing. There are 60,000 people in Toronto waiting for affordable housing because this government ravaged tenant protections in this province. It stripped it bare. They've decontrolled, so as soon as an apartment becomes vacant in Ontario now -- Ottawa, Toronto -- the landlord can raise the rent to whatever he or she wants. So you've had an affordable apartment, $800; when that person moves out, 24 hours later it's $1,200 for the same apartment, no changes. That's happening right across the province.

Another change this government made in tenant protection -- and this bill talks about tenant protection, supposedly, and changing the Landlord and Tenant Act. They also, as they do in this bill, get rid of some regulations and they also abolish some acts, saying they are unnecessary.


One of the acts this government did by stealth is it removed -- we had an act passed, I think it was 1987; it might have been a little earlier -- the Rental Housing Protection Act, which they repealed in one of their many bills like this. It was an act whereby a developer could not bulldoze an existing affordable rental housing unit or could not convert that existing affordable housing unit into luxury condominiums. That was prohibited by law. This government says, "We listen to business, and they say that it is good to basically bulldoze affordable housing."

What has happened across this province -- it is happening certainly in my riding -- is the bulldozers are out. They're bulldozing very good affordable housing units, mostly lived in by seniors on fixed incomes.

They didn't listen to the seniors who live in the affordable units; they listened to the big business friends who said, "Oh, this is red tape. Repeal that Rental Housing Protection Act." Repeal they did, because they didn't listen to the tenants. They didn't listen to people with low incomes or fixed incomes; they listened to the Red Tape Commission friends, big business, and they are now bulldozing, at an incredible rate, affordable housing and replacing it with condominiums that are only for those who have significant income, not for ordinary Ontarians who can basically get by on paying their bills.

There's another thing this government is missing in action in, and I was looking all through this legislation -- by the way, I thank the minister for his staff. They did give us the opportunity to consult with some staffers. I appreciate the minister did make time available for that. Door to door in this province, whether you're in beautiful Kingsville, whether you're in Aldershot or whether you're in Barry's Bay, there are these friends of Mr Sheehan and Mr Gilchrist going around. They're knocking on doors. They've got these contracts. They want you to sign contracts to give away, to some door-to-door salesperson, their hard-earned money for the so-called new electricity contracts or gas contracts. And the poor citizens of Ontario, especially the seniors and people who don't have English as a first language, don't know what is being sold at the door.

There isn't even a hint of a government interested in protecting those seniors who are signing these contracts. Even if you ask experts in the industry, they don't know what the implications are of signing these five-year contracts from these door-to-door salespeople. They're selling electricity now or selling long-term gas contracts.

This is where the government should be there protecting consumers, protecting citizens, and I'm not even saying that all these people are there to scam them, because really nobody knows. I'm saying the government should be issuing information directives. They should maybe use some of that $200 million they use on television advertising to inform people about the pros and cons of signing these long-term energy contracts -- not a whisper, no mention -- no pamphlets, no television ads, no radio ads, no news conferences.

Today we had, I think, six ministers' news conferences all over the place; scrambling like a bunch of squirrels, news conferences everywhere you looked. Not one of them had a news conference about these door-to-door energy salesmen. You know and the members across know; they're getting the same phone calls we are. What does it mean when we sign these contracts? Interestingly enough, on the back of those contracts, in the fine print, there's one line that says, "You forgo your rebate if you sign the contract."

There is not a mention from this government whether this is something that is recommended, whether it is viable financially for that consumer. The consumer has to make a decision. It is no longer about paying a $30-a-month gas bill or electricity bill any more. As you know, some of these heating bills have gone up to $200, $300. When that person signs that energy bill, they're making a very serious financial commitment. And in this legislation there isn't a hint of any kind of protection for citizens. Businesses, especially big business, usually can hire their own lawyers or lobbyists. I'm sure the lawyers and lobbyists are in to see Mr Sheehan and Mr Gilchrist 24 hours a day.

When will we have a citizens' commission? Never mind the duct tape commission; we want a citizens' commission that will advise the government on how to better protect the citizens. God forbid. Can you imagine that? Can you imagine this government actually having a citizens' commission whereby they would protect the water we drink, they would protect our parks, they would protect our farmland from being swallowed up? There is no citizens' commission, because this government has made its deal with special interests, the ones that can hire the most expensive lobbyists.

As my friend from Aldershot said, "This is the no-fault government." Everything that happens -- it happened in Walkerton, it happened to housing, it happens on the highways -- wherever it happens, it's never their fault; it's always someone else's fault. That's why the Mike Harris government should be known as the no-fault government. Today we had an example where five ministers had an opportunity to stand up and say, "We made a mistake. We should have listened to the chief medical officer of health." Not one of them stood up and said there was a mistake that one of the five of them made by not protecting citizens' interests when it comes to safety and protection of essential things that people in Ontario have a right to share and to have.

Thank you very much, Mr Speaker. I'll hand it over to my colleague from that beautiful town, the home of that great golfer, Mike Weir.

The Acting Speaker: You are done? I wasn't sure. You said one thing and did another.


The Acting Speaker: Fair enough; thank you for your comments. The Chair now recognizes the member for Sarnia-Lambton.

Ms Caroline Di Cocco (Sarnia-Lambton): Thank you, Speaker. It must been that whole notion of Mike Weir that continued the debate a little further than had been anticipated.

I thank the speaker from Eglinton-Lawrence, my colleague, because he makes some quite astounding observations. They're observations of the reality that is faced day in and day out by the citizens of Ontario. This bill contains more than 120 items from 15 ministry statutes. Now, as has been discussed before, the government members were saying we shouldn't even be debating this bill because it's a routine bill that should just be passed automatically. Unfortunately, I believe that even with the members who have been here before my time, it has been shown that the Harris government has introduced many types of bills like this, but these bills are not what they appear to be. Therefore, I suggest that when the Minister of Labour was saying that we just want to spend time debating bills that are non-relevant, I would like to say they are relevant in the context of spending a lot of time debating.

Unfortunately, you have a government that doesn't want to debate bills, period. They would like to suggest that they know what's best for everyone, without hearing another side of the story, and that seems to be the way they do business. This is an omnibus bill.

Mr Bradley: Ominous.

Ms Di Cocco: An ominous bill? OK, it probably is. The Caledon Institute made some observations about the Harris government and their omnibus bills. In 1995, as the members who were here before know, the Ontario government introduced Bill 26 at that time. I believe it was called the Savings and Restructuring Act. Again, this legislation was far-reaching and it affected, I guess, 47 acts in the Legislature and it was more than 2,000 pages long.


What I want to say is that the legislation of this genre that the Harris government consistently brings to this Parliament or to this Legislature laid the foundation for many other bills, such as the megacity bill, and this also covered areas of health care, pay equity, municipal affairs, public employees' contract, environmental laws, freedom of information laws. It gave the Minister of Health authority to close and force mergers, and the government was authorized to set up the Health Services Restructuring Commission and all of that. The Minister of Health could eliminate hospital boards, take over hospitals in order to shut them down, merge hospitals and decide on what services would be provided.

So you'll have to excuse us in this part of the House if we question bills that in the past were considered routine bills, there to adjust, housekeeping bills. It has come to pass, through the track record of the Harris Conservatives, that there's no such thing as a housekeeping bill, because inadvertently -- or as my friend from St Catharines suggested, often there are all kinds of little acts put into these bills that at first glance appear not to affect us too much, but then in the end have great implications.

Mr Bradley: They're called hostages.

Ms Di Cocco: You call them hostage bills. Exactly.

I'm going to go back to the initial bill in 1995, because that's where this precedent was set and continued for the next six years until today. The omnibus bill gave huge powers to the minister at that time, and the range of public life the legislation affected was just extraordinary, yet the government made no provision for public hearings.

What isn't talked about a lot is the notion of the omnibus bill in the context of our British parliamentary system. Our system is one in which government has considerable power as long as it can keep a majority in caucus. One of the only real checks on the power of government is the legislative process itself, supposedly requiring even the most ruthless government to submit to parliamentary debate on each legislative initiative. Many Canadian governments have introduced these omnibus bills, and they were careful to ensure that only housekeeping matters were dealt with in such bills, unlike this one. I speak to this fact because your omnibus bills, as started off with Bill 26, are a way for the government to abuse its power. That's how these omnibus bills seem to be used in this Legislature. There are a lot of examples of that.

I have to say that by the traditional rules of the Legislature, my understanding is that many times the omnibus bill should have been ruled inadmissible by the Speaker, especially when it was changing --

Mr Ernie Hardeman (Oxford): Careful now.

Ms Di Cocco: Yes. Look, this is my understanding. The government should have been required to break up that bill into individual components and pass each one separately. I'm saying that in the context of your style of omnibus bills.

This bill, called a government efficiency bill, the Minister of Labour and some of the government caucus members have stated is a reasoned and thoughtful approach to government and this is why we have this government efficiency bill. I would suggest that efficiency, without measuring effectiveness, is driving blind. You just cut for the sake of cuts. Your efficiency and your elimination of red tape, as I have interpreted through your past track record, deal mainly with protecting the interests of business, not protecting the interests of the public. That has been shown over and over again in very specific examples.

I just wanted to speak to this whole issue of trust in this Legislature and your style of bringing legislation forth in such rapid-fire fashion because you don't want the different pieces of legislation to be debated, particularly in this case, when we are amending the health and safety act in a way that I would say is going to undermine health and safety.

This is all I'm going to speak on, the whole issue of your omnibus bills and my interpretation -- and others' -- of what you have done to the legislative process in introducing these types of bills. Yes, we will debate your bills consistently, even though you tell us they're housekeeping bills, because unfortunately we on this side of the House feel compelled to hold you accountable and to protect the public interest.

The member for St Catharines now will finish the debate on this matter.

Mr Bradley: Thank you very much for the opportunity to address this particular act. I agree with much of what my colleagues have had to say, but let me tell you why, when we talk about red tape, I'm particularly concerned.

I think every government tries to look at the legislation and regulations that are on the books, determine which are outdated and which are not of particular use and try to remove those, as long as they do not adversely impact upon the health and safety of the people of the province, if I can put it in that broad context. This government, however, had a different approach. One of the great concerns is a concern that one of my previous colleagues mentioned, and that is the people who are in charge.

I'm looking at a publication that says, "Canadian Government Executive, a magazine for Canada's public sector decision-makers"; "Ontario's Red Tape Commission," and it has a photograph of Steve Gilchrist and a photograph of Frank Sheehan. I don't think any fair-minded, objective-minded person in this House would consider either one of those individuals to be a moderate when it comes to the role of government in our society. There are some moderates on the government benches; there are some who are much less moderate. In fact, I think the word "zealot," which is certainly permitted in this House, would not be too aggressive a term to describe these two individuals -- one now a defeated politician, one an elected politician, though no longer in the cabinet -- given this specific responsibility. It says, "Co-chairs Steve Gilchrist and Frank Sheehan getting government out of the way of business."

That's what was so frightening when you look at the testimony taking place at the commission in Walkerton that's looking into the sad tragedy of seven people losing their lives by drinking the water, because there are numerous references made to the Red Tape Commission. Most people in Ontario don't know it exists, but for those who do know it exists, I think a lot of them are beginning to understand just how much power that commission had in terms of advising the government on regulatory, legislative and policy changes which would impact, in my view adversely, on health and safety in this province, all in the name of getting the Ministry of the Environment out of your face, if you will.

That was kind of a promise that was made to some of the people who didn't like the Ministry of the Environment. Some of the government candidates who ran back in 1995 said, "Look, we'll get the Ministry of the Environment out of your face. Don't worry. We know they're onerous in their regulatory regime. We know some of that legislation is difficult for you. We know their inspectors and other staff can be a nuisance to you, so we'll look after that." Well, I'm going to tell you, that's one promise that was kept: to get the Ministry of the Environment out of polluters' faces. The consequences were dire for this province.


Just today there was further evidence that came forth that Dr Richard Schabas, who was the director of the public health branch and chief medical officer of health for Ontario, sent a memorandum to Ronald T. Sapsford, assistant deputy minister, institutional branch and community services in the Ministry of Health, where he indicated his great concern about some changes that were being made to legislation and to regulations. The reason I draw that to the House's attention tonight is that those are the kinds of changes that were recommended by the Red Tape Commission.

So when we hear talk of a red tape bill before this House, the government might excuse us if we're just a little concerned that there may be more to the legislation than meets the eye, because Dr Schabas said to the assistant deputy minister in the Ministry of Health the following: "The concern is that there is no legal requirement in MOEE legislation for reporting of adverse drinking water test results from municipal water treatment plant owners/operators to the local medical officer of health, for investigation. In my view, this is a serious oversight. With the transition of financial responsibility for MOEE and local boards of health...during January 1998 and with the private laboratory testing of drinking water from water treatment plants, we need assurances that adverse test results will be sent to the health unit for follow-up activities."

The point I am making and get back to again is that the Red Tape Commission had so much power within government, or at least if it didn't have power in a statutory sense, let's say, it had so much influence in this government that it prompted the government or encouraged the government to weaken legislation and to weaken regulations. That's all in the atmosphere, all within the context of the government wanting to cut as much as possible from every budget in every ministry in order to fund a tax cut which would benefit the wealthiest people in this province the most. So there were two obsessions: one was with having to deliver a tax cut, and the second obsession was with getting government out of your face or reducing the size and influence of government. Those two obsessions had dire consequences for this province. I am suggesting that when opposition members get up to look at legislation of the kind we have before us tonight, it's in that context.

I know some of the testimony that has already taken place at the Walkerton inquiry has made some reference to the Red Tape Commission. For instance, it is discussing the commission's 1997 final report, where environment and labour dominate the report's focus. Yet on the commission's Web site there is a listing of the commission's successes. We note that in the Red Tape Commission's own listing of "red tape reduction successes," environment and labour are nowhere to be seen, despite the fact they are recognized as the top two areas of focus for the commission. That's rather interesting to see, that while the commission looked at all government agencies, while it looked at all branches of government, while it looked at all ministries, it concentrated on labour and on the environment.

In the testimony, it talks about the final report of the Red Tape Review Commission, January 1997. It is mentioned here, "And in terms of emphasis, we saw there's about 20 pages of this report directed toward the Ministry of the Environment and Energy, which is far in excess of any other ministry. I think the next closest one is the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, which takes up 12 pages of the report."

The question was asked, "Did you ... have the understanding that the Ministry of the Environment and Energy was singled out or particularly the focus of the Red Tape Review Commission in terms of its efforts?"

Daniel Cayen of the ministry said, "They had identified in that report that the Ministry of Labour was number one and that environmental regulations and so on ... were somewhere down in second place, further down than the Ministry of Labour."

I guess the point I'm making is that they were the targets. Particularly if you look at the Ministry of the Environment and its health responsibilities, because there is a spillover into health, you will see that that's where the target was. I can well recall, when the co-chair of the Red Tape Commission -- and I should note this to you while I'm saying it. It was ironic that the Red Tape Commission was announced as being reconstituted on the same day as the Walkerton story was breaking. You would have thought that they had done their damage or, as government members would say, "their job," and now were finished, but no, it was to be reconstituted. A member who had been defeated was put in charge of it, as well as a member who I would say is zealous in his support of the government.

When I look at legislation of the kind that we have before us, I become very worried when I see the devastating effect. I can recall, for instance, that there were officials of the ministry, or the Minister of the Environment himself, who received a letter from my friend Frank Sheehan when he was red tape commissioner, and I think an elected member at that time, suggesting that a prosecution not be proceeded with because -- the former minister of the day shakes his head no. I'm trying to remember, and the member for Niagara Centre will recall it for me, I'm sure, when he gives his two-minute intervention later, but there was some suggestion that a letter went suggesting that the Ministry of the Environment not proceed with a court proceeding because in fact the regulation or the policy was going to be changed. That's what I become concerned about. In my view, we've seen what the consequences are. I think when we see the Premier before the commission in a short period of time it will be rather interesting, but I will be riveted to whatever it is, the computer or the television set, when Dr Schabas is making his testimony before the committee. That will be rather interesting.

I worry when I see the regulatory framework being further weakened. In this bill we're talking about some labour legislation. There are some things in this bill that are innocuous, that nobody in the House is going to object to, but I mention the labour legislation as being of some concern, and if I get a chance, I will get into the specifics of that in just a moment.

We had a lecture from the Minister of Labour, who used to be the Speaker of this House and who is now giving us his views on how the House should operate -- very often, in fact -- and about how long legislation takes. Indeed, I'm one who believes that where there is genuinely housekeeping legislation, it should proceed expeditiously. We saw a good example of it -- actually it wasn't housekeeping legislation but it was legislation where there was concurrence in its desire and its aims. When the Oak Ridges moraine freeze legislation was brought in, the Liberal member for Eglinton-Lawrence got up and suggested that, at the same time, it receive second and third reading. In terms of co-operation from the opposition, I can't think of anything that would be more co-operative, when there is an eagerness to get on with a piece of legislation, than that. But please forgive us if we tend to be somewhat skeptical of other pieces of legislation.

I think of how the environmental approvals act was weakened as a result of Red Tape Commission recommendations, and how the Environmental Assessment Act was weakened by legislation that was brought in to this House. I think of the Sithe Energies project that people in Oakville and Mississauga South are particularly concerned about. It's a proposal for a gas-fired power plant, and they are concerned that there is a proper environmental assessment of this that takes place. I think all would like to see that, if it's going to proceed, it do so within the framework of a proper environmental assessment. The member for Mississauga South has been up in the House with petitions that have been given to her, or to someone else and then directed to her, and read petitions about this and affixed her signature to them.

The problem I see is that the Environmental Assessment Act has been weakened to such an extent that it's sometimes difficult to get a full and wide-ranging environmental assessment of issues of this kind.


Something else is going on. The government has picked out this term "smart growth." They obviously lifted it from the United States somewhere, because if we look at the growth that has taken place in this province in the last six years in terms of land use planning, it has been virtually disastrous in terms of the fact that we see constant urban sprawl taking place. Although there was a consultation that took place in Thorold today, and it was to be a consultation on the so-called smart growth policy proposals -- the idea is a good idea, to have that consultation -- the problem is that the consultation was behind closed doors, so only invited guests could be there. The public was not invited. The local newspaper, which is always assiduous in trying to do its job of reporting on matters of this kind, was barred from being present there. As a result, we couldn't see the free range of opinions that might have been expressed. I think it's important to have that freewheeling discussion take place within the context of a public debate, as opposed to gathering people behind closed doors. Again, it's the opening of the process that I think is important.

I know in this specific piece of legislation that there are many people who have found matters of some concern. A safe work environment, we feel, is a fundamental right for people in this province, and we don't think that should be eroded. In fact, the legislation which is being repealed at this time is not legislation passed by a Liberal government or by an NDP government; rather, it is legislation passed by the Davis administration, a Progressive Conservative government -- I used the word "progressive" there -- of which my good friend, the member for -- Carleton?

Interjection: Lanark-Carleton.

Mr Bradley: -- Lanark-Carleton was a member. Obviously, just as he thought the legislation dealing with the Niagara Escarpment Commission plan was good legislation, and I want to give him the credit I always like to give him in the House for the role he played in that regard, indeed, he must have approved of this, because he would have voted for it when it came into the House.

This legislation will quite obviously galvanize the labour movement. It's going to cause some considerable consternation. Now, someone who has a more Machiavellian mind than mine would say that's precisely what the government wanted to do: stir up labour, get labour to take some unusual and perhaps disruptive action, so that the government could then appear to be reasonable and the spokesperson overall for rationality in the province, while others are attacking it. The government does this from time to time: it provokes people.

I can say that representatives of the people in the workplace were not consulted on this bill, nor were their opinions apparently considered before the legislation was drawn up and presented to this House.

Now, under subsection 47(7), as you would know, under the current law, workers have the right to refuse unsafe work. They have the right to have the workplace investigated by a Ministry of Labour inspector. They have the right to be there during the investigation. The new amendment would allow an inspector to investigate over the phone and not at the workplace itself. An inspector could issue a ruling on a hazard without even seeing it.

This is something that isn't embarked upon frivolously. This is a rather important step one takes in calling a stop to whatever activity is taking place in the workplace. Even among employees of a company who are part of a trade union, I can imagine that there's considerable pressure that the complaint be genuine, or they're not going to proceed with it. The committee person who is on the floor is going to ensure that this is a genuine complaint before there's a work stoppage which is brought about, because everybody is affected by the work stoppage. But the government wants to withdraw this, obviously at the recommendation of the Red Tape Commission.

Right now, the occupational health and safety agency says employers must keep an inventory of hazardous substances in the workplace. They must provide public access to this inventory. Bill 57 repeals this section. This means workers and public health and fire safety officials will be denied access to information on hazardous materials, or at least will have a difficult time getting it. Surely that's something important. That was a step forward, I thought, in occupational health and safety, having people who are informed, because when an incident does happen or when a new substance is brought into a workplace, people have to know how to handle it in routine handling but also in case of emergency.

Under the repeal of section 34, currently employers must notify the director of health and safety if they bring new chemical or biological substances into the workplace. They must provide information about what is in the substance. Bill 57 removes these requirements. Right now, the director can order an assessment of any new substance he or she suspects may be a hazard. Bill 57 would strip the director of that power. That's unfortunate. Again, I think that's a reasonable power for the director to have.

There's repeal of subsection 52(1). Right now, employers must report accidents to the health and safety director within four days. The amended law would require this only if an inspector is notified. Inspectors rarely investigate minor incidents. These incidents will rarely be reported. The director won't know about dangerous workplaces until something major happens. We all know that some of the minor problems that exist can turn into major problems. That's why I'm concerned about that aspect of the bill.

There's a repeal of subsection 57(10). Presently, health and safety inspectors must provide copies of their reports to workers who file complaints. The amended law would only require an inspector to provide this report upon request. So if workers don't know they have the right to the report, they may not request it, if they don't know they have the right to have it. I think that's a disadvantage, because they should have access to that report.

There's a new section called "Codes of Practice." This would give the power to the deputy minister to accept codes or standards developed by industry representatives as the law of the land simply by saying so. This allows employers to ignore current legislation by following a standard the deputy has accepted, no debate in the Legislature and no assurance of public consultation. Let me tell you that is dangerous as well. If, after this Legislature had considered that, and if, after there had been some public discussion of it, we saw this appear in a bill, we may not be in favour of it, but we would understand it. In this particular case, that's not going to happen. Again, that's the concentration of power in the hands of an unelected person using a procedure other than a legislative procedure. That is of great concern.

There were some other sections I was reading about a while ago as well that I perhaps will not make reference to but I can remember one reference where there was an onus placed on the worker and the onus at the same time was being taken away from the employer. I can't recall the specific section of it, but it was of great concern to me that that would happen.

You can see that while many parts of this bill might well be innocuous, might well not have a profound effect on the province, it is a bill nevertheless worth canvassing, worth debating, worth having go to committee so that people can make representations on it.

I want to touch on the process. As I say, we were treated to a lecture from the Minister of Labour about how this House should operate. He mentioned that debate of this kind should be shorter, that on what he would consider to be substantive issues the debate should be longer. One of my problems is that this House is seldom in session. I don't think the public realizes this.

The federal House of Commons came into session in the last week of January of this year and sat most of the time until this week. Our Legislature did not come back until April 17. I remember directing a question -- or one of our members directing a question -- to the Premier, who was in this House on December 20, 2000. The next time we had an opportunity to question the Premier in this House was in fact May 1, 2001. If you said to the average person in Ontario, "Do you think government should be accountable? Do you think ministers and the Premier should be in this Legislature to answer questions for a significant period of the year?" they would say yes.

When the government wants to put its legislation through, one of the solutions is to either stick to the parliamentary calendar or even extend the parliamentary calendar so that we in this House can debate legislation with some degree of authority, some degree of interest and some degree of length.


The other aspect of our job -- I know the member for Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke made reference to it the other day, and you'll remember this because you've been in the House awhile, Mr Speaker, sitting in the chair, member for Hamilton West -- is that in the intercession, when the House wasn't sitting, you often saw committees sitting pretty extensively, sometimes travelling from community to community in Ontario to hear representations made by the public on pieces of legislation. Then, when the session resumed, the bill was brought back for perhaps committee of the whole or perhaps the committee would sit and pass any amendments. There were often amendments in those days. Finally, the bill would pass the Legislature. That doesn't happen these days very often. We often have either no committee consultations or very brief committee consultations.

A good example, of course, is the committee dealing with the budget bill at the present time, which has within it the tax credit for the purposes of those attending private schools. That is a shortened process. There should have been opportunity for virtually every member of the Legislature to speak on that bill and for very extensive hearings across the province.

I wouldn't recommend that with this bill, to be fair. I wouldn't say you would have to spend a lot of days across the province on this bill, but I do think you would have to have some. The government says, "Well, we are almost forced to bring in time allocation on these issues." My guess is that if we change the rules to make this House meaningful, to have a meaningful opportunity to have input into legislation, we would not encounter these problems.

I know my friend from Hastings wanted to make reference to this bill for a few moments. I would like to share some of my time with him, because he did say that he had a few observations he wanted to make. I would like to turn it over to the member for Prince Edward-Hastings.

Mr Ernie Parsons (Prince Edward-Hastings): I appreciate the comment of the member from St Catharines. I am from beautiful Prince Edward-Hastings, probably the finest riding in the province, or at least tied with the other 102.

I struggle, starting with the very title. Maybe I'm obsessed with titles, but this government refers to efficiency, as they do in the title. The inference to the general public is that this is a government that has worried and has held every nickel and made absolutely certain that everything is done right and to the maximum benefit of the taxpayer. I don't think history has reinforced that over the last few years.

I, with some pride, spent some years with the Ministry of Transportation in this province, a ministry that was the envy literally of North America. I have seen privatization take place within the ministry that concerns me from a financial viewpoint. When the auditor brought forth his first study last year, we saw that in fact the costs of maintaining our roads have gone up 4%, rather than declined.

I see inefficiencies in legislation intended to produce efficiencies when we look at school construction. I represent a riding, Prince Edward-Hastings, but in a previous life chaired a school board that extended from the Bay of Quinte to north of Bancroft. This government said that in order to be efficient, school boards could not construct a new school until all of the space in the current schools was utilized. That would make sense if a school board were operated within a half-mile or a one-mile geographical area. But when a school board is 150 to 200 kilometres and you have a school that is empty at one end of the jurisdiction and a school that is overcrowded and needs additional building at the other end, it simply doesn't make sense as an efficiency to bus the students 250 kilometres each morning and back, not just from the viewpoint of the cost but from the viewpoint of the time the students spend on it.

I would suggest, if the government wants to look at efficiencies, they could tackle and bring in place an Ontarians with Disabilities Act. We are continuing to see new buildings constructed in this province that present barriers to individuals. We are continuing to see new processes put in place that present barriers to Ontarians with disabilities. At the very least, and it really wouldn't be enough, we should have had the promise delivered to have an ODA and stop constructing new barriers and start the process of removing barriers. But no, we still have no Ontarians with Disabilities Act and we are still seeing new barriers constructed that will cost more.

In terms of efficiency, I think we could visit the area of disabilities from the viewpoint that this government funds the March of Dimes to provide access to services required by those who perhaps need access to a building or need a wheelchair. They will fund the modifications to a house if the citizen has lived in it for three years. I guess the three years establishes that they are going to stay for some time and so it is worthwhile investing some money. On the other hand, I've had a number of discussions and contacts with both local constituents and others across the province who have been diagnosed with ALS -- Lou Gehrig's disease -- a tragic, terrible disease that on average, unfortunately, produces death within about two years of diagnosis. These individuals need a tremendous amount of support. These individuals need access into their own homes. With an average lifespan of two years, the requirement that they be in a house for three years before they will get financial support toward a ramp becomes rather ridiculous and actually hurtful to the individuals.

The government, I believe, needs to practise what it preaches. There are things that need improved efficiencies, not necessarily in what is perceived as red tape, but we need improved efficiencies in the services this province delivers to its citizens. We are a long way from efficient if we simply look at the chaos that exists in virtually every sector of health care right now. It is rather difficult for me to get concerned over red tape efficiencies when we have citizens in this province not being served to the degree or in the manner to which they are entitled.

The Acting Speaker: It is now time for questions and comments.

Mr Kormos: In around nine minutes' time, I get to talk to the bill. I'm going to talk about the incredible and unprecedented attack on workers' health and safety rights, because buried in this omnibus bill are a few dirty little secrets of this government, ones that they were trying to slip through. Well, they were; they were trying to slip it through.

I have some real problems with getting lectures from people over on that side about how, "Oh, the opposition should just roll over and let us do these things," because if there weren't an opposition here, schedule I of this bill would have been law days ago and it never would have been exposed. The only way we would have learned about schedule I in this bill is as a result of the bloodied and battered bodies of dead workers, because schedule I is a direct attack, it's a repeal, of some hard-fought, hard-won workers' rights to have some control over the safety of the workplace. The purpose of those rights, rights that workers fought for over the course of decades, was to reduce the bloodshed in the workplace. It's the opposition job to identify elements of bills like Bill 57 that do the things that schedule I do.

I make no apologies for speaking to this bill for the full hour allotted to me, and my colleagues in the New Democratic Party make no apologies for standing in their turn and condemning this bill as well, because it's a nasty bit of work that's going to have some pretty tragic consequences across the province. Some government backbenchers had better read the bill and get tuned in to that fact, or else they're going to be as culpable as the minister.

Mr Dave Levac (Brant): I want to start by complimenting the members for Sarnia-Lambton, Eglinton-Lawrence, St Catharines and Prince Edward-Hastings, who always bring up to us the points that need to be discussed in this House and make sure that the people of Ontario understand that there are nuances in the type of legislation that's being put before us.

In Bill 57, what we have to do is remember that to classify something as red tape and simply to bring up or conjure up a connotation that anything with the words "red tape" attached to it must be absolutely useless and that we're removing this bane on the legislative process and the fact that it's handcuffing everybody and it's causing this problem in our province is more of a sell job than it is of good legislation that says to us, "Are we actually getting rid of legislation? Is it effective? Are we providing good safety to the people of Ontario?"


I had an opportunity to speak at committee today to some people who came to us for a bill that would actually add more legislation and more red tape to our legislative process, and everyone around the table said, "Yes, we need it." So the connotation that's being applied by this red tape talk is unfortunate. I would say very respectfully to everyone, let's stop and make sure we understand clearly, and then ask, after we analyze all the nuances of these pieces of legislation we're putting forward, does it affect our citizens? If it affects our citizens in a negative way -- as Maslow tells us, we're supposed to go to this basic human need first, our safety and our security -- and all the things we hold dear in this province, then we had better not be changing that legislation. As a matter of fact, we should be improving that legislation to make sure our people's needs are taken care of completely.

Mr O'Toole: It is respectful to acknowledge the members of the opposition who have spoken: the members from Sarnia-Lambton, St Catharines and Prince Edward-Hastings. It's important that this debate be responded to in that respect. I would like to think, however, that there were more specific observations on a bill that covers a number of statutes under the innocuous terms of a number of amendments that, in our view, remove barriers to opportunities for both individuals -- in many cases, this, under the Environmental Protection Act that was mentioned before, allows third-party intervention and for those people making accusations to be questioned. Who in Ontario wouldn't want that exact, same thing to happen?

It appears the opposition always tries to think in a conspiracy theory in terms doing the right thing. I hope, in honesty, that they're trying to make genuine comments with respect to the number of amendments Minister Sterling has brought forward under Bill 57, An Act to promote government efficiency and to improve services to taxpayers by amending or repealing certain Acts. As I said before, there are several sections in here that I've looked at that do affect such things as the Ontario College of Teachers Act, 1996. The amendments will permit persons who are not members of the investigation committee, discipline committee, registration appeals committee or finance committee -- in fact, these people will now be eligible to register complaints. Other persons could be appointed to the roster by the Lieutenant Governor in Council.

These kinds of changes are more administrative in nature, and the opposition should make specific references to where they would like to see amendments.

Mr Sean G. Conway (Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke): I just want to comment briefly on the comments of some my colleagues with respect to the Red Tape Commission.

Let me say at the outset that it's hard to be motivated to attack something called the Government Efficiency Act. It's hard to imagine that any fair-minded person would want to be opposed to that. But as my friend Bradley rightly observes, any time you see Frank Sheehan out doing missionary work for the public good, I think you have a right to say, "I wonder what's going on there."

Increasingly, government is becoming like water polo: it's what goes on underneath the waterline. There is an interesting story in one of these New York Times I've been reading: "US Senate shifts so the lobbyists must shift with it." The devil is always in the details. When I look at things like the Occupational Health and Safety Act, when I look at things like the Electricity Act, let me tell you, I'm much less concerned about the bromides that might be contained in the purpose clauses; I really want to see the details.

I suspect that much of Bill 57 has been written downtown. I won't mention the law firms that come to mind, but this will have been carefully worked over by the lobbyists and the lawyers. They're not going to be there on behalf of people in the social housing units of downtown Toronto or in Thunder Bay. I suspect big money is going to be very interested in the detail, in the clauses and the subclauses, and this Legislature will have long dispensed with this before we understand what some of those details were. Again, as someone said here earlier today, we saw today an exchange in question period about the downstream consequences that often attach to efficiency in government. Ultimately, those chickens do come home. My question to my friends opposite: anybody ever going to accept any responsibility?

The Acting Speaker (Mr David Christopherson): It is now time for one of the original four speakers to respond for up to two minutes. The Chair recognizes the member for Prince Edward-Hastings.

Mr Parsons: On behalf of those of us within the Liberal caucus who spoke, I would thank the members for Niagara Centre, Brant, Durham and Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke for their comments.

This is indeed a complex act. We looked at it and we have 95 pages of changes. One of the disheartening things I'm sure all members on both sides of the House face is when we knock on doors during the election or in between and individuals answer and say, "I don't vote." They feel so distanced from government that they just do not feel they have a part of it, they have any role in it and there's any need for them to vote.

This type of bill contributes, I think, to that cynicism. For a citizen in this province who is interested in what happens in the Legislature and were to ask me to give them a quick run-through of Bill 57 and what it would do to affect their life, I'd have to say, "Well, we've got about 37 different acts that are changed here, and really you can't read this bill in isolation. You need to have the act itself. And there is no simple little explanation or summary as to exactly what this change means. So if you want to know what Bill 57 is, we probably need to sit down for a couple of hours and run through it if it might have an area that particularly affects you."

For a citizen of this province, this is a bill that becomes rather meaningless to them. They have to rely on a certain faith and trust that the bill does in fact benefit the life of the majority of Ontario residents. But for them this is another stone that causes the wall to be built between them and their elected government. When we see the numbers that vote in a provincial election, when we see slightly over half, and we think of the cost that was paid for people to vote in the election, I would suggest that as parliamentarians here we would be far better off to separate bills so that not only can we deal with them much more specifically but the general public would have an opportunity to understand what it is and what is going to be done to change their life.

The Acting Speaker: Further debate?

Mr Kormos: Once again, I'm going to be short-circuited a little bit; I've only got 20 minutes tonight. I'm going to have to do the balance of this tomorrow.

Last night, over at St John the Baptist Hungarian Greek Catholic church -- that's its name -- they had their feast day. They had their service at 4:30 and then their dinner at 6:30. I was there and I was with the mayor, Cindy Forster. The place was packed; this was the basement of St John the Baptist church. These are folks primarily from the Hungarian Canadian community in Welland and surrounding -- people come from Courtland, Delhi, out where there's a big Hungarian community, and from Hamilton, and priests from Buffalo, New York. I was impressed, I suppose, at the number of people who made comments on watching us here in the chamber.

Let me tell you, I would be letting those people down -- I know this -- I'd be disappointing those folks and I'd be letting them down if I weren't standing here raising alarm bells about Bill 57. That's what they expect of their member of provincial Parliament, that's what they deserve of their member of the Legislative Assembly. They would resent the suggestion from any government member that their member of the provincial Parliament somehow would say, "Oh, we'll agree to let this pass. We'll approve your legislation. We won't subject it to scrutiny. We won't be critical of it." Folks down where I come from would be as mad as people could get if their MPP was doing that here in this Legislative Assembly.


Earlier today, I had to withdraw. I wanted to explain it, but I didn't have a whole lot of time. I used the phrase "tinker's dam." The table clerks might understand. I want you to understand very carefully, there's some mixed references about the origins of that phrase. The one that is far more rational and logical is that "tinker's dam" is a reference -- please, folks, people got all excited earlier today -- to the tinkers who used to travel in the countryside retinning pots that had worn through. What they did when they melted the tin to fill a hole is they would make a dam of moistened bread and use that -- you know, when you pour concrete, you'll put your two-by-fours and your two-by-sixes or two-by-eights, the framework for the footing -- as the little dam for the tin. So, you see, a tinker's dam isn't very effective, because the bread wasn't very firm, didn't work very well as a dam, and the repair to that pot wasn't very good, hence "tinker's dam."

Mr Bradley: You learn something new every day.

Mr Kormos: I explain that to you because I don't want to be called to order again when I tell you, Speaker, that this government clearly doesn't give a tinker's dam about the health and safety of workers in Ontario's workplaces. Let's make it quite clear, because the government has made it incredibly clear -- the Premier has made it incredibly clear, the Minister of Labour has made it exceptionally clear -- this government doesn't like working women and men. It despises trade unions. It has nothing but disdain and disregard for the poorest workers. Then, of course, we move on to its attitude toward the unemployed and the jobless. Bill 57 is as much an illustration of that as all of the incredibly nasty things that have been done to working folks in this province over the course of the last six years.

The fact is that workers in this province over the last six years have seen the gains that they've made, not over a matter of mere years, but over the course, once again, of decades -- workers went to jail to win some of the modest rights that workers in this province have now. They organized; they fought. No government sat down and said, "Oh, well, let's give workers some health and safety legislation today to make their lives a little safer in the workplace." Workers had to fight for it. No boss, no corporation said, "Oh, let's make our workplace safer for workers." It didn't happen that way. Workers had to fight for it.

Even today, hundreds of workers are killed and injured every year in this province, aren't they? You, Speaker, would know that as intimately as anybody could, because, let me tell you, those working women and men out there understand it. They know it because they live it. They live the deaths and the injuries and the diseases. The Occupational Health and Safety Act is something that workers fought for and something that workers are going to fight to keep.

The suggestion that somehow schedule I of this bill is just a little bit of fine-tuning or tweaking or tinkering is outright fraudulent; it is. It's not just a bad joke. Workers' health, workers' safety, workers' physical well-being are going to be put at risk.

The other question that has to be asked is exactly what motivates schedule I, the changes to the Occupational Health and Safety Act. In fact, to whom is the government responding? Who initiated these changes to the Occupational Health and Safety Act? From what quarters? Just exactly who was whispering in Frank Sheehan's ear? Who are Messrs Sheehan and Gilchrist cozying up to? Who's giving them the marching orders?

Mr Bradley: You have to go to the fundraisers to find out.

Mr Kormos: We look at the motivation and the source. Let's understand something: we know this government, we know its personality, we know its character, we know its motivation as well as anybody could. Efficiency? You guys think that this province would be much more efficient if you just abolished the Employment Standards Act.

Mr Bradley: Don't give them the idea.

Mr Kormos: They're on their way. A 60-hour workweek? The workweek was one of the fundamental, critical foundation blocks of employment standards. These guys are well on their way. The Employment Standards Act is directly under attack, has been and will continue to be. This government has no doubt that eliminating minimum wage laws would make Ontario far more efficient, and it has demonstrated that by its failure, its refusal, its adamant positioning in opposition to even the most modest of increases in minimum wage for the poorest workers in this province.

I told you before, it doesn't like working people and despises the poorest of working people. The proof is in this government's history. This government, to be fair, is incredibly transparent. For six years now, the poorest workers in this province haven't seen a single penny of increase in their wages, not a penny. That's from a government that wanted to increase their own wages by 42% not that long ago, yet won't even consider increasing the wages of the lowest-paid workers in this province. This government won't even consider addressing the fact that the minimum wage has, over the course of the last six years, declined to the point where this government has lowered the wages of the lowest-paid workers in the province.

You should know, Speaker -- I'm going to tell you now -- that the Ontario Federation of Labour has made its assessment of schedule I and is taking a very militant, strong stand in opposition to it. No, this isn't going to be a matter, I say to the Minister of Labour, of, oh, just giving token debate to this, chatting around it for a few minutes, and then letting it move on to third reading. It would be a cold day in Hades before that was going to happen. The opposition have a responsibility to reveal what's in this bill, to expose this government's motives and to do everything that it can to help working people, because it's working people who are going to be whacked by this bill, it's working people who are going to suffer, it's working people who are going to be injured, it's working people who are going to suffer diseases and who are going to die as a result of this bill.

It has nothing to do with government efficiency; least of all does it have anything to do with improving services to the taxpayer. It has everything to do, I suppose, with what happened in Quebec City a few weeks ago: the summit, free trade, freer trade, globalization, get rid of barriers. Getting rid of barriers more often than not means getting rid of the standards and regulations that protect workers and other members of the community from corporate greed. We know who's writing some of the marching orders; we just don't know who's whispering in the ears of Messrs Gilchrist and Sheehan.

I can tell you that the Ontario Federation of Labour over the course of the latter part of last week, with its executive board, has made it very clear -- it was unanimous. The Ontario Federation of Labour's executive board was unanimous here in the province of Ontario that it will take direct action in workplaces where workers are at risk because of this government's Bill 57 and schedule I, which would gut the right to refuse unsafe work and remove workers' and communities' right to know what hazardous chemicals are being used in workplaces across Ontario. That little bit of work hasn't been spoken to yet, but I tell you I will.


The Ontario Federation of Labour is also going to work to organize and develop a province-wide coalition to fight to undo the damage Mike Harris, the Premier of this province, and his team -- his gang -- have done to hospitals, schools and many programs -- I'm reading directly from their announcement -- and to laws required to protect workers, including changes of the workweek from 44 to 60 hours. There will be a strategy developed and presented to unions in July 2001 encouraging them to endorse province-wide actions.

Wayne Samuelson, the president of the Ontario federation, has made it quite clear that he understands this government only talks to corporate bosses. This government doesn't talk to workers. You wouldn't talk to them around Bill 58, would you? You wouldn't talk to paramedics, who were knocking on your door asking to please have a few minutes of your time. You slam the door in workers' faces, and then you hide behind your scripted speeches in an effort to explain away why you as backbenchers would be a party to some of the most vicious legislation this province has ever seen and, quite frankly, some of the most vicious legislation that could ever have been enacted, legislation that exposes workers to more injuries, more deaths, more diseases.

The Canadian Union of Public Employees: its president, Sid Ryan, and secretary-treasurer, Brian O'Keefe, have made it very clear where CUPE stands with respect to schedule I of this bill. Brian O'Keefe and Sid Ryan of CUPE have made it quite clear that they're going to do everything they can to defeat the repeal of the Occupational Health and Safety Act provisions that are effected by Bill 57.

The government members say, "Oh, this is nothing. This is just fluff." Not likely. Perhaps some brave government member, some bold government member, some thoughtful government member -- all oxymorons where I come from -- perhaps one of those backbenchers would stand and explain some of the real gems, Kormos says sarcastically, in schedule I.

One of the really fascinating things is -- this is the amendment -- that where an inspector makes an order in writing, the owner, constructor, licensee etc shall post a copy in the workplace. That's after a complaint, presumably by an employee. But the amendment changes the law to this extent and makes it very clear that if the order or report the inspector made that the employer has to post on the wall results from a complaint of a contravention of the Occupational Health and Safety Act, the person who made the complaint only gets a copy of the order if he or she requests it. This is eliminating red tape? You see what it does? If the employer does not comply with the law requiring the order to be posted, the person who made the complaint will never know that an order was made, and there's no provision that the person who made the complaint will have to be advised. If you want to find out what order was made, you've got to request it, and the person who made the complaint will never find out about the order because the boss, if he doesn't want to abide by the law, doesn't post the order on the wall.

So it's a slick little bit of work, isn't it? It's an open door. An open door? You can drive a Mack truck through that loophole.

What this does is protect bosses; it protects employers who don't feel necessarily obliged, notwithstanding the law, to post the orders made by an inspector, and there's no way that anybody will catch out the employer because the complainant doesn't know that the order has been made because the complainant only gets a copy of the order if they request it, and there's nobody to tell that complainant that they're entitled to a copy of the order if they request it.

If the government's going to require a boss to post the order on the wall, why wouldn't the government simply require the same inspector to deliver a copy, by mail, a 48- or 49-cent stamp, or whatever it happens to be, to the complainant? Is that a particularly difficult thing to do, or is that the kind of red tape that you're saying makes it impossible to do business here in the province of Ontario? That the government should notify the complainant by virtue of statute what the result was of that person's complaint -- is that an unreasonable request? Or is what's really unreasonable what's contained in the law which protects an employer who will present himself as a scofflaw, as a bad boss, and who will not want to post the order made by an inspector?

This government has made every effort to trivialize that portion of this bill which will shut the door on mandatory on-site inspections by inspectors when there has been a workplace refusal on the basis of unsafe work. It has been said, and it warrants being said again, that nothing could be more profound for a worker than for that worker to tell his or her boss, "I'm not going to do that job because it's a dangerous job, it's not safe and I want you to call in the inspector." No worker ever makes that allegation or takes that position lightly. Understand that. There's the fear of repercussions. Indeed, I will bet the bank right now, Speaker, that you and I could go out to any number of workplaces tomorrow and find more workers doing unsafe work, incredibly more workers doing unsafe work, because of their fear of losing their job and their unfamiliarity with their rights, all the more prevalent in a non-union workplace. We could find an incredible multiple of more workers doing unsafe jobs than we would the rare worker who is refusing to do an unsafe job. You know as well as I do that the vast, vast, vast majority of refusals to work have a sound foundation to them.

This government talks about, oh, it's going to embark on an ad campaign, because we're entering the summer season, where students will start getting into workplaces, those few students lucky enough to get a summer job, and it's going to embark on an ad campaign to make the workplace safer for students. Yet at the same time that it's saying that, it's going to tell students what their rights are; at the same time that it's saying that, it's eliminating those workers' right to refuse unsafe work in the workplace and, more importantly, most importantly, most significantly, to require that there be an on-site inspection.

There is not a single section, there's not a single clause, there's not a single paragraph of this bill devoted to telling inspectors under what circumstances they will or will not attend a workplace to conduct an inspection. It's entirely discretionary on the part of the inspector.

I tell you, that that leads to several clear inferences, one, that this bill, Bill 57, and its assault on workers, workplace health and safety rights and its imposition now on health and safety inspectors of the requirement that they can, exercising their discretion, whimsically refuse to attend a workplace -- that among other things we should be concerned about is the fact that that this is part of the whole privatization agenda of this government, and people who don't understand that are simply not paying attention or simply don't care. Having said that, Speaker, I adjourn the debate.

The Acting Speaker: It now being 9:30, this House stands adjourned until 1:30 Tuesday afternoon.

The House adjourned at 2130.