37e législature, 3e session



Monday 23 September 2002 Lundi 23 septembre 2002















































ORDERS ACT, 2002 /
LOI DE 2002

Monday 23 September 2002 Lundi 23 septembre 2002

The House met at 1330.




Mr George Smitherman (Toronto Centre-Rosedale): Media speculation about the government's priorities includes the suggestion that legislation to protect against corrupt practices in public companies will be forthcoming.

Fifty per cent of Ontarians are direct or indirect investors in the stock market, and they have lost billions. Freedom 55 has given way to talk of Freedom 75, and gallows humour about eating cat food in retirement has even been heard here among the media at Queen's Park. We need to acknowledge that for millions of Ontarians, the stock market has become the real Canada pension plan. Walkerton teaches us that regulation without enforcement is inadequate protection. We need to let ma and pa know that if some corrupt player weasels them out of their investments in a public company, Ontario will protect them, not by suffocating them with paper, but by prosecuting them with vigour.

Ontario Liberals demand that any government initiative include a commitment to public hearings and that a significant enforcement tool be part of any legislation. Over the summer, while the Minister of Finance was tooling around the Molson Indy track, I established a working group and we reviewed reforms from the US Congress and the New York Stock Exchange. We considered the work of the five-year review led by Purdy Crawford. We examined the proposals put forward by the OSC and the TSX, and we followed the debate in the financial media. We will be active in this debate, because average Ontarians have seen their life savings evaporate and their dreams of financial independence sacrificed.

The real test of whether Ernie Eves is sincere about enhancing protection is whether he is prepared to enforce the rules he writes. Inadequate enforcement will be a signal to investors that in Ernie Eves's Ontario, sloganeering is the real rule of law.


Mr Bert Johnson (Perth-Middlesex): I rise in the Legislature today to recognize Jeff Timmermans from Stratford.

Seven years ago, Jeff's wife, Toni, was diagnosed with Alzheimer's at the age of 67. Jeff, an avid cyclist, decided to meet this challenge by cycling across Canada to raise awareness of Alzheimer's and the effect it has on families, and to raise money for the Alzheimer society and Alzheimer research. Jeff named his journey Miles for Memories and chronicled his journey across Canada on his Web site, www.milesformemories.ca.

On June 1 of this year, this 74-year-old retired farmer started his 8,000-kilometre cross-country tour in Port Renfrew, British Columbia. Cycling 90 to 100 kilometres each day, Jeff reached the final leg of his tour over this past weekend and cycled into St John's, Newfoundland. He will officially conclude his journey later today by dipping his bike into the Atlantic Ocean at Cape Spear, Newfoundland.

I want to take this opportunity to congratulate Jeff on completing his journey and for the energy and determination he displayed. Jeff is also to be applauded for his efforts to raise awareness and contributions for Alzheimer's. I also want to recognize the Alzheimer Society of Perth County and other organizations and volunteers from Perth county who have helped make Jeff's journey a great success.

Please join me in recognizing Jeff Timmermans, a truly remarkable Canadian.


Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): For years the government of Ontario was an environmental leader, prodding the federal government to take aggressive action to clean up and protect the environment and trying to persuade reluctant provincial governments to tackle tough environmental challenges.

Sadly, there's a new axis developing, an axis of environmental regression, with Ralph Klein, the Alberta Premier who has dismissed environmental concerns throughout his career, teaming up with Ernie Eves to torpedo the plan to reduce greenhouse gases and clean the air in Canada.

At a time when bold environmental leadership is needed, Ernie Eves and his ministers are toeing the Klein line, fighting every effort to take meaningful action to meet the provisions of the Kyoto accord and trotting out old, discredited arguments that were stale 30 years ago.

While scientists around the world warn us of the dire consequences of global warming and Ontario residents choke on dirty air, the Eves Conservatives engage in a war not against environmental degradation but against those who are prepared to move quickly and boldly to deal with air quality problems that, according to the Ontario Medical Association, result in 1,900 premature deaths per year and $9.9 billion in costs to our health system and the economy annually.

The last thing Ontario needs is a lecture from a man whose environmental vision can only be described as bizarre and neanderthal and a subservient, whimpering Eves government enthusiastically joining the Klein team.

Why is it that we have to put up with Conservatives always telling us why the environment cannot be cleaned up instead of taking aggressive action to do just that? It's time to abandon the Klein crusade and to join the green team.

Mr Gilles Bisson (Timmins-James Bay): On a point of order, Speaker: That's a terrible thing to say about Neanderthals. I do that in defence of my friend here, who has -- anyway, we won't go there.


Mr Gilles Bisson (Timmins-James Bay): I rise today to thank the Minister of Northern Development and Mines, one Jim Wilson, for having spent money in the community of Kapuskasing. We know that recently he was up north spreading the good news of money in northern Ontario, which they don't often. But we did get some money.

But I was a little bit dismayed when I read the paper the next day and he had the following to say in The Daily Press: "Wilson added the province is pouring money into northern Ontario and they don't even have an elected" member in their caucus.

I just want to say that I am upset, as a northerner, that the Minister of Northern Development and Mines would not recognize a number of key members of his own caucus -- none other than the newly elected Al McLean from the riding of Nipissing. I know he was here.

Interjection: AL McDonald.

Mr Bisson: AL McDonald from Nipissing, the newly elected member. I see him here from time to time doing work on behalf of the people of northern Ontario, here from Nipissing. But never mind. What's worse, it used to be the former Premier's riding, and the Minister of Northern Development doesn't seem to know that Mr McDonald is in his own caucus.

But it doesn't stop there. We all know Ernie Eves. He comes from a riding that's now called Muskoka-Parry Sound. That was won in a by-election by none other than Norm Miller. I've seen Norm Miller here in the Legislature from time to time and I know he's a member of the Tory caucus and I know he advocates on behalf of his riding.

I just want to say to the members across the way, I recognize that you work on behalf of your constituents, I recognize that you're from northern Ontario and you might be in the Tory Party. But I think you've got to give a geography lesson to your minister and let him know that your ridings are in northern Ontario.


Mr Ted Arnott (Waterloo-Wellington): Volunteer firefighters are vital to public safety in most of the communities throughout Waterloo-Wellington and the province.

Many volunteer fire departments are strengthened by the expertise of double-hatters, who are so called because they are full-time firefighters in cities and also serve their home communities as volunteer firefighters.

The Ontario Professional Fire Fighters Association is using coercive tactics aimed at forcing these double-hatters to quit as volunteers, and some have. They want to phase out all double-hatters and they have raised a levy on their members for the cost of legal action in their fight against Bill 30, the Volunteer Firefighters Employment Protection Act.

I have high regard for all our firefighters, but on this issue the professional firefighters' union leadership is wrong.

Bill 30 was supported in principle by the House on June 6, and if passed it would protect the right of full-time firefighters to also serve as volunteer firefighters and put a stop to the strong-arm tactics being used against them.

The Association of Municipalities of Ontario, the Fire Fighters Association of Ontario and, so far, some 69 municipalities have indicated support for my bill. Recently, the Large Urban Mayors' Caucus of Ontario passed a resolution signed by Mayor Hazel McCallion supporting my bill.


I want to remind the House about the situation faced by Tim Lee. He works as a professional firefighter in Whitby and serves his home community of Little Britain as a volunteer firefighter. Mr Lee was charged by his union for volunteering and his case was put before a trial board on August 20. That board is deliberating on his fate. He has worked hard on behalf of volunteer firefighters and has brought me a petition containing about 4,000 signatures asking for legislation to protect double-hatters from these coercive tactics. I plan to present the petition in the House this afternoon.

I'm determined to move forward with this protection for volunteer firefighters, and I urge the standing committee on justice and social policy to begin public hearings on Bill 30 immediately.


Mrs Sandra Pupatello (Windsor West): I am very pleased to be here today with a group of very brave individuals. We have a very brave group of people in the gallery today, that is, people representing those in Ontario who need bariatric surgery, more commonly known as stomach stapling. This surgery is for obese people whose last resort is this stomach stapling surgery. Many of these patients know they will face early death without this procedure.

Because of budget cutbacks at the London Health Sciences Centre, they decided therefore to drop the program even though the wait times have increased dramatically since then. We have people here today from Toronto, from Guelph, from Windsor, obese people being represented here at Queen's Park, to tell the government that we need to have the program. Please do not add to the discrimination that obese people face every day. Please make this program available so that they too can become healthy.

I have to tell you that 28% of Ontario's population is considered overweight to the point of being a health risk. This is a dramatic number, made more dramatic by the fact that it has doubled in the last 10 years. Obesity-related illnesses cost our health system $1.1 billion a year. Doesn't it just make financial sense? And if you don't do it for the finances, do it because everyone deserves to have equal opportunity to good health. On behalf of these people, help.


Mr Bart Maves (Niagara Falls): This past Friday, I had the opportunity of attending the grand opening of Alo North America's new North American headquarters and distribution centre in Niagara Falls.

Alo North America is a subsidiary of AB Alo Maskiner, a Sweden-based manufacturer of farm equipment. AB Alo Maskiner is the world leader in the production of front loaders for farm tractors. Alo North America acquired a Niagara-based company in 1998 and relocated to Niagara Falls six years ago. Alo currently employs 26 people in Niagara Falls.

Alo recently expanded, with the construction of their new 29,000-square-foot facility located in the Montrose Business Park, in order to meet the growing demands in North America for their product.

It was an exciting time to be at this event last week. It was punctuated with traditional Swedish food and drink, an ABBA tribute band, and a visit from hockey great Borje Salming.

When a company like Alo expands, it's evident that our local and Ontario economies are still strong. The confidence of one international company helps to attract even more new businesses to Ontario. Our government's policies are creating a positive business climate. Companies like Alo across Ontario continue to expand in response to Ontario's competitive tax environment.

Congratulations to Scott Marshall, Dana Hoover, president of Alo North America, and everyone else affiliated with Alo. I wish you all continued success.


Mrs Leona Dombrowsky (Hastings-Frontenac-Lennox and Addington): Three years ago Mike Harris unveiled the Early Years Study by Dr Fraser Mustard and the Honourable Margaret McCain. He promised to follow through on the recommendations of their report that called for early years centres to be community-based, flexible and accessible to all children. The study showed that investments made in the first six years of a child's life set the stage for future success.

Now, three years later, Mustard and McCain have confirmed what the Ontario Liberal Party and Dalton McGuinty have been saying for months: Mike Harris and Ernie Eves have broken their promise to Ontario's children.

The Eves government has turned what was supposed to be community-based programs into a top-down political exercise. You fired local steering committees and replaced them with political appointees. These committees were in place for less than a year when you disbanded them. Then you directed that early years centres would be placed in every riding in Ontario, totally abandoning the notion of a community-based service.

You collapsed the ministry of the child and continued your ABC policy -- Anything But Childcare.

This report states your plan is "a fragmented, bureaucratically controlled strategy that will fail to reduce the problems associated with poor early child development in Ontario." It is a scathing indictment of this government's failure to invest in our most precious resource, our children.


Mr Raminder Gill (Bramalea-Gore-Malton-Springdale): Today I would like to pay tribute to the many people with HIV/AIDS and their families and friends. Yesterday's AIDS Walk was held to raise funds for prevention and support and to raise awareness.

The care, treatment, support and prevention of HIV/AIDS are priorities for all members of the Ernie Eves government. To sustain our initiatives, our government will spend almost $50 million in 2002-03 for HIV/AIDS-related programs.

I am proud of the strength of the HIV/AIDS program in Ontario, which is due in large measure to the collaboration of thousands of volunteers and member organizations and the tremendous support from Ontario's Ministry of Health and Minister Tony Clement.

In 1998, our government announced the allocation of $10 million to establish the Ontario HIV Treatment Network, the community-linked evaluation AIDS resource unit and the injection drug user outreach program.

The 37 provincial boards of health collaborate with physicians to monitor case management and provide education and support to appropriate sites.

Casey House, a 12-bed residence and hospice program for people at the end stages of AIDS, offers medical and nursing services, counselling and nutrition services. The Ministry of Health funding projection for Casey House for 2002-03 is $2.7 million.

Finally, I wish to pay tribute to the many volunteers and community workers whose tireless efforts have lightened the burden of people living with HIV/AIDS and their loved ones. Together we can and will defeat this disease.


The Speaker (Hon Gary Carr): Before we continue, we have with us today in the Speaker's gallery visitors from the Republic of Ireland. They are the chair and members of the Louth county council. Joining us are Jacqui McConville, chair of the county council; Ronan Dennedy, the CAO of the county council enterprise agency; and Liam Woods, who is chair of the Louth county council enterprise agency. Please join me in welcoming our honoured guests.


The Speaker (Hon Gary Carr): I beg to inform the House that on September 18, 2002, the 2001 Annual Report of the Chief Election Officer of Ontario was tabled.


The Speaker (Hon Gary Carr): I also beg to inform the House that the Clerk has received a favourable report from the Commissioners of Estate Bills with respect to Bill Pr9, An Act respecting The Elliott. Accordingly, pursuant to standing order 86(e), the bill and the report stand referred to the standing committee on regulations and private bills.



Mr Stockwell moved first reading of the following bill:

Bill 175, An Act respecting the cost of water and waste water services / Projet de loi 175, Loi concernant le coût des services d'approvisionnement en eau et des services relatifs aux eaux usées.

The Speaker (Hon Gary Carr): Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.

The minister for a short statement?

Hon Chris Stockwell (Minister of the Environment, Government House Leader): If passed, the bill would help ensure the sustainability of water and sewer systems in this province. This is a key step in meeting our commitment to implement all of the other recommendations contained in the Commissioner O'Connor report on the Walkerton inquiry.

The consultations will be an essential component of implementing the bill. We plan to hold extensive meetings with our municipal partners and other stakeholders. We are listening to stakeholders and driving ahead on the commitment to the principle of full-cost accounting and recovery, both key aspects of Commissioner O'Connor's recommendations.

We all need to know the true cost of water and the services that we take for granted. It's the only way to ensure it. I encourage all honourable members to give speedy consideration to this legislation and the amendments that arise during consultation.


Hon Mr Stockwell: From the applause from the member for St Catharines, I can only assume he is fully in favour.




Hon Chris Stockwell (Minister of the Environment, Government House Leader):

I move that, notwithstanding standing order 96(d), the following change be made to the ballot list for private members' public business:

Mrs Marland and Mr Tascona exchange places in order of precedence; and

Mr Beaubien and Mr Klees exchange places in order of precedence; and

Notwithstanding standing order 96(g), notice for ballot items 55 through 58 be waived.

The Speaker (Hon Gary Carr): Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.

Statements by ministries? That brings us up to oral questions.

Mr Dwight Duncan (Windsor-St Clair): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: It is our understanding that the Premier was to be here for question period and we are now at question period.

The Speaker: The government House leader for clarification.

Hon Mr Stockwell: Mr Speaker, the understanding, I take it, is correct. I think we went through the process fairly quickly, the routine proceedings, so therefore I would expect the Premier to be arriving momentarily. If you'd like, you could stand down your first questions or we could take just a moment and wait for the Premier to come in.

The Speaker: I take it that the first question from the leader of the official opposition is for the Premier. We could stand it down.

Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): Mr Speaker, I'll help you out with a point of order, which is this: I would ask unanimous consent of the House this afternoon to revert at this point in time to the rules of procedure which governed this Legislature in 1992.

The Speaker: Is there unanimous consent? No. I thank the member. That now allowed us time for the Premier to arrive. I appreciate his help.



Mr Dalton McGuinty (Leader of the Opposition): My question is, as expected, to the Premier. You have now assumed full responsibility over three school boards in the province of Ontario: Hamilton, Toronto and Ottawa. When you did so, you made a promise that none of the cuts forthcoming from your hand-picked supervisors would affect what went on inside the classroom, and yet the first cut made to the school board in Ottawa was to fire 50 special-ed teachers. That affected at the elementary level, Premier, just so you know, 1,505 students. At the high school level that has affected 1,645 students.

I ask you, Premier, on behalf of those students and their parents and our community, what happened to your promise to ensure that your cuts did not affect our students?

Hon Ernie Eves (Premier, Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs): First of all, those teachers were not fired, as you put it, as you described it. Their responsibilities were changed. They are teaching in the classroom at the Ottawa school board.

This government has a commitment to special education in Ontario. It is, this year, $1.4 billion, far, far more --


The Speaker: Premier, take a seat. Order. Come to order, please. I can't hear the Premier.

Sorry, Premier.

Hon Mr Eves: -- than the Liberal government of David Peterson ever, ever dreamt of spending on special education in Ontario. We are the first government in the province of Ontario who actually made sure that school boards spent that money on special education, which not all did before the Mike Harris government came into being.

Mr McGuinty: Premier, those teachers who were providing those services to our students in need of special assistance are no longer doing their work. There are over 3,000 students now who used to be getting special assistance who are no longer getting that assistance. You can put forward all the double-talk you want, but the fact is, families and students in our community have been hurt by your decision to cut special education in the city of Ottawa.

I ask you again, Premier: what about your promise to ensure that your hand-picked supervisors would not make cuts that would cause harm to our students?

Hon Mr Eves: In his first question, the leader of the official opposition said these teachers were fired. Now, in his second question, he's saying they have different responsibilities. Talk about doublespeak. As a matter of fact, the supervisor lifted the hiring freeze on teachers in the Ottawa board.

Mr McGuinty: Premier, we don't need supervisors in Ottawa, Toronto and Hamilton. What we need are more supports for our students. That's what we need. We need more investment in special education, we need more investment in English as a second language, we need smaller classes, we need better training for our teachers, and so on and so forth.

We have a plan that has been out there for a long time and we'll be adding more to it shortly. What I'm asking for on behalf of Ontario students is, when are you going to demonstrate some leadership when it comes to improving public education for all our students?

Hon Mr Eves: The leader of the official opposition will know, of course, that the government is spending $557 million more on public education this year than they did last year. He will also know --


Hon Mr Eves: I don't know which Dalton McGuinty is talking today. He says that he would not have put in supervisors. The Dalton McGuinty of September 4, 2002, just a few days ago, said that if school boards ran deficits under a Liberal government, "We would be all over them like a cheap suit."


Mr Dalton McGuinty (Leader of the Opposition): The question is for the Premier. You should know our trustees could get the job done if they had sufficient resources.

I spent much of the summer travelling the province of Ontario and listening to people. I've got to tell you, they know their air is bad, and they are sick and tired of it. They are expecting you at some point in time to do something about it. Your commitment to shut down our dirty, coal-fired furnaces 13 years from now is completely inadequate. They are tired of having their kids suck on puffers. They are tired of our seniors being effectively held prisoner during the 26 record smog days we had this summer.

I put forward a clean air plan. It's aggressive, it is ambitious, it is workable and it is essential. What are you going to do, Premier, about cleaning up our air?

Hon Ernie Eves (Premier, Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs): Nobody is in favour of dirty air. Everybody's in favour of cleaning up the environment, but you have to have a responsible, thoughtful plan when you go about doing it.

First of all, you'll know that 68% of the power generated in the province of Ontario comes from generation sources that do not produce greenhouse gases. I'm sure he knows that to start with. We have a plan, of course, to eliminate the coal-powered plant at Lakeview by 2005. We have turned down sales of two coal-powered facilities at Thunder Bay and Atikokan this summer because the proposed purchaser would not agree to eliminate coal-powered generation at those facilities. And we have in place procedures that will result in 80% reduction of nitrous oxide pollution by the year 2003 at Lambton and Nanticoke.

We have a reasonable plan; we are following through with it. It wasn't dreamt up --

The Speaker (Hon Gary Carr): Order. The Premier's time is up.


Mr McGuinty: Premier, that is not good enough. You may be prepared to sit on your hands for 13 years while 1,900 people die a premature death every year, while 13,000 people, mostly kids, have to go to emergency rooms. The single greatest cause of admission into Ontario hospitals today, Premier, you should know is asthma, aggravated by bad air. Taxpayers are spending over $1 billion annually on health care costs and lost work days. We are not prepared over here in our party to sit down for 13 more years while we burn coal in Ontario.

The people of Ontario are expecting some leadership from you, sir. Leadership is not an option when you are the Premier of Ontario. We submitted a plan. Take our plan, Premier, and run with it.

Hon Mr Eves: If the leader of the official opposition is suggesting to the people of Ontario that doing what he suggests be done, even though he knows it would cost $6 billion, even though he knows it's not practical, even though he knows it would generate brownouts and blackouts across Ontario, including in those hospitals he purports to help, he would know that even if he did all that, tomorrow morning at 9 o'clock, the majority of air pollution in the province of Ontario comes from our great neighbours to the south, the United States of America. He knows that. It's a fact of life. There are over 200 coal-powered plants in the United States of America whose bad air ends up especially in southwestern Ontario, where over 90% of the pollution is caused by US pollution, not by Ontario pollution.

That's not an excuse for us not doing our job here. We will do it. But I don't want him to be operating under some fantasy that if we clean it all up, tomorrow morning at 9 o'clock there will be no air pollution in the province of Ontario.

Mr McGuinty: I guess we'll just blame it on those bad Americans and there's nothing at all that we here in Ontario can do.

Nanticoke is the single biggest coal-fired generator of electricity in North America. On an annual basis it generates the equivalent of 3.5 million cars' worth of pollution. Your new scrubbers that you want to spend a quarter of a billion dollars on, do you know what they're going to do in terms of reducing our contribution to greenhouse gas emissions? Zero. That's exactly what they're going to do when it comes to reducing our contribution in the province of Ontario to greenhouse gas emissions.

I believe fundamentally this is about the health and well-being of the people of Ontario, and I think one of our first responsibilities in this Legislature is to ensure that we are doing everything we possibly can to clean up our air and to contribute to their quality of life. So I'm not prepared to sit on my hands and wait for the Americans at some point in time to do something, maybe, possibly.

Your responsibility, sir, with the greatest of respect, is to do everything you can today to clean up our air. That's what our plan is all about. Why don't you run with it?

Hon Mr Eves: The leader of the official opposition will know that OPG is installing equipment right now in Nanticoke, as he speaks, that by next year will result in over 80% of nitrous oxide emissions being reduced at Nanticoke. He will also know that the same thing is happening at the Lambton plant of which he speaks. We've already talked about shutting down Lakeview with respect to generating power by coal, we've talked about Thunder Bay and Atikokan, and I can tell you those actions are a hundred million times more than your government did when you were in power, when you did absolutely nothing.


Mr Howard Hampton (Kenora-Rainy River): My question is for the Premier. Your government has said over and over again that Hydro deregulation and privatization would be good for the environment and good for consumers. This summer the people of Ontario got all the bad air, and then the consumers opened up their hydro bills and discovered 40% increases from Wawa to Hamilton to Toronto. Consumers are pretty angry, Premier. They want to know why they should be paying substantial amounts more for electricity when your government said their hydro bills will go down.

Premier, how much money will consumers have to fork out before you admit that hydro privatization and deregulation are a failure?

Hon Ernie Eves (Premier, Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs): First of all, the leader of the third party might want to wait until he finds out a year's worth of prices before he starts jumping to conclusions about the warmest summer on record in Ontario since 1955. I know that he used to blame Mike Harris for the weather, and perhaps I'll get blamed for it now, but the reality is that we have had the warmest summer on record since 1995.

There is a plan in place, of course, to rebate in excess of 3.8 cents per kilowatt hour to customers in Ontario. And I'm sure he's aware of the 32 new projects that have been started that do not emit greenhouse gases in Ontario and what that would mean. But I presume we can answer those in supplementary questions.

Mr Hampton: Premier, I was merely asking you what all of your former energy ministers said, the former energy ministers who said the price of electricity will go down, the former energy ministers who said this would be good for the environment.

I was in Wawa and Sault Ste Marie last week. People in Wawa have bills that have doubled. The major employer, River Gold Mines, has pointed out that their bill was up 34% and they can't sustain those prices. The other major employer indicated that their bills were up 52% and they can't sustain those prices. As I say, it's not just Wawa; it's Kitchener, it's Hamilton, it's Toronto. It's virtually everywhere across this province.

Premier, how many jobs do you intend to drive out of the province before you admit that your scheme for privatizing and deregulating Hydro isn't working?

Hon Mr Eves: The leader of the third party will know that prices in Ontario in the months of May and June were down, on average, and he will know that prices in July and August were up, on average.

My advice to him is still the same as the first question he asked: he might want to wait until he has a year under his belt and can compare prices for an entire year and see whether prices are up or down. Why wasn't he on his feet screaming about lower prices in the months of May and June?

Mr Hampton: I want to paraphrase what your friends in California said as the hydroelectricity market became more and more unreliable and prices went through the roof. They said, "Wait and it will get better." The history was that consumers, businesses and industries were ripped off and taken advantage of. That's the reality.

Your ministers have said, "Oh, we can't possibly have a shortage of electricity in Ontario." Guess what? This summer, Chris Stockwell and Jim Wilson had to import electricity because there was an electricity shortage. You're even wrong on that point.

As you proceed with privatization, if you sell off more and more of the plants, what you do is you open us up to more and more of the Enron-style manipulations of the electricity market.

Can you tell us, Premier, is hydro privatization and deregulation unfolding as you planned?

Hon Mr Eves: I don't know where he's been for the last 50-plus years in Ontario. For your information, we have been importing power for decades upon decades at Ontario Hydro. That is a normal course of events, has been for decades in Ontario, and nothing has changed.



Mr Howard Hampton (Kenora-Rainy River): To the Premier as well, and I like how the Premier is making it up as he goes along.

Premier, your scheme for school board control is ripping even more money out of our schools and putting it in the pockets of public relations consultants and your political chums.

First you took over school boards and installed your supervisors. Then we discovered that school boards will be on the hook for more than half a million dollars in salaries for these men, some of them prominent Conservatives. Now we find out that they're hiring public relations consultants. In Hamilton, your supervisor has hired somebody called Best Communications. In Ottawa, your supervisor has hired not one but two public relations consultants.

Premier, will you tell us how much of our school budget you are prepared to squander on your supervisors and their public relations consultants?

Hon Ernie Eves (Premier, Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs): I'll have the Minister of Education answer this question.

Hon Elizabeth Witmer (Deputy Premier, Minister of Education): I think the leader of the third party needs to keep in mind that there was the opportunity, in the case of all of these three school boards, to have presented a balanced budget, since they were presented with balanced budgets by the staff. Unfortunately, they chose not to do so. So what has happened now is that we have supervisors in order to ensure stability and to ensure that students returned to class and were able to continue to receive the high quality of teaching they had become accustomed to.

Mr Hampton: The Minister of Education makes it sound as if all the school boards needed was to hire a PR consultant and everything would be fine. You and your Premier talk about putting kids first, but let's just follow the paper trail here.

Your government has no money for special education -- 39,000 students across the province are waiting -- yet you found $1.4 million for back-to-school advertising. Your government has no money for basic school supplies at a number of our schools, but your supervisors in Ottawa, Hamilton and Toronto are going to take money out of their school budgets to hire spin doctors and public relations propaganda consultants. You found the money for plum contracts for your supervisors and your public relations consultants.

Would you agree with us, Minister, that the money should have gone to special education, textbooks and basic school supplies, not to your political friends and your propaganda artists?

Hon Mrs Witmer: In the last few months, our government has invested an additional $557 million into public education. We are spending more than ever in the history of this province.

Furthermore, we continue to make sure that all students in this province, no matter where they live, no matter which board they're part of, have access and that the money is actually spent on special education. As you well know, before our government was elected that was not always the case. The money directed to special education was not always used for the children in the classroom. We will continue to make additional money available for special education.


Mr Dalton McGuinty (Leader of the Opposition): My question is to the Premier. Earlier this spring, the Provincial Auditor warned that your failed energy policies would cause rate increases in Ontario. Specifically, he said that your mismanagement connected with the $1 billion in cost overruns and delays in starting the four nuclear reactors in Pickering would cause hydro bills to soar. Your minister at the time said, and I have the quote here, "That's not going to drive rates up."

I'm asking you on behalf of Ontario ratepayers, why have you failed to protect them?

Hon Ernie Eves (Premier, Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs): I refer the question to the Minister of Energy.


Hon John R. Baird (Minister of Energy, minister responsible for francophone affairs): Thank you.

Obviously, we're tremendously concerned with the slower commissioning of the four reactors at Pickering A. We would have liked to see reactor number 4 come on board quicker than that. But we are making some important investments -- at least the Ontario Power Generation company is making some important investments -- to ensure that environmental measures are protected, to ensure that nuclear safety and reliability enhancements are made, to ensure that we're meeting the stringent regulatory requirements brought in by the federal government.

We're also spending a substantial amount on safety. These reactors, which were designed back in the 1960s and 1970s, are in need of some significant improvements. We're not going to take shortcuts. We're going to ensure that we can look everyone in the eye in the Durham region, that their safety will not be put at risk, and as well that the important 2,000 megawatts that will be available through the grid are available to ensure that we can provide a reliable source of energy for all consumers in Ontario.

Mr McGuinty: It's hardly an auspicious start for the new minister, Speaker.

Minister, your government was going to take control of Ontario Hydro. You were going to bring it to its knees, you were going to wrestle it to the ground, and all of this was going to be to the benefit of Ontario ratepayers. Ratepayers are having a shocking experience now when they read their electricity bills. Your predecessor specifically said that the problems connected with Pickering -- those cost overruns, the delay in time in getting everything back up on track -- were not going to affect electricity bills. The Provincial Auditor at the time said, "Yes, it would."

I'm asking you now, Minister: in your new capacity, what are you going to do to protect Ontario Hydro ratepayers?

Hon Mr Baird: In order to protect ratepayers, in order to protect the safety of the people of Ontario, we're going to ensure and Ontario Power Generation is going to ensure that we take the time to ensure that Pickering A is brought on-line in a responsible fashion.

We are not going to take shortcuts. We are not going to ensure a half-baked idea -- you cannot go to Wal-Mart or Canadian Tire and pull off the shelf repairs for a nuclear reactor. We're not going to hire Homer Simpson to fix it. We're going to fix it right, and that'll be in the best interests of taxpayers in Ontario.


Mr Garfield Dunlop (Simcoe North): My question today is for the Attorney General. Minister, I think that all members of this House share the commitment that families and children who rely on support orders should receive the payments they are entitled to. It is a matter of fairness and respect for the law.

However, there are some individuals who try to avoid their legal responsibilities by moving to other jurisdictions, in particular the United States of America. These people feel that by leaving Ontario's borders they will be able to turn their back on their commitments to their families and to the law.

Minister, these people need to know that leaving Ontario does not mean that they can run away from their obligations to their families and their children. What steps have been taken to make sure that money owed to these families will be collected regardless of where the payer lives?

Hon David Young (Attorney General, minister responsible for native affairs): I thank the member for the question. No child should ever go without simply because a parent crosses the Canada-US border. That's why I am so pleased that this past summer we, together with Attorney General Ashcroft in the United States, signed an agreement that will allow for easier enforcement of support orders issued in Ontario in all 50 states of the United States of America. Indeed, the reciprocal is true as well: Americans who have individuals living in Ontario who owe money as a result of support orders will be able to have those support orders more easily enforced. This will affect some 2,000 Ontario families. It is essential that we move forward with agreements like this, not only with our American colleagues but with other jurisdictions.

Mr Dunlop: Thank you very much, Minister, and that's certainly a positive step for those families. However, I'm also interested in what action is being taken against payers who live in other provinces. While in Ontario we can use measures such as driver's licence suspensions to collect arrears owed here, we may not have some ability to enforce orders in other provinces like BC and Nova Scotia.

What action is being taken to make sure that no matter where these individuals go, they won't be able to avoid the responsibilities to their families and to their children?

Hon Mr Young: Indeed, Premier Ernie Eves prioritized this matter and it was dealt with at a recent federal-provincial conference. It is a matter that was dealt with in this House in a preliminary fashion by the introduction of our interjurisdictional support order, a bill that will come back for second reading in short order and a bill that I am hopeful will get passed in short order. It is a bill that will allow for easier enforcement between provinces in this country, so that if a payer resides in Saskatchewan and the dependent children and family reside in Ontario, those orders can be enforced in a quick, efficient and timely fashion.

I believe as well that most of the other provinces have moved in this direction, and credit should be directed toward the individuals in those provinces and in particular the Premiers and Attorneys General who have made significant progress in this matter. This is another bill that will ensure that no child shall go without.



Mr Dwight Duncan (Windsor-St Clair): I have a question for the Minister of Energy. Minister, two weeks ago Union Gas consumers, one million across Ontario, began receiving notices from Union Gas of an application for a retroactive increase in natural gas prices. It has come to our attention that at 4 o'clock last Friday, the Ontario Energy Board released a decision allowing those increases -- indeed, Minister, not only allowing the increases but also allowing Union Gas to charge interest on the amounts outstanding. Do the minister and government agree with this decision of the Ontario Energy Board?

Hon John R. Baird (Minister of Energy, minister responsible for francophone affairs): This government believes it is obviously important to have administrative and judicial agencies that operate at arm's length from the government so that corporations, consumers and citizens in Ontario can get a fair hearing. I think the member opposite would be the very first member to demand that a minister resign if they attempted to get involved with issues that normally go before these adjudicative bodies. That is a process which I certainly understand.

Back in 2001, there were some significant increases in the cost of natural gas, and in recent months we've seen substantial decreases.

Mr Duncan: Minister, number one, you will know that your government gave yourselves the power in 1998 to review those policies and decisions. I would urge you to do that.

Number two, earlier this year, Union Gas, which was owned by Westcoast Energy, was acquired by Duke Energy in North Carolina for $8 billion. Last year, Duke Energy reported an operating profit of US$1.8 billion. In its filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission for the periods under question for this rate increase, their profits are approaching US$500 million.

Does the minister think it's appropriate to continue to raise rates retroactively for constituents and consumers across this province in light of the fact that the company applying for them is in fact very profitable and is making more money than it has ever made before?

Hon Mr Baird: Obviously this is an issue that goes back a period of years, perhaps for part of the period preceding the deal which he just spoke about. I do think it's important that we have an arm's-length body, an adjudicative agency, in this case very ably chaired by a former New Democratic member of this place, Floyd Laughren, who has exercised his responsibilities in a very serious and thorough fashion.

I think it's an important principle that both companies and consumers have the ability to get these issues decided by an administrative tribunal that operates at arm's length from the government. The importance of that independence has been raised probably every single day that we've sat in this House, in one case or another, by members of the opposition. I suspect if I did, they would.


Ms Marilyn Mushinski (Scarborough Centre): My question is for the Minister of Culture. Last Friday you announced our government's investment of up to $766,643 for the Royal Canadian Air Force Memorial Museum expansion. Having been designated as Canada's national air force museum, it boasts an impressive collection that reflects Canada's proud military history, including a full-scale replica of the Burgess-Dunne aircraft, uniforms, medals and an art collection, to name but a few.

Through SuperBuild, I understand the Ontario government has invested close to $300 million to improve and build new sports, culture and tourism facilities in over 200 communities across this province. I wonder if the minister could tell this House how this SuperBuild recipient plans to leverage the provincial funds.

Hon David H. Tsubouchi (Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet, Minister of Culture): There's so much to say on this really worthy project, the RCAF museum in Trenton. They're planning to expand the facilities to not only house this Halifax bomber which they're building but also provide extended classes or tours to children.

They plan to leverage this through big donors and small donors, but mainly through veterans who have written in and indicated their support for this great project. Their main fundraiser right now is the Ad Astra Stone campaign, which is taking place this weekend.

I am happy to say that at the same time we presented a cheque from the government for about three quarters of a million dollars, my wife presented a cheque on behalf of our family to the RCAF museum and the Ad Astra Stone to recognize her father, Roy Kerr, who was a warrant officer of 162 Squadron with five tours of duty, was missing in action three times and was awarded the DFM.

These are the types of people who support the RCAF vets, and that's why I believe that the fundraising campaign will be a success. All of us need to recognize what our veterans have done for this country in the past.

Ms Mushinski: Thank you for that response, Minister. I know that there are many constituents in my own riding of Scarborough Centre who will be very happy to hear that.

The expansion of this museum is a fitting tribute and particularly timely in light of current events. We all know that our armed forces continue to make valuable contributions to the war on terror and to peacekeeping operations around the world.

We also know what an enormous value the Royal Canadian Air Force Memorial Museum provides Ontarians and, indeed, all Canadians, for that matter. Our contribution during World War II must not and will not be forgotten. There is no doubt that our government's investment will enable the RCAF Memorial Museum to leverage new funding partners. What can you tell this House about those efforts of the many dedicated people and the 100 volunteers and service people to make this dream a reality?

Hon Mr Tsubouchi: First, I'd like to recognize the efforts of Dr Galt, who brought this project to the attention of SuperBuild; a number of local municipal officials as well: Bob Campney I know for certain at the city of Quinte West, and almost everyone in that whole area, supported this particular project.

When we receive a letter like this from someone who said, "On April 25, 1944, my only brother was killed in a Halifax bomber over Antwerp, Belgium. I know this request is for taxpayers' money, but it is also in honour of those who gave their lives for the taxpayers' freedom" -- The member is quite right. We just had the September 11 remembrance. It occurred just a short while ago. This is a reminder of what our armed forces have done for this country. It's worthy of being remembered. It's worthy of reminding our future generations of the role our veterans have played to keep our countries safe and free.


Ms Shelley Martel (Nickel Belt): I have a question to the Premier. I'm challenging you today to act in the best interests of our youngest children. Statistics Canada reports that Ontario parents are now paying more for child care than parents in any other province in this country. The average household spending on child care in Ontario has increased 65.7% since 1997. Because of your cuts, Ontario parents are now paying, on average, $30 a day per child per regulated space.

We have a better and a brighter idea for those families: $10-a-day child care and the creation of 20,000 new $10-a-day child care spaces in Ontario. That would make high-quality child care affordable and accessible to Ontario families, and it would respond to recommendations made by Fraser Mustard and Margaret McCain, who said that high-quality child care was fundamental to early childhood development.

Premier, $10-a-day child care in Ontario: will you implement it?

Hon Ernie Eves (Premier, Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs): The honourable member will know, of course, that the province of Ontario is investing over $2.2 billion a year on children in the province of Ontario. This is up 66% since 1995.

I understand that she has a different point of view with respect to child care than perhaps others do. I take it from her question that she believes that the only good child care is publicly subsidized child care, and I appreciate that point of view. But we on this side of the House have introduced different methods: of different people, average hard-working Ontarians, being able to get child care credits on their income tax system, number one; and the only form of child care in Ontario isn't that which is provided and subsidized by the government.


Ms Martel: Today the Ontario Coalition for Better Child Care, the Elementary Teachers' Federation and Campaign 2000 all called on your government to act immediately to have affordable, regulated child care. They pointed out that of the $114 million your government received from the federal government last year for early childhood development initiatives, not one penny was spent on regulated child care. They also pointed out that since April of this year, you have received $150 million from the federal government for initiatives on early childhood development and you have not even announced what you're going to do with that money.

Recently, your own child experts, Mustard and McCain, were very critical of your government for failing to do anything positive with respect to child care, and this was one of the key recommendations they made in their Early Years Study. They said, and we say, that high-quality, regulated child care gives families and children the best possible start. It's not a luxury; it's a necessity.

I ask you again, Premier: $10-a-day child care in Ontario -- will you implement this plan?

Hon Mr Eves: I appreciate the honourable member's question. She talks about $150 million that the federal government has given to the province of Ontario. I've explained to her, in response to her previous question, that this year we're spending $2.2 billion on early child development in Ontario.

I would agree that the province has not implemented everything, obviously, that McCain and Mustard recommended to it. However, we have done some good things. For example, we've opened up early care centres. Some 42 of them are now operating in Ontario and some 61 additional ones will be operational by next year.

We've done things for autism. We've done things for early literacy. We've done things for Healthy Babies, Healthy Children. Perhaps it isn't exactly what McCain and Mustard would have liked to see us do and perhaps we have to do better in the future, and we will. We are spending $2.2 billion this year on children in Ontario.


Mr John Gerretsen (Kingston and the Islands): My question is to the Premier. You and your government caused great distress, anxiety and fear among the residents of our long-term-care homes this summer when you introduced, in the dark of night, an increase of 15% in their long-term-care rates, or $230 per month.

You set the moral tone for this government, Premier. What are you going to do about it? Why don't you answer the thousands of petitions we have received and do the right thing by rescinding this outrageous increase that you darned well know our seniors cannot afford? Many of these people have lived on fixed incomes for the last 25 years. Do the right thing. Let's look after our elderly properly in this province and rescind the outrageous increase you implemented this summer.

Hon Ernie Eves (Premier, Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs): The associate minister responsible for long-term care.

Hon Dan Newman (Associate Minister of Health and Long-Term Care): Our government has indeed heard the concerns from residents of long-term-care facilities. We heard the concerns of their families, and we heard the concerns of stakeholders within the system. The concern was that there needed to be more money in the system for nursing and personal care.

That's why the Ernie Eves government, on July 31 of this year, announced $100 million of new funding to enhance the delivery of nursing and personal care services across our province. We also announced $98 million in capital funding to build and expand the system, as part of our government's $1.2-billion expansion of long-term-care services in the province, to build those new beds that are required.

We also announced a three-year phase-in of the resident copayment. We are actually increasing the minimum income threshold for seniors in the next three years. That's our commitment to the seniors in this province and those who require long-term-care services.

Mr Gerretsen: Premier, I'm very disappointed that you wouldn't answer that question. You set the moral tone for this government. You are allowing people who have absolutely no other alternative, who live in homes, who basically want to live out their lives in dignity and respect, to be attacked by you and your government, and you are not even man enough to deal with that issue in this House.

I'm asking you once again: do the right thing and rescind the increase that you authorized this summer. It simply is not the right thing to do. You know it; you answer the question.

Hon Mr Newman: Some $100 million has been added to the long-term-care system to provide additional time for those residents of long-term-care facilities. That's going to translate into some 2,400 nurses and personal care workers added to the system. It's approximately four full-time-equivalent nursing positions per 100-bed facility.

It has always been the case in this province that income is not a barrier for those who require long-term-care services. Any resident who cannot afford to pay the copayment can apply for a rate reduction.


Mr AL McDonald (Nipissing): My question today is for the Minister of Natural Resources. Earlier this month you announced the nuisance bear review for the province of Ontario and unveiled the membership of the review committee. This issue of nuisance bears has certainly been a topic of conversation in my riding of Nipissing, as well as others, I'm sure. Minister, could you tell us what you are doing to address these concerns?

Hon Jerry J. Ouellette (Minister of Natural Resources): I thank the member for Nipissing for the question. I know the member himself has had bear problems in his own driveway in his own riding, which certainly adds to it. We need to look at an in-depth review in order to properly address the people's concerns regarding the potential or the increase of nuisance bears throughout the province.

That's why on September 6, 2002, I announced a full review of the nuisance bear issue. This is a broad and complex issue. Due to the conflicting thoughts on its origin, pinpointing the cause of the increase will take an expansive and concerted effort. Therefore, it would only be reasonable to appoint a diverse and experienced group to head up this review, and that's exactly what we've done.

Mr McDonald: Thank you, Minister. You've touched on my next question. What will be the role of this committee, and what aspects of this subject will you be looking at as this review takes its course in the months to come?

Hon Mr Ouellette: Whether it's in Atikokan or Ignace or Thunder Bay, where I was last week, it's certainly a question that has come forward. We look at all aspects of bears, as it is a very complex issue, including the biology, the literature, the geographic and socio-economic factors relating to the perceived nuisance bear increase. It will also look at the municipal impacts and compare the effects of bear activity from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. The primary goal of this committee is to gather the most up-to-date information possible from the numerous sources throughout the province relating to all factors that make up this issue. Then we will be able to make an educated and practical decision on how we best manage bears in the province.


Ms Caroline Di Cocco (Sarnia-Lambton): My question is to the Minister of Education. Viable, full schools in my riding are slated for closure: Holy Rosary at 105% capacity; St Helen's at 95% capacity. Most of the students walk to these schools and don't need busing. All of the Catholic elementary schools in Sarnia-Lambton are at over 100% capacity; their average is 105% capacity. There's no room for either the St Helen's or the Holy Rosary kids at any of the other schools.

You certainly have not reined in any of the school boards regarding how many schools they close, even if there are no apparent criteria as to why they should close them. I'm asking you, will you put a moratorium on school closures, as already has been requested by Dalton McGuinty, considering these devastating consequences caused by your flawed funding formula?

Hon Elizabeth Witmer (Deputy Premier, Minister of Education): In response to the question from the member from Sarnia-Lambton, I had the opportunity last week, on Tuesday, to visit two schools in your riding. One was a separate school, elementary, and one was a public school, elementary. I have to tell you I was very impressed with the dedicated, hard-working teachers in the school and the very enthusiastic students I saw in the school.

I also had an opportunity to meet with the parents, who obviously are taking some issue with the decisions the board has made thus far regarding school accommodation. The message remains, as it always has, that school accommodation reviews -- the decision to build new schools and close other schools -- remain as prerogatives of the locally elected school board, who are in the best position to respond to local concerns.


Ms Di Cocco: I know you visited a couple of elementary schools in Sarnia-Lambton. It also came to my attention that the people at those schools were given instructions by your handlers not to ask questions regarding school closures, budgets or lack of books. That's what I was told.

When it comes to forcing school boards to balance their inadequate budgets and cut programs, you have intervened. But when it comes to the interests of the students and school closures, you wash your hands of your responsibility.

I'm going to ask again if you will put a moratorium on school closures. You take action when it comes to school boards balancing their budgets. Now it's about the interests of the students and the community. Will you put a moratorium on school closures for the sake of the students, the neighbourhood and the community?

Hon Mrs Witmer: Just a note of correction: I actually met with the parents in a private setting. So I can tell you that they had full access to me and they had the opportunity to be as honest as they possibly could, and I thought we had a good, frank, open discussion. So I can assure you there was a lot of frankness and honesty.

Maybe I should remind you of your leader's position on school closings. On May 7, 1999, "Mr McGuinty ... promised no school would shut unless the community decided to do so. He later corrected himself saying the decision would be made by the local trustees." Then in April 1999, "We'll keep schools open in your communities," and in 2002 in Ancaster, "Mr McGuinty does support closing schools."

Do you know what? We're not sure what your leader supports. Is he for or against closing schools? We don't know.


Mr Raminder Gill (Bramalea-Gore-Malton-Springdale): My question is for the Minister of Labour. I understand that you recently met with the Sarnia safety partnership co-operative, a unique initiative that is helping improve workplace health and safety in that city. Could you please tell the House what you learned at your meeting?

Hon Brad Clark (Minister of Labour): I want to thank the honourable member for his question, and I really hope the opposition members are listening here. Sarnia has something to be very proud of. They have a safety partnership that is a co-operative of leaders of local industries, construction contractors and trade unions.


Hon Mr Clark: They're applauding. They're applauding the petrochemical valley for what they've actually done: zero lost-time injury rates. That's what they're trying to do in Sarnia, an incredible accomplishment, identifying and implementing best practices, motivating everyone to care about safety and establishing an active network to coordinate and sustain safety initiatives.

You know, when I started standing in this House and talking about changing the culture about injuries in the workplace, the opposition guffawed. But in Sarnia they're proving us right. It can be done, and we're going to spread the message across Ontario.

Mr Gill: Minister, the Sarnia safety partnership co-operative truly seems to be making a difference in that community. Could you tell us what your ministry is doing to improve workplace health and safety across the province?

Hon Mr Clark: It's a very good question. My ministry is working with Ontario's workplace health and safety system, including the WSIB, the Workers Health and Safety Centre, the occupational health clinics for Ontario workers and 12 different industry-specific workplace associations. Our message is straightforward: we want to prevent injuries. So we're working together as a team -- union leaders, industry, employees -- everybody working to the end goal of eliminating workplace injuries.

I've committed my ministry to do what is necessary to ensure that Ontario workplaces are among the safest in the world. As of today, we have reduced lost-time injuries by 30%, so we're proving very clearly that we can make Ontario the best place to live, work and raise a family.


Mr Tony Martin (Sault Ste Marie): My question is for the Premier. I'd like to invite you to get a taste of what your punitive social assistance policies are doing to the people of this province. Because you slashed supports by more than 21% over seven years ago, people on social assistance are forced to live in abject poverty.

Marilyn Churley, Michael Prue and I have accepted a challenge from the Daily Bread Food Bank to attempt to live on the budget that your government has imposed on people who need social assistance. After paying for rent and basic expenses, this budget leaves us with $12 to buy food for eight days. Policies like your government's clawback of the national child tax benefit supplement are forcing people to try and feed themselves on less than $2 a day.

Premier, will you join us and test the effects of your government's policies and get a taste of poverty in Ontario, or better still, will you stop the clawback and give children on social assistance their money?

Hon Ernie Eves (Premier, Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs): With respect to the money given to children by the federal government, I believe I have answered that in a previous question by one of your colleagues. Feel free to do whatever you and other individuals want to do, with respect to making your point. I respect the decision that you've made.

The Speaker (Hon Gary Carr): Supplementary.

Mr Michael Prue (Beaches-East York): Like my colleagues, I am attempting to live for one week -- actually eight days -- on $12.05. That's what our poorest citizens have to do day in and day out. Part of the reason they have to do that is the double whammy you've given them: the Tenant Protection Act, which raises their rents far beyond their ability to pay, and the fact that your government has not built one unit of social assisted housing in seven years in this city or in this province.

The Daily Bread Food Bank invited you and all of the colleagues on your side of the House to walk in the shoes of a social assistance recipient for one week. Not one of you agreed to do it. Is it because they don't wear the same kind of Gucci shoes, or is it because you simply could care less?

Hon Mr Eves: I respect your decision and those of your colleagues to do whatever you feel is appropriate to make your point. I respect your right to stand up in this House and make that point. I think that the action you and your colleagues have taken is admirable. I wish you well in your endeavours. That doesn't mean everybody in the world has to think the way you do or follow in your footsteps. And for your information, speaking of footsteps, I've never owned a pair of Gucci shoes in my life. Maybe you have.


Mr Richard Patten (Ottawa Centre): My question is for the Minister of Education. You stated in your press conference here when you announced the movement to have the so-called supervisor -- what a crazy name; it's really a dictator -- that you did this because the Ottawa board was not co-operative, when you know full well that the board chair wrote to you and suggested, from the forensic auditor -- imagine that, they send in a forensic auditor, a criminal investigator --


Mr Patten: That's what it is -- to take a look at the books of the school board. Mr Rosen himself identifies over $39 million in underfunding from the government, and the school board itself has a deficit of $23 million. There was a lot of room for negotiations. Why did you not take that opportunity to sit down with that school board chair and work out some kind of arrangement?

Hon Elizabeth Witmer (Deputy Premier, Minister of Education): It's an interesting question, but I think the member has either been misinformed or forgets that the request, actually, to send in an investigator, have someone take a look at the Ottawa books, had been made by the chair, Jim Libbey; it had been made by other members who live in the Ottawa community. We responded to the request. In fact, when we sent in the investigator, Mr Libbey thought him to be a well-qualified, competent individual. It was only when the results of the investigation were made public that there was any criticism.


I would also let you know that I did, as my very first official trip as Minister of Education, travel to Ottawa to meet with the chair of the board and the director of education in order that we could resolve together the problem they had with balancing their budget. I made many overtures, and at the end of the day, all Mr Libbey wanted was someone to come in and take a look at the books. We did that.

Mr Patten: I spoke to Mr Libby this morning. He said that you never responded to his letter in offering a way out of this situation. So yes, everybody asked for one because we thought that you'd provide a fair arrangement. You sent in this turkey, who is an absolute turkey --


Mr Patten: I'll say that. I've never heard any kind of auditor make the kinds of statements that he made. He was making judgments about the trustees etc.

You didn't answer my question. There are $39 million that Mr Rosen identified as potential areas of dealing with the budget. And you know as well as I do that even the Peel board today came out and said that many of the other boards throughout Ontario --


Mr Patten: It's a false balanced budget. At least that board was honest, and you hit them over the head for it as an example for others to keep them in line. Why would you do that?

Hon Mrs Witmer: I would just simply repeat what I've said before. Many attempts were made to work with the chair of the board and the board in Ottawa in order that we, as a government, and we at the Ministry of Education could assist them in balancing their budget. Unfortunately, even though they were presented with balanced budgets, they came to the conclusion that it was not their desire to pass a balanced budget or to work with us.


Mr Steve Gilchrist (Scarborough East): My question is for the Minister of Tourism and Recreation. In Saturday's Toronto Star -- I'm always keen to give as much publicity as possible to that publication -- there was an article about the decline of tourism in Toronto. According to Star reporter Maureen Murray, "Thousands of jobs are at stake; some have already vanished. The public coffers are being denied millions in tax dollars. The tourism industry is worried." The article also states that hotel occupancy in greater Toronto is down 7.4% in the first half of this year, while the national decline is 2.7% for the same period.

Minister, I would like to know what your ministry is doing, on behalf of the businesses in my riding and 21 others in Toronto, to assist the efforts of Tourism Toronto in helping to maintain and grow the tourism industry of Canada's largest city.

Hon Cameron Jackson (Minister of Tourism and Recreation): I want to thank the honourable member for his question. The government of Ontario has been investing substantial dollars into tourism marketing plans, primarily in the United States where we have our rubber tire trade -- traffic that can cross the border -- which is actually up by 6.5%. The good news is that this is seeing increased numbers in communities like London, Hamilton, parts of Ottawa and eastern Ontario. They have seen increases in tourists, so we are very encouraged by that.

In Toronto alone, we spend between $6.5 million and $7 million in direct marketing, and on top of that, additional festival development monies. One of the concerns we have is that the federal government offers this festival money in Quebec to the tune of $24 million and we in Ontario only get about $4 million, so they get six times as much money. We'd like the federal government to realize that they have an interest in this special international gateway to Canada: Toronto.



Mr David Caplan (Don Valley East): I have a petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.

"Whereas the Progressive Conservative government promised in 1995 not to cut classroom spending, but has already cut at least $1 billion from our schools and is now closing many classrooms completely; and

"Whereas international language weekend classes are a needed part of learning for many students in our area; and

"Whereas the Education Act, specifically regulation 285(5), mandates provision of these programs where demand exists; and

"Whereas the Conservative government funding formula is forcing the Toronto District School Board" -- they have been taken over by a supervisor -- "to cancel these Saturday classes for groups who want this programming;

"Therefore, be it resolved that we, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to instruct the Minister of Education to restore meaningful and flexible funding to the Toronto District School Board, to ensure that they are able to continue to accommodate these Saturday international classes."

I wholeheartedly agree with this petition, I'm going to give it to Edward, and I will sign it.


Mr John O'Toole (Durham): Mr Speaker, before I start my petition, I'd like to make a little remark that you haven't introduced the pages -- maybe we'll do it later in the day -- because there's one from my riding of Durham.

I'm pleased to present a petition on behalf of my constituents in Durham.

"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"Whereas we, the undersigned, wish to express our concern about the current debate on our health care system; and" -- they feel they can express that to me --

"Whereas medicare has saved a generation of Canadians from fear of financial ruin due to illness; and

"Whereas this system is now in peril;" -- these are my constituents speaking --

"Therefore we, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to work co-operatively to uphold the five principles of the Canada Health Act which are in need of reinforcement and new commitment. These principles are: accessibility, universality, availability, publicly administered, portable and comprehensive;

"We further ask that Canadians be provided with a properly funded and sustainable not-for-profit health care system. We ask that Canada take back its role as a leader in national health care, insured by a public health system fully supported by the federal and provincial governments."

I am pleased to sign in support of this petition on behalf of my constituents and present it to one of the new pages; her name is Émilie.


Mrs Sandra Pupatello (Windsor West): I have long-term care petitions on behalf of my community, which is a bunch of petitions of the 25,000 Ontario-wide.

"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"Whereas the Eves government has increased the fees paid by seniors, the most vulnerable living in long-term care facilities, by 15% over the last three years, $3.02 per diem in the first year and $2 in the second year, $2 in the third year, effective September 1, 2002;

"Whereas this increase will cost seniors and our most vulnerable more than $200 a month and after three years;

"Whereas this increase is above the rent increase guidelines for tenants in the province of Ontario;

"Whereas, according to the government's own funded study, Ontario will rank last among comparable jurisdictions in the amount of time provided to a resident for nursing and personal care;

"Whereas the long-term care funding partnership has been based on government accepting the responsibility to fund the care and services that residents need;

"Whereas this province has been built by seniors, who should be able to live out their lives with dignity, respect and in the comfort of this province;

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

"We demand that Premier Eves reduce the 15% increase over three years in accommodation costs to no more than the cost-of-living increase annually and the provincial government provide adequate funding for nursing and personal care to a level that is at least the average standard for nursing and personal care in those 10 jurisdictions included in the government's own study."

I will be signing this petition.



Mr Michael Prue (Beaches-East York): I have a petition here that has been ably collected on Hamilton Mountain by the NDP riding association at that location, and it reads as follows:

"Support a Rent Freeze Petition to the Ontario Legislature.

"Whereas tenants in Hamilton are paying $1,248 more for an average two-bedroom apartment per year than they did when the Conservatives' so-called Tenant Protection Act was enacted in the spring of 1998; and

"Whereas tenants in Toronto and Ottawa are paying their landlord on average over $2,000 more per year; and

"Whereas 22% of Ontario tenants were paying more than 50% of their income in rent even before the new act was brought in, with 43% of tenants paying more than 30% of their income in rent; and

"Whereas the Conservative policy, enshrined in the Tenant Protection Act, of allowing landlords to charge whatever rent they like when a unit becomes vacant has been the main reason for these skyrocketing rents; and

"Whereas the Conservative legislation is also unfair to tenants in the way it allows landlords to treat capital and operating costs; for example by failing to decrease the rent when a landlord's costs decrease while allowing landlords to pass on increases;

"Therefore be it resolved that the government of Ontario be asked to implement an immediate rent freeze; and

"Be it further resolved that the Tenant Protection Act be replaced with a system of real rent control similar to the NDP's Rent Control Act of 1992; which, among other things, regulated rents on vacant apartments and decreased rents when a landlord's costs decreased."

I am in agreement and I will affix my signature thereto.


Mr Ted Arnott (Waterloo-Wellington): I have a petition, and it's intended to be addressed to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario. It reads as follows:

"The International Association of Fire Fighters is taking action to prevent the full-time firefighters in our rural communities from volunteering as volunteer firefighters on their days off. This move will affect both our volunteer fire services and our communitie's rural lifestyle.

"We, the taxpayers and voters of the city of Kawartha Lakes, do hereby request the intervention and action of the government of Ontario. We ask the government to take immediate action to clarify legislation to protect firefighters from the effects of union discipline on continued employment.

"Specifically, we ask that the Minister of Labour, the Minister of Municipal Affairs and the Solicitor General work to amend the application section of the Labour Relations Act, 1995, to include application to firefighters those parts of the act pertaining to union discipline and the duty of the union to provide fair representation to its members, namely sections 51 and 74 of the Labour Relations Act, 1995. We, the people of the city of Kawartha Lakes, further ask the government to act immediately, as the effects of the IAFF conduct are now negatively impacting our rural fire protection services."

This is signed by around 4,300 people. It's probably the most substantial petition I've presented in my 12 years in the Legislature.


Mr John Gerretsen (Kingston and the Islands): I have a petition which is addressed to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.

"Whereas the Eves government has increased the fees paid for by seniors and the most vulnerable living in long-term-care facilities by 15% or $7.02 per diem effective August 1, 2002; and

"Whereas this fee increase will cost seniors and our most vulnerable more than $200 a month; and

"Whereas this increase is 11.1% above the rent increase guidelines for tenants in the province of Ontario; and

"Whereas the increase in the government's own contribution to raise the level of long-term-care services this year is less than $2 per resident per day; and

"Whereas according to the government's own funded study, Ontario ranks last amongst comparable jurisdictions in the amount of time provided to a resident for nursing and personal care; and

"Whereas the long-term-care funding partnership has been based on government accepting the responsibility to fund the care and services that residents need; and

"Whereas government needs to increase long-term-care operating funding by $750 million over the next three years to raise the level of service for Ontario's long-term-care residents to those in Saskatchewan in 1999; and

"Whereas this province has been built by seniors who should be able to live out their lives with dignity, respect and in comfort in this province;

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

"Demand that Premier Eves reduce his 15% fee increase on seniors and the most vulnerable living in long-term-care facilities and increase provincial government support for nursing and personal care to adequate levels."

I agree with this petition and have signed it accordingly.


Mr Gilles Bisson (Timmins-James Bay): Mr Speaker, do you know how long it takes to find one's glasses? My God, it took me a long time. Anyway, I have a petition here in regard to the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission. I want to make sure I read it right. It reads as follows:

"Whereas the government of Ontario established its first crown agency in February 1902, creating the Timiskaming and Northern Ontario Railway, known as the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission; and

"Whereas the purpose of the crown agency was more than simply to build a railway into northern Ontario, the northeastern part of the province, but to fulfill a larger social and economic development role in the northern region of the province; and

"Whereas the council recognizes the enormous contribution the ONTC provides to not only the economic stability of northern Ontario but more importantly in stimulating economic and social development in the north; and

"Whereas the government of Ontario has now stated that it intends to divest most of the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission operation; and

"Whereas the current members of the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission have shown themselves to be indifferent to the fate of this very important agency; and

"Whereas the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission in its entirety is an integral part of social and economic development in northern Ontario, and the city of North Bay recognizes that any effort to dismantle the ONTC will have serious impact on the viability of numerous communities throughout the north; and

"Whereas this Ontario government in 1995 stated they were well aware of the importance the ONTC plays in northern Ontario; and

"Whereas the privatization of the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission, norOntair, resulted in the reduction of service, and the city of North Bay believes the privatization of ONTC will add greatly to increase the difference between northern and southern Ontario" --


Mr Bisson: It's a great petition. Wait till you see who wrote this. It's wonderful.

"Therefore be it resolved that the council of the city of North Bay does hereby request the government of Ontario replace the members of the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission with individuals who are committed to the agency's purpose and mandate of social and economic development in northern Ontario; and

"Be it further resolved that the government of Ontario direct those new members to ensure that internal improvement be sought, with the result of maximum efficiency of its operation while having due regard to the mandated service, and continue to improve customer services in all divisions; and

"Be it further resolved that the municipality of the city of North Bay respectfully requests the government of Ontario to cease and desist its efforts to privatize the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission."

This is signed by a whole bunch of people of the city of North Bay, including one AL McDonald. I want to thank you, Mr McDonald, for having signed and authored that petition and for helping northerners save the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission.


Mr John O'Toole (Durham): I'm very pleased that the member from Nipissing is getting a lot of support in the House here today. I know how hard working he is. I'm pleased to present a petition on behalf of my riding of Durham, with your indulgence.

"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"Whereas we, the undersigned, wish to express our concern about the current debate on our health care system; and" -- I agree with that --

"Whereas medicare has saved generations of Canadians from fear of financial" pain "due to illness; and

"Whereas this system is now in peril" -- according to what they're saying --

"Therefore we, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to work co-operatively to uphold the five principles of the Canada Health Act which are in need of reinforcement and new commitment. These principles are: accessibility, universally available, publicly administered, portable and comprehensive;

"We further ask that Canadians be provided with a properly funded and sustainable not-for-profit health system. We ask that Canada take back its role as a national health care leader, insured by a public health system fully supported by the federal" -- and I stress that -- "and provincial governments."

I'm pleased to submit this on behalf of Donna Donaldson and Katie O'Quinn, both of whom are my constituents. I support this and put my signature to it. I've used most of the time.


Mr Michael Gravelle (Thunder Bay-Superior North): The sneak attack by the government on long-term-care residents of a 15% increase has generated a storm of protest, and I have a petition signed by hundreds of people that I wish to read.

"Whereas the Eves government has increased the fees paid for by seniors and the most vulnerable living in long-term-care facilities by 15% or $7.02 per diem effective August 1, 2002; and

"Whereas this fee increase will cost seniors and our most vulnerable more than $200 a month; and

"Whereas this increase is 11.1% above the rent increase guidelines for tenants in the province of Ontario; and

"Whereas this increase in the government's own contribution to raise the level of long-term-care services this year is less than $2 per resident per day; and

"Whereas according to the government's own funded study, Ontario ranks last amongst comparable jurisdictions in the amount of time provided to a resident for nursing and personal care; and

"Whereas the long-term-care funding partnership has been based on government accepting the responsibility to fund the care and services that residents need; and

"Whereas government needs to increase long-term-care operating funding by $750 million over the next three years to raise the level of service for Ontario's long-term-care residents to those in Saskatchewan in 1999; and

"Whereas this province has been built by seniors who should be able to live out their lives with dignity, respect and in comfort in this province;

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

"Demand that Premier Eves reduce his 15% fee increase on seniors and the most vulnerable living in long-term-care facilities and increase provincial government support for nursing and personal care to adequate levels."

I want to thank Sheila Santa, who went through rain and storm and a variety of challenges to get all these signatures. They are tremendous, and we want to pass them on, certainly, to Jonna here, who is going to pass them on to the Clerk's office. I'll be glad to sign it, of course.



The Deputy Speaker (Mr David Christopherson): I beg to inform the House that in the name of Her Majesty the Queen, His Honour the Lieutenant Governor has been pleased to assent to a certain bill in his office.

Clerk at the Table (Mr Todd Decker): The following is the title of the bill to which His Honour did assent:

Bill 174, An Act to resolve City of Toronto labour disputes / Projet de loi 174, Loi visant à régler les conflits de travail à la cité de Toronto.


ORDERS ACT, 2002 /
LOI DE 2002

Mr Young moved second reading of the following bill:

Bill 131, An Act to facilitate the making, recognition and variation of interjurisdictional support orders / Projet de loi 131, Loi visant à faciliter le prononcé, la reconnaissance et la modification des ordonnances alimentaires d'exécution réciproque.

Hon Chris Stockwell (Minister of the Environment, Government House Leader): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I'm seeking unanimous consent for the business of the House this afternoon.

The Deputy Speaker (Mr David Christopherson): Do you want to state what that is?

Hon Mr Stockwell: I thought I'd ask first. Is that OK?

The Deputy Speaker: I want to know what the unanimous consent request is.

Hon Mr Stockwell: OK, I'll read it all then. I'm seeking unanimous consent to have this afternoon's debate on Bill 131 proceed as follows:

The government will speak for 10 minutes, followed by each opposition party for 15 minutes. There will be no questions and comments. The leadoff speech from the New Democratic Party will be deferred as well as the leadoff speech from the Liberal Party and, for the purpose of standing order 46, today's debate will be considered to be one full sessional day.

The Deputy Speaker: Do I hear unanimous consent? Agreed. So ordered.

Hon David Young (Attorney General, minister responsible for native affairs): Today we proceed with second reading of the Interjurisdictional Support Orders Act, 2002.

If I may, in the time allocated to me I would like to start by talking about why we need this legislation.

I believe all members of this Legislative Assembly accept that Ontario children deserve to have the best possible future. They deserve to be protected from harm and they deserve to have access to all available support.

The Ernie Eves government is committed to ensuring the safety and well-being of all children. We recognize that children are our future and indeed they need to be protected and cared for. That is why we have introduced the Interjurisdictional Support Orders Act and why we are so pleased that we are proceeding forward with this debate today.

This legislation, if passed, would simplify and streamline existing processes, making it easier and less costly for Ontario families and children to obtain support from people who live outside of this great province. These changes will also affect spousal support.

It is our belief that no child should ever go without simply because a parent moves to another province. Our proposed bill would affect thousands of families and indeed it would affect thousands of children in a very positive way. At any given time, there are over 7,000 Ontario support orders being enforced in other jurisdictions. In addition, Ontario enforces over 5,000 support orders from other jurisdictions. Obviously, this is a very important matter involving a great many people, some of whom are the most vulnerable in our society.

It is clear from these numbers that we live in a world that is increasingly mobile. Our laws must adapt to reflect that very fact and that reality.

If passed, this bill would recognize the challenges of a mobile population by allowing for greater coordination among provinces, among territories and indeed among countries. With this proposed legislation, we would modernize the family law to keep up with the increasing global mobility.

As I stated earlier, the proposed legislation would make it easier and indeed it would make it less costly for families to register, for families to establish and for families to vary support orders where one of the parties lives outside of the province of Ontario.

This bill, if passed, would streamline and update existing processes by replacing the Reciprocal Enforcement of Support Orders Act, which is currently in place as the law in Ontario respecting this matter.

If I may offer an example, under the new legislation, the current complex two-stage procedure would be replaced by a single-hearing process. The single-hearing process would allow for an individual to establish a support order, and that could be done in a relatively timely fashion. It would then be sent to the receiving jurisdiction for a support determination. This means that a hearing would only be held in the receiving jurisdiction, thus avoiding two hearings in many instances. It would no longer be necessary for the court in the originating jurisdiction to hold a provisional hearing, which is currently the way the system works.

It is our belief that streamlining this process in the way I have just described makes sense for families and, to be as specific as possible, it makes sense for children. Reducing the amount of time and costs associated with obtaining a support order will be a welcome relief for all those involved. It's one less thing for families to worry about.

The proposed legislation would also help the courts determine which jurisdiction's laws should apply. It would provide guidance to Ontario courts in determining whether the law of Ontario or the law of another jurisdiction should apply in any particular case. This bill, if passed, would ensure a child-focused test in determining which jurisdiction's law is to apply to the issue of support for a child.

Another important element of this proposed legislation is that it would give automatic recognition to orders from other Canadian provinces and territories when the payer is in Ontario. An order from another Canadian province or territory would be registered in Ontario and would be automatically enforced in most circumstances. Parties would no longer have the right, as they do now, to apply to set aside registration of an order from another Canadian province or territory in this country. Anyone objecting would be required to address their concerns in the province where the order was originally made.

As I mentioned earlier, this proposed legislation would support the Reciprocal Enforcement of Support Orders Act, which is currently the law in Ontario. Under the current legislation, Ontario has arrangements with all of the other Canadian provinces, and indeed with many other countries, to register and establish and, in some instances, to vary support orders when the parties are living in different jurisdictions.

Earlier this year, our government -- the Ernie Eves government -- and the United States federal government established an arrangement that allows Ontario and the United States to enforce family support orders for each other's residents. That came as a result of negotiations with Attorney General Ashcroft. We are now in a situation where an individual, a payer, who resides in any one of the 50 states would be in a position to respond to a court order with a relatively simple application. I should note as well that this new arrangement also allows for the capture of US protectorates: the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands.

This arrangement also makes it easier to improve enforcement co-operation with the United States because Ontario can deal with one federal agency instead of dealing with 50 separate state agencies. Just for the record, in the past we did have separate agreements with 40 different states across the union. We now have an agreement that will override those. We now have an agreement that will allow us to deal with one central federal agency. I'd like to stress that all existing reciprocity arrangements will continue, where necessary, under the proposed legislation, and that's the bill that we are here to talk about today.

The proposed bill is further proof that we are committed to ensuring that children and families who rely on support payments receive every cent of the amount they are entitled to. Failure to pay child support and spousal support is a social problem; there should be no doubt about that. It is a problem that should and does concern us all. Thousands of families rely on support payments to buy food and other basic necessities, including rent. Without those payments, some families may be forced to live in poverty. They may be forced to turn to food banks and, in some cases, social assistance. This simply shouldn't be happening. It is simply unacceptable. When children and families do not receive money, or do not receive money in a timely fashion, we all suffer.


Improving the justice system is a priority for this government. It has been since 1995, and it continues to be. We have made it clear that we are committed to a modern and accessible justice system, a justice system that is effective.

As an example, I would point to a number of locations where we have Unified Family Courts. Indeed, we have more than tripled the number that exist since 1995 -- again, courts that put the interests of children first, courts that help in a very meaningful way to resolve family disputes that often target children. Our government has expanded the Unified Family Courts to better serve the needs of families in Ontario and, again, to put the interests of children first.

Further family court expansion is a matter that is bilateral in nature. It is a matter that requires co-operation between the federal government and the provincial government, and there has been a considerable amount to date. However, if we are going to increase the number of Unified Family Courts, we will require further co-operation from our federal colleagues. Indeed, we have informed the federal government of our desire to proceed with this expansion, which we believe is vital and essential in order to protect the interests of families and, in particular, those of children.

More than any other government, this government has proceeded to construct and renovate court facilities across the province to ensure that there are physical structures available to allow judges and lawyers and parties to have their day in court. Indeed, we have invested in crown attorneys who are working in our criminal courts across the province, and we are funding the justice system in a manner far in excess of any prior government.

With that, I say to you that this is one of those bills that I suspect all members of this Legislative Assembly welcome. I'm hopeful that the debate we have on this will be a constructive debate and, quite frankly, a timely debate, because there is no reason to delay this matter. We should get on and pass this important bill.

The Deputy Speaker: Further debate?

Mr Ernie Parsons (Prince Edward-Hastings): I will be sharing my time with the member for St Catharines.

As the minister has said, this is a good bill, and he's right. This is a good bill. I've now been in the Legislature for three and a half years, and I knew that some day a good bill would go through. I'm not sure what they modelled this on, but they obviously chose a good bill to copy for this. Congratulations to them.

In some ways, though, this bill could be described as icing on a cake. It certainly improves the entire situation. It improves the appearance and improves the taste of the bill, so to speak. But the problem is that it's icing. Like a wedding cake, it's hollow, cardboard underneath.

The interchange between various jurisdictions is a problem, but the biggest problem is the Family Responsibility Office. The Family Responsibility Office was massively downsized under this government very early in 1995. When they massively downsized, to no one's surprise, the service provided to the people of Ontario, and now to other jurisdictions, was substantially reduced. This isn't me saying that; this is the auditor saying that.

The auditor indicated that the Family Responsibility Office handles about 170,000 open cases, but 128,000 of them are in arrears. So isn't it great that they'll be able to get an interjurisdictional court order that will allow them to have the money, but very, very clearly the money isn't being flowed to the people who need it.

When we talk about 128,000 cases in arrears, the majority of people who are not having access to the money are children. For a government that says they're going to put children first --

Interjection: Two hundred thousand.

Mr Parsons: Two hundred thousand children are not getting the funding. So they're being forced to do other things because of delays. They're being forced to go on to welfare. Speaker, if you've ever had anything to do with children in schools, as I know you have, children who are poor or appear to be poor are immediately labelled, and that should not happen. Whether they are on welfare -- the welfare amount itself is a disgrace in this province. But if we extend it further, these children are entitled to have their money collected, and yet this government removed the ability to do that -- massive downsizing of the staff, centralizing in one location.

I think I can make the statement fairly that every member in this House, no matter on what side of the aisle, has staff that spend a great many hours each and every day dealing with the Family Responsibility Office to try to straighten out cases for their constituents and my constituents.

Are the staff at the Family Responsibility Office not doing their job? Absolutely not. The problem is there's nowhere near enough of them. There's been no increase in staffing since 1995, and yet the number of cases they handle has increased. They have been given a computer system to use that is an absolute disgrace. I will note that in 2001, when the auditor did a follow-up on the 1997 study, he said, "Efforts to improve computer system performance have met with limited success." We're hearing of cases, when a court order is actually filed with the Family Responsibility Office, of it taking 18 months before it's put into the system. Once it's in the system and there's a recognition of someone in arrears, obviously a primary role of the Family Responsibility Office must be to go after the individual who is in arrears and collect the money.

Let's read what the auditor has to say about the Family Responsibility Office on that. The auditor also noted that when the account goes into arrears, "More aggressive enforcement measures such as driver's licence or passport suspension, bank account garnishment or a default hearing were seldom pursued." These are single parents and children who need the money to meet basic living costs, the money they're entitled to, money this government's committed to collect and provide, and they're not doing it. But if you drive the 407 and you don't pay the dues, this government brings every bit of energy they have to it, and they will collect the money or they will not renew your driver's licence until the 407 corporation has their money. But when it comes to children and predominantly women -- women and children -- the government does not have the time or the energy or the willpower to collect the money owed to these families. That's a shame. Granted, they may have that piece of paper, but the reality is, in 75% of the cases they will not have the money they're entitled to. For those families, for those children, that lack of resources that they need to have will follow them for the rest of their lives. It is altering their very fabric.

Saturday morning I was at a breakfast group called Food for Learning. In my community there are 3,500 school children every day who get their breakfast at school -- 3,500. As an engineer, I like statistics. How many were there in 1994 who were eating breakfast at schools in my community? There were none. There was no need for breakfast clubs, and there were no breakfast clubs. I would suggest to you strongly that some of these children who are showing up at school hungry are children who have money owed to them by individuals whom this government's not interested in pursuing. What an insult to the children of our province. Every child should be able to attend school prepared to learn. Hungry children don't. Children who are cold don't.

I'm getting significant numbers of phone calls in the last three or four days because people have now received their electricity bills, the wonderful deregulated bills that will solve the problems. We've got families that are being painted into a corner financially to meet their electricity bills, and in order to pay electricity, food is going to suffer, clothing is going to suffer and the quality of shelter will suffer.

Instead of the icing, this government -- and I applaud them for Bill 131 -- needs to do something substantive, which is not just get the paper but actually collect the money for the people. But we're seeing that even in legal aid it is more and more difficult. What this government is paying legal aid lawyers has resulted in there being an acute shortage of lawyers able to take that on. So when we have a family that is needing legal recourse to access the money, legal aid is not available for them.


I guess I'm always amazed that when the newspapers decide to do a story on, as they call it, a deadbeat dad, their reporter is able to go out and in a day or two find that individual, sometimes thousands of miles away in the US. It's always intrigued me that the Toronto Star can find a deadbeat dad and do an interview with him, but this government can't find them. This government can't locate 75% of them.

Mr Dave Levac (Brant): Dirty tricks, don't forget.

Mr Parsons: Yes, that's right. Some of them are doing dirty tricks. If the minister is looking for the next bill to pursue, let's look at -- for lack of a better word -- dirty tricks being used by some of the people who owe the debt, who are changing the name of the company or putting their assets in someone else's name. I cannot understand someone who would use a technique that would deny their very children food, clothing and shelter. But there are loopholes that make that possible in current legislation.

So if you want a challenge, take that challenge on. Stand up and fight for the children. Stand up and fight for the single parents in this province, full citizens who need better service.

Maybe even, instead of doing a $2-billion corporate tax cut to reward friends and supporters, we could look at taking that cut and using some of the money to properly staff the Family Responsibility Office. I have great admiration for the people who work in that office. The pressures are fierce with the number of calls that come in to them. Even the MPP line that our staff have access to often requires long waits to access because they're absolutely inundated with cases.

We could take the pressure off them. We could take the pressure off the number of cases they have to deal with. We could take the pressure off them by giving them a computer system that works. If a pizza firm can have a computer system that, when someone calls, can tell them exactly where you live, exactly what you like on each pizza, what time you like it delivered and the best route to you, surely the government of Ontario can monitor the people who pay taxes to them -- haven't met the responsibilities but pay taxes to them.

Maybe you could get some of your friends at the 407 corporation to help you track down some of these deadbeats. The 407 is so efficient. Not only do they photograph the licence plate of each vehicle; I have too many constituents come to me and tell me that they photograph licence plates that aren't there. They're sending bills to constituents in my riding who have never been to the Toronto area, and they still get a bill and, without any question whatsoever, this government collects the money for your friends.

Start collecting the money for the children of this Ontario, and allow them to live in the dignity that they're entitled to.

Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): I think there's a consensus in this House that the bill is a logical extension of what exists now and a substitution for what exists now, but there are many problems with the Family Responsibility Office that we who have constituency office staff are only too familiar with. At one time Workers' Compensation Board issues were probably the dominant factor one had to deal with within a constituency office, along with social assistance payments and social assistance problems. Today, I think a plurality, if not a majority, of the calls that come into the constituency office and the time spent by staff at the constituency office are on Family Responsibility Office matters. It's clear that there's simply insufficient staff. This government made some cuts in 1997 in the staff dealing with matters related to the Family Responsibility Office. They cut back to a 1994 level of staffing and yet we've had, I think, a 35% increase in the caseload and no increase in that staff level of 1994 that the Conservative government reverted back to.

What does that mean? It means that people have to wait longer and longer to deal with problems associated with the Family Responsibility Office and the payment for children who are in a family where there's been a breakup.

What is interesting, I have found, is a number of occasions where both sides -- where the payer and the recipient of the payment to go to looking after the children -- are on the same side, when both are fighting with the Family Responsibility Office, both trying to resolve a problem.

As my colleague Mr Parsons has said, it is not because of a lack of determination on the part of the staff of the ministry and the part of the staff of the Family Responsibility Office; it's that they don't have the best equipment to deal with these matters, and second, that they simply don't have the staff. The workload is huge. As a result, constituency offices have become much more active in this regard.

I think there was a time when constituency offices were not at all involved in what are very dicey issues: often ex-spouses who are certainly not on the best of terms quarrelling over how much money shall go for the children. That's something that, it seems to me, should be handled as efficiently as possible and as transparently as possible.

At one time we had a regional office in your city of Hamilton where people could go, even from the Niagara Peninsula. They could at least take the bus there, the train there, drive there or get someone to drive them to the office. They could sit down and talk to somebody about the problem. But in an effort to provide money for tax cuts for the wealthiest people in this province, there were cuts made to that particular office, the Family Responsibility Office, and as a result they were closed. It was centralized, and it was a chaotic movement from the regional offices to the central office in Metropolitan Toronto.

So while we can support this piece of legislation, much has to be done to improve the entire system so that there aren't 128,000 children in this province who are not receiving the funding they should receive for the purposes of looking after their needs, and so that both the payer and the recipient have something that's transparent, that moves quickly and that adapts to different circumstances.

My colleague Mr Parsons has mentioned Highway 407. We all get calls from constituents. I'll tell you, if you don't have your money in right away to Highway 407, the private sector firm, which is very supportive of this government -- they paid the government $3 billion; it was worth $10 billion, but they paid the government $3 billion for Highway 407 -- when they want to get the money, the Ontario government is there with the sledgehammer waiting to hit the person who doesn't pay.

In this case, it's much more difficult for the government to try and get an efficient system to ensure that the payments are going directly from the person who is obligated to pay to the benefit of those children who are to receive them. Oftentimes -- not always by any means but oftentimes -- the payer wants to see that situation, the recipient wants to see the situation, and the chaos which exists because of underfunding, understaffing and improper equipment at the Family Responsibility Office means that doesn't happen. This bill may solve one problem; it certainly doesn't solve the problem I have described.

Mr Gilles Bisson (Timmins-James Bay): For the record, I know that our House leader, Mr Kormos, looks forward to his one-hour lead; I imagine it's going to happen tomorrow. Other members of our caucus do want to speak on this bill -- namely, Mr Prue, Ms Martel and others -- because this is an issue that all of us have to deal with as members of provincial Parliament. It's quite a serious issue. I want to take the opportunity this afternoon to speak about just a couple of cases of what has happened to constituents in my riding. It's probably not dissimilar from your riding or anybody else's riding across the province. It's why we need such legislation.

Now, I want to say up front that I support the intent of the bill, I more than likely will be voting for the bill, but I really want to look at some of the detail and I want our research staff to do a bit of a better job on a couple of issues, just to make sure that it does what I think it does. If it does, at the end of the day I'll support the bill.

I just want to, for the record, give you a couple of examples. I have a number of cases here. This is just what we've dealt with. I said to my staff, "Go back 30 days and come back with a number of cases that we've had to deal with where people who were in a position where they should have been receiving spousal support from their former spouses for the children -- how many in the last 30 days have we had to deal with where we have not been able to get the enforcement order enforced outside the province of Ontario?" I've got six in the last 30 days. You know as well as I do it's indicative of a problem, when you get something like this that basically just from one of my constituency offices I have six in the last 30 days. It tells me I have a problem. Let me just start in no particular order.

Premièrement -- on va commencer avec le premier nom. Je ne veux pas donner le dernier nom parce que je n'ai pas eu une chance de parler à la madame.

Claire est la mère de deux enfants. Elle vient à notre bureau dire que son mari a été donné un ordre de payer le support pour ses enfants, pour s'assurer qu'il prenne ses responsabilités comme père. Il s'en va travailler. Il laisse sa femme pour retourner au Québec travailler à la ville de Québec. On sait où il est. On sait où il travaille. On sait où il demeure. Mais à la fin de la journée, on se trouve dans une situation où il est capable d'évader ses responsabilités de payer le support à ses enfants parce que le processus qu'on a présentement est pas mal compliqué pour être capable d'aller rechercher l'argent qu'il doit à ses enfants. On ne parle pas de support pour sa femme. C'est toute une autre question, puis j'imagine qu'il doit payer ça aussi. Mais je parle pour les enfants, les deux petits garçons dans cette famille. Pour une période de deux ans il n'a rien payé, absolument rien, quand ça vient à ses responsabilités pour ces deux jeunes-là.

Là, quand Claire nous a approchés, elle a dit, « Je viens ici parce que quelqu'un m'a dit que si je venais au bureau du député, je pourrais possiblement arranger le problème. Ça fait deux ans que j'étais avec l'avocat du "legal aid" pour essayer de trouver une solution, et aucune solution peut être vue. » Ça nous a pris environ trois ou quatre mois, aller à travers le processus, et juste dernièrement, le mois passé, elle a eu son premier chèque faisant affaire avec le support pour ses enfants. Cette pauvre madame-là et ses enfants se sont trouvés dans une situation où ils n'ont rien reçu du père pour une période de deux ans et demi. La madame travaille. C'est une femme qui travaille à des salaires très bas, pas à des salaires élevés, et elle est dans une situation où on a dit qu'elle n'était pas capable de vendre la maison qu'elle avait avec son mari. Le juge dit qu'elle doit rester dans cette maison-là parce que lui, son nom est sur le « mortgage. » Elle se trouve prisonnière dans sa maison avec ses enfants, et selon l'ordre du juge, elle n'a pas le droit de vendre la maison ou partir de la communauté à cause des conditions que son mari a mises.

Là, on se trouve dans une situation finalement, après avoir fait beaucoup d'ouvrage de notre bord, qu'elle a reçu son premier chèque. Si cette législation avait était mise en place, je m'en douterais bien qu'elle aurait attendu les deux ans et demi qu'elle a attendus pour avoir l'argent que son mari doit à ses enfants. Quant aux enfants de Claire, et Claire elle-même, je pense que cette législation va assister la situation de Claire. Si ça serait arrivé sous cette législation deux ans et demi passés.


I have another case here, and this is Cynthia. Oh, yes, I remember this one. This is a doozy. This one is really over the top. The guy has an enforcement order to only pay support for his children. There is no support for the wife. The order is quite low. Believe it or not, it's $100 per child. Can you believe this? The guy is making upwards of about $85,000 a year in Halifax. He goes to Halifax, in the province of Nova Scotia, basically refuses to pay the $100 a month for each of his children and then has the gall to go to the Nova Scotia government and apply that -- finally we caught up with him through the mechanism of being able to deduct money from any money that he's owed by the federal government, ie, income tax returns, GST cheques, all of that stuff.

We had a federal enforcement order put on this gentleman so that he could at least pay some of the money toward his children. We put the paperwork in, we got notification that in fact that's going to happen, but he went to the Nova Scotia court and had the order reversed because they have a mechanism in Nova Scotia that if you appeal the decision of how much you have to pay, they will just freeze the order of the jurisdiction from which it came.

Can you imagine a hundred bucks a month? This guy makes 85,000 bucks a year and he can't pay 100 bucks a month for his two kids? The woman says, "It's not the 100 bucks -- I'm going to get by -- but he's the father of these children. He doesn't send Christmas cards; he doesn't send birthday cards." He takes off out of the province and now he's raising another family and he's not prepared to pay the 100 bucks per child that these children are entitled to. She says, "I would just take the money and put it into one of those educational savings plans so that at least when the kids go off to college or university they would have something to show for their father being absent all these years."

In the case of this legislation, if I understand it correctly -- because I spoke to the minister about this particular one -- in this particular case what would happen is, if the enforcement order from Ontario says this guy has got to pay the 100 bucks per child, there would be a mechanism to force this deadbeat dad to pay his money.

I, as a father, and I think anybody else who is responsible, would accept that you have a responsibility toward your children. Being able to escape the jurisdiction of the province of Ontario as a means to escape your responsibility to pay, to me is just beyond the pale. So I say to the father of these children, shame on you, and I say to -- I don't want to use the woman's name because I don't have her complete permission, but I believe it was Sandra. Yes, right, it's Sandra. I just say to Sandra, through this debate, if this legislation passes -- and hopefully it will -- we'll be in a position to facilitate the enforcement of that order.

On that basis, I think the legislation is not a bad one. This is one of those few times in the Legislature when we could actually work on something together to respond to a real problem.

I have another one here, and that is Diane. Her ex is in Manitoba, as I read this. Oh yes, I remember this one too; it's the same type of story. There are a few things. The guy left about three or four years ago. He worked for the railway and ended up getting a transfer to Manitoba as a way of being able to escape from having to pay his alimony payments, support for his wife and also the children. So this guy has now taken off and has gone to Manitoba to work for the railway. What's happened is that this particular one has been dragging around. According to the note I've got, she says that we first got the case some time last June, it looks like, when the woman came into our office. The story there is -- wow, I don't believe this one: 8,500 bucks. She's paid 8,500 bucks to a lawyer to try to get the enforcement order paid for her support and the support he owes the children. Obviously, this woman is working. What's happened is that 8,500 bucks later, she is no further in having the enforcement order enforced.

Now she is in the position where they're trying to get the order enforced. The guy is refusing to co-operate with the enforcement order that originally came from the province of Ontario. They've had the hearing in Ontario this summer and they're about to have the other hearing in Manitoba shortly. But the feeling I'm getting from the staff here as they went through it is that it looks like things are not going the way they want with respect to being able to effect the decision they want.

One of the questions I have through this debate to the minister is, are we leaving the interpretation of the order up to the other jurisdiction? For us in Ontario that's important, because we tend to have better laws when it comes to separation and support than other provinces have. So if an order is given in the province of Ontario, and if the standards in the other province to which the person has escaped are lower, would, for whatever reason, the decision about enforcing the order be based on the other jurisdiction's rules?

One of the questions I'm asking the minister through this debate for this particular woman, Diane, is, what would happen in that case? Would the original order from Ontario actually be the order that's enforced? This guy has gone back to court in Manitoba and has asked to have the order changed and lessened, and apparently, from what they say here, he's got it. My question is, which order would stand?

He hasn't even paid the order which he had reduced. This is an interesting one. He has gone to the court in Manitoba, had the order reduced, as far as how much he pays, and he hasn't paid that. So there are two issues here. We're not even able to enforce Manitoba's order, and the second issue is, which order would stand? Would it be the order of the province of Ontario or would it be the amended order of the province of Manitoba? That's one of the things I ask, that particular question, on behalf of a constituent, Diane.

I have another one here that I want to touch on in the four minutes that I have left, because it's something we're dealing with and it's quite public within the community of Kapuskasing, and that is a Mr Lewasseur. Mr Lewasseur and his ex-wife have a little girl. The mother has moved to Australia. As the father, Mr Lewasseur in Kapuskasing has custody of the child, legal custody given by the court. Every summer the mother has the child come and visit her, which is normal -- the child has got to go visit her mother. It has always been the arrangement that the child goes off to Australia, visits the mother and comes back to Canada. This time, the mother has refused to release the child. So what we have now is an order of the court in the province of Ontario that says Mr Lewasseur has legal custody of the child, but the child is now, I guess, kidnapped by the mother, who lives in Australia.

I'm wondering if we're able to do something in this legislation to give the minister some power to assist in situations like this, to regain children who have been taken out of our jurisdiction, outside of Ontario to other provinces or territories, or if there is some mechanism to give the Attorney General the ability to order some mechanism to get the children back once they've been taken away. I've talked to Mr Lewasseur and I've talked to a number of others about this at great length, and my staff have been doing quite a bit of work with the federal government and others to try to deal with this. But the problem, as I understand it, is that we have no mechanism to get that child back from Australia because there are no reciprocal provisions to enforce each other's orders.

I ask again through this debate to the minister responsible here, the Attorney General, would you be prepared to accept some sort of amendment that would allow, if an order of support and an order of custody is issued in Ontario and a person flees, in this case, to Australia, an area that doesn't have reciprocal agreements -- (a) is there a mechanism to do that and (b) is there a mechanism you would be able to create in the legislation that would give the Attorney General some sort of ability to do something legally to get that child back into Canada? I imagine that would have to be done by way of our federal government because part of that is the Criminal Code. I understand that, kidnapping being a federal responsibility, the feds would have to do some sort of an amendment.

I'm asking the Attorney General if he's prepared on behalf of Monsieur Lewasseur and his daughter to work with me and work with the community to lobby the federal government to make the necessary changes needed federally so that we can do that when children are taken away from their homes and brought outside to other countries, and if there are support payments that are owed, that we do what we're doing here in Canada and have done with the United States with the agreement to have reciprocal agreements with the states, as the minister pointed out earlier with other countries, such as Australia.

This is the second case like this I've had to deal with where a child has been taken out of the country and you're trying to get the child back. It is a lot of trouble. I had another one about two years ago where the child was taken back, I think, to the former Czechoslovakia. The only reason we got the child back was the parent happened to come back to Ontario and the Attorney General was able to put an order out to arrest that person once the person came back to Ontario and had legal authority to do that in the province, but couldn't arrest them back in Czechoslovakia. When the father came back to Ontario to deal with some business items that he had, the father was arrested and held in custody. At the end of the day that was sufficient to get the child extradited back to Canada.

I understand the Attorney General has the authority, should the mother come back to Ontario, to put out a warrant for her arrest so that if she were to come back into our jurisdiction, she'd be arrested and made to answer for her actions in taking that child illegally out of Ontario.

Comme je l'ai dit, il y a beaucoup dans cette législation-là que l'on peut supporter. Comme on le sait, on a beaucoup de cas comme ça à travers tous nos comtés faisant affaire avec le monde qui s'évade pour échapper à leur responsabilité de payer le support à leurs enfants ou à leur femme. Je regarde avec intérêt le débat qui va arriver dans les deux prochains jours, parce qu'on est seulement à la fin de la première journée des débats. Il y a encore au moins deux jours de débats en deuxième lecture. Comme je l'ai dit, il va y avoir M. Kormos, M. Prue, Mme Martel et d'autres qui veulent parler de ce projet de loi, parce que je sais qu'ils ont les mêmes problèmes que j'ai vus dans mon comté.

The Deputy Speaker: By prior agreement of the House, this debate now stands adjourned.

Chief government whip, may I just take a moment to congratulate you on your ascension to cabinet.

Mr Doug Galt (Minister without Portfolio): Thanks very much, Mr Speaker. My maiden speech in this period would be to adjourn the House.

The Deputy Speaker: That's probably the best speech you're ever going to give.

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

All those in favour, please indicate.

All those opposed, please indicate.

The motion is carried.

This House now stands adjourned until 1:30 of the clock tomorrow afternoon.

The House adjourned at 1553.