37e législature, 3e session



Tuesday 24 September 2002 Mardi 24 septembre 2002


















LOI DE 2002



























ORDERS ACT, 2002 /
LOI DE 2002



Tuesday 24 September 2002 Mardi 24 septembre 2002

The House met at 1330.




M. Jean-Marc Lalonde (Glengarry-Prescott-Russell): Je désire vous faire part du grand mécontentement des citoyens et citoyennes quant aux augmentations déplorables du coût de l'électricité en Ontario.

Il va sans dire que je reçois des centaines d'appels à mes bureaux de personnes découragées qui ne savent plus quoi faire et qui ne voient pas de lueur au bout du tunnel.

Au mois de juin dernier, le ministre de l'Énergie du temps était fier de nous dire que la déréglementation de l'électricité était profitable pour le consommateur de l'Ontario. Si elle était profitable au mois de mai dernier, pourquoi aujourd'hui le consommateur doit-il faire face à une augmentation de 152 % depuis cette belle annonce du mois de juin ?

Voici ce que la déréglementation a causé chez le consommateur. Le mois dernier, le Marché Richelieu d'Embrun a connu une augmentation de 41,8 % comparativement à l'an dernier. M. Wilfred Marcelais, un vétéran de la deuxième grande guerre, vivant sur une petite pension, s'est vu exiger un dépôt de 400 $ en tant que locataire dû à l'augmentation du coût du kilowattheure. On a demandé à Mme Denise Lacombe de St-Pascal un dépôt de 625 $. M. Murray Allen, un agriculteur de Vankleek Hill, a reçu une augmentation considérable.

Pourtant, le gouvernement actuel avait bel et bien dit que la déréglementation de l'électricité serait à l'avantage de tous les gens de la province. Que dites-vous maintenant aux gens de la province qui ne savent plus quoi faire ni comment s'en sortir ? Dites-moi, que dois-je répondre à mes concitoyens et concitoyennes qui sont dans une grande incertitude financière ? C'est quoi, la réponse ? C'est quoi, votre promesse ?


Mr John O'Toole (Durham): I rise in the House today to pay tribute to Dr Peter Barnard, the CEO of Iter Canada. As the members may know, Dr Barnard was the leader of those working toward bringing a multi-billion-dollar fusion energy research centre to Ontario.

Unfortunately, Dr Barnard died August 29. Regrettably, Dr Barnard did not see the outcome of his advocacy on behalf of Iter. However, he more than established the foundation of Canada's bid for this international project. He put in place a dedicated team that will carry out his vision.

In my riding of Durham, the Iter community council is part of that team. Its members include community leaders such Gary Polonsky, Mayor John Mutton, Regional Chair Roger Anderson, Ron Collis, Adrian Foster, Wally Hicks, Dennis Schmiegelow, Tim Whittaker, Frank Wu, Aileen Fletcher, Chris MacKenzie and Tom Tidey.

My riding of Durham is home to the Darlington nuclear generating station and the preferred Canadian site of this international project. Dr Barnard was an important part of our community because of his vision for the Iter project and his commitment to working with the local community.

Our thoughts are with Dr Barnard's wife Despina, his sons Robert and Christopher, and his family. As head of Iter, he had a much larger family that included those who shared his vision and dream. Many of these individuals are from my own riding of Durham. We will miss him, even as we resolve to carry out the great work that he began.


Mrs Marie Bountrogianni (Hamilton Mountain): Families on Hamilton Mountain want to know whom the Tory restructuring scheme for Hydro was supposed to benefit. They've asked me to tell this Legislature of their alarm, their shock and total dismay over the huge increase in their hydro bills.

People of modest means living in modest homes are expected to budget for hydro bills exceeding $400. Can this be right? Has anyone told the Premier that living in Ontario is not supposed to be an episode of Survivor?

My constituent Debra Hughes certainly worries about how she will make ends meet. She is single, a working mother living in a townhouse on Hamilton Mountain.

Mr Gilles Bisson (Timmins-James Bay): Tell her to check the Web site.

Mrs Bountrogianni: I think you'll want to hear this, Mr Bisson.

Ms Hughes's little girl has just undergone a heart transplant. She requires air conditioning to survive. Her recent hydro bill was $449. She cannot sustain these kinds of energy charges. We're speaking of a little girl's life.

Bev Rice, a few years from becoming a senior living on a fixed income, wants to know how the Premier expects her to live on a fixed pension if utility rates continue to skyrocket. Her hydro bill is $583. She adds her voice to those of hundreds of my constituents who are not only concerned but are scared that they have no control in preventing future energy increases.

Throwing Ontario families to the mercy of an energy market without consumer protection is creating tremendous hardship and insecurity. Is this where Ernie Eves plans to take this province?


Mr AL McDonald (Nipissing): The Ministry of Community, Family and Children's Services has designated the District of Nipissing Social Services Administration Board as the delivery agent for Ontario Works in Nipissing district. The board has recently brought to my attention an example of the success of the Ontario Works community placement component. This story demonstrates how the interests and needs of individual clients -- dignity, respect and equality of opportunity -- and how self-esteem, decision-making and enhanced control over their own future are supported through community participation.

I'd like to take this opportunity to read a success story to you, as written by its author, Ms Jennifer Blais of North Bay. She writes: "The Ontario Works program is an amazing program for individuals who need to gain more valuable work experience. This program goes above and beyond to help people on assistance to get back into the workforce. Without this program many people would be unemployed because they didn't have the opportunity to gain the skills needed to go back to work. This program has helped me tremendously. I have been given an opportunity to expand my skills and knowledge as well. Ontario Works deserves an award for the great work that they have done and still are doing. Without them I wouldn't be where I am now....

"I have learned so much and I am so grateful that I have had the opportunity to use the skills I obtained from school.... I hope that others will get a chance like me, to better their life and their skills.


"Jennifer Blais"

I personally would like to thank Bill White, Tolou Rouhani and all those who worked at the DNSSAB board in Nipissing. Well done.

Minister Elliott, you should be very proud of your ministry.


Mr Michael A. Brown (Algoma-Manitoulin): I have today but one question to ask of the Ernie Eves government: if you don't want us to live in small communities in rural northern Ontario, why don't you just tell us so?

In the deregulation or reregulation of Hydro, the dams on the Mississagi River, the dams that were sold from Ontario Power Generation to a Brascan subsidiary have operated without sufficient or even insufficient supervision by the Ministry of Natural Resources. Those dams have lowered the water levels in those lakes to the extent that tourist operators have been put out of business, that people who rely on the fishery as tourists cannot use them. Those peaking dams have been running 16 hours a day. The lake at the top of the chain, Rocky Island Lake, might very well now be known as the Rocky Island desert. The water is gone.

This pattern of use has not happened before in Ontario's history. It is a direct result of the opening of the market. It is the direct result of the Ministry of Natural Resources being absent without leave. It is of grave concern to my constituents in the Mississagi River valley and all those communities that are downstream. Where is the Minister of Natural Resources in all of this?



Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton West): The Tory Hydro privatization scheme is driving prices sky-high, and we're all paying the price. My office has received dozens of calls from angry constituents complaining about the huge jump in their hydro bills, jumps of over 40%.

I have a Hamilton hydro bill here that lists eight different charges including an energy charge, a non-competitive energy charge, a debt retirement charge, transmission connection charge, transmission network charge, viable distribution charge, fixed distribution charge and an administrative charge. These baffling charges are causing widespread confusion, worry and anger. My constituents are seeing their hydro bills going up and up with no end in sight.

These outrageous increases hurt all consumers. Seniors, the disabled and others on fixed incomes are particularly hard hit. As well, rising electricity prices are putting thousands of industrial jobs at risk and hurting companies like Stelco and Dofasco in my hometown of Hamilton.

Public power, not private profit, is the best way to ensure an affordable, reliable source of electricity for our citizens and businesses. For once, just once, let's see this government stand up for consumers and pull the plug on the Hydro privatization fiasco now.


Mr Wayne Wettlaufer (Kitchener Centre): I rise today to congratulate the Greek-Cypriot community of Waterloo region on the success of their sixth annual Dionysia Food and Wine Festival, which was held on Labour Day weekend in Kitchener.

Six years ago the community's leaders had an idea of a family event that allowed all the members of the family to participate: children's games, an authentic Cypriot café, arts and crafts displays, delicious Greek-Cypriot food and pastries and, of course, some of the best wine and beer you could have, all the way from the Mediterranean.

The highlight of the weekend event was a grape-crushing contest in which I was able to participate for the second year in a row. Last year I won, but this year I finished second. But I do want to thank Minister David Tsubouchi for being there to assist me while I crushed the grapes.

The festival has the support of all the local MPPs. I also thank Minister Witmer for attending. Her busy schedule still allowed for her to be there.

I want to congratulate the volunteers, the executive and the organizers of the Greek-Cypriot community for their sixth successful Dionysia Food and Wine Festival. I wish them all the best in the future, and I assure them that I look forward with much anticipation to attending again next year. Opa.


Mr Bruce Crozier (Essex): Many Ontarians know how much Bay Street Ernie loves to buy himself whatever he wants. Last year, Bay Street Ernie Eves decided he wanted to be Premier, so he went out to his pals on Bay Street and collected every IOU he could. In total, Bay Street Ernie Eves spent more than $3 million to be Premier. Sure, there was a limit of $1.5 million on spending, but when did the rules ever apply to Bay Street Ernie?

Bay Street Ernie bought himself the Premier's office. He wanted it, and in classic Bay Street style he went out and bought what he wanted. Now that he has the Premier's office, Bay Street Ernie doesn't know what to do with it. He hems and he haws and he dillies and he dallies but he has no vision. He even adjourns the House early.

The honour of serving the public can't be bought. The honour can only be earned through hard work, vision and a commitment to the people of Ontario. Only Dalton McGuinty has the new plan and the new perspective needed to earn the privilege of serving in the Premier's office. After the next election, that's exactly what Dalton McGuinty will do.


Mr Bart Maves (Niagara Falls): As the member for Niagara Falls and a former basketball player and coach at A.N. Myer high school in Niagara Falls, it makes me very proud today to stand and congratulate Jay Triano, a Myer graduate who has just been named assistant coach with the NBA Toronto Raptors. Jay is the first-ever born-and-bred Canadian to coach in the NBA.

For many years, Jay packed the gyms every Friday night at A.N. Myer, in the halcyon days of Niagara Falls basketball. He then went on to Simon Fraser University in BC on a scholarship, where he was team captain and set many school records for four years. He was drafted by the Los Angeles Lakers and was the last guard cut in the Magic Johnson era. He then served for 11 years on the Canadian national team, many of those years as captain under coach Jack Donahue. He returned to coach at Simon Fraser University and then worked for the Vancouver Grizzlies and TSN. He was also recently named the national team coach, and demonstrated his leadership abilities in the 2000 Olympics, when Canada played exceptionally and ended with a five-and-two record.

Congratulations to Jay, his wife and kids, to Mr and Mrs Triano and Jeff and Jody. The entire Triano family has always brought great pride to our community through their many varied accomplishments. Jay's most recent success is no exception.


The Speaker (Hon Gary Carr): Just before we continue, we have with us today in the Speaker's gallery Mr Alex Geiger, the Consul General of Chile. Please join me in welcoming our honoured guest.


The Speaker (Hon Gary Carr): We also have with us, as you know, serving the third session of the 37th Parliament a new group of pages.

We have Émilie Arcand from Ottawa-Orléans; Philip Baker from Durham; Venessa Casey from Hamilton East; Isabella Chau from Trinity-Spadina; Valerie Davis from Pickering-Ajax-Uxbridge; Drew Denny from Simcoe-Grey; Carley Gallagher from Peterborough; Paula Gilchrist from Whitby-Ajax; Kyle Gulab from Scarborough-Agincourt; Edward Kuhn from Etobicoke Centre; Philippe Leroux from Nickel Belt; Sam Luong from Vaughan-King-Aurora; Megan McCrae from Halton; Curtis Ng from Scarborough-Rouge River; Kevin Quach from Toronto Centre-Rosedale; Jonna Reaume from Windsor West; Thomas Schultz from Lanark-Carleton; Rachel Stark from Don Valley West; Matthew Steckly from Perth-Middlesex; and Ellen Stephenson from Ottawa Centre. Please join me in welcoming our new group of pages.



The Speaker (Hon Gary Carr): I beg to inform the House that during the recess, the Clerk received the second and third reports of the standing committee on government agencies.

Pursuant to standing order 106(e)9, the reports are deemed to be adopted by the House.


M. Gilles Bisson (Timmins-Baie James): C'est seulement pour dire la bienvenue à deux visiteurs de Bretagne, Janine Chauvelon et Denise Lemoine, qui viennent de la France visiter et observer notre parlement ici en Ontario.



Mr Rosario Marchese (Trinity-Spadina): I beg leave to present the first report, 2002, of the standing committee on regulations and private bills.

The Speaker (Hon Gary Carr): Does the member wish to make a brief statement? No? I thank the member.


LOI DE 2002

Mr Martiniuk moved first reading of the following bill:

Bill 176, An Act to provide for some continuation of benefit plans of employees after the end of their employment / Projet de loi 176, Loi prévoyant une certaine continuation des régimes d'avantages sociaux des employés après la fin de leur emploi.

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

The member for a short statement?

Mr Gerry Martiniuk (Cambridge): This bill amends the Employment Standards Act to provide that a person who has been employed for at least 12 months is entitled to have the employer provide, offer or arrange the benefit plan provided during that employment to be continued on an optional basis for up to six months when that employment ends.


Mr Hodgson moved first reading of the following bill:

Bill 177, An Act to amend the Municipal Act, 2001, the Municipal Elections Act, 1996 and other Acts consequential to or related to the enactment of the Municipal Act, 2001 and to revise the Territorial Division Act / Projet de loi 177, Loi modifiant la Loi de 2001 sur les municipalités, la Loi de 1996 sur les élections municipales et d'autres lois par suite de l'édiction de la Loi de 2001 sur les municipalités et révisant la Loi sur la division territoriale.

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 Hodgson (Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing): The Municipal Statute Law Amendment Act, 2002, will include a number of amendments to improve the accountability and efficiency of the Ontario municipal election process. It also contains a number of housekeeping measures related to the Municipal Act, 2001.

The Municipal Elections Act affects both municipal and school board elections. Among other things, this legislation would, if passed, help ensure that candidates comply with the election finance rules. It would also make it easier for municipal clerks to run elections.

Two municipal elections have been held under the new legislation since 1996 when the Municipal Elections Act underwent a major overhaul. A review of the act, in consultation with groups such as the Association of Municipalities of Ontario and the Association of Municipal Clerks and Treasurers, has led to a number of proposed changes to make the municipal elections process even more effective and transparent.

We are proposing changes to the election financing rules. The Municipal Elections Act includes deadlines for candidates to file financial statements after the end of a campaign. Although most candidates have met those deadlines, some have not. We have introduced more stringent measures to encourage compliance with the rules.

The other part of the bill relates to the Municipal Act, 2001, the first real overhaul of the legislation in this province in 150 years. Municipalities have been asking for an updated and streamlined act for many years, and they were extremely pleased with the new act. In general, the changes to this act are simply housekeeping amendments and good government.



Mr Dalton McGuinty (Leader of the Opposition): My first question today is for the Deputy Premier. You will know that just a few hours ago the police moved in and evicted the homeless people living in Toronto's tent city. You will also know that your government, the Harris-Eves government, walked away from its responsibility for social housing a long time ago.

Government help for those with mental illness and addiction problems is woefully inadequate. Shelters are at 95% capacity today, to say nothing of what is going to happen during the winter months. Tell me, Madam Minister, where are these people supposed to go? Who is going to help them pick up their lives and re-enter society?

Hon Elizabeth Witmer (Deputy Premier, Minister of Education): I'm going to refer that to the Minister of Community, Family and Children's Services.

Hon Brenda Elliott (Minister of Community, Family and Children's Services): I appreciate the question from my colleague across the floor. As he will know full well, municipalities are responsible for providing homeless shelters and things of that nature in their local communities. The province is very pleased to provide the financial support for that. If the city of Toronto determines that there is a need for more shelter spaces, then we will do as we have always done and fund these on an 80-20 cost-sharing basis.

Mr McGuinty: Thank you, Pontius Pilot. Our municipalities cannot possibly cope on their own with the problems connected with our homeless. They need a partner. You are supposed to be that partner.

These people are going to move to public parks, they're going to sleep on sidewalks and maybe even move into people's backyards. What I want to know on their behalf is, specifically, what are you and Ernie Eves going to do for these people? What emergency assistance are you now going to provide and what long-term solutions will you implement to make sure these people get the help and the housing they need?

Hon Mrs Elliott: First of all, in an article just recently published on this, Home Depot indicates, "We have worked closely with the authorities to ensure that these people will have access to Toronto's social services support network." So no actions were undertaken until consultations had been made with the local municipality.

I would point out to my colleague across the way that already the province of Ontario gives Toronto $74 million in support of homelessness programs. That's just to the city of Toronto. Of course, we provide much more across the province as a whole in a variety of different kinds of programs and, again, if more is required, we will co-operate by sharing 80-20.

Mr McGuinty: Much more is required, Madam Minister, and you should understand that. This is not an issue for Home Depot to address. The city of Toronto cannot possibly undertake this on their own. The federal government has extended a very generous offer and you refused to take them up on that.

Here is your sorry record when it comes to the homeless in Ontario: you gutted rent controls; you walked away from social housing; you broke your promise to bring in rent subsidies; you cut funding for addiction and mental health services, and you did all of this quite proudly while slashing welfare rates in Ontario. Why not admit it, Madam Minister: your record is absolutely shameful when it comes to lending support to some of our most vulnerable and needy people.

I ask you again on their behalf, what specifically are you going to do by way of emergency assistance and, then, over the long term, what are you going to do to find housing and other forms of assistance for our homeless?

Hon Mrs Elliott: I remind my colleague across the way that homelessness is a very complex issue that requires all levels of government to co-operate to find a solution.

I would remind my colleague across the way that recently Ontario announced that it would donate the net proceeds from the sale of the former Princess Margaret Hospital site to the city of Toronto to address homelessness.

Our contribution has never been greater. Some $58 million goes to the city of Toronto to help with emergency hostel service costs; $4.9 million in provincial funds under the provincial homeless initiatives fund; $4.9 million under the emergency hostel funding program; $1.4 million for the Off the Street, Into Shelter program; $3.6 million for the supports to daily living programs; and just under $1 million for the community partners program. We are doing our share to try and solve this very difficult and very complex problem.



Mr Dalton McGuinty (Leader of the Opposition): This is a question to the Minister of Energy. Our offices -- and I'm sure that you over on that side of the House are experiencing the same thing -- are being deluged with complaints about skyrocketing hydro bills in Ontario. I want to allow you to address some very specific examples that have been brought to our attention.

Ivan and Fran Foster are seniors living on a fixed income in Pefferlaw, Ontario. They write that their "monthly flat rate charge for ... hydro has increased from $166 to $208 per month. This is a yearly increase of $504." They go on to write that "$504 is a considerable increase to pensioners on a fixed income. Our lifestyle has not changed over the past 10 years; how do you justify this kind of increase?"

I ask you, Minister of Energy, on behalf of Ivan and Fran Foster, how can you possibly justify the kind of increase that they and so many other seniors living on fixed incomes right across Ontario are experiencing as a result of your government's mismanagement?

Hon John R. Baird (Minister of Energy, minister responsible for francophone affairs): When the government announced our intention of going to an open market for electricity beginning May 1, we knew that in some months the price would go down, as it did in the first two months of the market opening, and in some months the power charges would go up, as in the third and fourth months. What we did notice was this past summer we saw the hottest summer in half a century. We broke records on more than five or six days, particularly in the greater Toronto area, and obviously as the temperature rises people use more electricity. Obviously as the temperature rises there is greater demand, and that causes some fluctuations in price.

I would indicate to the honourable member that he should give the market some time. He should give it a full 12 months to be able to look at the whole thing in context. He should look at the substantial rebates that will be at least 50% to those people who qualify, if rates are indeed, at the end, above 3.8%, which would be at least 50% of the reduction. Given that that is based on 3.8%, the market opened at 4.3%.

Mr McGuinty: Ivan and Fran Foster and other seniors like them around Ontario don't have time for your markets to somehow work themselves out and have some kind of an impact when it comes to lowering hydro rates. They need help now. They're looking to you for assistance now. Our offices are being deluged with calls and letters about your policies that are causing their hydro rates to skyrocket.

Here's the case of Debra Hughes from Hamilton. She is a single working mother living in a townhouse. Her daughter has undergone a heart transplant. She requires constant air conditioning for health reasons. Air conditioning is not a luxury for her; it has become something that is essential. Debra's most recent hydro bill was $446.38. I'm asking you on behalf of Debra Hughes and her daughter, what specific assistance are you going to give them, because they're facing a hydro bill of $446.38 as a result of your government's policies?

Hon Mr Baird: What would have been done in the past is rates would have remained stable and they would have just borrowed more money on the backs of hydro customers right across the province of Ontario. So they would get one bill now and one bill later. We saw what those policies by successive governments of all three political parties did, and what it meant was a $38-billion deficit. To put that in context, that's more than $3,000 for every man, woman and child in the province. It's more than $10,000 for every family.

We couldn't continue to operate the system the way it had been operating in the past. That's why we're taking some action to ensure we have a competitive market and we can do everything we can to ensure prices would be lower than they otherwise would have been. That's our plan and that's what we're moving forward on.

Mr McGuinty: Minister, if only you had brought the same dedication and commitment to ensuring that Eleanor Clitheroe had a fantastic salary and million-dollar severance package -- if only you had brought that kind of commitment and dedication to standing up for hydro ratepayers right across the province of Ontario.

Your government's policies were going to mean good things for hydro ratepayers. They have obviously been a complete, abysmal failure.

What are you going to do for people like those whose situations I've raised here today and the many more we are going to continue to bring into this Legislature until you assume your responsibilities, or until at least somebody over there assumes their responsibilities and stands up for the people of Ontario who are getting ripped off today through their hydro bills?

Hon Mr Baird: The member opposite takes one month's bill on what was the hottest summer in 50 months. Next thing you know, the Leader of the Opposition is going to be standing in his place and suggesting that somehow we're colluding with Mother Nature as part of our hydro reforms. Nothing could be further from the truth.


Mr Howard Hampton (Kenora-Rainy River): My question is for the Deputy Premier. As people across Ontario --


The Speaker (Hon Gary Carr): Will the member take his seat? Order. The leader of the third party now has the floor. The leader of the third party, opening question.

Mr Hampton: As people across Ontario open their hydro bills, we learned today that Great Lakes Power, the company that hit the people of Wawa and Algoma district with 44% hydro rate increases, gave $25,000 to Premier Ernie Eves's leadership campaign. The parent company of Great Lakes Power, Brascan, gave a total of $100,000 to the Ernie Eves leadership campaign. In return, the Brascan companies, including Great Lakes Power, profited immensely from the hydro price hikes this summer due to deregulation. Your hydro dirty deal just gets dirtier every day.

Minister, is this your government's message: give big bucks to Ernie Eves, get big profits and let the people of Ontario pay through the nose?

Hon Elizabeth Witmer (Deputy Premier, Minister of Education): I would refer that to the Minister of Energy.

Hon John R. Baird (Minister of Energy, minister responsible for francophone affairs): The accusations the member opposite makes are patently absurd. For the member opposite to stand in his place and somehow make accusations of that nature I think demeans this place and it demeans him and the role that he has played in this place in the past.

What we do see in the situation with Great Lakes Power in Wawa is a ruling by the Ontario Energy Board -- not by Ernie Eves, not by Elizabeth Witmer, not by Jim Flaherty, not by Chris Stockwell and not by Tony Clement but by Floyd Laughren -- with respect to the transmission and distribution separations and changes which have taken place there. Rather than asking for cross-subsidization of one consumer cost to another, rather than looking to the people who are supported by Sault Ste Marie public utilities, rather than looking to certain classes of customers by Great Lakes Power, people are paying the actual costs rather than others subsidizing them. That was a decision of the Ontario Energy Board and the member's former colleague Floyd Laughren.

Mr Hampton: I gather the energy minister thinks it's OK that Brascan gave the Premier $100,000 for his campaign and then hiked the rates by 44%. But there's more to this story.

As part of your hydro privatization scheme through Ontario Power Generation, you sold Great Lakes Power and Brascan four hydro stations on the Mississagi River. This summer, Brascan and Great Lakes Power, trying to make as much money as they could out of peak hydro prices, literally drained the reservoir, Rocky Island Lake. Tourist operators were forced to close. The lake ecosystem was disrupted and fish spawning grounds were destroyed. I brought a photograph of what the lake used to look like. That's what it used to look like.

The Speaker: Member, put the prop down, please. Continue without the prop.


Mr Hampton: I'll send you over a copy of the picture.

The question is this: is this the message from hydro privatization and deregulation: give $100,000 to Ernie Eves and the Conservative government and they'll even let you drain a lake to make profits from hydro privatization?

Hon Mr Baird: I don't want to let the premise of the member's question go unaddressed. I do find it regrettable that the member opposite seeks to advance his own political career by engaging in character assassination and somehow making some outrageous allegations with respect to electoral support and public policy decisions. If the member opposite has any single shred of evidence to suggest, he should put it on the floor of this House right now, right here. But I think the reality is that he's only interested in character assassination and seeking to further his own political interests, and I find that incredibly regrettable.

With respect to the situation he speaks of, we know the NDP doesn't like nuclear power. We know the NDP doesn't like fossil fuel power. Now they're actually getting upset -- what are the hydroelectric generating stations using? They're using water. How does he expect hydroelectric power to be generated in Ontario? There's a dam, they drain it. There are plans that can be filed with the Ministry of Natural Resources on proper environmental protocol, and I encourage any concerned citizen to take those concerns to MNR to be followed.

Mr Hampton: Minister, I think the paper trail speaks for itself. Give $100,000 to Ernie Eves's leadership campaign and you can hike the hydro rates and you can drain the lake to make more money.

The representative of Great Lakes Power, when he was asked about this, said, "The new energy market is changing how things are done. Generators are more responsive to pricing signals. They don't give a damn about the environment."

Minister, the question for your government is this: will you cancel this insidious privatization and deregulation project, or do you really wear a sign in front of your government saying, "Bought for and sold"?

Hon Mr Baird: No.

Mr Hampton: I'm disappointed, Speaker. The Minister of Energy doesn't want to answer the question.


Mr Howard Hampton (Kenora-Rainy River): To the Minister of Finance, people all across Ontario are getting some very bad news in their mail, and I don't just mean their hydro bills. People are also opening their monthly RRSP statements and getting a sickening feeling in their stomachs because their hard-earned retirement savings are melting away. Many Ontarians have watched their savings literally depreciate by 25% over the past two years.

In response to the Nortels, the Enrons and the WorldComs, I actually put out a paper this summer that raised the issue of better protection of people's savings, better protection of their investments.

Minister, what is your government going to do to protect those people whose pension plans are at risk, whose life's savings are at risk as a result of the Nortels, the Enrons and the WorldComs?

Hon Janet Ecker (Minister of Finance): I think every member of this House shares the desire to make sure that the markets in this country are fair to consumers, are good investments and are well protected, and this government certainly appreciates that. That's why we've had a review of securities legislation going on in this province. Purdy Crawford just did the draft report this year. We'll be moving forward this fall with some legislative changes to make sure that markets here in Ontario are well protected, that investors and consumers know that when they invest in a company here in Canada their money is protected.

Mr Hampton: First and foremost, what happened in many of those scandals was in effect an accounting scandal caused by inadequate regulation of the public auditing industry. As you know, the US government has recently passed the most sweeping investor protection laws seen in the United States since the Great Depression, with tough new rules reining in out-of-control accounting industries.

Key to our discussion paper No Enrons in Ontario is a proposal to end public auditing self-regulation in this province and create a true statutory public-oversight board for Ontario's public accounting industry. We're proposing tough new laws which would end the Arthur Andersen type of conflict of interest and make it illegal for firms such as KPMG and others to do auditing and then consulting for the same company.

Minister, will you finally crack down on the out-of-control accounting industry that brought us the Enron and WorldCom disasters?

Hon Mrs Ecker: I think it's important to note for investors here in Canada that those so-called scandals that he talked about happened in another country. Those issues happened in the United States. What we in Canada are doing is making sure that they cannot happen here, because people, whatever their age, when they put their hard-earned money into a mutual fund or stocks or invest it in any way, need to know that money is protected.

What the honourable member may well be interested to know is that the audit industry in Canada, the national audit body, the Canadian Public Accountability Board, has already put in place stronger standards. The Attorney General will be coming forward with stronger standards under his legislation. I myself, as the Minister of Finance, will be coming forward, as I said earlier, with stronger legislation based on the reviews from the Purdy Crawford report.

We agree that protecting investors' money is one of the primary things that we must ensure happens here in Canada. We already have rules that are much more extensive than the United States. For example, we have a continuous disclosure policy here to make sure that companies are putting information out there. We need to continue to make sure that those things that happened in the United States can never happen here.


Mr Dalton McGuinty (Leader of the Opposition): My question is for the Minister of Citizenship. Minister, as your government's advocate for human rights and as your responsibilities would make you a champion of diversity, I want to ask you about the international language programs offered by the Toronto District Board of Education.

The international language programs have been said to be on the chopping block. That was some of the advice put forward by the auditor, and I understand the supervisor is now actively considering that. My question to you is simple: do you agree that these international language programs should be eliminated? Yes or no?

Hon Carl DeFaria (Minister of Citizenship, minister responsible for seniors): I'd like to refer the question to the Minister of Education.

Hon Elizabeth Witmer (Deputy Premier, Minister of Education): Our government has long recognized that students must have very strong language skills in order to achieve success. That's why every year we have increased the funding that is available for teaching English as a second language. We have increased the funding to $168.5 million. That is an increase of 50% since 1998-99.

Mr McGuinty: I'm going to return to the minister, who is, I would argue, shirking his responsibilities. I'm not talking about the English-as-a-second-language program; I'm talking about the international language programs. I'm talking about programs where more than 33,000 Toronto students are enrolled, learning some 40 different languages. I'm talking about building a solid foundation in a knowledge economy for doing business with the world. That's what I'm talking about.

I'm asking you, as minister responsible for citizenship, as the champion of diversity within your government, are you prepared to stand up and allow some supervisor or auditor to shut down international language programs in Toronto, yes or no?

Hon Mrs Witmer: It is this type of fear-mongering that creates anxiety.


The Speaker (Hon Gary Carr): The minister take her seat.


The Speaker: The member for Don Valley East, come to order. Minister, sorry for the interruption.

Hon Mrs Witmer: It is extremely important that we all keep in mind the funding increases that have been provided to the Toronto District School Board: an increase of $51.8 million in 2002-03, an increase of 2.7% while enrolment is only going up about 0.6%. I would suggest that we work together to build on the strengths of our public school system in Ontario and that we refrain from the fear-mongering that you've been doing.



Mr John O'Toole (Durham): My question is to the Minister of Agriculture and Food. Over the summer, I had the opportunity to speak with a number of farmers in my riding of Durham concerning a number of support programs. I appreciate the input from farmers such as Dale Mountjoy, Dave Frew, Trevor Nesbitt, Gail and Arnold Kerry, Steve Selby and others. But more importantly, I appreciate the time you took to speak with them directly when you visited for the 150th anniversary of the Orono central fair.

It was obvious from discussions you and I had with the community that due to market and weather conditions we need to deliver immediate assistance to those in need.

Minister, can you inform the farmers, not just in my riding of Durham but indeed across the province, of recent initiatives that you've undertaken to assist this vital sector of the Ontario economy?

Hon Helen Johns (Minister of Agriculture and Food): I'd like to thank the member for Durham for the question. As the member recognized, this government signed the agricultural policy framework in June. At that time we made a commitment to match the federal government's transition money by putting forward our 40% share of the bridge funding. Since that time, at the International Plowing Match, the Premier and I have honoured that commitment and the Premier announced that we would put $72 million into the agricultural community to ensure that they receive the funding and investment they deserve from the Ontario government.

We followed the requests of the Ontario Agricultural Commodity Council to ensure that we put dollars where the agricultural community thought it needed them. In so doing, we used the market revenue insurance program to put the bulk of the dollars, and the balance into the NISA program. I think it's important to recognize that the farm groups asked for us to put it into those specific areas. We complied with their decision and we're happy to follow through as quickly as possible to ensure that valuable investment in agriculture comes through.

Mr O'Toole: Thank you for that very comprehensive response, Minister. I would also like to applaud you publicly not just for this announcement but for visiting my riding and being throughout Ontario this summer, watching the crops, watching the farmers do their business to grow the safest food in the world.

I certainly appreciate the assistance announced last week at the International Plowing Match at Glencoe. I know how positively you were received.

Minister, it's very clear that the Liberal opposition has abandoned farmers and doesn't recognize their desperate situation. Could you tell the House today what you are hearing from the commodity council and other agricultural businesses in Ontario?

Hon Mrs Johns: Let me say that the agricultural community is happy that these dollars are beginning to flow and the way in which they are flowing. The Ontario Federation of Agriculture suggested in its news release last week that they were happy that the cash was flowing out, as opposed to being put into a NISA program, where they wouldn't be able to get the dollars. They also suggested that it was getting easier to deal with the provincial government and that we needed to keep up this working relationship so that we could continue to work in partnership. It's very important, as we go down the road in the agricultural policy framework, that we work together to be able to ensure that we get the best deal for Ontario farmers so that they have a sustainable agricultural environment.

I tell you, I give my commitment to the agricultural community, as the Premier did in the last few weeks a number of times that he is prepared to work with the agricultural community, to be a spokesperson for the agricultural community and to be there for the agricultural community as we move forward on very important initiatives that will strengthen rural Ontario.


The Speaker (Hon Gary Carr): Would you stop the clock for a moment?

We have a visitor joining us in the Speaker's Gallery: Mr Peter MacKay, member of the House of Commons for Pictou-Antigonish-Guysborough in Nova Scotia.


Mr Monte Kwinter (York Centre): My question, to the Minister of Enterprise, Opportunity and Innovation, is about your relationship with Picov Downs, the smallest racetrack in Ontario. At the final meeting of the old cabinet, your supporter Tim Hudak forced through approval for up to 800 slot machines at Picov Downs.

If slots were awarded in proportion to the amount of wagering at a track, Picov Downs would get one and a half slots, not 800. Gaming industry experts cried foul. Fingers were pointed at you. You and the owner are old friends. Hudak was your supporter. The slots were issued moments before the new government took office.

Last night we learned that Picov Downs and Picov Farms greased the wheels of your campaign with at least $80,000 -- that's $80,000.

What role did Picov Downs's $80,000 donation play in their receiving an inappropriate number of lucrative slot machines?

The Speaker (Hon Gary Carr): On a point of order, the government House leader.


The Speaker: Stop the clock.

The government House leader?

Hon Chris Stockwell (Minister of the Environment, Government House Leader): With great respect, obviously the minister is in charge of what the speaker opposite addressed. What this has to do with his ministry and what his ministry does today, I am not certain. May I ask for a ruling?

The Speaker: I thank the member.


The Speaker: Order.

The government House leader will know that preambles lead up to questions, and quite often a question will lead into his ministry. I am listening. I also will check and see, because I'm not sure now who has responsibility for gaming; that may have switched. The Attorney General, I'm being told.

Members will know they have to ask a question relating to his portfolio, and I'm sure the member will do that. I will listen very carefully to the question. If it does not, I will rule it out of order.

Interjection: What are you hiding over there?

The Speaker: Order.

Or the minister responsible may choose to answer it.


The Speaker: Order.

At the end, the wrap-up, I didn't hear the exact question. I was dealing with another issue; I did not hear the question. I will allow the question, and the member may answer it as he chooses or have the minister responsible answer it.

I will be listening very carefully in the future, particularly when it relates to questions relating to the financing of campaigns. Members opposite will know there is a way to ask that question and get it in there, but if you simply ask a specific question, I will rule it out of order.

The minister may answer.

Hon Jim Flaherty (Minister of Enterprise, Opportunity and Innovation): The question, insofar as it relates to gaming, is properly in the realm of the Attorney General. But since the member opposite has asked a question which reflects on my personal integrity, I will answer.

The entertainment complex that is envisioned on the Picov property in Ajax not only is supported by the council of the town of Ajax and by Durham council, but is also supported by the board of trade and by community groups. It is supported by me, as the member of provincial parliament for Whitby-Ajax, and I daresay is supported by my colleague the Minister of Finance, as a member of provincial parliament for Pickering-Ajax-Uxbridge.

I welcomed the support that was given to me by Mr Picov and by his supporters in Durham region when I sought to be the leader of my party in this Legislature. I welcome it. It's the right thing to do. There were many contributions to all the campaigns. People should contribute to political campaigns across Ontario. They did the right thing. It's good for my community, it's good for my region and I support it.


Mr Kwinter: With all due respect, what I've just heard is an Eleanor Clitheroe explanation.

Let's talk about the mathematics. According to gaming experts, a slot machine in the Durham area should generate between $500 to $600 a day. If you had 800 slot machines at $500 a day, 365 days a year, that would generate $146 million.

After costs are figured in -- purses, capital, refurbishment, taxes -- 800 slots at Picov Downs would generate approximately $14.6 million to the owners every year. When you consider that at the present time the total wagering at their track -- listen to this: the total wagering at the track, not the profits, was $280,000 in 2001. So here they're going from a profit that is less than $280,000, because they're not going to take all of the money, and they're looking at generating a profit of $14.6 million --

The Speaker: Order. The member's time is up. Take your seat. There was no question there. The member has up to a minute to answer.

Hon Mr Flaherty: The question now appears to be about gaming revenues and I refer it to the Attorney General.

Hon David Young (Attorney General, minister responsible for native affairs): I'm not going to comment on the fanciful allegations that have come from the member opposite, although I must say, sir, that I am disappointed that a member with your reputation would stoop to this level.

I will tell you -- and if I may, Mr Speaker --


The Speaker: Will the Attorney General take his seat. The member for Toronto Centre-Rosedale, come to order. Sorry for the interruption. Attorney General.

Hon Mr Young: Indeed, I thought what I would do in this discussion is introduce some of the facts. No decision has been made as to how many slot machines will be placed at Picov Downs, if any. What is happening now is that there is an application to the racing commission, and after that application a decision will be made as to how many racing days Picov Downs will have. Then the OLGC will review the matter, decide what an appropriate business case is, and then it will be submitted to the government.

I want to stress that the OLGC is an independent, arm's-length agency, as is the racing commission, and after they give us recommendations, we will consider this matter. No decision has been made to date.


Mr Bert Johnson (Perth-Middlesex): My question is for my friend and colleague, the Honourable Tony Clement, Minister of Health and Long-Term Care. As most people are aware, strokes claim thousands of lives in Ontario every year.


Mr Johnson: If I can have a little quiet from the member for St Catharines, I'll continue with my question.

I understand there was an announcement made today regarding increased access to stroke prevention and care across Ontario. I'd like to ask the minister to explain the impact of today's stroke strategy announcement and how new initiatives will be of benefit to stroke victims and their families across Ontario.

Hon Tony Clement (Minister of Health and Long-Term Care): I thank the honourable member for Perth-Middlesex for a very appropriate question, because today I was delighted to announce the creation of 10 new stroke centres across Ontario, bringing the total number to 16 in the province.

What these 16 centres mean to the people of Ontario is an increased focus on prevention programs to combat high blood pressure and high cholesterol, designed to dramatically reduce the rate of strokes in our province by as much as 80%. It means new drugs and new technologies that make it possible to reverse or halt the damage caused by stroke, and that will be made available closer to home. Finally, it means more doctors and nurses will have the tools they need to provide better stroke care and better stroke therapy, all to the benefit of the people of Ontario.

Mr Johnson: Thank you very much for your response. Speaking on behalf of all my constituents, I wish to thank the minister for his ongoing commitment to providing quality health care to the people of Perth-Middlesex and all the residents of Ontario. This will be a very progressive program for the Stratford General Hospital.

I'm aware that today's announcement is an important part of Ontario's overall strategy on stroke prevention and treatment. I'd like the minister to update the House on the progress that has been made since the stroke strategy program was announced in the year 2000.

Hon Mr Clement: Indeed, today's announcement means that we have new centres in rural and urban hospitals such as Grey Bruce health centre, St Catharines General Hospital, Windsor Hotel Dieu Hospital, Stratford General Hospital, Lakeridge health centre, Sarnia General and Grand River, located in Kitchener.

Since the year 2000, this government's stroke strategy has been an annual investment of up to $30 million a year to enhance the care to stroke victims and also to promote stroke prevention initiatives. We have invested $1.6 million in five secondary stroke prevention clinics.

We have also provided $2.29 million for six pilot projects aimed to improve outreach services, home-based rehabilitation and improve the coordination of our rehabilitation services, all of which means that we have the programs in place for prevention, for quick action, and that means better survivability of strokes and fewer strokes in the first place, all of which is good news to the people of Ontario.

Hon Janet Ecker (Minister of Finance): On a point of personal privilege, Mr Speaker: I would just like to state for the record, since the opposition has been so interested in besmirching the integrity of members on this side of this House, that the MPP for Durham, the MPP for Pickering-Ajax-Uxbridge and the Ajax --

The Speaker (Hon Gary Carr): Take your seat, please. Minister take her seat.

Mr Dwight Duncan (Windsor-St Clair): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: Will you take 30 seconds off the clock? Whenever we do points of privilege --

The Speaker: You're wasting a lot of time. We'll keep it going as long as you want. I work with both sides on this but I'm not going to be stepped to the clock. You pushed the question to the line; now you want me to step in and give you more time. I'm not going to do it. I wish I hadn't been interrupted, because had I not been, I might not have allowed that question. I'm going to listen very carefully and if you do go beyond the scope of a minister's responsibility, you simply won't get the question and we'll move on.

In terms of the time on the clock, the time is yours; you can do what you want. If you want to yell and scream, we'll continue to go on. The member for Trinity-Spadina can sit and wait. The time will go on and if you want to fool around, we will sit here the entire time and there will be no question period.

The member for Trinity-Spadina.


Mr Rosario Marchese (Trinity-Spadina): I have a question to the Minister of Education. Yesterday the public learned that you're spending education dollars on spin doctors instead of textbooks and special education. Today we learned that the PR firms that got the jobs are very close and generous friends of yours. The spin doctors working for the Hamilton and Toronto supervisors are connected to Enterprise Canada Group Inc, which donated $29,000 through two companies to the Conservative Party since 1998. More telling, this company donated $8,000 to your Premier's leadership bid. Let me understand this, Minister: you're willing to steal money from boards that are starving for cash in order to pay lucrative contracts to public relations firms --

The Speaker (Hon Gary Carr): The government House leader.

Hon Chris Stockwell (Minister of the Environment, Government House Leader): Mr Speaker, the member just accused the government of stealing money. It's got to be out of order.

The Speaker: Take your seat. While the member was speaking, one of his own caucus members was up speaking to me, interrupting me. I am not going to speak to members during question period. He was talking about times. I would thank the members to stay in their seats. I'm going to listen very carefully and if members come up and I have to be impolite, I will be. Stay away from the chair during question period. You can come afterwards or come to my office. I cannot do two things at once. I cannot listen to members complaining about the time from a party at the same time the member is up giving a question.

The member for Trinity-Spadina has the floor. I will be listening. I say to all members, you'd better behave in the questions and not cross the line, or I am going to rule them out of order.


Mr Marchese: Minister, let me understand: you're willing to shuck away money from boards of education that are starving for cash in order to pay lucrative contracts to public relations firms so that you can look good?

Hon Elizabeth Witmer (Deputy Premier, Minister of Education): I'm really quite surprised at the question because the information that I read in the paper not too long ago indicates to me that the member in question in 1985 voted in favour of a massive salary increase, 33%, at the board of education. In 1989, he voted again in favour of an 86% salary increase, and then again raised taxes. This is a member who didn't care about the kids; he cared about his own personal salary.

Mr Marchese: All I can say to the minister is that she's a real loser.

The Speaker: Order. You have to withdraw that. The member is going to have to withdraw it or go out. He cannot call people losers in this House --


Mr Marchese: I withdraw, Speaker.

The Speaker: -- or you're going out.

Mr Marchese: I ask a question --

The Speaker: Member, I did not hear it through the yelling. I want to hear him say, "I withdraw it."

Mr Marchese: I withdraw. I said it.

The Speaker: I didn't hear it. While I'm up, I would ask all members to caution about the language in here. It doesn't help anybody. We have school kids who come in here to watch. People being called losers and other names doesn't look good on any of us. I know tempers get up here in this House. It's little wonder people have disrespect for the institution when we're standing up and calling people losers in this House. I would ask all members to think about what they're doing in this institution.

Mr Marchese: I'm not surprised, Minister, that you don't answer questions, because you never do. I'm willing to debate that very clearly with you, but to go back to something else other than the question that I asked you -- it's deplorable. Answer the questions I'm asking you.

You are using dollars that should be going to textbooks and special education to play politics, to reward your friends. That's the question: $8,000 to your Premier's leadership bid and $29,000 for your party to get propaganda contracts. You've been caught lining the pockets of your friends while kids don't have soap and toilet paper in their schools.

The Speaker: The member is going to have to withdraw that. You cannot say that. I ask you to withdraw it or you will be thrown out.

Mr Marchese: Withdraw, Speaker.

The Speaker: I just caution the member. You can ask questions. You're crossing the line. You're going over it. You're at the line. I would ask you to place your question. Your time's up. You've been over the time now. I'm going to give you some leeway. Please place your question now and please make sure it's parliamentary.

Mr Marchese: Will you, Minister, pull the plug immediately on the supervisors and PR consultants and put that money back where the kids really need it? Will you do that?

Hon Mrs Witmer: That's exactly what our government has chosen to do. That's why we introduced the funding formula: in order to ensure that the money did not go into salary increases of the type that I mentioned, in order that it would go into the classroom.

I would just hasten to add that the communication advisers have been hired in order that they can communicate the measures that have been undertaken to the parents and keep the local community informed as to what is happening.


Mr Dalton McGuinty (Leader of the Opposition): My question is to the Minister of Transportation. My clean air plan is going to give two cents of the gas tax to cities for investment in public transit. By getting people out of their cars and into public transit, my plan's going to clean up our air and fight gridlock. Gridlock, as you will understand, Minister, is strangling the GTA. It's costing the economy billions of dollars, and it's robbing families of precious time together.

I've got a plan to fight gridlock and clean up our air. Minister, where is your plan?

Hon Norman W. Sterling (Minister of Transportation): I don't think there's any government in the history of Ontario that has indicated more support for transportation, be it public transit, building new roads or new transit corridors. This government has committed itself to a $3.25-billion program to improve public transit in this province. We also recently took back GO Transit, saving municipalities some $100 million each and every year as they go forward, in spite of the fact that they got tax credit for that when we made the changes back in 1997.

I could go on and on about this government's commitment to public transit. There is no other government that has put forward a promise that this government has, and we're proud of it.

Mr McGuinty: Minister, I honestly don't know how you could have said all that with a straight face. I'm not sure any government has ever done less to act as a partner for our municipalities when it comes to supporting public transit.

As for this fantastic $3-billion promise over the course of the next 10 years, you're never going to come anywhere near to delivering that because we're going to replace the government in about eight months.

Here's the truth, when it comes to your plan for public transit. Four years ago, you told municipalities that they were on their own. They said they couldn't possibly cope on their own. You essentially said, "Tough luck." Now you've gotten back into the field, and it's too little too late. I'm talking about doubling the investment. I'm talking about two cents of the gas tax being transferred to our municipal partners. I'm talking about attacking, in an aggressive way, both gridlock and dirty air. I've got a good plan. I say to you again, Minister, where's yours?

Hon Mr Sterling: I don't know how the Leader of the Opposition, talking as a Liberal, can talk about investment in transportation when our federal government, over the past seven years, has given less than 1% of the money that we have invested in our highways and in our public transit infrastructure.

Recently, in our own backyard, we gave the city of Ottawa $12 million for 57 new buses for the city of Ottawa. We have invested in transit stations with regard to the subway here in Toronto. We have invested $1 billion in the subway on Sheppard Avenue when the federal government has put in nothing, absolutely nothing.

If you look at all our investments, they would far outstrip the two cents per litre of gasoline that the Leader of the Opposition would like to see. I challenge the federal government to come forward and match the $3 billion that we are investing in public transit. Get David Collenette to put his money where his mouth is.


Mr Raminder Gill (Bramalea-Gore-Malton-Springdale): My question today is to the Associate Minister of Health and Long-Term Care. I'm often asked by my constituents in the great riding of Bramalea-Gore-Malton-Springdale about what steps our government is taking to meet the needs of Ontario's growing aging population.

In the last couple of weeks, I've heard members of this House and the media comment on the review and changes to our government's bathing regulations for all long-term-care facilities in Ontario. Minister, for the benefit of my constituents, could you please explain how this regulation has changed and what this means for seniors in long-term-care facilities in our province?

Hon Dan Newman (Associate Minister of Health and Long-Term Care): I thank the hard-working member for Bramalea-Gore-Malton-Springdale for his question. I'm proud to say that the commitment of the Ernie Eves government to meeting the challenges of Ontario's growing aging population is clear and strong. It is clear because we've taken steps such as an unprecedented $1.2 billion in the expansion of long-term-care beds across our province, and it's strong because this funding represents the largest-ever investment in health services in Ontario's history.


Yes, we have reviewed the regulations for all long-term-care facilities. On July 31, we announced those changes, along with the largest infusion of funding for nursing and personal care in the province's history, an unprecedented $100 million. We made these changes because we wanted to ensure that the bathing regulations were clear and that they were consistent, regardless of whether you lived in a municipal home for the aged, a charitable home or a nursing home. I'm pleased to tell this House today that the amended regulation ensures that all residents receive the care they need, when they need it and on a daily basis.

Mr Gill: Minister, I know you've been working very hard to fulfill our government's commitment to this important sector, a commitment that will benefit Ontarians in every region of our province, including my constituents.

I was very pleased to hear the minister speak to our government's $100-million investment in nursing and personal care services in the long-term-care sector, an investment that will mean even better care for residents. Could you please explain how the whole new bathing regulation you discussed will mean better quality of care and personal hygiene for seniors in long-term-care facilities across Ontario?

Hon Mr Newman: To put it simply, the new bathing regulation will mean better care and personal hygiene in long-term-care facilities because they recognize the individual needs of each and every long-term-care facility resident. The fact is that while some residents may be mobile, there are others who may be bedridden, and the needs of each resident are different. The new regulation ensures that, regardless of their health condition, their personal hygiene needs are met.

Others agree with what the government has done. In fact, Karen Sullivan, the executive director of the Ontario Long Term Care Association, recently said that her organization thinks the new rules are significantly better, that these new rules are much better than what was in place before.

I'm proud to say in this House today that the change reflects our government's ongoing commitment to ensure the best quality of care for each and every one of the 61,000 residents in all of Ontario's long-term-care facilities.


Mrs Sandra Pupatello (Windsor West): My question is for the Minister of Health. Minister, we had an opportunity to ask you questions about the private MRI clinics -- is the minister coming?

The Speaker (Hon Gary Carr): Would you stop the clock for a minute?


The Speaker: His books are still here. He may have just stepped out. We'll allow some leeway for the member to start over.

Mrs Pupatello: Thank you, Speaker. My question is for the Minister of Health. Last week, we had an opportunity to ask this minister many questions regarding the private MRI clinics that he's intending to introduce in Ontario. Apparently, there is an RFP process that should be available. This announcement was made in the late spring, early summer.

What I have for the minister is a list of 18 hospitals in Ontario that have already submitted their requests, that have already raised the money to have their own MRI machine at the hospital. Minister, I'd like to know today -- and please tell all of these 18 -- why you have not moved forward to approve hospitals that have already raised the money to have an MRI and are just waiting your approval. Why are you moving forward on a private clinic front when 18 hospitals have already raised the money?

Hon Tony Clement (Minister of Health and Long-Term Care): If I may say so, nothing could be further from the truth. Indeed, this government, the Ernie Eves government, is not only expanding diagnostics through independent health facilities, but we are expanding the funding for MRIs that already exists in our publicly funded hospitals by 90%. That is in our budget. That is from our throne speech. This is the commitment this government has to publicly funded services being accessible and available.

I say to the honourable member opposite, I beg to differ. Of course we want to support our MRIs in existence, MRIs that we put in place by and large as a government over the last seven years, and of course we will be there in the future to support publicly funded, universally accessible services for greater accessibility closer to home for diagnostic services for the people of Ontario.

Mrs Pupatello: Minister, you are on an ideological bent to introduce private MRIs in Ontario even if they don't make sense. Last week at estimates committee, you acknowledged that there is the likelihood that this government will also be giving capital money to private companies for the purchase of their equipment. When this Minister of Health was asked that question, he would not deny it even though it was asked of him.

We'd like you to tell us, without all the semantics of money, if you are in such dire straits to introduce new MRIs into Ontario, to the point of allowing 20 private clinics, why will you not today approve the 18 in Ontario that have already raised the money to have their own MRIs? But this is in the public system; it doesn't make sense. Answer the question: if we need more MRIs, and you've announced 20 privates, why will you not give approval for 18 in the public system that have already raised the money?

Hon Mr Clement: Let me state for the record that when the PC government came to power in 1995, there were 12 MRIs throughout the province of Ontario. This year there are 51 MRIs. That was this government -- this government. We have a commitment from the Ernie Eves government to increase the amount of time available for these MRIs by 90%. We are there for increased accessibility, increased diagnostics for people, closer to home. That is what this government's policy is all about.

If the honourable member wishes to know where the next MRIs are going to be -- I'd be happy to take her advice, just as I take the advice of my caucus colleagues who are representing their constituencies so well to make sure we have in Ontario accessible diagnostics as close to home as possible to end the waiting lists, to end the jam in the system which means that diagnostic services are not where we need them. We are putting our money where our mouth is and we will continue to do so.


Mr Steve Gilchrist (Scarborough East): Right at the end of question period yesterday I asked the lead question to the Minister of Tourism and Recreation regarding a recent article in the Toronto Star that had suggested the declining state of tourism spending here in Toronto. I appreciate the minister's first response, but I wanted to take an opportunity to ask a follow-up question because it's just as important to look at the spending on tourism across the rest of Ontario.

Tourism is an integral part of our overall economy. The research I've done says that one out of every 12 jobs in the province is related to this sector.

Post-September 11 the province stood alone in spending $14 million, as I recall, to make sure that tourism marketing efforts were buttressed and to try to make sure that Americans in particular knew that we were a safe place to visit.

My question to the minister, though, is this: a recent National Post article highlighted the inequity in the federal spending that Quebec gets. I want to ask the minister what steps he's taking to make sure Ontario gets its fair share and that tourism all across Ontario is promoted by his ministry.

Hon Cameron Jackson (Minister of Tourism and Recreation): We've been waiting for five years to have a meeting with the federal minister of tourism, and Allan Rock picked the city in BC, he picked the day, and then, five days before, he cancelled yet again.

The message we wanted to give to the federal government is that Ontario continues to promote festivals and events, many multicultural in nature.

The member for Scarborough-Rouge River was concerned when we in Ontario gave $350,000 to Caribana, or the Caribbean cultural festival, and the federal government didn't give a penny -- didn't give a penny -- to support international relations and multiculturalism. Perhaps the federal government is sending us a message: We get $4 million; Quebec gets $24 million -- six times more. But they did find $350,000 for the Just for Laughs festival in Montreal. So comedians got more money than the Caribbean community in this province.


Mrs Sandra Pupatello (Windsor West): Mr Speaker, on a point of order: I'd like to inform the House of my complete dissatisfaction with the response from the Minister of Health. I've submitted the appropriate papers requesting a late show.

The Speaker (Hon Gary Carr): I thank the member for that advisement, and make sure that she gets the paperwork done.




Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): This petition is to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.

"Whereas the Eves government has increased the fees paid 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 back 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:

"We 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 affix my signature as I'm in complete agreement.


Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton West): I have a petition addressed to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario that reads as follows:

"Whereas the Conservative government has greatly restricted the eligibility criteria for Hamilton home care clients, causing drastic reductions in the amount, duration and quality of services available to frail, sick and elderly people" in our city;

"Whereas home care clients deserve the provision of adequate government funding for home care services as their needs grow increasingly complex in the face of continued government cutbacks to home care;

"Whereas the Conservative government shifted the costs of home care services on to the backs of the most vulnerable people in our communities;

"Whereas home care services are more cost-efficient for the health care system because they are dedicated to serving families in their homes so that more costly institutional care can be prevented or delayed;

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

We demand "that the Conservative government review and change the criteria eligibility so that appropriate home care services can be provided to the most vulnerable in our community when the need arises."

I support my constituents in signing this petition and add my name to theirs.


Mr Rick Bartolucci (Sudbury): This petition is to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.

"Whereas the Eves government has increased the fees paid 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" -- let me repeat -- "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:

"We 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."

After I sign it, I will give this petition to Kyle, who will bring it to the table.

Ms Shelley Martel (Nickel Belt): I'd like to draw to the attention of the assembly petitions that I received this summer with respect to the long-term-care increase. It reads as follows:

"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"Whereas the Conservative government increased fees paid by Ontario seniors and other vulnerable people living in long-term-care facilities by 15%, or $213 a month, instead of providing adequate government funding for long-term care;

"Whereas the Conservative government has therefore shifted the costs of long-term care on to the backs of the frail elderly and their families;

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

"Whereas in 1996 Ontario abandoned its minimum requirement of 2.25 hours of nursing care per nursing home resident;

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

"Whereas, according to the government's own study, government cutbacks have resulted in Ontario seniors receiving just 14 minutes a day of care from a registered nurse, less than half the time given to residents in Saskatchewan;

"Whereas the report also found that Ontario residents received the least nursing, bathing and general care of nine other comparable locations;

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

"We join the New Democratic Party in demanding the Conservative government eliminate the 15% fee increase for residents of long-term-care facilities, increase the number of nursing care hours for each resident to a minimum of 3.5 hours per day, and provide stable, increased funding to ensure quality care is there for Ontario residents of long-term-care facilities."

This is signed by hundreds of residents, specifically from my riding, and I agree with them.

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

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

"Whereas this fee increase will cost seniors and our most vulnerable" -- and their families, I would add -- "more than $200 per 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 day; and

"Whereas, according to the government's own funding study, Ontario ranks" dead "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 the 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 the comfort" -- and, I would say, affordability -- "of this province;

"Therefore, be it resolved that we, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario as follows:

"We demand that Premier Eves and his government 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 services to adequate levels."

I agree wholeheartedly with this petition and I have affixed my signature to it.


Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton West): I have a petition to the Legislature that reads as follows:

"Whereas the Harris government's plan to privatize and deregulate Ontario's electricity system will lead to higher rates because private owners will sell more power to US customers whose rates are typically 50% higher than Ontario's; and

"Whereas selling coal plants like Nanticoke to the private sector will lead to more pollution because the private owners will run the plants at full capacity to earn full profit; and

"Whereas electricity deregulation in California has led to sky-high rates and blackouts; and

"Whereas Ontario needs a system of public power that will ensure rate stability, environmental protection and secure access to power;

"Therefore, be it resolved that the undersigned call on the government to scrap electricity deregulation and privatization and bring in a system of accountable public power. The first priority for such a public power system must be incentives for energy conservation and green power. Electricity rates and major energy projects must be subject to full public hearings and binding rulings by a public regulator instead of leaving energy rates to private profit."

I support these constituents and I also add my name to the petition.



Mr John C. Cleary (Stormont-Dundas-Charlottenburgh): I have a petition 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 and $2 in the third year, effective September 1, 2002;

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

"Whereas this increase is above the rent increase guidelines for tenants in the province of Ontario for 2002;

"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 government needs to increase long-term-care operating funding by $750 million over the next three years" to raise the level of care in Ontario to the same as Saskatchewan in 1999; and

"Whereas this province has been built by seniors ... who should be able to live out their lives with dignity;

"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 the other jurisdictions.

I've also signed the petition.


Ms Caroline Di Cocco (Sarnia-Lambton): This petition is regarding the Ontario disability support program.

"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"Whereas people with disabilities who rely on Ontario disability support program payments are facing rising costs; and

"Whereas people unable to work because of serious disabilities have had no increase in support since 1995; and

"Whereas with loss of rent controls their rents have skyrocketed, placing huge financial strains on many ODSP recipients;

"Therefore we, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to bring fairness to the Ontario Disability Support Program Act, 1997, by amending it to provide regulations requiring annual cost-of-living adjustments to income support payments."

I affix my signature to this petition.


Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton West): A petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"Whereas the Conservative government increased fees paid by Ontario seniors and other vulnerable people living in long-term-care facilities by 15%, or $213 a month, instead of providing adequate government funding for long-term care; and

"Whereas the Conservative government has therefore shifted the cost of long-term care on to the backs of the frail elderly and their families; and

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

"Whereas in 1996 Ontario abandoned its minimum requirement of 2.25 hours of nursing care per nursing home resident; and

"Whereas 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 study, government cutbacks have resulted in Ontario seniors receiving just 14 minutes a day of care from a registered nurse -- less than half the time given to residents in Saskatchewan; and

"Whereas the report also found that Ontario residents receive the least nursing, bathing and general care of nine other comparable locations;

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

"Join the Ontario New Democratic Party in demanding the Conservative government eliminate the 15% fee increase for residents of long-term-care facilities, increase the number of nursing care hours for each resident to a minimum of three and a half hours per day, and provide stable, increased funding to ensure quality care is there for Ontario residents of long-term-care facilities."

As I'm in support, I also sign this petition.


ORDERS ACT, 2002 /
LOI DE 2002

Resuming the debate adjourned on September 23, 2002, on the motion for second reading of 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.

The Speaker (Hon Gary Carr): Just before we start the debate, pursuant to standing order 37(a), the member for Windsor West, as she advised us, has given notice of her dissatisfaction with the answer to the question given by the Minister of Health concerning MRIs. This matter will be debated today at 6 pm.

Debate? The member for Simcoe-Barrie-Bradford.

Mr Joseph N. Tascona (Barrie-Simcoe-Bradford): I am pleased to join in the debate with respect to Bill 131, An Act to facilitate the making, recognition and variation of interjurisdictional support orders. It is with great pleasure that I speak today. The legislation is further proof of our government's commitment to protecting Ontario's children.

The Interjursidictional Support Orders Act will make it easier and less costly for families to register, establish and vary support orders when parents live in different jurisdictions. As you know, there are different jurisdictional laws with respect to this type of situation in terms of family law across each and every province.

These changes will also affect spousal support. We want to ensure that children and families get the money to which they are entitled. We believe that no child should ever go without simply because one parent has left that province.

This legislation, if passed, would streamline the process for obtaining or varying an interjurisdictional support order. For example, the current complex two-stage hearing process would be replaced with a single hearing process. Under a single hearing process, persons seeking to establish or vary a support order would complete the application package, which would be sent to the reciprocating jurisdiction for support determination. This means that a hearing would only need to be held in the receiving jurisdiction, with it no longer being necessary for the court in the originating jurisdiction to hold a provisional hearing as currently required.

We believe that simplifying the process makes sense for the families involved. The proposed act would recognize the challenges presented by an increasingly mobile population by allowing for greater coordination among the provinces and the territories.

Our proposed bill would affect thousands of families and children. At any given time, there are over 7,000 Ontario support orders being enforced in other jurisdictions, and that's an astounding figure. In addition, Ontario enforces over 5,000 support orders from other jurisdictions. The proposed legislation would replace the Reciprocal Enforcement of Support Orders Act, which governs support cases where one party lives outside of Ontario.

Under the current legislation, Ontario has arrangements with all the other Canadian provinces, all US states, and many other countries to register, establish and vary support orders when the parties are living in a different jurisdiction. Those agreements will continue under the proposed legislation.

Finding more and better ways to protect our children was a topic of discussion for provincial leaders at the 2001 annual Premiers' conference in Victoria, BC. They recognized the importance of acting together to help secure healthy and prosperous futures for our children. To that end, the Premiers committed to introduce effective reciprocal family support orders legislation in all provinces and territories.


Premier Eves reiterated his commitment to this legislation at the annual Premiers' conference in Halifax, Nova Scotia, this summer. Ontario and other provinces are doing their part to help children and families obtain or vary support orders in the most streamlined and least costly manner possible. It is now up to the federal government to do its part.

Our government had urged Ottawa to enact parallel legislation by amending the federal Divorce Act by the summer of 2002, but the federal government has yet to move on this issue. This measure would streamline the process for establishing or changing support orders issued under federal rather than provincial law. It is important for governments to work together to ensure healthy and prosperous futures for our children.

One must also understand the jurisdictional issues with respect to the breakup of a family in this country through our constitutional powers wherein the federal government has jurisdiction with respect to divorce and custody orders arising out of that and the provincial governments have jurisdiction with respect to dealing with property matters arising from a family dissolution.

The commitment to introduce uniform family support orders legislation was just one piece of a multi-pronged child protection agenda agreed to by the Premiers at their August 2001 meeting. Provincial leaders also called on the federal government to follow Ontario's lead and establish a national sex offender registry for the sole use of the police. The Premiers believe that the establishment of a national sex offender registry is required so that all Canadians know they can live in secure communities where children's safety is a high priority.

I think all of us have been affected during the last summer with respect to the number of child abductions that occurred, especially in the United States, some in very difficult to accept situations purely in terms of child abuse and other situations where the child was abducted and was part of a situation involving a family dissolution. Certainly we saw both types of situation occur in California, and the measures the police have put in force with respect to dealing with child abductions are being looked at in this province at the municipal level and through our police forces. It is a very difficult issue, and that's apart from dealing with family support orders and sex offenders and basically dealing with the abduction of children in the situation and having what you want as a quick response to deal with that situation through our police forces and coordinated agencies.

Something was going on in terms of greater awareness of children missing and children being abducted. The media were playing a much greater role during this past summer than I think I've witnessed in a long time. It really is a sad commentary on what's happening out there with respect to our young children and the protection they need.

In February this year, after much pressure from our government and others, the federal government agreed to implement some of the key features of the Ontario sex offender registry. The government of this province is now calling on the federal government to move on this commitment and introduce legislation to implement a national registry. When we talk about a mobile population and the technology that is out there with respect to how people communicate with each other, certainly that's something that could be done very easily in terms of dealing with the protection nationally of children: set up a process in which we can work together from province to province and with the federal government.

Mr Peter Kormos (Niagara Centre): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I may be wrong and you'll tell me, but I believe that the rules indicate that you're supposed to speak to the matter that's been called -- in this instance, Bill 131. The speaker seems grossly off-topic, and I believe that's out of order.

The Acting Speaker (Mr Michael A. Brown): That is of course a point of order, and I'm sure the member for Barrie-Simcoe-Bradford will relate his comments to the subject at hand.

Mr Tascona: I'm trying to look at the big picture. I'm looking at children in general in terms of this difficult situation. I can understand the member from Thorold-Welland maybe having a little difficulty grasping that, but I'll continue to deal with this issue.

At the 2001 meeting, provincial leaders also called upon the federal government to help stop Internet luring of children and youth prostitution. That's something we also were made very aware of this past summer. Ontario believes that swift action is required to shut down child pornography Web sites and stop cyber predators who use the Internet to lure children. I think we've heard of some very serious situations this past year with respect to that type of activity. We're pleased that the federal government recently passed legislation to make luring of children through the Internet a criminal offence.

On the issue of youth prostitution, our government has recently passed legislation that would rescue children from prostitution and other forms of sexual exploitation.

That's the big picture in terms of dealing with children. Obviously, if we don't have a system in place with respect to support orders being enforced, it puts a family that has been broken up in a very difficult situation. It puts pressure not only on the parent who has remained with the children, but also pressure on the children themselves in terms of the framework they have to deal with in terms of, in certain situations, limited economic means.

The Rescuing Children from Sexual Exploitation Act permits police and children's aid workers to remove children from a range of dangerous situations, including street prostitution, massage parlours, adult entertainment facilities, Internet sex lines and the pornography industry. This legislation will also allow the province to sue pimps and others who sexually exploit children to recover the costs of treating their victims. This is yet another case where we had developed legislation that keeps pace with the changing times.

Protecting Ontario children, all Ontario children, is a priority of this government. The proposed legislation being debated today will further protect Ontario's children, and that's what's important: making sure that we can work in as non-partisan a way as possible to deal with the protection of Ontario's children. It will help ensure that they have the best and the brightest future possible.

The act which I have been speaking to and the other measures with respect to protecting children are a serious issue. It's not something that is in a vacuum; it's something we deal with day to day. We have a lot of success stories and we have a lot of horror stories in terms of different means that are used to get at children.

One of the most fundamental things is, when you bring a child into this world, it certainly is a responsibility when you're dealing with two individuals that they're going to raise that child in a responsible manner. Where one of the individuals leaves that family and puts the family that they've left behind in economic straits -- and everybody knows that's out there. It's a very difficult situation where they've left the province, they've left the country. How do you enforce those orders? The order is in place. The system works with respect to getting the order. It's understandable in terms of what the process is, in terms of the court process, in terms of getting that order and what's needed for that family. That's already been predetermined.


Then we get into the issue of enforcement, and that is a very challenging issue. We have to simplify the process. We have to make it more expeditious. We have to make it more timely in terms of dealing with this type of situation, because what we're talking about here is an order of the court. It's a court order that the individual who is trying to evade it -- even if they don't want to pay it, they've got a court order that they have to respond to, and they decide to leave the jurisdiction to make it difficult for that order to be enforced.

What happens in the interim is, it's the family that was left behind that is facing a situation where there was an expectation, a trust in the court system that they would be protected, and that doesn't happen. So what happens is a situation where a family has significant pressures on them, not only economic but social, and we have to, as a society, be there to assist them. But at the end of the day, the integrity of the court system with respect to what a support order means has to be enforced. Otherwise it is just a meaningless process. To leave the province, to leave the country, evading an order of the court, is something we have to be very, very aware of in terms of how we're going to react. I think the Attorney General has moved in that direction and in terms of enforcement, making sure that these interjurisdictional support orders -- because it may be that the individual did not leave the province for any reason other than to find other work; maybe not to evade that particular order. By the same token, that individual, because of the court order, has certain responsibilities, certain obligations that have to be met. The family that is left behind is put in a very difficult situation in trying to enforce that in terms of the time lag that is left behind.

This piece of legislation is, quite frankly, very complex. It's not an easy situation to go into other jurisdictions that have different laws and to get them to respect the order that was put in that province. The numbers that I indicated today -- 7,000 orders that we're looking to have enforced in other provinces, 5,000 orders that are being sought to be enforced in this province -- are very significant numbers. Those are significant numbers that require a lot of court time, a lot of effort and certainly a streamlining of the process, which is being proposed here.

It's something that has to be done, because if you're dealing with support and the social network that we want to have in place, if the families were expecting that type of support and it has no effect because someone has left the jurisdiction, or the time lag that goes in there in terms of the amount of money -- and we've read it in the newspaper, where you've seen figures in excess of six figures, where the arrears of those support orders are staggering. You wonder how the families can cope with that, in terms of the expectation that they felt they would be, not necessarily what we call "looked after," but they could trust the court system to be relied on in dealing with a very difficult situation, which is a family breakup, and the responsibilities that they have to deal with on a day-to-day basis. They have to live day to day. They have to deal with the situation they've been dealt.

The integrity of the court system in this province, let alone in all the provinces and that of the federal government -- when you're dealing with either a divorce or a separation or dealing with a situation where there's an agreement reached out of court that now has to be enforced through the court system because that support is not there.

So you're looking at some very challenging situations here. Obviously, the system needs to be addressed because of what we have before us here today. The intention is to make the process more streamlined, to make sure it works and to make sure the provinces and other countries are a part of the process and that they understand it. It can be very difficult for the practising lawyer who is trying to deal with another jurisdiction, or you have to get a lawyer from another jurisdiction to look into that situation to get through a lot of the red tape to understand how that particular state, if it's in the United States, or that other province, works. They all have their own unique systems.

What we're looking at here is to say, "OK, we have an order from Ontario; we want that enforced here" -- it's very simple -- and for the judge to say, "OK, I have the jurisdiction to do this," bang, and it's all over with in terms of making sure that order gets enforced in that particular province and they locate that individual and they make sure that person pays. That's not an easy process because you never know if the person decides they're going to leave that province and go to another province. It just becomes a game of cat and mouse in some circumstances; in others, it's just a basic situation where they're found and they have to make their payments.

I'm pleased to speak on this bill and I certainly hope it would be supported in a non-partisan fashion in the House.

The Acting Speaker: Questions and comments?

Mrs Lyn McLeod (Thunder Bay-Atikokan): I did appreciate the member's comments about the importance of the exploitation-of-children act. I certainly agree with that. That legislation was first presented in a private member's legislation by my colleague from Sudbury and we were very pleased to see the government bring it forward so that it could in fact be passed last spring.

We were hoping that Bill 131, the Interjurisdictional Support Orders Act, which was also on the agenda last spring, might have been brought forward by government in a timely way so that it too could have been passed, so that the support it now offers to children, or will offer when it's passed, would have been in place for the summer period. If the government had been able to get its act together on its legislative agenda last spring, we might not be having to spend the days debating something now which we all know to be supportive of children and families.

As we offer our support for this particular piece of legislation, I would hope that the government members are not intending to spend the debate period patting themselves on the back for the kind of support they're providing to families and children who are trying to see court support orders enforced. This is the exact same government that has made such a mess of family support order enforcement, that continues to be unable to see enforcement of court support orders, that it would be impossible for this government to think they were taking anything but a small step with Bill 131.

The auditor who reviewed this file said the government had nothing in place to enforce court support orders when it shut down the regional offices that were doing a very adequate job of ensuring that support orders were being enforced. The auditor said the government had nothing in place to do that. Three years later he reviewed the file and said they still don't have their act together when it comes to having real enforcement for court support orders.

My office, and I'm sure it's true for every member here, spends more time helping families get court orders enforced than on any other issue. It's time for the government to get its act together on family support on the large scale.

Mr Kormos: It's been almost a year since I spoke to this bill. It was on first reading, November 8, 2001; that's almost 12 months ago now. I indicated then on behalf of this caucus that the legislation was in the largest part inoffensive and should receive due consideration by this assembly and should be subjected to the committee process.

This government dawdled, dragged its feet, puttered around -- I'm being very careful because the Speaker earlier today admonished members of this assembly about the kind of language they used, so I'll leave it at merely "puttered around" -- and finally we have second reading. Well, good. Let's carry on with this debate and let's get this bill out to committee so people from the family bar can assist this assembly in fine-tuning and tweaking and making improvements where the bill should be improved, based on their day-to-day practical experience.


But the government's missing the mark. The urgency isn't here. The urgency is in access to the courts. The urgency is in access to legal representation to lawyers because of the ongoing trashing of legal aid that this government has engaged in since 1995. The fact is -- and I'm going to speak to this in about an hour's time -- most Family Court litigants can't get legal counsel because the cap on legal aid certificates makes it impossible for any responsible lawyer to adequately and properly represent that person, inevitably women with children.

So we've got to talk about the Family Responsibility Office, which now, six years later, has still not been fixed, leaving women and kids hungry and without the support payments due them. We'll be talking about that in due course.

Mrs Marie Bountrogianni (Hamilton Mountain): I'm pleased to support this bill, but like my colleagues before me I'm wondering why it's so long overdue. This should have been instituted a long time ago.

The largest number of calls I get in my office are about housing and FRO, quite often from the same constituents, because obviously these issues are related. When you don't have money from your former spouse, you have trouble paying a reasonable rent for a reasonable apartment.

My concern here is enforcement, as the member just mentioned. Is this going to be another Brian's Law, where on paper it looks great, but if you don't have the resources to enforce it, if you don't have the mental health services out there for people you can report who need the help, nothing happens? That's my concern with this as well.

I was speaking to our critic for community and social services, and she brought up a good point in our discussion: first, we should be cleaning up Ontario and then looking at other jurisdictions. We have people right here in the province whom we can't track down or have trouble tracking down and, once we do, forcing them to fulfill their responsibility as former spouses and as parents. We pay for that. We pay for that in years and years to come when these kids don't have the very basic needs: good food, being able to go on a school trip -- very basic needs.

The stress it causes the parents also increases the possibility and the probability of abuse in the family. I am never, ever going to defend any parent for abusing their child, but it is a fact that the more stress in the family, the more you increase the possibility of child abuse. So there are links here.

We will support this bill, of course. We think it's long overdue. We think there should be enforcements in place so that it doesn't just look pretty on paper but does nothing out there in the real world.

Mr Bert Johnson (Perth-Middlesex): I wanted to take this opportunity to express a few comments, particularly to the member for Barrie-Simcoe-Bradford, who has a particularly effective way of putting across his points. He makes them very clearly and very sincerely, and it's very gratifying to hear him put forth our government's proposal on this very effective and very worthwhile bill.

I wanted to compliment, more than go off on any extraneous comments, like some others may have, about other policies and other things that have been done, both by this government recently and their governments in the past. I think it's a very worthwhile bill. It will put our Ontario laws in conformance with those of other provinces. It'll make it a lot easier. One of the other members mentioned the problems some families have in coming up with resources and money for legal counsel and so on. This will rectify that by making it less costly and more effective to get into the system that gets them the benefits and the results they deserve. It will help that.

I think anything we do of that nature is very worthwhile, and I just wanted to commend the member for Barrie-Simcoe-Bradford for the way he put across the points and spoke to the bill and made those suggestions on how we should move forward and get this piece of legislation voted on and passed.

The Acting Speaker: Response?

Mr Tascona: I'm certainly pleased to respond to the comments made by the members from Thunder Bay-Atikokan, Niagara Centre, Hamilton Mountain and Perth-Middlesex. There seems to be a consensus that they support the legislation in a non-partisan way, and that is good.

This is a national problem requiring national attention. The federal government is not listening with respect to dealing with this issue. As I stated earlier, we've urged Ottawa to enact parallel legislation by amending the federal Divorce Act, but the federal government has yet to move on the issue. They're responsible for divorce, the breakup of the marriage, the custody orders that follow, and support. They have done nothing to deal with this process, to streamline it and to get support orders issued under federal jurisdiction enforced.

That is the issue. It's one thing to go to court and get yourself an order, be it through a divorce proceeding, be it through support, with respect to family matters through the provincial jurisdiction. It's another thing to enforce it. When you're dealing with a mobile population and with people who are in other provinces -- as I indicated earlier, there are 7,000 orders that we're looking to get enforced in other jurisdictions, other provinces across this country, and 5,000 orders from other provinces to be enforced here -- it's a national problem requiring national attention. The federal government has chosen not to treat this as a priority issue. They have jurisdiction with respect to dealing with divorce and the orders that follow through there. So it is a difficult problem. It requires enforcement, and that's what we're doing.

The Acting Speaker: Further debate?

Mr Michael Bryant (St Paul's): I'm happy to rise on behalf of the official opposition to express our support for this bill.

The process that led to this bill is one that has really been underway for many years. It commenced in the 1980s under the leadership of one of my legislative heroes, Ian Scott, and others.

We have a federalist system, so obviously, on paper, it might be difficult to get a court order in one province enforced in another. We live in an increasingly global world, making the importance of ensuring reciprocity even greater. The principle of reciprocity, legislated in the name of achieving and enforcing justice for the protection of victims of deadbeat dads and deadbeat spouses, is one which obviously has the support of Dalton McGuinty and the Ontario Liberals. Justice delayed, as they say, is justice denied. Having these support orders without the ability to enforce them makes the right to such spousal support, without a remedy, useless. This bill seeks to achieve reciprocity in that regard.

We're pleased that the bill is now before the House. It is a bill that was first introduced in November. The province of Manitoba, among others, has similar legislation before their House. It has passed in the province of Manitoba. The time has come to pass it here in Ontario.

Some important work must be done, obviously, in committee to deal with the details in this bill. All bills, I think, are subject to that observation, but this bill more than ever. We need to hear from the experts to ensure that there are no loopholes for deadbeat dads and deadbeat spouses to jump through.

I'd like to think this bill is currently before this House also in part because of the efforts of members of this House who have tried to hold this government to account when it comes to the output, or lack thereof, of the Family Responsibility Office. I've spoken about the subject of the Family Responsibility Office and deadbeat dads at length in the past, and will continue to do so. I know that my colleagues -- and I'll be sharing my time with the members for York South-Weston, Kingston and the Islands and Windsor West in just a moment -- will be speaking to that as well. But, in a nutshell, it goes without saying that having 75% of the cases before the Family Responsibility Office unsolved does not exactly represent a crackdown on deadbeat dads, which means that the promise made by the Harris government in 1995 and 1999 that there would be such a crackdown turned out to be a promise broken.


Perhaps to some extent this bill is before this House as a result of that criticism in an effort to hold the government to account, and that would be a good thing. As I said, it's also before this House as part of an effort undertaken by all provinces to try to ensure that we have reciprocity of these orders.

I do look forward to exploring this bill in greater detail before committee. I also look forward to seeing other justice bills promised by Attorneys General present and past from this government on matters of access to justice. I look forward to debating issues with respect to legal aid. Reference has been made to it by Mr Kormos. I look forward to working with the Attorney General in the coming days and weeks in addressing the very important issue of access to justice under the specific subject of contingency fees.

The time has come -- the Court of Appeal for Ontario has said, as has the bar, as now has the bench -- to legalize and regulate contingency fees in Ontario so that our brutally accessible justice system receives access to all, or to more, so that what is now the practice of many counsels in Ontario is in fact regulated and that we join the rest of the provinces in legalizing and regulating this.

I look forward to this debate in the future and to discussing as much with the Attorney General. For now we are going to deal with the bill before us. I'll be sharing my time with the members already mentioned.

Mr Joseph Cordiano (York South-Weston): I just want to comment very briefly on Bill 131. As my colleague before me has suggested, we will support this piece of legislation. We believe, to reinforce what he has said already, that achieving reciprocity with other jurisdictions is important. Again, it's a question of the lack of enforced orders that we're dealing with. Enforcement is a theme that runs throughout this issue and has for many years. The resources are simply not there to make certain that there is enforcement.

I would suggest this is a theme that runs through most of what this government does: the lack of enforcement, lack of inspection, whether it's dealing with the environment, and we've seen the outcome of that, or whether it's dealing with other very important matters. The whole question of accountability was mentioned as well when it comes to dealing with the government's laying before the public what it's supposed to know and being transparent about what it is doing with very important areas. The Family Responsibility Office is an area of concern that the opposition has raised repeatedly. So in order to ensure that there is accountability, the government has to dedicate greater resources.

An area I am very concerned about now has to do with SuperBuild. There the government is failing to provide the accountability that's necessary and failing to make proper disclosure. We're seeing this happen repeatedly with the government on a number of fronts. It's because this government has cut back so drastically on these matters. We have a lack of inspectors in so many areas, and a lack of enforcement means just that: there isn't anyone in the field who is available to make certain that all of these things we put in statutes are lived up to, that in fact there is payment made, that someone is following up on this, that there is restitution.

The facts have been laid before us: 75% of cases in Ontario are in arrears. That's a huge amount of money. It amounts to $1.2 billion that is still in arrears. It goes without saying that we can't suggest we've solved these problems by any stretch of the imagination.

This bill will go some way toward achieving that. But again it's a question of what this government has proposed on the books and then what it fails to do by not providing the necessary resources to ensure there is follow-up and enforcement.

This is a theme we're encountering on all fronts when it comes to this government's handling of very important issues such as the Family Responsibility Office. I would simply say to the government that they have a long way to go to make certain there are the necessary resources to make what's on paper -- what's in statutes -- work properly.

Mr John Gerretsen (Kingston and the Islands): I'm very pleased to speak on this bill, and I hope the House will sit tonight until at least 6 o'clock. Yesterday we started off on a rather unusual note by having adjournment at 4 o'clock in the afternoon when in actual fact we've been away from this place for some six months. You would have thought the government would bring forward some business to deal with the actual problems people are facing on a day-to-day basis, whether we're talking about issues of health care, energy costs -- we could go on and on.

Hon Cameron Jackson (Minister of Tourism and Recreation): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: in accordance with the House rules, it is clear that was by mutual agreement of all three parties. If the member was not informed by his own caucus --

The Acting Speaker: That is not a point of order. The member for Kingston and the Islands.

Mr Gerretsen: It's kind of interesting that we gave you people the right to talk about what you wanted to talk about. Please give the opposition at least the right to talk about the issues we feel are important.

On this particular bill, let me just say this is a good bill. The real issue again is, why wasn't this bill passed before the last session? It could have been passed about six months ago. As a matter of fact, it could have been passed about 15 years ago, because the issues that are addressed in this bill, dealing with the ability to enforce support orders in other jurisdictions, are extremely important to dozens and dozens of Ontarians who rely on the support that has been ordered to be paid in Ontario. Where the defaulting party now lives somewhere else in Canada or in the United States, until now it was almost impossible for the women and children who rely on those support payments to get any enforcement done in those other jurisdictions.

I know of what I speak. At one time I was privileged to practise a fair amount of family law and, as a practising lawyer, I know that the moment somebody left the jurisdiction, left the province, it was extremely difficult, from a practical viewpoint, from a financial viewpoint, from just about any aspect you can look at, to get that order enforced, to get those support payments for those individuals, primarily women and children, who relied on that support.

We agree with this bill. But what's interesting is that we're not only dealing with those individuals who are relying on the support of former spouses or present spouses who have gone to other jurisdictions, so they can look after their children in a proper way; also important are the people who are still in Ontario who rely on the support payments.

When you look at the Family Responsibility Office, the auditor did a report on this in the year 2000. Then the standing committee on public accounts, which I'm privileged to chair, did a report on it as well and made a number of recommendations. Unfortunately, although the recommendations were accepted and approved by this House when the report was tabled, the recommendations themselves have never been addressed in the House. So I wanted to take some time today to deal with the specific recommendations and ask the minister involved to ask the Attorney General whether or not the recommendations that the public accounts committee came up with and that were endorsed by the House, I believe unanimously, have actually been implemented by his ministry.


One of the things the auditor found out, and this was some two years ago, was that 128,000 of the 170,000 registered cases were in arrears as of March 21, 1999. In other words, almost 75% of all the support orders that were registered with the Family Responsibility Office -- it is now mandatory to be done that way and has been for the last five or six years -- were in arrears. The women and children who were relying on those support payments from the other spouse or ex-spouse etc were not getting that money, although they had been ordered to get that money by the courts in question.

That is a stunning indictment. Just think about it. In 128,000 cases, the families of Ontario -- I don't know how many people it would have affected, but let's say probably close to 600,000 or 700,000 people were directly affected by the fact that those orders were in arrears. The real issue is, what did the Family Responsibility Office do in order to make sure the orders that were awarded in those cases were actually paid so that the women and children could live on that money?

The total amount that was in arrears -- in other words, if you added up all of the arrears of the 128,000 cases that were in arrears -- amounted to $1.2 billion. So $1.2 billion to which the spouses and the children were legally entitled was not being paid over to the individuals who had the support orders.

The auditor was very concerned about it. The committee was very concerned about it. As a matter of fact, the auditor noted that when the payers went into arrears, the Family Responsibility Office did not have a satisfactory system of initiating contact and taking the appropriate enforcement action.

Although the present bill that is before us deals with those situations where the payer has left the jurisdiction -- and in those cases we can go after the payer as a result of this bill, once it is passed and once it has been given royal assent, in a much faster way than is presently the case, because presently it's almost impossible to enforce those situations -- in all those other cases, namely the 128,000 cases, it's the Family Responsibility Office that primarily acts in that same enforcement role, or should act in the same enforcement role, as we're now asking to be done in this bill on sort of an international or at least an interprovincial basis.

The auditor was quite clear in his comments. He basically said that the Family Responsibility Office did not have the mechanisms and a satisfactory system of, first of all, initiating contact, and of taking the appropriate enforcement action. That's the issue. The question for the Attorney General and for the department really becomes, what has been done with respect to the recommendations of the public accounts committee, endorsed by this House, that specifically deal with that problem, that specifically deal with that issue?

I might also note that there were some other comments the auditor made at that time as well. He stated, for example, and I'm quoting him directly from his report, that "more aggressive enforcement alternatives, such as driver's licence or passport suspension, bank account garnishment or a default hearing, were seldom pursued." In other words, the Family Responsibility Office had those enforcement mechanisms within its legislation. It had the powers to do so, but at least up until 1999 they were seldom used.

I suppose the real question and issue is that even if we pass this bill, what guarantees do the women and children who rely on the money that is the subject of these orders have that in fact the powers that are laid out in this act will be effectively employed, particularly since we are not currently doing it in situations to the level of satisfaction of the Provincial Auditor?

We all know that the Provincial Auditor is an independent officer of this body. He's not a government employee; he doesn't work for the opposition. He's an officer of the Legislative Assembly. He looks into the various ministerial budgets and expenditures etc to make sure expenditures are done in a proper, value-for-money fashion. He came to the conclusion, when he did his report back in the year 2000, that the office did not operate efficiently in order to see that those enforcement mechanisms were actually used.

He also went on to say that the Family Responsibility Office failed to collect interest on money owing to families. That's a very interesting observation. When you figure that 128,000 of the 170,000 cases, almost 75% of all the cases at the Family Responsibility Office, are in arrears and then find out that no interest is being charged on the arrears, or at least that it wasn't being corrected by the Family Responsibility Office, that in effect is working to the detriment of the families that rely on that money. Presumably those families had to do a number of different things, and one of them is probably that they are heavily in debt that they're paying interest on because of support payments that aren't being made. So it begs the question, why isn't the Family Responsibility Office doing that? Why weren't they charging interest on these outstanding accounts?

Of course, a lot of it has to with the fact that in order to enforce this particular law, or in order to enforce any law, you need enforcement personnel to do that. We can make laws about every good cause and every subject, dealing with every ill of society that we want. But if we don't enforce them, the laws are meaningless. What he found in his 1999 report is that although the caseload had increased by 35%, staff levels had been reduced since 1997 and basically have remained at the 1994 level. In other words, you had the same number of staff, or even less than that. And I won't talk right now about the fact that at one time, you may recall, we had regional offices, and then the offices were centralized, which made it a lot tougher for individuals to actually get the office to do something on it. It's much easier to deal with an office that's located in the town where you are than, let's say, in Ottawa -- in the case of Kingston, there's an office in Ottawa -- or deal with the main office here in Toronto. But the bottom line is this: the caseloads went up, the number of cases that come through the system went up by 35%, and nothing was done with respect to the staffing levels. And initially, you may recall, back in 1997 the staff levels were even severely reduced.

So it all comes back to the same issue; that is, if you want to have a law that is effective, you've got to enforce that law. And the only way you can enforce the law is by having enough employees to have a manageable caseload so that they can look after the cases that are within their jurisdiction and so that the kinds of issues the auditor reported in his report as being deficiencies within the Family Responsibility Office would not occur.

Anyway, what the auditor normally does after he does his report and the committee takes a look at it and writes its own report and makes its recommendations, is that two years later, on the basis of the auditor's report and the committee's report, he goes back and does a follow-up study.


So, what in effect did he find in his report in the year 2001, in the follow-up study? I again will quote directly from his report, in which he states the following: "We concluded that continuing action was required to implement most of our recommendations." In other words they had not as yet been implemented, at least not in their entirety, by the year 2001, two years later, and for some recommendations the office had not taken substantive actions at all.

I won't go so far as to say that the department or the ministry ignored the recommendations of the auditor or ignored the recommendations of the committee or ignored the report that was adopted by the House, but it's certainly fair to say that they weren't adopted in their entirety or that in some situations no substantive action was taken at all.

I just spoke briefly about the lack of human resources to look after the caseload. But one of the main issues was that the computer system there was antiquated. The committee back in 2000 made a number of recommendations on upgrading the computer system, and the auditor found in the year 2001 that efforts to improve the computer system's performance had met with limited success.

What it all boils down to is that if we have laws and we want to make those laws meaningful, whether we're talking about the Family Responsibility Office, whether we're talking about interjurisdictional support orders, mechanisms whereby they're enforced in other jurisdictions etc, all those laws don't mean anything unless we have enough people involved in enforcement to make sure it happens. This isn't the only area where I think the government has been extremely vulnerable. There have been so many other areas as well where laws have been passed to make it look good, to make it look as if something is happening, and when you get right down to it, really nothing has happened.

For example, do you remember the squeegee bill? It would be interesting to find out, after the government took that rather drastic step of dealing with all the squeegee kids, mainly in Toronto, how many kids, and some of them weren't kids, I suppose, were ever actually charged with anything. I would hazard a guess that you could probably count them on the fingers of one hand, if any.

I challenge the Attorney General. It should be an easy statistic to come up with. Maybe the chief government whip -- by the way, I'd like to congratulate you on your elevation to this high office. He's in the House now and he's listening to the debate and I'm very glad to hear that. Normally he's got something to say as well, but I guess as chief government whip he now has been silenced. He can only direct traffic but he can't say anything any more.

It would be interesting to know, and maybe he could find out that information, how many charges and how many convictions have been laid and have been obtained under that famous squeegee act. We could go on with example after example, but the bottom line -- oh, and there's the police commissioner too; not the police commissioner but the crime commissioner. We look forward to your next report, but take off those trench coats. They are way too small. They don't look very good on the report.

Mrs Sandra Pupatello (Windsor West): He's a flasher.

Mr Gerretsen: No, no. My colleague says that he's a flasher. I would never say that about him, but at least get a trench coat that fits. Anyway, we won't get into that. We've got many more important issues to talk about.

What I am speaking about right now is simply this: it is very important, when a government, whether at this level, at the federal level or at the municipal level, passes a law, that it enforces it, and within that law that it puts in the resources to make sure it is enforced. It is great to give other jurisdictions the power, in the current bill, Bill 131, to follow our support orders where the payer is currently located. But let's also make sure, for people who live in this province who don't have to deal with the interjurisdictional support order issue, because both the payer and the recipient of the money are located right in this province, that the office that operates that, the Family Responsibility Office, is properly resourced. That currently is not the case.

In my constituency office, and in talking to some of my colleagues -- it has been their experience as well -- probably second to the general issue of health care and long-term care, the area we as a constituency office are primarily involved in is dealing with the ongoing problems related to the Family Responsibility Office. I have one staff person who deals with Family Responsibility Office matters, I would say, a good 20 hours per week in just following up on support cases.

The people with whom I or my staff have had any contact who work in the Family Responsibility Office by and large do an excellent job. The problem is that their caseload is just way too large. They've got caseloads of 300 or 400 files to look after in situations where orders are in arrears. It is almost impossible for those people to look after these files and get updated information as to where the payers are working or where they're banking or making sure they get their monthly payments into the office in time etc.

So people come to a local provincial member in the hope of speeding up the process or making some inquiries as to why the payments that are due under the orders aren't being made, and sometimes we are successful in moving the process along. Quite frankly, that's all we can do at times, and we're glad to be part of that. But we shouldn't be part of that. Those offices should be sufficiently manned. They should have sufficient resources. There should be enough people working there so that the caseloads are manageable. There isn't a more important financial transaction or matter than to make sure that women and children -- primarily women and children; in some cases men and their children -- get their support payments in a timely and ongoing fashion. This isn't some sort of debt that is owed to an individual as a result of a commercial contract. This is money these people live on, on a day-to-day, week-to-week and month-to-month basis. When they don't get the money in time, it means in effect that the children will not get enough to eat or that some of the other items that have to be bought cannot be bought. They need that money right then and there. They don't need it a month from now, they don't need it two or three months from now; they need it now.

So it's extremely important, I would have thought, for the social good of the province and the individual families involved, that the government place an extremely high priority on making sure support payments are being made in a continual and timely fashion. If they are made as required in the various orders, then the amount of stress and strain on the rest of our social safety net services is going to be a lot less. For a government that likes to pride itself on the fact that they like to run things in a businesslike fashion, you would think they would have realized that if you resource the Family Responsibility Office with adequate human resources so the files can be looked after on an ongoing quick and efficient basis, there would be less money being paid out on social services on the other end. In effect, society benefits, and of course the individual families benefit, from that. I would just urge the government and the minister involved to take a look at the recommendations once again -- which were unanimously endorsed by this House -- in the report that was done on the Family Responsibility Office, and to resource it properly.


While I'm on that particular topic, let me also mention one other area which is very closely associated with family law and support orders. I personally, having practised in that field -- I don't do so any more, so I have absolutely no conflicts of any kind whatsoever -- can tell you that it is extremely, extremely important that the people who need the access to our family court system have adequate and good legal representation when they do so. I think we have taken a huge step backwards in this province over the last six or seven years by cutting back the number of legal aid certificates that used to be issued in family matters. I hear now from some colleagues of mine that some very important, almost lifelong decisions are being made in Family Court at times when people do not have any legal representation at all or have minimal legal representation through duty counsel, who always tries his or her best but may not be aware of all of the circumstances in the short period of time that the individual has to deal with that person before they go into court. I think that having the right to be represented by legal counsel, whether it's in a criminal matter or a Family Court matter, is of such importance that we as a society have taken a backward step when a lot of the legal aid certificates that used to be issued in the family law area are simply no longer available now because of the cutbacks to legal aid.

I won't even deal with the whole issue about the fact that the legal aid tariff hasn't changed at all. This year the Attorney General thought he would throw a crumb to the legal profession by saying, "Here's a 5% increase," the first increase in, what, 15 years. Of course, the legal profession in a lot of parts of Ontario is incensed about it and has decided not to take any further legal aid cases. I would hope the government will come to its senses.

This isn't a question about paying lawyers, although I'm sure a lot of people are thinking that's what it's all about, and yes, directly it is. But what it's really about is the fact that an awful lot of people appear in our court system now, whether it's in Family Court, criminal court or whatever, without any representation, where 10 years ago I can tell you that was not the case. It's a step backwards.

I know my time is almost up and that there are many other people here who want to get in on the debate as well.

There are so many other issues that we could talk about as we return to the Legislature for the first time in about four months. We could be talking about the high energy rates, the high electric bills that people are getting all over this province, or the much higher gas bills. Those issues have been raised with the government just within the last couple of days. What's their answer to all of that? "It's a free market out there."

Well, that's not what we have governments for. What we have governments for, in my opinion, is to look after those people within our communities, within our province, who need assistance, who need help. In socking a high electricity bill to a senior citizen couple, one that went up $40, $50, $60 a month, as we heard here today, or the same thing that happened with respect to the natural gas bills or their property taxes because of the tremendous downloading to municipalities so that municipalities don't know what to do other than to raise their taxes, what have we really done? All we have done in the long run is cut a whole bunch of income taxes from which the better-off in our society, or corporations, mainly benefit, and indirectly sock those charges on to people at the lower end by higher user fees, whether it's electricity costs or water costs or whatever in so many other areas.

I know I'm getting a little off the topic, and I certainly don't want to do that, because I think the Interjurisdictional Support Orders Act is extremely important. It's a matter we should all be concerned about. But at the same time let us not lose sight of the fact --

Mr Doug Galt (Minister without Portfolio): It's Bill 131.

Mr Gerretsen: It is Bill 131.

Hon Mr Galt: Hear, hear.

Mr Gerretsen: The chief government whip likes to laugh and joke, but I tell you it's a very important matter. It's an extremely important matter for those individuals who rely on the support payments.

While I'm on my feet, and I have less than 30 seconds left, let me ask and plead with those government members who are currently in the House -- and they're mainly backbenchers -- to go into their caucus meetings and take up the cause of the people who are living in our long-term-care homes. Those people have been socked with a 15% increase. Whether it's over one year or three years, it's the same. Many of these people live on fixed incomes, and these are people in their late 80s and early 90s who have absolutely no ability to go anywhere else or to get the additional money. The government loves to say, "Well, we're putting $100 million into long-term-care operating costs," but I think the people of Ontario should know that the residents of those homes are paying $50 million of that.

With that, I will turn it over to our deputy leader.

Mrs Pupatello: I'm very happy to speak to Bill 131, called the Interjurisdictional Support Orders Act. I hope there are people from my riding who are watching; I know my staff in the constituency office are, because this is an area they work on and spend so much time on. The frustration levels are incredible. You can imagine being the staff trying to deal with this issue. Try being the parents. Try being the people who have children, who know they have money owing to them and can't pay their bills. I want you to imagine what it must be like to have your young children going back to school this September, money in arrears from deadbeats who are not paying support. They've got things to buy for these kids, whether it's paper and pencils or boots and jackets or all those things we rush out to prepare our kids to return to school. We have families in Ontario who are scrambling.

Can you imagine the scramble when you know you owed $8,000 in back pay or $25,000 in back pay? Imagine what it's like at Christmastime. We've been sitting in this House before, around Christmastime, when we brought forward cases of families who are struggling to get through the holiday knowing there are thousands and thousands of dollars owing to them, but our system, the Harris-Eves-government-created system, has made it an absolute mess.

We want to talk today about the Interjurisdictional Support Orders Act. I want to tell this government to get its house in order now. They have been talking about -- I remember the Attorney General at the time, old Charles Harnick. Do you remember him? I remember writing Charlie a letter and asking him to give me a portion of his ministry's overhead, because my office has now become the Family Responsibility Office to a large degree. They closed down the office in Windsor. When we had our own people from Windsor working with local employers, we did not have these issues. Today, in the eighth year of the Harris-Eves government, we have a mess.

This letter came to my office this afternoon. This is from an individual who firmly believes in paying child support. This was a court order, effective June 29, to increase child support payments to the recipient. "I totally support the paying of child support. This was never an issue for me," this person writes. "Both the recipient and myself as the payer didn't want to go through FRO, so we immediately signed a notice of withdrawal." They sent all of this in August 1999. This is several years ago.

"I had not received any information from FRO and unfortunately assumed everything was taken care of (ie, nothing was being garnished from my wages, hadn't heard anything from lawyers dealing with this). I have always and continue to provide postdated monthly cheques and have never defaulted, nor have I been late, nor have any cheques been returned as NSF and have always paid in full." This is a typical story in my office.


This letter goes on to say, "On Monday" -- now year 2002, August -- "I attempted to obtain a pre-approval for a loan with the Royal Bank for which I received privileges as a preferred customer. I was confident of no credit problems because I have never had bad credit at any time in my life. To my horror, I was told I owed FRO" over $12,000. "I quickly calculated that this was the amount I had already paid the recipient since the court order. I was on vacation with my daughter at this time, which ruined our time together while I panicked about my situation. I didn't even know I had a case number until I called FRO and was advised. For this initial call, it took 45 minutes on that Monday for a real person to come on the line."

The letter goes on to describe an incredible situation dealing with a couple who are completely in agreement as to what's to pay and that it should be paid. So you can imagine the difficulty when we deal with cases when one of the couple is not wanting to pay. I thought that's what you were supposed to fix when you closed our Windsor office down and took our experts, people who worked on these files for many years with cases that never had problems. All of a sudden, everything was thrown in disarray.

This individual goes on to list for the government concerns and issues, and goes on to say, "I don't like the fact that I was proven guilty before I could contest false accusations of bad credit/outstanding child support." The reality was, this individual was paying all along.

We have many stories like this. It's so unfortunate to see what this government has created: an absolute mess. But today we're going to talk about Bill 131, because they want to expand additional interjurisdictional agreements. That sounds wonderful, but practically, can you imagine living in a border community? I ask the members who are here.

I live in Windsor. Many people in Windsor work in the United States, but they reside in Windsor. Guess what? All of the agreements are to do with residency, not where people work. So when people in my community work in the States and get paid in the States, your agreements don't apply.

What are you doing talking about going to the moon when you can't even drive a Volkswagen here? That's my question. Why are you trying to expand even more when you can't even deal with the systems we have today? Are you telling me that you shouldn't have decided that if people reside in Windsor but work in a different country or a different jurisdiction, those agreements ought to be instituted, and should have been a long time ago? You've got agreements with 40 out of 50-some states already, and yet if individuals in any border community work in a US state, those agreements don't apply because they still live in our province.

Come on; this is basic. You don't have to be a brain surgeon to figure out that this should have been resolved. We've got people who are owed tens of thousands of dollars, and they're thumbing their noses at us. In particular, they're thumbing their noses at their responsibility to pay for their kids. These people who don't want to pay are as sneaky as they get. They use their lawyers for every little trick in the book to delay and delay, and in the meantime, when these individuals are paying $2,000 and $3,000 per month -- literally that's the level of support -- if you delay months and months, we're racking up tens of thousands of dollars of money owed to take care of children in Ontario. This government is not helping. They're creating more disaster than they're solving.

Denise McLean: I've spoken about her in the House before because her story is absolutely incredible, about a deadbeat dad who lives in Alberta. We have an agreement with Alberta, so what happened? She had to go to the press and do all kinds of things to track this guy down in Alberta. She tracked him down. It was quite a fluke, but she was able to find him. It then became an issue in the Alberta courts. The courts in Alberta made our Ontario Family Responsibility Office aware that this was going to court in Alberta. The Family Responsibility Office did not contact our client. This individual, Denise, did not know and of course didn't appear in court because she didn't know it was going to court, because the people who received the information from Alberta just didn't do anything with the file. I'll never forget those days. Kandi in my office -- many people in Windsor know Kandi -- was on the phone repeatedly to get these people to move, and nothing happened.

We've been dealing with Denise for almost eight years now. In April the reduced amount of her arrears was $10,000. The initial amount owing was $72,000 and now, for all of these courtroom machinations, $10,000 is what she's owed. The court did say that he will have to pay $200 a month, and if he doesn't pay, each month it's going to be $100 of added penalty. Do you know what I have to say to that? Big deal. You've made an absolute mess of this file for this family. These individuals have worked long and hard and gone far beyond what they needed to to get a response. Not only did the government not help, it actually hurt. She should have been getting $72,000 -- that was what was originally planned -- and now it's been reduced to $10,000. It's grossly unfair.

We have an individual in my community who is owed $8,000 in arrears. The licence has been suspended for this deadbeat dad. He's still driving. He caused an accident so he fled the scene. This default hearing happened in June. He just didn't show up. It took until September 12 for the Family Responsibility Office to actually make the request for a warrant for his arrest. Why would that be?

These people who actually work in these departments are doing their level best to get through the caseload. I've got to tell you just quickly what happens with these caseloads. They've got too many and they can't deal with them. They can't get all the 1-800 numbers, people calling in. No one answers the phone or you get put on hold literally for hours. Our constituents tell us that what they decide to do is just lie on the couch listening to the music because they know they're going to be there an hour waiting for some live body to come to the phone.


Mrs Pupatello: This isn't funny. This is people's lives that we're interfering with here.

So they can't get through and they will call our office. We take all the information. We used to get a call on Tuesdays and Thursdays from the Family Responsibility Office. We had so many cases to go through with them that they put a timeline on how long they'll call our office for. So they have about an hour. In that hour our staff in Windsor have to weigh which cases they can give her because there's a time limit. Last week one of them took an hour and a half, which was quite a bit of time, leaving the other staff person not getting any of her cases in, because we're limited for time. It used to be Tuesdays and Thursdays. We've now been reduced to one call a week. We get one call a week and we had better prioritize our cases, because that's all that they can deal with.

We're told that people have called. They stay on the line. The office closes at 7. After having been on hold for 45 minutes, the line goes dead because the office is closed. This is how we're treating our people. For God's sake, they're not criminals. They just have a deadbeat spouse who's in arrears. We're treating them to this labyrinth of a system that simply doesn't work for people.

One of the agents tells us that the constituents shouldn't call us for these minor details with their cases. We tell them, "These constituents can't get through on your 1-800 number." So we get grief from the people dealing with the file because they shouldn't call our office. The people have to call our office because they can't get through on the phone. When they get through on the phone, they don't do anything in regard to the file. Very rarely do we have a case that's a happy ending, where we make a call and the thing actually happens. It's always some big jump, some other reason why the thing doesn't work. The stories are absolutely horrendous.

I want to go back to what happened initially. They closed the Windsor office. We told them then. Many of our offices became the agents or some part of the Attorney General's office dealing with all of these people who have these terrible problems. It's not just a problem with people who have deadbeat spouses; it's problems with those who are very much in agreement to pay, and the people who are paying are having a problem, like the letter I read today. It goes up and down.


So today we want to talk about adding more jurisdictional agreements. Well, isn't that grand? This is what the government has been doing since the beginning of time. They're constantly making announcements and then the follow-through simply isn't there. There's a complete mismanagement of government by the Harris-Eves government.

Today we saw Ernie Eves in Harrow making an announcement for nurse practitioners. How similar is this? You make a grand announcement about this new Family Responsibility Office, but the guts of the matter is that it doesn't work. So Ernie Eves goes down to Harrow to announce he's going to have costing available for several nurse practitioner positions. The devil's in the details. I'll believe that when I see it.

I remember Jim Wilson, when he was the first health minister, talking about employing nurse practitioners. That was eight years ago and we still don't have nurse practitioners working in Ontario. And there's no definition of where nurse practitioners would work -- not a mention today of primary care reform. We all agree with primary care reform, but that's not involved in the announcement. It's more mismanagement by this government.

"Charlie," I used to tell him on the telephone, "you've got an absolute mess here."

"Oh, but we're cleaning it up." Then he would continue to recite the number of cases now flowing through Family Responsibility Office.

The reality is that you don't give people a choice. In the case I just read today, even when people are very prepared to work this out and have all the proper paperwork signed, you screw up their file.

Even when Baird was the minister, I remember going to him and saying, "I've got to tell you, in this case in Alberta, when your office did not notify our client that she had to appear in court and, as a result, the thing was thrown out, it was only by the goodness of lawyers in Alberta working for the government of Alberta to have called to say, `You have to understand that this should never have happened.'" Can you imagine? You've got to be on the hook for other jurisdictions calling us to tell us how badly you screwed up? That's exactly what has happened, and it happens repeatedly.

But this mismanagement is not just in that ministry. It's the same thing across the board. We have umpteen examples of big, fancy, flashy announcements, but there's no detail, no information about how something's going to work. You send everybody into a tailspin, and it doesn't ultimately happen.

Private MRIs: the Minister of Health today told us at committee that he'll probably be handing cash over to private companies to open private MRIs.

It's the same case with Bill 131: mismanagement is at the root of this. They haven't got a clue. The government can't see past the end of its nose to understand how it would actually make something work -- and that's a long nose for some of the members opposite, I might add. I could probably get away with saying that, Speaker.

Anyway, I want to finally tell the government that when it comes to family support, all parties understand that it's a role government has to play to get these people to pay child support, to get these people to pay spousal support. Considering that we have all-party agreement about what we should be doing, how could you possibly screw this up? How could we possibly have more and more examples of the poorest customer service on record? How many people in this House would stay on the phone 45 minutes waiting on hold? It sounds like the Ontario Energy Board to me.

I know all of us remember that when all of a sudden all this electricity deregulation happened, everyone was calling the 1-800 number. Poor old Floyd Laughren, the NDP treasurer, appointed by Ernie Eves now at the Ontario Energy Board, didn't know what hit him, he had such a flood of calls. But there was nobody answering the telephones there. Well, if you put out a phone number and tell people to call, what do you think will happen? They'll probably call.

You changed the Family Responsibility Office -- whether it's Charlie Harnick or Ernie Eves; all of them are responsible -- and cut the amount available for staff. When the auditor looked at your books, he said you've increased the caseloads by 35% and you've got staffing levels at 1994 levels. How is this going to work? You've got fewer people available today to deal with far more cases. The result? Someone will call my office, give us maybe one hour -- and we've got, on average, 10 cases per staff person to get through the Family Responsibility Office -- and we're suddenly told, "Prioritize your cases. Give me the worst case." They're all bad. Can you imagine? Is it worse to be $10,000 in arrears when you're not paying your bills, or is it worse to be $5,000 in arrears when you still can't pay your bills? It was September, for God's sake. We have kids going back to school and we've got parents out there without a dime. You have heard cases in this House of people who haven't been able to keep their homes, not because the money hasn't been there to pay but because you screwed up the system.

It just galls me to sit here and talk about Bill 131. You want a big headline: "Isn't this a great law?" You can't enforce the law. You can't enforce what you currently have. It's going to take a Liberal government under Dalton McGuinty to fix this system, and I'm looking forward to that day.

The Acting Speaker: Questions or comments?

Mr Kormos: I heard the member refer to one Mr Harnick. The name rings a bell, but I'm not quite sure who he was. The member might elaborate when she has the floor again. Mr Harnick? It sounds familiar, but I can't quite place him.

Let's not take this out of context. We've had reciprocal enforcement of orders legislation in this province since at least 1948. The government hasn't come forward with some revolutionary new approach to these things. Let's put Bill 131 into perspective here. The member who spoke was critical of the government for somehow trying to generate fanfare around Bill 131, and I think she was probably right. There is a modest tinkering with legislation that's been here for, gosh, over 50 years, at least since 1948.

But the real issue is not this bill. Mind you, for the life of me, I can't understand why the government wouldn't have called this bill earlier. For the life of me, I can't understand why the government wouldn't have put this bill out to committee hearings after first reading.

There is nobody in this Legislature who quarrels with the harmonization of our legislation with the legislation of other provinces. I understand this bill. It flows from a Premiers' meeting wherein there was an agreement about harmonization. You heard earlier that whole harmonization process goes back well into the mid-1980s, where interprovincial committees were working and trying to harmonize legislation around all sorts of areas.

There are far more serious problems being overlooked, denied, obscured, certainly not addressed, around access to Family Courts and spousal and children's litigation.

Mr Johnson: I wanted to add my comments to the Liberal caucus. It divided that hour up and went on and on about how bad the government was. I kind of had to smile and laugh to myself, because I thought, if things were so bad, if the legislation was so bad and they were criticizing everything, then why would they decide and say at the end, "We're in favour of this"? I just wanted to point that out. I just thought, if things are all that bad, the gloom and doom and everything else, then why on earth would they want to stand up and be proud to say they are in favour of this legislation?

I am. I'll be pleased to stand up and vote for Bill 131.

Hon Chris Stockwell (Minister of the Environment, Government House Leader): There were a number of comments made by the members opposite. You can understand the barracking and the caterwauling that goes on across the floor, including the likes of Kormos. You know what the good people out there should know? This is a bill they're voting in favour of. They are supporting this bill. Bill 131 is a bill that the opposition is voting in favour of. You heard the caterwauling and complaining and carrying on, all this yada, yada, for an hour, and that's a bill they're voting for. So you've got to understand, when you get the member from Windsor up there caterwauling at length about a bill she's voting in favour of, you must realize the frustration we have when they haven't actually disagreed with the bill we've put forward.

Mrs Pupatello: Are you suggesting these problems don't exist?

Hon Mr Stockwell: And here we have her again. She had all the time in the world to talk -- I have but two short minutes -- and she still can't stop talking. She still keeps going on. She left a minute on the clock. I guess she ran out of things to say; now they've come to her.


Mrs Pupatello: Don't deny the problems. Don't you deny they're not there.

Hon Mr Stockwell: Oh, there she goes.

The Acting Speaker: Order.


Hon Mr Stockwell: You're going to have to kick her out, Mr Speaker.

The Acting Speaker: The member for Windsor West will come to order. Minister of the Environment.

Mrs Pupatello: On a point of order, Mr Speaker.

Hon Mr Stockwell: I've got two lousy, stinking minutes, Mr Speaker.

The Acting Speaker: Stop the clock. On a point of order, the member for Windsor West.

Mrs Pupatello: I was asking the minister to address the problems in Etobicoke with this issue.

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

Hon Mr Stockwell: That's not even a point of interest.

Mrs Pupatello: It is to the people of Etobicoke.

Mr Galt: She's out of control.

Hon Mr Stockwell: Mr Speaker, you're going to have to throw her out. It's clear, she's out of control, and this is a bill she agrees with.

Interjection: She can't stop talking.

Hon Mr Stockwell: She's completely out of control on a bill that she agrees with.

My friend the member for Perth back there says this is a good bill. He's proud to vote in favour of it. I'm proud to vote in favour of this bill. It is a good bill. I know the opposition will be proud to stand in their place and vote in favour of this bill. I even think the NDP may stand up and vote in favour of this bill. I think we should all come together and just get this bill out of the way -- we all agree with it -- and deal with something that maybe they disagree with. That's the whole democracy thing working.

Mr Galt: It's obvious that Bill 131 must be a good bill because I had to keep reminding the members in opposition, in the Liberal Party, when they had that full hour to speak, that that was the bill we were speaking on. I know, Mr Speaker, you do a phenomenal job. I was surprised that they were so off topic, and you were very lenient and understanding.

They talked about the squeegee law. The only way the member from Kingston and the Islands, for example, would measure that is by how many charges have been laid. I measure it by how many young people weren't killed. I measure it by the success, that they're no longer out there in traffic, putting their lives at risk. I expect they're probably off being gainfully employed, as they rightfully should be with all the new jobs that have been created in Ontario since we took office. It's almost a million net new jobs. That's roughly 20% of the jobs that people have today.

I often hear the member from Kingston and the Islands complaining about some of the traffic jams we have. If you get a million more people going to work and coming home, it's not surprising there are a few more cars on the road. I can tell you that in 1995 there were no traffic jams. I could get in and out of Toronto without ever having to slow down. That's in connection with the squeegee law as he talked about, the family courts and legal aid. I hope he remembers the government that brought in the new Family Court reform and how successful it is.

He says we didn't return for four months. I'm not sure which math class he went to, but I would add it up to three months. June to July is one, July to August is two and August to September is three. That to me is one, two, three, but he seemed to think it was four months.

Then he was off on some journey about energy bills and long-term care. He was everywhere but speaking on Bill 131, a tremendous bill that I'm sure they're going to support.

The Acting Speaker: Response?

Mr Gerretsen: OK, you got me. It's three months, not four months. You're right, and that's the only thing you were right on.

As for the Minister of the Environment, we're in favour of the bill. We just don't like the way you run the Family Responsibility Office. Do you get it? That's what we talked about.

And, member from Perth-Middlesex, everything is not all right as far as the 128,000 families are concerned that are relying on the support money they're not currently getting. One of the reasons they're not getting the money is because you have not put adequate resources into the Family Responsibility Office to make sure orders that are out there are being enforced so that women and children can live on the support money rather than on a lot of the social service money you probably have to pay out right now that otherwise wouldn't be necessary.

The sole point we have been trying to make over this past hour is this: it is one thing to pass legislation, but the legislation by itself means absolutely nothing. I don't care what area of endeavour or public policy you're talking about, it means nothing if you don't put in the enforcement mechanisms, if you don't resource the issues that are addressed in the bill, if you don't put the enforcement mechanisms in place. That's the sole point.

Hon Mr Stockwell: We get it.

Mr Gerretsen: The minister finally gets it, and I'm very glad to hear that. It seems to me, from having worked with him in this House over the last six or seven years, that it's about the only thing he's gotten. But it's better than nothing.

All we're saying is simply this: resource the bills you're passing in the House in order to make them meaningful.

The Acting Speaker: Further debate? In the rotation, the Conservative caucus will be next. The member for Peterborough is --


The Acting Speaker: The member for Niagara Centre.

Mr Kormos: Speaker, we're going to vote for this bill so it can go to committee. We'll vote for it on second reading.

I hadn't intended to speak very long about it, but I was listening to the radio news this morning -- I don't know if you heard the radio news, Mr Gerretsen. The government was dismayed that the House ended early last night because somehow the opposition members weren't prepared to speak on the bill for as long as they had indicated. That came from the government.

When I checked Hansard, I believe there was unanimous consent yesterday that there would be short comments by the government and then short comments by each of the two opposition parties, 15 minutes each. It wasn't accurate for the government to say it was the opposition members who somehow made the House shut down early.

The government having indicated their concern about opposition members not speaking as long as the government expected them to, I'm going to make up for any deficiencies that the opposition parties might have displayed last night. I'm going to compensate for that. Mr Christopherson will indeed be joining me in short order, following me with his comments, subject to whoever else might want to speak in the rotation.

I've got to tell you, I've sat in here listening to the speakers. I want to tell the pages -- this is day two at work, huh? -- it's not as bad as this all the time. There are far better days. There are days when the debate is lively and exciting and where the verbal duelling might even capture your attention.

The problem with an afternoon like this is -- you know folks are watching this on TV, right? -- we've lost most of our audience. Hopefully the people with the remote controls in their hands, as they're scanning the television networks, will seize on this. I don't know, for the life of me, if I can get them back, because I've had to endure the last two hours of so-called speech-making here as well.

Hon Mr Stockwell: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I know the member stood up earlier and asked a member of the Conservative caucus to stay on topic, Bill 131. I know he wouldn't want to break the rules, because he's such a person to see them enforced. I can only ask that the same be required of him.

The Acting Speaker: That is, of course, a point of order. I'm sure the member for Niagara Centre will be relating his remarks directly to Bill 131.

Mr Kormos: Speaker, I value your guidance. I want to express my gratitude to any member of this assembly who would stand during one of my best efforts to speak to the bill and remind me that perhaps I've drifted. I understand it. I understand that it's members fulfilling their responsibility to this assembly who bring it to your attention. I hope I don't disappoint you this afternoon.

I've got to tell you, I was here during question period when the Speaker was pretty firm --

The Acting Speaker: Let's get back to Bill 131.

Mr Kormos: Got you, Speaker. But I was here earlier today during question period, when the Speaker was very firm about the kind of language we can and can't use. So I'm going to do my best to refrain from language that might be volatile.

I told you a few minutes ago during questions and comments that this isn't news. Bill 131 --

Mr Galt: On a point of order, Speaker: I wonder if we could get unanimous consent that for the remainder of this period the Liberals wouldn't have any questions during question period.


The Acting Speaker: Mr Galt has asked that there be unanimous consent that the Liberals -- I hear a no already.

The member for Niagara Centre.


Mr Kormos: A no is a no.

I got distracted now. Why did the member do that? The Speaker put me back on track. I was actually going to address Bill 131, and then this member stands up with something totally irrelevant to the debate that's being engaged in and distracts me. I almost feel compelled to go back to my notes and start over, at the beginning. I've got to talk for an hour. You know that, don't you, Speaker?

First of all I should indicate, as I did on first reading back on November 8, 2001, that the minister, on introducing the bill -- come on in, please. Help your caucus fill quorum. Have a seat. Feel at home. It's Mr Sampson, Speaker. I'm not sure if he wants in or out.

Mr Rob Sampson (Mississauga Centre): Are you going to continue speaking or not? That will make up my mind.

The Acting Speaker: Order. The debate really needs to be about Bill 131. I know that the member has been here for some time and he knows it needs to be about Bill 131.

Mr Kormos: I got distracted again with Mr Sampson standing in the doorway. I was going to talk about Bill 131, go back to where I had begun, and there was Mr Sampson, standing with his hands on his hips, Bette Davis style, as I recall the song, and he distracted me. I didn't know whether he wanted in or out.

In any event, this isn't news. We've had reciprocal enforcement of maintenance orders since at least 1948. I just had one of the pages go down to the library and quickly go through the archives in there. I didn't want to do exhaustive research since 1948. I should say, as I did back on November 8, 2001, I'm grateful for the briefing we got in my office from the Ministry of the Attorney General around the bill. I indicated to the Attorney General's staff then, and I'm going to repeat it now, that the bill has got to go to committee. The bill, according to the information I've received from those same staff, wasn't drafted by the ministry, and that's not to quarrel with it, but was the result of an agreement made by Premiers at a Premiers' conference sometime prior to August 2001. This is the interesting thing: apparently the commitment had been made by Premiers -- it would have been Mr Harris back then, prior to August 2001 -- to have this legislation passed by August 2001. The bill wasn't introduced until November, and here we are already into September. I can't for the life of me, as I indicated earlier, understand why the government wouldn't have called the bill earlier. This would have been a perfect bill to send to committee during the summer break. I've got to tell you that this is the first chance I've had to speak here in this assembly since that summer break. I've been having a sort of assembly withdrawal. I've missed being here.

All summer we're in our constituency offices -- I hope we are -- and we've got lineups of folks, all as concerned as anybody could be about hydro rates, and what remains one of the frequent problems that our constituency staff have to deal with, and that's people getting jerked around by the Family Responsibility Office.

It covers the complete gamut; it covers the complete range. We've got payers -- not always but usually fathers, dads -- whose payments are being deducted at the source, but the money never gets to their kids. Think how frustrating that is. We get calls from the fathers too, the payers, the ones who had the orders made against them who are dismayed at the fact that the money that was deducted from their paycheque doesn't get to their kids.

Remember back in October 1996, Ms Martel and I drove up to North York, as it was then, and photographed, videotaped the incompetent, ineffective, non-operational status of the new amalgamated Family Responsibility Office. Phones weren't plugged in, computers weren't connected. Box after box after box of files was sitting in the hallway, so anybody could walk in, rifle through them, access incredibly personal, confidential and private information -- and indeed we did. And we photographed it, we filmed it.

There was an Attorney General at that time who, when we came back to Queen's Park and played the film down in the Queen's Park press gallery, got his knickers in a knot like you've never seen before. He was jumping up and down over there and, by God, I was going go to jail for the rest of my natural life and the whole nine yards. Well, of course, nothing of the type.

Mr Joseph Spina (Brampton Centre): Do you not have boxes when you move?

Mr Kormos: But the government got caught. It got caught in an obvious display of its incompetence, of this government's disdain for moms and kids --

Mr Spina: You don't have boxes when you move, do you?

The Acting Speaker: Order. The member for Brampton Centre will come to order. If he wishes to make a comment on the member's speech, there's ample opportunity during the rotation following the completion of that speech.

Mr Kormos: Thank you, Speaker. I know you were coming to my assistance on that one. I was having a hard time containing that member and I appreciate your intervening to take charge of the situation and relieve me of the additional pressure that put on me. So I'm grateful to you; I want to thank you personally.

Am I correct that the Tories didn't participate in the last rotation? It seems the Tories don't want to engage in this debate. There's been some rather pointed criticism of the Conservatives, of Ernie Eves and his flock of backbenchers here introducing this bill yet maintaining such indifference to moms and kids by virtue of their continued mismanagement of the Family Responsibility Office, yet it seems that the government doesn't want to respond to it. It seems the government doesn't want to engage in this debate. In fact, the government is in such a hurry to get Bill 131 passed -- if they were in such a hurry to get Bill 131 passed, why did they move unanimous consent yesterday to abbreviate the sessional day? I don't know; I can't figure it out. I did my best; I really did. The government couldn't put up speakers yesterday, wants this bill passed in a hurry yet doesn't want to put up -- it's just confusing sometimes.

But I tell you this: what's happening at the Family Responsibility Office isn't confusing, it's a downright crime. We've got dads -- not always dads, but usually dads -- who are paying the support, whose money is being deducted at source by their employer who is sending it into the Family Responsibility Office, and then the FRO loses it in some big black hole somewhere. The FRO isn't getting the money out to the kids that the money was deducted for. The dads are frustrated as all get-out because their exes, the mothers of their kids, are phoning them up, saying, "Where's the money?" The guy's saying, "Look, the money was deducted, honest," and she's saying, "But I never got it and we can't pay the rent this month, we can't pay the hydro bill, we can't pay the natural gas bill. I can't get shoes for the kids."

Shelley Martel and I toured this province after we entered the Family Responsibility Office up there in North York with our video camera person and talked to mom after mom after mom and dad after dad and kids for whom not getting their support payment meant they can't buy food. I remember because we went into the Family Responsibility Office at I think it was the end of October, so it was approaching Christmas that we were touring around the province meeting folks like this, meeting moms and dads and kids. It was before Christmastime. People were getting evicted because the FRO, the Family Responsibility Office, was screwing up -- no other way to put it -- screwing up big time. What was frustrating about it was that day after day after day, in the fall of 1996, we New Democrats were in this Legislature questioning the then Conservative Attorney General about the foul-ups at the Family Responsibility Office after he shut down all those regional offices and amalgamated them into a mega-office in North York.


The Attorney General stood on his feet day after day and insisted that everything was operating, everything was kosher, everything was just fine. Well, far be it from me to break parliamentary tradition and suggest that was anything of a prevarication, but surely the Attorney General was incredibly ill-informed about what was going on at his mega-office, wasn't he? His answers to our questions were 180 degrees opposed, the exact opposite, to what the reality was. People had already started to mistrust this government by the early part of 1996.

Mr AL McDonald (Nipissing): That's a strong word.

Mr Kormos: But the fall of 1996 and October of 1996 came around and there was videotape betraying this government's lack of straightforwardness to the mothers and kids and dads of Ontario. When there it was in vivid Technicolor, the mistrust escalated, the mistrust compounded, the mistrust became pervasive to the point where nobody believes these guys any more. They don't, nor do they trust you -- dads whose money is being deducted at source and the money is never reaching the moms; dads whose money is being deducted at source that's getting to the moms but whose records at the Family Responsibility Office indicate it isn't being deducted, so they become victims of the enforcement process, an enforcement process that is so sporadic and erratic that it's ineffective and might as well not exist. The Family Responsibility Office, that's what I'm talking about, the family support plan -- an enforcement process that is applied helter-skelter, that has no remedies. I've got constituents coming into my office saying, "Look, I know where this guy is, I know where he works, I know his phone number and he owes me $5,000 in arrears for his kids. Will you exercise some of the enforcement process?" All we get from the Family Responsibility Office is, "Huh?"

I've also got people coming into my constituency office who have confirmed proof of having paid every penny of their support obligations but who get notice that their licence is suspended for non-payment of child support. They're being punished for having done the right thing. Then you've got the all-out deadbeats.

Look, nothing can be more complex and more difficult and indeed more important -- everybody involved, the players themselves and the community -- than the breakdown of a family relationship, of a family structure. I'm often left saddened by the lip service that's paid to the "best interest of the child" children. I say lip service, because it so often is reflected in the concrete operations of the process.

What the government is doing with Bill 131 is offering and taking a step in participating in a harmonized regime so that the legislation will be in tune and in sync with legislation in other provinces. Fair and good enough. It eliminates one of the steps in obtaining an order, in that it doesn't require a provisional order that is then sent to the responding jurisdiction to be confirmed with a two-stage process; it provides for only one stage. God bless. In the total scheme of things, that in and of itself is not unreasonable.

It does, however, eliminate -- and this is just something I had some concerns about -- an existing right by a respondent -- not the applicant; the respondent -- to apply to set aside registration of an order from another Canadian province or territory raising legal concerns about that order. Again, let's assume for the moment that it's the dad against whom a support order is being sought. If the order is obtained in, let's say, British Columbia and sent here to Ontario, the current law is that there can be an exercise in the Ontario courts to object to that order and to dispute its validity or dispute its legitimacy. That, to me, seems a reasonably good safeguard against unfair or invalid orders being imposed and enforced. And it would seem a great injustice to require a respondent, a potential payer, to have to travel from Ontario to BC to object to an order, but that's what this bill does.

I don't know, and I'm quite prepared to receive counsel and advice from, let's say, the family bar -- lawyers, women and men, who practise family law. There are all sorts of good ones here in Ontario, here in Toronto, down in Niagara region -- Pamela Walker, down in Niagara Falls, is held in high esteem, certainly by me and by a whole lot of other people in her practice of family law; Earle Blackadder, Doug Thomas and so on, a whole bunch of people down there -- who I think should have an opportunity to review this legislation and to appear before committee to make suggestions, to make comments about fine-tuning, tweaking it, making it better legislation than it is and the best possible legislation it could be.

But the real problem is that so many women and their kids can't access the courts in the first place. Have you been to a Family Court lately? Provincial court, family division? Have you been to one lately? They're like sausage factories. You've got the provincial court, family division judge. I know it doesn't exist as a family division judge any more, because the judges hopscotch all over -- and that's something we had a little bit of concern with too. What happened was that, prior to this government meddling in provincial judge appointments and what they're appointed to, we had a process where provincial judges, family division, had acquired expertise in family law and sensitivity around young offender work, junior-level, first-tier, level-one young offenders. Now we've got criminal judges hopscotching. One day they're in criminal court with adult criminals and the next day they're in Family Court doing family litigation. I don't think it's fair to the judges. I don't think it's fair to the litigants. I don't think it does justice to the justice system, because in a world where litigation is becoming increasingly complex and the amount of case law that a judge or a lawyer has to read has becoming increasingly voluminous, I don't think it's fair to expect a judge to --

Mrs Margaret Marland (Mississauga South): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I was listening to the member for -- what's your riding, Mr Kormos?

Mr Kormos: Niagara Centre, the heart of the Niagara region.

Mrs Marland: Niagara Centre. I'm very concerned, and I would ask you to rule whether it is in order for him to suggest that the government meddles around with judges. That's a very strong statement. In the context in which he was speaking, that is, I would suggest with respect, a slanderous statement against the government. I don't think this House really condones that kind of parliamentary debate.

The Acting Speaker: Thank you. The member for Niagara Centre.

Mrs Marland: Are you going to withdraw?

The Acting Speaker: I didn't hear anything particularly out of order. The member for Niagara Centre.

Mrs Marland: Well, I think we need to listen a little more attentively.

Mr Kormos: Please, Ms Marland, don't criticize the Speaker. That's not parliamentary. You can't challenge the Chair any more. Remember when we used to? Remember when we'd get those bells ringing?

Mrs Marland: You used to.


Mr Kormos: Yes, I did it. I was a mere apprentice then to some of the senior members back in the late 1980s. Yes, we'd get the bells ringing for days at a time, wouldn't we? You were over here and, by God, you loved it. You relished it. The Tories were over here, as were the New Democrats, and they relished ringing the bells and getting Liberal cabinet ministers ousted. You thought that was pretty slick stuff in its day. Now all of a sudden, oh, you get so sensitive about opposition antics, about the opposition -- what do they call it? -- grandstanding. Grandstanding? Think back to 1988 and 1989. We'd have the bells ringing three and four days in a row over the most trivial of things. When you were in opposition and we were the official opposition, we hounded Liberal ministers out of their position, out of --

Mr R. Gary Stewart (Peterborough): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: Welcome back to the Legislature, I guess. In my mind, this happens to be an extremely important bill. It's a bill about kids, and I suggest --

The Acting Speaker: If the point of order was that we should be talking about Bill 131, we should be talking about Bill 131.

Mr Kormos: And indeed we are and have been. I want to tell this member that it was his colleague who came in here and changed the subject. She's the one who stood on her point of order. She's the one who wanted to introduce a whole new direction to this debate.

The Acting Speaker: I have ruled on the point of order, so we should be talking about Bill 131.

Mr Kormos: You bet your boots, Speaker. That's what I have been and that's what I'll continue to be talking about.

I'm telling you, go out there and take a look at what's happening in our Family Courts. Because of the huge caseloads, they are being operated like sausage factories. Judges are sitting from 9 in the morning until 5 and 5:30 in the evening, their staff are sitting there with them -- the clerks and the other attendants -- and they're dealing with a caseload, a docket that is page after page. And what you get is litigants, people going to Family Court, who sit there all day, through no fault of the judge, Ms Marland, but because of the incredible shortage of judges and courtroom space.

I have talked to Family Court litigants. You're dealing many times with people between whom there is an incredible amount of acrimony, wherein there may well be allegations of physical violence. So you've got small-town Family Court rooms where a woman, as a spouse, and her partner or husband, as a spouse, are sitting there within touching distance of each other for five, six hours, waiting for their case to be called. Then it's 5 or 5:30, the judge and the staff have been there all day, and the judge has to tell them, "No, we're going to have to adjourn this and come back in four weeks', five weeks', six weeks' time."

If this government really wants to generate some justice for families that have disintegrated or that have exploded, that are falling apart -- that's a process that's incredibly complex and incredibly dangerous too. We know about that, don't we? We know about how dangerous because of the raw emotions that prevail when there's a marriage breakdown, when there's a family breakdown, and even more so when there is in fact physical violence, or violence of any sort -- mental abuse, verbal abuse or physical abuse. This government has little to brag about when it comes to the interests of separating couples and the best interests of their children.

One, we need more unified Family Courts in this province. I heard the early government speaker today talk about the federal government and the Divorce Act. The fact is that most family litigation is now done under provincial legislation, not under the federal Divorce Act. Huge numbers of support orders, custody orders, access orders are not done in the divorce courts but in the Family Courts, using provincial legislation. As often as not, you will see the matters of property etc -- well, we have some problems here with property because we've got the provincial legislation which requires different courts to administer it, which is a problem in and of itself. But most of the family work is done in provincial courts.

This government should have stood up and announced today a commitment to the immediate establishment of more unified family courts. That, in and of itself, would have provided justice, more justice than exists now.

Mrs Marland: Didn't we announce the first one?

Mr Kormos: No, Ms Marland. They predate the NDP.

Mrs Marland: Oh, they do?

Mr Kormos: Yes.

Mrs Marland: They work, anyway.

Mr Kormos: You're darned right they work. You're darned right unified family courts work. And we need more of them.

This legislation is such a modest change in the law from its antecedent that the legislation in and of itself is not going to change things dramatically for most family litigants.

The other problem we have is access to those courts in terms of -- and again, it's usually women; not always, because women in so many instances tend not to be the wage earner, and if they are a wage earner, they tend not to be the higher wage earner. So they don't have the resources to hire private counsel, to retain competent lawyers. They're dependant upon legal assistance.

I'm going to make something very clear -- if you don't know it, you're going to learn it, and if you don't believe it, you go out there yourself and check -- that is, most lawyers will not take on family litigation that's legal-aid sponsored. Let me tell you why. It's because legal aid has retained an artificially inappropriate hourly rate which makes it impossible for lawyers to do that work. Lawyers have overhead. A competent lawyer has support staff; a competent lawyer has huge costs for ongoing education and for reference materials, be it case law available through any number of subscription series that they receive. Lawyers cannot afford to do legal aid work, one. Two, in the instance of family litigation matters, a vast number of types of family litigation are excluded from the legal aid plan. Third, those that aren't excluded have caps on them in terms of the maximum number of hours that a lawyer can bill, and most competent lawyers concede right off the bat that they can't do justice to their client if the number of hours are capped at the rate in the current legal aid system.

All of the legislative changes in the world mean diddly-squat if litigants aren't getting access to competent, trained lawyers to represent them in what are incredibly complex and very volatile family law matters.

Not only would I have been far more pleased, I would have been prepared to laud this government were it to have announced today the establishment of more unified family courts. I would be overjoyed were it to announce a fair reform to its legal aid system: adequate hourly rates, an elimination of the capping for family law services and an inclusion of all relevant family law litigation into the legal aid scheme. None of those three aspects involved in legal aid were involved and, of course, we've heard nothing about unified family courts from this government in such a long, long time.

Never mind unified family courts, which I concede require co-operation with the federal government because of the nature of the appointment of judges and payment; we haven't even heard of any new significant Provincial Court judges to handle the caseload which is burdening family courts and quite frankly criminal courts. Again, we have these judges --


Mr Kormos: Ms Marland, please. What I was talking about was the government's changes to the appointment of judges, because historically judges were appointed to the family division or to the criminal division. Then this government eliminated that distinction so it just has provincial judges. It sounds good, but what it means is that judges are doing criminal court one day, family court the next day, and with the burden of their caseloads, they are, simply, increasingly frustrated in terms of the research they have to do, in terms of keeping on top of the law and of doing justice to their responsibilities.


The government meddled in a judicial appointment system that was working quite well. The government meddled. It should have left the judges to do what they did best. I was at the committee hearings around those legislative changes and I heard the objections to it. I responded and I agreed with those objections, but the government members sat at that committee and couldn't give a tinker's damn about the concerns that were being expressed. I was there. I watched the government members. I listened to them saying, "Ah, go away. We don't want to hear this sort of criticism."

I should tell you that today is the birthday of one of my constituents, Anna Hucajluk, born in Sofia, Bulgaria, on September 24, 1925. I just wanted to say happy birthday to Anna Hucajluk. She would have been very concerned, and now she's even more concerned because I indicated the year of her birth. But she looks a good 20 years younger, honest. People will think that I'm misleading the House by having suggested -- is it OK for me to say that I'm misleading the House?

Mrs Marland: Yes, it is.

Mr Kormos: I don't hear any points of order now.

In any event, there's a crisis out there when it comes to family litigation. Again, increasingly, we have people in our constituency office, and I suspect it's the same for most other constituency offices, who have to represent themselves in family court. Let me tell you what happens.

This is where the criminal lawyers, with their boycott of legal aid, are going to demonstrate how relevant and important it is. People think, "Oh well, maybe these criminals shouldn't have lawyers anyway, because it would make the process so much easier," right? It sounds good. First of all, if you've been charged, you don't think that. It's not such an attractive proposition if you've been charged with an offence, especially if you're, dare I say it, innocent. Second, judges know, crown attorneys know and defence lawyers know that competent counsel working in litigation, be it criminal litigation in our criminal courts, be it family litigation or others, actually do make the process work faster, more effectively, with less prospect of appeals and more competent levels of justice being administered.

It seems at first blush so easy to tell family litigants, to tell a mom with kids who's seeking a custody order, who perhaps wants to vary a support order, who's seeking a support order in the first instance, "Just go in there. Don't worry. Fill out the forms and everything will go along smoothly." It doesn't work that way. The victims of this government's indifference to those people inevitably are the children, the kids. When we have people representing themselves, we also deny those people, in most cases, the opportunity to access expertise that might be helpful to them.

One of the other areas of real concern as well is the lack of investment by this government in court-based mediation processes. Again, I'll give credit where credit's due. Alternative dispute resolution in our court, in our judicial process, goes back into the 1980s when it first became de rigueur, if you will, it started to become stylish. As the evolution of alternative dispute resolution has occurred it has demonstrated itself to be increasingly effective at achieving better resolutions, stronger resolutions and speedier resolutions. That means it is less expensive. Not a word from this government about more investment in court-based mediation; not a word, not a penny of new investment. I tell you that's a crime.

Yesterday we had the Attorney General standing up and talking about how this government, by God, is there when it comes to women and kids, how it's standing up for the women and kids who are victims, boy oh boy. And today, a backbencher from the government, who did the first comments for the Conservatives, said, "This is this government, the Harris-Eves government, standing up for women and kids." It made me think of the Vanscoy and Even litigation. Remember that litigation? Karen Vanscoy and Linda Even sued this government, seeking relief under this government's Victims' Bill of Rights. Ms Vanscoy's daughter was slaughtered, butchered with a gun to her head. Ms Even's male partner stabbed her again and again and again as she sought shelter under a wool blanket. He punctured that blanket well over 20, 30 times, as I remember, with the blade of a knife, plunging it into her body until the blanket was blood-soaked red. In both those instances, the crown attorney was doing some speedy plea bargaining to get the case out of the system without having consulted either of the victims.

So Ms Vanscoy and Ms Even litigated against this government. And what did the judge say about this government's Victims' Bill of Rights? It is astounding that this government even dares utter the words "our Victims' Bill of Rights legislation" after the courts trashed it, after the courts said, "This bill of rights has no rights. As a matter of fact, this bill of rights ain't worth the paper it's written on."

It was so tragic. In the summer, I was across the way, over at the University of Toronto, where they had a victims' commemorative ceremony in Convocation Hall. The Attorney General was there. I thought that was good. I was glad the Attorney General was there. Of course he went and politicized the event, which I thought was a little tacky, to say the least, in the context, and then bragged about the Victims' Bill of Rights in front of victims. I thought, how sad. Either the Attorney General hasn't read the history -- because he wasn't the Attorney General back when the Victims' Bill of Rights came in. It was one Mr Harnick.

Mrs Marland: At least he didn't drag the victims into this Legislature.

Mr Kormos: Well, you're here, aren't you?

Mrs Marland: I'm not a victim.

Mr Kormos: No, I am. Now I am.

I found it incredible that the Attorney General would still reference the Victims' Bill of Rights when it has been so thoroughly discredited. It is not one of the shining moments, as if there have been very many on this government's part. It wasn't one of the good days. Let me put it that way.

I remember Marion Boyd -- do you remember Marion Boyd? -- sitting here with the NDP caucus telling the government while the Victims' Bill of Rights was being debated, "This bill is not going to do what you say it is. It's a deception. It's some legerdemain, some sleight of hand." The government forged ahead and waved that Victims' Bill of Rights, and what did the judge say in the Evens-Vanscoy litigation? He said, "The Victims' Bill of Rights ain't worth the paper it's written on." The government's own lawyers argued that it ain't worth the paper it's written on. The government's own lawyers, in a civil litigation, had to acknowledge that it ain't worth the paper it's written on.

Then, I remember the urgency with which this government wanted to -- do you recall the bill that was going to have justices of the peace doing restraining orders 24-7? Do you remember that bill? Oh, this government was gung-ho. They were hell-bent they were going to get that bill passed because, by God, this was going to clear a new path for women as victims of domestic violence.

We were in committee. I was there, and I was telling the government, "Look, where are the resources? Where are the JPs? Where is the support for the women who have to access the JP after perhaps having been beaten in the middle of the night or threatened with knives or other weapons or brutal fists, and it was, "Oh, don't worry. Don't worry." How long has that bill been passed? That bill has been passed for over a year and a half and it still hasn't been put into effect. It has disappeared, dried up and blown away like dust in the wind. Honest. I wouldn't lie to you. I'm telling you the God's honest truth.


What a phony, phony exercise. We've got the same thing here today. We've got a bill that should have had a modest amount of debate but for the government complaining yesterday that there wasn't enough debate. I heard it on the radio news this morning. It was CBC; it had to be true. Yesterday the government was saying, "Oh, opposition parties didn't debate this bill enough yesterday." OK, then we'll debate it today. I've got colleagues who may well want to speak to the bill. I know Mr Christopherson will want to speak to the bill. Ms Martel has an interest in it. She can't be here today. She's here in the building; she was here during question period. Mr Martin had some interest in speaking to it.

All the support payments in the world -- let's look at this facet of the plight of single mothers. The fact is that most single mothers are living in poverty. What does living in poverty mean? A couple of my colleagues, Mr Prue and Ms Churley, have taken on the challenge of living on a welfare budget. You might have read about it in the newspapers. They're spending $12.05 a week -- is that right? -- on food because that's what you'd get on social assistance.

You see, a whole lot of single moms with kids are living on social assistance because the support payments they're getting are so low, notwithstanding the table, that they merely compensate the social assistance system -- that in and of itself isn't a bad thing, but it doesn't top up the social assistance they receive -- or because they're not getting any support payments at all, because they can't access the court system because they can't retain counsel. Even though they're eligible for legal aid, lawyers won't do legal aid work because they know they can't do justice in family litigation with the legal aid tariff and the cap on the number of hours.

A whole lot of single mothers and their kids and a whole lot of families are living in poverty. Please, I don't want to stigmatize single moms. It's because of the economic reality of one-parent families in relatively high unemployment and, when there is employment, increasingly low-wage employment, minimum wage or sub-minimum wage employment.

Twelve dollars and five cents a week for food, that's a buck and change a day, is what a person on social assistance receives -- a buck and change a day. Come on, Speaker, you and I lose that much in the La-Z-Boy chair every night. We do. A buck and change a day for food: one Starbucks and she's gone; your one Tim Hortons down on Niagara Street in Welland and there goes your food budget for the day. A quarter pounder with cheese? I think not.

Have we got a government here? Do you want to generate some justice for single moms, for women whose relationships have disintegrated, women who are victims of violence, or have been, and their kids? We haven't seen an increase in social assistance rates since they were slashed by almost 22% back in 1995, and since 1995 we've seen an over 16% increase in the cost of living. That means this government has slashed assistance payments by almost 40%. That number is interesting because it's by almost 40% that this government gave themselves a salary increase. Remember that, a 36-point-change per cent salary increase for MPPs and a 40% income reduction for social assistance recipients?

Look, I know folks on social assistance down where I come from in Welland, Pelham or Thorold or south St Catharines and for the life of me I don't know how they do it there. I can't even begin to imagine how you do it in Toronto, where the rental costs are double, triple and quadruple what they are in smaller-town Ontario. Food costs are basically the same.

That panhandler on Yonge Street or along Wellesley Street or up Bay Street, as you're walking to Queen's Park or up University Avenue or down University Avenue, more often than not, as often as not, is trying to supplement a buck-and-change-a-day budget for food.

Speaker, a box of that macaroni and cheese dinner starts somewhere around 89 cents down where I come from -- I don't know how much it costs where you come from -- and that's without the milk and the margarine. A package of wieners, you're talking $2.79 easy, unless you rummage for them in one of the disposal bins behind the Zehrs or the Loblaws, looking for the discards, because that's what poor people have to do. That's what people on social assistance have to do. That's what this government has imposed upon people and forced them to do: rummage through disposal bins for spoiled food, mouldy bread, green wieners and bologna.

So you want to talk about justice for kids? Roll back the 22% cut you made to social assistance and pay back the over 16% loss in consuming power that social assistance recipients have suffered as a result of cost of living over the last seven years.

Politicians, legislators in this assembly, had no qualms about increasing their salaries by 36%. They greased it up and slid it through. The government wanted to cut a deal, so it was done with no debate in the silence of the night when the press gallery was gone and maybe nobody would know, like thieves in a darkened alleyway. Members of this assembly had no qualms about increasing their salaries by 36%, and similarly appeared to have no qualms about slashing the poorest people's incomes by almost 40%.

You want justice for kids? Restore social assistance rates. You want fairness for abandoned moms and their children? Give them access to the courts; give them access to adequate counsel.

Let me talk about the committee. I know the government House leader was all anxious -- boy, he was hopping around and bouncing around. He wanted no more debate on this bill. For the life of me, why shouldn't members be able to debate a bill? That's what we do. This bill has to go to committee. Oh, it doesn't have to. I suppose the government can make sure that it doesn't see the light of a committee room. I understand that. They've got a majority. They're not gung-ho about committees to begin with. They think sending something to committee for an hour, hour and a half, is what cuts it. It doesn't.

This bill has got to go to committee, I put to you, for at least three days: two days of public comments, one day of clause-by-clause consideration. Take three afternoons here at Queen's Park while the House is sitting. I think it's incredibly important that people with expertise and practical experience, real-life experience -- because once again, I want to tell you that reciprocal enforcement and maintenance orders legislation has existed in this province since 1948. The last major revision was 1993 and then an amendment in 1997. Let this bill see the light of a committee room. Let it see the light of day. Let people with expertise and experience in the practice of family law and in the enforcement of maintenance orders speak to the bill in committee.

Let's also have an opportunity to drill and grill this Attorney General about the role of the Family Responsibility Office. Don't forget, enforcement orders, support orders that come from out of province, out of jurisdiction -- the United States, Costa Rica etc, British Columbia, Winnipeg, Manitoba, what have you -- and arrive here get sent to the Family Responsibility Office, don't they? Don't forget, you guys have been mismanaging the Family Responsibility Office for darn near seven years now -- "you guys," to wit, meaning the Conservatives -- and no real effort to fix it up. They were prepared to pretend it wasn't happening day after day in question period.


Let's remember this: that support order that's coming into Ontario from beyond Ontario borders is being sent to our Family Responsibility Office. That Family Responsibility Office, because of its ongoing level of understaffing, under-training and overloading, can't begin and hasn't been able to deal with support orders here in the province of Ontario, never mind extrajurisdictional support orders. So I think it rather important that we have the minister, and now, more importantly, the minister of social services -- because remember, they dumped the Family Responsibility Office on to the Minister of Community and Social Services, whatever his new name or her new name happens to be. I think it's important that we get those people in there, because all the extrajurisdictional support orders filed in Ontario don't mean squat if the FRO isn't of capacity to handle them and to ensure that the payments get made.

My time is coming to an end, isn't it, Speaker? You've been very patient with me. I appreciate the lively manner, the animated manner with which you've heard me out. I find that inspiring, because sometimes I'm sitting here and I'm talking and the Speaker is drifting off, he's nodding off, and the chin hits the chest and the eyelids start to droop, and I find that very frustrating and discouraging because I figure that maybe I'm missing the mark. But you, Speaker, by God, you've acknowledged things I've said, you've been responsive. You have appeared very much to agree with things I've said, although the Speaker, of course, is neutral. But the body language I'm getting is one of encouragement and one of not only acknowledgement but validation -- I think that's the word. You've been validating everything I've been saying with your body language. See, it's important to read body language in here, and I've been reading yours for the last hour. Your body language is very supportive and encouraging, and I appreciate that. Some day I may acquire the confidence where I don't need that any more. But at the moment, I think it's very important. I appreciate it. It's a little bit of a crutch that I rely on. But I rely upon you and other colleagues here to give me here the confidence that I need to stand up here, as we will now for week after week.

I'm worried about the legislative agenda, quite frankly. I'm not sure there is going to be much of one. I'm worried about this bill not getting to committee, because, boy oh boy, that House leader was threatening -- well, I shouldn't say threatening, because that might be unparliamentary. But he was really, "OK, if you won't let it go through this afternoon, then maybe you won't have any committee hearings." What a stupid approach to things. Something either warrants committee hearings or it doesn't. Don't blame me because we feel compelled to address the issues that accompany a particular bill and say, "Oh, because you spoke to it we won't send it to committee." Come on, what a childish and I suppose petulant approach to things, and irresponsible, quite frankly, at the end of the day.

We're making it quite clear. New Democrats are very much on the record that this has got to go to committee. We need two days of public hearings and a day of clause-by-clause. We need them separated. It will work out perfectly: do Monday and Tuesday public hearings. That will give time for the preparation of amendments and response to the comments being made. But please, make sure it's properly circulated and advertised so that affected, impacted parties -- and look, I'm prepared to concede that there may be people coming here one after the other after the other saying that this bill is exactly as it should be and no more redrafting should be done. If that's the case, good. Let it go through the committee, let's get it back here for third reading and let's make it law.

But I think we'd better be prepared to ask some questions, to have the bill examined by people whom it's going to affect; to wit, those lawyers practising. We'd better be prepared to ask some questions of the Attorney General and perhaps the minister of social services about the capacity of the government to give effect to this legislation, and perhaps some questions about the real problem, not being in this legislation, not being law. Because, as I say, we've got legislation since 1948 -- did you get that, before you were born -- that does effectively the same thing, and it's worked. Nobody has complained about it not working. This is simply an effort flowing from that Premiers' meeting I told you about to harmonize with other jurisdictions so that everybody's singing from the same hymnbook, if you will. Again, as you heard earlier, this harmonization process is one that began, yes, back in the 1980s, although I don't think this particular issue was part of the package there, but the harmonization around business corporation stuff was and around a whole pile of things, basically free trade within the boundaries of the country etc.

New Democrats are voting for this bill. New Democrats sure are speaking to this bill. New Democrats insist that this bill go to committee, that it have an appropriate period of time in committee, that it be amended to comply with valid criticisms and objections that are presented at committee and bring the bill back for third reading. Let's get it passed into law. Stop dawdling. You've dawdled since you introduced the bill in November last year. You did nothing about it. Nothing, zero, zip, nada. Nothing. Let's get moving. I say to the government, get rolling. Let's get this into committee and back for third.


The Acting Speaker (Mr Michael A. Brown): It being 6 of the clock, pursuant to standing order 37, the question that this House do now adjourn is deemed to be made. The member for Windsor West has given notice of her dissatisfaction with the answer to a question given today by the Minister of Health. The member has up to five minutes to debate the matter and the minister or his parliamentary assistant may have up to five minutes to reply.


Mrs Sandra Pupatello (Windsor West): I'm very pleased to have this opportunity to ask the Minister of Health once again to answer the question. The question we put to the Minister of Health today has to do with private MRIs, which this minister announced on July 8, and in that announcement he said there would be 20 MRIs privately run and that he was going to institute a process for a request for proposal to bring these private companies on stream.

He was asked a hundred questions that day by the press and we found the answers to many of them very disturbing. In particular, he was asked if people would be able to pay cash. The answer was yes. There are a number of things that came out of that announcement. For example, would people able to go to the private clinics for things that are not considered medically necessary? The answer was yes.

Interjection: Pretty scary.

Mrs Pupatello: It's terrible. The outcome of course, we realized on our side of the House, is that this would mean that people would be able to jump the queue. We have a tremendous amount of difficulty with the ideology that is driving the notion of introducing private MRIs in Ontario. The question was then put to me a few days later, "If Tie Domi and I are sitting in a waiting room waiting for an MRI and I need the MRI more than he does, are you telling me that I'm actually going to get in before Tie Domi?" The answer is a resounding yes. In our way of thinking, people get medically necessary services on a needs basis. The people who need the services the most should get the services first.

This is what this minister and the Harris-Eves government are throwing right out the window. As soon as you introduce another payer, people being able to come in and pay cash for those services, it is that one rule that would allow private clinics to make more money. Unless these private clinics operate with a different set of rules than our publicly funded system, the only way they can make money is if they have a different set of rules. We want to know what those rules are. At estimates committee last week, this minister acknowledged under questioning that in fact he would be considering giving capital dollars to these private companies for the equipment. This is a huge departure for the government to be moving toward.

This is what I showed the minister in the House today: a list of 18 hospitals across Ontario, those that have raised money to purchase the equipment. These are hospitals that have put their proposals forward, who want MRIs today. These are hospitals that are waiting for approval and have not been granted that approval. But this minister is prepared to institute a whole new process to deal with the private sector instead of those hospitals that have already raised the money from the community for their purchase, and he will not move forward on these.

We sat at committee, and members from the Conservative Party sat at that committee with us and they asked the Minister of Health, "When is my hospital getting its MRI? We've already raised the money." On behalf of those backbenchers on the government side, I ask the minister, when are you going to give approvals to the 18 hospitals that are already requesting it? We have a dire need for this in our province.


This minister is also the one who did not acknowledge the fact that there are waiting lists for all kinds of diagnostics in Ontario, but in particular MRIs and CTs. This government will stand up and talk about how much money they're putting in to increase operating funds, etc. The reality is that while you want to say you're increasing health dollars in our system, ask the people on the street, ask the people in your neighbourhood if health care is better today than it was eight years ago when Harris-Eves took over. Is it a better health care system today? You will realize it is a resounding no. The discussion around private MRI clinics in particular just puts more fear in the public mind. Will that senior who needs the MRI have the cash to move through the system quickly, because that's what it would take to move ahead quickly under this government's notion.

I guess what's most important is -- and I ask the minister again -- tell me that you are not going strictly on ideological grounds, that you actually have evidence that this system would work. Prove to us that this is a better system. The only evidence that exists today in Ontario suggests that it will not work. Every other jurisdiction has told us it simply won't work. So I ask the Minister of Health again; prove to us that private MRIs are the way to go, prove to us that you will not break the Canada Health Act by introducing them into our system. Instead, we believe you should be funding these MRIs through the public system, in particular the 18 hospitals right across the province that desperately need them.

The Acting Speaker (Mr Michael A. Brown): The parliamentary assistant has up to five minutes to respond.

Mr John O'Toole (Durham): It is my privilege to stand on behalf of the Minister of Health and Long-Term Care, the Honourable Tony Clement, and associate minister Dan Newman and respond to the member from Windsor West, who I believe did receive an adequate response earlier today during question period, but I think she tries to raise the issue again for the theatre. In fact, she brought the same issue up during the estimates process. I believe she was given a very satisfactory response then.

The member is talking about the improved delivery of MRIs through independent health facilities. As part of this government's $645-million increase to hospitals, we have committed an additional $28.3 million to increase the hours of operation of hospital MRI machines. This is an increase of 90%, and I believe it will go a long way to solving the waiting lists that patients might endure.

In more human terms, it is estimated that this announcement means that every year an additional 43,000 patient visits will benefit from this increased access to MRIs. I'm happy to tell you that the government of Ontario, as a result of this infusion, will proceed with plans to provide up to 20 MRI machines and five new computerized tomography scanners -- CT scanners. This means that tens of thousands of patients all across the province, many in underserviced areas, will benefit from this announcement. It means we will significantly increase the number of MRI machines our government has brought to this province, bringing the total number of funded MRI machines to 63, from 12 machines when we were elected in 1995. This represents an increase of 425% in the number of MRI machines in the province of Ontario. This is more than four times the number of MRI machines the Liberal and NDP governments combined had during their 10 years of, some would say, mismanagement.

It means that patients all across Ontario will soon have improved access to the latest diagnostic tools, available faster with even more reduced waiting times and frustration times and, I might say, closer to home. The new MRI machines and CAT scans will operate through the existing Independent Health Facilities Act -- IHFA -- within Ontario's universally acceptable, publicly funded health care system. As you know, there are already close to 1,000 independent health facilities operating in Ontario. This is not news. Since they were introduced in 1989, during the reign of terror -- no, the reign of the Liberal government -- independent health facilities have provided patients with faster, quicker accessible diagnostic services like X-rays, ultrasounds, within a universal publicly funded system. MRIs, CAT scans are just the next generation of these machines in diagnostic clinics.

For anyone who has ever had an X-ray or an ultrasound, you know that these services are covered by OHIP and available, free of charge, to OHIP-insured patients. You do not pay. In the same way, MRIs and CAT scans and services offered in these facilities will also be covered by OHIP and offered free of charge, and again, you do not pay.

To quote our Minister of Health last week, "Let me be clear, patients will not be permitted to purchase faster access to these important medical services.... If there's any evidence of queue-jumping we will come down hard ... they will lose their licence."

Our responsibility is to ensure that insured health care services are accessible and available to all citizens.

I should also note that buying faster access to MRIs and CAT scans is at odds with the responsibility to provide comprehensive and equal access to insured health care services. It is against the Canada Health Act and against our own legislation.

By the way, it's not just those of us in this government who are supportive of this idea. Allow me to read what other people have said about our plan to increase the number of MRI machines in this province.

Doctor Elliot Halparin, president of the Ontario Medical Association, whom I have met, said, "It's going to increase access to care." The source is, "Tories Allow 20 MRI Clinics," an article by Jason Tchir in the Toronto Sun.

Doctor Rebecca Peterson, head of radiology at Ottawa Hospital: "There is so much waiting that patients should be happy at this announcement. Any increase in MRI in this area is a boon." The source of this is, "Ontario Approves Private MRI Clinics," an article in the Ottawa Citizen.

Peter O'Brien, vice-president of program support at KGH --

The Acting Speaker: Thank you. There being no further matter to debate, I deem the motion to adjourn to carry.

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

The House adjourned at 1807.