37e législature, 3e session



Wednesday 11 December 2002 Mercredi 11 décembre 2002


















SUPPLY ACT, 2002 /

LOI DE 2002











































LOI DE 2002

Wednesday 11 December 2002 Mercredi 11 décembre 2002

The House met at 1330.



Mr Dwight Duncan (Windsor-St Clair): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: Late last evening, in a very intemperate moment, I lashed out at you, and I wanted to stand in this House and publicly apologize to you, first as a friend and colleague but more importantly as the Speaker of this House and the person charged with keeping order. I was out of line both to you as a friend and to you as the Speaker, and I hope you will accept my humble apologies.

The Speaker (Hon Gary Carr): I appreciate that very much, and I definitely do. You're an honourable member, and I'm pleased to say we're still friends, if I can still say that. Thank you very much. That was a very, very honourable thing to do.



Mr Dave Levac (Brant): I rise in the House today to highlight the actions of the member from Haldimand-Norfolk-Brant opposite. I have been appalled by the continuous attacks the member has made on the Grand Erie District School Board for the difficult decisions they were forced to make due to the government's continuous mismanagement of the education system.

The Grand Erie District School Board also represents the public schools in my riding of Brant, and I have been outraged as the member for Haldimand-Norfolk-Brant has consistently undermined and blamed the school board but has taken no responsibility for his own government's mismanaged and fatally flawed funding formula that forced the school board to announce many schools on a closure study list.

The member should look carefully at the Rozanski document. Dr Rozanski clearly outlined that the provincial government's mismanaged, fatally flawed funding formula has forced many school boards in Ontario to close schools that should never have been closed and should remain open. Dr Rozanski advised the government to increase funding for small rural schools, just as the Ontario Liberals and others have been advising this government since it created the crisis seven years ago.

The member for Haldimand-Norfolk-Brant was too quick to point fingers at anyone but his own government. Now we see that Dr Rozanski has identified single-school communities, like those in the riding of the member opposite and in my riding, as having inadequate funds due to the fatally flawed funding formula implemented by the Harris-Eves government. I challenge the member to accept responsibility on behalf of his own party and apologize for the vicious attacks on that school board.

Dalton McGuinty and the Ontario Liberals have had it right all along about this fatally flawed funding formula. The Ontario Liberals, with our leader, Dalton McGuinty, have a real plan to fix and improve our publicly funded education system.

Mr Ted Chudleigh (Halton): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: It's a tradition in this place that members' statements is not used to attack another member of the House. He can express his own opinions about the education funding formula or Dr Rozanski's report, but the attack on another member in this House during members' statements is against the tradition of this place. I wonder if you might point that out.

The Speaker (Hon Gary Carr): I thank the member for the point of order. The member does know that there is a tradition -- we certainly have slipped a little bit in our tradition? I would ask all members to kindly keep that in mind when we do it. Quite frankly, members' statements didn't used to be very political; they were of issues affecting the constituency. That also has changed. But I appreciate the member's point of order.


Mr Toby Barrett (Haldimand-Norfolk-Brant): In keeping with the spirit of the season, I rise to commend two people.

First, Dale Schott, a native of my riding who grew up in Glen Meyer, works as an animator here in Toronto, and his work could very well be viewed by some of our younger family members. Currently, Dale is a story editor for the animated Moville Mysteries on YTV. Growing in Norfolk, Dale enjoyed doodling and drawing pictures on his friends' muscle cars. It wasn't until he completed the animation program at Sheridan College that he realized he could turn this hobby into a successful career. Recently, Dale visited his hometown and talked to local students about his work. I commend Dale for his success, but most importantly I thank him for remembering his rural roots and sharing stories with others.

Secondly, I would like to commend Tom Millar, another resident of my riding, who recently received a Conservation Pioneer Award from the Conservation Authorities of Ontario. Tom is one of the founding members of the Long Point Foundation for Conservation. Since 1982 he has worked with the foundation, helping to invest more than $980,000 in direct conservation works. Tom is involved in Ducks Unlimited and many other organizations.

It's nice to see that the work of both Tom Millar and Dale Schott does not go unnoticed.


Mr Michael Bryant (St Paul's): It is with sadness and anger that parents, teachers and students in midtown Toronto St Paul's riding received the Ontario government's funding formula critique, the Rozanski report. For years now, Ontarians have been telling the Harris-Eves government that there weren't enough teachers, vice-principals, education assistants, guidance counsellors, special education assistants and resources, transportation, ESL teachers and programs, textbooks, supplies, busing for special-needs students, and the cancellation of outdoor education and music programs, to name only a few of the education deficits wrought under this government. Just in the last few weeks I've joined parents and teachers across the riding of St Paul's at schools -- like Hillcrest, Humewood and John Fisher just in December -- to protest these cuts. We were all shaking our heads at the prospect of the grand old North Toronto Collegiate being razed, re-housed and paved over in a fire sale to make up for the Tory cuts to education.

Ontarians told this government that there wasn't enough, that there were things missing from education because of reckless cuts and reckless underfunding. The government said, "No, no, you're wrong. Everything is fine. The funding formula is working." It turned out that when your education watchdog took a look at the numbers, you were dead wrong. The government was dead wrong. Now you say you'll fix it, and nobody trusts that you'll fix it. Nobody trusts this government with public education. Nobody.



Mr Michael Prue (Beaches-East York): I rise today --


The Speaker (Hon Gary Carr): Order. The member for Beaches-East York has the floor.

Mr Prue: I rise today to pay homage to a great man who recently passed away and to send condolences to his family and friends. That great man was Mr William Keachie. His funeral took place last week here in Toronto. He dedicated a lifetime of service to our community. Right to the end, even though he was 80-plus years old, he delivered meals every day for Meals on Wheels. He was active in the East York lawn bowling club and was one of the founders and one of the people who continually showed up for the East York seniors' games and the Ontario Games.

But perhaps people know him best from his work in the Boy Scouts. He was a lifelong Boy Scout for over 50 years. He did remarkable work for the people, particularly for the young men in the Regent Park-Cabbagetown area, where he was a scoutmaster at what was then St Enoch's church. For generations of young men he helped to make the difference in a lifetime and in the lifestyle of that particular community.

He certainly had a great influence on my life and I think countless others. We remember him with pride. We remember him with gratitude. To his family and friends we give our condolences, but we ask them to remember that his contribution will go on and on. Thank you very much, William Keachie.


Ms Marilyn Mushinski (Scarborough Centre): Yesterday both the Premier and the Minister of Education welcomed the Rozanski report's recommendations to improve education in Ontario.

I want to tell this House that I have proof that the education system is pretty good right now. That proof is in the work and dedication of a very special teacher, Mrs Peers. Mrs Peers happens to be the grade 1 teacher of my grandson Cameron at Donwood Park Junior Public School in my riding of Scarborough Centre. I prefer to refer to Mrs Peers as a professional educator. She is a mother and a Girl Guides leader and is actively involved in all aspects of community life. Above all, she puts kids first.

Recently, Cameron came home with his first report card. I don't particularly want to be a bragging grandma, but he did very well. More importantly, he enjoys school, largely because of his excellent teacher. He sings in the choir, he's learning how to play the piano and he will be enthusiastically participating in his first Christmas concert next week.

I want to salute the efforts of all hard-working teachers in Ontario who, like Mrs Peers, give their all so that our children and our grandchildren will have bright futures.


Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): The recently released report of University of Guelph president Mordechai Rozanski has exposed the damaging effect of massive cuts to education in Ontario since 1995 and has pointed the way to a solution to this mess.

According to the Eves government's own formula, there are 15,000 fewer teachers in the classrooms now than there should have been using the 1991 formula.

The Rozanski report is just the latest of several warnings given to the government about the damage that would be felt by underfunding the education system, including a lack of adequate books and other educational tools, an inadequate number of teachers, the closing of schools based upon far too restrictive guidelines, the disappearance of secretarial and custodial staff, the deterioration of existing buildings and the deletion of vice-principal positions. Transportation has been severely stressed for the past seven years as well.

The dire need for vast improvements for the support of special education has been brought to the government's attention by the opposition time after time, only to be greeted with accusations of scaremongering by successive education ministers and Premiers.

Now, yet another independent voice has called for an infusion of $250 million for special education to meet this obvious need. What Dr Rozanski has recommended is not new to the government. It is clear that many of his recommendations should have been implemented long ago.

This is an investment in education that is required. Dr Rozanski is an independent voice. Take action now.


Mr Joseph Spina (Brampton Centre): As we draw nearer to the festive holiday season, it is my pleasure to salute and give special thanks to a long-time organizer of the Brampton Santa Claus parade and friend, John Hayes.

John is semi-retiring this year as co-chair of the magical nighttime parade after a successful run of nine years. He was honoured at a special awards ceremony in Brampton recently for his leadership, dedication and hard work. He may be giving up the co-chair title, but he assures everyone that he'll be around to assist in more parades to come.

Organized by the Brampton Board of Trade, with the sponsorship of the Brampton Rotary Club, the parade has grown from a few thousand parade watchers in 1985 to the nighttime illuminated grand spectacle it is today. Over 100,000 people lined the streets this year to see 95 festively decorated floats and bands. It is the largest Santa Claus parade in Ontario outside of Toronto. Children personally deliver their wish lists to Santa's elves.

I applaud all the dedicated volunteers, such as the Brampton District Jaycees, who have helped marshal the parade since its inception 18 years ago. I'm proud to have been the founding chair of the Brampton Santa Claus parade, and I'm very proud to see the tradition that John Hayes carried on as the chair of that committee in making it the most successful parade in Ontario.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.


Mr Joseph Cordiano (York South-Weston): The Rozanski report confirms all of our worst fears and those of parents and students out there: the fact that they have been getting shortchanged by this government for many, many years when it comes to education -- severe underfunding -- and it has led to the closure of many schools.

In my riding, the York Adult Day School is scheduled to be closed in January. Those 600 students, many of whom were here the other day, will have nowhere to go, because there are waiting lists at the remaining schools. There are waiting lists, and they are operating at full capacity, so they have nowhere to go. Six hundred students simply cannot continue their education, a second chance for most of these students. Single moms, parents who are struggling to make ends meet, who have kids in school themselves, need to continue with their education. What does this government say? They are turning their backs on those people who should be getting help to help themselves and help their families. This government turns its back and doesn't want to have anything to do with it.

Frankly, the Rozanski report confirms the fact that this government has shut the door when it comes to education, and adult education in particular. They have closed the door on all those people: new Canadians, single mothers. They really don't care about their concerns. They really have shut the door on them. Shame on you, government.


Mr R. Gary Stewart (Peterborough): I'd like to take this opportunity to relate a good-news story from my riding of Peterborough. Our community college, Sir Sandford Fleming College, and its board of governors took a substantial risk this year in running an operating deficit for the first time in the history of the college. They took this risk in order to mount new programs and to expand additional sections in established programs in order to fulfill access obligations. Some of the new programs are computer security and investigations, pre-service firefighting and practical nursing.

Also, the college believed there would be a greater demand this past fall from students who are fast-tracking. This belief was confirmed, as first-year enrolment increased by 14.8% and winter intake registrations are presently running 40.8% ahead of registrations at this time last year.

I'd like to congratulate Sir Sandford Fleming's president, Brian Desbiens, its board of directors and its employees. The substantial risk in running an operating deficit paid dividends for the college, its students and our government. Everyone is a winner. Our government's recent announcement of a $500,000 increase in operating grants benefits Fleming college because it will assist them in closing their operating deficit for 2002-03, and the entire student body will benefit greatly from the added programs and increased access.

I feel this is a great example of the college and our government working together to provide excellent post-secondary education opportunities for the citizens of this great province.


Mr Dave Levac (Brant): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I'd like to introduce, in the west gallery today, some very special citizens from Brantford, Mr George and Mrs Evelyn Stapleton, and from Paris, Mr Doug and Mrs Eva Brockbank, who have joined us today in an event that raised money for our hospital system in Brantford and Paris. I want to thank them for participating. They got to see what's going on in our democracy and they are waiting with bated breath for question period.

I want to thank them for being here, and we welcome them.

Mr Jean-Marc Lalonde (Glengarry-Prescott-Russell): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I'd like to welcome some very important visitors from eastern Ontario. They are from my own area: my brother-in-law Michel Charron and his wife, Madeleine, Colette Sarazin and Madeleine Hurtubise, who are here with us today. Welcome to Queen's Park.

Mr Gilles Bisson (Timmins-James Bay): On a point of order, Speaker: I'd like to welcome to the House the assembled chiefs of the Mushkegowuck council. We have with us today Chief Leo Friday from Kashachewan. We also have with us the chief and deputy chief from Moose Factory, Norm Hardisty and Charlie Cheechoo. We have with us as well chiefs from the assembled communities of Fort Albany and deputy chiefs from different communities.

This is a bit of an historic occasion: we'll be meeting later on this afternoon with various ministers of the crown, and we're looking forward to this opportunity for the chiefs to meet with the the cabinet ministers. I'd like to welcome them to this assembly.

The Speaker (Hon Gary Carr): Welcome to our guests.

Mr Ted Arnott (Waterloo-Wellington): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I wish to welcome those of the Firefighters Association of Ontario who are here today as well. Please join me in welcoming them.




The Speaker (Hon Gary Carr): I beg to inform the House that today the Clerk received the 13th report of the standing committee on government agencies. Pursuant to standing order 106(e), the report is deemed to be adopted by the House.


Mr Bill Murdoch (Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound): I beg leave to present a report from the standing committee on regulations and private bills and move its adoption.

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

Bill Pr17, An Act respecting the Reena Foundation.

Your committee further recommends that the fees and the actual cost of printing at all stages be remitted on Bill Pr17, An Act respecting the Reena Foundation.

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



Mrs Pupatello moved first reading of the following bill:

An Act respecting Canterbury University College.

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

The member for a short statement?

Mrs Sandra Pupatello (Windsor West): Canterbury College, the applicant, has applied for special legislation to alter its organizational and administrative structures, and to change its name to Canterbury University College.

SUPPLY ACT, 2002 /

Mrs Ecker moved first reading of the following bill:

Bill 229, An Act to authorize the payment of certain amounts for the public service for the fiscal year ending on March 31, 2003 / Projet de loi 229, Loi autorisant le paiement de certaines sommes destinées à la fonction publique pour l'exercice se terminant le 31 mars 2003.

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

LOI DE 2002

Mr Bartolucci moved first reading of the following bill:

Bill 230, An Act to protect adults from abuse and neglect / Projet de loi 230, Loi visant à protéger les adultes contre la maltraitance et la négligence.

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

The member for a short statement?

Mr Rick Bartolucci (Sudbury): This Adult Protection Act provides for the appointment of the director of the adult protection office to provide protection for abused and neglected adults who are unable to protect themselves from abuse or neglect due to physical or mental disability or infirmity.

The bill provides for mandatory reporting of adult abuse or neglect to the director of the adult protection office and requires the director to make inquiries with respect to all such reports.

An abused adult is an adult who is either a victim of abuse on the premises where he or she resides, is incapable of protecting himself or herself from abuse by reason of physical or mental disability or infirmity, and refuses, delays or is unable to make provision for his or her protection from abuse.

Abuse means one or more of the following: physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, medication abuse, financial abuse or abuse of the person's rights and freedoms.

I move this and hope that the House adopts it quickly.


Mrs Johns moved first reading of the following bill:

Bill 231, An Act to amend the repeal date of the Edible Oil Products Act / Projet de loi 231, Loi modifiant la date d'abrogation de la Loi sur les produits oléagineux comestibles.

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

The minister for a short statement?

Hon Helen Johns (Minister of Agriculture and Food): This amendment I am tabling today is a result of a great deal of consultation with many key individuals over the last few weeks, days and even hours. On the industry side, the Dairy Farmers of Ontario and the Ontario soy bean growers worked hard with producers and processors across the province. I want to thank them for their help and contribution in reaching this consensus position. Here in the House I want to acknowledge the agriculture critic, Steve Peters, and my wonderful friend the House leader for the NDP, from Welland, and I want to thank you very much for the work you've done to help me get a consensus in the House today.

At this time I believe I have, and would like to ask for unanimous consent to move both second and third readings of this bill.

The Speaker: Is there unanimous consent? Agreed.


Mrs Johns moved second reading of the following bill:

Bill 231, An Act to amend the repeal date of the Edible Oil Products Act / Projet de loi 231, Loi modifiant la date d'abrogation de la Loi sur les produits oléagineux comestibles.

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


Mrs Johns moved third reading of the following bill:

Bill 231, An Act to amend the repeal date of the Edible Oil Products Act / Projet de loi 231, Loi modifiant la date d'abrogation de la Loi sur les produits oléagineux comestibles.

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

Be it resolved that the bill do now pass and be entitled as in the motion.



Mrs McLeod moved first reading of the following bill:

Bill 232, An Act to enhance the safety of children in supervised play settings / Projet de loi 232, Loi visant à accroître la sécurité des enfants dans les aires de jeux surveillées.

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

The member for a short statement?

Mrs Lyn McLeod (Thunder Bay-Atikokan): The purpose of this bill is to give cabinet the authority to establish minimum standards for the safety of children who are left is supervised play settings which are not now governed by any kind of regulation.


Mr Christopherson moved first reading of the following bill:

Bill 233, An Act to amend the Assessment Act to more fairly permit exemptions from assessment to benefit senior citizens and disabled persons / Projet de loi 233, Loi modifiant la Loi sur l'évaluation foncière pour rendre l'exemption d'impôt plus équitable à l'égard des personnes âgées ou ayant une incapacité.

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

The member for a short statement?

Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton West): I would like to thank Reg Michor for his significant help in drafting this bill. Reg has worked tirelessly for many years to improve the situation for the disabled who choose to live independently. There is widespread support for this bill. The need to enable more families to benefit from this kind of legislation is timely and, in my opinion, worthy of government consideration.

Hon Chris Stockwell (Minister of the Environment, Government House Leader): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I haven't seen the bill and I don't know the contents of the bill, but I would just ask that you review the bill for its orderliness with respect to the cost components to the financial base of the province of Ontario. I'm not saying I'm against the bill or in favour; I just need to know whether it's in fact in order.

The Speaker: We do that on all bills and will on this one as well.


Mr Coburn moved first reading of the following bill:

Bill 234, An Act to reduce red tape with respect to rural and other matters / Projet de loi 234, Loi visant à réduire les formalités administratives relatives aux affaires rurales et à d'autres questions.

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


Mr Lalonde moved first reading of the following bill:

Bill 235, An Act to prohibit municipalities from issuing building permits in respect of hog farms / Projet de loi 235, Loi interdisant aux municipalités de délivrer des permis de construire en ce qui concerne les exploitations porcines.

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

All those in favour will please say "aye."

All those opposed will please say "nay."

In my opinion, the ayes have it. Carried.

The member for a short statement?

Mr Jean-Marc Lalonde (Glengarry-Prescott-Russell): The bill prohibits municipalities from issuing building permits for the construction or expansion of hog farms until after December 31, 2003. Now that we know the health effect that hog manure could create and also since Quebec has a moratorium on all expansion and new construction of hog farms in 281 municipalities, this bill will give power to municipalities to turn down all applications or new construction until all regulations of the Nutrient Management Act are in place.


Ms Di Cocco moved first reading of the following bill:

Bill 236, An Act to amend the Environmental Protection Act to require the pre-treatment of hazardous waste before it is used as landfill / Projet de loi 236, Loi modifiant la Loi sur la protection de l'environnement pour exiger le prétraitement des déchets dangereux avant leur dépôt dans une décharge.

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

The member for a short statement?

Ms Caroline Di Cocco (Sarnia-Lambton): This bill will change the fact that Ontario is the only jurisdiction on the continent of North America that does not require pre-treatment of hazardous waste before disposal. The bill amends the Environmental Protection Act by requiring the pre-treatment of hazardous waste before it is disposed of in a landfill.



Hon Chris Stockwell (Minister of the Environment, Government House Leader): I move that the standing committee on public accounts be authorized to meet for up to 12 days during the upcoming recess to complete report writing and to conduct its review of the 2002 annual report of the Provincial Auditor of Ontario. The committee shall also be authorized to release its report by depositing a copy of any report with the Clerk of the House.

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



Hon Brian Coburn (Associate Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing): It gives me great pleasure this afternoon to introduce a bill that, if passed, will encourage economic growth, improve the environment for investment, and reduce red tape and remove barriers to jobs in rural Ontario.

The Rural Red Tape Reduction Act, 2002, amends provincial legislation to remove impediments to rural business development. These amendments respond to key issues and priorities identified by rural businesses, which the government has consulted with over the past two years.

The extent of these consultations demonstrates our strong commitment to rural Ontario. The latest of these was last June, when Premier Eves and Minister Johns held round tables with agriculture and food industries to establish key priorities to strengthen rural businesses. In the fall of 2001, the Red Tape Commission held consultations with 600 small business owners in 20 communities. In the summer of 2001, when I was the Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, I hosted a series of small business round tables across Ontario as a follow-up to a report a year earlier of the task force on rural economic renewal, headed by the Honourable Doug Galt.

As a result of these consultations, we have developed a red tape reduction plan that recognizes the unique challenges facing rural communities. This bill is an important part of that plan.

Let me mention just a few of the highlights. The Rural Red Tape Reduction Act, 2002, includes measures to enhance self-governance of veterinarians, and if passed, it would give increased flexibility to farm implement dealers, distributors and manufacturers. This bill also provides amendments for the Co-operative Corporations Act to help improve the administration of co-operatives.

Ontario's rural communities are indeed a key part of the fabric of Ontario's economy and of our society. We recognize that our smaller and rural communities often face different challenges and opportunities than the urban areas. Yet they should have access to the same types of opportunities for economic growth as our larger urban centres.

The Rural Red Tape Reduction Act, 2002, is one component of a wider initiative to build sustainable businesses and stronger rural communities, giving them equality of opportunity. It's part of our government's comprehensive plan to strengthen rural communities and to create a better quality of life for everyone in our province.

Mr Steve Peters (Elgin-Middlesex-London): It was quite interesting to listen to the comments of the minister for rural affairs during the introduction to this bill. I guess my first opening comment would be: if these issues were so important to this government, why did they wait until the very last minute, as this Legislature is about to rise, and then introduce these changes? This is last-minute.


You look at this bill; we could have been dealing with these things much earlier. In the fall of 2001 the consultations took place for rural areas. The farm implements bill was introduced by Toby Barrett in the fall of 2001. Bill 87 and the amendments we just dealt with today with the repeal of the Edible Oil Products Act -- again one year ago. Here we are, one year later.

This is a government that has had seven years to address issues facing rural Ontario, and for the most part they've dragged their feet. They've left rural Ontario behind. They've downloaded an undue amount of programs to rural municipalities. Rural municipalities are facing a real challenge right now, and here we are, at the very last minute, probably going to see closure on this bill to ram these things through the Legislature.

It is sad that this is a government that, when it comes to rural and agricultural issues, drags its feet. We can see that these issues were here over a year ago. They dragged their feet, they sat on issues, these consultations, so that here we are at the last minute dealing with the edible oils act, and these consultations should have taken place last year. But here we are, at the last minute.

The minister talks about the consultations in the past two weeks. I'd be very curious to see what the phone lines have been like over the last 24 hours, because these consultations should have been done a long time ago. I'm proud that the Liberal Party recognized early on that we needed to light a fire under this government, and we did that yesterday by introducing the amendment. They needed a fire lit under them. They hadn't moved.

The minister talks about rural economic development. One thing that's not addressed in the bill we have here is the whole question of taxation in rural Ontario. It is a huge issue. As the Ministry of Agriculture and the ministry of rural affairs, you've encouraged farmers to add value to what they do on their farms. Then the farmers go and add value to their farms, be it a fruit winery or a maple syrup operation, and then, because of the rise of their municipal taxes, they're questioning why they were encouraged by this government to do that. There's nothing in this legislation that I can see in a cursory review that in any way addresses some of the taxation issues that are facing the agricultural community in rural Ontario right now. Look at what's happening with assessments across this province right now. Who is taking the biggest brunt of assessment shifts in this province? It's agriculture. There's nothing in here to deal with that on behalf of the farmers.

Some of the changes in here dealing with food safety legislation: the question of biosecurity needs to be strictly enforced. We need to ensure too, though, as far food safety is concerned -- we've seen the cuts that have happened in the animal health lab at the University of Guelph. The animal health lab is our first line of defence. We just heard recently from the Minister of Health that tests that had to be undertaken had to be sent out of the province. Had this government adequately funded the University of Guelph and the animal health lab, those tests could have been done right here in our own backyard and sent to another province.

Contained in this bill too -- I don't have a problem with it -- is the correction of Mr Murdoch's tartan bill. It's interesting that we had the wrong colour. Then what else was slid into this? Again, you're famous for your omnibus bills: something else with the 407, because you messed it up when you sold it. You gouged the taxpayers of this province when you sold the 407 and, again, you're going to benefit your friends Al Leach and SNC-Lavalin. You sold out the taxpayers. You told the taxpayers of this province, "Don't worry, we're going to hold the line on tolls. Nothing is going to happen with tolls." We've seen tolls skyrocket and go through the roof. So you've obviously messed up again with Highway 407.

But there's one thing I hope you have done. This is to allow you to have access to hydro corridors. I hope you put a provision in this bill that Hydro One vehicles aren't going to have to pay tolls on the 407, but I bet you didn't do that and we're going to have to pay tolls on the 407.

Mr Howard Hampton (Kenora-Rainy River): I'm pleased to respond to what the government calls the Rural Red Tape Reduction Act. I note that one of the major parts of this bill will be to amend the description of the first block of colour in the tartan of the province of Ontario. I wonder what that has to do with rural economic development. Has this government got a plan to turn every village and small community in rural Ontario into a tartan demonstration centre or something?

The government wants people in rural Ontario to believe that this bill is somehow addressing their issues. I don't see anything in here about electricity and the government's plan -- scheme -- to sell off 49% of the transmission system in the middle of the night, something which virtually everyone in rural Ontario is absolutely opposed to, because they know that once you sell 49% to a private company, the private company will want to raise the rates to make more profit, which means the hydro bill goes up. I don't see anything in here which is going to explain to people in rural Ontario why, even after the pre-election rate caps come into place, they're going to continue to pay more to Hydro for hydro distribution and more for hydro transmission and why, under this government's scheme, they're going to pay more of the GST and why they're going to pay more to IMO and why they're going to pay more for expensive imported power. None of these issues are addressed in this bill.

When I was travelling across rural Ontario in the public power bus, a lot of people in rural Ontario wanted to talk to me about the local school, because under this government's agenda the local school, in many cases, is being closed. Is there anything in this bill that's going to deal with the closure of small schools in rural Ontario, cutting the heart out of the community? Nothing -- it's about tartans. This, according to the Conservative government, is the burning issue in rural Ontario today. I suppose maybe there are a few people who might be concerned about a tartan, but the people I talk to want to know about the community school. How do you sustain the community when the government wants to close the community school?

The other point they raised was, how do you operate the local community health centre or the hospital when you don't have enough nurses any more and when you can't get a doctor? Is there anything in this bill about that? No, it's about tartans.

So the burning issues in rural Ontario: what about those high electricity prices? Nothing. The second burning issue: what about our community school and the fact it's going to be closed? Nothing. The third burning issue: how do we get a family doctor and some nurses to work in the local health centre? Nothing. I gather, according to this government, the people of rural Ontario are all supposed to wear tartans and that'll fix the problem.

Mr Michael Prue (Beaches-East York): I rise on one final issue on this bill. It is indeed an omnibus bill, because most of what it contains does not involve the rural community but in fact all of Ontario. I speak especially about the 407. Here we have in this bill the authority to put transmission lines across the 407, but what it does not contain in this bill is all the problems related to the ordinary commuters who use the 407 every day, ordinary commuters who cannot get their transponders repaired, ordinary commuters who cannot get anyone to answer the telephone when they have a problem, ordinary commuters who are starting to pay far too much for the privilege of riding on that road, ordinary commuters who cannot have any action with that corporation at all -- a corporation that is absolutely aloof, that is only good at one thing, and that is taking their money and not providing the services they should. It seems very good that we can put some electricity transmission lines across the road; what this government should be doing is putting some phone lines into the office and putting some people on those phones so that they're answered and so that the commuters can actually get some use out of that road.



Mr Bart Maves (Niagara Falls): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I'd like to let everyone in the House, all of my colleagues, know that I'm joined today by two people in the public gallery who are very important to me. They will be leaving before question period. This is my six-year-old daughter, Aynsley, and my four-year-old son, Spencer.

Hon Jerry J. Ouellette (Minister of Natural Resources): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I would like to introduce the staff and students from a school in my riding. They've come here today from Monsignor John Pereyma to watch the proceedings in the House today, and I welcome them.

Hon Brian Coburn (Associate Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing): I would ask my colleagues to join me in welcoming Mr Keith Butte here today, who is the father of our page Nicholas Butte, from the great riding of Ottawa-Orléans, in the east gallery.

Hon Helen Johns (Minister of Agriculture and Food): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I think everyone can tell that it's our Christmas party on this side of the House. I have my niece here, Danielle Hosick.



Deferred vote on the motion for third reading of Bill 30, An Act to amend the Fire Protection and Prevention Act, 1997 in order to protect the employment of volunteer firefighters / Projet de loi 30, Loi modifiant la Loi de 1997 sur la prévention et la protection contre l'incendie afin de protéger l'emploi des pompiers volontaires.

The Speaker (Hon Gary Carr): Call in the members. This will be a five-minute bell.

The division bells rang from 1421 to 1426.

The Speaker: Just so that everybody is clear, all those who are in favour will please rise and remain standing until they've been checked by the Clerk. So please rise and remaining standing if you're in favour of it.


Arnott, Ted

Baird, John R.

Barrett, Toby

Beaubien, Marcel

Boyer, Claudette

Chudleigh, Ted

Clark, Brad

Clement, Tony

Coburn, Brian

Conway, Sean G.

DeFaria, Carl

Galt, Doug

Gilchrist, Steve

Gill, Raminder

Hardeman, Ernie

Hodgson, Chris

Hudak, Tim

Johns, Helen

Johnson, Bert

Klees, Frank

Marland, Margaret

Maves, Bart

McMeekin, Ted

Miller, Norm

Molinari, Tina R.

Munro, Julia

Murdoch, Bill

O'Toole, John

Sampson, Rob

Snobelen, John

Spina, Joseph

Sterling, Norman W.

Stewart, R. Gary

Stockwell, Chris

Tascona, Joseph N.

Turnbull, David

Wilson, Jim

The Speaker: All those opposed will please rise and remain standing until recognized by the Clerk.


Agostino, Dominic

Bartolucci, Rick

Bisson, Gilles

Bountrogianni, Marie

Bradley, James J.

Brown, Michael A.

Bryant, Michael

Caplan, David

Christopherson, David

Churley, Marilyn

Colle, Mike

Cordiano, Joseph

Crozier, Bruce

Cunningham, Dianne

Curling, Alvin

Di Cocco, Caroline

Dombrowsky, Leona

Duncan, Dwight

Ecker, Janet

Elliott, Brenda

Gerretsen, John

Guzzo, Garry J.

Hampton, Howard

Hastings, John

Hoy, Pat

Jackson, Cameron

Kennedy, Gerard

Kormos, Peter

Kwinter, Monte

Levac, David

Martel, shelley

Martin, Tony

Martiniuk, Gerry

Mazzilli, Frank

McGuinty, Dalton

McLeod, Lyn

Newman, Dan

Ouellette, Jerry J.

Parsons, Ernie

Peters, Steve

Phillips, Gerry

Prue, Michael

Pupatello, Sandra

Ramsay, David

Ruprecht, Tony

Sergio, Mario

Smitherman, George

Sorbara, Greg

Tsubouchi, David H.

Wettlaufer, Wayne

Witmer, Elizabeth

Wood, Bob

Clerk of the House (Mr Claude L. DesRosiers): The ayes are 37; the nays are 52.

The Speaker: I declare the motion lost.

Mr Dave Levac (Brant): On a point of order, Speaker: I seek unanimous consent to instruct the Minister of Public Safety and Security to strike a task force by all the stakeholders in order to continue the debate, as was asked for.

Hon Chris Stockwell (Minister of the Environment, Government House Leader): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I understand the request. I don't think it will be accepted on this side, because I don't think we'll act as political cover either.


The Speaker: Order. I would ask if I could have co-operation so I can hear what the results are.

Is there unanimous consent? I'm afraid I heard some noes.



Mr Dalton McGuinty (Leader of the Opposition): My question is for the Minister of Education. Madam Minister, yesterday Dr Rozanski pulled the rug out from under your credibility, the Premier's credibility and your government's credibility on public education. He confirmed and he validated everything that parents and students and teachers and entire communities have been saying for seven long and painful years, and that is that your cuts have compromised our kids' education.

In Kingston, Peterborough, Windsor, London, Kitchener-Waterloo, Niagara Falls, Ottawa -- everywhere you turn -- programs that help our kids succeed were underfunded by you and your government. For seven long years, Madam Minister, you or your predecessors have defended Ernie Eves's cuts to education, whether he made those in his capacity as Premier or as Minister of Finance. The question I have for you is, why should Ontario families, parents and students trust you, given your lengthy and abysmal record when it comes to public education in Ontario?

Hon Elizabeth Witmer (Deputy Premier, Minister of Education): Unfortunately, the Leader of the Opposition gets it all wrong. Yesterday, Dr Rozanski validated the funding formula that we had put in place. He said it is achieving the equity, the stability and the fairness for students in all parts of the province. He said that nobody wants to go back to the way it was. It was a clear, strong word of support for what we have undertaken.

We have been the only government, since 1995, with a plan, a plan to make sure that the students in the province of Ontario achieve success, a plan to do testing, a plan for safe schools, and you as Johnny-come-latelys just recently indicate that you think it's a good idea.

Mr McGuinty: I just can't understand how you can stand there and say that with a straight face. I don't understand it. For year after year after year, you or your predecessors have denied that your government's cuts have hurt our kids. You have blamed teachers, you have blamed the trustees, you have even blamed previous governments.

But Dr Rozanski has been the jury on this matter, and the jury is in. He's telling us that your cuts have compromised our kids' education. He says at the end of the day it was you who closed our schools, it was you who cut special education, it was you who refused to adequately fund textbooks and busing and school repairs. You did all of that and Ontario kids have paid a terrible price as a result. Now you say you want to fix things. Now you say you want to help students. Now you're experiencing some kind of death-bed repentance as you stare into the face of the next election.

I ask you again, Madam Minister, why should parents, why should students, why should those people in this province committed to public education trust you with the future of their schools?

Hon Mrs Witmer: This is unbelievable. I am more convinced than ever today, after the report that was handed to us by Dr Rozanski, that the proposals we have put in place to help our students achieve success are the right ones. I can tell you categorically, despite what you're saying, that Dr Rozanski has validated in every way he possibly could that what we're doing is right for the students in this province. Unlike you, I might add; what did you say?

Interjection: What did he say when?

Hon Mrs Witmer: In 1998 you said, "I don't want to talk about standards. I've got a proposal: provide an independent review of the funding formula." So we do it. What did you say yesterday? "Well, people want to know where I stand on public education." Question: "You're committed to everything in the report?" "No, I didn't say that."

Mr McGuinty: This is just too rich. This is surely a performance worthy of an Oscar nomination, if not a win. What is most disconcerting is that this minister still refuses to acknowledge the truth: that she and her predecessors and this Premier and this government stand in the way of our children getting a quality education in Ontario. Madam Minister, just to remind you, it was you and this government who took away the English-as-a-second-language program from our kids. You took away adult education. You took away our kids' guidance counsellors, their education assistants, their psychologists, their phys-ed teachers, their librarians. For seven long years you have been successfully robbing our children of the quality education that we believe they are entitled to inside our public schools.

Madam Minister, since you lack both, I want to assure you that we've got both the plan and the commitment to get the job done. I'm asking you, Madam Minister, when are you going to get a plan and when are you going to develop the commitment to stand up for public education?

Hon Mrs Witmer: I might ask of the leader opposite, what edition of his plan is he showing us today? And what edition will he show us tomorrow? Our government introduced the changes in education to make sure that all students in this province have the opportunity to achieve success. We introduced the student funding formula. We have now had a review by an independent reviewer. There is confirmation that we are on the right track. We need to update the benchmarks and we plan to do that. In fact, the Premier right now, as I speak, is making an announcement to demonstrate that we are taking immediate action.


The Speaker (Hon Gary Carr): New question.

Mr McGuinty: I think we've heard more than enough from that minister. I'll go to the Minister of Finance. Minister, as you will recall, at first you opposed funding private schools, saying they would fragment our education system and would take millions of dollars out of our public schools; I'm sure you will remember that. You then flip-flopped and said that you supported giving public dollars to private schools.

During the leadership campaign, Ernie Eves called the private school tax credit ludicrous. He then flip-flopped and said he strongly supported putting hundreds of millions of public dollars into private schools. Yesterday, the Premier and the Minister of Education opened the door once again to flip-flopping and told us it might be true that they're in fact prepared to consider changing their minds. I'm asking you, Madam Minister, as the person responsible for this issue ultimately, are you now going to do the right thing and cancel your intention to put half a billion dollars in private schools?

Hon Janet Ecker (Minister of Finance): On this side of the House, this government believes in respecting parental choice. I know the Liberals, who say they respect parental choice -- for them it's only parental choice that they approve of. Well, on this side of the House, we have a little more respect for the parents in this province and how they wish to raise their children.

Mr McGuinty: I guess you simply can't recollect what you said in your capacity as Minister of Education. In your letter to the United Nations, very public for all to see, you said that to fund private schools again would fragment the public education system and would take millions of dollars out of our public schools, where the money was needed. That's what you said.

Now, in your capacity as Minister of Finance, I suggest that you start getting real. You are facing enormous fiscal challenges. Health care is going to demand significantly more investment. As Dr Rozanski reminded you yesterday, public education is in need of significantly more investment. You are so desperate for cash that you are starting to sell off the Ontario family silverware. You're selling off Hydro One, POSO, Ontario Northland, Teranet. With all these tremendous financial pressures, tell me why you still continue to maintain that it is wise, prudent and fiscally responsible to put half a billion dollars into private schools.

Hon Mrs Ecker: I and my colleagues would not support something that would take money out of our public school system, and we've been very consistent on that. As a matter of fact, I put more money in, as the Minister of Education. The current Minister of Education is putting more money in. Even as we speak, the Premier of Ontario is announcing new investments into our public education. I know the honourable member across the way has problems with that, but we think those investments in public education are very, very important.

Mr McGuinty: Here is the fundamental difference between this government today and our government tomorrow: we are committed to public education for all Ontario children. We are committed to repairing the damage that you have caused to our public schools. We will not settle for test scores where one half of our kids are failing to meet the basic standards in reading, writing and mathematics. We will not force small schools to close. We will not tell kids in need of special education to get to the back of a waiting list some 40,000 long. On my watch, I can tell you that if there's any money at all available for education in the province of Ontario, we will not put that money into private schools. We will invest it where it's needed: inside public schools. We are going to stand up for public education.

I ask you, Madam Minister, when are you and the Minister of Education and this government going to start to stand up for public schools?

Hon Mrs Ecker: The honourable member across the way says he will not settle for students not doing well on tests. Well, they didn't agree with student testing. They didn't want student testing. So how were they going to know if our students were actually learning what they were supposed to learn?

On this side of the House, we respect parental choice. We believe in setting high standards for our kids and helping them meet those standards. We believe in putting new investments in the public education system. We believe in doing what we said we would do for the people in Ontario: lower taxes, balanced budgets, new investments in our schools and in our hospitals. We are following our plan because it works: one million net new jobs in this province for Ontario's families, new investments in schools, new investments in hospitals, $14 billion in tax relief. We're going to follow our plan --

The Speaker: The minister's time is up. New question.

Ms Marilyn Churley (Toronto-Danforth): I have a question for the Minister of Education. Minister, your government's chronic shortchanging of students and schools has been exposed. Dr Rozanski says the trustees in Toronto, Hamilton and Ottawa got it right and you got it wrong. They've told you all along that there isn't enough money in the funding formula for Ontario's schools, so your government should put the brakes on any cuts that are planned now at these boards and you should send your supervisors packing today. Will you blunt the axe of your hatchet men by reinstating the public school trustees who were democratically elected by the citizens of this province to do their job?

Hon Mrs Witmer: I appreciate the message from the member opposite, but what the member needs to understand is that for five years the trustees on the board in Toronto, if you want to use it as an example, unfortunately did not take the steps that were necessary to make sure there was equity of funding to all students in Toronto, no matter where they lived. Unfortunately, they have put the board in a very difficult financial situation.

Fortunately, the supervisor has put the Toronto board back on the road to sustainable financial health. I would only hope as well that there will be equitable funding provided for students at the end of the day, whether they are in Scarborough or in Etobicoke or in York or in downtown Toronto.

The Speaker: Supplementary.

Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton West): Deputy Premier, your government said our trustees got it wrong. You said there was enough money for our schools. But Dr Rozanski said the trustees in Hamilton got it right. For four years you've been shortchanging salaries for teachers and support staff. For four years you've been shortchanging special education. For four years you've been shortchanging transportation and textbooks. For four years you've been shortchanging our students.

Minister, will you now stand in your place, admit you got it wrong and reinstate the Hamilton trustees who Dr Rozanski said got it right by refusing to cut any more money from Hamilton's education system?

Hon Mrs Witmer: Unfortunately, Dr Rozanski said no such thing, because Dr Rozanski was not dealing with Ottawa, he wasn't dealing with Toronto and he wasn't dealing with Hamilton. He was dealing with all of the students in the province of Ontario, and he wanted to make sure the funding formula that was put in place in 1998 was providing equitable, fair funding to all students, no matter where they lived.

I would just remind the member that in Hamilton there are many who say the budget could have been balanced, but as you know, they didn't even consider the balanced budget proposals that came forward. They had the chance; they chose not even to look at them.

The Speaker: Final supplementary.

Mr Michael Prue (Beaches-East York): I hope the minister understands that Toronto, Ottawa and Hamilton are all in Ontario, and the people who live in those cities care very much about what is happening to their students. We care very much about our democratic traditions and we care very much about the people we elected to go out there and fight for our students. We are asking you today to put them back into their jobs. We are asking you today to do the right thing and to get rid of the undemocratic supervisors you've put there. If the problem has been solved by Dr Rozanski, then surely the people should be put back in charge.


It's very clear, Madam Minister, that your policies are wrong. The parents and the people of this province want their democratically elected people back in their place. Will you promise today to put them back in their place? Will you promise today to give them sufficient funds to keep our outdoor education centres open, our school secretaries hired and our youth counsellors on the job for the students of our cities?

Hon Mrs Witmer: Despite what the member opposite may say, there are many throughout the province of Ontario who have been very supportive of the direction that has been undertaken by the supervisors. They are very pleased that these boards have been put on the road to financial health, that there is a plan of action.

I think it's also very important to remember, yes, we have students in Hamilton, Ottawa, and Toronto, but we also have students in Thunder Bay, in Timmins, in Brockville and in Windsor. This review was all about making sure that no matter where you lived, you had to the same access to the same programs and the same services.


Mr Tony Martin (Sault Ste Marie): My question is for the Minister of Community, Family and Children's Services. Last spring, you raised the hopes of the 192,000 people who are forced to live in poverty because your government has frozen Ontario disability support payments for more than seven years. You promised to review the program and suggested that you believed they needed a raise. Six months later, we've heard nothing from you. That's six more months of poverty. You have had more than enough time. The disabled of this province have been more than patient. They want an answer today. Are you going to raise the ODSP payments?

Hon Brenda Elliott (Minister of Community, Family and Children's Services): I thank my colleague across the way for the question. We on this side of the House have been very diligent in undertaking efforts to improve the lives of those who are disabled here in Ontario. My colleague has asked me this issue here a number of times in the House and I have to come back to him each time with this reminder: it's our government, following five years of disastrous government, with him as part of that whole debacle, that finally took a close look at the welfare system in the province of Ontario, the province where we saw 1.3 million people slide into welfare and the endless despair that that would bring if nothing changed.

Not only did we reform the welfare system but we also, for the first time, took those who were suffering with disabilities into a whole new plan that set them apart, that gave them an opportunity to partake in different benefits and also to become much more familiar with the whole concept of not just being disabled but having an opportunity to move into jobs and to be in equal employment.

Mr Martin: Minister, I want you to read my lips here. This is a simple yes or no question. Are you or are you not going to raise the ODSP payments?

Hon Mrs Elliott: I have indicated that we are certainly interested in doing more for those who are disabled in the province of Ontario, and I remind my colleague across the way that we have already done much more for those who are disabled in the province of Ontario. We took them out of the welfare trap. We added a number of different benefits and programs that had never been there before. We removed the label of permanently unemployed. We required that those who are disabled no longer had to go through that endless reconfirmation of their disability when that disability was not expected to improve; more generous and flexible rules for families and friends to help them with the cost of gifts and inheritances; increased asset limits, coupled with improved policies.

I can read through the whole list of things that are done here as part of the improvements for the Ontario disability support plan. Suffice to say that we have made a number of changes and we anticipate making more in the future.


Mr David Caplan (Don Valley East): I have a question for the Minister of Education. Yesterday Dr Rozanski issued a stinging indictment of your mismanagement of education. Your rhetoric about directing greater resources into Ontario's classrooms has been exposed as a charade.

The Harris-Eves government has, without regard for the consequences, deliberately robbed our children of funding at the Toronto District School Board to the tune of $2,100 per pupil. Even worse, you appointed a supervisor to make further cuts. Minister, it's finally time for you to take responsibility and show some leadership. In light of Rozanski's findings, the proper thing to do is to terminate Paul Christie. The TDSB is having its organizational meeting tonight. Will you restore the authority of the Toronto District School Board trustees to allow them to get to the business of providing the best possible education for children in the city of Toronto?

Hon Elizabeth Witmer (Deputy Premier, Minister of Education): The member opposite talks about the right thing to do. I can tell you that at the present time, our Premier, Premier Eves, is doing the right thing. He is announcing 250 million additional dollars for special-education students. We are not only increasing the money by $130 million; we're also adding the remaining $120 million.

We're doing the right thing for students in this province. We're making sure that all the students, no matter where they live, are going to get the support they need.

The Speaker (Hon Gary Carr): Supplementary?

Mr Alvin Curling (Scarborough-Rouge River): The Rozanski report was clear. It confirms what the leader Dalton McGuinty has been saying. Your funding cuts have hurt children in the classroom. When you removed adult education programs, you shattered the dreams of single mothers and a second chance for their education. When you eliminate English-as-a-second-language programs, you're hurting our kids and the diversity we cherish. Forty thousand kids are on waiting lists for special education.

Communities like Scarborough-Rouge River are the new face of Ontario, yet you don't seem to realize that. How can you reconcile all this? Will you admit that your course of action was wrong, and when will you rectify education funding and put it back in place?

Hon Mrs Witmer: I would just repeat one more time that yesterday was a validation of the student funding formula. Yesterday has been supported -- if you had been in the room yesterday with the chairperson and the directors from across the province of Ontario, I can tell you there are a lot of very happy people in this province because they know that the plan we have had in place since 1995 is helping students achieve success. They also know that when it comes to international testing, at the present time our province is second to only one other country in literacy, and that's Finland. Our student funding formula is working. It is helping all of our students, no matter where they live, achieve the success that they deserve and that they need.


Mr Raminder Gill (Bramalea-Gore-Malton-Springdale): My question is for the hard-working and straight-shooting Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities. We all know that a skilled workforce is essential to a strong economy. Employers are demanding highly trained graduates who are ready to go directly into the workforce and contribute to our economy. Ontario colleges of applied arts and technology are essential to training the next generation of skilled workers in our province. Colleges provide programs that are closely tied to the job market and often deliver the classroom portion of apprenticeship training.

This year's budget committed new funding to upgrade the equipment and resources available to students in Ontario's colleges. Minister, can you give us an update on the status of this funding and the good work it is doing to ensure that Ontario college students have access to the modern equipment and resources that will help them to be more productive in the workplace?


Hon Dianne Cunningham (Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities, minister responsible for women's issues): I would really like to thank my honourable colleague for this question. He has been the author of one of the most important research documents and public hearings in the province of Ontario on apprenticeship training, and I want to thank him very much for the Gill report.

We already have committed to increase funding for Ontario's colleges to support increased enrolment. Beyond that, we have committed some $50 million to help colleges purchase new equipment and learning resources to support high-quality and relevant education for Ontario students.

The college equipment and renewal fund will invest $10 million a year for the next five years to improve the resources that students need to help them learn. I'd like to thank the partnerships of the community and the businesses that are giving these students opportunities and participating in the purchase of equipment to make our colleges better than they ever have been.

Mr Gill: Minister, thank you for your support during the writing of that report. It was a very important report for Ontario.

Minister, every community in Ontario is different, and every college is different. Members who have met with the college community will know that colleges that serve northern and rural communities face different challenges. These can range from higher costs due to distance to the need to operate programs with fewer students in smaller communities.

Premier Eves recently announced $16 million in new support to ensure that both colleges and universities that serve Ontario's northern and rural regions remain strong and can continue to provide a high level of service to their students and those communities.

Minister, can you give us details of this funding and tell us how it will support a strong college system in Ontario?

Hon Mrs Cunningham: In response to my colleague, I will say that in Sault Ste Marie on November 28 Mr Eves did in fact announce $16 million in northern colleges and universities funding. Algoma University received half a million dollars. Sault College of Applied Arts and Technology received $1.1 million.

This is just an indication of our commitment to northern communities to make sure that in fact young people get the training they need, that we double the number of apprenticeship programs. Of the $16 million that was announced, $10 million will be used to support Ontario colleges that serve northern and rural communities. This northern and rural college grant was created especially so that we can provide these colleges with the opportunities for Ontarians where they live and close to their own communities so that they can be contributing members and help the economy of this great province.


Mrs Marie Bountrogianni (Hamilton Mountain): My question is for the Minister of Education. Minister, it is clear that despite interpretations of the funding formula, the Rozanski report did indicate that you've been underfunding education.

This afternoon, as you have stated, the Premier will be making an announcement. Shall we guess? More funding? This is the typical Tory story. First you create a crisis, you underfund something, and then you come in just before an election or a by-election and you throw money back in.

Minister, you suspended a democratically elected board of trustees in my city of Hamilton which refused to pass a budget that ignored the needs of students. Will you now at least agree that these trustees were doing their job in looking out for student needs and fire your highly paid supervisor and his highly paid spin doctor and reinstate the board of trustees in Hamilton?

Hon Elizabeth Witmer (Deputy Premier, Minister of Education): I think the member opposite forgets one key point regarding the appointment of the supervisor in order to ensure that Hamilton had a balanced budget. What she really forgets is the fact that the trustees in Hamilton had the opportunity to actually debate and discuss balanced budgets that had been prepared for them by staff, and they just refused to do so. And so there was no choice whatsoever other than to send in a supervisor. I might say to the member opposite that the support of the public for the supervisor is very high.

The Speaker (Hon Gary Carr): Supplementary?

Mr Dominic Agostino (Hamilton East): My follow-up question is for the same minister. Clearly the Rozanski report vindicated trustees in Hamilton. They made the decisions you didn't have the guts to. They made a decision in the best interests of kids. You sent a hatchet man down the QEW. He has now done his job: he's balanced his budget. I would ask you now to fire him and send him home.

On Tuesday night, he is going to make a decision that is going to affect 11 schools. Now, through this report, there has been an acknowledgement that you have underfunded public education. The reason many of these schools will be recommended for closure on Tuesday night is because of your flawed funding formula.

I'm asking you, Minister, as these schools, like Lloyd George in my riding, are going to close, you are cutting the heart out of this community. You are destroying a neighbourhood. I would ask you, in good conscience, in the best interest of these kids and public education, will you fire your supervisor? Will you also direct your supervisor not to recommend any school closures until a new funding plan is in place and the new money is allocated to the board, where we can make a decision based on the money available, not on some outdated, flawed formula that you brought in that has hurt kids in this city of Hamilton? That is the least you can do today. Reinstate the trustees, get rid of the supervisor and put on hold any school closures in the city of Hamilton.

Hon Mrs Witmer: The member opposite obviously doesn't understand that school closures have been a fact of life for a long time in the province of Ontario. In fact, between 1985 and 1990, during the Liberals' time in power, 37 public and Catholic schools were closed in Toronto. This is nothing new. Simply because people move and populations change, there is a need for new schools to be built where the population is. We continue to go through this process of building new schools to accommodate the needs of students in other areas and schools are closed when the population no longer is there to support them. It's a process that has been going on for many years, and it will continue to do so. There is also a process that allows for parental input, and at the end of the day, after that input, a decision is made.


Mr Norm Miller (Parry Sound-Muskoka): My question is for the Associate Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing responsible for rural affairs. Minister, I was very pleased to see today that you introduced the rural red tape bill. Can you tell this House about the history of this piece of legislation and what motivated you to develop this rural red tape bill?

Hon Brian Coburn (Associate Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing): I'd like to thank the honourable member for Parry Sound-Muskoka for his question, and also thank him for his tireless work on the Red Tape Commission as well, in particular developing this red tape bill.

The good people of Ontario certainly deserve the same opportunities for growth and prosperity as our urban counterparts. Over the past two years -- and this is through the extensive consultation that we've had -- we've heard over and over again from these stakeholders who have made it clear there were barriers to their businesses, that they were facing barriers to economic growth. We identified a number of areas where we could make improvements, so we should make those improvements so that they can continue to prosper in our rural communities.

As a result of these consultations, actually with over 600 businesses and communities all across Ontario, we developed a red tape reduction plan that recognizes the unique challenges they face. This bill, if passed, will go a long way in addressing some of those disadvantages they face.

Mr Miller: This is indeed good news for all of rural Ontario. I'm delighted to see that our government, under the strong leadership of Premier Eves, is moving forward on removing needless and outdated red tape in rural Ontario.

Minister, for my constituents as well as this House, can you highlight some of the benefits that we will see from this bill?

Hon Mr Coburn: Certainly, rural communities are a key part of the fabric of Ontario and of our society. This bill, if it's passed, will strengthen those rural communities and provide a better quality of life and more opportunities for the business sector in these rural communities. By removing these barriers, they'll encourage the economic growth that they strive for, attract more investment and eliminate obstacles to job creation in rural Ontario. This process will help Ontario's rural communities to create their own vision for the future in their communities, so they can work toward that in collaboration with the residents who live there. They can be architects of their future in those communities and we can help them relieve the administrative burdens caused by unnecessary red tape. This legislation is certainly built upon some of the key issues and priorities identified by the rural Ontario stakeholders. This is another step in the process of eliminating red tape that stymies investment. That'll help us encourage investment and prosperity in rural and small-town Ontario.



Mr Peter Kormos (Niagara Centre): I have a question for the Minister of Transportation. Minister, in an announcement in 1999, the then Minister of Transportation promised the commencement of the four-laning and extension of Highway 406. Will you please explain to us the progress that's been made in that regard?

Hon Norman W. Sterling (Minister of Transportation): We have been working on the section immediately to the -- I always have difficulty knowing what's north, south, east, west -- toward St Catharines. We have been working on that particular section and we're continuing to look at improvements to the 406. As you know, there is some controversy as to how that next section will take place, but we're continuing to pour our resources into the area and we're going to continue to work on it.

Mr Kormos: Minister, the part of 406 toward St Catharines is already four lanes. You mean south of St Catharines; that's number one. Number two, you've got to understand that communities like Port Colborne, for instance, with the loss of Marsh Engineering, the loss of other manufacturing and industrial facilities in Niagara, are desperately in need of the extension of the 406 southward into Port Colborne, the riding of Erie-Lincoln, as well as the four-laning of that portion south of the current four-laning. The promise was made in 1999 by a predecessor Minister of Transportation. A commitment was made by this government to the four-laning southbound of the 406 and to the extension of the 406 into Port Colborne. This is of great interest, not only to people in Welland and Port Colborne, in the riding of Erie-Lincoln, but in fact to residents of every one of the four ridings of Niagara region, represented by four different members of the Legislative Assembly. We would really appreciate some more concrete advice as to the progress that's been made and the target date for the completion of this work.

Hon Mr Sterling: As everyone knows, when you go to build a highway, there's always problems with regard to unforeseen problems. As I understand it, there were some problems with regard to land acquisition in that particular area for us to go ahead. So all I can say to the member is that we continue to be committed to the 406, to living with the commitments we've made before, as well as being committed to the mid-peninsula corridor, which of course is very important to that area. I think in the not too far distant future I'm going to be meeting with the mayor of Port Colborne over the very issue and talking to him about his concerns with regard to it.


Ms Caroline Di Cocco (Sarnia-Lambton): My question is to the Minister of Education. Since I've come to the Legislature, many have raised concerns regarding the impact of underfunding of our public education system. Minister, your underfunding has had a traumatic effect in my community of Sarnia-Lambton. Many small schools have been closed, the latest being St Helen's. By the way it's a full, viable school. In schools in my riding there have been cuts to support staff. We have fewer librarians, custodians, vice-principals, school secretaries, specialist teachers and special education. Maintenance repairs have been put on hold. Yet the Minister of Education has constantly denied that there is an underfunding to the classroom. Well, the Rozanski report has now qualified what we've been saying all along. In his report, on page 16, he says, "Education, while centred in the classroom, is influenced by what occurs in the whole school." Will the minister now admit that the chronic underfunding has eroded the quality of education in our classrooms?

Hon Elizabeth Witmer (Deputy Premier, Minister of Education): What I will confirm is that we were extremely fortunate to have in this province an individual such as Dr Mordecai Rozanski who undertook to lead the task force to take a look at the funding formula, who did this without any remuneration whatsoever, who took the time to travel the province, who took the time to visit our schools, who took the time to read many submissions, and at the end of the day he has come forward with recommendations which validate what we have already done. He has made recommendations for further strategic investments, building upon the 3% that we've already added to the budget this year in order that we could continue to meet the needs of students everywhere in this province. That's what I'm proud of.

The Speaker (Hon Gary Carr): Supplementary?

Mr Ernie Parsons (Prince Edward-Hastings): To the same minister: Minister, we now have confirmed yesterday that education doesn't end at the classroom door. Schools are woven into the very fabric of our community. Rural schools have always closed because of declining enrolment. They're now closing because of declining revenue for the schools.

We now have expensive yellow buses travelling our rural roads every morning, vacuuming up our children and taking them to faraway places. We haven't measured what the effect is on the community or on these young people with that action, but I don't believe it is a coincidence that the crisis facing Ontario now is: where are our young farmers?

Minister, I'm asking you now to impose a moratorium on the closing of rural schools, to talk to school boards, to talk to the Ontario Federation of Agriculture, to talk to parents, to talk to community leaders, to find a way to save our rural way of life, save our rural schools.

Minister, will you impose now a moratorium on the closing and the attack on rural Ontario?

Hon Mrs Witmer: The member opposite and I both understand, I believe, that there has always been a policy on school closures. In fact, I would like to quote Ernie Parsons, Kingston Whig-Standard, January 29, 1997: "As Hastings public school board chairman, Parsons agreed to sell the Belleville Collegiate school, realizing that school boards were responsible for school closures and the costs of running empty schools.

"He said, `It became a cold, hard decision that we had too much floor space,' thus admitting his schools were grossly under their capacities."


Mr Raminder Gill (Bramalea-Gore-Malton-Springdale): This question is to the forever hard-working and diligent Minister of Energy. Minister, with the passage of the Electricity Pricing, Conservation and Supply Act this past Monday, the government has introduced important measures to protect consumers from volatility in the price of power and provide them with real relief by issuing rebates for past high prices.

My office, Minister, has received numerous phone calls from constituents who are condo owners. They are concerned that the price freeze and rebates do not apply to them. Minister, what can you tell us to reassure condominium owners in my great riding of Bramalea-Gore-Malton-Springdale that this act applies to them as well?

Hon John R. Baird (Minister of Energy, minister responsible for francophone affairs): I know, as does the member who asked the question, that when this government came forward with an action plan to provide support to ensure stability for people's electricity rates, we talked about families, we talked about small businesses, and we talked about farm operators, all of which needed relief, not just for the high bills on the kitchen table, but for those bills in the future, while we bring more supply on-line.

I want to thank the honourable member for his efforts and for the efforts of a good number of other members, like the member for Willowdale, like the member for Stoney Creek and the member for Don Valley West. They have worked tremendously hard on this issue.

Yes, let me clarify: condominiums and condominium owners and families who reside in condominiums are fully covered by Bill 210. We designated them under the designation section of the legislation to ensure that they benefit from this important policy.

Mr Gill: Minister, I want to thank you for the response. I'm sure condominium corporations and condominium owners will be very pleased to know that the price cap and refund introduced as part of Bill 210 apply to them as well.

Having said that, Minister, there are other consumers in Ontario who are also concerned. Can you please tell us what is being done to protect organizations like charities, seniors' homes and people who live in apartments under this legislation?

Hon Mr Baird: I'd also indicate to the member for Toronto Centre-Rosedale that all condominium residents in his constituency are covered by this as well.

To the member from Bramalea-Gore-Malton-Springdale, this legislation provides support for our municipalities, for our universities, for our schools and for our hospitals. We certainly want to cover seniors' residences. We want to cover tenants in Ontario. We want to ensure that groups like developmental disability organizations funded through the Ministry of Community, Family and Children's Services are covered. We want to ensure the range of agencies supported by the Ministry of Health are covered by this protection.

We also take note that the Minister of Culture and the Minister of Tourism have stepped in to ensure that the publicly funded cultural and tourist attractions are equally covered so that they can take advantage of this important legislation that received such overwhelming support this week in the Legislature.



Mr Mike Colle (Eglinton-Lawrence): I have a question for the Minister of Culture. Save the Rouge, one of Ontario's most respected environmental groups and an advocate for 27 years, and the tireless volunteers of Save the Rouge have led the fight to create Canada's largest urban park in Rouge Valley and led the fight to protect the Oak Ridges moraine. They have learned, to their astonishment, that your Trillium organization, in an unprecedented, never-heard-of event, cut off the funding of this group.

According to a press release issued by Save the Rouge yesterday, when the group questioned your government's secret deal with developers, allowing 8,000 homes to be built on the Oak Ridges moraine in Richmond Hill, they were told by Trillium staff that if they criticized the provincial government on the moraine developments, their funding for habitat restoration would be cut off.

Mr Minister, can you stand up and justify this cut-off of funding of one of Ontario's leading environmental groups, which for 27 years has been fighting to save the moraine and fighting to save the Rouge? How can you justify --

The Speaker (Hon Gary Carr): I'm afraid the member's time is up.

Hon David H. Tsubouchi (Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet, Minister of Culture): Clearly, there are rules. The Ontario Trillium Foundation is an arm's-length agency of the government. They have specific rules.

There was a letter issued July 11 to the Save the Rouge Valley System from the Trillium Foundation. In the letter -- this is July 11 -- it says, "While we appreciate the importance of having communities constructively involved in public consultation processes, Trillium's advocacy policy states that the foundation does not support organizations or activities that promote a biased viewpoint or advocate a political position on issues of public concern."

These were the rules under which the application was made. The letter indicated to Save the Rouge Valley System their concern about that. Despite the warning, they continued the activities.

Therefore, as I am told by the Trillium Foundation, that precipitated the action they took. These rules were there when they applied for their grant. Clearly that was what they were --

The Speaker: The minister's time is up. Supplementary.

Mr Colle: Save the Rouge was involved in removing dams and other barriers from rivers, planting streamside vegetation, stabilizing riverbanks, enhancing spawning habitats, planting native trees. They were involving church groups, Boy Scouts. They've been doing this for 27 years.

Here's what Save the Rouge thinks happened. Glenn De Baeremaeker, one of Canada's leading environmentalists, said, "It's financial blackmail.... Say nice things about the government, we'll give you money. Criticize it and we'll cut you off." Glenn De Baeremaeker and Save the Rouge had the integrity to stand up and say, "Put 8,000 homes on the moraine and you're killing wildlife, you're killing the Oak Ridges moraine." Because they had the integrity to state the truth, your political hacks at the Trillium Foundation have cut off their funding. How can you justify that by your political hacks?

Hon Mr Tsubouchi: This is somewhat of a surprising question from the member in light of the fact that earlier on this week we were dealing with the Provincial Auditor of Ontario indicating that there are rules to be followed. We've indicated that we're sprucing up the rules. Now the member is saying that even though there are rules, it's OK to break the rules; it doesn't matter. Frankly, we disagree with you. Rules are there to be obeyed. That's why we're sprucing up the rules right across the public service. Here's an indication of rules not being followed and being enforced, and you don't like it. The rules were there before the application.


Mrs Claudette Boyer (Ottawa-Vanier): Ma question s'adresse à la ministre responsable pour TVOntario et la composante française, TFO. Minister Dianne Cunningham, we all know that TFO has been serving Ontario's francophone community since 1987. We know that TFO is an essential tool to French-language education in Ontario. TFO is currently governed by a 13-member board of directors of the Ontario Educational Communications Authority, only two of whom speak French well enough to watch and understand the network they govern.

Minister, on October 3, I presented to this House a resolution that carried, requesting that you look into the matter of granting TFO autonomy in its direction and development. At that time you said that you were "interested in seeking out new ways to do things better." What has been done? You said that you would be speaking further with your colleagues with regard to the effects of the resolution on TFO. What has been done? You said, "Let's sit down and talk with the French-speaking community about improvements that we can make." What has been done so far?

Hon Dianne Cunningham (Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities, minister responsible for women's issues): I welcome the question from my colleague from Ottawa-Vanier, only to say to her that there has been great progress at TFO with regard to strengthening the network itself.

Since you last asked the question, I of course have been in touch through the chair, and I will say that there has been an increase in the range of in-house production focusing on francophone needs. This is just since you and I talked. There has been an extension of multi-media products such as CD-ROMs, and professional development workshops, I might add, for French language teachers. These are all needs that the francophone community has defined with regard to this wonderful service. In the end, they told me the professional development workshops for these French language teachers are in addition to a redesign of the TFO Web site.

Mrs Boyer: Minister, I hear you and I know progress may have been done, but it's not giving me the concern about autonomy. I have a solution. It is non-partisan. It is grassroots. It comes from the very people who watch TFO, the hundreds of thousands of francophones and francophiles across Ontario, those very people with whom I thought you should talk.

Here are letters of support from over 100 francophone organizations. Their solution is to create a French-language section at TVO to govern TFO exclusively. What does the minister have to say to these more than 100 francophone organizations across Ontario? How does the minister plan to improve the services provided by TFO? Can the minister assure me that she will take action to see to it that TFO is governed by people who speak the language of the network?

Hon Mrs Cunningham: Again, I will look into the specific requests, but I will say that I did make an effort to show you improved services. In addition to the three that I described, the centre for excellence in lifelong learning which has been established at TFO will offer students the opportunity to take instruction in either English or French.

What I'm trying to say here is that the English network does not exercise editorial influence over the French, and vice versa. I will also say that in 15 years -- this is a celebration for TFO -- the services have been improved significantly. There are more people involved.

But I did hear your specific question. You are asking about the number of francophones who are involved, and I will look into that and get back to you.


Mr Joseph Spina (Brampton Centre): My question is for the minister with the luminescent Christmas tie that clearly demonstrates enterprise, opportunity and innovation.

Promotion of a culture of innovation has been a major guiding principle of your ministry. As members of the House know, the first rung on the ladder of innovation is research.


Mr Spina: The member from Rosedale has no idea what he's talking about.

Minister, would you please inform the members of the steps this government is taking to support research in this province.


Hon David Turnbull (Associate Minister of Enterprise, Opportunity and Innovation): I thank the member for Brampton Centre for this important question. Ontario's world-class researchers working at universities, colleges, hospitals and research institutions are creating knowledge, which fuels innovation. Our government recognizes that it's important to reward researchers and their excellence. To this end, we've created the Premier's Research Excellence Awards. The program provides early-stage support for researchers to help attract talented people to research teams. The total government investment is $85 million over five years. To date, we've awarded 438 researchers with $43.6 million.

Another program is the Premier's Platinum Medal for Research Excellence. This was created in the 2001 budget, with a commitment of $10 million over six years. The Premier's platinum medal underscores Ontario's commitment to R&D.

Mr Spina: Minister, as well as turning on your tie to ensure a bright future for innovation in Ontario, you know we have to invest in those who represent the future: our young people, people like my daughter.

Take a moment and tell the details of the Youth, Science and Technology program to the members of this House. And we'd really like to see that Christmas tie.

Hon Mr Turnbull: Our government certainly plays an important role in promoting science and technology literacy. The Youth, Science and Technology program, announced in September 2000, increases youth awareness of science, technology and innovation. Our government has committed $5 million over five years. To date, 35 projects have been approved, which benefit over 100,000 youths annually. Projects span a wide range of subjects, including astronomy and biotechnology. Research varies and the youths are taking advantage of this in classrooms, laboratories and even under nighttime skies.



Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): My petition is to the Legislative Assembly and to the Honourable Chris Stockwell, Minister of the Environment, concerning the OMYA Canada Inc appeal of the decision of the Environmental Review Tribunal in a matter of a permit to take water from the Tay River, Perth, Ontario.

"For the past two years, a group of citizens has opposed the taking of a large amount of water from the Tay River for a consumptive industrial use. In February 2002 the Environmental Review Tribunal reached a decision that was a compromise between the needs of an expanding industry and the concerns of local citizens for the protection of water.

"The company, OMYA, now seeks to overturn the tribunal's ruling and has appealed the decision to both the Divisional Court and the Minister of the Environment. The Minister of the Environment has agreed to hear the appeal to him first.

"We, the undersigned, urge the Minister of the Environment to uphold the decision of the Environmental Review Tribunal and its precautionary and ecological approach to the management of water. In doing so, the minister upholds the government's commitment to the principles and recommendations of the Walkerton Inquiry report."

I affix my signature. I am in complete agreement with this petition.


Ms Marilyn Churley (Toronto-Danforth): These are more petitions on adoption disclosure. They read:

"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"Whereas in Ontario, adopted adults are denied a right available to all non-adoptees, that is, the unrestricted right to identifying information concerning their family of origin;

"Whereas Canada has ratified standards of civil and human rights in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the UN Declaration of Human Rights and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child;

"Whereas these rights are denied to persons affected by the secrecy provisions in the adoption sections of the Child and Family Services Act and other acts of the province of Ontario;

"Whereas research in other jurisdictions has demonstrated that disclosure does not cause harm, that access to such information is beneficial to adult adoptees, adoptive parents and birth parents, and that birth parents rarely requested or were promised anonymity;

"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislature of Ontario to enact revision of the Child and Family Services Act and other acts to permit adult adoptees unrestricted access to full personal identifying birth information; permit birth parents, grandparents and siblings access to the adopted person's amended birth certificate when the adopted person reaches age 18; permit adoptive parents unrestricted access to identifying birth information of their minor children; allow adopted persons and birth relatives to file a contact veto restricting contact by the searching party; replace mandatory reunion counselling with optional counselling."

I will sign this petition because I support it.


Mr Ernie Hardeman (Oxford): I have a petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"Whereas various local partners have contributed capital funding for a CAT scan to be purchased by the Woodstock General Hospital; and

"Whereas a CAT scan is an essential piece of equipment for the practice of modern medicine; and

"Whereas a CAT scan is standard equipment for a hospital of this size in North America; and

"Whereas all hospitals associated with a city the size of Woodstock in southwestern Ontario have at least one CAT scan except for the Woodstock General Hospital;

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

"That the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care approve the placement of a CAT scan at Woodstock General Hospital and provide the hospital with necessary operating funds to continue with its use."

It is signed by a great number of residents in the city of Woodstock and in the county of Oxford. I affix my signature to it, as I agree with those who signed the petition.


Mr Pat Hoy (Chatham-Kent Essex): I've received thousands and thousands of names in regard to this particular petition. It's to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.

"Whereas the Ontario Energy Board has consented to allow Union Gas to retroactively charge $40 per month for a three-month period to recover additional system operation costs that occurred during the winter of 2000-01 totalling approximately $150 million; and

"Whereas Union Gas will recover accrued costs over the peak heating season, causing undue hardship; and

"Whereas this retroactive charge will affect all customers who receive Union Gas, including new homeowners and new customers to Union Gas;

"Therefore we demand that the Ernie Eves government issue a policy directive under section 27.1 of the Ontario Energy Board Act disallowing the retroactive rate hike granted to Union Gas, and we further demand that the Legislature examine the Ontario Energy Board, its processes and its resources, and make changes that will protect consumers from further retroactive increases."

I too have signed this petition.


Ms Shelley Martel (Nickel Belt): I have a petition addressed to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario. It reads as follows:

"Whereas the Province of Ontario Savings Office was created in 1922 by united farmers and labour as a unique banking facility that allowed Ontarians to invest in their province; and

"Whereas the Province of Ontario Savings Office enjoys a strong popularity among Ontario residents, with over 100,000 accounts and over $2.8 billion on deposit; and

"Whereas the Province of Ontario Savings Office offers customers attractive interest rates, generous chequing privileges and personalized efficient service, and every dollar deposited is guaranteed by the province of Ontario; and

"Whereas POSO has 23 branches serving 17 communities across Ontario, including Hamilton, Windsor, Ottawa and small communities in northern Ontario not served by other banks or trust companies. Places like Pickle Lake, Armstrong, Killarney, Gogama and Virginiatown; and

"Whereas the Tory government announced in its latest budget that it will put the Province of Ontario Savings Office on the auction block, even though it is a consistent revenue generator, and even though this revenue could help Ontario's crumbling infrastructure after years of Tory neglect;

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

"To save the people's bank, the Province of Ontario Savings Office, so that it can continue its historic role of providing excellent banking services to families in communities across Ontario; so that people in small towns will not be forced to go farther afield for banking services and forced to go to private, for-profit banks."

I agree with the petitioners. I have affixed my signature to this.


Mr Ted Arnott (Waterloo-Wellington): I have a petition with many hundreds of names on it from the constituency of Dufferin-Peel-Wellington-Grey, and it reads as follows:

"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"Whereas Genuine Springs Inc, located at lot 17, Concession 3, town of Mono, Dufferin county (land within the escarpment protection area, a world biosphere controlled by the Niagara Escarpment Commission) is planning to extract water from four wells that have been dug in the above-noted property, and bottle such water for commercial purposes at a different location; and

"Whereas a temporary permit to take water (No. 02-P-2077(T)) has been issued on August 6, 2002, in relation to the above-noted location, expiring September 30, 2002; and

"Whereas the residents of the town of Mono and Dufferin county are not aware of any scientific, objective and independent tests and studies having been conducted, assessing the implications of such water extraction, including the impact on the water table (the Amabel aquifer) and the surrounding environment;

"Now therefore the residents of the town of Mono and Dufferin county respectfully petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to halt the extraction of water for commercial purposes at lot 17, concession 3, town of Mono, Dufferin County, unless and until complete scientific, objective and independent tests and studies have been conducted, assessing the implications of such water extraction, including the impact on the water table (the Amabel aquifer) and the surrounding environment and until the results of such tests have been presented, received and understood by the residents of the town of Mono and Dufferin county. Furthermore, the petitioners respectfully request that no further permits to take water be issued to Genuine Springs Inc until the tests and studies herein referred to have been conducted and dealt with as noted in this petition."

I have affixed my signature as well, as per the rules of this House.


Mrs Leona Dombrowsky (Hastings-Frontenac-Lennox and Addington): This is from OMYA Canada Inc -- appeal of the decision of the Environmental Review Tribunal in the matter of a permit to take water from the Tay River in Perth, Ontario.

"For the past two years a group of citizens has opposed the taking of a large amount of water from the Tay River for a consumptive industrial use. In February 2002 the Environmental Review Tribunal reached a decision that was a compromise between the needs of an expanding industry and the concerns of local citizens for the protection of water.

"The company, OMYA, now seeks to overturn the tribunal's ruling and has appealed the decision to both the Divisional Court and the Minister of the Environment. The Minister of the Environment has agreed to hear the appeal to him first.

"We, the undersigned, urge the Minister of the Environment to uphold the decision of the Environmental Review Tribunal and its precautionary and ecological approach to the management of water. In doing so, the minister upholds the government's commitment to the principles and recommendations of the Walkerton Inquiry report."

I will affix my signature to this petition, because I am in full agreement.


Ms Shelley Martel (Nickel Belt): This petition has been signed by many people who live in Guelph, Ontario. It reads as follows:

"Cancel the decision to sell the Province of Ontario Savings branches, as many account holders are seniors and long-time account holders, among many other ... satisfied customers. These banks and staff are a credit to their province."

I agree with the petitioners; I have affixed my signature to this.


Mr Bruce Crozier (Essex): I have a petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.

"Whereas electricity bills have skyrocketed under the Harris-Eves government's flawed electricity plan; and

"Whereas some consumers have signed higher fixed-rate contracts with retailers, without adequate consumer protections; and

"Whereas the Harris-Eves government has failed to address electricity supply shortages in Ontario, forcing the purchase of American power at premium prices, driving up prices still further; and

"Whereas the Harris-Eves government appointed a board of directors for Hydro One that has been paying themselves extravagant salaries, compensation packages and severances for senior executives; and

"Whereas Hydro One bought 90 municipal utilities, serving about 240,000 people across Ontario, at premium prices and with borrowed funds. These purchases with borrowed funds have increased Ontario's debt burden; and

"Whereas the Harris-Eves government has added additional fees and taxes to local electricity distribution companies. These charges have also been passed along to consumers;

"Therefore be it resolved that we, the undersigned, demand that the Harris-Eves government take immediate action to ensure that Ontarians have fair and reasonable prices for the necessary commodity of electricity in Ontario and that the Harris-Eves government and its leader Ernie Eves call a general election on the instability of the energy market so that Ontarians may have a voice on this issue."

In support, I sign my signature.


Mr Peter Kormos (Niagara Centre): I have a petition addressed to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"Whereas the OHIP schedule of benefits is often unclear about its definitions of good medical practice for many serious medical conditions: general checkups, rechecks, psychotherapy counselling and often major illness care by specialists;

"The medical review committee of the College of Physicians and Surgeons has been aggressively clawing back payments to hard-working, conscientious doctors on the basis of these flawed definitions and skewed statistical analyses.

"We, the undersigned, request the Minister of Health to suspend further reviews by the medical review committee; return the monies with its penalties, pending a negotiated agreement of an unambiguous schedule of benefits with representatives of affected practising physicians."


Mr Steve Peters (Elgin-Middlesex-London): I have a petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"Be it resolved that we, the undersigned, demand that the Ernie Eves government convene a legislative committee to oversee electricity issues in order to inform and protect the public interest."

This petition is signed by numerous members of my riding, including Mitch Hepburn, the great-grandson of the former Premier of this province from 1934 to 1942.


Mr Peter Kormos (Niagara Centre): I have a petition to the Ontario Legislature.

"Whereas the Legislative Assembly of the province of Ontario will be considering a private member's bill that aims to amend the Optometry Act to give optometrists the authority to prescribe therapeutic pharmaceutical agents for the treatment of certain eye diseases; and

"Whereas optometrists are highly trained and equipped with the knowledge and specialized instrumentation needed to effectively diagnose and treat certain eye problems; and

"Whereas extending the authority to prescribe TPAs to optometrists will help relieve the demands on ophthalmologists and physicians who currently have the exclusive domain for prescribing TPAs to optometry patients; and

"Whereas the bill introduced by New Democrat Peter Kormos (MPP, Niagara Centre) will ensure that patients receive prompt, timely, one-stop care where appropriate;

"Therefore I do support the bill proposing an amendment to the Optometry Act to give optometrists the authority to prescribe therapeutic pharmaceutical agents for the treatment of certain eye diseases and I urge the government of Ontario to ensure speedy passage of the bill."

This was sent to me by R.D. Lidkea of Fort Frances, Ontario, and accompanies many others.


Mr Pat Hoy (Chatham-Kent Essex): An important petition to the Ontario Legislature:

"Whereas the Conservative government plans to sell off Hydro One and Ontario's electricity transmission grid -- the central nervous system of Ontario's economy;

"Whereas the government never campaigned on selling off this vital $5-billion public asset and never consulted the people of Ontario on this plan;

"Whereas Ontario families want affordable, reliable electricity -- they know that the sale of the grid that carries electricity to their homes is a disaster for consumers;

"Whereas selling the grid will not benefit consumers -- the only Ontarians who will likely benefit are Bay Street brokers and Hydro One executives;

"Whereas selling Hydro One and the grid is like selling every 400 series highway in the province to private interests -- selling the grid means the public sector will no longer be responsible for its security and protection;

"Therefore, be it resolved that we, the undersigned, petition the Ontario Legislature as follows:

"To demand the Conservative government halt the sale of Hydro One until the government has a clear mandate from the owners of Hydro One -- the people of Ontario."

This is signed by good citizens from Ridgetown, Blenheim, Chatham, Thamesville and Muirkirk. I too have signed this petition.



The Deputy Speaker (Mr Bert Johnson): The Chair recognizes the chief government House whip.

Hon Chris Stockwell (Minister of the Environment, Government House Leader): Because I'm the only government House leader. That's why I'm the chief.

Mr Speaker, order M186.

LOI DE 2002

Mr Sampson moved third reading of the following bill:

Bill 186, An Act to further highway safety and establish consumer protection through the regulation of the collision repair industry, and to make a complementary amendment to the Insurance Act / Projet de loi 186, Loi visant à améliorer la sécurité sur les voies publiques et à protéger les consommateurs en réglementant le secteur de la réparation en cas de collision et à apporter une modification complémentaire à la Loi sur les assurances.

The Deputy Speaker (Mr Bert Johnson): Mr Sampson has moved second reading.

Mr David Caplan (Don Valley East): Third reading.

The Deputy Speaker: Third reading; I'm sorry. The Chair recognizes the member for Mississauga Centre.

Mr Rob Sampson (Mississauga Centre): Thank you, Speaker. I hope I said third reading. Indeed, that is what we are doing here.

Before I start, I want to say thank you to a number of people who have been involved in the preparation of this bill, the process the bill has gone through since its first introduction, actually in June of this year, and then its second first introduction in October of this year. Right off the top, I should probably thank the House leader for -- well, I know he's a little disappointed that he wasn't promoted to be the chief House leader, but there's always next year, you know, subject to promotions.


Mr Sampson: You don't want the job. But he has been helpful, of course, as have been the other House leaders, frankly, in allowing this bill to move through the process, allowing members of all the parties to speak to this in a fair and open way and --

Ms Shelley Martel (Nickel Belt): Give him a kiss. Pucker up.

Mr Sampson: No, I think he's done a good job in doing that.

But let me move on from there, because there are more people involved in it. The member from Oak Ridges, who originally sponsored this bill in June of this year was promoted to be the Minister of Tourism and of course had to then leave his private member's bill for somebody else to pick up. I was more than happy to do that, because of course it was that member and myself who originated the work on this in 1986 when it became clear to us that the industry needed a good looking at as it related to the regulation of what was done in the collision repair industry. Both that member and I started the work of listening and talking to people who were in the industry, asking them for their opinions and focusing them on issues that would try to improve consumer protection in the area where consumers are dealing with having to get their car repaired, whether it's as the result of an accident or just to get their car repaired as a result of some sort of damage that was otherwise caused to the vehicle.

That brings me to the Minister of Consumer and Business Services, who has kindly and with full enthusiasm accepted the concept of the regulation, self-regulation if you will, of this particular industry. It's a concept that's not terribly new to this House or to this province, since there are a number of other professions, I shall say, and businesses that have embraced the concept of self-regulation to establish and maintain and police a fair and equitable level of performance standards across the entire industry. So I want to thank the minister for his support on that, his continued support of the bill. Should the House decide to carry this bill, I hope he will continue to enthusiastically support this concept as it goes through its development phase.

I also want to thank the members of the opposition, who have taken their partisan hats off, which is difficult in this place, and worked with me to improve the bill that was not only tabled in June but, as I said, re-tabled on October 7 of this year. It went through the committee process. We had deputations from a number of people; either they came before the committee or they wrote to the committee and made some suggestions for amendments. I would say to you that in a spirit of co-operation that is not usually seen in this House, unfortunately, the bill has been substantially improved over the version that was originally considered by this House at first reading. I want to thank members of the opposition for their efforts, non-partisan efforts, to try to improve this piece of legislation for the benefit of consumers.

I also want to thank the many shop owners throughout the province of Ontario and their relative associations. I say associations, because there are a few of them. Some of those members are here in the House today watching the proceedings. I want to thank them for their efforts in taking a look at the concept of self-regulation and embracing it and agreeing that it's indeed something that has been called for in the industry for some time. It's time has come. It's not an easy concept to embrace because it does mean there will be this oversight on your operation; there will be this process that will determine standards of performance, the type of qualifications employees have to have etc. It's not easy to accept those. Those, of course, will have to be paid for somehow. I think the industry has agreed that they are going to have to be part of the process that helps fund this. Don't look toward government to pay for this. These are difficult issues to grasp.

When Frank and I originally proposed this concept, it was a group that, I would argue, was not very cohesive, was a bit fractioned, if you will. There were groups that didn't particularly want to work with other groups. They have gotten over that. I think there's a little bit more to be done in that area as we proceed, should the House agree to this bill, to implement self-regulation in the auto repair, collision repair industry. That's my eight minutes of thanks for your support.

Now just a few minutes, if I can -- because I know other members do want to speak to this -- about what this bill is doing. To the people watching today, to the people who will read these debates in Hansard going forward, to those who will have to work with it, should it get passed, the bill is quite simple. It simply creates a framework that will involve collision repair people, consumers and government people though the ministry. It creates a framework that will involve those people and engage them in the creation of the standards that will be applied to everybody in the collision repair industry in Ontario in order to do business in that business in this province. It simply establishes the framework for that committee and that oversight group.

As a related issue, it also establishes some principles, which I have called in this bill the motorists' bill of rights, as to what consumers can and should expect from this bill and their involvement with collision repair and the related involvement with the insurance industry. They will have the right to be able to pick, among certified shops, those shops that they would like to have their business done at. They can receive some recommendations. The bill calls it "a statement advising the consumer that an insurer may suggest that the work be done at a particular ... shop," but that's the extent of the direction that insurers can provide. But all the work must be done at a certified shop. So the core principle, which actually exists today under current legislation that is buried in the Insurance Act, I've decided through this bill -- and I hope this House will accept -- to elevate to this particular legislation to clearly outline that the consumer has a choice among certified shops. I know the member from Niagara would agree with that.

Mr Peter Kormos (Niagara Centre): And the member from Niagara does agree.

Mr Sampson: The member from Niagara does agree. That's why I said earlier that I'm pleased to see that members like the member from Niagara and other members in the House have taken off their partisan hats in dealing with this particular issue. There is nothing partisan about consumer protection, and the member for Niagara knows that. There's nothing partisan about protecting the little guy. There's nothing partisan about protecting shop owners who've invested a sizable amount of their family wealth in the business of collision repair. There's nothing wrong with making sure that they are competing on a level playing field with other people in the collision repair industry. I know the member is speaking from the floor and he should normally be at his seat, and he supports that statement. I can tell that by what he is saying.


The Deputy Speaker: You will, and I'd ask that you would address your comments through the Chair as well.

Mr Sampson: I will do that because while I was --


The Deputy Speaker: Member for Niagara Centre, come to order.


Mr Sampson: While I was slightly distracted, I do know that you are keenly interested in this subject, Speaker.

All this bill does is simply establish the framework for the regulatory environment to come. It doesn't establish the exact rules, guidelines, if you will, that the shops will have to speak to. That will come from the group that will provide the oversight, which includes the people who are actually in the business. There's no rocket science to this design. It simply says that those who are in the business and those who are paying the bills to keep the business going, the consumers, should have a say in setting the standards of what is expected from a collision repair in this province.

It's not acceptable that we have repairs being done that produce unsafe cars. It's not acceptable that we have repairs done that are not in accordance with other provincial standards, whether they be environmental standards around the use of paint hoods or employment standards around who is qualified to do this work. What is acceptable is that when consumers take their car into a shop to get repaired, they expect it's done effectively, efficiently and to safety standards that attempt to return that vehicle, as much as possible, to the state of repair it was in before the accident.

These will be the challenges the oversight committee will have to face, should this bill be passed and they're given this responsibility to come up with these standards. It won't be easy. I know some work has been done by some groups on what those standards might look like, and that's probably a good place to start. I know other provinces have tried this. BC has a program around collision repair standards, and we might be able to borrow from some of the work they have done. Other jurisdictions, no doubt, have faced this issue. We don't need to re-create the wheel here, but what's needed is the fundamental framework, the footings if you will, of this brand new building we're creating around collision repair. I think this can also be a model that could be applied to people in the related collision repair industry, the glass industry, in this province. Perhaps there are some models here we can modify to deal with mechanics, people who repair the engines. Many consumers have come to me and suggested that perhaps that's an area we might want to expand to.

I would encourage the House to support this sooner rather than later, because we do need to get on with the job. There are people around here --

Mr Caplan: It's up to the House leader.

Mr Sampson: It's up to you to, I say to the member opposite. This is a private members' issue, it is called and surely your House leader will allow you the flexibility to deal with this as a private members' item. I am encouraging support of this item. I think it's the right thing to do. We have bridged traditional partisan positions in this House to get to the point we are at now. I think it's a tremendous statement of democracy in this Legislature that we have gotten so far on this one, and we can get to the finish line.

It's the right thing to do for consumers; it's the right thing to do for people who are in this business, watching today. We're talking about their livelihood. They are expecting things of us as legislators on this subject. I encourage the members of this House to work with me and the ministry, because that will be involved, in making this dream that we now have on paper here as a third reading item a reality for the people in this province.

The Acting Speaker (Mr Steve Peters): Further debate?

Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): The concept of this bill is one that is very supportable. There's an implicit criticism, though the member would not want to say this of course, that other consumer bills presented in the House by his own government did not include the provisions of this bill. It is unfortunate that he has had to introduce this bill himself rather than have the Minister of Consumer and Business Services introduce it. It just shows that sometimes when one part of the government is not functioning as he sees fit, that he is able to then find a way around that through the provision of the private members' hour on Thursday mornings and now a debate that's taking place in the House today.

What we have out there is an industry that has a lot of good people in it -- the member has acknowledged that -- a lot of good businesses, honest, reputable people who take a good deal of pride in doing the job they do, that job being repairing vehicles that mostly have been in some kind of collision, others that have had some problem that has caused the vehicle to be damaged in some way.

Everyone wants to ensure that when the repair work is done, it is done in a fairly priced manner and in a very competent manner by competent individuals working on the vehicle, that there's satisfaction on the part of the consumer, and of course the insurance company will want to be satisfied as well, because they're another player in this.

There are a few players involved in this. I was reading some remarks from Monte Kwinter, who was at one time the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations, as it was called then, who was dealing with this and had made some comments. I don't see the date on this, but he was talking about Bill 186, so I'm sure it was this bill. He pointed out that there are a number of different groups of people who have a stake in this.

First and foremost, and I think the member points this out in his initial remarks, is the consumer, the person who is paying to get the service, the person whose vehicle requires repair. A second component is going to be the insurance company, which is often the entity that is paying for the repair. Third are the tow truck drivers, who are sometimes making the decision as to where the vehicle shall be towed. Fourth is the government of Ontario, which oversees this matter.

The complaints that the member has talked about and that prompted him to bring this bill forward are quite legitimate complaints. We all know some extremely reputable and competent companies that undertake this work, but we have also received as individual members of the Legislature, and simply as individual citizens in conversations, horror stories about the experiences some have had with repair shops, that the work was done in a very substandard way, that there was an overcharge, that sometimes a vehicle was kept for an excessive period of time. There are complaints in some cases that insurance companies are going to quarrel over the kind of work that is done and whether they're going to pay for part or all of the work that is done. So there are many issues here to deal with.

The member also knows, and he would be interested in this in a former position he held, that there's a great problem arising out there in the field of insurance. My understanding is that the reinsurance aspect of the insurance industry is now charging the insurers a good deal of money for their premiums. I take it that the insurers must pay what amount to premiums themselves, and then they insure people at the front line. There is a concern that the reinsurers, for a variety of reasons, have hiked their rates considerably and that is now being reflected in rates across the province.

I raised an issue yesterday by means of a letter to the Minister of Health about insurance concerns for people who are delivering a service that is called a respite service. These are medical workers who visit homes where there are people with Alzheimer's and other kinds of dementia. They offer a respite to the people who on an ongoing basis, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, are caring for individuals who through no fault of their own have many problems and pose many challenges for the caregiver in the home. Their insurance rate last year, for instance, I think was $52. This year it is expected to go well over $500. These are people who make $9 or $10 an hour in that job. They can't be expected to pay the greater premium. The Ontario government obviously, through the Ministry of Health, will have to provide greater financial funding to this service to enable the people to do their job appropriately.


I'm not diverting from the bill. It just points out that there are so many areas now where we are encountering two things: first, the inability to get somebody to write an insurance policy for a particular area, and second, when they do write it, the extent of the premium. All of us have had our premium notices for our homes, where you own homes, and found they have gone up. I see mine has gone up well over $100 for a premium in a year. If you look at auto insurance premiums, they are going up. Premiums for virtually any kind of insurance are going up.

What is even more worrisome is the fact that not only are they going up, but many people are unable to obtain the coverage they want. Part of that is tied in to this bill. I think if the member's bill is put into practice, we will see an improvement there because all of the shops are going to be certified. He says in his bill that he wants all the shops and ultimately all the people who work in those shops to be certified professionals, people who are competent in the business, so that insurance companies will not be balking at having a vehicle sent to one particular shop and there's a quarrel between the individual and the insurance company, and then in the middle is the shop owner.

We will also eliminate, presumably because there will be a mechanism to police this, a problem that will exist, which will be the problem of overcharging, where people are given some kind of estimate and then ultimately it comes back and it's a higher cost. Second, the quality of work will be a matter at issue. If they are licensed, if they are certified, this reduces the risk of that happening.

I have to say that it is unusual for a member of this government to be looking for more regulation. It's refreshing in some cases. I don't think the member is presently a member of the Red Tape Commission. Heaven forbid they get hold of this bill somewhere along the way and attempt to gut it, because we have seen the work of the Red Tape Commission in many cases.

Hon Jim Flaherty (Minister of Enterprise, Opportunity and Innovation): Ah.

Mr Bradley: The former Treasurer of the province dramatically indicates what can happen to a bill of this kind, and that is that the bill can be, shall we say, torn up, whether in a tangible or an intangible way. I wish the member well in avoiding the sharp teeth of the Red Tape Commission.

I well remember, and I know from conversations with people -- I'll say in general because I never like to reveal the content of private conversations. There are people who have held the position of minister in the government, and still hold that position, who have not always spoken fondly of the Red Tape Commission and its meddling in the affairs of individual ministries. I am sympathetic to them.

Certainly the Ministry of the Environment, back in the days of the Walkerton tragedy, and particularly in the days of the dramatic cuts to the ministry and the change from public laboratories to private laboratories -- I think we know from the testimony before Justice O'Connor and his commission on Walkerton that the interference and tampering of the Red Tape Commission had a chilling effect on that ministry when it came to ensuring there would be an appropriate regulatory framework put in place when the public laboratories operated by the Ministry of the Environment, with the very best of people in them, highly competent laboratories, were closed in favour of private laboratories and a proper protocol not put in place to ensure the protection of the consumer, of water in this particular case. So I wish the member well in that regard.

I am pleased that the president of the Collision Industry Standards Council of Ontario has endorsed this bill, saying, "The collision and auto body industry in Ontario appreciates the efforts of," the member "for bringing forward a bill that will protect the motorist public from unethical shops that provide unsafe repairs." So the association itself is not there to defend the bad actors.

It's always so unfortunate in business, when you have so many good people, so many reputable business people, that the reputation of an industry at large can be tainted by a few bad apples in that industry.

The member for York Centre, the Honourable Monte Kwinter in years gone by -- we don't hold the term "Honourable" after we've left that position; it's not that we become dishonourable, it's just that they take the "Hon" out in front of our names. Federally that doesn't happen. In fact, if they've served in the cabinet, they can have "PC" behind their names. The member from Mississauga can have "PC" beside his name. Even though I was in the cabinet at one time, fortunately I don't have that. That stands, in that case, for Privy Councillor, not for Progressive Conservative. Heaven knows, we'd have to go a long way to find a progressive Conservative anyway, but I'm told there are a few in the government caucus still in existence.

Mr Caplan: Name names. Who?

Mr Bradley: The member for Bramalea-Gore-Malton-Springdale claims that he is, but I notice that he has been -- you can't use the word "shill" because that would be too condemning -- the spokesperson for the polluters who don't like the Kyoto accord.

Mr Caplan: Is that Raminder Klein?

Mr Bradley: I've often say, when he rises in the House, "I see Raminder Gill and I hear Ralph Klein."

On some issues I would agree with Raminder more than I would with Ralph. On this, they seem to be on the same wavelength, unfortunately, and there's not a counterbalance from the Minister of the Environment to be able to hold back on this.

I would say as well, and this is a bit of a stretch, that the passage of this legislation would be good for the environment, because when they are repairing their vehicles, people are going to ensure that not only are they going to be up to safety standards, and that is paramount in this legislation, but also up to environmental standards. Their vehicle wouldn't be left in such a state that, for instance, it would have emission controls that would not be working appropriately. So I would certainly see an environmental component in this.

I notice there is an advisory board, called the collision repair advisory board, that will be established. It's going to include individuals who know the business. Unfortunately, I recall seeing that it says they're appointed by order in council, which means by the cabinet.

There are some members of the government agencies committee, of which I am chair so therefore I have to be neutral and not pass judgment -- I was told that when I assumed the position. So I will say there are people on that committee who have suggested that the major criterion for being appointed to a government position is support in some tangible way for the government of the day. Many have been presidents of the Alliance and members of the provincial Conservative Party. Members on the other side, such as Marcel Beaubien, would tell me it's purely coincidence that 95% of the people have been supporters of the Progressive Conservative Party. The fact that a large portion have actually tangibly sent a cheque before appearing before the committee as a person to be appointed has nothing to do with it. I'm sure the contribution made to the Conservative Party has nothing at all to do with the fact that they've been appointed by the government.

Mr Marcel Beaubien (Lambton-Kent-Middlesex): If it's a Liberal, it's 100%.

Mr Bradley: Well, there are some appointments that are made, and I would hope they would be on the advisory board, of members of the Progressive Conservative Party that I think are quite appropriate. I don't think that being a member of the governing party -- in this case the Progressive Conservative Party -- should preclude anyone from being appointed to the advisory board.

However, I would hope that, in the spirit of the debate taking place in the Legislature this afternoon and the spirit in which this bill was introduced, critical as it is, by implication, of the Ministry of Consumer and Business Services for not bringing forward this kind of legislation, and ecumenical as this afternoon is, I would suggest that the member would want to ensure that those appointments to his advisory board are clearly non-partisan, or at least are very competent people in the field, that a donation to the Conservative Party is not an essential entrée to an appointment to this board --

Mr Beaubien: What about owning golf courses or parts of golf courses?


Mr Bradley: That's something I'll have to think about. I'll have to think about that one. I don't want to get distracted. I've been trying to stay on the essence of the bill all afternoon, and the Speaker knows I've been trying to do so. Therefore, I don't want to talk about golf courses because I'd have to get into some golf courses in the North Bay area, and having --


The Acting Speaker: Honourable member, it would be nice if you could come back to the debate at hand, please.

Mr Bradley: I will not mention -- is it Ostrey?

Mr Caplan: Osprey.

Mr Bradley: I will not mention Osprey Links in North Bay, because I know it would be embarrassing to the member, and I know the other member for Mississauga and Brampton -- Brampton, in this case -- agrees with me entirely. I can tell. He's nodding now, either in agreement or nodding off, one of the two, at the scintillating speech that is being delivered on this bill this afternoon.

I think that advisory board's going to be important to lend credibility to this bill. We'll want to see top-notch people. The member, I think, has been wise by looking at the categories of people to be appointed in order to get input from all the people who are involved. I want to make sure that it's simply not another patronage home for Progressive Conservatives, members of the Alliance and others who are supportive of the government.

I also want to say that I'm glad to see there's a review component for complaints against certified collision repair shops, because people will say, "Well, OK. This excludes the ones who are not certified, so you don't have to worry about those in the mix." The member has been wise enough, I think, to include a review of complaints even against those who had been certified, because it's difficult on an ongoing basis to watch every aspect of the business. So there should be that mechanism open. I think good repair shops are going to welcome that. They'll be able to defend themselves if they feel that they have done an appropriate job and that the complaint is not valid. They would welcome the opportunity to be able to respond to that, rather than simply having somebody mumbling in the background about it and passing bad news along about the repair shop. It would be right out there to be dealt with in a quasi-public way, if not an entirely public way.

I see the minister is the one who "may ... decertify collision repair shops ... and refer matters concerning the collision repair industry to the advisory board for review and advice." That is a bit of power. One always hopes -- and I'll tell you where this comes in -- if you were to lower the amount of money that people could donate to individual candidates or political parties instead of raising it, as you did last time, and lower the amount that individual candidates and parties can spend in an election campaign, then this wouldn't be as big a component. Somebody said to me, who will remain nameless at this time, "Wouldn't you worry that one of the ways of getting certified, because it says the minister may certify, would be to make a sizable donation to the government?" I suggested this couldn't possibly happen in Ontario, but this person was not as confident as I that it couldn't.

I wish the member well in the implementation of this bill. I hope he keeps a watchful eye on the Ministry of Consumer and Business Services and his colleagues in the government caucus.

Mr Kormos: I am pleased for the opportunity to speak to this bill. I used to accuse the author of this bill of being in the back pockets of the auto insurance industry. Indeed, I used to tell folks that he was so deep in the back pockets of the auto insurance industry that he was spitting out lint. It's nice to see that he's come up for air for enough time to come to the aid of small business people who have been victimized by the auto insurance industry in the same way that the auto insurance industry continues to victimize innocent victims and premium-payers across this province.


Mr Kormos: Look, we didn't have a chance to debate Bill 198. The government made it quite clear it wasn't going to go to committee because hidden away in Bill 198 were some of the most egregious attacks on innocent victims that this province has witnessed --


Mr Kormos: Well, they were -- all dictated by the auto insurance industry, speaking into the Dictaphone. I don't know whether it was the author of this bill, because he was the member of the government caucus who did the consultations -- he was their mouthpiece here in Queen's Park. I don't know whether he sat on their laps while they were giving dictation, writing it down in longhand and typing it out, or whether we got it via e-mail.

But it's refreshing to see the author of this bill finally understand that the auto insurance industry is not the consumer's friend, that the auto insurance industry has been scamming and scheming its rate payers for decades in this province -- the auto insurance industry, with its short arms and deep pockets; the auto insurance industry which is oh so efficient when it comes to collecting premiums and oh so eager to ensure that it's done properly, but, oh boy, when it comes to paying out benefits, all of a sudden they become recalcitrant, to say the least. And part of the process has been the sweetheart deals the auto insurance industry has had with selected collision shops, the deals meaning that insured vehicle owners are required to take those vehicles to those shops. New Democrats stand firmly with the proposition that the owner of a vehicle, once that vehicle is in a collision, should be able to choose the collision repair place, the one that they have confidence in, the one where they have a rapport with the --


Mr Kormos: Whoa. Don't get ahead of yourself. So far, so good.

Mr Sampson: I only trying to help you, Peter.

Mr Kormos: Trust me, Mr Sampson, I neither need nor want your help when it comes to the auto insurance industry. You've helped too much. My premiums, like everybody else's in this province, have gone up 10%, 15%, 20% since this government came into power. This government passes more sweetheart legislation in Bill 198, and the auto insurance industry says it's going to help control costs. They get their legislation, but they're also promising double-digit premium increases, notwithstanding the legislation. Those guys are crooks and you're a collaborator. If those guys are the bank robbers, you're driving the getaway car. Here we've got small business people who know what it's like to have to take on the big auto insurance industry, to effectively be blacklisted by the industry.

You see, what happens is that the auto insurance industry, which could give a tinker's damn about the welfare of its insureds, has been, among other things, ensuring with its sweetheart deals with select collision shops, that consumers are forced to take, let's say, substandard glass, windshields. Am I right? That's what's happening. When you've got the auto insurer saying, "No. No. No. We get to choose who the repair shop is," you end up getting some Saran Wrap in that window in front of you or behind you instead of something that meets the minimum standards to the original manufacturer's equipment.


Mr Kormos: I don't give a tinker's damn about any glass supplier that's putting Saran Wrap in, because I want my windshield or my rear windows -- because, as you know, Mr Sampson, the windshield is an integral part of the structure of the vehicle.

Mr Sampson: Especially your Corvette.

Mr Kormos: Yes, especially when you drive a North American car that's a little exotic. From time to time I've had occasion to borrow friends' sports cars. They've let me drive them. I remember one of them was a convertible. I got to borrow it for an afternoon, and it was nice. I concede it was nice.

One of the problems that I've got, though, is that a lot of tinkering went on in committee, didn't it? Be careful, folks. Don't read the bill as it was presented at first reading. Read the bill as it flowed out of committee.

The bill, I am confident, will serve consumers. Most importantly, it'll protect those small entrepreneurs who are out there, yes, like the folk up there. I've talked to some of them on the phone who've been gracious enough to telephone me or write me with their views regarding this bill and the propositions contained in it.


But I've got a little problem, because in the original version of the bill, the Insurance Act was amended, basically telling an insured that he or she could have a repair performed at any certified collision repair shop. So be it. We understand the need for the certification. It's to prevent unqualified fly-by-nighters, let's say, from doing jobs, charging the insurance company and then everybody getting scammed. I understand the industry has no quarrel with certification. Let's make sure that we understand the certification is going to be fair and accessible and not overly expensive.

But I don't know if everybody read how the government amended this bill in committee. Here is a little bit of caveat emptor.

Mr Bradley: You mean it has changed?

Mr Kormos: Oh yes, it's changed. The antennae should be ascending.

Mr Sampson: Those changes actually were brought forward by you guys.

Mr Kormos: Oh no, not this one, brother. Take a look at where it qualifies the right to take your vehicle to a collision repair shop of one's choice "subject to any rules that may be made in regulations under subsection (3)." Yikes. You see, the first version of the bill is clean. You've got the right: bingo, bang on, done and over with. Mr Sampson, that wasn't an NDP amendment.

Mr Sampson: Yes, it was.

Mr Kormos: No, it wasn't. That wasn't an NDP amendment. "Subject to ... regulations under subsection (3)" -- the problem is that those regulations are going to be made behind closed doors, in secret.

Look, I've got to give the author of this bill some credit, but my fear is that he won't be around when those regulations are made. What if he's not with us? What if he has taken an appointment to the Senate? What if Mr Sampson has gotten a job with a high-priced international banking operation? What if Mr Sampson gets a job as a cowhand on a spread down in Oklahoma? Any number of things can happen, because Mr Sampson is connected, Mr Sampson knows powerful people, knows important people. Mr Sampson is close, a seatmate, with people who pull strings around here.


The Deputy Speaker: Order. The member for Scarborough Centre, come to order.

Mr Kormos: So I'm just warning everybody, a little bit of caveat emptor: "Subject to ... regulations under subsection (3)." That causes me some concern. At this point we have to, I suppose, take what we've got and hope for the best, which is all too often the case. But I want to wish the participants in the industry the best.

Mr Bradley, what's that fellow's name down in St Catharines, the Red Tape Commissioner type of guy?

Mr Bradley: Frank Sheehan.

Mr Kormos: Frank Sheehan, yes. He used to be well known down there. Did he run against me?

The Deputy Speaker: Order. If you want to ask a question of somebody else and give up your time, go and do it quietly and we'll go to some other. Other than that, we won't tolerate it, and we won't have questions answered out loud in the House either.

Mr Kormos: Speaker, I appreciate your firm hand in these matters. I invite you to throw people out who are heckling me from their seats. I will quietly stand by to permit you to do that, should the occasion arise, because it's unsettling for me to have people speaking while I'm speaking. I find that a distraction and most disturbing. Thank you, Speaker.

This didn't come from the Red Tape Commission. I have no two ways doubt about it, not in a million years. You see, the Red Tape Commission doesn't believe in fettering the hands of the of the big corporations. Mind you, the Red Tape Commission believes in tying the hands of the little guys and gals, of little business people. The crux of this is recognizing that the market out there works but doesn't work for the little operator; that the market out there can generate a whole lot of profit, but at the end of the day, a Wal-Mart can come into town and shut down half a dozen hardware stores and small business people. It's the small business people who need the help. That's why governments are involved, Mr Sampson, in the process of regulation. That's what your bill acknowledges and appears to understand, and I give you credit for that.

I see a progressive bent in Mr Sampson that he quite frankly didn't have when he was first elected here. When Mr Sampson came here, he was a deregulator. It was, "Let the market prevail. Let the more powerful survive," this Darwinian economic perspective that somehow he had cultivated within him, perhaps due to his previous work culture.


The Deputy Speaker: Order. Sometimes there has to be a line drawn in the sand. I don't like it. I like the line to be a little wavy and so on, but you want to push the line over on to my toes. No way. If you want, I'll just make it that whoever says the next word other than the speaker will be out of here. You've given me the job of making sure that there's decorum in this House. I want to do the job that you've given me to do.

The Chair recognizes the member for Niagara Centre.

Mr Kormos: Thank you very much, Speaker. The member who authored this bill was testing the Speaker, pushing the limits. I want you to know I'm on your side in this matter. I support you entirely in the exercise of your discretion, should you decide to throw him out. I wouldn't blame you in the least. I, as Speaker, wouldn't put up with this sort of stuff, either. It's an assault on the traditions of this House.

I do note that Mr Sampson -- and I trust that it's in no small part due to his intimate dealings with the auto insurance industry. He came to this chamber as a hardened libertarian right-winger: "Let the markets prevail," Darwinian capitalism, "If you end up disappearing as a result of the might of the big guys, too bad, so sad." It's the old Hula-Hoop syndrome that his leader, to whom he was very faithful, Mr Harris -- that is, Mr Sampson was very faithful to Mr Harris, and Mr Harris awarded him appropriately. Here is Mr Sampson, this libertarian right-wing capitalist, who now has come a long way, who now is more sensitive to the fact that big corporations use their weight and their might to snuff the life out of the little guys.

I have no doubt that Mr Sampson, the author of this bill, acquired that bent from his dealings with the insurance industry. He has been courteous enough to them not to divulge any of the confidential information that they shared with him. I wouldn't expect him to be anything less than discreet. But boy, if I had been a fly on the wall in some of those meetings and seen the insurance industry and heard them giving marching orders to Mr Sampson, playing with him like one plays with a marionette, bidding him to do their will, whether he agreed or not -- because it wasn't just a matter of him serving their interests. They felt as if they owned him.

Now here we are today with Mr Sampson displaying far more charity to the little guy than we would ever have seen from him however many years ago. How many years ago was it, Speaker, that Mr Sampson got here?

The Deputy Speaker: Seven.

Mr Kormos: Some seven years ago now.

We have my colleague from Sault Ste Marie, Tony Martin, who understood what it was about if you're a small business person. That's why Tony Martin has been fighting for fair franchise legislation in this Legislature just darn near about as long as he has been here -- first elected in 1990. It's nice to see that more than a little bit of Mr Martin has rubbed off on Mr Sampson. It's nice to see that Tony Martin has influenced not only his colleagues in the New Democratic Party but that he has also -- Tony Martin is a progressive. He's a left-winger. He's a person who believes that we live as a community, that we have to work with each other, that we have to share our burdens if we are going to enjoy any successes.


Mr Martin has been a champion for small business, and it's nice to see that Mr Martin's admittedly left-wing bent has had some significant influence on Mr Sampson. Why, Mr Sampson, I see now, is almost in tears upon his reflection of the conversion that he has undergone. He's silenced by the immensity of the realization that he has made perhaps a 180-degree turn in his life. He's making efforts to speak, but he can't. He's so moved by the fact that this conversion is being recognized; I believe in some circles it's an epiphany. It's fascinating to see Mr Sampson silenced, choked up perhaps by understanding that he now finds himself on the left. I want to welcome him. It's about time. Lord knows, people like Tony Martin and other New Democrats have been fighting alone for small business people too long. It's nice to have allies. It's nice to see people come over to our side, in our support and advocacy for small business people.

In encourage the industry to play an active role --

Mr Wayne Wettlaufer (Kitchener Centre): You went to his side?

The Deputy Speaker: Member for Kitchener Centre, come to order.

Mr Kormos: Are you going to throw him out?

I encourage small collision shop operators to insist on playing an active role in the drafting of the regulations. The bill to date shows a marked improvement for the status of those small collision shops. I want to indicate that in my instance from time to time, when I need bodywork, I use my local Chev dealer, David Chev Olds down in Welland. I have never had an insurance claim yet, thank goodness, because if I had, Lord knows I wouldn't be able to afford the premiums. One claim, even if it's not your fault, and the insurance industry will basically pull the tires off your car, or you end up paying three times over for the work they perform. But I use David Chev Olds and it happens to be a unionized shop, which is one of the attractions. I know there are good workers in it.

But I also know other small collision shop operators down where I come from in Niagara region whom I would trust as readily, who I know have been excluded from the opportunity to do collision repairs, whether it's a windshield that's gone -- look, I'm a fan of the independent operator, the small owner-operated business, because those men and women in those small owner-operated businesses work incredibly hard. They work 40-, 50-, 60-, 70-, 80-hour weeks; they don't have vacation pay, the whole nine yards. But as owner-operators of small business, they contribute to the community economically. It's that work in that shop that sends kids through college and university. I'm a fan of those types of operations.

Let's be vigilant and make sure, when the critical part is reached, the drafting of the regulations, that those regulations are as consistent with the bill as we would hope they are and that those regulations remain true to the spirit of the bill. This is an anti-auto insurance bill, no two ways about it. I'm proud to join with Mr Sampson in taking on the auto insurance industry. I welcome him as an ally in this critique of the auto insurance industry and in the understanding and recognition that they're a greedy gang. The auto insurance industry is a greedy gang that'll rob you blind if you don't have regulations protecting the consumer. This is that very sort of regulatory regime that protects consumers, that protects the small business people who otherwise would have been squeezed out. If the regulations are done right, this can end up being a good thing for everybody here in the province.

The Deputy Speaker: I just wanted to use an example, if I could, from the member from Niagara Centre about, I think it was socialism rubbing off, but it's also directed at those from the centre. I'm addressing my remarks particularly, I think, to the member for Mississauga Centre and the member for Kitchener Centre. I want you to try to use that example of influence from the member for Brampton Centre.

Mr John Gerretsen (Kingston and the Islands): I am somewhat surprised that with all the government members who are in the House right now, there's no other government member who would lend support to this good private member's bill. I applaud Mr Sampson, as he's known in private members' business, for bringing this kind of legislation forward. It's very progressive legislation. I think the fact that he hails from my hometown of Kingston, which we all know to be a very progressive community in this province, may have something to do with it. It may have something to do with his upbringing in the Kingston area, where I know his family has always played a very prominent role and where he is well regarded. That may have something to do with it, whereby he has finally left those ultra-right-wing views he had when he was minister of privatization.

We all remember those days. I think the only things he ever privatized as minister of privatization were a number of tree farms, if I remember correctly. I don't remember the exact terminology. That was the only thing that was actually privatized. When it came right down to it, he stayed away from the LCBO. He stayed away from TVO, which is a good thing now. What would the Premier's life partner be doing if TVO were privatized? She probably wouldn't be the chair of that illustrious organization. He has come to his senses and has brought forward a very progressive bill. I pay tribute to him for that, because it's quite obvious that that is a result of the very progressive upbringing he had in the very progressive community of Kingston.

Remember, Kingston is the oldest settled community of Ontario. It was the capital of Canada for three years, back in the 1840s. During that period of time, many of the beautiful limestone buildings that we enjoy in our city, both public and private, were built with the great expectation that we indeed would become the permanent capital of Canada. Events intervened, mainly the threat of an American invasion from the south. As a result, Fort Henry was built to protect us from the Americans. But in fact what happened was that the capital was moved first to Montreal and later to Ottawa. Now we have Fort Henry, to which both the federal and province government after much urging have now committed some funding to have the fort restored. The irony is that Fort Henry now welcomes -- probably about 80% to 90% of the visitors that come and visit there annually are Americans, and the fort was specifically built to protect us from the Americans. We welcome them all. I'm diverting. I should be speaking about the bill and I will get back to the bill.

I find it very interesting that this is a private member's bill, the third private member's bill that has been called before the House this week, and I think they should be called. I'm a great believer in that private members have a lot of good ideas. When their ideas are endorsed in this House by way of second reading debate, and then it goes off to committee and comes back here, it should almost be a fait accompli: once a bill has been given second reading and has gone through committee and the committee has endorsed those recommendations by way of amendments, the bill should come back here as a matter of course. The irony is that of the three private members' bills that have been called back into this House for some sort of determination, every one is a government member's bill.

We had the double-hatter bill that was voted on today, a bill that probably led on Monday evening to the most interesting debate we've had in this House in a long, long time. There were members from literally all sides of the House who had different opinions about it. It replenished my belief in democracy, that you could have a very controversial bill about which there was division within the various parties in this House, except for the New Democrats, who were against the bill. Other than that, there were members on both sides of the House who had various opinions about it, and that's good for democracy That's the kind of debate you get on a private member's bill. Finally, we had a vote on it.

Good for Mr Arnott for bringing it forward. His bill wasn't approved, but more power to him.


Mr Gerretsen: I voted against the bill because I did not think it was the way to go. But as I stated to him earlier, I think he should continue to put pressure on the government to put a task force together so that the issues can be talked about some more and maybe some refinement can come out of that. I'm all in favour of that.


That was a government member's bill. The second government member's bill was what we refer to as the puppy mill bill. It was debated here at some length yesterday -- also a government member's bill. And here we have the third government member's bill that has been called forward. There are many other bills that deserve to be here as well.

I give full credit to Marilyn Churley of the New Democrats for bringing back her adoption bill. I know there are many people in this House who feel differently about it, but I think that bill should be called for debate and we should vote on it, in exactly the same way we did on the Arnott bill. And while we're on the topic, I think my Bill 5, the Audit Amendment Act, should be called back as well.

We're dealing here with a government that likes to build its reputation on the notion of accountability. It was talked about by Premier Eves back in 1996 when he was finance minister. He said, "We're going to make amendments to the Audit Act so that there can be a level of accountability for the money that's being spent here, whether it goes to universities, hospitals, colleges, school boards or municipalities. We want to give the auditor the power to follow that money to those grant recipients." It was a notion that was brought forward by a government member back in 1996, after Mr Eves's own government was unwilling to move on a recommendation he had made in his throne speech.

Then we come to 1999, after the election. What's the first meaningful thing that was mentioned in the throne speech after that? It was that the government was going to pass a Public Sector Accountability Act. It's not quite the same as amendments to the Audit Act, because under the Public Sector Accountability Act the different ministries were going to hold the grant recipient of the funding that was going to go to these various sectors I mentioned before more accountable to the ministries. I think it should be more accountable to the auditor, because he, after all, is an officer of this assembly and serves all sides of the House, or the individual members, from an independent viewpoint in that regard. So that's what I think should have happened. What happened to the Public Sector Accountability Act after it was announced in the throne speech and after it was introduced here? It died by the wayside.

Now we get to my bill, which was introduced the exact same day the new session of Parliament started, in April 2001. I said, "Look, you want public sector accountability. Pass my amendments to the Audit Act." The reason I felt they should be passed is because two thirds of all the money we spend here in this House, all of the taxpayers' money, money that we collectively collect from the taxpayers, is given out to the grant recipients. So we had a debate on it here one day during private members' business. It was unanimously approved on second reading and it went to committee. There were various amendments made at committee, just this past November, again unanimously approved by everyone. So now it's ready for third reading debate. Is it here? Will it be called for debate? Will it be passed by this House? I don't think so.

I know the government House leader and other members get a little upset when I say it seems to me that the only bills that get called here are government members' bills and not opposition members' bills. That, I think, is completely and totally regrettable. I realize full well that the government has to live with the consequences of whatever bill is passed here. There's no question about it. They, after all, have to implement whatever it calls for in that bill. So if there is a problem with my bill, let's hear about it. It certainly didn't come up during second reading debate. It certainly didn't come up in committee. Why is the government blocking greater accountability to the taxpayer of Ontario by not passing Bill 5, or not putting it on the order paper, or not calling it? I'd like to know that. I think, personally, that the government wants to have it both ways: they want to talk about accountability but they really don't want to do anything about it.

In any event, I'm not going to talk about that any further. I will just simply hope that the government will call the bill between now and, I guess, Thursday, although I understand now we may be sitting on Friday as well. We welcome the opportunity to sit on Friday. We may be sitting next week as well. I think the longer an assembly sits, the better it is for everybody. The more opportunities we have for question period, when we can ask the questions -- we don't always get the answers, but at least we can ask the questions. As they say, it's question period; it's not necessarily answer period.

I remember a couple of years ago, I think we sat until December 23, and I welcome that. The pages may not like it. Some of the other people here may not like it. As a matter of fact, the Minister of Energy certainly doesn't like it, with what's been happening in his portfolio. We could be speaking for the next week and a half just about what's happening to energy and to the poor people of Ontario. They didn't know whether they were coming or going as far as their electric bills were concerned.

We welcome the opportunity to sit, and if they want to call us back in the first week of January, we'll be here. We'll have the questions. Of course, the difficulty is always that we may have the questions, but we hardly ever get any answers. That's why it's called question period and not answer period.


Mr Gerretsen: Mr Spina, the member from Brampton Centre, totally agrees, and he thinks it's funny, but the people of Ontario out there want answers to the questions that are being raised here. They want to know why you have short-changed our education funding by the $1.8 billion that Dr Rozanski talked about today in his report.

Mr Joseph Spina (Brampton Centre): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I thought we were discussing the auto body bill, not the education report.

The Deputy Speaker: That is a point of order, and you're absolutely right.

Mr Gerretsen: I will talk about this bill, because this is, as I said before, a very important piece of legislation. But it's kind of interesting that they don't want to talk about education and the underfunding. They don't want to talk about the underfunding and the long line-ups that we have in our hospitals. They don't want to talk about doctor shortages. All you want to do is talk about your government members' private bills. They think this is all right. The good ideas that come from this side of the House and that have been embodied in legislation by way of second reading and have gone to committee -- whether it's the adoption bill of Ms Churley, which should be called here, or whether it's my Bill 5 that should be called because it's gone through committee -- you don't care about. Let's have all the bills. Let's have a free and open debate. It's good for democracy to talk about these things.

This is a progressive piece of legislation. There's absolutely no question about it. Small business needs help, and I'm very pleased to see that Mr Sampson has come up with this bill. I still think it has a lot to do with his upbringing in such a fantastic community, the community of Kingston, where I come from. It's a progressive community. Finally, these ultra-right-wing views he held as Minister of Privatization he has now overcome. He is now a private backbench member of the again. He is no longer cloaked with this notion, "We've got to advance the right-wing agenda," and he's actually come up with some good ideas. This bill embodies one of those ideas.

I'll just read to you and to the people out there what the purpose of this bill is: "To further highway safety by promoting the proper and efficient repair of automobiles that have sustained structural or body damage." Who can possibly be against that? Nobody. It goes on to say, "To protect consumers from dishonest, deceptive and fraudulent practices in the repair of such motor vehicles." Excellent terminology: nobody wants to be deceived by fraudulent or deceptive practices. "To provide a fair marketplace for the collision repair industry and those who have an interest in it.... To implement a regulatory framework" -- whenever I see the terminology "regulatory framework" I get a little bit worried, and the reason is that, as you know, we only pass in this House the broad, general framework of any piece of legislation. How it is actually implemented on the ground is by way of regulation.


It seems to me that in the seven years I've been here, we see more and more incidents where the laws we pass are in such general terminology that it leaves great regulatory powers to the cabinet and to the minister in charge to actually implement the piece of legislation. You know the old expression "the devil is in the details." This is a perfect example of that. How this will be implemented remains to be seen, because the irony of this whole thing is that even though I totally support a bill like this, it is going to cause -- this may come as a surprise to the members on the other side -- more red tape. The more regulations you put in, or the more licensing requirements you have for any kind of shop you set up under this kind of legislation, it is going to require more regulation and more red tape. It may be good red tape, and I think it is, and I hope the regulations that will be passed will be beneficial to all concerned, but it is more red tape. So this notion that all red tape or all rules and regulations under whatever act we're talking about are bad for the system is rubbish as far as I'm concerned.

There may be some very good laws out there where you need some good, strong, tough regulations to implement that law. Let's hope that happens in this particular case. But when I see terminology such as, "The Lieutenant Governor in council" -- which is the cabinet basically -- "may make regulations setting out rules for the purpose of this act," that's pretty broad; that's about as broad as it gets. I know somebody on the other side will say, "That's the standard terminology," but I think that if we were to limit it a little bit more -- of course the best thing that could possibly happen would be if all the regulations were, in effect, published before they were actually put into regulatory form, so that the industry and the people affected by it, the consumers, could have some input into the system. That to my way of thinking is the ultimate, the best possible way.

In other words, what would be wrong with the government saying, "We intend to implement these regulations. However, if you have any comment on them" -- they could post it on their Web site. They could send it out to the repair shops they know about that are already out there and, let's say, give them 30 to 60 days to respond as to what the practical implications of a particular regulation may be. Then they could take a look at it again in the ministry and say, "Yes, we should make some changes to this before we actually implement these regulations." If they did it that way, then at least the industry would have an opportunity to respond to it, which we don't have right now. We don't have any guarantees at all that the industry will be able to respond to it. I can see from the attention the members are giving to what I have to say here that they're really wrapped up in this issue as well.

Mr Speaker, in the last 50 seconds that I have, let me just implore you: you are a very honourable Speaker. You have been very fair-minded in your rulings over the years. I would hope that you will have some influence on the government House leader over the next day and a half. Let's bring more private members' bills forward, the ones that are ready for debate at third reading. But let's not just pick the government members' private member's bills; let's bring all the private members' bills forward. Let's debate them all, like we did today with the double-hatter bill, and let's vote on them.

That is true democracy, and if there's anything this place needs a little bit more of than what we've all witnessed here over the last five to seven years, it's democracy.

The Deputy Speaker: I'm going in rotation. I'm looking at my right; that's your left and that's because we're facing the opposite direction. If I don't have a speaker here, just bring the noise level down a little bit; it will help me out a lot. I'm looking to my left; that's your right. If I have a speaker here, I will recognize the member for Essex.


The Deputy Speaker: You stand corrected. I was right. That is, the only time we don't go in exact rotation is when the time is divided. I'm looking to my left for a speaker. The Chair recognizes the member for Essex.

Mr Bruce Crozier (Essex): I too am pleased to stand today to speak to Bill 186. I'm also pleased to have had a small part in bringing this bill to third reading. I was on the committee that reviewed the bill. I was pleased -- and I will cover it in my comments -- that there were even a couple of amendments to the bill that I proposed that were accepted by the government. That is a rarity, just like it is that we're standing here today debating this private member's bill, because rarely in the nine years that I've been here have we seen very many opposition amendments adopted on a bill.

This bill is essentially a consumer protection bill. It's one that I think is going to go some way in regulating an industry that, for the most part, has given the people of the province of Ontario good service over the years. Like many professions, industries and businesses, there are always those who try to take advantage of someone. I'm pleased to say that in this particular instance, that certainly was the minority. This bill will give those who are in the business and who are qualified and who are good, solid business people the opportunity to further their businesses in a good, competitive manner.

We talk in this bill, if it's passed, about certified collision repair shops. It means "a collision repair shop that has been certified by the minister in accordance with the regulations." As my colleague from Kingston and the Islands just alluded to, if there were a fault with the bill, it's the fact that much of what this bill is going to end up doing is going to be contained in the regulations. I would hope that the government consults, to the extent that they have on the bill itself, with the industry, with collision repair shops, with those with experience, so that the regulations, when they are written, will certainly have the objective of enhancing this bill.

Collision repair: I think we have to recognize that there are different types of repair shops. There are those that make minor repairs that may not amount to any more than taking out the dents and scratches and repainting a vehicle. There are repairs like, as was mentioned earlier, replacing damaged windshields. But in this case, we're speaking about repair shops that will carry out collision repairs that are identified in the bill as repairs that are needed as the result of:

"(a) collision with another vehicle,

"(b) collision with the roadway or any object on the roadway,

"(c) an act of theft or attempted theft,

"(d) fire, or

"(e) vandalism."

That, then, covers those repairs that are required to automobiles and vehicles that go to the structure and safety of the vehicle.


That's one of the reasons I'm able to support to this bill, because it will in fact result in vehicles that are repaired as a result of collisions being safer on our highways. In fact, it's mentioned in the bill that it is "to further highway safety" and "to protect consumers from dishonest, deceptive and fraudulent practices in the repair of such motor vehicles."

As I say, it's unfortunate that too often we have to bring in legislation and regulations and we have to have rules and red tape because we have to guard against that minority who might be dishonest, deceptive or fraudulent in their practices. This, then, sets up that regulatory framework that will allow the bill to do this.

I want to speak a bit too about the board that's going to be set up, in that this is going to be a self-regulatory part of the industry. The board that's being set up is to help the minister not only set the regulations and carry out the intent of the bill, but it will be able to advise the minister in those instances where it's required. There's going to be an advisory board of 10 members; four of them shall be persons who work in the repair industry. I think that's an obvious part of the board that we should appreciate. Obviously, when it comes to a self-regulatory industry, you have to have people who have the experience. The minister has to be advised by those who best know what is going to be done in the industry.

Four persons will represent the consumers of Ontario who do not work in the collision repair industry. That too I think is a good part of the board, because it brings to this board and brings to the minister when the board advises him the real feelings of consumers, who want the kind of protection we're trying to provide.

Two of the board members shall be employees of the government of Ontario. I can only assume, but one would expect, that these would be employees who would perhaps be from the Ministry of Consumer and Business Services, so that, again, the protection of consumers will be one of the paramount protections that we will have with this bill.

The advisory board, in its responsibilities, is going to "make an annual report to the minister concerning its activities, including an annual budget indicating the advisory board is self-financing, and make the report available to the public." I hope in that report will be contained some sort of indication of the satisfaction level the consumers of Ontario received. In other words, if this board and this legislation are functioning they way they should and if the regulations that are put to this legislation are appropriate, then I would think that there would be little complaint about the work that's being done by the certified collision repair shops. That is one of the objectives of this bill, so that we can assure the public that they're getting good value for the money that they spend, whether they spend it directly when they pay bills themselves or whether that money is spent through insurance companies.

Part of the board's responsibility, though -- and as good as it might be and as good as the shops might be, we almost invariably will run into some complaints -- is that this board can or will have the authority to review complaints against any certified collision repair shop. In reviewing those complaints, I would expect that the board will take into consideration how well these shops are serving the public, and, for example, if there are too many complaints against any one particular shop, that then will go toward determining whether that collision repair shop can in fact carry on business and keep its licence.

This board too will act as a clearing house for complaints and settling disputes as sometimes arise. As good as the shop might be and as much as it may attempt to satisfy the customer, we know that on occasion there are of course going to be, probably, some disputes between the customer and the collision repair shop. Therefore, the owner of the vehicle will have some place to go to express those concerns and hopefully have that dispute mitigated and handled by an independent, arm's-length adjudicator. Where it is of the opinion, after giving the proprietor of a certified collision repair shop a chance to be heard, that the repair shop should be decertified according to the standards set by the regulations, the board will advise the minister accordingly. I think that's extremely important. If we go to all of this effort, and certainly some expense, there should be penalties in place, and one of the most severe, of course, would be the fact that the shop may become decertified and subsequently suffer a significant loss of business.

When I mention expense, this bill, in carrying out its protection, in carrying out its mandate, won't be without some cost. That's something that we have to continue to follow.

As has been mentioned here earlier today in the debate, most of the work that's carried out by these collision repair shops will be carried out as the result of an insured accident, and we all know that insurance rates are a hot topic of discussion these days. As a matter of fact, just as an aside, this past August I got my own automobile insurance renewal. Just so the folks at home can understand that we are sensitive to these kinds of issues, I was anxious and interested to see what my insurance renewal would be this year, and I was horrified when my insurance went up 46%. That was without any change in risk; in other words, there were no accidents or tickets or any claims that I'd had on my policy. That was the same vehicle; I'm driving a three-year-old vehicle that's just getting older all the time. Yet my insurance went up 46%. So my first reaction was, "Obviously this insurance company doesn't want my business." So I go to my broker and I say, "Look, there has to be somebody out there in the insurance companies that you have access to within your company who does want my business and who won't charge such an exorbitant" --

Mr Gerretsen: What did he say? Did he say no?

Mr Crozier: What happened was -- my friend from Kingston and the Islands asks -- he didn't say no. He went to his market and, lo and behold, could only save me $100 a year on my new premium. I'm not about to change insurance companies for $100 a year, because I have had good experience with this company. Some might suggest that the premiums I was paying were too low and that this company was just catching up. We've heard a bit about that in the insurance industry, and there is a lot of upward pressure on insurance rates for several reasons. It was mentioned earlier that one of them is the reinsurance market. It may be difficult to understand, but very briefly, the reinsurance market is where insurance companies go to insure the risk they have. They lay off some of that risk in the reinsurance market. Another cause for this, we are told, is the significant upward pressure on the cost of accident benefits and the fact that there is a significant amount of fraud in the area of accident benefits.


My point here is that, as good as this bill is, I would caution the people of Ontario that it will come at some cost, but we hope it's a cost benefit, because we hope you get better service for your dollar.

During the hearings there was some concern from the insurance companies that have preferred shops that they would not be able to continue on in this. I was anxious to hear from those companies because we want to work with them to provide the very best insurance we can in Ontario. We understand that they too want to keep their costs down. I would hope, and I hope this is not a vain hope, that when those costs are reduced, they pass them on to the consumer. But under this bill, the insurance companies can still list preferred shops. They will have to be a certified collision repair shop. They can still have a preferred shop, but the consumer really has the last say, and provided the consumer is going to a certified collision repair shop, the consumer can go to the shop of their choice.

As part of that right of the consumer, there is in this bill a Motorist's Bill of Rights. When the motorist takes the vehicle to a certified collision repair shop, there are some things they have a right to know and that will have to be right in the estimate documentation they get.

"At the time of providing an estimate to a customer, every operator of a certified collision repair shop shall provide every customer with a copy" of this bill of rights, and it "shall contain at least the following elements:

"1. A statement advising the consumer of his or her right to select a certified collision repair shop for auto body damage."

"2. A statement advising the consumer that an insurer may suggest that the work be done at a particular collision repair shop but may not require this work to be done at a particular collision repair shop."

The statement of consumers' rights will also have to advise the customer "of his or her right to be informed about whether the auto body repairs will be made with new original equipment parts, new aftermarket parts, or other types of parts." That, to me, is extremely important, because for what we pay these days, the cost of these things, as a consumer I should at least be able to have some confidence and some choice in whether those are new parts or whether they in fact are used parts that come out of another vehicle that has been torn down.

I would suggest that in those cases where these are insured repairs, most consumers, if not all, will probably want to insist that they are new parts, notwithstanding the fact that there may be just as good quality aftermarket parts and/or parts out of other vehicles. But the consumer at least will know what they are getting. As I mentioned, not all collision repairs are paid for by insurance companies, so if the consumer is advised that they are aftermarket parts or parts out of another vehicle, the consumer may be able to reduce their cost in that respect.

In the last couple of minutes I have, the part of the bill that I want to emphasize, and the amendment that I appreciate was accepted, was that in the original bill it would have permitted that uncertified collision repair shops would have been able to carry on business. Once we got the definition in here of what a collision repair shop really is and once we amended it so that once decertified, that business couldn't carry on as a collision repair shop, I felt a lot more comfortable about this bill. If we're really going to give the consumer protection and if we're really going to give those good businesses the opportunity to work on a level playing field, I felt that it was necessary that if you weren't certified, if you didn't have the proper technicians doing the work, if you weren't a business that carried on in a fashion that you could be certified, you shouldn't be a business that can operate in collision repair at all, and that's what we have in this bill.

In concluding, I want to add to the comments of others that this is one of those too rare occasions where we've been able to work on a piece of legislation in a significantly unpartisan way. It's my hope, and we always live on hope, that we can see more legislation come forward like this. A big step in that direction would be, as my colleague from Kingston and the Islands suggested, that not all of the private members' bills that we're debating to this extent are government members' bills, but that the opposition does have that opportunity too.

Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton West): I appreciate the opportunity to make a few comments on Bill 186. At the risk of some of my colleagues falling out of their chairs and hurting themselves, I will advise you that I likely won't use all my time.

Hon Brad Clark (Minister of Labour): It's Christmas.

Mr Christopherson: An early Christmas present for my friend from Stoney Creek.

Let me just say in short order, in terms of the substance of the bill and what it attempts to do and what it actually accomplishes, that it's a good bill. I don't think there's a single one of us in this place who either hasn't personally experienced or known someone who's got a horror story in dealing with a repair shop. The fact that the leading proponents of this, outside of this place, are actual repair shop owners and representatives of associations that represent those shops says a lot about the industry itself and the fact that the overwhelming majority of them are honest, upright, legitimate businesses that provide a good service at a fair price. It's their desire to see a level playing field so that there aren't the fly-by-night shops and those who ignore the consumers and quickly go for the fast buck. And it's so easy to do, especially as cars become more and more complicated. It was always easy for anyone who wasn't too involved in auto repair to be sort of conned or spun in terms of the message of what's wrong with your vehicle but, boy, that's a lot easier to do now as the complexity increases.

So I think it says a lot that we've probably got a very few that are doing the damage and that the majority are prepared to come to us and ask us to provide a legal framework. Let's keep in mind that business as a rule, from Hamilton anyway, doesn't jump in the car and head down the QEW, come to Queen's Park and say, "Please, please, please, give us more regulation. We just don't have enough regulation. We want more, more, more." So the fact that they've taken that step says (a) that something needs to be done and (b) that they are prepared to put their reputation on the line and to use whatever political influence they can to bring about a bill that, yes, helps them, but helps them by virtue of the fact that the consumer is given more protection.

It seems to me that in the best design of our economic system, that's the way things ought to be, and this bill achieves that. There's always more that can be done, and time will tell when that will happen, but in terms of taking an important, significant step forward now and providing the initial legal framework -- notwithstanding the fact that we don't know what the regs will look like yet -- the legal framework that's provided here is of benefit to consumers. It's of benefit to those legitimate operations that want to lay down roots in our respective communities and provide jobs and provide investment into our community. That's what we're doing with this, in my opinion.

As chance would have it, I was the representative on the committee for the NDP caucus, and I want to spend just a few minutes talking about the process, more to make sure that it's in the history books and there for anyone who wants to take a look at when opposition members said, "This place can work." This was one of those few times. I want to say right at the outset of commenting on the process that Mr Sampson came forward to me. I have to say, given his previous portfolios, you wonder exactly what's at play here. I suspect that, given the fact we're both former corrections ministers, I was prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt. I heard him out. He told me what he wanted to achieve.


I've been around this place going on 13 years now, and I can remember days when you didn't have an agreement if it wasn't written down, every word. Even then, hours would be spent negotiating the words, commas and periods, and then all House leaders would have to sign off on it --

Hon Mr Clark: In blood.

Mr Christopherson: "In blood," says the Minister of Labour. Even then there were times the deal would have to be taken to the Speaker and asked if he or she would make an interpretation.

In this case, I was approached by Mr Sampson and asked to take his word about what he was attempting to do and the procedure he was prepared to follow. There was a bit of a leap of faith on my part, and I suspect on the part of my colleagues in the Liberal opposition caucus also, because there were no guarantees.

What we did was speed up the process, truncate it, and I literally went on the word of Mr Sampson that, if we got to a certain point in the process, having already given my acquiescence -- and we identified that juncture -- and there wasn't unanimous consent and continuing unanimity between the three parties, then I had the word of Mr Sampson that he was prepared to bring everything to a halt, we would take a step back, look at what the issue was and, if a compromise and an agreement could be reached, then we would move forward. If not, the whole process that we had started literally would stop, we would be back to square one and we'd look at the usual procedures.

I had some real trepidation because obviously for any one of us who does that, especially in the opposition, if things blow up and the government ends up taking advantage, if you will, and running with something, ramming it through, it's something your caucus is opposed to and you were the genius who helped to get the caucus into that predicament, you're in a lot of trouble, not to mention the fact that you would have facilitated a law that you strongly believed shouldn't be on the books.

I thought that Mr Sampson was a man of his word. I want to say that indeed he was. We did reach the point where there wasn't unanimity at that junction, and at that moment, had he wanted to, there was no rule I could call on to stop the government from continuing to ram it through. Mr Sampson, being an honourable member, said, "OK, I agreed with you that if we didn't have unanimity at this junction, we would take a step back," and we did that. Mr Kwinter, Mr Sampson and myself then spent the time necessary to work through those issues.

We reached agreement, put those agreements into play vis-à-vis the amendments that would come to the committee, put the whole thing back on track and moved forward. So I want to say to Mr Sampson that you are indeed a man of your word. I enjoyed the process. I can tell you, should any of you have the misfortune of having spent time in cabinet and then, in the blink of an eye, find yourselves in opposition, after a few years of that it's sometimes difficult to get excited about the process. When you're in the third party, you don't have any power and you have limited influence.

As an individual parliamentarian, I enjoyed the fact that there were the three caucuses with three individual point persons acting on behalf of their caucuses working together to try to find and create language that would let all of us achieve the worthy goals Mr Sampson had set forward, and we did that.

It wasn't without a little bit of consternation along the way. There were a couple of times when we locked horns on some issues, which is the nature of the beast in terms of drafting legislation, but in the end we were able to find common cause and the language that let us move to this point so that we now have legislation that is likely, as I understand it, Rob, to receive unanimous support of the House, certainly majority support from the two opposition caucuses and, I suspect, your own or you wouldn't even be at this point. I think that says a lot about what can happen in this place, that when we want to we really can act in a democratic fashion where your word means something, when you look somebody in the eye and say, "You've got my word on this," and that when even things don't go that person's way, they honour their word. It makes you want as an individual to say, "OK, let's roll up our sleeves and really get at this and see if we can find a way," because it's like oxygen. You don't often find that kind of willingness to work together.

I want to say that Mr Kwinter -- I won't speak for him but I will say in terms of having worked with him -- seemed to enjoy the process just as much. It really was a matter of give and take between all of us, recognizing what the goal was, the goal always being to protect the consumers and make sure that we've got the best auto repair industry that we can have in Hamilton. I know I was influenced by good advice. We had good advisers. People came in and they were good presentations all the way through. My friend and fellow Hamiltonian John Norris is here today. He has been very concerned about this and involved in making sure that we do the right thing so they can do the right thing. So, all in all, it's a good bill. I'm pleased to have participated. I enjoyed the process. I think we are making the province just that much better today as a result of hopefully passing this bill.

I want to close my remarks by again emphasizing the integrity and honour that Mr Sampson and Mr Kwinter brought to this. It was a joy, truly, to work on this project for the betterment of the people of Ontario. To be able to say that in a truly non-partisan way is about as close to the spirit of the season as I'm likely to feel between now and when we adjourn.

Upon seeing my friend the Minister of Labour clutching his heart in a feigned heart attack over some of my comments, I will now take my place.

Mr Tony Martin (Sault Ste Marie): I will be taking my 20 minutes here this afternoon because I have a lot of things I want to say with regard to this bill. In the context of this bill there's a whole lot that we need to consider as we look at this piece of public business before us here today. Anybody taking their job seriously, coming to this place, understands that that's the task in front of us.

I want to say at the outset that I don't think there's any guarantee yet that this bill in fact will see the end of the process in the way that the member who has brought it forward is anticipating, because it's a private member's bill and private members' bills by their very nature call on all of us to consider very carefully what's put in front of us. We're asked, in as much as we can, a non-partisan way to consider the issues and the material that's in front of us. Then each one decides whether it is we are in support of or whether we see that there is required further work on a piece of public business that's on the table.

We saw here this afternoon and over the last couple of days just such a very democratic exercise. The member from Waterloo-Wellington brought a bill before us that he felt very passionate about and committed to, put it on the table. It was debated at second reading in the Legislature here on a Thursday morning, and voted on at that point and moved forward in the process. There was committee time allocated. There was lots of consultation, certainly lots of lobbying from various groups on that bill back and forth in this place. As it unfolded, we began to see that in this instance there were those on all sides who felt differently about this bill. This afternoon we had the vote here, and we saw members of the Conservative caucus vote both for and against that bill. We saw members of the Liberal caucus vote both for and against that bill. In this instance, the New Democratic Party caucus were in harmony and solidarity in terms of our position. At the end of the day the bill lost. I think what it should do is indicate to the member for Waterloo-Wellington that he needs to go back to the drawing broad, speak further with the people affected and involved to see if there isn't some other way of resolving this very controversial and difficult relationship that exists out there.


I'm actually happy to see this piece of legislation before us here today. Some of you who were here on the Thursday morning when it was first presented and debated will remember that I spoke to it. Our caucus at that time supported it going forward. My view hasn't changed since then; however, I do still want to put on the table, into the record, on Hansard, speak to the people in the chamber here this afternoon and to the folks across the province and explain to them how important it is that we in fact move to regulate some parts of the public business of this province.

We have a government that doesn't believe in regulation. We have a government that believes that if you simply turn things over to the marketplace, at the end of the day everything will find its proper depth or level, fairness and justice will work out and everybody will be protected and served appropriately. Well, we understand and know now, having spent a number of years under the rule of thumb of this government, pushed ever so aggressively with each week that goes by in a way that reflected a lesser and lesser role for government, lesser and lesser regulation in the province, more opportunity for the private sector -- "big business and industry" -- to dictate and take over more and more pieces of the life and activity that we all participate in, count on to provide us with a livelihood, to take care of us in our time of need and to give us comfort that our children will be looked after and that we will have something to rely on in our retirement and old age.

We've found, as we've watched the tumbling of big corporations like Enron and Bre-X and a number of other examples of private sector industry, corporations, their attitude in this country, in the United States and around the world -- and we should understand now that there are some things and some parts of all of the sectors of society and life in our communities and in our province that need to be regulated. This is one of them.

I had the experience of working with small business over the last three or four years in a very direct and clear way when I brought forward regulation to rule or govern how franchising would unfold in this province, how the relationship between franchisees and franchisors should be restructured so there was some fairness and opportunity for everybody involved. In that instance it became more and more obvious to me and to small business across this province, as we went out for public hearings, that in fact there was a need for comprehensive, strong and enforceable regulation where small business and franchising was concerned in this province. And yet when the government finally agreed -- and I gave tremendous credit at that time to Mr Runciman, the Minister of Consumer and Business Services, that he sat down and worked with me. But alas, the strong hand of cabinet and the Premier's office, influenced by their friends and colleagues in the larger corporate sector of our business community to say, "No, ease up here. Don't go too far. Yes, introduce some regulations but be careful that you don't interfere with the free market," with the ability of some of these large franchise systems to come into Ontario and, as they've often said, take advantage of it as if it was the Wild West and hurt, very seriously, many well-meaning, hard-working small business people who invested their life savings in some of those businesses only to find out that they were either stuck for life because of the investment they made that wasn't going to produce for them or generate for them the kind of return they had hoped for and thought they would get and would provide for them some comfort in their old age.

I would suggest that what we're doing here today by way of regulating this particular industry is not dissimilar from some of the concerns that were raised and then, ultimately, the work we were able to do in that respect. We were able to bring forward a very modest package of regulations where franchising is concerned. However, as it has played out now, the fact is that we didn't go the distance, we didn't have the political courage in this place to go the distance and truly regulate this industry and give some ability to some of those small business people who found themselves in disagreement with their parent franchisor to go to some arbitrator or board of mediation provided by government. They find themselves still having to go to court, having to endure the cost that that represents, and ultimately, at the end of the day, really not being much better off than when we started.

As a matter of fact, and this is the warning that I give to those who are very excited and waiting in anticipation for this bill, is that you want to make sure you have everything you want here, that all the t's are crossed and all the i's are dotted, because in the franchising legislation it turns out that in some instances it might have been better had we not done it at all, given the little bit that we won at that time, because it presents a sense of comfort to small businesses out there, or to people who are looking at investing in small business out there, that somehow they are protected, that somehow there is regulation in place that's going to look after them, and if they get themselves in trouble or they find themselves in disagreement with the parent franchising corporation, that there is some facility for justice to be had and for fairness to have its day or have its way.

This, for all intents and purposes, is a good bill and should serve the industry well. As the member for Niagara Centre suggested earlier, it indicates to us one of those very few moments in the last seven years where in fact the government across the way understands the importance of small business and the small business investor in this province and is willing to do something other than simply focus on getting rid of red tape and regulation, is willing to do something to in fact put a regulatory regime in place that will protect and support the interests of small business people across this province.

I just wanted to, though, raise a flag of caution. I had suggested back in June when we discussed this bill on that Thursday morning that the folks in the gallery needed to ride gunshot on this, that in fact it wouldn't get back before us. Well, to give the member who brought it forward, Mr Sampson, the member from Mississauga Centre, some credit, he obviously stayed on top of it and so here we are, discussing it and debating it for third reading. However, I say to those who are watching this and who are anticipating its passing sometime in the not-too-distant future that they need to be concerned that the advisory group that is being formed in this instance continues to be a well-balanced operation, that the membership that is set out in the bill and that is hoped for in fact is the membership that finally ends up being who is at the table. In our experience, it's not too long into processes like this before a door or a window opens and we find that the big corporate interests again -- in this instance it's often the big insurance companies -- find their way to the table. If they don't find their way to the table, they find people to be at the table who will represent their interests. You end up no better off than you were in the first place, and in some instances worse off, because now you have this body that's supposed to protect you and act in your interests and isn't. How do you get rid of that? How do you deal with that?


I have a concern that this advisory group is to make recommendations to the minister, and then the minister will decide, I would think, if you follow the logic in this, how this industry is to be regulated. The minister has ultimate power and final say in what the regulations will be. You have to understand that when regulations are made around here, unlike the passing of legislation, it's done primarily behind closed doors by bureaucrats in consultation with their bosses, with the minister and his staff. How do you have influence? How do you make sure the advice you've given as an advisory body to the minister actually works its way through the process and is what comes out the other end at the end of the day to support you in your effort to find some fairness and justice here? It's a real concern. I'm not sure if it has been addressed yet by the government side. They will have an opportunity here this afternoon as we debate this, or later as it comes back before us again, to somehow ease my concern if they want to put some thoughts on the table.

It says here that the bill allows the advisory group to set the standards for the minister's approval. So if the minister doesn't approve, the standards you advise should be in place may not happen. It also goes on to say that the bill allows for the right to set standards, but does not specify what standards -- back again to the power of the minister. It is expected the standards would be adopted, but it's not guaranteed the standards would be adopted, and that's a very real concern.

As you look at how the public business of this province has been ordered or reordered or restructured or reorganized over the last seven years, you have to understand why we, in this caucus anyway, become very nervous when, as is suggested in this bill, the final say is at the desk or the table of the minister. It's easy for anybody to do: you research who influences this government, who funds this government in terms of its ability to go before the electorate and run election campaigns, who it is this government sits down with over and over again to consult, to get advice from, to listen to. It's not the small business sector. It's not the mom-and-pop franchise operators, corner stores or small businesses, certainly in Sault Ste Marie, Sudbury or North Bay. It's not those folks this government sits down and talks with. It's the big corporate entities. It's the banks and the insurance companies that have their offices not far from here on Bay Street.

We know what their interest is. It's maximizing ever more generously their bottom lines, their profit margins, because it's no longer acceptable or accepted practice that a big corporation would simply make a profit at the end of the year. The big corporate entities that drive these small businesses in towns across this province are interested in increasing, improving on, the profit they made before. For example, if they made 10% or 15% last year, they not only want to make the same 10% or 15% this year; they want to make 10% or 15% on top of that.

How do you do that? Well, you do that by squeezing the little guy at the bottom end to produce ever more profit or to reduce his cost ever more aggressively. That, of course, at the end of the day ends up cutting into his profit margin. You end up trying to organize the industry such that you have people out there working for the least amount of money that you can get them to work for, and using businesses or folks who perhaps don't have the best of worker health and safety in mind.

As I said, I think this is a good bill. It goes a distance to allaying some of the concerns that both consumers and small business operators have where this industry is concerned. It has in it things that every caucus in this House could support, but I say that with the proviso, as I've already put on the record here this afternoon, that we need to be ever vigilant, that we need to be ever mindful of the track record of this government where small business and communities and people are concerned. We need to be mindful of the efforts, for example, of the Red Tape Commission as they go around this province trying to find ways to get government out of the life of communities and people and small businesses so that the private sector, à la big corporate interest, can have its way and improve its bottom line.

I think unions will be happy with this bill. Anything that speaks to improving environmental standards, anything that speaks to improving labour practices and workers' health and safety, they will be supportive of, and they will be supportive of us if at the end of the day we decide we want to support this bill. I suggest that we will.

Mr Rick Bartolucci (Sudbury): I'm proud to be able to stand and speak to a private member's bill in a time other than private members' hour. You see, I believe that private members' bills are extremely important. They offer the individuals on all sides of the House the opportunity to affect policy, to put forth good ideas, to ensure that Ontario is a better place because of the ideas that you put forth through private members.

The bill that Mr Sampson has put forth is a bill worth considering. It's a bill that should be fully debated. It's a bill that certainly provides I would think a sense of security for the consumers in Ontario, but it's also going to provide confidence in the system. I think that's very, very important.

Let me speak a little bit about private members' business and how, by and large, we refuse as government or as this place exists to allow for private members' business to be fully debated. To be perfectly honest, Mr Sampson is very lucky to get his bill before the House today. The government ran out of things to call, so they started calling private members' business. The problem is that it's obviously slanted in the government's favour. They're only going to be granting private members' business that has been started by government members, and that's sad, because I think there are a lot of great ideas on all sides of the House worthy of open, frank, honest debate.

Mr Caplan: Like Bill 128.

Mr Bartolucci: My colleague David Caplan has mentioned Bill 128, the highway memorial bill. It was put forth by me. It's a bill that would name bridges after fallen police officers, police officers who have died in the line of duty. I think it's an excellent bill, but I dare say that if I were to ask for unanimous consent -- and I'm not -- there would be people on the government side who would say no, not because it's not a good idea, but because it's put forth by a Liberal and you can't have a Liberal getting all-party support on a private member's bill because that would send the wrong message. The reality is that it would send a very, very good message.

I know my time is up; I can't wait to finish my 16 minutes at another time.

The Deputy Speaker: It being 6 o'clock, this House stands adjourned until 6:45 tonight.

The House adjourned at 1801.

Evening meeting reported in volume B.