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Ontario Hansard - 07-May1997

1997 ONTARIO BUDGET

Resuming the adjourned debate on the motion that this House approves in general the budgetary policy of the government.


Mr Dalton McGuinty (Leader of the Opposition): For those who are just tuning in, this is the commencement of the debate on the budget that was introduced in this House yesterday.

I intend to take some time on behalf of my party to offer some comments, constructive by and large, on the budget. In particular, I intend to bring home to the members of the government that ultimately the reason we have been sent here is to represent the interests of people. We're not here to advance the cause of government, the cause of business, the cause of labour, the cause of interests of any particular kind. We are here, at the end of the day, to represent people. It is my intention to show that people have been overlooked in the budget we had presented in this House yesterday and that this government is attacking the fiscal deficit at the risk of people and that in effect it's creating something I call a human deficit.

We have prepared a publication called The Human Deficit: The Real Cost of the Mike Harris Budget. In this document we outline in some detail how the budget is exacting a cost on the people of this province and the quality of life that we have come to enjoy.

At the outset, I want to make it clear where I come from when it comes to these kinds of things and offer some sense of my values, because I think it's important for Ontarians to gain that understanding. I was elected as leader of my party some six months ago and I think it's important for them to gain some better impression of who I am and what's important to me.

Before studying law I studied biology. I did that for four years. Maybe that's one of the reasons I often think of our electorate in terms of anatomy. There's the head, or the intellect; there's the heart, and that's compassion; there is the gut, and that's the visceral. I believe that our obligation as leaders is to avoid the gut.

Let me give you an example of a simplistic kind of pitch that would be geared to the gut. That would be if I was to stand up in this House and say: "You know, the real problem in Ontario today is all those people on welfare. We all know that they're sitting around at home watching TV and drinking beer and there's not a single one among the lot who has any genuine interest in advancing themselves and pulling themselves forward. What we really ought to do is, we've got to do something with those people. Or maybe more importantly, what we really ought to do is something to those people."

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That is a good example of a pitch targeting the gut in a game. I think our job as leaders, as holders of public office, but especially as Liberals, is to avoid the gut. Our job is to strike that balance between the head and the intellect and the heart and compassion -- the head especially when it comes to fiscal responsibility, and compassion because we believe that everybody has got to move forward together. If anybody is left behind, then we cannot lay claim to calling ourselves a truly caring and compassionate society. That's where I come from. I think our job as Liberals is to avoid the gut, avoid those kinds of pitches or appeals which are designed to reflect our worst; rather to appeal to that sense of balance between the head -- the intellect -- and the heart -- compassion -- which is designed to bring out our best.

What are we to make of this budget? What are we to make of the budget introduced in the House yesterday by the Minister of Finance, Ernie Eves, a budget prepared, condoned and encouraged and nurtured by the Premier, Mike Harris? I think the budget has left Ontario people behind. I think this government has an unhealthy obsession with the deficit; I think this government has adopted a dangerous policy of delivering to us a tax cut that we can't afford.

Let me be very clear about the tax cut, because that seems to be the topic du jour in the midst of this federal election. Some argue that a tax cut at this stage is good; others argue that it's not good. I want to make it perfectly clear that I'm in favour of a tax cut, but it's not the right time, and the issue is not whether we want a tax cut; the issue is whether in the grand scheme of things we can afford a tax cut. I think from both an economic perspective and the perspective of people, it's the wrong thing to do at this time.

If we were sitting around a corporate boardroom table today and the accountant for the corporation made a presentation to us and said that we were bleeding profusely, the company was in the red, we were losing money, but somebody else, one of the directors, came forward and said, "I've got a proposal. I want us, notwithstanding that bad news, to declare a dividend to benefit shareholders," or somebody else came forward and said, "I've heard the bad news and I understand we're losing money, but I still want to give a bonus to all our employees," I think the rest of us would say: "Did you not hear what the numbers person just told us? We'd like to be able to do those kinds of things, but we simply can't afford it."

The other thing we ought to keep in mind is that we're caught up here, swinging from one end of the spectrum to the other. We had a number of years of NDP government, and that government felt it could spend its way out of our problems. This government feels it can cut its way out of our problems. Each is just as bad as the other. Each lacks a sense of balance, a sense of responsibility. Each lacks that kind of spirit that is informed by an understanding that you've got to make that appeal to the heart and the intellect at the same time: fiscal responsibility and compassion.

Reckless cutting is just as dangerous as reckless spending. That's what this government is into. They're into reckless cutting. I like to use the example of the mortgage my wife and I have on our home. It's amortized over a 25-year period. If my wife and I really struggled, we could probably pay the damn thing off in 10 or 15 years, but if we did that, it would come at the expense of some of the things we feel are important for our four children to have.

That analogy has some limitations, but it's not unlike the situation our province finds itself in. It has taken a number of years to get into this financial difficulty. I for one don't feel it's worthwhile spending a lot of time trying to lay blame on previous generations of governments or politicians or Ontarians, as if somehow that would make us feel better. The fact of the matter is that we find ourselves in financial difficulty, and the issue is, how do we get out?

I know one thing: It has taken us some time to get in, and we ought to take some time to get out. I think the government ought to be putting before us a clear plan which shows that we are proceeding surely, inexorably towards the elimination of the deficit.


Mrs Helen Johns (Huron): That's what we're doing.

Mr McGuinty: The member says, "That's what we're doing," but the problem is that plan is driven by, informed by this obsession with giving us all a tax cut we can't afford. If we didn't have to find another $5.5 billion, if we didn't have to borrow, in effect, another $5.5 billion to deliver a tax cut to Ontarians, then we wouldn't have to be cutting so deeply and in some of the programs that we understand are so important to our future, things like health care and education.

I want to talk to you a moment about some of the information contained in our book here. We talk in here about a number of the deficits which this government fails to recognize. They act as if they're not really there. We talk about our health care deficit that has been created as of a result this government's policies; we talk about our learning deficit; we talk about our children's deficit; we talk about our employment deficit; we talk about the real cost of the Harris tax cuts; and we talk about something that's very interesting, I believe, called the "kept promises deficit." I want to touch on each of those areas because I think they are all of fundamental importance to any intelligent debate of this budget.

I want to talk at the top about our health care deficit. I had a great job after grade 13; I took a year off and I worked at the National Defence Medical Centre in Ottawa. I got a job there as an orderly, and my job was to provide basic nursing care to Second World War vets, some of whom had lost limbs during the course of the war, some of whom were comatose in fact. My job was very simple: to feed these men, shave these men, brush their teeth, give them baths, change their diapers, give them back rubs, turn them from side to side, because as you may recognize, if somebody is confined to bed and can't turn himself, he develops bedsores, so you've got to turn him. I learned how to treat bedsores. What that experience taught me, what it impressed upon me was a fundamental respect for human dignity.

It occurs to me that perhaps the single greatest hallmark of a truly caring and compassionate society is that society's continuing willingness and ability to care for its sick on the basis of one single, solitary criterion: because you're sick. Mike Harris is cutting $1.3 billion from Ontario hospital budgets. Mike Harris is interfering with our ability as a society to deliver care in a compassionate way to Ontario's sick.

I have had the unfortunate obligation to raise in this House stories of patients who are already experiencing the effects of Mike Harris's hospital cuts, of people who are at risk in a very real sense inside Ontario hospitals in 1997 because of policies enacted by this government. I would argue that this is unheard of for a government, that it can be legitimately accused and found guilty of causing harm to Ontario patients inside our hospitals, institutions to which we are supposed to go to receive care.

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In addition to that, all of us will recall that during the course of the provincial campaign leading into the last election there was a televised debate, and during the course of that debate questions were raised regarding the future of hospitals in Ontario. I think it's important for Ontarians to recognize that during that debate Robert Fisher from Global TV asked the following question: "Can you guarantee us tonight that your pledge to protect health care will mean that you will not close hospitals?" That was the question and it was directed to Michael Harris, then leader of the third party in Ontario. This is what he said: "Certainly. I can guarantee you, Robert, that it is not my plan to close hospitals." To date, we find 22 Ontario hospitals on the chopping block, this owing to the man who said: "Certainly. I can guarantee you that it is not my plan to close hospitals." What are Ontarians to make of this?

We've heard so much during the course of the last 24 hours about how the Premier is putting all kinds of money into health care. Finally our ship has arrived. It's come in. We can all relax. Patients who find themselves inside Ontario hospitals today ought to breathe a tremendous sight of relief because the Premier is going to look after them. This from the man who told us, "It is not my plan to close hospitals."

It is true that this budget contains some more money for health care in Ontario and for hospitals, but I properly label that money wreckers' fees, because what it's for is to pay off through severance packages the nurses who are going to be fired and it's to close hospitals. It's to restructure. Not one cent of it, not a single penny, is going to go to improve the quality of health care that is delivered in Ontario hospitals today.

The Premier and the Minister of Health are both fond of saying, "It's not bricks and mortar that care for people; it's people that care for people." In that regard, the Premier and the minister are absolutely correct, but what they fail to understand is that nurses are the people who care for people. When you cut $1.3 billion out of Ontario hospital budgets, you're laying off 15,000 nurses. In addition to that, thus far we have laid off 12,300 health care workers who formerly worked in our hospitals. When you lay off that many health care workers, when you lay off 15,000 nurses, you cannot help but compromise the quality of care that is being delivered inside those hospitals.

I'm not making this up. There are stories I have had to raise both in this Legislature and outside that would break your heart. They have to do with the fact that people who find themselves inside hospitals today in Ontario aren't getting access to basic nursing care, the kind I referred to earlier on, the kind I was called upon to deliver as an orderly so many years ago at the National Defence Medical Centre in Ottawa.

I raised in this Legislature some months ago now the story of Mr Kaihla, a patient who found himself inside a hospital in Sault Ste Marie. His son had written an article in the newspaper -- that's why I don't mind talking about this -- and he talked about the experiences his father suffered inside the hospital. He talked about his frustration, and this is a modern-day reality. He found himself here in Toronto, a journalist, and his dad was in Sault Ste Marie, the home town.

We have the case of a single child. We have the case of an elderly wife and mother living in Sault Ste Marie. The father was hospitalized at the end of his life. The mother, the wife, wasn't that well and she couldn't travel to and from the hospital on a regular basis. The son, who lived here in Toronto, had a reasonable expectation that even though he couldn't be there by his father's side and even though his mother couldn't be there to ensure that the father was receiving proper treatment, he had developed this expectation that in our province, in Ontario, in 1997, if you're sick and you're hospitalized, we're going to look after you. What he found was that that was not the case.

This is what he wrote in the newspaper. When he did have the rare occasion to visit the hospital he said: "I was shocked by the general griminess of this hospital environment. My mother and I found soiled diapers left discarded on the floor by my father's bed and unwashed urinals left on the same side table that was used for the food tray and the medications. There were countless lapses in his basic care, like not getting fed when my mother nor I were there to do it."

The son had to return to Toronto, so he had a friend visit the father. The son wrote: "When my friend entered his room before lunch, it did not appear that much nursing had been conducted there yet. My father's IV stand was knocked over. He had not been shaved. His mouth was parched and his lips were cracked. The food tray arrived without any beverage. For the next two hours no nurse entered the room, nor did any staff come to feed him."

One final note from the son. He said: "Seventy-three days after his admission, my father died, his flesh raw and open from his being left too long in soiled diapers so many times. He had screamed in agony when being wiped during his last weekend."

Do you know what they told him at the hospital when he raised complaints about the lack of basic nursing care? They told him that he ought to retain a private duty nurse because they could no longer provide that kind of basic nursing care. That's not the kind of Ontario I want to live in.

If Ontarians understood what is developing in this province under the Mike Harris regime inside our hospitals alone -- I'll soon touch on education -- I think they would turn their heads away and say: "That is not for me. I am not comfortable with that. If you are sick in my province, if you are in physical need, we're going to look after you." Right now, we can't deliver that kind of care. That is not the fault of our hospitals, it is not the fault of our hospital administrators or our nurses. It's a lack of funding.

You know what? Some people are afraid to say this, but some of the quality of life we happen to enjoy here costs a bit of money. It's as simple as that. I make no apologies for that. The quality of care, the quality of life that we enjoy in this province is a function, to some degree at least, of what we spend. If we find ourselves in some financial difficulty, then yes, we've got to find efficiencies, we've got to find savings, but let's be careful. When we make cuts, let's make sure that we're not making those kinds of cuts we are feeling today in Ontario hospitals, cuts that are resulting in a lack of basic nursing care to people who find themselves in need inside those hospitals.

We've also raised in this Legislature the story of somebody else's father. I think it's important from time to time for all members in this House to recognize that we're always talking about people here. It's easy to get caught up in programs and policies, and we talk in terms of billions of dollars. But fundamentally what governments do has an impact on people at a very basic level.

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I want to tell you another story, not about a patient but about somebody else's father. This man was 82 years of age and he arrived at the Peterborough Civic Hospital by ambulance on February 4 of this year at 9 o'clock in the morning. He had only been to the doctor twice in 59 years of marriage. He was a very healthy man. He found, when he arrived there, that there were no beds available, so his wife and his daughter waited with him in the emergency ward.

His daughter had to leave to go to work, so at about noon she leaves, gets in the car and drives to work. The mother was growing tired, and by 9 o'clock in the evening she figured she'd have to leave as well. She had made efforts to try to get him a bed during the course of the day. At 10 o'clock the following morning the daughter returned to the crowded emergency hallway to find her father was still there. He had not been placed in a room. When she approached her dad, she found that in fact he had died. Nobody in the hospital knew that this man on this bed in this hallway, underneath glaring lights, being bypassed by patients and hospital workers alike, had died.

So she runs over to the administration and she says, "How long has my father been lying here dead?" Can you imagine that? In 1997, in Ontario, you bring your father to the hospital, you leave him there with the reasonable expectation that he'll be cared for, that somebody at some point would examine him, determine what the problem was and do what they could to address it. You leave him there and you come back the next day and you yourself discover that in this sanctuary, this refuge, your father had died and nobody knew about it.

That's just another sad tale I wish I didn't have to relate to the members of this Legislature and to our television viewers. But I want them to understand that we've got a problem today in Ontario, and it's a very serious problem, in that when you cut $1.3 billion from Ontario hospital budgets, there is a corresponding effect. There has been a significant reduction in the quality of care that's available at our hospitals, and that's directly related to the fact that this government is taking money out of our hospital budgets.

I want to talk to you about education in Ontario, the state we find it in today. But I want to tell you a little story first. I have the occasion now, as I do on a regular basis, to go out and give speeches. I had the opportunity to deliver a speech to a group of senior women in Ontario right here at the main library in downtown Toronto. The average age of my listener would have been, I think, somewhere near 67 or 68. I was impressed by the fact that the concerns they raised with me after I had finished speaking were twofold. One you would expect: They're very concerned about health care in Ontario, for the reasons I've just related.

But the next thing they talked about was education. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that these senior women understood, had an innate sense that of all the things we can do to ensure that Ontario can really embrace the 21st century, to ensure that we're going to make it, there is nothing more important than to invest in our people by providing them with the best possible education.

I think most people in this province understand that. We are going to get by in the 21st century on brainpower. We've got to have the best-skilled, the most highly educated workforce on the planet right here. That ought to be the ideal we hold before us. That ought to be what informs our efforts. That ought to be what motivates this government.

I want you to think of this now: Last year, 44 out of 50 American states increased funding to their publicly funded universities. That's what they did. What did we do in Ontario? We cut funding to our universities by, I think, 16%. We took $400 million out of post-secondary education in Ontario. We now have the distinction of ranking last in all of Canada when it comes to funding for our universities.

What is it that the Americans know that apparently this government doesn't understand? What is it that the other provinces know that this government doesn't know? They understand that if we're going to get ahead, if we're going to make it in a global economy, in a knowledge-based economy, it's going to be by ensuring that we equip our people with the best skills and the best education possible.

We cannot compete in some of the base kinds of industries because there is always going to be another jurisdiction that is going to pay a lesser minimum wage; there's always going to be another jurisdiction that is going to waive its environmental laws, assuming there are any. That is not our shtick, we have never been any good at it, but where we are very good is in knowledge and developing a knowledge-based economy.

We have this perverse situation today where with unemployment somewhere between 9% or 9.1% in our province, I have 3,000 jobs in our community that we can't fill. Think of that: 3,000 jobs today in Ontario that we can't fill. Those jobs are all in high tech. I don't think any of them start at less than $45,000 a year. For every one of those jobs we fill, we create three or four spinoffs for people who know nothing about high tech.

What is this government doing to ensure we're filling those jobs? What is this government doing to ensure our universities are second to none, to ensure our post-secondary system of education is world-class, to ensure all Ontarians can look forward to the future with optimism? Nothing. They cut funding by 16%. They took $400 million out of post-secondary education in Ontario last year. The government before, the NDP government, increased tuition fees by 42%. This government has increased them by 30%.

There comes a point in time when post-secondary education becomes something that's out of reach. I know I speak for everybody here when I say we want our young people to go on to post-secondary studies, but we're putting a fence up in front of them, we're putting a hurdle in front of them that too many of them can no longer overcome, because it's becoming too expensive.

Some people believe that increasing, to some extent, student assistance is the solution. But I can tell you that I've had the opportunity to review some studies that have come from other jurisdictions, and they show that notwithstanding the amount of student assistance -- and it's at a shameful level in Ontario today. But even if that were rectified, in the face of exceedingly high tuition fees, there are many, many students -- and this is documented -- who would say to themselves, "I am not comfortable graduating with that size of a debt load."

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My parents at home told me, "You pay as you go." We didn't get the roof until we could afford it; Mom and Dad didn't get the car until they could afford it. But we're telling students, "You've got to come out of school now with a debt to the tune of $30,000, $40,000, $50,000, if you're doing post-graduate work." Too many of our students are then going to say: "If that's the case, to heck with it. I am not going to pursue post-secondary studies. I am not comfortable with that notion of so much debt on my shoulders when I get out of school." I don't think this government understands that.

I've talked about post-secondary, but let me for a minute talk about the other end. The actions of this government have led to 25 school boards in Ontario to date cancelling junior kindergarten. That means that 30,000 young Ontarians have been deprived of junior kindergarten.

I know there is a fiction out there, some kind of myth. That fiction or myth says this: "It's just a fancy babysitting service. Junior kindergarten doesn't teach them a damned thing. The mothers ought to be at home; that's where they belong, and they ought to be looking after the kids." That fails to recognize modern reality. The fact of the matter is, the great majority of couples who are raising children in Ontario today are both out working, and they're not out there to pay for luxuries; they're out there working hard to pay the rent or pay the mortgage or make the car payments or pay for the diapers or pay for the baby food. That's why they're doing it. That is a modern-day reality.

Let's come back to junior kindergarten. All of the studies are in on this. Everybody who is an authority in this area understands that it benefits children from all socioeconomic groups. It helps us detect problems, if there are any, at an early stage and it helps us to begin to treat those problems at the earliest possible time.

We also know that the mind is most impressionable, it's most plastic, in the early years, and kids are like sponges: They'll take in that information. We get them ready to learn, we get them excited about learning, we top them up so they're all at the same level, and then when they get into kindergarten and the years beyond that, they are truly ready and prepared for learning. I think most people in Ontario today innately would understand that we need more education today, not less.

Some 23 boards in Ontario today as a result of this government's policies have made reductions to their special education programs. At some point in time you've got to apply a moral test to government. Some people might shrink from that word, say: "That's kind of old-fashioned. I'm not comfortable with that." What I mean by that is most people have an innate sense of what's right. When you apply the moral test to cutting back on special education, cutting back on education for those who have learning disabilities, I think most people would say, "That's not right."

There are certain groups in Ontario who don't lobby us, don't write us, don't know how to put together placards, don't mount bus convoys, don't demonstrate outside Queen's Park, and they don't even vote. I would include in that group the learning-disabled; I would include in that group children; I would include in that group our most senior Ontarians; I would include in that group people who are very ill. I think most people in Ontario understand that it would not be right for the rest of us to benefit at the expense of those people. So when I talk about a moral test, that's what I'm talking about. I think this government is failing the moral test when it comes to things like special education.

Coming back to something I said at the outset, how important it is for us to keep our eye on the ball in politics, I got into politics for people. Sometimes, given the forces that act on all of us, it's not easy to keep your eye on that ball, because you've got to get caught up in the policies and you've got to get caught up in the programs and you've got to look at statements of account and budgets. But really the reason we're all here is for people.

I want to tell you another story about somebody I encountered along the way as the MPP for Ottawa South. Mr Kirwan came to see me a few months back and he told me he'd had a problem and he wanted me to help him out with it. He wanted me to meet his son. I went to meet his son, Gordie. Gordie is 21 years of age, he's a big, strapping, handsome fellow, but he's not like the rest of us. He doesn't play football or soccer or baseball; he plays with his teddy bear. Gordie has the mind of a three-year-old.

His dad came to see me, and his mother. They spoke to me about the fact that he had been enrolled in an education program that came to an end when he was 21 years of age. Just to show you what it's like in the Kirwan home, the way it worked for Gordie's parents was they told me there had been a major cause for celebration some six months prior. You know what it was? The mom and the dad were at the dinner table and they heard the toilet flush. That was the cause for celebration. Gordie, 21 years of age, had gone to the bathroom on his own.

Those of us who have had the joy of raising kids know some of the milestones along the way. You begin to look forward to the day when your daughter can dress herself or your son can tie his shoes or the kids are finally out of diapers, those kinds of things.

The Kirwans have a 21-year-old son. That is their lot in life and they have not for one instant tried to shirk what they feel to be their proper responsibility. Gordie's never going to be out of diapers. They are prepared to assume responsibility for their son until the day he dies, but they felt they needed just a bit of a hand from the government. It seems to me that in the grand scheme of things they weren't asking for a hell of a lot.

Gordie had recently learned at school, at 21 years of age, to point to three diagrams. One of those diagrams meant, "I'm hungry"; the other diagram meant, "I'm tired and I want to go to bed"; and the other diagram meant, "I want to go to the bathroom." That was a major accomplishment for the Kirwans.

When he turned 21 years of age, there's a law in Ontario that says, "We're no longer going to pay for your education." So they had two options. They could come up with the money on their own -- and it was a lot of money; I forget the exact amount, but certainly in excess of $15,000 -- or they could put him on a waiting list for group homes, and in our area there's a waiting list of some 300 people. In fact, they had another option too. One of them could stay at home with their son all day, every day. As Mrs Kirwan put it to me: "I dearly love my son but I couldn't stay home with him 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. I just couldn't do it."

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All the Kirwans wanted was the help of the government to keep their son in school, given the fact that he was still learning. It was only after I raised Gordie's plight in this Legislature that the Minister of Education said that he was going to look at it. In fact, he said that he was prepared to make the necessary change in that law. I haven't seen any sign of that yet, but on behalf of the Kirwans I remain very hopeful.

With this story and the others that I've told, the point I want to drive home is something our parents have been telling us for centuries: There's no free lunch. If you honestly think we can get a tax cut in Ontario today that's going to cost $5.5 billion and there are no downsides, then you're dreaming in Technicolor. People are going to get hurt. I think most people in Ontario, if they understood the downsides, truly understood them, would say: "I'm not comfortable with that. That's not right."

You know the good news in Ontario? The good news is that we're still not comfortable with people sleeping on our streets. We're still not comfortable knowing that somebody's father could die in a hospital hallway and nobody on staff at the hospital would know about it. We're still not comfortable in Ontario, thank God, with kids turning to crime and drugs. We're still not comfortable with any of those things, and that's why I am convinced that when people take the time to understand the real consequences of this government's policies, they will turn their heads and say: "That is not for me. That is not my Ontario. I am not comfortable with that."

Over the past several weeks I have raised in this Legislature concerns about children in Ontario, and particularly about children who are the subject of abuse. Today in Ontario over two dozen kids, most of them under the age of three, will be beaten, kicked, punched, slapped, suffer cigarette burns, possibly be shaken very violently. Some of them will experience very severe injury. Some of them will cry as a result of this; others, and this is even worse, will say nothing. It seems to me that one of the obligations we have in this Legislature is to make sure we do all that we reasonably can for those children.

This spring and this summer in Ontario we will have eight inquests held into the deaths of infants and children who had had some connection with the children's aid society. These inquests have made it abundantly clear that the children's aid societies cannot keep up with the demand. They cannot meet their obligations because the workload is simply too great.

This morning's Ottawa Citizen had a story about an inquest being held into the death of a couple of children: Margaret, eight, and Wilson, 10 years of age, brother and sister. In May 1995 their father walked into his apartment where the kids were. He had his rifle with him and he very gently put the muzzle against their heads and gently squeezed the trigger.

The headline of this story is "CAS Logjam Could Lead to Another Tragedy: Social Workers Lack Time to Handle Heavy Caseload, Kasonde Inquest Told." I want to quote from the beginning of this article. It says:

"Social workers at the children's aid society are so overloaded with work that another tragedy like the murder of the Kasonde children could occur, an inquest heard yesterday.

"Jean-Jacques Tremblay, the last CAS social worker to deal with the Kasonde family, said that he and his colleagues were `deluged' when he took the case in 1995. He added that he continues to have too little time to give proper attention to complex matters.

"`With your caseload still being heavy, do you feel there is a real potential for harm?' a male juror asked him.

"`There is no question of that,' replied Mr Tremblay, who said child protection workers typically deal with 12 to 14 families at any given time."

In this case, as in most of the other cases, sadly and tragically the warning signs were there, and for a variety of reasons, but first and foremost because they don't have the time to keep up with the caseload, those warning signs weren't heeded. We didn't pay attention to them.

For example, it says here that Mr Tremblay had been asked earlier to look into a February 1995 report by a teacher that Margaret -- that's the eight-year-old girl -- was so afraid of her father and his gun that she would cry at school on the days he picked her up for visits.

I think everybody recognizes or ought to recognize that we have a serious problem. I would call it a crisis. I'm not sure I've ever called anything else in my seven years in this House a crisis. I don't use that word loosely; I use it very carefully and decidedly. We have a crisis when it comes to our inability to look out for the interests of children who find themselves in circumstances today in Ontario where they are the victims of abuse.

What has this government done in the face of that clear and unequivocal crisis, in the face of testimony at inquests being held into the murders of young Ontario children? You know what they're doing? They're cutting funding to children's aid societies by $17 million. That has led to the layoff in Ontario today of 340 case workers in our province. It's cheap, it's chintzy, it's short-sighted and it reveals, I think goes to the heart of, what this government is all about.

Some people have commented on the discipline of this government. They know who theirs are and theirs know them. They know who voted for them, they will look out for those interests, they will make no efforts whatsoever to branch out, to moderate, to move to the centre of the road.

It's really unfortunate that this government doesn't pay more attention to the needs of children, those silent, quiet victims of the Common Sense Revolution. All the government had to do was restore, at minimum, the funding, the $17 million it had stolen from children's aid societies in Ontario. Is that really in the grand scheme of things that big a deal?

I remain hopeful for our great province, because if you go and knock on doors in any riding in our province today and you tell them one of the results, one of the costs, of the tax cut is that we're cutting $17 million out of children's aid societies and that we're laying off 340 case workers and that children who find themselves at risk today will not be cared for, if you present that contrast to them and ask: "Are you comfortable with that? Does that make you feel proud to be an Ontarian? Does that make you feel good?" I am very comfortable in saying that people will say: "I'm not comfortable with that. That's not my Ontario."

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Even from an economic perspective, if we have to reduce everything to an economic argument, from a purely economic perspective it makes sense to invest in our children. We have known for too long now that for every buck you spend up front, you save seven down the line.

I used to make a darned good living as a criminal lawyer, defending what we used to call in those days juvenile delinquents, now called young offenders, and the most pathetic and tragic aspect of my practice was to see how so much of that criminal behaviour was so eminently predictable, and we did nothing about it. We continue to do nothing about it. I know there are all kinds of cheap political capital to be gained by saying, "We're going to slap those kids into those institutions" -- what do we call those things?


Mr Michael Gravelle (Port Arthur): Boot camps.

Mr McGuinty: They're called boot camps. It's just not part of my vocabulary. "We're going to slap those kids so damned hard they won't know what the heck hit them."

It's too late. I can tell you it is far too late for us to focus our efforts on boot camps. It starts up front. You've got to invest up front, and that starts with ensuring that when you're growing up you're not beaten up by your mom or your dad or mom's boyfriend; it starts by ensuring there's quality day care available; it starts by ensuring that junior kindergarten is there for you, and all the way along the line. If you really want to get criminals where it hurts, you get them at the beginning. You make sure it's tough for them to develop in that way.

One of the things I recall when I was travelling through the province is I met a farmer, a wise man, and we were talking about crime prevention. He said: "You know, son, I want you to think of your lawn in the spring. You know and I know that in a few months' time weeds are going to make their appearance. There are a couple of things you can do, son," as he put it to me. "You can wait for those weeds to appear and pick them out one by one, or you can immediately begin to lay down those kinds of conditions that make it tough for the weeds to make an appearance in the first place."

I didn't know it at the time but he was talking about crime prevention. The same thing applies. We can wait for our young people to become twisted and misshapen because of events that take place around them or we can make efforts to make it tough for those influences to have a bearing on their lives.

One in five children in Ontario today lives at or below the poverty line. If you grow up in poverty, you're growing up in an environment of despair. If you're growing up in an environment of despair, you are more likely, in fact much more likely, studies tell us, to be living in an environment where there is violence. We've got to fundamentally begin to wrap our heads around this very serious problem of child poverty in Ontario.

About 500,000 children in Ontario are dependent on welfare. I made reference to the fact that there's this myth out there, this fiction, that people on welfare don't want to help themselves, that they're all over the age of 21 and they all sit at home all day, watch TV and drink beer. Half of our recipients of welfare in Ontario today are children. They did nothing to earn or deserve that state of affairs. They're just quiet victims. As I said before, they're not going to write to us, they're not going to lobby us, but just because we don't hear from them, just because they don't vote, doesn't relieve us of the obligation to make genuine efforts to help them.

I want to talk about our employment deficit. A number of promises were contained inside the Common Sense Revolution. One of those promises was that this government was going to create 725,000 jobs. God, that sounded good. When I was campaigning, I kind of wished I could say that, but I wouldn't have felt comfortable making that kind of a promise, reaching that far into the future, trying to predict economic conditions. It was just not something we felt we could do. Nevertheless this government, led by Mike Harris, said yes, they can come up with 725,000 jobs. What that means is 145,000 jobs each year and every year. Do you know where we are today? We find ourselves 165,000 jobs behind that target. That's one heck of a lot of jobs we're missing in Ontario today.

When Mike Harris came into office as Premier, unemployment in Ontario was 8.7%. It has since climbed to 9.1%. The theory was that if we gave Ontarians a tax cut, this would put money into their pockets and they would remove that money from their pockets and they would go out and they would buy that fridge and they would buy that car and then buy that house.

The government has been in office now for two years. The tax cut has been delivered in half, and notwithstanding that, unemployment has gone up, and we find ourselves 165,000 jobs behind the target the Premier set for himself. I didn't set that. Anybody who has looked at this tells us it's going to be impossible for the government to catch up on those 165,000 jobs. That is simply much too optimistic and overly ambitious. They are not going to be able to make up for lost ground when it comes to jobs in Ontario.

One of the most tragic aspects of unemployment today has to do with the rate when it comes to our young people. We are at 18.5% unemployment when it comes to young people in Ontario, but in fact in the last year 27,000 young people stopped looking for work. What that means is that the real youth unemployment in Ontario today is somewhere in the range of 25% to 30%. I think Ontarians recognize it is vitally important for our young people to be able to do what previous generations of Ontarians have done, which is to look forward to the future with a tremendous sense of optimism.

I remember what my dad used to tell me. He had the seat before me. We were 10 kids at home and it wasn't always easy, but one of the things he used to tell us was: "The world is your oyster. Anything you want is out there for you. You can get it, because it's all there." I wish fathers today and mothers today, parents today, could make the same kind of statement to their children and say it with sincerity and say it in a genuine way, because I don't think they could.

1610

I think what's really important when it comes to this budget is for Ontarians to forget the numbers, forget the experts and just ask themselves in their own home if they are feeling any better. Do you feel any better knowing that the man who promised you he wouldn't close hospitals is closing your community hospital? Does that make you feel good? Do you feel any better knowing that we're going to lay off 15,000 nurses in Ontario hospitals? You've heard some of those horror stories about patients who have lacked for basic nursing care in Ontario hospitals. Does that make you feel good?

Do you feel any better knowing that 30,000 young Ontarians didn't have junior kindergarten last year? Do you feel any better knowing that we are now the lowest funder per capita in the country when it comes to universities? Does that make you feel good and proud?

Do you feel any better knowing that the man who said he was going to cut your taxes is transferring them down to your property tax level?

Do you feel any better knowing that we've cut $17 million out of our children's aid society budgets? Do you feel any better knowing we've done that at a time when, during the last five years, the reported incidence of abuse of children in their homes has doubled in Ontario?

Forget the numbers, forget the budget, forget the government spin. Ask yourself, knowing all of that in Ontario today, do you feel better? Does it make you feel good? Does it make you feel like saying: "Yeah, bring on the future. I'm ready for it. We are going to make it. We're going to move forward together"? I think most Ontarians would tell you that this government's policies and this government's budget do not inspire them, do not make them hope.

If you really listen to Premier Mike Harris, if you really listen to the policies, do you know what you hear? You hear what we can't do: "We can't do this," and, "We can't do that."

It seems to me that every generation asks the same questions of its political leadership, and the questions are: "How are we going to make it? How are we going to build upon the successes of previous generations in Ontario? Who's going to talk to me about how we're going to meet with success?"

This government does no building, none whatsoever. It wants to take us back. So we're going to have fewer hospitals, we're going to have fewer school boards, but they're going to be bigger boards and in fact bigger hospitals. We're going to have fewer but larger municipalities. It's rather perverse, coming from a government that's against bigger government. They're forming larger institutions of government bureaucracies in a real sense: bigger hospitals, bigger municipalities, bigger school boards.

When you stop to think of it -- some people have trouble with this notion -- one of the reasons we happen to hold the distinction of enjoying, at least until this point in time, the best quality of life on the planet is because government has, until this point in time, played a continuing, positive role in the lives of Ontarians. I for one make no apologies for that. Government does have a positive role to play. I believe that just as government can't do it all, neither can people go it alone. There are always going to be groups of people for whom government has a responsibility to speak out and advance their interests. In that grouping I would put our very young, our very old; I'd put our sick, I'd put our poor, I'd put our disabled. I think any government that doesn't advance the cause of those groups is shirking its proper responsibilities.

When you give away a tax cut, when you give away $5.5 billion --


Mr Bruce Crozier (Essex South): And you borrow it all.

Mr McGuinty: -- and then you borrow it on top of that, to make matters worse, what happens is that there is a downside. That money's got to come from somewhere else, and it's coming by and large from those groups who aren't here, who can't advance their causes, who don't mount demonstrations outside Queen's Park, who don't phone us, who don't write to us, who don't lobby us and, by and large, who don't even vote. I believe that is properly the responsibility of government, to make sure those interests are heard.

I want to talk about this deficit of kept promises. We all travel around the province, and from time to time you'll encounter somebody who says: "Well, at least that guy Mike Harris is doing what he said he was going to do. You can't fault him for that. The man's kept his word. He made some promises; he's honouring those promises. He's honouring his commitments." I want to set the record straight on that front.

One of the things he said was -- I made reference to this promise earlier on and I think it's work repeating -- "Certainly I can guarantee you that it is not my plan to close hospitals." To date, he has put 22 hospitals on the chopping block in Ontario.

What else did he say? He said he was going to create 725,000 new jobs in Ontario, and to date he is 165,000 jobs behind that target. Everybody who knows anything about this stuff will tell you there is no way he's ever going to make up for that lag. You just can't make up 165,000 jobs that should have been created by now.

When it comes to the environment, do you know what he said? He said: "I don't think you'll find a cent there cut out of the environment. We were able to find $6 billion in cuts without cutting the environment." That's what Mike Harris said when he was leader of the third party. He said he was going to be able to deliver on his tax cut, he was going to be able to make his other cuts without touching the environment. Do you know what he's cut when it comes to the Ministry of Environment? He's cut out $121 million. That's 42% of the budget. He's laid off about one third of the people who worked there. We have now seriously impaired our ability as a province to inspect what is going on out there and to enforce existing laws.

Something else Mike Harris said in the Common Sense Revolution: "Under this plan, there will be no new user fees." Let me give you the facts now: To date, he's brought in $225 million in new user fees for seniors and the poor who purchase medications through the Ontario drug benefit plan.

Let me just comment for a moment on election promises. They are the subject of some considerable disrepute. One of the reasons of course is that from time to time you have a politician who makes a promise and doesn't keep it. When you make that promise, it's clearly made in an effort to induce people to vote for you, and when you break it, when you don't honour that commitment, you leave people in the lurch. What you've done for seniors and what you've done for our poor and what you've done for our disabled who purchase medication when you've brought in user fees is you've really breached a very serious commitment.

1620

Agriculture: Mike Harris said, "There will be no cuts to agriculture." No cuts. To date, he has cut agriculture by $80 million. That includes $22 million in cuts to policy and farm finance; $10 million in cuts to education, research and labs; and $11 million in cuts to food industry development: $80 million.

Municipal downloading: Speaker, I know you've been looking forward to this one; listen to this one now. This is what Mike Harris said in the Common Sense Revolution. He said, "There is only one...taxpayer -- you. We will work closely with municipalities to ensure that any actions we take will not result in increases to local property taxes." To date, he has downloaded $1.3 billion in new costs on to our municipalities.

Mike Harris the Taxfighter has become Mike Harris the Taxhiker. We didn't understand that when he was focusing on reducing taxes, he was focusing on reducing taxes at the provincial level. Maybe we didn't read the fine print. Maybe the fault was entirely ours, and for that we beg forgiveness. But it's also possible that what the Premier intended to do was to download financial responsibilities on to property taxpayers so he could say: "I've got my fiscal house in order. That problem is yours." Those who are going to take the heat, of course, are going to be our representatives at the municipal level. But I'm convinced that property taxpayers are going to see through that. They're going to see through that and lay the blame where it properly lies, which is at the feet of Premier Mike Harris.

Something else contained in the budget that I found rather petty and demeaning was the effort to lay blame on the federal government. I'll tell you why it was rather surprising to me. I want to relate something that was said by Mike Harris when he was leader of the third party, something he said in this very Legislature on May 11, 1994, almost three years ago to the day. At that time, while he was giving a speech, he said:

"Instead, the government now of Ontario is reduced to whining and squabbling with other levels of government. This wasn't the way it was for 190 years in Confederation in Ontario, and it wasn't the way it was in the 42 years previous to this last decade.... In Ontario we have always been the leaders in Confederation, and we've now become the whiners in Confederation."

I want to tell you that clearly and most distinctly yesterday in this Legislature I heard whining. It came from a member of the government who was whining about something that was done or not done on the part of the federal government. But there's more stuff here. We're just warming up.

Interjections.


The Acting Speaker (Mr Bert Johnson): Order.

Mr McGuinty: Thank you for restraining them, Speaker. I can't speak fast enough for them. They want to hear this stuff, but I'm just not a fast talker. I want to continue. Mike Harris said:

"So we can continue to complain that other levels of government are not pulling their weight. We can blame local levels of government or we can blame the federal government, or we can turn our energies towards making Ontario more competitive.... When I hear other provinces coming to the federal government, which is $40 billion in deficit, and whining that we need more money, particularly Ontario, this province whose taxpayers pay the bulk of the federal taxes, are on the hook for the bulk of the federal deficit, we must get our own affairs in order.... All we have heard from the government is whining that we need more money from a bankrupt federal government. I believe that it is time for us to stop whining. It is time for us to fix that which is broken right here in our own province. It's time for us to take back our own destiny again, get our own affairs in order again."

Clearly something happened to Mike Harris. The distance between that side of the House and this side of the House is not that great, but obviously something occurred in his transition, his walking from this side to that side, because he made eminent good sense in this particular regard, and now he makes nonsense.

The point I'm trying to make today is that a budget is more than just a financial statement; it's a statement of values. If you look at this budget and you look at the values that inform it, I think you will quickly determine that those values are not shared by the great majority of Ontarians.

I believe Ontarians today value a top-quality health care system, a system that is able to deliver care in a compassionate way, where it's needed and when it's needed. I think most Ontarians today believe we have to have the best possible system of education in place and that when you compel boards to eliminate junior kindergarten programs and when you put us in last place in the country when it comes to funding for our universities, you're not getting us ready for the next century, you're not giving us a reason to be hopeful. I think most Ontarians would disagree with that, and they would expect that their government would look after those kinds of things and make sure that we are preserving or enhancing our system of education at minimum.

I think most Ontarians would tell you that if they have to choose between a tax cut and a top-quality system of education and a top-quality health care system in Ontario, and if they have to choose between a tax cut and stealing $17 million from children's aid societies so that there are 340 fewer case workers able to knock on doors in Ontario and make sure that children who are the subject of abuse are cared for, most Ontarians would tell you they're not comfortable with that, that they don't share those kinds of values.

I think most Ontarians would tell you they don't believe the tax cut is worth the price we're paying for it. They would tell you they understand that there's a cost connected with it and that the cost is simply too great. The cost is being paid by people, but it's especially being paid by people who are in those groups I mentioned earlier, who don't lobby us on a regular basis, who aren't powerful groups, whom we have a special responsibility to represent; that's our very young, our very old, our sick, our poor and our disabled.

I am convinced that when the impact of this budget, combined with the impact of the previous budget, combined with the impact of the Mike Harris policies, is felt all the way down -- that's the real trickle-down that we ought to be keeping our eye on in here, not this hocus-pocus trickle-down economics which has been tried and found wanting in other jurisdictions.

1630

What we've really got to keep our eye on is the trickle-down impact of Harris policies. When people feel that impact, they will clearly begin to send a message to this government that they don't share those values, they are not comfortable with the kind of Ontario we are creating. There is no building going on in Ontario today. If you can see it, then please point to it. Who is doing anything in government today to build our province, to invest, especially in our people by way of education, and to maintain our investment in our systems of health care? Who is doing that? This government is not doing that.

I'm convinced that when Ontarians fully understand the impact of this budget and these policies, they will turn their heads away from this government and say: "That is not my doing. I am not comfortable with that. Who else is out there?" I want to tell you on behalf of my party that we're out there, that we're listening, that we're renewing ourselves, that we're getting ready for 1999 and that it's important for us to hear from them. We understand that ultimately the very best kind of change is change that's brought about in reliance on the goodwill and the expertise of people who find themselves out there.

Is there room for improvement in education? Absolutely. But if you want to bring about the best kind of change, you've got to tap into the goodwill and the expertise of trustees and teachers and parents and students. They are not all obstacles to be overcome, you know; they are resources to be tapped. That's the approach I'm going to bring to government with my party.

When it comes to changing health care, is there room for finding efficiencies in health care? Absolutely. I am not by any means a defender of the status quo. I want to make that clear. But if you want to bring about that change, it's important to tap into the goodwill of our hospital administrators, our doctors, our nurses and our patients. They have the goodwill, they have the expertise, and they are not all obstacles to be overcome; they are resources to be tapped.

If you want to lend new shape to municipal governments in Ontario today, if you want to bring about the best kind of change there, then it's important to talk to the people who live in those communities and it's important to talk to their representatives. They're not all defenders of their own turf; they're not all purely self-interested, small-minded and petty.

There are very few people in Ontario today who are really defenders of the status quo. Most people understand that we've got to bring about positive change. But that's the key descriptive, that it's positive. It's got to be progressive. It's got to be changed for the better. We can only bring about that kind of change if we begin to understand that the people who live in this province are there to help. They are not obstacles to be overcome; they are resources to be tapped.

Perhaps one of the saddest commentaries I could make about this government is that they have lost their sense of privilege, the privilege of government, the sense that they are here to serve the people outside this place. You get the impression of late that this government senses that their job is to tell people out there what's right for them and their opinions don't count, that they're all obstacles to be overcome and they are impediments in the way of change. Clearly, that is not my position; that is not the position of my party.

I want to move the following amendment:

I move that the resolution moved by the Minister of Finance on May 6 "that this House approves in general the budgetary policy of the government" be amended by deleting the words following the words "that this House" and adding thereto the following:

"Recognizing that the budgetary policy put forward by the Minister of Finance continues to implement a tax cut at the expense of the people of Ontario; and

"That in a mad rush to give a tax cut, the Minister of Finance has created a human deficit which all Ontarians will be forced to pay for years to come; and

"That this budget confirms another $500 million will be cut for hospitals on top of existing cuts; and

"That the only new money for health care in this budget is for nurses' severance and the closing of hospitals; and

"That this budget includes $300 million new cuts to education instead of returning cuts to programs such as junior kindergarten, special education and adult education; and

"That this budget does nothing for quality classroom education or children in classrooms; and

"That this budget completely disregards the one in five children in Ontario living in poverty; and

"That the $17 million this government cut from children's aid societies is not replaced; and

"That this government is falling far short of the 725,000 jobs they promised Ontarians in the last election; and

"That, while the rest of Canada gained jobs over the last seven months, Ontario lost 11,000 jobs; and

"That because the people of Ontario would not choose a tax cut at the expense of quality health care, quality education, quality child care and higher levels of employment; and

"Because both the finance minister and Premier understand the price of everything and the cost of nothing;

"Therefore, this House has lost confidence in this government."


The Acting Speaker: Mr McGuinty has moved that the resolution moved by the Minister of Finance on May 6 "that this House approves in general the budgetary policy of the government" be amended by deleting the words following the words "that this House" and adding thereto the following:

"Recognizing that the budgetary policy put forward by the Minister of Finance continues to implement a tax cut at the expense of the people of Ontario; and

"That in a mad rush to give a tax cut, the Minister of Finance has created a human deficit which all Ontarians will be forced to pay for years to come; and

"That this budget confirms another $500 million will be cut for hospitals on top of existing cuts; and

"That the only new money for health care in this budget is for nurses' severance and the closing of hospitals; and

"That this budget includes $300 million new cuts to education instead of returning cuts to programs such as junior kindergarten, special education and adult education; and

"That this budget does nothing for quality classroom education or children in classrooms; and

"That this budget completely disregards the one in five children in Ontario living in poverty; and

"That the $17 million this government cut from children's aid societies is not replaced; and

"That this government is falling far short of the 725,000 jobs they promised Ontarians in the last election; and

"That, while the rest of Canada gained jobs over the last seven months, Ontario lost 11,000 jobs; and

"That because the people of Ontario would not choose a tax cut at the expense of quality health care, quality education, quality child care, and higher levels of employment; and

"Because both the finance minister and Premier understand the price of everything and the cost of nothing;

"Therefore, this House has lost confidence in this government."

Further debate?


Mrs Marion Boyd (London Centre): Mr Speaker, I move adjournment of the debate.

The Acting Speaker: Is it the wish of the House that the motion carry? It is agreed.

Hon Cameron Jackson (Minister without Portfolio [Seniors Issues]): Mr Speaker, I move adjournment of the House.

The Acting Speaker: Is it the wish of the House that the motion carry? It is carried.

The House adjourned at 1640.

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