31 MARS 1994 ASSEMBLÉE LÉGISLATIVE DE L'ONTARIO

The House met at 1002.

Prayers.

PRIVATE MEMBERS' PUBLIC BUSINESS

WORKERS' COMPENSATION AMENDMENT ACT (RE-EMPLOYMENT), 1993 / LOI DE 1993 MODIFIANT LA LOI SUR LES ACCIDENTS DU TRAVAIL (RENGAGEMENT)

Mr Morrow moved second reading of Bill 129, An Act to amend the Workers' Compensation Act / Projet de loi 129, Loi modifiant la Loi sur les accidents du travail.

The Deputy Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): Pursuant to standing order 96(c)(i), the honourable member has 10 minutes for his presentation.

Mr Mark Morrow (Wentworth East): As I begin, I would like to recognize in the members' east gallery Joan and Karl Crevar. They are with the Ontario Injured Workers' Group, and without their help and guidance this bill would not have been possible.

I rise today to speak to my private member's bill, Bill 129, An Act to amend the Workers' Compensation Act.

Each and every member of this House knows that their respective constituency offices start receiving calls from injured workers the day after they are elected. In my office, at least one third of my staff time is devoted to trying to assist workers through the maze that is the Workers' Compensation Board. This is not a reflection on this government but a problem that transcends all political parties.

As a union steward, I watched the Tories, with the Weiler report, make some changes, but they just didn't go far enough. Then along came the Liberals, introducing NEL and FEL, non-economic loss and future economic loss, and like that, that just didn't go far enough. As a matter of fact, in a lot of cases it made matters worse.

I also see the daily criticism from the other side of the House. Most of the talk is about the administrative dealings with the board, but I hear very little when it comes to support for injured workers in Ontario. It is now time to introduce legislation that really helps workers after they are injured and make sure that employers take responsibility for rehabilitation seriously.

Too often, I see in my constituency office employers who meet the bare minimum of recall rates under the Workers' Compensation Board and then quietly lay off their still-recovering staff. It reminds me, in this Easter season, of another person who just washes his hands and thinks the problem disappears.

I want to outline the major changes to the act that are included in Bill 129 and how they help injured workers.

The changing of clause 43(3)(b) takes away a lot of the discretion used in the allocation of FEL awards. Presently the Workers' Compensation Board can decide that a worker might be able to get a job that pays a certain wage and then makes a decision on economic loss. In reality, a position may not exist or may not be available to the injured worker. So if she tries to find work in this designated area, she just gets frustrated. She is then forced to live on a reduced amount of money. The board has used this in specific cases to say that a worker has the capacity to do a minimum-wage job, and the present legislation allows for allocation of these earnings that ultimately reduce her FEL. How can an injured worker survive on money she might be able to get but can't really? Either way, she ends up with nothing.

My new section will make sure that a job is available and suitable. It is critical that the worker have the real opportunity, not just a perceived chance, to get the type of work defined as suitable and available. Too often, employers are treating their employees as just a figure on a balance sheet, to be manipulated at their benefit. This is a more common occurrence when dealing with the injured employee.

My constituency office sees employers offering inappropriate jobs or use of questionable job descriptions just to meet the re-employment rights of the Workers' Compensation Act, then watches as the worker fails to meet the requirements of the job. The employer terminates the worker at the company's earliest convenience. I am tired, actually very sick and tired, of certain businesses being responsible for the injuring of their staff and then having no responsibility when the worker tries to return to work.

Constituents in Wentworth East tell me that the re-employment process is unfair, too long to resolve and unduly harsh. In a recent memo from the Industrial Accident Victims Group of Ontario, it described a huge increase in the requests for hearings in the re-employment branch, which has caused a major backlog. Cracks are continually showing up. Attempts are being made to find a way to mediate before it gets to the hearing stage.

In a presentation by a staff person of the accident victims group of Ontario to workers' advocates, it was reported that approximately 70% of these cases are being heard and allowed in whole or in part. This is just another example of how the present system must be adapted to deal with the realities of today. If the decisions are coming back in favour of the worker, it shows that employers are either not understanding what responsibilities they have as far as re-employment rights are concerned, or legislative changes are needed to clarify the position of both parties when injured workers return to work. I believe Bill 129 helps extremely in this area.

When the injured worker goes to his doctor after complaining about the conditions and the strain on the injured part of the body, it is a long and involved process to reinstate benefits. In many cases the board forces the worker into appealing through the decision review specialist and into the hearings branch to get a decision. This, besides leaving the worker with few financial resources, increases the strain on the administrative procedures of the board. Besides that, it further increases the strain on the social services system to react to the dumping of people who really should be the responsibility of the Workers' Compensation Board.

I think that staff time is being wasted preparing appeals that could be remedied by this change in legislation. This has also been held true by the office of the worker adviser. I've talked to Mike Grimaldi and Don Drury in the Hamilton office, and they tell me this is an ongoing occurrence. I also had a chat late yesterday afternoon with Tony Valletta from Local 1005, and he tells me that in most of his workers' comp cases, this is extremely true.

One large employer seems to be pressuring injured workers into accepting an early retirement package, using plant layoffs as a threat, at which point the Workers' Compensation Board will terminate FEL benefits, as the worker voluntarily left the workforce to take the retirement package. If the worker does not take what is offered, the employer holds the layoff threat over his head, and if he doesn't take the package, he will be left with nothing, getting caught between the proverbial rock and a hard place, leaving the injured worker with no real option. This is undue manipulation by the employer, using the employee, again, as always, as a pawn. This is not taking any type of employer responsibility for your injured employee, but more an attempt to control the bottom line. I understand business is undergoing radical change from a manufacturing to a service-based economy, but that does not mean companies can cast out injured workers in the name of progress.

The present economic condition makes it difficult for workers to push for health and safety in small firms and retain their jobs. One worker complained that a machine was unsafe. The employer threatened layoff. The worker was injured. Then when he tried to return to work, the employer used every available loophole to make sure a job was not there.

In amending subsection 54(10), I'm giving the injured employee a fairer chance to get back into the workforce.

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The board loves to use the phrase "work-hardening" when trying to help the workers return to their jobs. The board hopes that by working a few hours a day and then increasing the hours little by little, eventually the body will heal itself or the worker will be able to cope with the ongoing pain. What happens in a lot of cases is the worker tries the program, and with a few fits and starts, a lot of visits to the doctor thrown into the mix, he is just stuck coping with the ongoing pain. The employer then waits till the six-month requirement in the legislation is up and fills out a layoff notice.

Bill 129 gives the worker a longer time to work-harden. The injured worker will have more time to wean himself back into the job and not have a time frame hanging over his or her head. This will also force the employer to make a true effort to assist the worker. If you must keep this employee, then you will make sure he or she can accomplish the job given, or you will retrain the worker in a job he or she can do this time, and the layoff threat that hangs over the injured worker is withdrawn.

Rehabilitation of injured employees must be a priority. The people of Ontario want to work. I propose that rehabilitation should be a right, not a maybe. Furthermore, I would also like to guarantee a job to return to when the worker is deemed ready to once again be a productive employee.

Employers are going to have to take more responsibility for their injured workers than they presently do. In most cases, it is in the employer's control to prevent injuries. Now they would like to advocate further involvement by making it impossible for the injured workers to return to their place of employment. Do they hope that this worker will become someone else's problem?

It is my hope that the honourable members of this House will consider the proposed changes as essential in offering further protection to those who have already suffered physical and mental impairments at their place of employment. The struggle has been hard enough through the pain, doctors' visits and rehabilitation without having to know, chapter and verse, the rights of the Workers' Compensation Act.

The Acting Speaker (Ms Margaret H. Harrington): Each party will have 15 minutes to debate Bill 129 in rotation.

Mr Steven W. Mahoney (Mississauga West): I have been involved for the past month of so in what we've called an outreach tour on workers' compensation. I've travelled to Barrie, Peterborough, Chatham, Brantford, Ottawa, Sault St Marie and Thunder Bay. I've also met with workers' compensation representatives from British Columbia, Manitoba, Alberta and Saskatchewan.

One of the reasons that I and my leader decided we wanted to do this was that, as the member opposite has already mentioned in his opening remarks, out of 130 MPPs in this place, I would think there is not one whose main problem in a constituency office is not related to workers' comp. It may be followed very closely by support and custody orders enforcement trying to get the deadbeat fathers to pay for their kids, but clearly workers' compensation is the number one issue, certainly in my constituency office and with the colleagues I've talked to about this.

We identified that there was a problem, that over the years there has been so much tinkering going on with the Workers' Compensation Act, with the board, a lot of political interference, political interference from the corner office, with all three parties doing the tinkering. A staff person who will, to protect him, remain nameless made the comment, "In the Workers' Compensation Board we are prepared to do whatever it is you in the Legislature want us to do, but we're not sure on a daily basis, sometimes on an hourly basis, what it is you want us to do."

There needs to be a way of setting clear guidelines for policy. We have a situation now where policy in workers' compensation can be driven by such a thing as a private member's bill. It can be driven by WCAT making a decision that all of a sudden is contrary to what somebody else interprets as the proper policy set by the board of directors of the WCB.

We have figured out that there are no fewer than nine opportunities to appeal or reappeal a decision made in the workers' compensation system, and those nine do not include MPPs, because whether or not we want to admit it, we don't have the power to make a decision with regard to workers' compensation cases. So to call us an appeal process is probably stretching the reality. But the system is extremely ill, and not just from the point of view of the financial concerns. You see, I don't think it works for anybody.

I've met injured workers. Just the other day I was on a radio show in Ottawa with an injured worker who had a burn from gas. It got inside his glove and the temperature of the gas was some 220 degrees below zero. His hand apparently looked, when he got the glove off at the hospital, like a piece of chicken that just came out of a freezer. That was in 1989. This individual has been working within the system, within the medical community, both outside and inside the board, to try to, guess what, get the hand amputated, because he determined in his own research that was ultimately the solution. He has been unable to do that and the infection has grown from his hand right up to his shoulder and now the alternative is to take off the entire arm.

These kinds of bureaucratic foulups in the workers' compensation system, because some doctor on the inside didn't agree with a doctor on the outside and then everybody circles the wagons to try to protect themselves, are actually almost countless.

The example I gave you is an extreme, perhaps, but in the hearings that I held around the province I heard injured workers coming forward with horror stories that would curl your hair. So it's not working for injured workers. I accept that. I'm sure that members opposite would agree and we could come to a consensus on that.

It's also, we heard from employers, not working for employers. The employers are outraged. They get increases. We had a fellow who came forward and said: "I haven't had an accident in my establishment in 14 years. Why did I get a 31% increase in my rates? Somebody please explain this."

Maybe what needs to be looked at is the rating system based on segment of industry. Why shouldn't a company -- and supposedly they do if they get a rebate, but why shouldn't the rates be set for these companies on an individual basis based on their performance, based on occupational health and safety performance?

You'll all know that I am somewhat concerned about the status and the condition of the health and safety agency in this province and I don't think there is a proper relationship between workers' compensation and the WHSA. I believe what you have is bipartism that is being destroyed in the name of rhetoric, I guess, and I hear some of the rhetoric of the member opposite with regard to his bill. This bill in essence is the legal right to return to work. That is the latest thing that injured workers and the labour movement are saying they want. And yet, I heard the member say, when he talked in terms of amending subsection 10, that the worker can go back to work when the worker is deemed ready to work. Those were your words, I say to the member.

If there's one thing I heard that is a serious problem that comes out of Bill 162, it's that word "deemed" and the issue of deeming. It does not appear to be working fairly and yet you could interpret what this member, with all good intentions, has said, "that when the worker is deemed ready to return to work." Deemed by whom? Here we go with this same problem. The worker says, "I'm not ready to return to work." A doctor somewhere, who perhaps has never even met the injured worker, has never examined the injured worker -- that's actually, believe it or not, what happens in this system. The family doctor says, "I understand you have a problem." Let's face it, our family doctors, we all know them personally, and they us, and they want to help, so they say: "No problem. We'll fill out the form 7, we'll get you in there and get you on compensation." Somebody in the system rejects that, either an adjudicator or later in appeal or perhaps a medical adviser -- somebody rejects it.

We have medical advisers in the Workers' Compensation Board who are retired from a specialist area in medicine, who don't even have the opportunity to meet the patient, the injured worker, and yet they'll make a decision based on the file. They'll pull this file out and say: "I reject that. I don't agree with that doctor's analysis." That's what happened with this injured worker back in 1989 when he had the problem with his hand. They had a doctor look at a file and reject the medical advice. That's a critical problem.

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One of the things that bothers me in this whole scenario is the tinkering: We have a little change here, we have a little change there. We have members of the NDP caucus who want to pander, shall we say, to the desires -- legitimate desires. I don't deny their concern, and I think it needs to be looked at.

In the PLMAC report, there was reference to the fact that indeed the right to return to work is in the legislation. I think that's debatable. It's perhaps not as strong as it should be. Reference was made to the fact that if it's not strong enough, if the board is unable to enforce the intent of the bill, the wording should be changed.

But we have to go a lot further. Just coming up with one little private member's bill that's going to make an amendment here or an amendment there, with all due respect -- I'm sure you're honest and sincere about what you want to do here, but we have to go a lot further. We have to look at the governance. We have to deal with the issue of whether the chairman of the Workers' Compensation Board should be somebody who's appointed by the Premier because he or she was a member of our caucus or your caucus or the third party's caucus as an MLA in this place for 10 years. Are those credentials acceptable to the people of this province? Frankly, I think they're not.

We have to look at the governance as to, who are the stakeholders? I think we make a critical mistake when we talk about workers' compensation, because we say there are two stakeholders, labour and management, that we need the bipartite approach, the two vice-chairs, all this. There are a lot more than two stakeholders in workers' compensation.

The OMA has been clamouring for a spot at the table for some time. The OMA, on the other hand, says: "It's not our job to get people back to work. It's your job. We'll just give them a couple of Aspirins and tell them to call us in the morning." The OMA is prepared to come to the table and be more involved.

The chiropractic association is key. The whole thing we should be doing here is trying (a) to prevent injuries and (b), once they occur, to get them into treatment as quickly as possible. The facts show that if you start the treatment early, you'll get them back to work quicker.

I want to leave some time for my colleague from Oriole. I say to the member opposite that I regret I can't support your bill right now, because I think it is tinkering. It's an inappropriate sense of timing that comes along and says, "We're going to fix this little thing here," and send another new message out to all the staff in the field about how they interpret things.

We need to reform workers' compensation from A to Z, from governance to service delivery, from the chairman to the adjudicator, at the front door -- the whole system. We need to make changes to help the injured workers and to ensure that Justice Meredith's principles that were set forth in 1914 in creating a system that was good for workers and employers will survive the turn of this century and lead on to be a benefit to injured workers in the province of Ontario.

Mr David Tilson (Dufferin-Peel): It is interesting that today, the day this bill is debated in this place for second reading, there are reports that the government intends to announce the commission of a royal commission to explore the creation of a universal system of coverage for everyone in this province, and the prediction that changes to the overall WCB legislation will be proceeded with as early as next week.

I congratulate the member for Wentworth East on raising the topic of WCB, because he's right. This topic is dealt with by all members in this House in our constituency offices perhaps more than any other topic. There are many workers who come to us who can't understand the system; many of us don't understand the system. It's become an inequitable, unfair system, and employers and employees both complain about the workings of the system and whether it will work.

The member for Mississauga West has used the word "tinkering" with respect to this bill, and he's right. It is dotting here and there on a couple of places. It seems to me that the bill deals with two things.

It's a very short bill. It has a total of five sections, and the main sections are dealt with in the first three or four sections. Although it's small in length, I believe it's a powerful and dangerous adjustment to the Workers' Compensation Act. My reading of this bill, to the member for Wentworth East, is that it appears to be designed to give the Workers' Compensation Board more powers. It attempts to plug the hole opened by the Workers' Compensation Appeals Tribunal by enshrining overtly oppressive administration by the Workers' Compensation Board in law. The second thing I would submit to the member is that it's designed to ensure overcompensation.

Having said that, I'm sure the member for Wentworth East has come to this place saying these principles he's putting forward are justified on the premise that no amount of money can overturn the devastation caused by the accident, no matter how minor the injury. I'm sure that's one of the reasons he's bringing this bill forward, but I would submit that the bill has less to do with inequities in the workers' compensation system than it does with ensuring systemic overcompensation and guaranteed employment.

The real problem is that the system isn't working. The member for Mississauga West is right: What we need is an overhaul of the system. When we're all standing up in this place and talking about how the system is not working, why are we just tinkering with it, to use the words of the member for Mississauga West.

There's an excellent article I'm sure many of you have read, and if you haven't, I'd recommend that you read it. It was published over a year ago in a periodical called Canadian Business. It's dealing with workers' compensation across this country. I'd recommend that the member for Wentworth East read this article, and I would recommend that the members of this House read this article if the government is serious, as it is, with respect to the announcements in the media this morning that we're talking about the possibility of the creation of a universal compensation system to cover everyone in the province. I'll tell you, this system now is really in deep, deep trouble.

The unfunded liability: Is the system going to collapse? It's being predicted that it will. You could look at the history of all three parties in this House, all three governments over the past decade. During the five years of the Conservative rule from 1980 to 1985, the board went from an unfunded liability of $800 million to $5.5 billion; during the next five years, with the Liberal government in office, the total rose to $9.1 billion; and since the New Democratic Party took office in 1990, the unfunded liability is somewhere between $11 billion and $12 billion. That's a lot of money for unfunded liability. Will the system shrink?

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I look at what this bill does. The member has been speaking in very general terminology, and I've been trying to determine the technicalities of it. It is difficult to explain the issue of deeming and to explain the issue of overcompensation. I have worked out principles of compensation, which probably -- in the time allowed, it's almost impossible to emphasize that, but I believe there will be overcompensation, compensation that the employer simply can't afford to pay.

This bill is anti-business. We are having in this province a great number of problems trying to create jobs. The government stands up daily saying how Jobs Ontario is solving all the problems in this province with respect to employment, and of course we on this side say it's not. The fact is that we have a lot of serious problems with respect to work. People are going bankrupt. People are leaving the province. One of the things they're afraid of is issues such as this, which the member for Wentworth East is raising. It's adding on another expense to the employer. I know he's going to talk about the worker who has had devastating injuries, but there comes a point in time when the employer only has so much money to pay.

This article I have referred to, and I'd like to quote from a couple of passages in the brief time I have, talks about the principle of universal coverage, which I believe the government is heading towards. "Some see a cure-all in so-called universal or 24-hour coverage, a concept so vague no one seems sure what it means. Labour champions the idea because, in theory, a universal system could compensate everyone for pretty well everything, regardless of what caused the problem. 'We're wasting enormous resources debating causation,' argues Cathy Walker, national health and safety director for the Canadian Auto Workers union in Toronto." It talks about how that system hasn't worked in such places as New Zealand, and some time is spent saying that system won't work.

I'm afraid about what the member for Wentworth East is doing. I'm afraid of the reports I've been reading in the media today about the possible expansion in the anti-business philosophy that continues to come forward from a government that's trying to create jobs.

Looking specifically at the bill -- and again the problem is one of time; I have roughly a few minutes to speak further on it -- section 2 of the bill deals with the provision of rehabilitation services to disabled workers. This, I submit, eliminates any discretion the Workers' Compensation Board may have in the determination of a rehabilitation plan. The professional opinion of the board's rehabilitation experts therefore can be easily undermined. In addition, the proposed subsection 52(2) ensures that rehabilitation is a right. This means that the board cannot refuse a rehabilitation plan even if that plan will not result in a return to employment for the worker.

Section 3 of the bill deals with the employment provisions of the Workers' Compensation Act and serves to beef up the powers of the board and make the law even more draconian.

In the current law, the re-employment provisions are an effort to ensure that a worker is not discriminated against because of a compensable injury. Under the current law, an employer has an obligation to provide a worker his pre-injury job, or suitable employment if he cannot perform his pre-injury job. There are two thresholds that must be met. First, the employer must employ more than 20 workers. Second, the worker must have been continuously employed for more than a year. Right now, though, the Workers' Compensation Board, I would submit, is abusing its powers under the re-employment provisions of the act. Bill 129, I submit, beefs up the board's powers even more.

The proposed subsection 54(1.1) is even more devastating. Right now, people would have to be employed continuously for more than a year before the obligations are activated. Bill 129 indicates that employment would be "continuous if, during the period of employment, no intention to permanently sever the employment relationship exists."

The member for Mississauga West got into the deeming provision, a provision I think we need considerably more time on, certainly more time than the three minutes I have to speak. All of this means that a worker who would be laid off for reasons completely unconnected to his compensable injury, would have a right to his employment simply because he happened to have a compensable injury.

Subsection 54(3) is amended to not allow the employer to terminate the worker before receiving notice from the board. The board will provide notice under the terms of section 54 only if and when the worker is able to return to employment. Even then, rarely does the board provide notice in a timely fashion. This means that the employer must maintain a relationship with the unsuitable employee or the employee who would be terminated or laid off in the normal course. This, I would submit to the member for Wentworth East, is simply unworkable.

The bill proposes to amend subsection 54(10) to require just-cause dismissal as the only excuse for terminating a worker. I say this simply will not work.

Immediately before the last election, literally days before the 1990 election, Bob Rae committed an NDP government to eliminating deeming in a letter to a worker group. The idea of deeming captures an image of the WCB at its worst, setting compensation on phantom jobs, ensuring that the disabled workers are left in poverty. The image, I say to the member for Wentworth East, is pure theatrics.

I hope the members of this House spend some time considering the implications of this bill, which at first blush -- and I've spoken to the member privately -- seem to be just minor changes. It's going to have some devastating effects on the employers of this province.

Mr George Mammoliti (Yorkview): That's a typical Conservative response.

Mr Tilson: It's not a typical response; it's a response that if you're trying to create jobs in this province, listen to the people who are paying the bills. There's only so much money, as you people have found out since 1990. You've put this government into bankruptcy. There's only so much money in government and there's only so much money in the workplace. I would encourage members of this House to vote against this bill.

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Mr Peter Kormos (Welland-Thorold): I suppose it will come as no surprise to you to be told that I support this bill. I think it is a timely and remarkably precise, indeed pithy, response to some very serious problems that are being encountered right here and now.

Remarkably, once again, it's in private members' business here on Thursday morning, during this two-hour period, occurring only once a week, that we've had some of the most interesting and engaging and least partisan debate this House ever sees. Indeed, I've never seen so many people in this chamber listening carefully to what the opposing views are, obviously weighing and considering those opposing views to the goal or the end of achieving a resolution to the issue.

I too read the Toronto Star this morning and, by God, it's almost like being in cabinet. You don't have to be there; you've just got to pick up the Star every morning. I tell you, I am looking forward to a royal commission on workers' compensation, and I am hopeful and optimistic that it will be a wide-ranging debate, that it will accommodate submissions from all sectors of the community.

I am trusting, of course, that injured workers will have status at the commission, because I think it's essential that they be represented, not just by way of one or two witnesses in the course of an afternoon or a morning but that they have an integral role in assisting the commission in cross-examining and in developing various theories through that process. I agree entirely with what's been said by every other speaker here this morning.

I know there are a whole lot of people from the government benches who want to speak to this bill. I know the parliamentary assistant will want to. I'm trusting that the parliamentary assistant will contain his or her comments so that other members, we mere backbenchers, have a chance to engage in this debate. Because I agree. Claudette Therrien in my constituency office, like her counterpart in 129 other constituency offices, devotes her full workweek to dealing with workers' compensation problems and she doesn't have the time to deal with all the files that are brought into that office.

Similarly, the office of the worker adviser, with incredible backloads, struggles very skilfully on a daily basis with the plethora of difficulties and problems generated by the system as it exists now.

People like Don Comi and Leslie Penwarden from the injured workers' group in Niagara, again, are more than familiar with the never-ending series of serious difficulties, significant difficulties, suffered by injured workers in addition to their initial injury.

One of the things I should mention is that it boggles the mind to think that there are still so-called consultants out there charging money to injured workers for services, mind you, that are being provided by constituency offices of MPPs, by injured workers' groups, by the office of the worker adviser. These are all provided free, so it boggles the mind how these so-called consultants can be out there shafting and skimming the top off of any awards that they occasionally get. But that's not the issue.

The fact is that a royal commission will investigate fully and completely all issues surrounding workers' compensation. Fine and good. The fact is that this shouldn't be a speedy process. If it's going to be done well, if it's going to be done properly, it's going to be done over a significant period of time to ensure that every single representation that could be made will be made, and there has to be a sufficient time for debate and for the preparation of a final report.

Well, what happens to the victims of an inadequate system in the interim? I've heard members this morning speak about this bill as being mere tinkering. I dispute that. Mr Morrow, the member for Wentworth East, has approached some very specific problems and generated a response to some very specific problems, a very effective response, one that can in the interim protect injured workers in these two very specific areas.

The first is the issue of re-employment and ensuring that the right to re-employment becomes a genuine, bona fide right as compared to something the high-priced lawyers and their ilk can weave their way in and about and through, in the process shafting once again the injured worker where it's a right without a remedy. You have a right to re-employment but you don't have to be re-employed, because the employer can buy his or her way out of it in relatively short order at a relatively cheap price.

Number two is the right to rehabilitation. What could be more fundamental in response to somebody who gives his health, his lifetime, to a workplace than the right to be rehabilitated, the right to be cured as much as medical science can cure you? What could be more fundamental? How could anybody find any objection to this very simple statement of the right to rehabilitation? Once again, tinkering? No. We're not dotting i's and crossing t's here.

I remember the fight over Bill 162. I was a boy, I was in the back benches then, I was way over on the other side, as far back as the leader of my party could put me. I remember the struggle that my friend Shelley Martel, the member for Sudbury East, led over Bill 162. Both of the issues that Mr Morrow, the member for Wentworth East, addresses in Bill 129 are among the many issues that Shelley Martel, as our critic in response to Bill 162, raised during that very dramatic debate when we sat as opposition members.

I tell you that an overhaul may well be in order, but are we going to tell the injured workers of this province that they have to wait yet another six months, a year, two years before the completion of a report by the royal commission that in itself is merely a report, which then begs legislation that will result in again, I'm sure, incredible debate? Clearly, there are diverse views about the rights of workers as compared to the rights of employers. There are some here who would see them as mutually exclusive. I don't, because I think a healthy workforce, a workforce that's whole, women and men who don't lose their limbs or their eyesight or their hearing or their backs to the workplace, is as much a benefit to the whole process of manufacturing and creating wealth as anything else.

This bill, because of those two very specific issues that it confronts, two serious omissions from Bill 162, warrants speedy passage and referral to a committee so that -- again, we have such a limited amount of time here -- members like Mr Tilson can express the views of their constituents and of that constituency that they would speak for here in this assembly, but more importantly, so that injured workers and their sisters and brothers in the workplace could comment on this legislation and indeed have the opportunity to convince all members of this assembly that this legislation is timely, is appropriate and, most importantly, is just. It has to do with justice and fairness. How could this assembly ever deny justice and fairness to any constituency? I say it's time to give justice and fairness to injured workers.

Mrs Elinor Caplan (Oriole): I'm pleased to rise and participate in this debate. I think anyone who's familiar with the workings of the Workers' Compensation Board will agree that there is a definite need for reform, that there are urgent problems which must be dealt with and that the Workers' Compensation Board today is not serving the needs of injured workers or the employers who depend upon the WCB.

We know that the original goals of 1914 are not being achieved today in 1994. The Workers' Compensation Board is out of touch and out of money, and frankly we're out of time. The reform is urgently needed. The bill that's before us today, Bill 129, in my view is not about fixing the problems of the WCB; it is merely tinkering, it is pandering and it is premature.

In the reading of the legislation, as I see it, this is not about workers' rights to rehabilitation. That is already included in the legislation that exists. This is about the right to return to work, and there are a few very important questions that have to be answered before this kind of legislation could be enacted.

It seems to me that while re-employment is ultimately the goal for all injured workers who are able, the concerns must be dealt with within the work environment, because presently you have a situation where when a worker is injured and they leave the workforce and there is a collective agreement in place, there is no acceptance or understanding as to what will happen regarding seniority and the return to work and perhaps the individual who has filled that slot in that spot.

This is a question which the member for Mississauga West has asked. We are very concerned about that. We believe that must be dealt with and responded to. In my view, the collective agreement is a place where that should be considered. Therefore, until that question is answered, we will end up with disputes between workers on the work site and chaos could well be the result.

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It seems to me that reform for the Workers' Compensation Board is much too important for us at this time to be just tinkering with certain elements of the rights of injured workers or the rights of employers.

What we need is comprehensive reform. It is long overdue and I believe that this bill not only does not fix it; it might well exacerbate a difficult situation and does not deal with the problem.

Just as a matter of proving how out of touch the WCB is, I received a letter from the chair's office addressed to myself as Minister of Health. By the way, this was dated in March 1994. If you ever wanted an example of the problems at the WCB, this is it.

The Acting Speaker: Unfortunately, the member's time has expired. Further debate?

Mr Allan K. McLean (Simcoe East): Very briefly, I just want to say that after reading the articles today in the paper, the WCB commission being looked at, I think it's long overdue. It's been long overdue and I would hope that when the government does look at this WCB, it will take into consideration the faults that have been there for a long time.

Mr Mike Cooper (Kitchener-Wilmot): I'd like to congratulate my colleague for bringing this issue forward because the issue of the Workers' Compensation Act reform is foremost in a lot of people's mind, and it's about time the government started addressing the plight of the injured workers.

I know that locally in my area I've been working with the Kitchener-Waterloo and Cambridge injured workers' group which has just put out a booklet that it's distributing to the unions and the labour council that'll help injured workers through the process. It's a fairly complicated process and injured workers have gone through this process. So to help out their fellow injured workers in the riding, they've put out this booklet that'll help new injured workers.

This is one of the reasons why the government has committed so much money to the injured workers' groups across the province, and this is one of the ways they're using it to help in the education.

Right now we have a set of recommendations from the Premier's Labour-Management Advisory Committee which addresses the immediate pressures facing the system, a need to undertake a long-term, broadly based study to determine the most appropriate income support system for our times.

The government has been very encouraged by the progress that labour and business have been able to make in this very difficult area. The PLMAC proposal has many elements the government wants to consider carefully. Labour and business have asked that government turn its mind to the recommendations forthwith and that is what we are doing.

As everyone knows, the PLMAC was established in June 1992, following first reading of Bill 40. Its composition includes prominent leaders of labour and management in the province. This committee is chaired by the Premier.

In May 1993, the Premier asked the PLMAC to explore its willingness to take a lead role in addressing WCB reform issues. At its meeting on March 4 and 5, the PLMAC reached an agreement on the reform package, and on March 10, 1994, the PLMAC met with the Premier and the Minister of Labour and presented its package of reforms.

This package includes recommendations on governance, financial accountability, framework, measures to improve the financial situation of the system, measures to improve return to work, old-act workers, the need of a long-term review of the system.

These PLMAC recommendations will be reviewed by cabinet in the very near future and it's my understanding that an announcement will be made. I'd like to state that the consensus proposal put forward through the PLMAC is very encouraging. Once again, I'd like to thank the member for keeping this issue alive and I'm sure that in compendium with what the PLMAC and the Ministry of Labour are doing, this could be worked in very well.

Mr Donald Abel (Wentworth North): I'd like to begin by congratulating the member for Wentworth East on the introduction of this bill, Bill 129. We know that there are some problems with workers' compensation, and I think this is a first attempt to do something about it.

The member for Oriole made comments, something about tinkering or pandering. Well, I certainly disagree. I think it's a big step in the right direction. You can't make sweeping changes all at once and I think the member for Wentworth East's attempt to make these changes are very commendable.

His bill actually does two things: It makes rehabilitation a right and it also closes loopholes that may exist in terms of re-employment. These are two very serious problems that many workers have faced over the years. With my involvement with CUPE over the years, I've had a considerable amount of dealings with the Workers' Compensation Board and these are certainly two areas that consumed a lot of my time. I again would like to congratulate the member on bringing this forward.

I just received a note that there are other members who want to speak on this bill. Time is very short, so I will concede to my members.

Mr Mammoliti: Thank you to the speaker who just spoke. I appreciate the time.

Very quickly, I want to thank the author of this bill because I think it's worthwhile. I think we need to do this sort of thing. I am going to support the bill; there's no question about it.

For those who say, however, that the author is tinkering, I want to remind people about the process in this place and how the author's, in this case Mark Morrow's, hands are tied in this place when we talk about introducing bills that might have some sort of monetary component to them. Our hands are tied; we can't do that. I know that Mark, if his hands were untied, would introduce things like pension reforms in this bill. I know that would be included. So for those who talk about tinkering and for those who say that we should be doing other things, that we should be including other aspects to this bill, I would agree with them.

I would also agree that this should be a government initiative as well. But here is private members' hour. We're talking about a private member who has introduced Bill 129 and who has done whatever he can do as a private member in this place, a backbencher, remembering of course again that his hands are tied and that he can't, as a private member, introduce things like pension reforms, something that I very quickly want to talk about because I was hoping that pension reforms might be a component tied into this. But it can't be, obviously. Pension reforms are very important to me.

The people whose hands are tied out there as well because of their injuries, who can't go back to work, are very important as well. This bill addresses those people, those people who can't go back to work even though they want to go back to work after an injury. As to the people who want to be rehabilitated and to go back to work at the same time, this bill addresses them. We need to understand the backbencher who has introduced this and how his hands are tied as well in this place.

The Acting Speaker: The member's time has expired, thank you. Now the member for Wentworth East has two minutes to reply.

Mr Morrow: I want to thank all the members, first of all, who spoke, either in support of or against this bill. It's interesting to note that I think every speaker who spoke said there had to be an overhaul of or changes to the Workers' Compensation Board. You're right, and that's what Bill 129 is about: changes.

In 1914, in the Legislative Assembly of Ontario, we introduced the Workmen's Compensation Act; I believe it was passed into law in 1917. That act was to help the injured workers in the province of Ontario. That act is now failing. Bill 129 tries to help that.

To the member for Dufferin-Peel, you go out and tell the injured workers, "There is no more money." You tell them; they want to hear you say that. To the other members, I appreciate your support.

I look forward to this bill passing. I look forward to helping the injured workers in this province, once again with what they justly deserve, not with the mere pittance we're giving them now but with something they've worked for and have a right to.

The Acting Speaker: The time for ballot item 43 has expired. A vote will take place at noon.

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WATER EXTRACTION AGREEMENTS ACT, 1993 / LOI DE 1993 SUR LES ENTENTES PORTANT SUR L'EXTRACTION D'EAU

Mr Elston moved second reading of Bill 126, An Act respecting Water Extraction Agreements / Projet de loi 126, Loi concernant les ententes portant sur l'extraction d'eau.

The Acting Speaker (Ms Margaret H. Harrington): Pursuant to standing order 96(c)(i), the member has 10 minutes for his presentation.

Mr Murray J. Elston (Bruce): I am very, very pleased to rise in the House today to speak about this particular issue. It's an extremely important and critical issue to our lives.

I was raised on a farm in Morris township, Huron county, raised next to the Maitland River, swam in that river, skated on it in the wintertime, drank water from a dug well. You could have as much water as you wanted when I was a kid, and I think in many cases that's still the feeling of all the people in the province of Ontario.

Water in my view is the most precious of the resources which we all have. We know we need air and we need water to continue to live. In fact, one of the things that has come to my attention very clearly is that while we have taken some interest, and I think a serious interest, in air quality, and in water quality on the surface streams in our province, we haven't put our minds to the issue of water underground.

It's a very, very serious problem for those of us who have had local issues that have been raised to us by constituents who are concerned about the taking of water by people who come into the communities, who basically drive in one day, start taking water from a well and then ship it out to places unknown.

In my case, the issue that really sparked my final move towards doing something about water was the water-taking in the village of Formosa. Certainly I am eternally grateful to the local citizens of Formosa for finally pushing me to actually do something in a legislative format to raise the interest of the public in the conservation of water as a resource.

The people there are concerned, like we are right across the province, that there be a long-term future for us. We must as a result know exactly what is going on with our water in this province. To this point in time, there really is no understanding of how water is generated, how much is generated, how quickly it can be regenerated, what the activities that we carry on are doing to that water-generation ability. It seems to me it is time that we began to understand much more thoroughly the nature of this water resource of ours.

My bill is an interesting one, because it is just another bill, I guess some might say, in a list of about 40 that exist which deal with water in the province, but none of those other bills, with the exception of one that was recently passed, even really talk about the taking of water in the way that mine does.

There is a water-taking permit that is required under the Ontario Water Resources Act. It's administered by the Ministry of Environment and Energy. For those people who take more than 50,000 litres of water a day, they must have a permit. There is a procedure by which an application is made, and to this point in time, basically very little has been allowed in terms of public participation. It's not because it wasn't really wanted, I don't think; I think it was mostly an oversight by the authorities. In fact, the application itself could accommodate some public hearings, but I'm told by the London regional office that no public meeting has ever been called under the auspices of the current permit-issuing facilities.

There is another provision now that is just working its way through the legislative framework. It has been passed as part of the Environmental Bill of Rights, which does require some more public participation when it deals with water, but it is interesting that when dealing with the Environmental Bill of Rights, those provisions look like they may have been added on.

The environmental bills of rights that have come, in various stages and formats, before the Legislature since I've been a member have basically accommodated the issue of toxic contamination, either of our water through dumping or of leachate coming from municipal or illegal dump sites in our province, and the bill of rights has always been designed, it seems to me, to deal with that issue of disposition of garbage in one form or another. But the taking of water, which is an extremely essential part of our everyday lives, has really gone unaddressed. I think it's not because people don't have any interest in it, but it's because, like so many other of our resources that were for years and years found in abundance all across the province in a state ready to use and taken for granted, water is taken for granted along those same lines.

The framework for my legislation, and I expect and I've heard that there is going to be general support for the bill as it resides in this form at this moment, says that the best way to deal with the issue of how the locality is to be affected by giving a water permit is to be determined locally.

For some people that is a problem, and I appreciate the member for Dufferin-Peel has come to me and asked me some questions about, "Why go to the local authority?" I think he feels perhaps it might be a little bit better if you supported the provincial central control of this. Well, my answer is very, very simple indeed: It is that the local municipality can respond almost instantaneously to the questions about what is taking place in its own backyard.

In fact, I want the local municipality to be intimately involved, not only in the application but in receiving the studies that they believe are necessary to satisfy themselves as the local political authority, and their ratepayers, their residents, that the operation of water-taking will not diminish the ability of the communities to sustain themselves. That's the first issue.

The second issue is the local municipality can probably do it cheaper than what it can be done for by the province. We know that there is a tremendous financial burden now on the provincial authorities. We know that if there is one more job added to the provincial public service, there probably will be no more people added to take care of the issue as it develops.

In my view, the quick nature of response which was achieved by the people in Carrick and Culross when concerns were raised by the citizens was ample evidence that a lot more in-depth work can be done quicker and cheaper at the local level because that concern is driven by a personal and continuing interest in residing in that area.

For those people who are concerned that this may be a type of anti-business piece of legislation, I want to assure them that I have taken great steps in trying to circulate this material to those people who would be affected. I haven't just sent this bill around to people who might support it; I have sent it to the association of water-taking businesses, I have sent it to the local municipalities, I have sent it to the Ontario Federation of Agriculture representatives in my area, I've sent it to municipalities and I've sent it to the people who were concerned in my area about water-taking.

I have received replies back from almost all of those people, but the one reply which is of concern to me is that there is a suggestion by the people representing the water-taking industry that this is against jobs. I appreciate they may be concerned that there will be an increasing burden, responsibility even, on the businesses that propose to take the water, of meeting the local concerns. In fact, because my bill requires consideration of a levy to be taken against the volume of water taken away, I know there is also a financial responsibility which will inevitably fall upon these businesses.

But the legitimate dealers, in my view, will want to do all of those things. They will want to have a financial responsibility to the local municipality. They will want to assure the local ratepayers and residents of the area that their intentions are not only noble but they are for the long term as opposed to, "We will take till it's done and then we'll be gone." All of these items can be addressed at the local hearings, after the permit is issued by the Ministry of Environment and Energy.

I can tell you that we are all interested in local jobs. In fact, there is an exemption under the provisions of this bill which says that if the water-taking is in volume but you actually process it inside the area, then you can be exempt, the recognition being that the local resource is generating local economic activity and jobs in the community -- in the community. I think that's an important concept.

We've also provided exemptions for bulk water-taking by municipalities. For instance, in my area, Brant township actually is the host municipality for the wells for both the town of Walkerton and the town of Hanover, represented by my friend from Grey-Owen Sound. I don't want to stop the taking of water for those purposes -- a legitimate purpose for the people, in my view. So from my point of view, there are reasonable limits set to the application of this act.

I ask everybody to support me. I would just draw your attention again to the material which I sent around to you, an excellent series of articles by the Owen Sound Sun Times, an excellent program last night by David Suzuki on water, not just in my area, and I would ask again for the support of the people here at the Legislature for 126.

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The Acting Speaker: Each party has up to 15 minutes to debate Bill 126 in rotation.

Mr Bill Murdoch (Grey-Owen Sound): It is my pleasure to stand in the House today and support my good friend from Bruce county on his bill. I want to congratulate him for bringing this bill to the House. I'm really proud that he did that because in Grey county, in my home town, we also have some concerns about the water-taking, and I too believe that the local municipalities should have the right to issue permits in this case.

If you've ever lived on a farm and gone without water when the well's either gone dry or your pipes are frozen and you have livestock to look after, you'll know how important the water is. If we don't get some control of the water-taking, then this could happen in different municipalities within my riding and in Bruce.

I think in Grey and Bruce we probably have the best water there is in Ontario and we know that a lot of other people are looking at us to supply them with water. There's even talk of a great pipeline coming right from Georgian Bay to pipe the water to Toronto, and it's just because we have the water up there that's pure; as I said, the best water there is in the world. We can eat our fish when we go fishing in Georgian Bay. We have some of the best fishing spots there are, and you can eat our fish because our water is good.

There's the other thing: Should the local people have the right to decide? I think they do. I got elected on local autonomy and I have some concerns about other things that Queen's Park likes to control. I think the local municipality should have the right to at least have some say into this. What happens now is that somebody can be trucking water out of a local municipality and the local politicians won't even know about it until after it's happened, and this isn't right. So I think that with Murray's bill, this will come a long way in helping us solve this problem.

The other thing in Grey county is, and we've asked -- we've had meetings with the Minister of Environment and Energy and the Minister of Municipal Affairs to look into the whole situation -- do we have enough water in Grey county to supply water to the rest of the people? We want to know this, and we're even looking into a point where maybe in our municipalities we would like a moratorium put on until this is proven to us.

It's ironic that some people may say Bill Murdoch's standing up here asking for more controls, because normally I would like to see fewer controls. But water is one of the most important things in life that we do need controls on and it just doesn't seem to have enough control at this point, and there are a lot of people within my riding who are concerned. One of the important things or one of the odd things that has happened is that it has brought the preservationists, the ones who want all the controls, and the local municipalities together, and they're working on this problem.

On April 9, there is a meeting in my riding, right in central Grey in Markdale. A group called the Grey Association for Better Planning is putting on a meeting, and I know that Murray Elston is one of the panelists there, just to discuss this issue. I'm sure they'll have a great crowd there because, again, it affects everyone in my riding, regardless of whether you're out in the country or living in one of the small municipalities.

So I really am glad that the member from Bruce county has brought this to the House. I hope the government of the day will see that this bill goes on and does come back for third reading. We have the summer. Hopefully they will take this bill out to a committee so that people can look at this and bring it back for third reading and pass it, because again, our local municipalities need some control. The local people where the water is should have something to say about that.

In closing, I just want to say again that I believe that in Grey and Bruce counties we do have the best water. We're not going to keep it away from you if the water is there, but we just want to know where it's going and have a bit of control.

Mrs Irene Mathyssen (Middlesex): As an MPP who represents a primarily rural and agricultural community and as a rural resident myself, who, along with my family, depends on well water for drinking and other water needs, I can fully appreciate the concerns regarding water extraction for bottling operations which have been brought to the attention of the honourable member for Bruce and which have prompted him to draft and present to the House the bill that we have an opportunity to debate this morning.

Water is an important, precious and essential resource. The management, conservation and pollution prevention of this resource is a major focus of the Ministry of Environment and Energy and this government.

I'd like to clarify for the House the legislation currently in place to control the extraction of water. The Ontario Ministry of Environment and Energy has the sole authority under section 34 of the Ontario Water Resources Act to regulate the taking of water in excess of 50,000 litres per day through the issuance of a permit by a director.

The mandate of the permit-to-take-water program established under the auspices of the OWRA is to promote the efficient development and beneficial use of surface and groundwaters while securing against interference with other uses of water or interference with the natural environment. Any water-taking over 50,000 litres per day, other than for farm or domestic purposes, requires a permit as authorized under the Ontario Water Resources Act. A director may issue, refuse to issue or cancel a permit, may impose such terms and conditions in issuing a permit as she or he considers proper and may alter the terms and conditions of a permit after it's issued.

The Ministry of Environment and Energy is particularly concerned with the potential of groundwater and surface water interference from operations of a commercial nature. Currently, fewer than 25 permits have been issued in the province to the bottling industry. No application has been received since December 1993.

Another primary concern, in addition to interference problems, is the destruction of natural habitats surrounding springs or artesian well sources. Regional technical assessment staff review all applications under the permit-to-take-water program, including commercial takings. Applications to take water undergo a thorough hydrological review and surface water review which determine the maximum allowable volume that can be drawn and not affect the long-term sustainability of the supply.

In any area where there is insufficient water -- a limited aquifer -- to meet established and new uses, an evaluation of the relative importance of the various uses is carried out by MOEE regional staff before the issuance of permits. The ministry refuses to issue permits if there is a possibility of a drawdown affecting other water supplies or nearby surface water bodies.

The taking of water for domestic and farm purposes and fire protection is considered the most important use, generally followed by taking for municipal water supply, then the taking of water for industrial, commercial and irrigation purposes. Water management for pollution control, flood control, recreation and biological preservation are also important considerations in the review of permit applications and the assignment of special conditions where required.

Many permits issued from the MOEE, particularly for bottling operations, are issued conditionally. In other words, specific terms and conditions are likely to be applied, such as maintaining a metering device on each source from which water is drawn, monitoring the static water level of one or two nearby monitoring wells, and submitting to the MOEE annual records of water-takings which list the date, time, rate and volume of water taking on a daily or weekly basis.

Once a permit is issued, the proponent is required to reapply for another permit or for an amendment if at any time there is an increase in the rate or volume of the taking or a change in ownership. Also, if an impact is noted through monitoring or if a complaint is received which shows there has been some impact, the conditions of the permit are revised or the permit is revoked. Municipalities such as Grey, Bruce and Caledon have in the recent past become concerned about bottling operations because the water often leaves the particular watershed from which it was taken without any benefit being received, financial or otherwise.

The Ministry of Environment and Energy has responded to concerns raised by municipalities and the general public over commercial water-taking by bottling companies. The current legislation does not preclude notice to municipalities and does allow flexibility to address the problems that arise. It is MOEE's practice now to notify any affected municipality of any bottling proposal received. MOEE has included operating conditions, as requested by local municipalities, conditions such as limiting the time of day for the water withdrawals or the period of time before renewal is required. Permits to bottling companies are now issued for a two-year period rather than the more typical 10-year period. In addition, MOEE staff encourage all applicants to receive the appropriate zoning and to adhere to local municipal bylaws and regulations before submitting an application to our ministry.

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Also, as the members of this House will know, the Environmental Bill of Rights, proclaimed on February 15 of this year, gives all Ontarians a greater say in environmental decisions affecting their lives and communities. It is the intent of the MOEE to include applications under the permit-to-take-water program in the EBR registry. During the minimum 30-day notification period, the public, including municipalities, may provide written comments on these applications to the MOEE, and the ministry must consider and respond to these comments. Once a decision to issue a permit is made and placed on the Environmental Bill of Rights registry, a 15-day period is allowed for any resident to seek leave to appeal that decision, because we believe public input and participation are essential to our environmental wellbeing.

Improvements can always be made, and I hope this debate will foster some new ideas regarding how we can do things better. In principle, I support the stated intent of the honourable member's bill and support public consultation on environmental matters such as water use. However, I believe the current form of Bill 126 does not contain provisions which promote the conservation of water.

In fact, one section of the bill suggests that fees to municipalities be based on allowable amounts of water to be taken rather than the actual extraction. If the purpose of the bill is to promote the conservation of water, the fees should be based on the amount of water used, not the maximum amount indicated on the permit. That would certainly encourage the permit holder to use the maximum amount.

On average, Canadians use 340 litres of water a day, second only to the Americans, who use 426 litres a day. The Europeans, by comparison, use about 165 litres a day. We have to use water far more wisely than we do.

The Ontario Ministry of Environment and Energy is undertaking measures to promote water conservation and protect the quality of our water. These include setting strict discharge reduction limits for the petroleum refining industry and the pulp and paper industry; issuing clean water draft regulations for metal mining, metal casting and industrial minerals; and committing in excess of half a billion dollars over the next three years for Jobs Ontario funding for more than 300 water and sewer projects. We're investing $25 million annually in Ontario's seven remedial action plans for the Great Lakes area. And we're choosing pollution prevention, the elimination of pollutants at the source, as the first method of protecting water quality.

In summary, I believe this bill is addressing the symptoms rather than the root cause of the growing demand for bottled water: the need for safe, clean water by Ontarians. Our government has already demonstrated our commitment to the development of measures that ensure that all Ontarians have a healthy, sustainable source of clean water, and we will continue our efforts to safeguard that very important resource.

Mrs Elinor Caplan (Oriole): As I begin this discussion during private members' hour, I'd like to take a minute to explain to those who are watching why I think private members' hour is so important. This is an opportunity for non-partisan discussion and debate on issues which are of interest to individual members, usually of items which are not on the government's agenda and which may not be seen by the government, or in fact by individuals across the whole province, as a significant priority.

Right now in the riding of Oriole my constituents believe, as I believe, that the priority for the province of Ontario is economic renewal and job creation. People are worried: Are they going to have jobs tomorrow? They are also very concerned about the important public services that are provided by the province: health services and educational services. Are we going to be able to ensure that the opportunities are there for our youth? Youth unemployment and jobs for youth are extremely important to my constituents in the riding of Oriole.

Private members' hour gives us an opportunity to debate and to discuss and to raise issues on the public agenda which are important not only for today but for the long term as well. I believe my colleague Mr Elston should be congratulated for tabling Bill 126, the bill that is before us, because I believe it is a public interest issue. Water is a very significant natural resource in the province of Ontario. The security of our water supply, the management of our water supply, are in need not only of important debate in principle but also further discussion and the opportunity to raise the public consciousness at the resources committee of the Legislature, as this bill, hopefully, will be supported by all members of the Legislature and then permitted to have the kind of public discussion awareness through the committee hearing process.

Private members' hour gives us the opportunity to debate this bill in principle, and that's what I intend to do today. I was provided by Mr Elston with some interesting background material. In the time I have I'd like to share some of the comments of some of those people who are as concerned about water management as I am.

There was a very timely article in the Financial Post within the last year. The headline says, "World's Freshwater Tap in Peril." I'm just going to put on the record two paragraphs from an excellent article that I would commend to anyone who is interested in preserving and protecting water for future generations. This is the beginning of the article: "Water, like energy in the 1970s, will probably become the most critical natural resource issue facing most parts of the world by the start of the next century."

The bottom line, the last paragraph of that article, is, "However, the complexity of the problems across both the developed and developing world supports the United Nations environment program's" -- UNEP is what it's called -- "belief that the questions of where clean water will come from next and how much it will cost will remain high on the international agenda."

I remember some concerns and discussions about the availability and the transportation of water during the free trade discussions and debates that ensued. I don't believe those questions were ever legitimately answered.

We know that the Sun Times in Owen Sound has been investigating this issue quite thoroughly, and many of the articles Mr Elston presented to me make very important points that I don't believe the public is generally aware of. One of the articles states as follows: "Little is being done to update the provincial process for approving water-taking permits. Despite growing complaints, it's badly out of date as the water bottling industry continues to grow."

I'm going to be 50 years old this year.

Applause.

Mrs Caplan: Thanks very much. Yes, I see that as a milestone.

Mr Mike Cooper (Kitchener-Wilmot): Tell us it isn't so.

Mrs Caplan: It is so. I'm also going to be a grandmother this year, so it's a banner year for me. It's an important and exciting time.

But I remember, and it didn't seem so long ago, when in fact there was no water bottling industry. We didn't see, except in offices, the kinds of water bottles in places where taps were not available. Now it is very common for people in their homes and in their cottages. I have a permanent part-time residence in Huntsville, Ontario. For years we drew our water from the lake and we used filtering systems. Now what we have is a water bottling system where we purchase it at our local grocery store. I think the water bottling industry is important and good for Ontario. I know the water I drink now is probably much safer than the water I drank straight from the lake just a few years ago. I've seen how rapidly these things have changed, and I know legislation frequently gets outdated and that it is important, from time to time, to go back to our basic principles and to take a look at them.

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I think the points Mr Elston made in his original presentation were very important and worth considering. We have an industry and those jobs are very important to us, and we want to make sure that as we protect our water we also protect the industries that are beginning to develop and flourish. He said something I'd like to quote again. Mr Elston made the point that while there were legitimate concerns, reasonable limits were also very much acceptable to legitimate agencies' drawing and taking of water, and that it was reasonable that both responsibility and accountability should be as close as possible to the local community where the water was being taken from. The frustration that is occurring today is that local municipalities have no say whatever over what is happening within their communities. Those jobs are equally important to them, but so are the water resources in their community.

As we find the kind of balance this legislation provides by involving municipalities and giving them the ability to manage the water within their boundaries, I think there is an important role for the province, which could well establish the criteria, which could well establish the policy under the Ontario Water Resources Act or an updating of that act. It could go hand in hand with the local management and the partnership and control of the local municipalities, which frequently know best about what's happening in their jurisdiction and care very much about their community and economic development.

I believe this is an opportunity where we could rethink the way we are presently doing things. The province could be a little less paternalistic. We could hold out our hands to local municipalities, which have the same concerns, the same goals and perhaps a little bit better expertise in being able to ensure that resources are properly managed.

Water is a very important natural resource in Ontario. We have seen efforts to keep the water clean. The one thing we haven't been able to do successfully is to look at water-taking. The issue really is, who owns that water? It's my view that whether you live in Huron or Bruce or Metropolitan Toronto, each and every one of us has a stake in protecting the water resources of the province of Ontario.

The bill that is before us, Bill 126, which is called An Act respecting Water Extraction Agreements, is an important bill because it gives us the opportunity to have a full debate, to raise the public consciousness and to establish the kind of criteria and policies that will do exactly what I just referred to, which is protect our water resource not only today but for future generations.

If this government is as serious as Mrs Mathyssen says it is about protecting the water resource for future generations, hopefully it will permit this bill to go to the resources committee or a committee of the Legislature, where we can raise the public consciousness, have a full and open debate and perhaps see this bill amended to respond to whatever concerns are out there. Today is an opportunity to debate in principle, and tomorrow or the day after that or the week after that or the month after that will give us the time we need to truly study this bill and amend it and bring in the kind of forward-looking policies which will protect these resources not only for today but for the future.

I'm pleased to have the opportunity to participate in this debate. It is about the notion of not only protecting our water and our resources, but it's the notion of central control versus local partnership and local participation. As a former municipal councillor, I very much believe that municipalities should be partners in protecting our resources and that this bill provides a very good framework for proceeding to do that.

Mr Allan K. McLean (Simcoe East): I welcome this opportunity to rise in support of private member's Bill 126, An Act respecting Water Extraction Agreements. This bill is very timely. There have been some issues raised in my riding with regard to this very issue we're discussing today.

Briefly, the member for Bruce would require a person who takes water from a water-taking site under the authority of a permit issued under section 34 of the Ontario Water Resources Act to obtain a certificate of authorization from the Minister of Environment and Energy and negotiate an agreement with the local municipality if the water is taken for shipment outside the municipality without bottling or processing.

As well, the agreement may require the permit holder to pay the local municipality an annual fee that is based on the maximum volume of water the permit holder is authorized to take under the permit. A prescribed percentage of the fee is to be paid to the Minister of Finance. Finally, agreements are not assignable, and the bill sets out recordkeeping and monitoring requirements, as well as termination provisions. This bill covers a broad area.

Concern regarding water extraction has been expressed to me by a number of my constituents on a number of occasions. Albert Swan of Elmvale wrote to me recently indicating that a local resident is considering selling water from wells in the area for export, and he is afraid it will ruin all the wells in the area. Mr Swan says: "We did not mind using the water for irrigation, as it soaked back into the soil. But hauling it away will deplete the supply, no doubt."

On February 15, the Ministry of Environment wrote to the township of Springwater indicating that the current permit for water extraction proposes withdrawal of the water for the purposes of selling bottled water. Bottling is not to occur on the site.

The ministry agreed with the township of Springwater's conclusion that this type of operation is not appropriate in an area zoned agricultural. The ministry decided to withhold the certificate until the zoning and official plan amendments are finalized to the township's satisfaction, thereby giving the jurisdiction back to the municipality.

According to the ministry, section 52 of the Ontario Water Resources Act clearly states: "No person shall establish, alter, extend or replace new or existing water works except under and in accordance with an approval granted by the director," and "'Water works' means any works for the collection, production, treatment, storage, supply and distribution of water, or any part of such works, but does not include plumbing or other works to which regulations made under clause 75(3)(a) apply."

The ministry officials concluded their letter by indicating that an approval under section 52 of the OWRA will also be required before proceeding. This will enable the establishment of quality and quantity conditions beyond what is established in the permit to take water.

I agree with Mr Swan and other residents in the Hillsdale area who are concerned that water extractions across Ontario do not have sufficient legislation or regulation. I am concerned that this lack of legislation and regulation could result in the mass extraction of water from local municipalities for shipment throughout the country or even across the border into the United States.

It's interesting to note that just on February 11, the Nottawasaga Valley Conservation Authority passed the following resolution:

"Therefore be it resolved that the Nottawasaga Valley Conservation Authority go on record as being opposed to the practice of such operations without local municipal input into the licensing; and

"That the province of Ontario be requested to place a moratorium on the issuing of new licences for the sale and export of water until further studies have been undertaken and more information is available...."

I am supporting this private member's bill because we should ensure that municipal and provincial levels of government are involved in the use and conservation of our water. People like Albert Swan and the numerous people on whose behalf he is writing and organizations such as the NVCA really do fear that their water supply is being depleted as a result of insufficient legislation and a lack of government action.

I commend the member for Bruce for bringing this legislation forward. It's timely, it's necessary, and it's appropriate that we have a really good discussion in this House about this very important issue. After all, water is our main resource, and it sometimes concerns me, with the dumps we're putting in rural Ontario, underground, burying garbage, about the result that's going to have on the future too. So I commend the member for bringing this forward.

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Mr Cooper: It's my pleasure to participate in the debate today, and I'd like to commend the member for bringing forward this issue, an issue that's really important to the region of Waterloo, which has been wrestling with the water issue for years.

In the stated intent of the bill, it says "to promote the conservation of water, to ensure that high quality water supplies are available to the people of Ontario, and to ensure that the Ministry of Environment and Energy and municipalities participate in regulating the extraction and transportation of water."

I'd like to remind the member that this government has set up the Ontario Clean Water Agency, whose purpose and intent is to make sure that the province of Ontario has sufficient drinking water to provide to the people here in this province, and its main focus is on conservation.

One of the problems I have with this bill is where he's talking about the municipalities participating in regulating the extraction and transportation of water. I know that at the 1993 AMO annual conference there was a resolution passed that said:

"Therefore be it resolved that AMO petition the Ministry of Environment and Energy and the Ministry of Natural Resources to provide municipalities with a means to regulate and control the removal of water for commercial purposes or for resale, and to investigate the possibility of having the water resource treated as a commodity and financially valued similar to the gravel resource, whereby a system of revenue-sharing with the local municipalities or the maintenance of the roads may be realized."

I know that in some of the articles that have come about because of the introduction of this bill, a lot of the questions that are now being asked are, exactly who does water belong to and who should have control of it? Water is one of our most precious resources and the utilization must be properly controlled for everyone in the province.

I'm concerned about the potential impact that over-taking of surface water or groundwater might have on adjacent or downstream users of water and the environment, and this is where it concerns me. We've just designated the Grand River as a heritage river now, and there were discussions with members from Bruce and Grey and all the way down to Lake Erie. So this would affect Waterloo region and I know Waterloo region has been wrestling with this issue about the future need for water. We've had discussions on a pipeline and now my understanding is that study will be delayed until 1996.

One of the things we have done is that we have put in the Mannheim recharge system, which takes the Grand River water and filters and purifies it, and now that's supplementing the groundwater we have. The other thing is that we have the Groundwater Research Institute from the University of Waterloo, which has been going across the riding trying to find out exactly how much they have, and now it's my understanding that the region of Waterloo has commissioned them to actually take an inventory of the water.

If people are taking it for commercial use, it may impact on other municipalities that are a fair way away, so it's good that we have this discussion. We have to determine whether or not it should be allowed, basically through the province as a whole, to determine what water use should be and make sure that we do have clean drinking water for everybody in the province.

Mr David Tilson (Dufferin-Peel): On all of these issues that are being raised in this House today on the subject of water, certainly we all agree with them. Water is becoming more and more of a great concern to all of us, not only in this province but around the world. We're concerned about pollution, we're concerned about the loss of water and certainly we are concerned about the regulation of water trucking. For that reason, I congratulate the member for Bruce in bringing this issue to this House for debate at this time.

I must say, though, that I cannot support the principle of what he is doing specifically with the regulation of the water trucking industry by the municipalities. I say that because water is a provincial resource. It goes beyond the boundaries of municipalities, whether you're talking rivers, whether you're talking lakes or whether you're talking aquifers. The aquifers extend the boundaries, and it's going to be with a great deal of difficulty that municipalities, through the agreements with these industries, these corporations and others, will be able to properly regulate it.

It's tempting for me to remind the member for Bruce of the Liberal Sunday shopping legislation in which it was suggested that Sunday shopping be regulated by the municipalities. There was a great fear that was put forward by all around this province that we would have different rules for Sunday shopping throughout the province and that it would be unfair to different individuals. That same fear exits here, that we'll have different rules, different sets of royalties that will be set by different municipalities.

I would also submit that this legislation probably doesn't go far enough. There's the topic of golf courses. We all have heard of how the watering of the greens on golf courses is creating many problems with respect to wells surrounding golf courses. It doesn't seem to deal with other industries, whether it be breweries, whether it be agricultural, the transport of water for agriculture and other commercial activities. So there is a certain amount of discrimination with respect to this topic.

But that's not to say this place shouldn't deal with it. The Ontario Water Resources Act, as I understand it, hasn't been amended in some 30 years. Currently, if you want to draw water, you have to get a permit from the government, yet the regulation as to how much water comes out of the ground, whether it be from a well or from an aquifer, is on the honour system. The individuals pulling the water out mark in their own logs and report it. It's a very inefficient system that we have concerning the fear we have.

There's also the subject of who owns the water, and that's a legal issue. The member for Bruce has indicated in his presentation that he has spent considerable time researching this. I understand he had a law student spend some time researching the topic. But it's a topic that needs to be reviewed further, the topic of whether the private owners own it or whether the crown owns it. That's a topic that I hope would be proceeded with before this type of legislation proceeds.

Can the province pass some of this jurisdiction on to the municipalities? Probably they can, but the question is whether they should. I emphasize that there should be a consistent policy throughout the province. Different agreements, different royalties, will lead to unfair advantages with the commercial world. A piecemeal approach, which I submit this bill is putting forward, is wrong. Not only would there be another layer of bureaucracy, but there would be confusion throughout the province and the people who are using the water, and it's not just the water takers, it's the golf courses, it's the others that overlap into other jurisdictions.

I emphasize that water is a provincial resource -- it isn't a municipal resource -- and accordingly should be regulated by the province. As I said, currently the province issues permits for the extraction of water, and the law is out of date. I would hope that, if anything, the introduction of this bill and this debate in this place today would encourage the government to consider great changes to the water resources act and other pieces of legislation that regulate the topic that is before us.

I would submit that for all these reasons I have given, the municipalities not have the jurisdiction to do what this law is doing. I submit that they may not be able to do it. They may not have the financial resources to do it.

On the topic of the royalties, the member has referred to a section in his bill, section 11, which talks about a certain percentage of the royalties going to Queen's Park, to the provincial government. Well, I'll tell you, the record of the provincial government is not good, and if the municipalities are going to have to be retaining staff, whether it be legal staff or environmental staff, they have to pay for all this, they have to pay for all the inspections, and they're going to need a great deal of resources to properly administer it.

I would submit that only the provincial government has those resources, and all these royalties they're going to be taking will simply be taken by the province, so I would submit that this legislation not be proceeded with at this time.

Mr Paul Klopp (Huron): I stand here today and I commend my colleague for Bruce in bringing forth this private member's Bill 126. A number of people have phoned me in my constituency, because it does affect us, and they're concerned. Any time we talk here in this House about water and the issues around that as a commodity is very much needed.

The bill goes a long way to help the issues around making sure municipalities have an opportunity to recover costs. That is knowing that my roads need to be paved and my roads need to be kept up, and seeing the trucks that have trucked through my communities over the years from Bruce, I can relate to that issue.

I think a number of people have said, and it's even been related here and even a number of people in the communities have said, that the bill needs to go a little bit further. One chap I was talking to reminded us about the Aggregate Resources Act, and maybe tie it in that there are some lines there that need to be drawn, so there is a very formal process to even talk about the need should there be water out of the area, regardless of do we get fees or who's doing it or the work that's involved.

I'm supportive of this bill. I would hope that it can be used in context with all the good work that MOE has done and needs to do, and other ideas like that brought up when I was at the Lions Club in Formosa that evening, about strengthening the bill. That's the context that this bill can be worked in with and move forward and on that, I support the bill.

I have a colleague who has a couple of things he'd like to say.

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The Deputy Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): There are 54 seconds left.

Mr Noel Duignan (Halton North): I rise in support of this particular bill. I believe this bill will start a very important debate that needs to happen, not only in this Legislature but indeed in the province as a whole, because we must begin to deal with water as a resource and how we're abusing that resource, whether we're abusing it by putting chemicals in it or whether we're dumping raw sewage in it or indeed putting a garbage landfill site at the head of waterways.

I was very pleased to see the member for Grey get up and support this bill because I hope that indicates he is going to support my bill on third reading. Dumping landfill sites at the head of waterways also affects the quality of water and quality of life downstream for municipalities that are affected by that, but I do support this bill.

Mr Elston: I'm pleased to wrap up, with a limited amount of time. I am pleased that generally speaking I have the support of the House. There isn't any question at all that this means, I think, that generally the caucuses, having discussed this, although this is private members' time, have, interestingly, indicated that they are generally in favour of moving on the issue of water.

I wanted to address a couple of the points that were raised, the first by my colleague from Dufferin-Peel who basically has told us that the province hasn't done a good job in a number of places, and that they can't actually get the work done, but he still wants them to do the work instead of the local municipalities.

I don't understand his reasoning. I think I understand that what he's trying to do is develop a bit of a legislative speech that he can copy and send out to the water trucking association and that's okay, but I think he should be up front and just say, "Listen, I'm supporting this so I can send the transcript of my remarks to the water truckers to say that I support you."

I don't think there's any need to beat around the bush. This is the only way that the work will actually get done. You know that there are 16 water permits issued in the province of Ontario at the current time for people taking more than 50,000 litres per day.

In one article that was brought to my attention out of the Owen Sound Sun Times series of articles which I talked about earlier, that was indicated to be enough to supply a city of 112,500 people over the course of a year. That's just with the number of permits that have been issued now. That's a very astounding or astonishing figure, and what is more important is that we don't really even know what the effect is going to be of the taking of that much water over the long term.

I was talking to one of my colleagues from the new Democratic Party and he has actually been to a couple of places in the United States where the taking of water has not only dried up the underground system, but it has actually started to allow the surface of the soil to settle. There's actually a hole being created because all the water has been pumped out from under parts of the United States of America. That should be enough to really cause us concern. It is for me.

I'll go on to reply to the second point raised by the member for Middlesex, and I wish that the bill itself could actually tell you the process that you go through arriving at this clause or that clause, and I know any number of you have done your own, but when we were talking about the provision of charging on the maximum amount of water to be used, the way that we thought we could best conserve the volume of water was by saying, "If you apply for 200,000 litres, you've got to pay for it." We hoped that would moderate the amount of water people would apply for and make them go to the lowest amount rather than having this open or almost open book as to the volume of water to take.

In many ways, I think we have the same idea in mind. I just chose to do that so that everybody would be aware that I don't apply for the maximum I think I may want, but that I am only going to apply for what I am going to need and therefore that is going to make sure that there is no open-ended volume of water to take.

At the same time, if their business were to grow and they had to go beyond the amount they applied for, they would have to do a new application. They would have to provide new hydrogeological materials to satisfy the ministry and the local municipality that they weren't going to imperil the water supply. In my view, that is a much more prudent, probably careful way of addressing the issue of conservation. I appreciate the issue being raised. I was actually going to do it in my own remarks to try and get people to understand, but I am happy that the member for Middlesex has raised it, because it did give me a chance to go back there.

I want to bring to the attention of the House one of my biases in this whole thing. Along with the fact that there is a very interesting local issue which has extremely important consequences, in my view, for the province in terms of water supply, I am one of those people who was learning through our education system, up through the late 1950s and 1960s and into the early 1970s, and hopefully still am learning but outside school, thinking about all the things that the nation of Canada may have done errantly in the past.

One of the biggest problems, in my view, has been the experience that has been suffered in the province of British Columbia with the Columbia water diversion. If anybody had a chance, I just happened to be able to watch last night the Suzuki program on water, which I thought was very good indeed. The results of that Columbia water diversion now are really being felt strongly by some of the people along the watercourse. The park out on the Peace River, Woodland National Park, I think it's called, is perhaps jeopardized by that Columbia water diversion. The fact that hydro is not now necessarily the major reason for the diversion of the water, but the water itself is probably the major reason for the diversion, is enough in my view to make your heart stop with respect to the things that we are doing now without any understanding of what the consequences are.

That's why this bill is very critical in my view to bringing people back to understanding what this means to my local municipality. That can be any municipality right around the province. It's interesting to note, by the way, that the member for Kitchener-Wilmot spoke briefly and mentioned the region of Waterloo. Waterloo, I am told, now is consuming only about 166 litres per day per person, which is well below the 360 or 340, whichever is right, litres of water, on average, that we use in this province. That's good progress. But you know, we still don't understand what is going to take place. We don't understand what 900,000 litres a year taken from the well in Formosa is going to mean in the long term.

I am proud to move this bill today. I ask for the people's support and generally I understand that I have it. There is one piece of other business which I understand is extremely critical. I'd ask people that when they vote they also support this going out to the resources committee so that we can really talk in depth about it.

WORKERS' COMPENSATION AMENDMENT ACT (RE-EMPLOYMENT), 1993 / LOI DE 1993 MODIFIANT LA LOI SUR LES ACCIDENTS DU TRAVAIL (RENGAGEMENT)

The Deputy Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): The time provided for private members' public business has expired. We will deal first with ballot item number 43, standing in the name of Mr Morrow. If any members are opposed to a vote on this ballot item, will they please rise.

Mr Morrow has moved second reading of Bill 129, An Act to amend the Workers' Compensation Act. Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry?

All those in favour of the motion will please say "aye."

All those opposed will please say "nay."

In my opinion, the ayes have it.

I declare the motion carried.

According to standing order 94(k), the bill is referred to the committee of the whole House.

Mr Mark Morrow (Wentworth East): Mr Speaker, I would like it to go to the resources development committee.

The Deputy Speaker: Should the bill go to the resources development committee?

All those in favour will please say "aye."

All those opposed will please say "nay."

Those who are in favour, would you please rise.

Those opposed will please rise.

A majority of the House not being in agreement with the request of the member, this bill is referred to the committee of the whole House.

WATER EXTRACTION AGREEMENTS ACT, 1993 / LOI DE 1993 SUR LES ENTENTES PORTANT SUR L'EXTRACTION D'EAU

The Deputy Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): We will now deal with ballot item number 44 standing in the name of Mr Elston. Mr Elston has moved second reading of Bill 126, An Act respecting Wayter Extraction Agreements.

Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? I declare the motion carried.

Pursuant to standing order 96(k), the bill is referred to the committee of the whole House.

Mr Murray J. Elston (Bruce): I prefer it to go to the resources development committee.

The Deputy Speaker: Shall the bill be referred to the resources development committee?

All those in favour of the bill going to the committee will please rise.

All those opposed to the bill being sent to the committee will please rise.

The majority of the House not being in agreement, this bill will therefore be referred to the committee of the whole House.

We've debated all the bills that we were planning to debate. I will now leave the chair and the House will resume at 1:30 this afternoon.

The House recessed from 1202 to 1330.

ANNUAL REPORT, COMMISSION ON ELECTION FINANCES

The Speaker (Hon David Warner): I beg to inform the House I have today laid upon the table the 19th annual report of the Commission on Election Finances, which covers the year 1993.

MEMBERS' STATEMENTS

PUBLIC CONSULTATION

Mr Tony Ruprecht (Parkdale): This NDP government is still guided by the mistaken notion that big government knows best, when we know that in most instances it's the community and its members who know best.

We were informed recently -- this week, in fact -- that the Queen St Mental Health Centre is undergoing a $2-million expansion which will include a 20-bed unit for the criminally insane. The centre has confirmed that.

This was done without community consultation and without even consultation with its political representatives. This centre will now open in August, according to Ms Stuart. It says that in the future Toronto could get substantial numbers of maximum- and mediumsecurity beds for criminally insane patients. Again, the objection here is that the community should have been consulted.

Second, we learned in November 1993 that the local probation and parole field office, which was located at the Dufferin Mall, had suddenly shifted and was now at the very centre of the south Parkdale community.

I was exasperated over the fact that the recommendation to relocate this office, with a case load of 1,400 adults, was made by someone who never lived in the community and had, consequently, no idea of what to do.

FIRE SAFETY

Mr David Johnson (Don Mills): Yesterday, out of sheer frustration, the Mississauga city council passed a resolution to allow fire safety officials to inspect rental units without search warrants. It is a step that could well be followed by all municipalities which have basement apartments or other apartments in houses.

The legislation to address this problem, Bill 120, legalizes basement apartments but fails to provide the necessary safety measures for those who live in them.

The Minister of Housing indicates that fire regulations will require that smoke detectors be installed, but there is no additional authority for municipalities to be able to enter, to inspect and to make sure that basement apartments meet the safety regulations.

This legislation places the onus on the tenant to request such an inspection, and in all likelihood numerous apartments will not be inspected.

Municipalities have told the Minister of Housing and fire chiefs have told the Minister of Housing that the Fire Marshals Act does not grant sufficient authority to municipalities to ensure safety, nor does any other act.

I quote the fire chief of the city of Mississauga: "The municipalities' hands are tied. It's now up to the provincial Legislature to give us the tools to deal with these apartments."

I hope the Minister of Housing is listening.

GRIMSBY HAWK WATCH

Mr Ron Hansen (Lincoln): I rise to tell the House about a very uplifting event that will take place in my riding tomorrow, the fourth annual hawk watch at Beamer Memorial Conservation Area atop the Niagara Escarpment in Grimsby.

This special open house gives the public a unique opportunity to see hawks soaring on the thermal updrafts as they wing their way northward on the spring migration route.

It is hosted by the Niagara Peninsula Hawkwatch and the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority.

Visitors will likely see a large number of red-tailed hawks, red-shouldered hawks and some eagles and Cooper's hawks.

Experts will be on hand to help visitors identify the hawks as they fly overhead and to give hourly talks on why birds migrate and how they manage to travel so effortlessly.

Also, a rehabilitated hawk will be released into the wild by Mary Ellen Hebb of the nearby Owl Foundation.

The hawk watch open house will run from 9 am until 3 pm, with children's activities scheduled from 11 till noon. The rain date is Saturday, April 2. There is no charge for the event, and visitors are urged to dress warmly and bring a lawn chair, binoculars and a bird guide.

I would also like to pay tribute to the many volunteers from the Niagara Peninsula Hawkwatch who come out each spring to count and tally the passing hawks. From March until early May, they station themselves at Beamer Point and count thousands of hawks. This vital information is then sent to the Hawk Watch Migration Association of North America, where experts examine the data and assess the health of the hawk population.

I urge my elected colleagues and their constituents to come to Grimbsy tomorrow and join in the hawk watch. What an awesome way to enjoy the unique resources of our beautiful and well-protected Niagara Escarpment. My assistant and his wife and his young son will be there, and I will be there with my family also.

GASOLINE PRICES

Mr Frank Miclash (Kenora): On January 24, 1994, I wrote to the Premier to remind him of the promises and commitments made by him and the senior members of his government to equalize the price of gasoline across the province.

I reminded the Premier of a 1991 statement he made that the NDP government "is concerned about the high price of gasoline in northern Ontario and the burden it places on motorists." I reminded the Premier of the promise made by Shelley Martel in 1990 during the election campaign that "gas prices must be equalized across the province." I reminded the Premier of Gilles Pouliot's 1991 comments that as a northerner and as a consumer, he wants the assurance that he is being treated fairly and that he is getting a fair shake for his hard-earned dollar.

On January 12, 1994, the price of gas in Windsor was reported at 46.6 cents per litre, while on the same day the price of gas in Pickle Lake was listed at 68.6 cents per litre. That's nearly a 20-cents-per-litre difference. On March 16, the prices were Windsor 49.6 cents and Pickle Lake 67.9 cents -- the difference, 16 cents per litre.

Members of this government have clearly declared their commitment to equalize the price of gas between northern and southern Ontario, but today absolutely no action has been taken to address this issue by this government. This government quite simply has not done anything to fulfil its commitment to the people of northern Ontario.

JACK MORRIS

Mr Robert W. Runciman (Leeds-Grenville): I rise in the House today to pay tribute to a man who will be sadly missed in the community of Prescott, Ontario. Jack Morris was editor and publisher of the Prescott Journal, retiring in 1977 after a career in community newspapers that began in 1926. His avid concern for the community he lived in and the lives of those in it can be shown in his lengthy list of contributions and accomplishments.

A founding member of the Grenville County Historical Society, he worked to create Prescott's own Forwarders museum, a museum tracking the history of Prescott and the St Lawrence River.

A recipient of several awards for community dedication, Jack's lifelong interest in local history prompted him to write a book on the history of Prescott as a personal centennial project. The book succeeded in giving Prescott residents a new-found pride in their home town and its place in national history.

In his varied and active career, Jack was also a militiaman and a soldier, serving with the Canadian Army in France, Belgium, and Holland.

As a musician who got his start in the 1920s playing piano for silent movies, Jack served as organist for several years at local churches and most recently contributed to entertainment for fellow residents in his retirement home.

Jack Morris was a man who was very generous with his time, a man who chose to put his vision of his community ahead of any conflicts of personality. He will be greatly missed.

EVENTS IN NIAGARA REGION

Ms Margaret H. Harrington (Niagara Falls): We hope it's going to be a warm and wonderful weekend. I invite you, Mr Speaker, members of the Legislature and the people of Ontario watching to come and visit Niagara Falls and Niagara region. Come for a picnic on the Niagara Parkway or bring your bike and cycle. We have 50 kilometres of bicycle path, from beautiful, romantic Niagara-on-the-Lake all the way to old Fort Erie.

If you come and stay over and enjoy one of our new and moderately priced accommodations, then you can visit the whole region. We have so much to offer. How about a winery tour from Grimsby right through to the historic cellars of Bright's in Niagara Falls, or we have a new pamphlet on the Black History Tour. The end of the Underground Railway came from Buffalo through to Niagara. You can investigate a secret tunnel from the river bank up to a well-known safe house for slaves. There's also the tiny, hidden-away BME Church on Peer Street in Niagara Falls. You can take a historic bus tour to see the battlefields of the War of 1812 at Chippawa and Lundy's Lane. You can also explore the route of the Welland Canal up from Lake Ontario to Lake Erie.

There is so much more to Niagara. For decades, other provincial governments have ignored us. Now our government is working hard to enhance and preserve the beauty and history of Niagara for tourism. Come and visit us. The blossoms will soon be out from Queenston to Queen Victoria Park.

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PREMIER OF ONTARIO

Mr Hans Daigeler (Nepean): This morning at 7:14 -- that early, it must have been very, very important -- I got a message over the fax machine and the message is addressed primarily to the Premier, and I'm glad that he is here and able to listen to it. However, it also interests the whole NDP caucus and in particular the members from eastern Ontario.

Here is what Dawn Wallace, who is from Wolfe Island, has to say, and I'm very pleased to share this message with you, Mr Speaker. It says:

"For the record, can you please make Premier Rae know: I want him to quit. I say this in response to his comments in the Legislature yesterday. Apparently he is under the impression no one wants him to quit...

"I'm very thankful the CBC played the excerpt from yesterday's Queen's Park session. Obviously Premier Rae has delusions about public opinion. So let me repeat and add, I want him to quit, my husband wants him to quit, hundreds of my neighbours who are fighting the slated June 1st highway tax to be implemented on the Kingston Wolfe Island crossing want him to quit.

"I would appreciate if you can set the Premier straight.

"With thanks,

"Dawn Wallace."

I'm very pleased to convey this message. If I can have a page, I'd like to pass it over to the Premier, please.

HERITAGE CONSERVATION

Mr David Tilson (Dufferin-Peel): I rise today to bring to the attention of this House that we have a minister without portfolio destroying heritage buildings in this province.

NDP members Shirley Coppen and Margaret Harrington gleefully participated in the destruction of two buildings in Niagara Falls with historical value to make way for the new Culture, Tourism and Recreation office.

Let me read to you from the subsequent release an article that appeared in the ministry newsletter:

"The sound of shattering glass and the crunching of bricks made a sweet sound when associate minister Shirley Coppen joined a media conference at the site of the ministry's new office."

This was not a sweet sound for all who heard about this destruction. The Caledon Heritage Committee in Dufferin-Peel was appalled that the minister without portfolio responsible for culture in this province was so pleased to participate in the destruction of a heritage building.

In their letter to the Minister of Culture, Tourism and Recreation, the Caledon Heritage Committee states: "We deal on a continual basis with behaviour like this from ill-informed people who see no merit in conserving Ontario's heritage. How will any of us be able to continue to work to incorporate heritage with new construction and promote conservation and reuse if this is the example your ministry is setting?"

If this attitude from Mrs Coppen wasn't bad enough, when I wrote the Premier on this issue, his letter back to me amounted to, "I have noted your comments."

How can the heritage committees of Ontario feel that they have support from this ministry and government if this is how Bob Rae's government is going to respond?

JOBS ONTARIO

Mr Donald Abel (Wentworth North): I can't for the life of me understand why the official opposition and the third party continue to criticize and condemn the NDP Jobs Ontario program. The cynical, irrational members opposite continue their doom-and-gloom approach to a program that has proven itself time and time again.

I've talked to many people from the Hamilton-Wentworth area and they're telling me that they think the Liberals and Tories are blowing in the wind. Since the program began in the fall of 1992, 2,034 people in Hamilton-Wentworth have been placed in jobs, and it is estimated that many more jobs will be created in the Hamilton-Wentworth area by the end of the program. And its success does not stop in Hamilton-Wentworth. Thousands of jobs have been created and maintained throughout the province of Ontario.

Another feature that people in my riding like is the fact that both employers and employees benefit from the program. It creates a balance of assistance during these difficult economic times.

The people in my area continually read in the Hamilton Spectator and other fine newspapers in the area of the many success stories of this government's Jobs Ontario. So, to my critical friends across the floor, the program is working, and it's working well not only in the Hamilton-Wentworth area but across the province of Ontario.

MEMBERS' PRIVILEGE

The Speaker (Hon David Warner): Yesterday the member for Leeds-Grenville, Mr Runciman, rose in the House on a question of privilege concerning a recent newspaper article on certain cabinet deliberations. The member requested the Speaker to determine whether there may have been a violation of members' privileges by reason of an alleged breach of cabinet confidentiality.

I have reviewed yesterday's Hansard, our precedents and the usual parliamentary authorities. I find that the precedent that is closest to the circumstances raised by the member for Leeds-Grenville is a 1980 ruling concerning a newspaper article on taxation measures. The article was published a few days before a scheduled budgetary announcement in the House. Speaker Stokes stated the following at page 4215 of our Hansard for November 13, 1980:

"The chair cannot be asked to rule on something that took place by way of an interview. The chair similarly cannot be expected to monitor whether or not there has been a breach of cabinet solidarity."

Turning to the case raised by the member for Leeds-Grenville, I find that the publication of the newspaper article does not establish a prima facie case of privilege. However, I thank the honourable member for Leeds-Grenville for his concerns and for bringing them to my attention.

STATEMENTS BY THE MINISTRY AND RESPONSES

HEALTH INSURANCE

Hon Ruth Grier (Minister of Health): Today the government is moving ahead with measures that will help us preserve our health care system.

In last year's budget, we promised to tighten OHIP rules by restricting benefits to residents of Ontario. The measures I am announcing today will save the taxpayers of this province about $48 million annually.

As well, we are formally asking the federal government to assume its responsibility for refugee claimants in Ontario by paying their health care costs. Ottawa already does this in most other provinces.

Starting April 1, most people who arrive in Ontario but do not plan to live here permanently will no longer receive free health care benefits. Temporary residents already here will continue to be covered by OHIP until June 30. This will give them time to arrange for private health insurance. The Ministry of Health is contacting the people involved to make sure they are aware of this change.

We will continue with our firm policy that absolutely no one in this province will be denied urgent care by an Ontario hospital or community health clinic, regardless of their OHIP status.

We need these changes to ensure the high quality of Ontario's health care services. Our government has been implementing its plan to protect services by spending carefully and wisely. After 10 years of health care spending rising out of control in Ontario, we stepped in with some commonsense management and held the increase in spending last year to under 1%. Maintaining the best possible health care for Ontarians remains our priority and our commitment.

This change affects about 66,000 people in the province who have been covered by OHIP despite their status as temporary residents in Ontario, including some 22,000 foreign workers and their families, and 19,000 international students.

Previous governments have allowed international students and foreign workers to use Ontario's health care system since the 1970s. But we need tighter controls on health care spending today to preserve the system for Ontario residents.

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I have contacted Sergio Marchi, Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, to formally request that Ottawa pay health care costs for refugee claimants. There are 28,000 refugee claimants in Ontario, and their medical bills cost Ontario taxpayers $32.5 million annually. We cannot afford to go on paying Ottawa's bills, but we will not let refugee claimants suffer from federal neglect. We will continue to provide health care coverage until Ottawa is prepared to treat its responsibilities in Ontario with the same commitment it has shown in other provinces.

In addition to the changes I've already mentioned, we are introducing a three-month waiting period for OHIP coverage, following the British Columbia and New Brunswick models. Beginning today, new residents will have to wait three months before coverage begins. Ontario residents who spend more than 183 days outside the province will also have a three-month wait upon their return unless they have made prior arrangements with OHIP. This change is expected to save Ontarians about $18 million annually by preventing people from coming to Ontario for the sole purpose of receiving health care, then leaving again.

Some people, such as Canadian Forces personnel, will be exempt. And, of course, babies born to Ontario residents are covered immediately.

Ontario's health care system is one of the best in the world. We have some of the finest doctors, nurses, midwives, researchers and staff that could be found anywhere. Our government is determined to see that this system endures to serve Ontario today and in the future. The decisions I have outlined today are difficult but they are fair, and they will help us to preserve health care in Ontario now and in the years to come.

Hon Anne Swarbrick (Minister of Culture, Tourism and Recreation): I understand there is an agreement among the House leaders to say a few words regarding Ontario's winter Olympians. Is there unanimous consent?

The Speaker (Hon David Warner): If it would be of assistance to the honourable member, perhaps we could have the responses to the statement by the Minister of Health, and then we would return for your request.

Responses by the official opposition: the honourable member for Halton North.

Mrs Barbara Sullivan (Halton Centre): It's Halton Centre, Mr Speaker. We'll get it right yet.

I'm interested in the announcement that the Minister of Health has made today, particularly since we have been looking forward to seeing some movement in terms of information systems and other controls put into place in the health care system following what in my view was an extremely weak and badly prepared report out of her ministry, and I believe her ex-deputy concurred with that view of the report, with respect to health card fraud.

The announcement the minister has made today addresses some of the issues which have been very clearly discussed in other committees. I want to respond by saying first of all, with respect to the refugee issue, or generally with respect to the coverage issue itself, we know that medicare provides Canadians with a universal health insurance plan that's part of the way we define ourselves. We all pay for the plan through taxes and through employer contributions, and many of us make contributions in kind or in cash to facilities and to agencies and institutions to help supplement those tax-supported places.

Every person in Ontario wants to be assured that those who receive health care services through medicare are in fact eligible to receive those services. Every person who receives health care benefits and is not eligible for them strips access from those who have the legal right to those services.

I personally don't understand why, in the history of Ontario health care and the evolution of our medicare system, the coverage of refugees has been by the province for many, many years, where in other provincial situations the payment for refugee coverage for health services has been assumed by the federal government. Perhaps in the past there was a tax point agreement or some other scenario. None the less, we are in a situation where, unlike most other Canadian provinces, our province has covered refugee coverage.

Despite whatever caused that situation, I think the initiative the minister has taken in writing to the federal Minister of Citizenship and Immigration is a useful one. I would have preferred, however, if she had been more specific in stating how she will ensure that people who are refugees and whose premiums, I suppose you could call them, are now being negotiated will in fact be covered.

The question of international students and the removal of OHIP coverage from international students is also one I wish the minister had expanded on. For several months we have been receiving correspondence from colleges and universities which have been asking what steps the minister intended to take in this area, so that those international students who were coming to Ontario for studies would understand what steps they had to take before they arrived here. We simply have a statement that says international students won't be covered, and there are no further details. It's not good enough. The consultation hasn't been good enough, and I believe international students will be caught in a no-win situation.

Similarly, the foreign worker issue is one that as well adds problematic areas. Many of the foreign workers who are in Ontario on a temporary basis are agricultural workers who come in under federal-provincial agreements for temporary periods of time. I know, because I have discussed this issue, that there has been no full discussion with the Ontario Federation of Agriculture with respect to coverage. If they are covered, as the Premier is signalling to me across the hall, then surely that information should have been included in the statement so the issue could have been made very clear.

There is a subtle shift that is of very deep concern to senior citizens with respect to the statement that Ontario residents who spend more than 183 days outside the province will also have a three-month wait for services. This is a direct hit on senior citizens who spend winter months outside the province and, when they come back, may want to visit another province to visit family and friends.

When medicare was introduced, one of the principles of medicare was that the services and coverage would be portable from province to province. Medicare did not contemplate that people would be penalized by not being able to receive services in other provinces.

The Speaker: The member's time has expired. Responses, third party.

Mr Jim Wilson (Simcoe West): I want to say in response to the Minister of Health's statement today regarding temporary residents and refugees that I find it a very curious statement indeed. I would have thought, and we've been expecting for some time, that this government would do something to fix the Liberal health card system that was brought into this province during the Liberal time in office. They've done nothing about that.

Minister, you've got over 12 million health cards out there now, and it's growing every day. You've got $700 million worth of fraud a year, by your ministry's own estimate. Of the 66,000 temporary residents you're cutting off today, how do you know how many of them have health cards? Given the flawed system you have, how are you going to get those health cards back from those 66,000 people who may have them? If you don't get their cards back, and given the way the system is today, you may take their names out of your nice, fancy little computer here at Queen's Park, but they'll bring their card to a doctor or to a hospital and they'll still be able to access the system, and that doctor or hospital will be stuck with the bill because a few days later, 30 or 60 days later, your ministry will say, "Oh, we've cancelled that card."

You've announced nothing today to fix the health card system. You've got $700 million worth of fraud. I suggest you get back to this House ASAP and tell us how you're going to fix the health card system. We've given you all kinds of suggestions, we forced you before a committee, we've done our homework on it, and we've put out our suggestions publicly. I welcome you to take our suggestions and fix the system. Now, I know you inherited the system, and I know it was a badly introduced system, but you've got to show some leadership. You've been the government for years, and you've done nothing to fix that system.

I suggest you get your own house in order. I note on page 2 that there's a little federal-bashing going on. You're blaming the feds for not paying for refugees. I doubt, Minister, you're going to get that $32 million from the federal government. If I were the federal government, I'd say: "Why would I give you $32 million when you've got $700 million worth of fraud in your own system? Get your own house in order."

Mr Robert W. Runciman (Leeds-Grenville): In respect to the minister's announcement, I want to express concern about what I consider to be a rather piecemeal approach to a significant problem.

We know these costs are impacting not only in the health care area. I raised an order paper question back in 1992 which indicated that in 1991-92 the costs in respect to legal aid to refugees were in the neighbourhood of $18 million a year. We know it's impacting on education. We know it's impacting on welfare. Metro Toronto has expressed very serious concerns about the costs the municipality is having to absorb because of the lack of assistance and relief available to it from the senior levels of government in respect to immigration and refugee policy.

I would think, Minister and Premier, that this should be approached on a government-wide basis, at a first ministers' conference perhaps, in respect to having some sort of agreement similar to what Quebec has, and more recognition from the federal level in respect to the costs and implications for the province of Ontario and the Metropolitan Toronto area especially.

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The Speaker: Earlier I had recognized the Honourable Minister of Culture, Tourism and Recreation.

Hon Ms Swarbrick: Might there now be unanimous consent for a few words to honour Ontario's winter Olympians?

The Speaker: Agreed? Agreed.

OLYMPIC ATHLETES

Hon Anne Swarbrick (Minister of Culture, Tourism and Recreation): I'm honoured to rise in the House today to pay tribute to a truly special group of talented and dedicated individuals: Ontario's 1994 Olympic athletes. This morning, Premier Rae and I hosted a reception to express Ontario's appreciation to these remarkable athletes, their coaches and their families, to thank them on behalf of the province for the many thrilling moments they gave us last month in Lillehammer. The Premier and I were joined by many of our colleagues from all parties in the Ontario Legislature.

Our Olympian athletes' performances demonstrated clearly that Ontario is home to some of the world's very best athletes. The road to Olympic athletic status is a long and difficult one, marked by hard work and sacrifice. That makes their achievements all the more worthy.

Many of these outstanding athletes started as youngsters as part of a community sports program or club. When I see what they have accomplished, I feel a special sense of pride in the support Ontario taxpayers provide to assist athletes through the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Recreation's athletic development programs and Ontario Games program. With the support of these programs, young athletes gain the experience, the confidence and composure to compete at the national and international level.

These Ontario stars are role models for all Ontarians and for our youth, showing us the value of sport and athletic competition to our culture, to help lay the groundwork for international tourism and trade and, more importantly, to promote healthy, active living, to develop in Ontario youth important qualities of self-esteem, self-discipline, a sense of accomplishment for hard work and a high quality of life.

Mr Speaker, will you and the honourable members join me in extending our congratulations to Ontario's Olympic athletes, as well as our heartfelt thanks for the enjoyment and sense of pride they have given to all of Ontario?

Applause.

Mr David Ramsay (Timiskaming): I'm honoured to stand in my place today to represent the Liberal caucus in carrying on the salute to our Olympic athletes, who really carried our Canadian flag very well in Norway in February of this year.

If they were here today, I would say to them that they should be very proud of themselves and all their accomplishments. They should be proud of their hard work and their sportsmanship and how they handled themselves, their deportment over there, how they handled all that pressure. We see this from our very comfortable chairs, looking across, via satellite, to the tremendous stress they're under with the competition, worldwide, that's so great. They handled themselves very well, handled that stress and pressure very well, and they showed great support for their fellow athletes. We support them and salute them for that.

I'd also like to mention, as the minister did, the tremendous support shown to those athletes by their families and by their coaches. When we watch those events, we sometimes take it for granted that those young women and men just on their own accomplished that and maybe forget that it took years to achieve those different skills, and it took parents driving children to the hockey rink early in the morning, or to the ski hills and other venues -- and coaches with them -- to really make that all happen.

It doesn't happen overnight. It's been years and years of hard work and dedication to make that happen. We were all very proud of them and we wish them well in their future.

Mr Ted Arnott (Wellington): I'm very happy to rise on behalf of the Conservative caucus to congratulate Canada's winter Olympic team. Thirteen will be a lucky number from now on, because in the 17th Winter Olympic Games it was definitely Canada's lucky number: 13 medals were won, setting a record for this country.

To the members of the Canadian Olympic team, we are proud of you. Please accept our congratulations on a superb job. Our Canadian team exemplified the values the Olympics stand for: the execution of one's sport to the best of one's ability, team spirit, cooperation and fair play. Canadians across the country were very proud to see these athletes exhibit all these characteristics. All 129 of the Canadian participants merit our praise and our thanks. You have made Canada proud.

The Speaker (Hon David Warner): The thoughtful and generous comments by the members for Scarborough West, Timiskaming and Wellington will be forwarded to the athletes whom you have identified today and so properly praised.

ORAL QUESTIONS

PUBLIC OPINION POLLS

Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): I have a question for the Premier. This question is totally within the jurisdiction of the provincial government and the Premier, has nothing to do with the federal government, has nothing to do with previous governments, has nothing to do with the opposition parties, has nothing to do with the Americans, has nothing to do with the media, has everything to do with you. And it's not about a potential OPP investigation of yesterday's leak. It's not that; I don't want to worry him about that.

It's not long ago that we heard the lofty words in the first speech from the throne of this government:

"My government's integrity will be measured by the way this government is run and our relations with the people we serve. Our task is to guard against institutional arrogance and the abuse of power wherever they exist."

It seems the government has found it difficult to guard against arrogance and refrain from abusing power, because according to documents we have obtained through freedom of information, between the time that speech was read and February 1994, your government, Mr Premier, has managed to spend over $8 million on polling and other surveys. You have been so busy polling and surveying that you have averaged -- listen to this -- one poll a week since taking office.

At a time when you are imposing unprecedented spending cuts on services to people in this province and you are taking money out of the pockets of people who work in the public sector, how can you justify spending $8.3 million of taxpayers' money on polls and surveys to tell you what you're supposed to think?

Hon Bob Rae (Premier): I would refer this to the Chairman of Management Board.

Hon Brian A. Charlton (Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet): I thank the member opposite for the question. It's a very useful question the member raises, because I think our friends in the gallery and the public of Ontario know governments traditionally have done polling to find the opinions of the people of this province about a whole range of issues that the government is working on in terms of government initiative.

At the same time, this government has viewed polling as part of our overall approach to cost restraint in the province of Ontario. I'd like to point out that the previous government, the Liberal government of this province, spent a total of $15 million on polls and $12.1 million on market surveys. Those costs have been substantially reduced by this government over the last three and a half years and we will continue to reduce those costs as we refine the way in which we do our market research.

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Mr Bradley: We're looking, of course, in the context of the Chair of Management Board, who has imposed all kinds of cuts on the people of this province, a man who was part of an opposition previously that was totally opposed to what they called cynical polling, trying to justify it.

Yesterday we learned about the election strategy the Premier's campaign manager, David Agnew, has designed while earning about $135,000 of the taxpayers' money. We refer to that as Weppler's list, after Murray Weppler's suggestions as to what the government might do to make itself look good.

Today we learned that the Premier and you and the rest of the government have managed to approve over $8 million in polls and research. Now, it's clear that this is a government that, because it has a poll a week, doesn't move without calling a pollster. It's all there and you've polled on it all.

Isn't it true, Mr Minister -- and Mr Premier, because I know he's listening; didn't want to answer this -- that you are stopping work on virtually every government initiative that the polls tell you will not fly in the upcoming election?

Hon Mr Charlton: It would appear that the member opposite likes to try to change the topic when the first issue doesn't fly very well. I can't let the fact go that this government has cut the cost of polling that it does, the market research that it does with the people of the province so that the work we do is useful, by more than 50% from what the past administration used to do.

With respect to the second part of the member's question about whether we've cut all the issues that polling would indicate the public has some difficulty with, the answer to the question is just a very blunt and straightforward no.

Mr Bradley: When the Premier and his colleagues went to the people of this province in 1990 and received support from those people, the people who voted for them may not have agreed with the policies of the New Democratic Party, which they considered to be not within the mainstream of Ontario, and because the NDP at that time did not have experience in government and had some economic theories that were not generally accepted, they may not have believed that the government could manage the economy and the governing of this province well, but the one thing they did believe was that Bob Rae, as the Leader of the Opposition and as a man involved in politics over the years, would bring a new sense of ethics to politics in Ontario.

How can you justify then the expenditure of this $8.3 million on polls and research, on cynical manipulation, as you used to refer to it, of the people of this province, and how do you square that with the presentation that you have, to the people of this province, of a new code of ethics?

Hon Mr Charlton: I just have to repeat that the people of Ontario would probably be very happy to know that we've cut the cost of polling in this province by over 50%, and in response to the specific question the member has raised, we've cut out all of the cynical part of the process.

Interjections.

The Speaker (Hon David Warner): Order.

CHILD CARE

Mr Charles Beer (York-Mackenzie): My question is to the Minister of Community and Social Services. Minister, we've now heard at least one answer today about the priorities of this government, where money ought to be spent. I want to turn to another area that we feel ought to be a priority one for any government today.

You must be aware that the child care community in this province was shocked to learn this morning that this government is abandoning its promise to reform the existing child care system. What we need to know today from you is exactly what your plans are for the reform of child care between today and the next provincial election.

Hon Tony Silipo (Minister of Community and Social Services): I hope that we'll be in a position fairly soon to be able to outline in detail what we can do with respect to further enhancement in the area of child care, but I want to tell the honourable member very clearly two things: There will be continued improvements in the area of child care beyond what we've managed to do so far, and quite frankly how much we can do will also depend on the discussions that are going on now between us and the federal government.

Mr Beer: There are two critical things that need to be said in response to that answer and in posing my supplementary. I stood in February 1990 in the present minister's place when the original cutbacks to federal funding for child care were started, and if there was one reality that came from that statement in February 1990, it was that no federal government, whether Conservative, Liberal or New Democrat, was going to be providing further funds in the areas of social services, health care and education. That was the reality. Anything that is and has been said by this government about federal funding now is political rhetoric and political posturing.

What we are after is, what is this government's plan and what is it going to do for child care? I have in my hand a document that was before cabinet on February 21 of this year, and it deals with child care. I think when we read this document, we have a clearer sense of why you have backed off child care reform.

I want to quote from this document on the page titled "Communications Environment." It states, and I quote: "Very high expectations exist among some public interest groups about the government's intentions for child care reform. Among the general public, however, those expectations do not exist. Focus groups conducted in August indicate that for the most part the general public is not aware of the government's stated intention to reform the child care system."

I think what one would want to know from the minister is, did your focus groups include any of the 25,000 families currently on the waiting list or the thousands currently in the existing centres? You know what $8 million could do to reform and expand the child care system. What we need to know today is not what the NDP spin doctors are telling Bob Rae to do, but what are you, as Minister of Community and Social Services, going to do to reform and expand and make a better child care system in this province instead of beginning to destroy it?

Hon Mr Silipo: The member opened his supplementary by talking about the realities. Let's talk about the realities. In the 1990-91 fiscal year, there were 46,600 fee subsidies in the system. In this current fiscal year, there are 64,600 subsidized spaces in the system. That's an increase of 18,000 subsidized spaces as a result of actions that this government has taken.

Overall, in terms of dollars that are being spent on child care to pay for those subsidies and to improve the quality of child care in the province, again, in 1990-91 we were spending $350 million; this fiscal year we are spending $525 million: significant increases.

We haven't stood around waiting for the federal government to decide what to do. We have been acting. We have continued to add spaces to the system. We have continued to stabilize the system as a result of those actions and, yes, we have continued and are continuing to look at what further improvements we can make.

I'm confident that we can make some more improvements to the system and will be able to outline those I hope fairly shortly, but I think that it's important for the member opposite to understand that what Ottawa does, does have an impact on what this government can do, and we need to be very up front about that. It's not a question of saying we need to get an allocation of X millions of dollars from the federal government with respect to necessarily directly the issue of child care --

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The Speaker (Hon David Warner): Will the minister conclude his response, please.

Hon Mr Silipo: -- but what the federal government does in the whole area of financing affects all of what we can do in all of the areas of our own financing. We have to look at those issues --

The Speaker: Could the minister please conclude his response.

Hon Mr Silipo: -- and we have to make priorities and we have to be able to balance all the different things we have to do. We are trying very hard within the dollars that we have at our disposal to bring about --

The Speaker: The minister has replied to the question.

Mr Beer: That answer simply doesn't wash. You can't keep going back and blaming the federal government when you have known that there wasn't going to be more money in the system. You can't blame it on what you don't have. What is clear is that right now there is chaos in the system. There are empty spaces and no money for people to fill those spaces. You are not even doing what you said you were going to do in terms of the new places that were to be created. You have instead gone off on a warpath with the private day care operators to get rid of spaces there that you need. You are aiming your guns all over the place and as a result the system is presently in chaos.

In this same document it states very clearly that if the government does not begin to move on meaningful reform, what we will have is a child care system that is purely and simply a welfare system. What the minister doesn't recognize is that child care is a fundamental part of an economic growth strategy. This is not just a social issue. The Premier talks constantly about the creation of jobs and yet his government is getting rid --

The Speaker: Could the member place his question please.

Mr Beer: -- of child care spaces and getting rid of child care reform.

Hon Bob Rae (Premier): That is false. That is a complete falsehood. That was a very complete and total answer.

The Speaker: Order.

Mr Beer: What I want to ask the minister is this: Minister, will you commit to this House to talk directly with the Premier, who is mouthing off words which nobody can hear right now, but when he's calmed down, will you go and talk to him and to the Treasurer and say: "Look, we need a meaningful child care reform. We need it for economic as well as social reasons"? Will you commit to do that this spring so that some hope can return to those out there who need child care to get back into the economic workforce? Will you make that commitment, Minister?

Hon Mr Silipo: I don't need to stand here in the House and make a commitment that I am going to continue to speak with my Premier and with other ministers and members in this government who continue to support the further expansion of the child care system in this province. We believe very strongly in that. Not only do we believe that in words, but we believe it through the deeds we have accomplished. We have improved the child care system during some of the most difficult times in the province's history.

I could very well ask, what in heaven's name did the Liberals do during the boom years that they were in government when they could have fixed all these problems? I would suggest to the member opposite, who I know is genuinely interested in this issue -- I know that to be true -- that I would urge him and his colleagues to use some of that energy that they are using in the House today to also talk to their federal counterparts and say to them that when we are speaking to Minister Axworthy and others about further support that they can give us in the area of child care, they ought to respond positively and respond soon because that will also assist us to be able to do the kinds of things that he wants us to do and that we want to do.

GO TRANSIT MEETING

Mr Ernie L. Eves (Parry Sound): I have a question for the Premier. As we speak a delegation of officials from GO Transit are meeting in Hamilton, Bermuda. Could you tell us what they're doing there?

Hon Bob Rae (Premier): I will take notice of that question. The Minister of Transportation isn't here.

Mr Eves: Apart from enjoying the lovely surroundings in Bermuda, I am told that they may in fact be finalizing the sale of GO Transit rolling stock. Can you confirm that, and if so, why are they doing it on the island of Bermuda?

Hon Mr Rae: As I said to the honourable member, I can't confirm it. I will only say to him that I will take notice of his question and seek a response for him on Monday.

Mr Eves: While the Premier is finding out that information for us, I'd appreciate it if he could have us an answer to these questions by this afternoon, not on Tuesday when the deal will probably be history. Who is there on behalf of the province of Ontario representing our interests and who is paying their way?

Hon Mr Rae: Again, I hope he would appreciate that, as I say, his question is one that deserves and requires an answer, but it's one that I am not in a position to give him. As soon as I --

Mr Eves: Nobody in your government knows the answer to this question? The deputy minister doesn't know? Nobody can find out?

The Speaker: Order.

Hon Mr Rae: I didn't say that. Ernie, you and I both know that sometimes there are questions asked that I have to make certain inquiries about. I can assure you that I will.

ONTARIO ECONOMY

Mr Gary Carr (Oakville South): My question is also to the Premier. The Minister of Finance's statement last week was an admission that you've given up the fight against the deficit. One week later, rising interest rates are changing the deficit landscape. Every percentage point increase in interest rates costs the Ontario taxpayers roughly $80 million. My question to you is this: Can you tell us specifically what the increasing interest rates mean for your deficit projections, and how you intend to deal with it if in fact you intend to deal with it at all?

Hon Bob Rae (Premier): I would say to the honourable member that his description of what the Treasurer said last week I think is grossly inaccurate. The deficit we have been projecting for next year will be substantially lower than this year. This year will represent a more than 20% decline from last year. This is going to be in marked contrast to the record of the federal government of which he was such a strong supporter until the last federal election. We have clearly set out on a path which we think is responsible and fair and balanced.

I would say to him that interest rates have gone up in the United States. The stock market has gone down in the United States. I suppose if I follow the member's logic, that's my fault too. I understand that the Japanese economy is experiencing some difficulty, and no doubt that's also my fault as well. There have been difficult events in Mexico, and I know the member will want to blame me for that as well.

I would say to the honourable member, no one knows. You read the newspapers, you talk to the economists, you talk to bank presidents and they'll give you 25 different opinions on what interest rates are going to do over the next three months and what they're going to do over the next year.

I believe strongly that we've got to stay on a steady path. The steady path is one of deficit reduction. The steady path is one of controlling costs. We've been more successful at controlling costs than any government since the Depression.

The Speaker (Hon David Warner): Could the Premier conclude his response, please.

Hon Mr Rae: I take some pride in our record in this area and I can say to him that we're following a steady, consistent course and that we will be able to ride out any of these spikes and jags that we see going on in the marketplace. We have more confidence than that.

Mr Chris Stockwell (Etobicoke West): You've got a $10-billion deficit and you're controlling costs?

The Speaker: The member for Etobicoke West is out of order.

Mr Carr: This Premier says he is proud to be spending more on deficit servicing than he spends on the ministries of Housing, Municipal Affairs, Natural Resources, Environment and Energy, policing, Correctional Services and Agriculture combined. Premier, unless you move quickly, you are going to be known as a Premier who spent more on plastic than you spent on people.

My question to you is this: Do you have a plan to deal with this deficit or are you planning to be the first Premier who has had four downgrades in four years?

Hon Mr Rae: I would say to the honourable member that when the time comes for us to work with companies that want to locate in his constituency, he's the very first to look for aid and assistance from the government. When it comes to building schools in his constituency, he's the first to be there when the sod is turned. When it comes to making the kind of capital investments that will make a difference to his community or when it comes to making the kinds of expenditures that we have to make, he's the first one to say, "What a wonderful thing." Now he's saying that he wants the government of Ontario to do some kind of cheap imitation of Ralph Klein.

I can tell him right now we intend to follow a steady, sensible course. I would say to him that that's a course that I think any government would be following in these circumstances and it's one worthy of the name, not the kind of right-wing hysteria we're starting to see from the Tory party in this province.

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Mr Carr: The Toronto stock market is plunging, interest rates are rising, the Canadian dollar is falling, revenues are dropping. You'd almost think there was a Liberal government in Ottawa.

The money markets and the bond rating agencies are watching us intently. We need to get a clear signal from you. You can't afford to raise the deficit or to increase taxes. The only thing you can do is cut spending.

My question to the Premier is this: Are you prepared to act on that commitment to cut spending and will you do it today?

Hon Mr Rae: Where has the honourable member been? We have cut spending. Your party never did it. For 42 years, you never did it. Leslie Frost never did it. Leslie Frost was not able to do it. John Robarts never did it. Bill Davis never did it. Frank Miller never did it. David Peterson never did it.

Mr Stockwell: You should choke on those words. You don't belong in that category.

The Speaker: The member for Etobicoke West is out of order.

Hon Mr Rae: We have done it. We have reduced spending in the province of Ontario. We have done it in a responsible and fairminded way. That's exactly what we've done.

Mr Stockwell: You weren't a Leslie Frost, you are no John Robarts, and you are no John Kennedy.

The Speaker: The member for Etobicoke West is out of order.

Hon Mr Rae: I can tell the honourable member the record will clearly show that we have met the most difficult challenge and we're going to be doing it in a responsible and fair way. But I can tell him again, we're not going to do it in the kind of mindless, truly thoughtless way that's going to lead to this kind of destruction of our social programs. We're not going to see the destruction of social programs. We're not going to do it in a cruel and thoughtless way. We're going to be doing it in a sensible way that has the support of the people of the province as we go through this period.

I can tell him, jobs are increasing, revenues are increasing, deficits are declining. The sky is not falling. Chicken Little should have no place in the Ontario Tory party. I'm surprised that the ideology of Chicken Little has taken over in the Liberal Party, it's taken over in the Tory party, and whether it's Turkey Lurkey or Chicken Licken or Henny Penny, it doesn't matter. The sky is falling over there. We see the sunshine.

The Speaker: Could the Premier conclude his response, please.

Hon Mr Rae: We see the corner being turned, we see a bright future for the province of Ontario, and that's the confidence that we see for our people.

Mr Charles Harnick (Willowdale): Prosperity abounds. The fairy tales are coming out of the Premier's mouth. What did any of that have to do with reality?

The Speaker: Order.

BUSINESS PRACTICES

Mr Gerry Phillips (Scarborough-Agincourt): My question is to the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations and has to do, really, with the government's priorities.

I think the minister knows that there are literally hundreds of people in the province who are being ripped off by what I think can only be described as shady loan brokers who demand an upfront payment, promise that they will be able to get loans for people, many or most of whom are quite desperate, get the money from those people and then never deliver on the loans.

The minister, I think, is aware of these practices. I think the minister has indicated publicly that she believes a solution rests with a legislative solution. She believes that it has to be the Legislature that deals with it. I think she's indicated to the public that she views this as a serious problem.

My question is this: Will you today commit to the House that we will see legislation on this matter in the House this session before we break for June?

Hon Marilyn Churley (Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations): Indeed the member is right; we have discussed this issue both in the House and we've discussed it personally as well. It is an issue. He's quite right in stating that I'm concerned about it.

The problem, as he knows, is that often hidden in very small print in the contract is a clause that says that people will not be refunded the amount of money they pay up front when they go to get the loan, when they sign on. Unfortunately, a lot of people are feeling quite desperate when they go to that length to get a loan.

We have put out a lot of consumer alerts. The media have done a great job in alerting people to this problem, and I am very grateful that they've been doing that. We will continue to put out media alerts and warn people that they should look very carefully before they sign these kinds of contracts and know what they're getting into.

Unfortunately, the government can't bring in bills to solve all the problems that exist out there in the marketplace. There are a number of ways that this could be dealt with. One is under the Mortgage Brokers Act, and we've discussed that, and there are some other consumer areas where it could be included. We are certainly looking at doing that. I cannot commit today to bring it into the House in this session.

The Speaker (Hon David Warner): Could the minister conclude her response, please.

Hon Ms Churley: There is a possibility of doing this, but certainly it is a concern and we will continue to alert people. I thank you for raising the question today.

Mr Phillips: Without getting, I guess, too partisan on this thing, that really is bafflegab. You yourself, Minister, said this is a serious problem. You said it requires a legislative solution. You said people are getting ripped off, and there are literally hundreds of thousands of dollars ripped off some of the people who are in the most desperate straits in this province. There is no doubt about that. This is a last resort for people who are desperate for money, and you promised that you would bring forward legislation to deal with it.

I think what we're dealing with here, Premier, is that you have decided that you have a very limited legislative agenda, and yet your minister has said this is a significant problem that requires a legislative solution. You are leaving hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of people out to dry because you do not want to bring forward required legislation.

I'm trying to be helpful. I sent a letter to the government two months ago saying: "Listen, tell us if you're going to bring forward legislation. If you're not, we will prepare a private member's bill to deal with it." I have not even gotten an answer to that, and so my question is this: I am trying to solve the problem for the people who are being ripped off. Will you, at the very least, because you don't want to do anything, undertake to support a private member's bill by myself, designed to solve this problem and take it out of your hands, because you don't want to deal with it, and let the Legislature deal with this problem? Are you prepared today to support a private member's bill by myself to solve this problem?

Hon Ms Churley: I'd be very happy to look at the bill.

Interjections.

Hon Ms Churley: They want me to just say yes. Well, I can't say yes to something that I haven't seen. I'd be very interested to see what your private member's bill says and exactly what piece of legislation you're talking about amending and the implications of that, overall, to a whole bill.

I assume that you're talking about bringing in an amendment to an existing piece of legislation. I'd be very happy to take a look at it. When it's ready we can talk about it, and there's a possibility that I can support it. So we'll see. I presume that you're in the process of drafting this bill now. I look forward to seeing it and we can talk about it and see if indeed we can get support from the whole House to pass that bill.

TOURISM INDUSTRY

Mr Ted Arnott (Wellington): I have a question for the Minister of Culture, Tourism and Recreation, and it's a positive and constructive suggestion which has emerged from our small business task force. Last week I had a meeting with the Elora Chamber of Commerce and I've received this letter since then:

"Dear Ted,

"Quebec has removed its sales tax on long-stay (two nights or more) accommodation. It would make an incredible difference to Ontario's hospitality industry, both absolutely and competitively, if Ontario did the same. Please try it."

It's signed by Tim Taylor, innkeeper of the Elora Mill Inn in Elora.

With the low Canadian dollar, now more than ever is the time to market Ontario to Americans as an attractive travel destination. One way of doing this is to ensure a level playing field with our provincial neighbours. Will you commit to removing the room and restaurant meal sales tax as Quebec has done on hotel packages involving extended stays of two nights or more?

Hon Anne Swarbrick (Minister of Culture, Tourism and Recreation): As the member knows, we've undertaken a very extensive industry-led consultation process over past months which resulted in a report to me recently as to what the industry in Ontario would like to see this government do to help really build the tourism industry and make it the globally competitive industry that it has the potential to be.

The report that I received in February is now undergoing the work for me to take to cabinet the key proposals presented to me by the Ontario industry, and I think it's the proposals of the Ontario industry throughout the consultations that involve more than 500 representatives of them that are the items that I need to be dealing with. That was not one of the key items that was raised by them.

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Mr Arnott: Tim Taylor was part of the consultation process which led to this report. This is a suggestion that he's put to us and I'm putting to you, and it has been two months since this report was presented to you and you've indicated really that nothing's been done since that time.

It's very, very important, especially this year, as we're coming out of the recession and we see some life, that there be an important effort put forward to try and encourage Ontario as a tourism destination. What specific steps has the minister taken to implement the recommendations that were put to her two months ago?

Hon Ms Swarbrick: The industry understands very well what the process of our government is and the fact that you can't just immediately snap your fingers and come out with results, although they are very delighted at the fact that they know those results will be coming out in the very near future and beginning to, over the next number of months.

I should say that one of the advantages that the Quebec government has over the situation in Ontario is that the federal government, under both the present Liberal Party and under the past Conservative Party, has been extremely generous in Quebec. In the case of tourism, the federal government under the Conservatives, the party that the questioner is from, entered into a $173-million joint agreement with the province of Quebec that has obviously allowed it to do a number of things that in Ontario we're having to go alone with.

Since the Liberal Party was elected federally, I've met with the federal minister responsible for tourism, the trade minister, John Manley, and made the case to him in terms of the fact that Ontario deserves the same kind of fair treatment that exists in Quebec. Unfortunately, the present Liberal Party is not willing to see that either. But the industry-led proposals presented to this government, which identify the priorities of the industry in Ontario --

The Speaker (Hon David Warner): Could the minister conclude her response, please.

Hon Ms Swarbrick: -- are very strongly being worked on, developed, and we'll be coming out with the clear proposals for action in the relatively near future.

LONG-TERM CARE

Mrs Karen Haslam (Perth): My question is for the Minister of Health. I realize the minister and the ministry are committed to maintaining and improving health care for all Ontarians and in particular for our seniors. One of the reforms that I'm most interested in is long-term care reform. I'm anxious about it, so is my community, so are district health councils, so are service providers, and so are the clients. We want to see this reform come in and take effect.

I would like to ask the minister for the seniors, because they want affordable, equitable and accessible services: Can the minister assure my constituents that this reform is forthcoming, and when can we expect it to take effect?

Hon Ruth Grier (Minister of Health): I'm delighted to be able to say to the member that indeed long-term care is already coming into effect and I know of the interest in her constituency and of the work that she has done to in fact help provide services for seniors in the riding of Perth.

Long-term care reform is well under way. We have already expanded the community-based services, such as integrated homemaker, all across this province. That began to take effect last summer and last fall. Placement coordination services are now under development in 13 district health council areas where they were not in place in the past. And of course, as a result of Bill 101, which I know the member was part of that exercise in hearings and committee work, we now have reforms in the facility sector that have taken place.

In addition, of course, all of the district health councils have their long-term care planning committees in place and so I can safely reassure her that long-term care is well under way. There is more work to be done but we will complete that, I hope, in the near future.

Mrs Haslam: That brings me to one of the key elements of long-term care reform and that is the multiservice agencies. Since this one-stop access to long-term care was announced last fall, social health services, referral to other services, makes that multiservice agency the key in the development of the reformed system.

In my riding there are concerns about the multiservice agencies. I'm going to refer her to a letter from the Senior Citizens' Consumer Alliance for Long-Term Care Reform, where they say that "MSAs are simply existing agencies that are linked, merged or reorganized to provide the coordination of services that consumers want, in a streamlined and cost-efficient manner that taxpayers expect." That's from the senior citizens' alliance and they are in favour of an MSA but there are concerns, and we don't want to see another level of bureaucracy. It's not about a building and stones. I need to be assured that we are examining multiservice agencies --

The Speaker (Hon David Warner): Could the member place a question, please.

Mrs Haslam: -- and I need to be assured that we are going to be doing it right.

Could the minister assure me and my constituents that we are looking at it in a concerned way so that we don't rush into it, that we're doing it right?

Hon Mrs Grier: Let me say to the member that I certainly appreciate her understanding of what multiservice agencies are and are designed to be. As the seniors' consumers alliance has outlined, they are to be one-stop shopping where the consumers can get the services and the information they need. I regret that there has been some misinformation and misunderstanding that in fact they would be run by the government and somehow another level of bureaucracy. They will in fact be run by volunteer community boards, as are all the other transfer agencies within the Ministry of Health and other ministries, and will be providing that one-stop shopping using volunteers, bringing together existing services, coordinating and integrating the delivery of services.

As the member is well aware, Perth is one of our newer district health councils, but it got its long-term care planning committee established in the fall of 1993. Those committee meetings are open to the public, the planning is well under way, and Perth, as will other areas of the province, will soon be better served than it has ever been before with respect to the needs of seniors and those with physical disabilities.

SERVICES FOR THE DISABLED

Mr Bruce Crozier (Essex South): My question is for the Health minister. My question is about ALPHA, Apartments for Living for Physically Handicapped Association, which owns and operates a non-profit housing project with attendant care in Windsor.

On December 1, 1993, the voluntary board of directors of ALPHA, because of concerns over your Bill 120, felt it necessary to terminate the care program, effective today. Since December, ALPHA has brought its concerns over the many serious concerns that it has in the transition issues to the attention of ministry officials. However, there's been no response from the government on these issues and they remain unresolved.

On Tuesday, ALPHA met with your colleague Dave Cooke and was given just 48 hours to resolve all the outstanding issues with the care provider, the Association for Persons with Physical Disabilities of Windsor and Essex County. At that meeting, the 12-member volunteer board said it couldn't solve these problems in just 48 hours and asked for a 30-day extension.

Minister, can you tell us today why your government refused to give ALPHA an extension to work things out?

Hon Ruth Grier (Minister of Health): I thank the member for his question, the first that I think he's had the opportunity to put to me.

I share very much his concern about the tenants of this supportive housing project in Windsor, and I know my colleague the member for Windsor-Riverside was in a meeting, as the member says. But I have to disagree with a lot of the premise of the member's question, because since ALPHA, which has been providing support services to those physically needy and disabled tenants in their building, announced that it wished to terminate the provision of those services, there have been innumerable meetings and attempts to negotiate a way in which the issue would be resolved.

The bottom line for me has to be, and continues to be, that the people living in those units who need 24-hour supervision and care be provided with that care. Another organization has emerged which is prepared to provide that care, and we have been trying to negotiate with ALPHA for the hand-over of the responsibilities ALPHA said it wished to end as of midnight tonight to another organization.

I am not aware of a request for an extension. That's the first that I've heard of it. I am not prepared to contemplate that, because the uncertainty and the difficulties for those tenants, who have got to be our primary concern, cannot be allowed to continue.

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Mr Crozier: Minister, perhaps Mr Cooke and you should get together. Perhaps your ministry officials who were at the meeting should speak with you. Perhaps officials from the Ministry of Housing should speak to you. I'm concerned that the signal you're sending to other volunteer organizations is that if they have legitimate concerns, you'll say to them: "We don't care about that. Give us the keys to the building and we'll take over."

It gets back to my question, Minister. In your letter of today, March 31, you say, "My staff remain committed to meeting with you to resolve outstanding issues regarding the termination of your tenant care program and we're prepared to discuss it at any time." But what you apparently aren't prepared to do is to give a volunteer organization, people who have to work all day, 30 days to work this out. Why couldn't you just give them 30 days?

Hon Mrs Grier: I must caution the member. I must ask the member to go back over the chronology. I'll be more than happy to brief him and to show him. This has been an extremely serious situation in which the tenants have all appealed for intervention in order to give them the security and the care they must have for their very survival.

We have had enormous difficulty getting some definitive answers from ALPHA with respect to how we can make the transition it initiated and ensure that those tenants are protected. I can give him my guarantee that had phone calls been returned, had meetings been asked for -- my staff have been on 24-hour alert to meet with ALPHA in an effort to prevent getting down to this deadline. We have no choice but to make sure that the tenants are protected. That's my responsibility and that's what I'm going to do.

TRUANCY

Mrs Dianne Cunningham (London North): I'd like to ask the Minister of Education and Training a question. Many of us have been concerned about violence in schools. He was on CFRB today talking about truancy in schools and our troubled youths. My question has to do with something the minister should be thinking about and acting on in the next few weeks and months. It's not new, but we haven't asked a question for two or three years because we thought something actually had been done. He's aware that in 1984 the Juvenile Delinquents Act was replaced by the Young Offenders Act.

Hon David S. Cooke (Minister of Education and Training): That's federal.

Mrs Cunningham: Yes. He's also aware that the Education Act on truancy refers to the old Juvenile Delinquents Act, not to any new legislation. Even if it did, the judges would not have the kind of support in the existing legislation without an amendment to deal with these young people and assist them in a meaningful way. Over 20,000 youngsters are away from school habitually, and we don't have any tools in this province to help them in providing rehabilitation programs.

I'm asking the minister today, what are his plans to deal in some new way, as he's been given this information for a long time, with the habitual absence problem we face in our schools in Ontario?

Hon Mr Cooke: The issue the member raises is an important one, but not easily dealt with. I'm sure we would take a look at and talk about any suggestions she might have about what amendments might be necessary in legislation or other policy development that would be appropriate, because we're both committed to the same goal.

Mrs Cunningham: I do have some assistance for the minister. I have a brief on habitual absence that was presented to the former minister on January 12, 1991. This is very specific in its recommendation, that I would appreciate the minister look at.

Then we have a paper that was presented by the London Family Court Clinic, Dr Leschied, PhD, and Al Schnietter, BSW, "Understanding the Needs of School-Avoidant Youths," which is very specific.

Then I have a statement we made to the former government, the Liberal government, on July 12, 1989, which is very specific. It says, "Without an amended Young Offenders Act or the Ministry of Education making a decision about compulsory attendance, this problem is expected to escalate." When it comes to dealing with truants, there is absolute confusion. Some jurisdictions will not hear truancy cases at all. They say the legislation is not valid any more. What is needed is an amendment to the Education Act, specifically the sections here. I would just ask the minister if he would consider doing that in the next short while.

Hon Mr Cooke: I'd certainly like to review the documents the member has referred to, and I'd be glad to follow up with her.

WATER QUALITY

Mr Larry O'Connor (Durham-York): My question is for the Minister of Environment and Energy. Minister, as you know, there is a serious water problem in the Ballantrae-Musselman Lake area. I have been told of chloride problems. I've been told of nitrate problems. In the Ballantrae-Musselman Lake area of my riding they're really concerned. The hundreds of families in that area are relying right now on bottled water and some wells that are polluted. I'm really concerned about the health of these people. Can you tell me what your ministry is doing for me, to help me and the constituents in my riding to get safe water? They need to get it. It's important.

Hon Bud Wildman (Minister of Environment and Energy): Thanks to the lobbying on behalf of his constituents who have had to endure this long-standing problem, the member for Durham-York will know that the Ontario Clean Water Agency, when it made its recent announcements of allocations, allocated I think a total of $13 million to Durham-York for projects. Specifically, dealing with the Musselman Lake area, the Ballantrae communal water supply source, the grant proposed is $2.4 million; the Ballantrae communal water system, the facility, is another $2.3 million; and the Musselman Lake communal water distribution system allocation is $2.8 million, for a total allocation, thanks to the work of the member for Durham-York to deal with this problem, of $7.5 million. We're looking forward to the municipality taking advantage of this so finally the people who have had to endure this problem for so long and be dependent on bottled water will have safe, clean drinking water for their communities.

Mr O'Connor: Minister, you'll know I appreciate that, and I was part of the announcement of the grants that took place back in February from OCWA. But what my constituents are worried about is that they've got this water problem, and what do they do next? What's the process? Where are they supposed to go? The town is a little slow in reacting. Just what is the process? What do my constituents have to do next?

Hon Mr Wildman: I must say that I recognize the urgency of the problem the member brings before the House, but it's only fair to point out that the council of the municipality has to consider the offer of this substantial grant from the Ontario Clean Water Agency to determine how it might be able to provide its share of the cost. I'm sure, if ratepayers are concerned, they would be welcome to attend a council meeting and make their views known. I look forward to the council making a decision as to whether it is prepared to participate so that this long-standing problem can be resolved as the member's constituents wish it to be.

HUMAN RIGHTS CODE REVIEW

Mr Alvin Curling (Scarborough North): My question is to the minister responsible for the Human Rights Commission. Madam Minister, when will you be introducing legislative reform to the Human Rights Code?

Hon Elaine Ziemba (Minister Responsible for Human Rights, Disability Issues, Seniors' Issues and Race Relations): I'm sorry, Mr Speaker, I was unable to hear the question. Could you please repeat it?

The Speaker (Hon David Warner): Could the member repeat the question, please.

Mr Curling: I'll say it slowly. When will you be introducing legislative reform to the Human Rights Code?

Hon Ms Ziemba: In answer to the critic's question, I would say we are now reviewing the possibility of procedural amendments to the code. We're also reviewing some other aspects to the Human Rights Code. When we finish that review, we will certainly include him in a briefing, as we have done on all other occasions, and will tell him the type of legislation we might or might not be introducing.

Mr Curling: It is evident that human rights is not a priority of this minister or this New Democratic Party government. Not only did she not answer my question -- I didn't ask her for any more briefings -- but she has ignored responding to the legislative reforms that were called for by the Human Rights people and advocates themselves; by the coroner's report, which has asked for reform; by the Ombudsman of this province, who will tell you that Human Rights Commission cannot continue, cannot be effective unless you have changes to the legislation. There is a backlog there, and of those waiting for tribunal hearings.

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Madam Minister, the priority of your government is not human rights; it doesn't seem so to me. I'm going to ask you again and give you this opportunity: Not when I want a briefing, not when you get a chance to read the coroner's report -- when will you be introducing some sort of legislation to the Human Rights Code?

Hon Ms Ziemba: First of all, I want to make very clear to the member opposite our commitment to extending human rights and to making sure that this province is a fair and equitable society.

There are many different ways of reforming the Human Rights Code and making sure that people's rights are enshrined. I just want to name a number of initiatives we have been able to accomplish.

We have eliminated the backlog, save for a few cases, that were before that government since 1985. There are about 15 cases that are still outstanding and will be resolved by May. We have also made sure that as we proceed with the new cases, we come to an early settlement --

Mrs Margaret Marland (Mississauga South): I have a case that's been there for six years.

The Speaker: Order.

Hon Ms Ziemba: -- arising out of making sure that people can accomplish --

Mrs Marland: Six years, and it's still not resolved.

Hon Ms Ziemba: Mr Speaker, I'm having difficulty with the members opposite. That's why I couldn't hear the member's question at first. The same person who the other day criticized the speaking in the House is now making a lot of comments.

Mrs Marland: No, I'm only making one comment. I have a case that's six years old.

The Speaker: Order, the member for Mississauga South.

Hon Ms Ziemba: We have also made sure that the cases that are coming in, the new cases, are resolved in a quick and efficient manner: 60% of the cases that come before the Human Rights Commission are resolved within six months. That's a wonderful record.

We have also made sure that we have trained the staff. The staff were never trained before under the previous two governments --

Interjections.

The Speaker: Order.

Hon Ms Ziemba: -- and that staff is now trained and can make sure they respond in an efficient manner.

The Speaker: Could the minister conclude her response, please.

Hon Ms Ziemba: There is one last point I want to make. We believe in human rights, and we believe in making sure that all aspects of human rights are at the forefront of our priority list. We passed employment equity, Bill 79, last December. Neither of those two parties, especially that member, voted for employment equity. That is a component --

The Speaker: Could the minister please conclude her response.

Hon Ms Ziemba: -- of human rights and dignity in the workplace.

CLOSING OF CAMPGROUND

Mr Robert W. Runciman (Leeds-Grenville): I'm sure you'll be that generous with me, Mr Speaker. I have a question for the minister responsible for tourism.

In eastern Ontario, the St Lawrence Parks Commission made a decision a few years ago to close a number of parks along the St Lawrence system. Members representing those ridings have been urging the parks commission and your government to take a look at that decision and open those parks up for private sector operation through long-term lease agreements. So far only one has occurred, and that is operating extremely successfully, turning a significant profit, unlike when it was operated by a government agency.

These parks are some of the most beautiful vistas and waterfront property along the system. They're sitting vacant; they're sitting idle. What's your government's position in respect to getting these beautiful parks in operation once again?

Hon Anne Swarbrick (Minister of Culture, Tourism and Recreation): I appreciate the concern on behalf of eastern Ontario being put forward by the member from that area. It's an area that both my parliamentary assistant and I have been addressing. It's not an easy solution to arrive at. It's a complicated situation that involves the contracting-out of facilities that were once operated by union employees. It also is an area of wanting to make sure we're not trying to single-source the leasing of those parks, which in fact is what's often been advocated by people who've come forward from that area.

Mr Runciman: That's a sad commentary on tourism policy in this province. Those parks have been sitting vacant for several years now, and the minister gets up and says it's a difficult problem. If she were really committed to encouraging and developing tourism in eastern Ontario, she could act in this matter quickly. She could act on it today; she could act on it tomorrow and resolve the situation.

We're talking about jobs. We're talking about a significant boost to the economy in eastern Ontario. This is not a difficult question to deal with.

She can open those facilities to private sector opportunities very quickly. We can have them in operation, some of them, this summer. All she has to do away with is successor rights and make those properties available. We have an opportunity to develop a golf course in one in my riding.

I urge the minister to look at this closely, immediately, and take action and do something for tourism development in eastern Ontario.

Hon Ms Swarbrick: If the member and others have proposals for the development of a golf course there, I'm sure the St Lawrence Parks Commission would be happy to hear about it. That's a totally different issue than the parks.

Certainly I intend to continue working on this issue. However, I would point out that there has not been a problem of people having to be turned away from parks in that area. It's not as though there is a problem of undercapacity. I do appreciate, however, that it's something I will continue to pay attention to in an attempt to try to resolve the issue.

RACIAL HARMONY

Mr Drummond White (Durham Centre): My question is for the Minister of Citizenship, who is also responsible for the Anti-Racism Secretariat. In our community -- frankly, this is my neighbour's riding of Oshawa -- there have been some very disturbing events recently. Some slogans have been posted in regard to a very right-wing group, the NSDAP, and the Heritage Front pasting nasty, racist, very disturbing slogans.

Minister, first off, I want to know what the Anti-Racism Secretariat is doing in our area to combat this kind of very disturbing and racist propaganda.

Hon Elaine Ziemba (Minister of Citizenship and Minister Responsible for Human Rights, Disability Issues, Seniors' Issues and Race Relations): I know the member has worked very hard in his community to make a very favourable environment for all our citizens in Ontario, and I congratulate him for his efforts. I share his concerns, as we all do in this House, when people who live in our communities are targeted by other individuals who are hatemongering, as we call it.

In the member's own community, we have been able to give his community groups grants. One is the black women's organization. Also the intercommunity organization has been working very hard with our ministry, the Ontario Anti-Racism Secretariat and community groups to make sure we eliminate racism and discrimination.

Just one final word: The Ontario Anti-Racism Secretariat is very committed to making sure we all work together to fight racism, to fight all forms of discrimination so we can have a more harmonious society.

MOTIONS

PRIVATE MEMBERS' PUBLIC BUSINESS

Hon Brian A. Charlton (Government House Leader): I move that Mr Jamison and Ms Murdock (Sudbury) exchange places in the order of precedence for private members' public business.

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

PETITIONS

SEXUAL ORIENTATION

Mr Tim Murphy (St George-St David): I have a petition in favour of Bill 45.

"Whereas the private member's bill on same-sex benefits known as Bill 45, introduced by Tim Murphy, MPP for St George-St David, is awaiting third reading approval in the Legislature;

"Whereas we, the undersigned, are disappointed by the lack of action by the government on introducing legislation that would eliminate all discrimination against gays and lesbians;

"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to take action on this issue and ensure that legislation such as Bill 45 is passed which will ensure all couples are treated equally under the law."

I affix my signature in support.

FIREARMS SAFETY

Mr David Tilson (Dufferin-Peel): I have a petition addressed to Ontario Premier Bob Rae, Solicitor General David Christopherson and the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.

"Whereas we want you to know that we are strenuously objecting to your decision on the firearms acquisition certificate course and examination; and

"Whereas you should have followed the OFAH advice and 'grandfathered' those of us who have already taken safety course and/or hunted for years (we are not unsafe and we're not criminals); and

"Whereas we should not have to take the time to pay the cost of another course or examination and we should not have to learn about the classes of firearms that we have no desire to own;

"We, the undersigned, petition Premier Bob Rae, Solicitor General David Christopherson and the Legislative Assembly of Ontario as follows:

"Change your plans, grandfather responsible firearm owners and hunters, and only require future first-time gun purchasers to take the new federal firearm safety course or examination."

I have signed my signature to identify this petition.

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LAND-LEASE COMMUNITIES

Mr Drummond White (Durham Centre): I have a petition here addressed to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario. It's from many concerned community residents in my area and across the province. It reads:

"Whereas Bill 21, Mr Wessenger's bill, has received second reading in the Legislative Assembly of Ontario; and

"Whereas Bill 21 will provide needed protection to owners of mobile homes in mobile home trailer parks and owners of modular homes in land-lease communities; and

"Whereas many owners of mobile homes are threatened with eviction and loss of their investment in their mobile home by actions of their landlords;

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

"To proceed as expeditiously as possible with third reading and implementation of Bill 21."

VIOLENCE

Ms Dianne Poole (Eglinton): I have 15 further petitions from the towns of Bowmanville, Cavan, Millbrook, Newcastle, Oshawa and Newtonville concerning serial killer trading cards, and I'd like to read the petition to you.

"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"Whereas serial killer trading cards are being imported into and distributed throughout Ontario and the rest of Canada;

"Whereas these trading cards feature the crimes of serial killers, mass murderers and gangsters;

"Whereas we abhor crimes of violence against persons and believe that serial killer trading cards offer nothing positive for children or adults to emulate or admire, but rather contribute to the tolerance and desensitization of violence; and

"Whereas we as a society agree that the protection of our children is paramount,

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

"That the Ontario government enact legislation to ensure that the sale of these serial killer trading cards is restricted to people over the age of 18 years, and that substantial and appropriate penalties be imposed on retailers who sell serial killer trading cards to minors."

I've signed this petition since I thoroughly agree with it, and I will tell you that brings to 1,304 signatures this week on petitions in this regard from Catholic women's leagues, women's institutes and business and professional women's clubs.

The Acting Speaker (Ms Margaret H. Harrington): Further petitions? The member for Leeds-Grenville.

POLICE USE OF FORCE

Mr Robert W. Runciman (Leeds-Grenville): Thank you for recognizing me, Madam Speaker. I truly appreciate it.

I have a petition addressed to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario, signed by 6,930 residents of Sault Ste Marie, and this was circulated for only five weeks.

"Whereas a concerned citizens' group has been formed in Sault Ste Marie, Citizens Offering Police Support (COPS) oppose the board of inquiry's decision of August 5, 1993, in the Trepasso v Lindsay case. COPS is endorsed by the Sault Ste Marie Drinking and Driving Awareness Committee.

"Whereas this board of inquiry's mandate is to determine if Constable Steven Lindsay's use of force is justifiable. The only two people who can testify to this event are Mr Larry Trepasso and Constable Steven Lindsay. The board prefers the testimony of Mr Larry Trepasso, whose blood alcohol levels tested at 0.153 milligrams and 0.145 milligrams, well over the legal limit of 0.08. Constable Steven Lindsay, a police officer with an impeccable record, was not believed.

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

"We demand the board of inquiry's decision of August 5, 1993, in the Trepasso v Lindsay case be rescinded, or at a very minimum be reviewed by a new board."

I am affixing my signature in support of this petition.

SEXUAL ORIENTATION

Mr Noel Duignan (Halton North): I have a petition on behalf of the Maple Avenue Baptist Church of Maple Avenue in Georgetown. It's addressed to the Honourable the Lieutenant Governor and the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.

"We, the undersigned, beg leave to petition the Parliament of Ontario as follows:

"Bill 45 will change the meaning of the words 'spouse' and 'marital status' by removing the words 'of the opposite sex.' This will redefine the family as we know it.

"We believe that there will be an enormous negative impact on our society over the long term if fundamental institutions such as marriage are redefined to accommodate homosexual special-interest groups.

"We believe in freedom from discrimination, but since the words 'sexual orientation' have not been defined in the Ontario Human Rights Code and since sexual orientation is elevated to the same level as morally neutral characteristics of race, religion, age and sex, we believe all references to sexual orientation should be removed from the Ontario Human Rights Code and Bill 45.

"Therefore, we request that the House refrain from passing Bill 45."

FIREARMS SAFETY

Mr Steven Offer (Mississauga North): I have a petition to Premier Bob Rae, Solicitor General David Christopherson and the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"Whereas we want you to know that we are strenuously objecting to your decision on the firearms acquisition certificate course and examination; and

"Whereas you should have followed the OFAH advice and grandfathered those of us who have already taken safety courses and/or hunted for years (we are not unsafe and we are not criminals); and

"Whereas we should not have to take the time or pay the cost of another course or examination and we should not have to learn about classes of firearms that we have no desire to own;

"We, the undersigned, petition Premier Bob Rae, Solicitor General David Christopherson and the Legislative Assembly of Ontario as follows:

"Change your plans, grandfather responsible firearm owners and hunters, and only require future first-time gun purchasers to take the new federal firearm safety course or examination."

That has been signed by hundreds of concerned members of the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters.

HAEMODIALYSIS

Mr Jim Wilson (Simcoe West): I have a petition addressed to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"Whereas several patients from the town of New Tecumseth are forced to travel great distances under treacherous road conditions to receive necessary haemodialysis treatments in Orillia or Toronto;

"Whereas the government has done nothing to discourage a patchwork dialysis system whereby some patients receive haemodialysis in-home and others travel long distances for treatment;

"Whereas there are currently two dialysis machines serving only two people in New Tecumseth and one patient is forced to pay for her own nurse;

"Whereas the government continues to insist that they are studying the problem, even though they have known about it for two years; and

"Whereas the Legislature passed Simcoe West MPP Jim Wilson's private member's resolution which called for the establishment of dialysis satellites in New Tecumseth and Collingwood;

"We demand the government establish a dialysis satellite immediately in the town of New Tecumseth."

That's a continuation of the petition that is signed by thousands of people from my riding and surrounding areas, and I've signed this petition.

LAND-LEASE COMMUNITIES

Mr Gordon Mills (Durham East): I have a petition addressed to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.

"Whereas Bill 21 has received second reading in the Legislative" --

Mr Gregory S. Sorbara (York Centre): You did this yesterday.

Mr Mills: And I'll do it and I'll keep on doing it all the time they mess around with it over there.

"Whereas Bill 21 will provide needed protection to owners of mobile homes in mobile home trailer parks and owners of modular homes in land-lease communities; and

"Whereas many owners of mobile homes are threatened with eviction and loss of their investment in their mobiles homes by the action of their landlord;

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

I hope the member, the critic for the Conservatives, has listened.

"To proceed as expeditiously as possible with third reading of Bill 21."

I'm going to sign that.

SEXUAL ORIENTATION

Mr Ted Arnott (Wellington): I have a petition to the Parliament of Ontario and it reads as follows:

"Whereas Bill 45 seeks to remove from subsection 10(1) of the Human Rights Code 'of the opposite sex' which would allow for two people of the same sex to be legally married; and

"Whereas Bill 55 in section 7(1) includes sexual orientation against which no public statement shall be permitted under section 26(1) and that sexual orientation may include homosexuality;

"We, the undersigned, petition the Parliament of Ontario as follows:

"To maintain the requirement that marriages are constituted between two people of the opposite sex. This requirement preserves what has been naturally proper as long as marriages have taken place, thus upholding the traditional fruitful family unit as set forth in holy scripture while abating the unfruitful, unnatural perverseness of homosexuality.

"To this we add that 'sexual orientation' be removed from section 7(1) as proposed by Bill 45. It is admitted that no legitimate discrimination could be brought against an individual solely on the basis of any of the points stated in section 7(1) except sexual orientation.

"In so far as sexual orientation refers to homosexuality we have no concern. However, in so far as 'sexual orientation' may refer to homosexuality, Bill 55 contradicts our responsibility as Christians to publicly proclaim the truth: We must, according as we believe from the Scriptures, reject homosexuality as an 'abomination,' Leviticus 18:22, and error, Romans 1:27."

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FIREARMS SAFETY

Mr Gary Wilson (Kingston and The Islands): I have a petition to Ontario Premier Bob Rae, Solicitor General David Christopherson and the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"Whereas we want you to know that we are strenuously objecting to your decision on the firearms acquisition certificate course and examination; and

"Whereas you should have followed the OFAH advice and grandfathered those of us who have already taken safety courses and hunted for years (we are not unsafe and we are not criminals); and

"Whereas we should not have to take the time or pay the cost of another course or examination and we should not have to learn about classes of firearms that we have no desire to own,

"We, the undersigned, petition Premier Bob Rae, Solicitor General David Christopherson and the Legislative Assembly of Ontario as follows:

"Change your plans, grandfather responsible firearm owners and hunters and only require future first-time gun purchasers to take the new federal firearms safety course or examination."

That's signed by about 130 people.

LANDFILL

Mr David Tilson (Dufferin-Peel): I have a petition addressed to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"Whereas the recent announcement by the NDP government to choose three superdumps within the greater Toronto area has disturbed and upset local residents; and

"Whereas these superdumps might have been prevented if Bill 143 had allowed the Interim Waste Authority to look at all alternatives during the site selection process; and

"Whereas we would like to ensure the province of Ontario is making the best decision based on all the facts regarding incineration and long rail-haul and garbage management;

"We demand that the NDP government of Ontario repeal Bill 143, disband the IWA and place a moratorium on the process of finding a landfill to serve all of the greater Toronto area until all alternatives can be properly studied and debated."

I have identified this petition and signed it.

LAND-LEASE COMMUNITIES

Mrs Irene Mathyssen (Middlesex): I have a petition addressed to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario on behalf of my constituents, the residents at Twin Elms in Strathroy, who petition the government:

"Whereas Bill 21 has received second reading in the Legislative Assembly of Ontario; and

"Whereas Bill 21 will provide much-needed protection to the owners of mobile homes and mobile home trailer parks and the owners of modular homes in land-lease communities; and

"Whereas many owners of mobile homes are threatened with eviction and loss of their investment in their mobile homes," and that includes the seniors at Twin Elms;

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

"To proceed as expeditiously as possible with third reading of Bill 21."

I have indeed signed my name to this most worthy petition.

SEXUAL ORIENTATION

Mr David Tilson (Dufferin-Peel): I have a petition of 87 signatures from constituents from my riding. It's addressed to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.

"Whereas traditional family values that recognize marriage as a union between a man and a woman are under attack by Liberal MPP Tim Murphy and his private member's Bill 45; and

"Whereas this bill would recognize same-sex couples and extend to them all the same rights as heterosexual couples; and

"Whereas the bill was carried with the support of an NDP and Liberal majority, but with no PC support in the second reading debate on June 24, 1993; and

"Whereas this bill is currently with the legislative committee on administration of justice and is being readied for a quick passage in the Legislature; and

"Whereas this bill has not been fully examined for financial and societal implications;

"We, the undersigned, petition the Ontario Legislature to stop this bill and future bills which would grant same-sex couples the right to marry and to consider its impact on families in Ontario."

I have signed this petition.

ORDERS OF THE DAY

Hon Brian A. Charlton (Government House Leader): Madam Speaker, the orders that I wish to call first are 114 through 117, which are four private bills that were reported out of the private bills committee. I believe we have the consent of the opposition to deal with both second and third readings of those bills this afternoon.

TOWNSHIP OF GLANBROOK ACT, 1993

On motion by Mr Morrow, the following bill was given second reading:

Bill Pr63, An Act respecting the Township of Glanbrook.

The bill was also given third reading on motion.

TOWNSHIP OF HURON AND VILLAGE OF RIPLEY ACT, 1994

On motion by Mr Curling, on behalf of Mr Elston, the following bill was given second reading:

Bill Pr78, An Act respecting the Township of Huron and the Village of Ripley.

The bill was also given third reading on motion.

TOWN OF BOTHWELL ACT, 1994

On motion by Mr Hope, the following bill was given second reading:

Bill Pr89, An Act respecting the Town of Bothwell.

The bill was also given third reading on motion.

CITY OF KINGSTON ACT, 1994

On motion by Mr Gary Wilson, the following bill was given second reading:

Bill Pr91, An Act respecting the City of Kingston.

The bill was also given third reading on motion.

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INTERIM SUPPLY

Resuming the adjourned debate on the motion for interim supply for the period commencing April 1, 1994, and ending July 31, 1994.

The Acting Speaker (Ms Margaret H. Harrington): We will now resume the debate.

Hon Brian A. Charlton (Government House Leader): Just before we start the debate, the opposition House leaders and I had some discussions earlier and I believe there's been an agreement that the two opposition parties will split the remaining time between now and 6 o'clock on this debate and that the debate will then end and be dealt with appropriately.

The Acting Speaker: Is it agreed? Agreed.

The member for Leeds-Grenville has the floor.

Mr Robert W. Runciman (Leeds-Grenville): Can I ask the Chair what the division of time is?

The Acting Speaker: I'll ask the clerk.

That would be one hour and 15 minutes for each party.

Mr Runciman: All right. Thank you very much.

It's a pleasure to participate in this debate in respect to interim supply, but I also want to comment briefly in respect to some comments made by the deputy leader of the Liberal Party, who preceded me in this debate and made some rather negative comments, to be polite, in respect to the leader of my party, Michael Harris, my colleague from Markham, Mr Cousens, and the Conservative Party of Ontario generally.

I wasn't surprised by the nature of the deputy leader of the Liberal Party's comments. I think he epitomizes a sore loser. They were very arrogant, condescending and typical of a very bitter individual. I would describe it as a venal outburst and an insult, not only to the voters of Victoria-Haliburton but to all Ontarians.

The reality is, of course, in the by-election in VictoriaHaliburton, when that by-election was called, the Liberal Party was leading in the polls by approximately 28 points and felt that it was a very easy cakewalk for the Liberal Party in respect to winning that by-election. Of course the result was somewhat different than the earlier polls indicated, with our candidate, an outstanding candidate, Mr Chris Hodgson, winning with 51% of the vote, the Liberal Party garnering 41% and the NDP 6%.

On the night of the by-election, Mr Conway, the deputy leader of the Liberal Party, the member for Renfrew North, appeared on television, and again this was a very, in my view, outrageous outburst. His holierthan-thou rhetoric we're familiar with, but again, I think it was unbecoming of a leading member of the Liberal Party of Ontario.

But again I want to put on the record that this wasn't a surprise, because after the 1990 election -- certainly all of us in this House can recall when the Liberals called the election, Mr Peterson called the election, the Liberals were leading significantly in the polls, with something like 51% or 52%, and this was a very opportunistic call. They knew their positioning in the polls. They knew we were entering into some very difficult economic times, and they did, in an unprecedented fashion, call an election in only the third year of their mandate with a majority government. Of course on that occasion we saw the polls turn rather dramatically and the NDP form a majority government.

Following that election result, Mr Conway, who at that time was not the deputy leader -- he had been replaced, I believe, by Mr Nixon -- still reacted in a somewhat comparable manner. He could not take the result. He could not live with the result. He disappeared from this chamber for close to a year, would not participate. In fact, I think he spent several months in the Far East while still drawing a salary from the taxpayers. But that's the sort of individual we're dealing with.

No doubt he is a very eloquent and intelligent man, and we will all grant him that, but he frequently portrays what the Liberal government portrayed in government, and that indeed is condescension and arrogance, and again, as I said, indicated in his outburst here yesterday, an insult to the voters, not only of Victoria-Haliburton but across the province.

What he's saying is that we can't talk about rather controversial issues unless we get the approval of the Liberal Party or the NDP or the so-called politically correct in this province. Of course I think they didn't get the message in the last federal election, where people across this country were sick and tired of political parties and political representatives not speaking up for them in legislatures and in the House of Parliament.

We often saw in the past, and we've seen it in this assembly as well, where all three parties on controversial issues sing from the same hymn book. A significant number of Ontarians and Canadians were not having their views spoken in the Legislature or the House of Parliament. They may be controversial views, they may be views that many disagree with, but they are views that are held, and honestly held, by Ontarians and Canadians and they have a right, they have every right to be heard. In many instances in the past, that simply wasn't occurring. We had the élite, the politically correct, the holier-than-thou like the deputy leader of the Liberal Party saying that we should not be raising those kinds of issues because they were divisive, they were generators of hatred etc.

But the irony of all of this, in fact the hypocrisy of all of this was that when this issue -- and we're talking about the specific issue of benefits for same-sex spouses. That's the issue the deputy leader was saying the Conservative Party should not have raised in Victoria-Haliburton, but it was okay for the Liberal Party to raise that same issue in St George-St David. That is the irony of this and the hypocrisy that we've heard so often in this chamber and in the federal House. They were on one side where they could garner votes in respect to a very significant gay and lesbian population in St George-St David, so they took a very activist role in talking about this issue, in raising the profile of this issue because it would benefit them in a political way.

Their leader made some very strong statements in that respect, the NDP made some strong statements in that respect and so did the Conservative candidate, and that's fair ball. There's nothing wrong with that, but when the same issue was raised in Victoria-Haliburton, where it was not necessarily politically popular, all of a sudden it's a generator of hatred; it's a generator of division. In other words, "We could raise these kinds of issues when it's okay for us politically, but when it's okay for someone else politically, it's totally inappropriate, it's not politically correct, it's divisive, it's a generator of hatred." We don't accept that and we don't accept this approach to excluding the views of Ontarians on controversial issues.

I think if Mr Conway had his way and the Liberal Party of Ontario had its way, the petitions that we're hearing right in this House in respect to Bill 45, Mr Murphy's bill, espousing the extension of spousal benefits to same-sex couples, Mr Conway wouldn't even want those petitions heard. I suspect that's the case, because it disagrees with a position of his and many in his party and he simply can't abide by that.

I think that's totally inappropriate and not in keeping with the view of most voters and most residents of this province. I don't care who agrees or disagrees. They have a right to be heard. A significant portion of Ontarians have concerns about this particular issue, and they have a right to be heard. In fact, I suspect significant numbers of the NDP caucus have concerns about this kind of initiative and probably some members of the Liberal Party of Ontario have concerns, and they have a right to be heard.

I want to talk about this issue in the sense that the Liberal Party has suggested that this issue shouldn't have been raised and that we were playing dirty politics by raising what I consider to be a legitimate issue.

Prior to this advertisement appearing in Victoria-Haliburton outlining the positions of the three parties on the same-sex benefits question, the campaigners for the Liberal Party were phoning around the riding of Victoria-Haliburton saying that Chris Hodgson, the Conservative candidate, was the Mulroney candidate. Chris Hodgson, a provincial Ontario Conservative member, was being described by the Liberal campaign team as the Mulroney candidate. That's fair ball, from the Liberal Party's perspective. But to raise a legitimate issue, a position of the political parties which is on the record, is not. That's not fair ball.

Give me a break and give the voters of Victoria-Haliburton a break and give them some credit. All that ad said and all our candidates' position was in respect to that was that this is a priority. Spousal benefits for same-sex couples is a priority of the NDP and it's a priority of the Liberal Party. Can you question that? Apparently the deputy leader was suggesting that wasn't accurate.

We know that during the by-election campaign Marion Boyd, the current Attorney General, indicated that the NDP at the first opportunity was going to bring in spousal benefits for same-sex couples, clearly a priority of the NDP.

1540

Where does the Liberal Party stand on this? In March 1993, Lyn McLeod, the leader of the Ontario Liberal Party, sent an urgent message to the Premier of Ontario and to the Attorney General, Marion Boyd. I won't read all of this letter from Lyn McLeod, the leader of the Liberal Party, but I just want to put a couple of the important quotes into the record:

"Dear Premier and Attorney General:"

"I am writing to urge your government to act on the issue of the extension of family and survivor benefits to same-sex couples. If you will agree to bring legislation forward immediately, I will do everything possible to facilitate passage. If you do not act, please be assured that a future Liberal government will move swiftly to take the action which I am requesting you take immediately."

That's Lyn McLeod saying to move on this immediately. Despite the state of the economy, despite the deteriorating job market situation, Lyn McLeod was saying: "Premier, this should be your number one priority. Move on it immediately."

So what did Chris Hodgson's advertising say in Victoria-Haliburton? He said this is a priority of the Liberal Party; it's backed up by correspondence from the leader of the Liberal Party. Clearly it is a major priority for the Liberal Party, and we knew it was for the NDP because Marion Boyd, the Attorney General, said it was. So what was dishonest about that ad? Absolutely nothing.

We pointed to the position taken by Mrs Boyd, the Attorney General, and by Lyn McLeod, and we said clearly this was not a priority of the Ontario Conservative Party. Our priority is the creation of jobs and returning the Ontario economy to the great state it was in 10 years ago. That was our priority and we were dragged through the coals and smeared upon by the deputy leader of the Ontario Liberal Party because we dared to raise a legitimate issue during a by-election campaign where it was detrimental to the Liberal Party of Ontario. That's the sole reason. He can get up with his holier-than-thou, condescending attitude and condemn not only the Conservative Party but Michael Harris and my friend and colleague Don Cousens without any merit or justification in a real way, in a real sense.

That is deeply offensive not only to me and members of the Conservative Party of Ontario but certainly to the voters of Victoria-Haliburton, regardless of whether they voted for the Conservative candidate or the Liberal candidate or the NDP candidate; very insulting, degrading and certainly unbecoming of a senior member of the Liberal Party of Ontario.

The reality is that during that by-election campaign there were a significant number of issues addressed and we had an outstanding candidate in Chris Hodgson, as you will all get to know in the next week and months ahead. He had an outstanding organization. They worked very hard to succeed in this election campaign. Michael Harris went into that riding and was very successful in terms of his appearances. We were told -- I can't back this up -- by people within the riding that any time Lyn McLeod visited, our candidate went up about four or five points in the polls.

So you judge, Madam Speaker, whether the people of Victoria-Haliburton made this decision on this sole issue or not. I don't think they did. They made it on the basis of leadership, they made it on the basis of the candidate, they made it on the basis of a wide range of issues important to them. One of those issues that was not important to them was one that was important to the Liberal Party of Ontario and to the élite within the NDP.

Mr David Winninger (London South): You placed the ad.

Mr Runciman: No apology for placing that ad. It was a legitimate ad about a legitimate issue that requires debate and requires discussion and should not be hidden from the people of Ontario.

I want to talk about a few issues related to interim supply, now that I've gotten that off my chest. I felt that Mr Conway's diatribe could not go unanswered.

We are in a significant financial problem, as virtually everyone in this assembly and everyone in this province is aware. We've seen the deficit increase significantly and we know that initially the NDP was misled by the outgoing government, the Liberal government, and the Treasurer of the day, Robert Nixon, when, prior to the election, they said that they were going to have a $50-million deficit and then midway into the campaign said it was going to be a little higher than that, I think. Then they got to open the books and found out that the province was in significant difficulty indeed.

But, of course, rather than recognizing how grave the situation was, the NDP made the situation even worse by continuing the Liberal spending binge and creating difficulties which it can now not recover from apparently, or is not prepared from a political perspective in terms of endangering its own core of supporters -- traditional supporters, in any event -- by taking corrective steps that are clearly necessary.

The debt, at last count, was closing in on $80 billion. In the neighbourhood of four years in office the NDP will have doubled the provincial debt.

We now have in this province, according to Maclean's magazine, approximately 574,000 unemployed people. That's 10.7%. But perhaps an even more important figure is the number of people on welfare who are collecting social assistance benefits: 1.3 million Ontarians. Close to 20% of the Ontario population is on some form of public social assistance, and that's frightening indeed.

I heard the member for London South yesterday, in one of the responses, talking about the creation of jobs and the track record that the current government has in respect to the creation of new jobs. There's an old argument that you have to take a look at what the net jobs are. You're creating jobs by spending tax dollars and government dollars, but by taxing and imposing all sorts of additional costs on businesses and industry and individuals, you are losing jobs as well.

On the one hand, you can get up and say that we are creating 300,000 jobs through an infrastructure program, through Jobs Ontario, what have you, but you're not measuring, on the other side of it, the number of jobs that are being lost, the number of jobs that are not being created because of the disincentives of increased taxation -- and we've seen record tax increases by this government -- and all of the other host of costs that they've implemented through a variety of measures: licence fees, inspection fees, what have you.

It's a hollow argument to get up and say, "We have created x number of jobs," because in reality we have to take some sort of measurement of what the net picture is, and we're not getting that from the representatives of the government. Of course, if you take a look at the unemployment statistics and take a look at the welfare statistics, in terms of the net creation of jobs in this province it would clearly appear that we're on the negative side of that equation.

Of course, a number of the things that the minister responsible for human rights was talking about here earlier with great glee -- employment equity etc -- are some of the measures that are hurting the creation of jobs and the growth of employment in this province. There are steps that they've taken, like their commitment to increase the minimum wage.

I want to say that the minimum wage is in many respects a job killer. I see it in my riding, which is heavily dependent on tourism. By elevating the minimum wage to the levels that this government has already elevated it to and committing to further increases, it is a killer of youth jobs essentially. Young people are having fewer and fewer opportunities to get into the market. If you talk to anyone in the tourism business, they will tell you that the minimum wage is an important factor in terms of their inability or unwillingness to hire young people into summer and part-time jobs. It has a significant detrimental impact on entry-level jobs and, perhaps even more importantly, a negative impact on career prospects for these young people over the long haul.

1550

I want to talk briefly about the situation the government inherited from the Liberals, but I also want to talk somewhat about the situation the Liberals inherited from the Ontario Conservatives after 42 years. Most of us in this assembly grew up living with a Conservative government in Ontario. Those were pretty good years in Ontario. Not everything was perfect. I won't deny there were problems and difficulties, but I think by and large when we looked at education, when we looked at health care and we looked at the economy and the environment, Ontario was a much better place to be living in.

We can all ask the question of ourselves and of others living in Ontario now: Are you better off than you were 10 years ago? Are you better off? Is your family better off? Are your children and grandchildren going to have the same kinds of opportunities and prospects that you and your children had 10 or 15 years ago?

It's my hope that Ontarians will keep that in mind whenever we go to the polls within the next 12 to 14 months. This government is having a tough time coming to grips with many issues. It's a tough problem to try to convince people to make sacrifices, and that's really what government's role is, in many respects, nowadays. It's difficult to encourage people to make those sacrifices, and the political sacrifices you have to make as well, especially when the bankers and the credit lines are still open and the demands from the special-interest groups across this province and across this country are still very loud indeed.

I'm not sure about my time. Was it one hour and 15 minutes? I have gone about 22 minutes.

The Acting Speaker: You have 53 minutes remaining.

Mr Runciman: All right. I'll quickly say a number of things about the former Liberal government, hopefully reminding Ontarians about the options coming up in the next election.

If you look at the problems with the Workers' Compensation Board currently, many of those problems were created by the Liberal government of Ontario. They increased compensation payouts. The payouts in Ontario now are so significantly higher than other provinces, and again this puts us at a competitive disadvantage. If you look at the average payout last year in Ontario to a claimant, I believe it was over $24,000 per year. The closest jurisdiction to Ontario was New Brunswick, with something like $14,000 per claimant on an annual basis. That's a difference that Ontario employers in industry, small business, shouldn't have to live with and certainly, in my view, can't continue to live with. A lot of that has to be laid at the doorstep of the Liberal Party of Ontario as well as the current NDP government.

Take a look at the employer health tax brought in by the Liberal government -- a job killer. Take a look at tax increases. The Liberals brought in 33 new taxes during their five years in office. They also posed a phoney deficit figure to the electorate prior to the 1990 election.

In terms of the concerns we heard from the member for Mississauga West last week about the current government spending $95 a night to house some of its bureaucrats to take a seminar, they have to be constantly reminded, and the electorate have to be constantly reminded, of the high livers who are in the Ontario Liberal cabinet going to Italy, for example, and spending $1,200 to $1,400 a night for hotel rooms in Rome: Monte Kwinter, David Peterson -- you can go on and on about the folks who lived high on the hog at taxpayers' expense during the Liberal years.

We can also remind them, when they start talking about ethics in government, about Patti Starr, a key player in the Liberal government. We can talk about Wilf Caplan and his involvement with the Wyda corporation and the Ontario Development Corp, and the fact that Ms Caplan had to step down from cabinet during that discussion. When we talk about ethics, the Liberal Party of Ontario should be constantly reminded about those kinds of ethical questions.

The reality is that the last nine years or so, 10 years, have been in effect a lost decade for Ontario. The only way we're going to turn that around is through the election of Mike Harris as Premier, an Ontario Conservative government committed to smarter and fairer government for all the people of Ontario.

Mr Alvin Curling (Scarborough North): As the previous speaker from the Conservative Party was speaking, I was tempted to comment on what he said, but it would be just a waste of time, because we're talking about interim supply.

In the short time we have here, I'll try to focus on some of the things we are feeling as a people, especially in my constituency of Scarborough North, which is quite representative of Ontario. I'm not quite sure how the Conservative Party sees the representation of this province, but it's a rather inclusive province of all people, regardless of status, income, colour, class, creed or religion. That's what the Liberal Party is trying to achieve in governing.

Sometimes we have to spread the wealth around a bit. The Conservative Party feels that only certain people must gather this wealth, and then the crumbs as they fall off the table will be given to those who are hanging around. But the Liberal Party believes in distributing the wealth and making everyone enjoy some of what we have.

But what we have today are tough times, recessionary times. Of course, as parliamentarians we may stand across from each other or beside each other and throw the blame all over, say it may be the Conservatives who handed this baton to us, the Liberals, or when we handed it over to the NDP, that has really destroyed the economy. Of course, as Liberals in the opposition we try to prove that.

But who suffers under all this? The people. People suffer under those problems we have. In Scarborough itself, which has almost half a million people, they are feeling it hard. There are people who have small businesses who have gone bankrupt, people who have lost their jobs, people who have lost their homes, and they're feeling it. They're looking to government for responsible governing.

As we talk about interim supply and the Treasurer comes to us and says, "It's time to pay the civil servants and pay the other debts out," some of those who can't even get a payday are wondering when their payday will come in. So they are concerned.

This government has tried to bring in new policies, and I want to commend it for that. I want to commend them for bringing in some new ideas like a social contract in order to say, "Let us all share some of this pain; let us all see if we can dip into our pockets and find out whether we can redistribute some of that wealth," or some of us who are unfortunate may be able to get something in their pocket to pay their mortgage, or to get some other program started.

As you know, the Liberal Party voted against that. I fully agree with why they voted against that. The Conservative Party voted for that, and I commend them for doing that. We thought about it very much in caucus, debated it, analysed it, and realized it was flawed, that it would not achieve the things it intended to do. I would say that is exactly what is happening today. You would agree with me that even today the Premier, I understand, is trying to renegotiate the social contract with some of the union members, to say, "Did we hit you too hard? Did we go against some collective bargaining agreements that we held so noble in our policies in the past?"

The problem is that people felt, "While I have had those pains, have given out as much as I could, now you're asking to give some more." We knew and were telling you all along that the unions would be very upset with your party when the social contract came in. They saw some of the things the Liberal Party had seen.

As I say, while it had good intentions, it somehow got a couple of punctures and is not getting to the destination it should. It is sad that this is happening.

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It was the same way when they tried to do the employment equity problem. It's good stuff -- employment equity has to happen in this province -- but again I and my party voted against that because we saw it wasn't going to get to the goal and wasn't going to achieve the things it should achieve.

I want to speak today about the hurting people in this recession, the people who have felt this recession more than anyone else. Some people tell me they have thrived, very much so, in this recession, that it has not affected them at all. I'm not going to address those people. They are resilient enough and have enough resources already that they are riding through this recession. They may come out, but some get hurt: the unemployed, the hurting people, the loss of income, as I stated before.

That loss of income has brought about what I see every Friday when I go to my constituency office. Constituents were coming to me and said: "I am losing my home, and the bank is too severe with me because I can't find the money for the mortgage. My husband has lost his job" or "my wife has lost her job, and we depended so much on both incomes to carry us through." What has happened is that the pride has gone out of that family because the father or the mother, the parents, are unable to give that support to the child or children within that family because there is no income coming in.

The government has cut unemployment benefits and made it worse. There was need in that family, and that need and the lack of income have brought about the real sorrow those families have to face.

The hurting people: the students. While we're saying there will be no tax increase in this province, this government, in its short time, has increased taxes more than any other government. The government has to spend on programs. Yes, they have to get the money from somewhere, so therefore they've increased taxes.

What they have announced in the last couple of days since they came back to Parliament is rather shocking. They have announced, first, which we welcome, no new taxes. Transfer payments will not be decreased, and the municipal governments applauded that because of course they have to carry out their programs and depend on the province to give that money.

But what has happened? The hurting people, the students, have now been hit with a 20% increase. Of course they said, "Listen, we're only going to give you a 10% increase now." Just follow this through: Most students will have gotten some of their money from their parents or from jobs in the summer to supplement their tuition fees. Now they have been hit with a 10% increase. Where are they going to get this money? Parents are not working, they themselves cannot get a job because the unemployment rate has increased, and now they have to find a 10% increase.

The irony of all this, and I know you recall, Mr Speaker, is that this government, the New Democratic Party government, on coming into power stated: "We shall eliminate all tuition fees. That is our goal." I really felt great. I said to myself, "I wish my party, the Liberal Party, had announced that and would effect that." Lo and behold, these people feel that to honour their commitment is to reverse it. They did not eliminate tuition fees. What they have done is that they have increased tuition fees.

What faith, I ask, what trust should people have in a government that says one thing at one stage, quite likely to get the young votes, and then when it has them under its hands, gives the highest increase ever in tuition fees or ever in taxes, for the people who are most vulnerable in this recession, those who are unable to work and those who have to go to school and pay a very enormous tuition fee?

I know people will hurry to tell me that this is one of the lowest-tuition-fee-paying provinces or country in the western world, but that's not the point.

Hon Richard Allen (Minister without Portfolio in Economic Development and Trade): What point is there?

Mr Curling: The point is that you are now asked to pay more in a recessionary year. Sure, I think tuition fees could be increased. But to increase it this enormously at a time when the ability to get an income is more difficult, I can't understand. I know the former Minister of Colleges and Universities must be saying to himself, "My golly, I would not have instituted something like that." Of course there is more to be paid towards tuition, but 20% is an enormous amount, to the former minister.

Hon Mr Allen: How is it that more students are going to universities than ever before?

Mr Curling: The former minister says, how is that more students will go to university? It has not increased any space at all in the university. It hasn't done so. We have not expanded in any way.

The fact is that many of those students, if you look even in the community colleges, are hurting people. They're hurting people who have now finished their degree in university, they can't find a job, and would now either go on to do another degree, waiting for a job or waiting for the times to improve, and then move on to do something else, like in the community colleges. Those people who are coming through the high school system are now competing to do their post-secondary education with university grad students, because there are no jobs out there.

Furthermore, to get further education is more expensive: a 20% increase. It is just disgraceful, and it's an insult to the promises you have made and committed yourself to.

The hurting people: the minorities in our community. When the former speaker, Mr Runciman, spoke as he did, it pains me. He talked about my colleague from Renfrew and about issues he has raised. I'm sure what my colleague from Renfrew is saying is that in a Parliament like this, the Legislature, we must raise all the issues and debate them fully.

What has happened now, I have noticed, very much so, is that the right-wing groups are aligning themselves with all those I would almost call rednecks. The party in Ottawa, the Reformers, have said they would like to be recognized as the redneck party, which I thought was disgusting, that they would like to be called that.

The paper reports that the leader of the Conservative Party, speaking the other day out in the rural areas, said, "'They call me Attila the Un, because I'm gonna unlegislate and I'm gonna unregulate and I'm gonna unhire and I'm gonna untax.'" The article continued, "He told the mainly white audience in Bobcaygeon that many people born in Canada, to whom he referred as 'your own people,' are gravitating to welfare. He attributed this to government encouragement."

Mr Speaker, I am concerned. I said to you in my opening comments that this province of Ontario is an inclusive province of all people. Gone are the days that we could define Ontario, say 30, 40, 50 years ago, as predominantly anything. Now we have a variety of people of all colours, of all classes, of all religions, and what we have to do is be more inclusive.

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We cannot start preaching. This sort of situation I think is almost inciting some sort of unrest in our province. It's unfortunate, but the beautiful thing about democracy is that those issues will be spoken to very well in the next, upcoming election, which I hope this government will call very soon. They're hurting people.

The welfare recipients: I remember that my leader raised the issue about welfare fraud in this House, that we have to look to refine the system. There was a report out there that was maligning some people in some respects, and she raised the issue to say: "Is this true? Are you going to use this report? Is this a legitimate report about the Somalians?"

By golly, the government of the day, the NDP, jumped up and accused my leader of saying that Somalians are abusing the welfare system, when I can tell you she raised that issue because she knows very well that sometimes reports by bureaucrats are acted upon without any justification, and she wanted to bring it out into the light. The NDP government jumped on that and said that it is our leader who is maligning the Somalians.

I want to tell you, that kind of politics will not work. Of course, the Conservative Party came on side because it thinks it's political to get some votes on this. Gone are the days when that will happen.

I know my colleagues want to speak and I don't want to speak too long on this, but I want to talk about one other issue that concerns me within my riding and it's spreading: Zero tolerance, they call it in the schools.

I would say to the government here and the municipal governments: Stop blaming the victims. If we see young people -- and of course we must have respect for property and life. Of course we must do something about that. But let's get to the core of the problem. What is causing this?

Don't build larger jails. Don't go about giving harsher punishment and think this will correct the situation. They are people who are desperate. They're frustrated. They realize that their futures are taken away. Realize yourself that as you increase tuition fees and make it more difficult for them and their parents, who are losing their jobs and losing their homes, they are frustrated. But to say, as soon as we see frustration in the schools, "Zero tolerance," and "Don't bring them here," it's either "You pay me now or pay me later" that's going to happen. To suspend someone for life from education is a gross neglect of one's responsibility in dealing with the real issue.

I urge my colleagues here and in other jurisdictions of government to look at this very seriously and make sure that we don't abandon our young people, to say they are suspended or expelled for life because of an irresponsible act, and maybe some of those irresponsible acts are fatal.

As I said, as we look to spend our money and we ask for approval for this interim supply, there are people who are hurting out there. While you're trying to pay the civil servants and pay everybody else, make sure that you can have a payday for all those people who are suffering.

Mr David Turnbull (York Mills): I'm pleased to speak in this interim supply debate because we were only given two days to debate the budget. The largest tax grabs in provincial history in this country were contained in the last budget, yet notwithstanding that, this government that said it was dedicated to open government when it came into office gave the opposition parties, the parties that express the views of the 62.2% of the electorate that didn't vote for the governing party in the last election -- 62.2% of the people did not vote for the NDP, and that's fine -- were given two days of debate for the largest tax grab in history.

Just to recite for the government, historically we have had approximately 10 days of debate on the budget, consistently, with five or six contiguous days of debate. Notwithstanding this, we were given only two days of debate, and since last year's budget, just a little bit over a year ago, we have totally had two days of debate. What we're doing is we're getting yipping from the government over the fact that I'm pointing out that this government is extinguishing the rights of the opposition to express, in this case, the views of the majority. This is the first point.

We've had three downgrades in the provincial standings so far as our credit is concerned since this government came to power. In three and a half years we've had three downgrades, and I wouldn't be at all surprised if we saw another downgrade.

Borrowing is not the answer, and this has been part of this government's problem. They've jacked up taxes, but they've also increased borrowing tremendously. Notwithstanding that, they haven't come to the final conclusion that it's irresponsible, that it isn't fair to our children and our children's children to build up this level of debt.

We borrowed last year $1 billion a month on international markets to service our debt. Let's put $1 billion a month in perspective. That is $100 per man, woman and child in this province per month to service the debt. I can't think of a more stinging indictment of a government that would attract that kind of burden on the electorate. The average family, we know, is 3.1 people. That means that for the average family in this province, there was $310 per month borrowed, each and every month last year, to service the debt.

We are now the fourth-largest borrower on international money markets in the world. The only people who are ahead of us on the international capital markets are the World Bank, the Kingdom of Sweden and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. You may recall that this is the bank which was headed up by that other profligate socialist intellectual, Mr Attali, who has since departed, kicked out essentially. He spent money on all of the wrong things. He built a big palace for himself. Does that sound familiar? Do you recall the story of the Workers' Compensation Board that is building a brand-new building for itself at enormous expense in downtown Toronto when we have a record vacancy rate in downtown office space?

What else did this government do? They've moved $804 million off book into the newly created capital corporations. They've also taken $600 million that normally they would have given to school boards, and they've said, "Ah, school boards, you've got more borrowing capacity than we have, so you borrow the money now and we'll give you the money to debt-service." You know something? The international bond rating agencies aren't buying it and that's why, I suspect, we will have another downgrade of the credit of this government.

Do you know the Provincial Auditor didn't buy it either? He publicly stated that he disapproved of the actions of this government and he refused to sign the books of this government. For the first time in history, a Provincial Auditor refused to sign the books.

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More taxation is not the answer. Since the last Conservative government in this province, we've had 33 Liberal tax grabs and 32 to date from the NDP. Where are we now? Well, we have the second-highest marginal tax rate in Canada, at 52.4%. For every person who aspires to something, to work hard and to save for their retirement, because undoubtedly governments are not going to be able to look after the majority of the population of this province and in fact this country, because of their profligate ways, those people are being penalized with a 52.4% marginal tax rate.

This is having the effect that Ontario has become a very unattractive place to do business. It has been suggested that Ontario is a wonderful place to live, but it's a lousy place to do business. Unless we very quickly make it a good place to do business, it's also going to become a lousy place to live.

We now have $70 billion worth of debt that this government has racked up. In fairness, they didn't rack it all up; they've only doubled it in three and half years. It takes a little bit of believing that any government can double the debt in such a short time, but these are bad times and nobody would deny it. But this government has consistently refused to come to terms with the fundamental problems. They have been the arbiters of their own fate to a great extent. They have chased businesses away from Ontario.

How do we come to that conclusion? If you look at how other provinces in Canada have been doing during this recession, you will come to the conclusion that on the whole Ontario has fared the worst. We have a Fair Tax Commission report, which came out in the middle of December, that cost the taxpayers of this province $8.6 million and yet we have seen no action yet from this government.

As the Treasurer prepares his 1994 budget, I would suggest that not only should he make the commitment to no new taxes; we need tax decreases. Not only do we need tax decreases; we must hold the line on fees and perhaps eliminate some fees. A good example would be the ridiculous fee of $50 per year per company for registration.

What service is anybody getting for that $50? None whatsoever. The original grab a couple of years ago by this government was under the guise that it was a one-time tax and that it was just so they could update their books. Do you know what? The Treasurer got to rather like that money, so the next year he had amnesia; he forgot that he'd said the year before that it was one-time tax. Now it has become a permanent tax.

Let's just look at some of the tax grabs and fee grabs that we saw last year. We saw property assessment appeals. Anybody wanting to appeal the taxes they're paying -- I'm not saying for just some flight of fantasy; they believe they're paying too much tax and they launch an appeal. A residential owner now pays $20 to launch that appeal and a commercial tenant pays $70.

We've seen this government put tax on insurance premiums. The effect has been that insurance has become more expensive for all the citizens of this province. I can believe a lot of things about this government, but that it would tax the poorest people in the province with a tax on their insurance that they need to be able to operate their automobile is almost unbelievable. But never the less, they did this.

They took away the commercial concentration tax, but surprise, they replaced it with a tax on parking fees. In other words, while the Titanic is sinking, they're rearranging the deck chairs. We have a tax on clay, on gravel and on unfinished stone. This same government last year eliminated the retail sales tax rebate program. The provincial share of personal income taxes went from 14% to 20%. That is a very significant tax increase, by any yardstick whatsoever. On top of that, surtaxes were increased from 6% to 10%. They also introduced a 2% corporate minimum tax. More of that later on corporate minimum tax.

We also saw them bring in photo-radar, which is quite clearly an undisguised grab of funds.

Mr Anthony Perruzza (Downsview): It is intended to catch people who are breaking the law.

Mr Turnbull: We've had a tax regime from this government, and in fact the previous Liberal government, which has made Ontario unattractive.

Mr Perruzza: Are speeding tickets now a tax grab or are they intended to catch people who break the law?

Mr Turnbull: Mr Speaker, perhaps this man would like to get on the speaking roster.

The Acting Speaker (Mr Noble Villeneuve): Order, please. Interjections are out of order. Would the honourable member please address the chair.

Mr Perruzza: You know about law and order, David. Law and order is if you have a law, you have to enforce it.

The Acting Speaker: Order. The member for Downsview is out of order.

Mr Turnbull: Last year our leader, Mike Harris, set up a task force to investigate opportunity for small and medium-sized businesses. It was titled Task Force on Cutting Red Tape and Growing Small Business. We had hearings right across this province and we met with every possible type of group. We met with small business people, we met with private individuals, we met with industry groups and we spoke to them.

There was a great similarity in all of the presentations that they made to us. Consistently they said that Ontario had an anti-business climate and they talked about the fact that it wasn't just one tax which was the burden; it was a culmination of all the taxes I've already related to you which has made Ontario uncompetitive.

It is indeed alarming when small business people who live in my riding come to me and say, "David, I'm thinking of leaving." They're not all going to the US, as the NDP would have you believe, because of free trade. They're going to other provinces because they find a friendlier climate. But yes, indeed, many are going to the US, because they believe there is fundamentally a more friendly climate which is welcoming of entrepreneurial spirit.

One of the difficulties small businesses have is the lack of funding available to them, and the financial institutions of this country certainly have to bear a very large part of the burden and the guilt for that. One of the reasons those financial institutions are able to withhold funds to small and medium businesses is because government is crowding out the funds. They are competing with small businesses by mopping up funds which are otherwise available to invest in small businesses.

Banks have to invest their funds, because they have to make their span, otherwise they're not in business, but governments that are borrowing at the rate of noughts that this government is borrowing are competing with businesses. We are seeing small businesses that are closing because they cannot get renewal of funding. They're just closing down, and these are jobs that are lost.

But what does this government do for large businesses? If they're unionized businesses, they will bail them out no matter what the cost of those jobs. We have seen this with Algoma, de Havilland and several other examples, because this government believes it must pay back the people who've supported it over the years.

Let's just take a look at what this government does. I read from that infamous document, the NDP's Agenda for People. At the bottom of the first page it said, "Whether it's the 40,000 profitable corporations that pay no income tax, the developers who donate thousands of dollars to Liberals while making millions in real estate deals, corporate polluters fouling our environment while going unpunished...." It goes on in this vein.

The corporations that are not paying their fair share of taxes -- and remember that rallying cry. I'm sure, Mr Bradley, you remember the rallying cry "corporate welfare bums." You will be, I'm sure, most surprised about the announcement that I read in the London Free Press about this government, the NDP socialist government of this province, forgiving a loan of $7.65 million to Chrysler of Canada.

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Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): To the company?

Mr Turnbull: Yes, the company. But it didn't just forgive it in a year of bad times; it forgave it in a year of its all-time record revenues. What were they doing with the money, that corporation, that year? Well, I'll tell you. Many people in the company, in fact all people, were enjoying a large bonus. Some of them were enjoying a bonus of as much as 100% of their regular income.

So Mr Rae trots down to Windsor and says: "Don't worry, I don't think you're a corporate welfare bum. I think it's a great idea that you give a bonus of 100% to your management and a lesser percentage to the workers, but indeed still a large percentage. Let's forgive you this loan of $7.65 million." What a very interesting way of looking after the public purse. Now, do you remember that saying, "corporate welfare bums"? That's this government.

I would like to offer some constructive solutions as to what this government should do. I think if they were to take this advice they wouldn't go far wrong.

First of all, I believe very strongly that we need an independent controller general who will be independent and appointed on consultation equally between all three party leaders. This person must be totally neutral and prepared to do the equivalent job of the Auditor General.

The Auditor General, unfortunately, can only look back at expenditures and say, "You did it wrong." A controller general, if we gave him great autonomy, would be able to examine all proposed bills and say, "This is the likely cost of implementing this." They would be able to pass information to the government and to the opposition parties as to what the impact would be and call for independent impact studies, financial impact studies, of the results of what legislation of any party that was in power at the time would do. As a tool to support the independent controller general, we need a good econometric model of the Ontario economy. He would be able to review cost, effectiveness and value of programs.

Does this sound like a partisan view, to suggest that we have an independent controller general appointed by all three leaders who would survive governments and comment on the validity of legislation?

I believe that we need to have balanced-budget legislation so that future governments -- because I'm positive it wouldn't be passed during this government's term. We need to have balanced-budget requirements so that governments would be required to live within their means so that young people, such as our pages who are here today, will not be paying for our sins. They can pay for their own sins, but let them decide what they are.

We have to control spending by cutting out the abuse of the health care system, which is estimated by some internal sources from the Ministry of Health as being as much as $600 million a year. Welfare has been estimated to involve $500 million to $700 million a year worth of fraud. And non-profit housing, which is benefiting people who are supposed to be paying so-called market rent but in fact are paying significantly less than market rent and are paying way less than the economic rent -- that program, according to the government's own numbers, is going to cost $1.5 billion a year by next year. So there is over $2-billion worth of savings right there.

If we reward efficiency in government and eliminate year-end burnoff of budgets, we would then be a long way along the road to fiscal responsibility, because the bureaucrats would get a bonus according to how much money they could save, not how much money they can spend at the end of the year. Reward efficiency, reward good employees and clean up government.

Please, for the sake of the young pages, all the children of the members in this House, all the children of the people who are watching this program, all the people of the province, it's a reasonable challenge which we should rise to if we are to do our job as legislators.

ROYAL ASSENT

The Acting Speaker (Mr Noble Villeneuve): Before we proceed to further debate, I beg to inform the House that in the name of Her Majesty the Queen, His Honour the Lieutenant Governor has been pleased to assent to certain bills in his office.

Senior Clerk Assistant and Clerk of Journals (Mr Alex McFedries): The following are the titles of the bills to which His Honour has assented:

Bill Pr63, An Act respecting the Township of Glanbrook

Bill Pr78, An Act respecting the Township of Huron and the Village of Ripley

Bill Pr89, An Act respecting the Town of Bothwell

Bill Pr91, An Act respecting the City of Kingston.

INTERIM SUPPLY (CONTINUED)

Mr Hans Daigeler (Nepean): I wasn't going to refer to this in the context of an interim supply debate, but in view of the fact that the member for Leeds-Grenville earlier on this afternoon raised this matter in what I thought was an outrageous fashion and a very disappointing one for me, I do have to put a few points on the record, points that will take some time away from the short time that already is allocated to me, because I think it's a very important issue that he raised.

I do agree with the member for Leeds-Grenville that yes, the public has a right and should be informed on all the issues that are before the House, absolutely. There's nothing wrong with it and that's the way it should happen.

However, the way the member for Leeds-Grenville obviously supported the approach of his party in the by-election to me recalls the worst days, frankly, of the Conservative Party. It harks back to some of the days when they tried to play with issues, bringing up fears in people in my own riding of Carleton when I was the candidate in 1981 in a by-election, where the Conservatives, then under Premier Davis, were going around and saying these terrible Liberals were going to make the province officially bilingual. It worked, and obviously the scare tactic in the Victoria-Haliburton by-election worked as well.

I'm on public record on how I feel about same-sex benefits. I have voted against Bill 45. However, very clearly, if the Conservative Party is against that, it should say so. I feel, very contrary to what the member for Leeds-Grenville said, that the ad campaign that was done in that by-election -- and there are certain words we cannot use in this House because they would be unparliamentary. But I really feel it was most underhanded, it was sneaky to allege, as was done in bold letters -- and I saw the ads, obviously done not by the candidate, clearly, because they were too sophisticated, but by the central party, by the Harris party -- the way they were alleging that same-sex family benefits were the top priority for the NDP and for the Liberals, as opposed to jobs.

I think that was deliberate skulduggery and I take offence at that, and I take offence at the member for Leeds-Grenville accusing my deputy leader of falsely criticizing the Conservative Party for their tactic, because I think it was the wrong tactic.

If they're against it, if the Conservatives are against it, let them come out, let them say that. If they would have placed an ad that said the Conservative Party or Mike Harris or whoever, Hodgson, the candidate is against this, fine. He has every right to do so, and I intend to do that. But don't say that this is the top priority for either the NDP or the Liberal Party. That's what they did and that's what I take offence at, and I think the member for Leeds-Grenville is dead wrong if he says that they had a right to do that.

They had no right to do that because anybody who has observed the debate in this House for the last two years knows that the concerns, certainly, of the Liberal Party, and I give credit to the NDP as well, with jobs are way higher on the order of priority than the same-sex issue. I do say, yes, there are concerns and there are different views and I know there are different views even in the Conservative Party on that matter. These people have a right to express those, but do it in a way that's upfront, that's honest, that's clear and don't try and fool the people.

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So, as I say, it's unfortunate that I have to say this but since the member for Leeds-Grenville earlier on this afternoon raised the issue, I think I ought to set the record straight and put my views on the record.

With regard to the interim supply that is before us and that really we should be addressing, there's one issue that again the Conservatives -- and I understand that -- and the NDP increasingly are pulling out of their old drawer of goodies. They accuse the Liberals, and the Peterson government in particular, of having fudged their figures on the deficit in the campaign in 1990, and I remember it well. They said it was going to be a balanced budget and then the deficit turned out to be $3 billion.

Again, to the credit of the NDP, to the credit of the Treasurer, he did not blame the Peterson government for --

Mr Paul Klopp (Huron): He didn't.

Mr Daigeler: "He didn't," and I will quote to the member, who is over there and I think who is not in his seat, what the Treasurer said, and this is an article from the Toronto Star, October 11, 1990. Here's what Treasurer Floyd Laughren said about the deficit: "Today, the Treasurer said the deficit will be far higher, but Laughren blamed the failing economy more than the former government." Now I'm quoting. "'I'm not saying'" -- this is Floyd Laughren speaking -- "'the Liberals lied to you or anybody else lied to you,' he said. 'I'm just telling you the economy deteriorated rapidly in the second quarter and these are the results.'"

Very clearly, as I said, to the credit of the Treasurer, that's what he used to say, and I think that was fair and I really appreciated that. However now, since we're coming to the next election very soon and very quickly, both the Premier and the Treasurer now keep saying: "Well, it was all the fault of the Liberals. They left a big deficit for us, and us poor guys, how could we cope with this?"

The reality is that the Treasurer himself, with his own words, recognized after the election that he did not inherit a big deficit from the Liberals but that it was the economic situation which very quickly started to deteriorate.

Mr Steven Offer (Mississauga North): The Provincial Auditor said that.

Mr Daigeler: Yes, as my friend the member for Mississauga North just said, the Provincial Auditor very clearly confirmed that.

By the way, let's keep things in relationship. We were talking in 1990 of a deficit of $3 billion. Now it's well into $10 billion. So in those days it was $3 billion. How did that come about? The Provincial Auditor said because the revenues were dropping very significantly and very quickly, and secondly, and let's not forget that, because of certain deliberate spending decisions by the NDP government.

Again, that was their right. They were elected to do that. They said, "Okay, we want to spend that money." I can just hear the Conservative Party in the election that's coming up, tramping around out there saying: "Oh, these terrible Liberals. They left us this big deficit and now we can't manage it." The reality is that there were very clear spending decisions by this current government which have led increasingly to a rising deficit. But just for the record, I want to repeat that. I've said it before, but this certainly warrants being said again and again.

What also warrants being said again and again -- frankly, I'm quite proud myself of having said it so early on. A few weeks ago the Treasurer said how terrible it was that the federal Liberal government was reducing the tobacco tax and that it was going to cost him at least $500 million. He said that was a very significant sum for the treasury and it was just terrible that he was losing that amount of $500 million. Guess what? The figure of $500 million rings a very distinct bell in my head, I can tell you, because, guess what? Bill 1 of the government over there, of the NDP government, deliberately gave up $500 million every year, and that was starting in 1990. Probably by now it would be much higher.

What was that Bill 1? It was the tax on tax. As I said then, and I said that on the record on December 5, 1990, right here in the House. I said it sounded very generous and sounded great that we weren't putting the provincial sales tax at the bottom of the line. That was an existing tax. It wasn't one that had to be instituted; it was one that they took away. They deliberately, freely, of their own will, gave up $500 million.

Now the Treasurer is going around and says how terrible it is that he's losing $500 million on the tobacco sales tax. If he hadn't been so generous in 1990, he would have still that $500 million, and probably a lot more, because the provincial sales tax probably would have, by now, brought in quite a bit more.

I said at the time, on December 5, 1990: "If anybody thinks they won't have to pay for that $500 million the Treasurer deliberately and freely is giving up right now, they are sadly mistaken. This decision will surely come back and haunt this government." It has come back and is haunting this government with a vengeance.

I didn't look at the clock, and several of my colleagues want to speak still, so I have to be a bit quick with my remarks, but I can't fail to mention the students, because I saw the former Minister of Colleges and Universities here. Frankly, I hope, because unfortunately we haven't seen or heard anything from the member for Hamilton West, who was the former Minister of Colleges and Universities for about a year -- it's unfortunate, because I think he had things to contribute. I hope he left the cabinet because he just couldn't stomach any more the way the Premier and the way his cabinet colleagues were trampling on the students. If there's any group this government over there has had it in for, it's the students. I really did not expect that. I did not expect this government to have it in for the students.

What have they done? Every year they've raised tuition by almost 10%. They've taken away the grants totally so now you can access only loans. Every decision they make has been going against the students of this province. If there's any party I would have expected that from, it's the Tory Party, but I certainly didn't expect that from the NDP. I find that very, very unpleasant to see.

I remember, because I was the critic for Colleges and Universities shortly after the election, that the students were there and were throwing macaroni at me. It was the member for Brantford, Mr Ward, who then was representing, as parliamentary assistant, the Minister of Colleges and Universities. He promised in his grandiose way, "The Liberals fumbled the ball, but we, the NDP, we're going to carry the ball, and we're going to win and we're going to score." Well, guess what? They more than fumbled the ball. If there's any group, as I said, that has been really hit hard by this government, it's the students, and I find that very unfortunate. This is something I fundamentally disagree with.

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In conclusion, this government has had problems in managing the economy because of faulty decisions right at the very beginning of its mandate, disastrous decisions. We warned them at the time very clearly. In 1990, in 1991, all the other provincial governments were already cutting back, were already putting limits on salary increases. What was the NDP government still doing at the time? It sounded great, and certainly the people thought: "Gee, this is great. We're all getting 6% and 7% more, all across the civil service." They gave the nurses a big increase. Everybody got greater returns from the provincial government.

Guess what? Now this government has to take it all back. They realize they were the wrong decisions at the wrong time. That is the message which is so important at this time, that the fiscal management of the NDP government really shows an abysmal lack of knowhow, an abysmal lack of the basic principles of economic affairs. I think that's why we need a new government, and we need a Liberal government.

Mr David Tilson (Dufferin-Peel): I would like to make a few comments with respect to the debate on the motion for interim supply. One of the most-asked questions of me and perhaps other members of this House is: "When can we get rid of the NDP government? Do we have to wait until September 1995?"

I found it interesting that this topic seemed to surface this week. The Premier of the province made some comments that maybe we would, maybe we wouldn't, and the theories were going out that we would wait until after the Quebec election and that then Mr Rae and the NDP would save the country. They would save the country.

Having said that, we then look to what the NDP government and Mr Rae have done to the province of Ontario. There's no question, to be fair to them, that they happened to be elected during a recession, at the beginning of a recession, or partway through. I do acknowledge that, but on the other hand we have to start examining some of your policies you have put forward and question whether that has scared away jobs, whether it has scared away investments. That, of course, is the theory that is being put forward. I see the Minister of Labour is here, and there's no question that he and his ministry are being accused, particularly with some of the labour laws that have been put forward.

By the fall, this province will have one of the world's worst debts, more than $80 billion. That's about $16,000 in additional debt for every family of four in Ontario to repay to Wall Street and other investors outside this province. Rae's red ink made David Peterson's spending mess much worse.

Carrying on with the comments made by the former speaker, there is no question that Mr Laughren made some comments with respect to the way the Liberals left this province, but we do have to look where we've gone from 1990 to now. Even taking into consideration the recession, compare the development of this province to other provinces, to other North American jurisdictions, and your track record is not that good.

One of the areas you have tried to deal with, to try to cut back, particularly on government expenditures, is Bill 48, which gave a whole new meaning to collective bargaining. Now we're on the eve of a new budget, which presumably will come in some time next month, and taxpayers still don't know if the original restraint package that was put forward in Bill 48 has worked. I believe there was one page of unsubstantiated figures offered in the pre-budget hearings. That's all there is. We have no idea whether Bill 48, the social contract, has worked, to determine its effectiveness.

Our leader called for an audit of the social contract. He asked five questions. That's the least this government can do, to see if this piece of legislation is working, because it's got the people who work in this place very upset.

(1) What internal government provisions are in place to evaluate the social contract's effectiveness?

(2) What criteria will be used in this process? How and when will the results be reported to the public?

(3) What projections exist on the impact of renewed public sector wage demands following the expiry of the social contract in 1995 -- the so-called "wage bubble" effect?

Can you imagine what's going to happen when this social contract expires? It's going to be absolute madness. Whether the Liberals are in power or the Conservatives are in power, because it certainly isn't going to be the NDP, it's going to be just awful. It's incumbent upon this government to look into these matters now and not wait for a Liberal government or a Conservative government to deal with these issues.

(4) What will be the impact when the essential service workers are compensated for their Rae days, as specified in the legislation?

(5) Has the government tracked compensation costs for replacement workers filling in for Rae day absences?

We're concerned with all of these figures. We're concerned with recent disclosures that suggest that the package, Bill 48, may have increased the cost of government. Mr Upshaw, the head of OPSEU, said that the Rae day rollback granted his union earlier this month cost the province over $30 million. The Ontario Nurses' Association, Metro Toronto Community Services, the Guelph Correctional Centre and the Whitby Jail have said that replacement worker costs for Rae days are increasing payroll. In other words, you have one group of people who are taking Rae days off and another group of people who are working on those same days claiming overtime, so it's costing the government more. Unions, firefighters, OPSEU and correctional institutions are all saying Bill 48 is costing the province money. Even the very people taking Rae days, those very people, are saying those things.

All the questions our leader, Mike Harris, has put forward need to be dealt with now and not just left to float with one page, period, of unsubstantiated facts drifting around this province.

I would like to read a letter which came from my riding, from Caledon Meals on Wheels, which I suspect is typical of many institutions around this province that are concerned with the social contract. It was a series of two letters, and I'll try to refer to both of them at the same time. One was written to me and one was written to the program supervisor of long-term care. They're concerned about the very existence, the continuation of Caledon Meals on Wheels, because of the social contract.

"When the NDP government introduced the social contract, it emphasized that this policy would not disrupt or downgrade any services to the elderly, ill, or disabled. Since its introduction, many of us have had to struggle with the realities of this ill-devised policy. We at Caledon Meals on Wheels have been adversely affected. Because of the social contract, we were cut off from our reliable and high-standard food supply source for 12 days in 1993. In 1994 it is projected we will lose 24 days, or approximately 960 meals.

"We therefore had a choice: tell our recipients we could not serve them for those days, or find an alternate food source if possible. Not much of a choice really, because if we cut back on our deliveries it would have led to confusion among our recipients as service would have become irregular.

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"We did find another source at considerable distance from our office, and we had to deliver the empty bags one day, pick up the meals the next day, and constantly deal with the problem of keeping the meals warm, as they still had to be delivered over a large geographical area. In addition to this, it was difficult to accurately predict the exact time when the meals would be ready for delivery, therefore causing inconvenience to our volunteer drivers, as well as the recipients.

"The whole scenario has caused the Caledon Meals on Wheels staff, and volunteers, much frustration, loss of time, and of course an increase in operating expenses.

"Without the faithful volunteers, Caledon Meals on Wheels simply would not be able to operate, and their time, calculated at minimum wage, is worth approximately $60,000 a year. So if they get frustrated and quit, are you going to mail us a cheque for $60,000, Mr Rae, or do we simply say to our recipients, 'Sorry, but Mr Rae has put us out of business.'"

A very startling letter, and that's typical of a number of letters. I'm not going to read them all, but it's typical of a number of letters where people in my riding have expressed a concern with respect to the effects of the social contract, which clearly was not well-thought-out legislation.

I would like to read one more letter, from the Peel Children's Centre, which was copied to me but was sent to the Minister of Community and Social Services. That letter expresses similar concerns. I believe it went to all the MPPs in our riding, one of whom is in the House today. I'm sure he has received this letter as well. It expresses the concern on the operation of these organizations and functions that are trying to provide services in our various constituencies.

"I am writing you today on behalf of the board of directors of Peel Children's Centre. We have recently become aware of your ministry's plan to reduce our fiscal 1994-95 budget by 2%, this reduction being termed the expenditure control plan. The reason for writing is to implore you to reconsider and reverse this decision.

"As I know you are aware, the funding to the Peel community for children's mental health services is the lowest per capita in the entire province of Ontario.... We are also encouraged by your continued support through the Child and Family Services Act policy framework to continue efforts towards the development of an equitable funding formula for the province in the Child and Family Services Act area of service delivery. We must however ask for a concrete demonstration of this support in regards to the implementation of the proposed expenditure control plan."

All these organizations are really having a great deal of difficulty keeping their heads above water. They're holding on by their fingertips. Meanwhile, the Treasurer continues on in announcing that he's going to have a budget next month, and the Premier is talking about jobs, jobs, jobs. Yet I can tell you, I don't know what's going on in your constituencies, but in my constituency people are barely surviving. I'm talking about the volunteer groups that are trying to assist the public.

One other letter on this subject, which has a similar effect, was written from the Dufferin County Medical Society. It was a letter addressed to myself. It expresses the frustrations of people who are attempting to receive medical services in our area and the disruption in medical assistance. I'm pleased the Minister of Health is here in the House to hear this letter.

"You may have noticed announcements in the local newspapers concerning service reductions by physicians in Orangeville and Shelburne. Further announcements concerning service reductions during the month of March should appear soon. Members of the Dufferin County Medical Society are arranging to not work for approximately five days during the month of March. To avoid disruption these days are not being taken simultaneously or individually as a block.

"On August 1, 1993, Ontario doctors signed an agreement with government designed to meet expenditure reduction targets for medical services under the social contract. Under the agreement, funding for health care services has been substantially reduced. Based on available OHIP statistics on use of medical services, the amount of expenditure reduction from the health care budget for physician services for fiscal year 1993-94 could be as high as $150 million.

"During the last six months, Ontario doctors have fulfilled our obligations under the social contract, while continuing to provide quality care to our patients. Since October 1, 1993, physicians have been subjected to a 4.8% holdback on payments for all OHIP services rendered. This measure only partially meets our social contract obligations. Therefore, the Ontario Medical Association proposed to government a plan that included mandatory social contract days for physicians. However, government refused to support this proposal, leaving doctors to find other ways to meet the government's reduction targets.

"For this reason, doctors are organizing planned social contract days on our own." The purpose of this letter is to show the lack of cooperation between the Ministry of Health and the doctors. "In our opinion, this is the fairest and least disruptive way" --

Hon Ruth Grier (Minister of Health): Give me a break.

Mr Larry O'Connor (Durham-York): Come on now.

Mr Tilson: Well, that's what they're saying. I can't believe you didn't get similar letters from doctors in your riding.

Interjections.

The Acting Speaker: Order, please. Interjections are out of order.

Mr Tilson: Well, you probably haven't read your letters.

"In our opinion, this is the fairest and least disruptive way of meeting government's expenditure reduction target, while maintaining the availability of necessary medical services.

"Our patients will receive sufficient advance notice of these closures, and will be informed that while our ability to handle routine visits will be somewhat reduced, emergency services throughout the area will be maintained at all times."

So the medical people are trying to make the best of a bad thing; there's no question. But the emphasis I am giving to you is that there certainly hasn't been the greatest amount of support to the medical people in this province.

I would like to comment briefly with respect to the infrastructure in transfer payments. Speakers before me have spent considerable time on this topic. There's one small issue, and I'm talking about the arrangement with the federal government and the provincial government to share in infrastructure expenditures.

A notice came out from the federal government indicating specifically that in my riding there was an estimated total project cost for Peel for a voice radio system of police -- this was throughout the region of Peel and this cost $5.4 million. In the town of Shelburne, there was a water supply pumphouse and watermain, and this cost $490,000.

The point I'm trying to make on this is -- and I'm sure these municipalities are pleased to get these things -- that they're being asked to do these things, no matter what. They really don't have any choice as to their ability. Many of their reserve funds, their special levies have been spent, so in fact the action of this government is going to force municipalities into debt that they have never seen before, and I have grave concern about that. We talk about the debt of this province and now we're going to start talking about the debt of municipalities.

The Treasurer indicated that the status quo would remain the same on transfer payments to municipalities, hospitals and school boards, but if a municipality wants to take advantage of the infrastructure program it must come up with its one-third share. Meanwhile, all water and sewer improvements, to which infrastructure applies, are covered by Bill 17 under the Ontario Clean Water Agency. This now means -- and this has been emphasized by several speakers in the House -- that these things are all going to be loans, that they're going to have to pay it back. The government says, "Oh, yes, we'll undertake to pay it back," but I quite frankly have to question that.

In the past, these things were called grants; now they're called loans. Whether you're talking hospitals or whether you're talking school boards or whether you're talking municipalities, moneys that formerly were grants are now loans and have to be paid back. We'll have to keep our fingers crossed that the province of Ontario will honour its commitment to assist the municipalities in paying those loans back to these new corporations.

There are several other issues that I would like to spend some time on. One is the credit rating. The member for Scarborough-Agincourt gave an excellent speech yesterday, I believe, on the fear of where we're going with respect to the credit rating.

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I believe there's no question that foreign investors are simply scared as to where we're going. They hold about 43% of our combined provincial-federal $600-billion debt. That's sending our dollar to near-record lows, and as a result interest rates are going up. We're seeing that today. I haven't looked at the financial pages for today, but certainly when you look at this week that's exactly what's happening. The predictions are coming true because of the economic policies of the government.

There's rumour that the bond rating agencies are preparing a new bad report on the province of Ontario. That troubles me. Mr Laughren, the Finance Minister or Treasurer, says he'd pass off a $2.1-billion revenue shortfall under next year's deficit, and that seems to be what's happening. He's passing off these deficits, these debts, into the years ahead. The prime example is the five-year licence. He's claiming the income now but it's actually for the next five years.

Interjection.

Mr Tilson: That's exactly what he's doing. The rumour is that that agency will downgrade the bond rating to a single A. Since the NDP came to power we should look at where our credit rating has gone. You can't blame all of this on the recession. You have to take credit for the terrible laws that you've been putting forward, whether taxes, whether labour or whether just generally anti-business. You have to acknowledge that. Because since the NDP came to power in Ontario, our credit rating has been downgraded from AAA to AA+ and now AA-. This means that it will cost taxpayers more to carry a debt load that has soared to somewhere close to $80 billion, and that is just awful.

There's another speaker for our party who wishes to say a few words: the member for Oakville South. I will simply conclude by saying that I'm very troubled when it's suggested that the Premier is going to save Canada, because he sure hasn't saved the province. Ontario has become a have-not province as a result of their economic policies.

Mr Offer: Let me say that I am looking forward to taking part in this debate. Since the Legislature resumed just a few days ago, this is the first time I've actually had the opportunity to partake of debate. I look forward to this, because I think the issue that we're talking about, the whole question of interim supply, is extremely important in so far as it relates to the way in which the Bob Rae NDP government has managed the affairs of the province of Ontario.

I can tell you that in my riding of Mississauga North the question that I am most often asked these days is: When is the next election? When are we going to be able to get these people out of office? It doesn't matter where one goes; I hear the same thing: "We want an election. We want to boot these guys out of office. They're an incompetent group of individuals and they have run the greatness of this province into the ground."

They were, I think, in a strange way quite pleased to hear that the Premier was really starting to focus on the next election. He was looking upon it as re-election, but I think there are a lot of people, certainly in my riding of Mississauga North and I believe throughout the province, who want their opportunity to tell Bob Rae and the NDP government, by their vote, the type of job they have done.

They are upset, they are furious, they just disagree with so many of the things that the Bob Rae NDP government has done. They see this as a government that is without direction. They see this as a government which continues to be unable to deal with the abysmally high rate of unemployment. Everyone knows that throughout every riding there are so many people out of work, many for the very first time in their lives, and they see no action, no direction, no commitment by the Bob Rae government to help those who have found themselves unemployed, to help combat and indeed fight that high unemployment rate.

They see the debt of this province soaring to unbelievable levels, levels which were only in their worst nightmares, that they are now the reality in this province. They see a government that has made mistake after mistake after mistake, and each one of its mistakes costs money and the dollars are piled upon the dollars and will remain the legacy not only of this government but the burden of all people.

When they see a Premier who wants to call an election, they say, "Fabulous." Finally, there is something they can agree with. They do not care how or on what issue Bob Rae calls the election. The people have something to say, and what they will say is, through their vote, "You, the NDP government, caused this debt to explode on the province of Ontario." The NDP government continues to pile dollars and the burden on the people of this province. There is a member from the NDP who of course will interject, who will say there really isn't any real debt.

Ms Christel Haeck (St Catharines-Brock): Dennis Timbrell says we are actually doing a good job.

Mr Offer: They talk about individuals who are saying they've done a good job. Well, if you've done such a great job, why don't you take your record, lay it out before the people of the province and let the people decide on your record?

I cannot wait to talk to the people certainly in my area on your record on the environment. I cannot wait to talk to the people in my riding on your record around small business and what you have done to them. I cannot wait to talk to the people about a variety of issues and what the real impact has been.

I might be the very first who will remind the NDP government of Bob Rae's famous pronouncement in the election of 1990, when as Leader of the Opposition he stood on the mount and said, "There will never, ever be a landfill created or an existing landfill expanded without a full environmental assessment hearing." Those were his words. That was his commitment to everyone in the province.

I just cannot wait to see what the reaction will be in my riding of Mississauga North, where the Britannia landfill site happens to be located, where that site was expanded by the then Minister of the Environment, Ruth Grier, with the consent, approval and encouragement of the now Premier of Ontario, Bob Rae. They allowed this landfill site to be expanded without any hearing whatsoever, and they dictated that the capacity of that landfill site is to be greater. When the community said, "But you made this promise," "We have the right to be part of a process where our concerns can be heard, the concerns of our community, of the business, of our families," the NDP Bob Rae government said, "No, no hearings." You will not be able to say anything," in direct contradiction to what Bob Rae, aspiring Premier of Ontario, said in the election of 1990.

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What about small business? I speak about my riding, and my riding, as you know, is a growing riding, growing residentially, commercially, industrially, many retail sectors, though we certainly have felt the impact of the recession. I have heard time and again about how this government has assaulted small business.

I have no doubt that there isn't a member on the government side who doesn't on occasion stand up and say that small business is the greatest creator of new jobs in this province. So how does this government repay the small business sector that it applauds in its speeches? How does the Bob Rae government say thank you to the small business sector? They do it by increasing the debt owed the province, which has an immediate and disastrous effect on small business, and they do it in what I believe is an insidious way: They put on each small business a $50 corporate filing fee charge.

The first year, they say about this $50 on businesses which are struggling to make it through the recession, on businesses whose bottom line has not yet bottomed out: "This $50 fee is a one-time administration fee. We want to update our records." Businesses throughout my riding call me and write me and say: "How can they do this? How, in the depths of the recession, can the government gouge $50 from each business?" The answer is that they don't care, that it's all right: "Get the money."

What happens after the first year of this one-time $50 gouging-small-business fee? The government makes an announcement. Do they make the announcement in this Legislature? No. Is it a ministerial statement? No. Is it a press conference? No. A tiny letter says that that one-time $50 fee is now an annual fee. Each year, every company struggling to make a living, struggling to survive, struggling to exist, must pay the government $50. Now, to me, $50 during a recession, on companies that are hanging on, trying to at least maintain employment, is a lot of money. For a government to say, "We are going to add to your debt," is nothing less than an assault, an assault on the small business community. They assault the small business community through this $50 fee, they assault the small business community on the WCB rates, they assault the small business community by continuing to pile debt upon debt upon debt, and after they do that, they look to the business community to try to get them out. Well, it just doesn't work.

The only consistency about this government is its lack of direction. They didn't have direction when they started, and let me tell you something, they're not going to have it until they end, and then they're going to be out, because the people are going to react and respond to the wonderful legacy of this government, the legacy of a $50 tax on small business, the legacy of a historically high provincial debt, the legacy of --

Mr Ted Arnott (Wellington): The employer health tax.

Ms Haeck: Yes, remember the employer health tax on small business?

The Acting Speaker: Order, please. The member for Mississauga North has the floor.

Mr Offer: The members of the government seem to get a touch testy when you try to remind them about their record, the record that five or 10 minutes ago they wanted to take to the people of the province. I want you to take your record to the people of the province. I want you to do what the Premier said. He wants to call an election. Call an election. I am confident.

I am only hopeful that in the next election, the NDP Bob Rae government will precisely outline exactly what it has done to the people of Ontario. The people of the province, I have every confidence, will respond, without any question.

Mr George Dadamo (Windsor-Sandwich): We know.

Mr Offer: Members on the government side say they know how they're going to respond. Maybe that is why they're a little reluctant to go forward for the next consultation.

There are other issues which clearly underscore how directionless this government has been, issues of some concern to me, such as its legislation around basement apartments, which I have been and continue to be very concerned about. There's the backdrop of a tragedy, many tragedies, and I know things are said, but I think it is absolutely clear that it doesn't matter what legislation a government introduces, it doesn't matter what regulations are attached to that legislation: If the government which introduces that legislation and regulations around basement apartments does not have with it the way these things are to be enforced, it will continue to cause difficulties and tragedies.

We have tried. We have pled with the Minister of Housing to listen to what is actually happening out in the community, that you have to have a way in which to enforce the rules. If you don't, you're going to cause, in many ways, more tragedy.

In conclusion, this is a government without direction. The people of this province are very clear about what they've stood for, what they stand for, what their record is. It is a government that has fiscally mismanaged this province and will lay upon the people of this province the burden of its incompetence.

Mr Gary Carr (Oakville South): I had planned to speak for about 20 minutes and offer the government some solutions, but as often happens around here, time is a little short. I'm down to about six minutes. Rather than speak very fast, I'll try to slow down and give you some of my points, and we'll stop when we run out of time.

I didn't want to spend a whole lot of time criticizing this government. What I wanted to do is put forward some of the solutions that I and our party have been working on over the last couple of years. When we first were elected in 1990, we made a conscious decision in our party that we were going to offer some constructive solutions to the government of the day.

When I look back, we started out with our Blueprint for Economic Renewal and Prosperity in Ontario, in which in its first year we told this government that you can't continue to tax, spend and borrow like there's no tomorrow.

I can still remember the day the Treasurer stood up here -- the members all stood up and gave him a hand -- and said, "We are going to fight the recession, not the deficit." I can still see his face as he stood up and said, "We are going to fight the recession." Had they taken our advice, and I don't say this to take too much credit, had this government listened to what we outlined in our 30 pages, this province would be better off today.

A couple of other areas we put forward, our second New Directions series, was a Blueprint for Learning in Ontario, the education system. I firmly believe the standard of living of the next generation will be in proportion to the skills and training we give our children today. We outlined 30 pages of the things we feel should be done.

Some of it, I must say, has been acted upon. Some of the issues of violence in schools we talked about almost two years ago are now being implemented, and we appreciate that the government is listening on some of the issues. Some of the other things like standard testing was put together, and this government is now taking a look at it, something it never believed in a few years ago.

Our third in the series was the Task Force on Crime, Justice and Community Safety in Ontario, where we talked about the issues of crime and community safety. We outlined some concerns we heard going across the province.

I want to tell you, as I've been out there over the last little while, I have never seen as much anger and hostility towards governments and, quite frankly, politicians at all levels and of all political stripes.

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I don't need to tell you that Ontario is in trouble. The way I see it, the problem very clearly is that we've been taxing, we've been spending, we've been overregulating, we've been overlegislating, we've been overgoverning, and as a result the businesses and the people of this province are moving out and fleeing.

As we took over as the third party after the election, we made a conscious decision that we were going to put some of these ideas forward. We just completed, for those members who haven't had a chance to read it, our pre-budget report. I sit on the finance committee and we spend a great deal of time with our research people, after we listen to the presentations, going through and outlining what we would do.

In it we talk about the things that we believe need to be done, everything from welfare reform -- and again, to give the government some credit, we had called for some of the measures that the government is starting to implement a year ago in our pre-budget report. We talked about everything from the WCB to the tax structure. We talked about some of the issues that we believe, if the government acted upon them, would make this a little bit better province.

It's been a frustrating period of time over the last little while to put some of these initiatives forward. Last year, we said that in the absence of some radical measures, the government would condemn this province to a future with fewer jobs, less investment, more debt and higher taxes, and that is exactly what happened over the last year.

To put it in perspective, our accumulated deficit is now hitting about $8,000 in this province for every man, woman and child. If you look around and see the people sitting in the Legislature, everybody here owes $8,000. That's for every man, woman and child.

On the issues over the last little while with the debt, when you put the accumulated effect together and add it with the federal government's, which is in debt to the tune of probably in the neighbourhood of $17,000 for every man, woman and child, when you add it up, we're well over $25,000 in debt for every man, woman and child in this province. That's the debt we owe.

As our leader, Mr Harris, said in one of his speeches, "Christmas is a time when parents pay for things and children get something for nothing. Deficits are when the parents get something for nothing and the children pay for it." If you look at the accumulated deficit, it's over $25,000 for every man, woman and child. I'm married with three kids and the debt that we owe to the federal and provincial governments is more than the mortgage we have on our house, and that's the legacy we've left over the last little while.

In the last election Bob Rae went around saying: "Don't worry. We can have all the spending and we can even have more with the Agenda for People." In that election campaign we were the only party that said, "We are not going to make promises we can't keep." Mr Harris showed me during that campaign that he is a politician who says the same thing before the election, during the election and after the election.

The reason we feel so confident about our chances in the next election is that we are outlining our policies now to the people of this province. Not everybody in this province, the 10 million people who are out there, is going to agree with everything. Even in our party there's some disagreement. But very clearly in the next election the people of this province will know where we stand, and we will have a mandate to make the changes that are necessary to improve the standard of living and quality of life of the people of this province.

I don't blame all of the problems on this government. They inherited one heck of a mess from the previous government. But now is the time to look at the alternatives, to put together some of the practical, commonsense solutions to make this province better.

As 30 seconds is left of my time, I will wind it up and say that even if this government doesn't act on any of the recommendations, I believe 1994 is going to be better than 1993, because in 1994 we will be one step closer to removing Bob Rae and the NDP government, and the great socialist experiment in the province of Ontario will end. That has got to be the best thing that can happen in the province of Ontario.

Mr Robert V. Callahan (Brampton South): It's a pleasure to join in interim supply, because interim supply, as the people who are watching might know or might not know, is an opportunity where members of the Legislature really get to be able to contribute something to this august place.

As I've said in the past, this place is somewhat of an anachronism. It's run by the Premier, a couple of cabinet ministers and several backroom people, yet the people of this province have elected 130 members, and their views are really of no consequence when you have a majority government. In fact, we sit on committees and we bring forward, as is the role of the official opposition, efforts to try and improve legislation that we feel we can support and it's immediately crushed by the majority members on the committee.

Until we change that system, much of what goes on in this place will really be of no consequence to the average Ontarian. Maybe part of the problem we've got in this province is that we are operating in a system that perhaps was good for people in maybe the 1900s, but as we move into the 21st century is not something that serves the people of this province well.

I often say to the people in my riding, "Why do you elect 130 members to the Legislature and pay for them when only about 5% or 6% have anything that they can do or say?"

My leader, to her credit, has put forward a very clear platform as to how we would reform this place, how we would empower the members of this Legislature, whether they be in opposition or government and give them the opportunity to in fact act on behalf of the citizens of Ontario as opposed to just having this select group and this oligarchy that I speak of being the people who make the decisions.

More often than not, they're not based on what's good for the province of Ontario; they're based on polling results that are paid for by tax dollars and that are kept secret by the government in power, of whatever political stripe. They make these pieces of public policy based on what's politically sexy and what will keep us in this job, which is a great job. There's no heavy lifting. It's out of the rain. I urge the Premier to call the election before the municipal election because I figure that will at least give you guys an opportunity to get a job again where there will no heavy lifting and you'll be out of the rain, because you're all going to be gone.

We have so many very serious concerns to address in this province. We have problems dealing with young people who are involved in drive-by shootings in Ottawa, with the tragic death of a person who was totally innocent. We have incidents like that happening every day. The government would say: "That's the Young Offenders Act. It has nothing to do with us." Well, it does, because if your policies here are not geared towards dealing with these people, and corrections is a provincial responsibility, then you're not going to see just that take place, but you're going to see even more serious problems take place.

We hear about swarming in Metro Toronto where shopkeepers are not safe, where shoppers are not safe. What do we see happening? Young offenders just continually keep doing this. The police are so frustrated. They arrest these kids and find that they're given a pat on the head, and the next thing they know, they're back out arresting them again.

One of the most serious problems we have in this society is the question of law and order. Unless we address that, unless we're prepared to look at innovative ways to deal with young offenders and tell them, "You can't do that, and if you do, you're going to have serious consequences," we are going to have some very serious problems in this society.

Instead, what does the government deal with? They don't deal with the question of how to come up with innovative ways to deal with corrections and perhaps even what's being suggested in Manitoba -- I suggested that about 20 years ago and somebody told me I wasn't a Liberal -- that if young people are going to keep getting in trouble with the law, then what you do is create some form of military unit, perhaps part of the armed forces, and you place them in it. You teach them a trade, you teach them some discipline, so they're not back out on the streets causing havoc to the people of this community and the province of Ontario. I think the people are very concerned about that.

We look at the United States. For some reason, we seem to think that the United States has all the answers. The problem we've got is that we don't bother looking at the United States and saying, "Hey, they've got that problem because of this and we're going to change our policy so we don't get into that problem." We're going along merrily thinking that we're better than the United States. We've always been about five years behind them and now it's down to about two and a half years. We are going to have the same things, where you're going to be living in an armed camp in the south Bronx where, if you don't own a gun, you're dead.

Yet this government has not approached this issue at all. They have not done anything for kids with learning disabilities. I have gone through presentence reports of young offenders, and almost to the main, these kids' reports said the kid had a learning disability that went undiagnosed, untreated, undealt with. This government has not even addressed that issue.

Instead, what do they take up their time with? They take up their time with trying to find innovative ways of putting their hands into the pockets of the taxpayers of this province in the most innovative ways. My colleague has spoken about the $50 fee for filing a corporation return when nothing's changed in the document. They don't even look at the rationale of why you file it. The purpose of the filing is to be able to tell who the directors of the corporation are and so on.

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They're offering photo-radar to the people of Ontario and they're saying this is something that is going to be good for law and order. I've spoken at length on this bill and it is the most machiavellian bill. I don't think the drafters of it ever heard of the Magna Carta or the right to be presumed innocent. It's in fact a tax grab. That's all they can see.

They're not prepared to put on the formulary the most recent drug for schizophrenics, who not only present a difficulty in terms of the street people and the problems in the street, but also cause their parents and their loved ones great concern because they can't deal with them: Risperidone. I spoke to the Minister of Health about that and asked her to put it on the formulary. First of all, she didn't know what the drug was, which I found astounding as Minister of Health, and secondarily, she did not feel that it was necessary.

Most of these people, because of our whacko Mental Health Act, wind up going like a revolving door into the hospital, out of the hospital, on to the street, back into the hospital and so on. They don't have any money. Most of them are probably on social assistance, so it's very important that they be given Risperidone or the most valid treatment that they can get, and I understand that's the best one. I understand, in reading some articles from the Ontario Friends of Schizophrenics that they've had discussions with the government but thus far it has had no effect.

The children's aid societies of this province, of my particular region, the region of Peel, one of the fastest-growing regions in probably Ontario or Canada, are by statute required to look after the children who are being neglected. How can they possibly do that when the Treasurer of the province reduces their grants, tells them they're going to have to take 2% less this year and 2% less next year? How are they ever going to possibly deal with that mandate -- which they do out of the goodness of their hearts, many of these people; they've worked for long periods of time without perhaps having the appropriate funding.

I have dozens of things I could talk about because I think the real issue here is, are the taxpayers of this province getting the dollar value that they put into paying 130 of us or are they in fact getting what the pollsters would like them to hear about and give to the government so they can get re-elected?

Finally, my Conservative friends in the third party talked about their plans and that the people of Ontario will give them their support in the next election. If there was one message that was said loud and clear in the federal election it was that the people of Canada, Canadians as a whole, are not right-wing people. In fact, we now have Preston Manning Jr as the leader of the third party -- Mr Harris. He talks like Manning. He doesn't look like him, but he talks like him; I don't know whether Manning plays golf. But surely when it becomes a choice for the people of this province, they're going to reject the government because they just spend until you haven't got any money --

Mr Randy R. Hope (Chatham-Kent): Talk about election arrogance.

Mr Callahan: As long as you have cheques --

Interjections.

Mr Callahan: They believe that as long --

The Acting Speaker: Order, please.

Mr Callahan: The NDP believes as long as you have cheques in your chequebook, you have money in the bank.

The Conservatives are now trying to give us Preston Manning revisited. I think the telling fact that the Conservatives, the Conservatives I know, who are not right-wing but are red Tories -- Sally Barnes, who was the executive assistant to former Premier Davis, wrote an article which said it in spades. The Conservative Party, with taking that approach, are leaving half of the Conservative Party out to dry and the only people they can support, quite frankly, unless they stay home, would be the Liberals. They're certainly not going to support the New Democratic Party.

So I say that I really look forward to an election. We need it. In fact, one of my colleagues was saying that when we heard Bob Rae, the Premier, talking about a possible election, somehow a ray of light went on over here. I think a ray of light went on around the province too. People were saying, "Hey, we're finally going to get rid of him."

I think it's going to happen, it's going to eventually happen, and unless this government gets smart, they're going to have to run for municipal office or they're going to have to go back out in the cold and in the rain and get back to heavy lifting.

Mr Gregory S. Sorbara (York Centre): It looks like on this holy Thursday, as we wrap up the parliamentary session just before the celebration of the Christian feast of Easter, the government has asked us to wind up the debate and vote it the funds necessary for it to operate the government over the course of the next few months. Before that vote, I want to take an opportunity to put just a couple of matters on the record as they relate to supply and therefore the conduct of the government over the course of the past few months and what we might expect in the future.

I begin with the recalling of remarks made by my friend from Renfrew North in his speech on interim supply, in which he quoted a standard maxim, or an old maxim, as he refers to it, which says, "No supply without a redress of grievance." I think if we were to have to put our grievances on the record here in this Parliament, it would be perhaps months, if not years, before the government was able to actually have a successful vote for supply. So I'm not going to go through all of the grievances. I just want to touch on a few before we take that vote.

I guess the grievance that strikes me most profoundly, and I think it strikes the people of Ontario most profoundly, is the grievance with a political party that promised one thing and did another, a grievance that says, "What you told me you would do, the commitment that you made to me as a voter during the last election, is not what you delivered once we invited you through the electoral process to form and operate a government." Every single excuse has been used by the leader of the government and his ministers and his caucus members in order to avoid those commitments.

As I recall the speech of my friend from Brampton talking about the potential of a September election and the desire of the people of Ontario to actually get on with the election, I am reminded that there will be yet one more promise broken. You won't need to listen to Focus Ontario on Saturday night, where the Premier goes on for some half-hour before eloquent journalists like Robert Fisher and Paula Todd and William Walker, to find out that there's not going to be an election in September. The Premier has said, "It's a bunch of BS." Now, that's parliamentary, because that's what he said on Focus Ontario: "The idea of a September or fall election in Ontario, that's a bunch of BS created by journalists."

Mr George Mammoliti (Yorkview): What does BS stand for?

Mr Sorbara: Well, you'll have to ask the Premier that. They're his words.

Interjections.

The Acting Speaker: Order, please. The member for York Centre has the floor.

Mr Sorbara: When the Premier says the idea of a fall election is a bunch of BS, I'm wondering how the Premier gets out of this commitment. What commitment? wonders the government House leader. Well, the commitment of the former Leader of the Opposition, the member for York South, Bob Rae, now Premier of Ontario, who used to preach all over Ontario that governments had a moral obligation, once the four-year period was up, to take their record to the people. It wasn't a matter of advantage. He used to describe the Premier's right to decide when an election should be, I think appropriately, as the divine right of Premiers, which ought to be eliminated from the constitution of Ontario. He used to say in this Legislature, as elsewhere, that a government had a moral if not constitutional obligation to govern for four years and then go to the people.

Now, if my counting is right, that would mean there would be a moral obligation that Bob Rae has, come September of this year, having completed four years, to take his record to the people. If you have a moral obligation, it's not a question of whether it's opportune, or whether we've completed all our business, or whether the economy has turned around sufficiently. It goes beyond that, in the words of Bob Rae, Premier of Ontario. It has to do with a moral obligation, something that goes beyond the politics of the day.

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You could get out of the promise of public automobile insurance, and you could get out of the promise to eliminate Sunday shopping and all the other foolish, stupid promises that were made in the last campaign, because you come to government and you see that the real world of governing is much different. But those weren't moral obligations; they were rather facile political commitments.

What he described as a moral obligation was the responsibility, after four years, to go back to the people. He used to describe, as I said, the unique and I think offensive power of premiers to fix the date of an election at a time which is convenient for government. I find that offensive. I've always found that offensive.

I have thought for years and years that in Ontario and in Canada we should have a regular term for Parliament that required elections every four years, at the same time every four years. We should be doing that, considering legislation to that effect in this Parliament, because we see once again that even the man who said there's a moral obligation to go back to the people is going against his word and is saying that the idea of having a fall election is just a bunch of BS created by journalists. He violates a moral principle that I thought he would incorporate into the high quality of government, the integrity in government that he promised in his first throne speech.

I would naturally have assumed, given that Bob Rae thought it was a moral obligation of premiers to govern for four years, not three, like the stupid Liberals did -- I agree that was stupid. The moral obligation, according to Bob Rae, is to go after four years. But no, Bob Rae now says: "That's a bunch of BS. We're not having a fall election."

The bad news, the first grievance, is that even on questions of morality this Premier is not a person of his word. It translates into a Premier without morality, at least when it comes to what was a moral obligation before the election of 1990 and the rigours of governing, as Bob Rae suggests it is right now. He will have to --

Mr Stephen Owens (Scarborough Centre): Go talk to your friend about what's moral.

The Acting Speaker: Order, please. The member is not even in his seat. Interjections are out of order.

Mr Sorbara: I hear a voice from Scarborough Centre, I think it is, soon no longer to plague this Legislature, whenever we get around to having an election.

Mr Owens: We're going to talk about Patti Starr and a moral compass.

Mr Sorbara: So that is my first grievance. Just before coming into this House I got a sort of foretelling of what we're going to hear from our dear friend the member for York South, the Premier of Ontario, in his annual visit to Focus Ontario. That's a personal grievance, because I think four years is the right time. The people have said to me over and over again in every community I go to, "Will you please tell us when the next election is going to be, because we're ready to vote now." But that's more of a political grievance.

Interjections.

The Acting Speaker: Order, please. The member for York Centre has the floor.

Mr Sorbara: Whenever they start to catcall, you know you've touched a nerve, and I think we have touched a nerve here.

The greater grievance by far is the abominable state of the Ontario economy and the deterioration of the Ontario economy during these past four years.

In part, I am with the Premier on this one, at least to the extent that we cannot blame all of Ontario's abysmal economic performance over the past four years on this government. The thing that drives me to distraction, though, is that they will take no responsibility at all in acknowledging that many of their policies and many of the bills they've brought to the Legislature and many of the inconsistencies in their manner of governing have added significantly to the economic deterioration and the frightful level of unemployment and underemployment in Ontario. The truth is that in any undertaking in life, until you acknowledge the reality of the situation, you cannot effect positive change.

I have never blamed Bob Rae and his government for every economic woe in Ontario, but I have had an opportunity over the past couple of months to travel around Ontario on a jobs task force that my leader, the member for Fort William, launched back in January to hear directly from the people of Ontario what the problems have been in economic development and job creation in Ontario and to ask their advice about what should be done. We heard suggestions, many, many of which were positive and many, many of which will be incorporated into the report we will soon be presenting to our party and this Legislature and the province.

What astounded me in what I heard is the extent to which people have lost a sense of confidence in our ability to perform, and how they say that the lack of direction and the lack of positive governance from Queen's Park has deteriorated the overall sense of economic confidence in Ontario. A part of it is not knowing what's coming next.

I go back again to the crazy debate on Sunday shopping, just one minor thing, but that sort of set the tone. Before the campaign they were against it; they came into government and they brought a bill to close down the stores; then they changed that bill, and then they brought in a bill to open up all the stores. In so many policy areas it was this lack of certainty.

I remember one person in particular who came to our task force, who said, "If we cannot have government that creates a sense of stability, reliability and predictability, you cannot expect us to take the kind of business risks that will create growth in employment in Ontario." I want to repeat those words for my friends over on the other side, on the government side: a government that is characterized by stability, reliability and predictability. They said: "We don't know what's coming next from this government. We can't rely on what they say, and they've created an atmosphere in which we have no confidence at all that the investments we make in our own businesses and in businesses that might be started -- we cannot rely on them, to make these investments."

That's the reason why for four years in Ontario we have had levels of unemployment which are unprecedented except during the times of the Great Depression in Ontario. Let's see now what these great New Democrats, who used to be able to argue so eloquently for strategies of full employment, are predicting. You just have to look at the latest economic projections of the government of Ontario, Bob Rae and Floyd Laughren co-producers, where they say we will have in Ontario for the next three years levels of unemployment at, more or less, 10%. The Toronto-Dominion Bank in its own forecast says it's worse than that: it says 10.5% and 10.6% unemployment until 1997.

What I heard during two months of job task force hearings in Ontario is that that is unacceptable, that the people of Ontario want the next election because they want to bring in a government that will do something about that crisis. The next government of Ontario is going to have to have the capacity to singlemindedly change the atmosphere of economic growth in Ontario so that within a period of five years we're able to cut those figures in half.

I say to my friends on the other side that those are the objectives we are going to set for ourselves as we approach this next election, which regrettably, if the Premier is to be believed, has been postponed for another six or seven months, into some time in May or June of next year.

But whenever it comes, I know one thing for sure, from what I've learned: There are grievances beyond belief around Ontario, and it has to do with the economic climate created by a government which is inconsistent, which is unreliable, which is unpredictable and has created a destabilization of economic activity in Ontario the likes of which we have never seen. That will come to an end, and it will come to an end when this government is defeated.

The Acting Speaker: This completes the time allotted for the debate on interim supply.

Mr Laughren has moved a motion for interim supply for the period commencing April 1, 1994, and ending July 31, 1994. Is it the pleasure of the House that Mr Laughren's motion carry?

All those in favour, please say "aye."

All those opposed, please say "nay."

In my opinion, the ayes have it.

I declare the motion carried.

BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE

Hon Brian A. Charlton (Government House Leader): Pursuant to standing order 55, I wish to indicate the business of the House for the coming week.

On Tuesday, April 5, we will debate an opposition day motion standing in the name of Mrs McLeod.

On Wednesday, April 6, we will consider Bill 143, regarding Ottawa-Carleton.

On the morning of Thursday, April 7, during the time reserved for private members' public business, we will give second reading to Bill 144, standing in the name of Mr Carr, and second reading to a bill to establish an avian emblem for Ontario, standing in the name of Ms Murdock. On Thursday afternoon, we will consider An Act to amend the Retail Sales Tax Act, Bill 138.

The Acting Speaker (Mr Noble Villeneuve): May I take this opportunity to extend to all members of the House a happy, safe and joyful Easter weekend.

It now being 6 of the clock, this House stands adjourned until Tuesday, April 5, at 1:30.

The House adjourned at 1803.

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