3 JUILLET 1997 ASSEMBLÉE LÉGISLATIVE DE L'ONTARIO

The House met at 1331.

Prayers.

MEMBERS' STATEMENTS

CARUSO CLUB ITALIAN FESTIVAL


Mr Rick Bartolucci (Sudbury): I invite and am very proud to invite all members and all Ontarians to Sudbury this weekend to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Caruso Club Italian Festival. The festival is an example of the vibrancy of the Italian community in Sudbury. Its activities reflect and highlight Italian culture and our traditions.

The weekend begins Friday at 6:30 with the official opening, followed by a food fair and a cultural night featuring young Italian talent such as Jessica Natale and Angela Scappatura. During Saturday there are hosts of activities for people to become involved in. Saturday evening we feature the Miss Caruso pageant MC'd by André and Nancy Fragomeni Beaudry.

Sunday, after the bishop's mass, there is a brunch. During Sunday afternoon there is a mini-carnival for everyone to take part in. All weekend long, hot Italian sausages are barbecued by Peter Niro, Larry Dovigi and friends. They're always on the grill and they're always very, very edible. Sunday evening the festival ends with the traditional pasta dinner, and we dance into the wee hours of the morning.

The Italian community in Sudbury is alive and strong. Its contributions to Sudbury and the region are enormous. Congratulations, Caruso Club. Congratulations, Italians.

TORONTO FRINGE THEATRE FESTIVAL


Mr Tony Silipo (Dovercourt): In 1997, the Fringe, Toronto's theatre festival, celebrates its ninth year as a leader of independent theatre development in Toronto. Last year 30,000 people attended, contributing over $2 million to our local economy. Our festival's successes meant fringe theatre festivals are now a national movement.

Starting today and running to Sunday, July 13, the Fringe welcomes 83 theatre companies, which together will stage over 600 shows in the Annex neighbourhood in Toronto. The Fringe is a success story amid the sad tale of cuts to the arts in Ontario, cuts that harm our cultural communities and push theatres in Ontario close to the edge of collapse.

The Mike Harris government and Culture Minister Marilyn Mushinski have cut 40% of the funding for the Ontario Arts Council since 1995. That's a reduction of $17.3 million, returning OAC funding to 1975 levels. And the arts cuts don't stop there. Cuts like these threaten exciting and successful festivals like the Fringe. Cuts like these force successful publishers out of business. Cuts like these close theatres.

I congratulate the artists and organizers for continuing to put on the Fringe in the face of these massive cuts, and I encourage all artists and organizations to join in the arts fax-in on July 10 to tell Minister Mushinski and Premier Harris to rescind their 1997 15% cut to the Ontario Arts Council.

ADRIAN MUCALOV


Mrs Julia Munro (Durham-York): It is indeed a pleasure to notify you of the latest academic accomplishment of a former grade 11 history student of mine at Dr John M. Denison Secondary School in Newmarket. Nineteen-year-old Ontario academic credit student Adrian Mucalov earned a 99.83% grade average during his final year at Dr Denison. Adrian doesn't want to make too much of his marks because going to school is only a part of what he does so well. He also excels in music, athletics, community activities, and is gaining experience this summer by working as a teller and customer service representative at a major bank.

Adrian says: "What feels great is that I've fulfilled my potential. I reached all my goals. That's what's really important...that I reached all the goals I set for myself."

Adrian's father, Peter, a Keswick family physician, said the Mucalov family knew he was doing well, they just didn't know exactly how well he was doing.

The key to Adrian's success story has been his ability to apply knowledge in a new and more productive way and to demonstrate a willingness to embrace new things and never accept the status quo.

I wish Adrian Mucalov continued success as he studies commerce at Queen's University in Kingston, aided by the prestigious Queen's chancellor's scholarship and a Canadian merit scholarship.

STANDING ORDERS REFORM


Mr Alvin Curling (Scarborough North): Today we are back to debate the truck safety legislation -- this is what the government has said -- and also the Integrity Commissioner motion. The government saw that their priority was beyond discussing safety on the highways. We had hoped this government would have then stated very emphatically that safety was a priority at the time we adjourned, but we had to come back again for this separate day.

My constituency was alarmed actually to see some of the things that were being debated and that the rules changes are going to change this world overnight. As a comment in one of the prominent newspapers stated, this government is much more concerned to rule instead of to govern and they are obsessed to get the order today to ram things through. We hope that when the rules changes do come into effect, which of course they will -- they have the majority -- somehow there will be more participation. They said to me in my constituency about many of the people in the back bench, "I hope they will speak more for their constituency, because they don't seem to do so."

The government itself has muzzled most of its backbenchers. I want to see how much release they will have. Therefore, we are looking very, very carefully at these rules changes, which are a dictatorial approach to things, to see if we can see more democracy. I don't think so; I see some more dictatorship.

MUNICIPAL RESTRUCTURING


Ms Marilyn Churley (Riverdale): As everybody in this House is aware, the residents of East York voted 81% against the megacity bill.

Last week my colleague Frances Lankin, the member for Beaches-Woodbine, introduced Bill 144, which would amend the megacity bill to ensure fairer representation for East York by increasing the number of councillors from the ward of East York from two to three. The current act would provide a lower councillor-to-resident ratio in East York ward at 1 to 54,000 compared to 1 to 38,000 on average across Metro.

One has to ask what this government has against East York. First of all, the two local members from the area supported the government against their own constituents, and now they're not even giving East York residents the same rights as residents from across Metro. The citizens of East York are about to lose their beloved borough, Canada's only borough, as their welcome signs never fail to remind us. In the interests of local democracy, let's at least ensure that they are adequately represented in the new megacity council chamber, that their voices and concerns will be heard.

Premier, get your House leader to call this bill for debate at the earliest opportunity so members of the House can make some, albeit small, improvements to your megacity legislation.

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TAX CUT


Mr John R. Baird (Nepean): I'm pleased today to rise to help celebrate tax freedom day in Ontario. According to the well-respected Fraser Institute, taxpayers in Ontario spent the first six months working to pay the government. Starting today, the hardworking taxpayers of Ontario can start to work for themselves and their families, and not simply for the tax man.

Previous governments consistently pushed tax freedom day later into the year by raising taxes and expanding the size of government. In 1985 tax freedom day was held on May 26. Since 1985 we've seen tax freedom day go to July 6. That is outrageous. The people of Ontario told this government that was not acceptable.

This year there is reason to celebrate because the tide has turned. Tax freedom day is three days earlier in 1997 than it was last year. After two years of cutting taxes, the people of Ontario are seeing the fruits of their provincial government's labours.

People in my riding of Nepean sent me to Queen's Park to help create a climate for job creation, to cut taxes and to balance the budget. I'm pleased to report that the plan is working. On Monday we saw the third instalment of the provincial income tax cut. This government is doing what it said it would do. Provincial income tax in Ontario has now been cut by 18.75%. Cutting taxes and balancing budgets helps create more jobs, more hope and more opportunities for the people of Nepean and Ontario.

My good friend the member for Scarborough-Agincourt said that when the NDP government raised taxes by $1 billion, it would kill 25,000 jobs. Regrettably, he was right. Cutting taxes has helped create 101,000 jobs in the last three months alone.

STANDING ORDERS REFORM


Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): The people of this province should know that by far the most important legislative measure brought forward this session is not any particular bill on the government's agenda; rather, it is the package of changes to the procedural rules of this Parliament that will enable the Conservative regime of Mike Harris to ram through its radical, reckless program with a minimum of debate, discussion, analysis and scrutiny.

Even those who are in general agreement with some of the policies of this government want Mike Harris to slow down and do things right instead of simply doing them quickly. This, however, is not acceptable to the backroom boys in the Office of the Premier, the real power brokers in this government, whose goal is for absolute control and power.

These procedural rule changes amount to an NHL team filling its roster with goons, with players whose only role would be intimidation, then changing the rules to eliminate penalties, thus giving the government team an unfair advantage.

A democracy works best when a government which has a massive majority is not able to simply snap its fingers and a law is produced. If the proposed rule changes are imposed in their present form when the House returns in August, the skids will be greased for controversial legislation to be bulldozed through the Legislature in record time.

By restricting the amount of time for debate and discussion, bad laws will be passed and time for reconsideration and review will disappear.

MUNICIPAL RESTRUCTURING


Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-Woodbine): Today I want to use my member's statement to make a direct plea to the Minister of Municipal Affairs. The minister will know that I've introduced a private member's bill which would increase the representation of municipal councillors in the borough of East York, in what will become a ward under the new megacity, from the current proposed two under the minister's megacity legislation to three.

I would point out to him that the population of the borough of East York is very similar to that of the current city of York. Under the megacity legislation he brought in, the city of York will get four councillors and the borough of East York will only get two. For a number of reasons those citizens, who you know are very opposed to your legislation -- they don't like it; they don't want it, but recognize they're going to have to live with it -- have made a very concrete and positive suggestion about how to improve your megacity legislation and how to improve the working of the community council, your solution to continued local democracy.

That private member's bill is sitting there, but I know you have a piece of legislation before the House, your megacity legislation which deals with transition issues. I implore you to please consider this amendment, to work with me, to allow me to bring forward the amendment in committee and to have your government caucus members on that committee support it.

Your answer has been that the council can deal with that in the future, but you know that would mean this election would go by. East York citizens would remain underrepresented. You can do something to correct that situation, Minister. I want to work with you to make that happen. I implore you to please take a look at this issue with me.

COMMUNITY CARE


Mr Bert Johnson (Perth): I'm proud to stand in the House today because I am part of a government that's living up to its promises in making Ontario better.

Last Friday, the Minister of Health announced the reinvestment of $3.1 million into community long-term-care services in southwestern Ontario. A total of $1.5 million will ensure that people receive services like attendant outreach, adult day programs, palliative care and Meals on Wheels. A further reinvestment of $1.6 million in community care access centres will allow more patients recovering at home to receive visits from nurses, therapists and homemakers.

Of this announced reinvestment, my riding of Perth will receive nearly $1.3 million to expand the level of services available through outstanding agencies such as the Victorian Order of Nurses, Knollcrest Lodge, Spruce Lodge, Stratford Meals on Wheels, North Perth Community Hospice, North Perth Seniors' Centre, the community care access centre, and family services.

In addition to this good news, the new rural and northern health care framework was also announced by the minister last week. This framework ensures 24-hour access to health care for the people of my riding and will make it easier for small communities such as Mitchell to recruit and retain physicians.

As a government, we are removing waste and duplication from the system and reinvesting in front-line services. We are putting the patients first. This is important to the people of Perth, and I am proud to represent them.

STATEMENTS BY THE MINISTRY AND RESPONSES

CHILDREN'S SERVICES


Hon Janet Ecker (Minister of Community and Social Services): I have said in this House that the ministry has been taking several steps, a series of steps, to improve the child welfare system, and today I would like to announce another of those activities.

I would like to inform the members of a new mandatory risk assessment system or model to help identify and prevent child abuse and neglect. This new system will be used by child protection workers in children's aid societies across the province.

Every day, child protection workers must make difficult decisions to assess children at risk. They have been asking for a consistent system to guide their judgement in assessing these children. We want to provide these workers with the tools they need to do their jobs effectively. This new model is one of a series of steps the government is taking to strengthen the child protection system. The government has allocated an initial $15 million to support not only this new model but the other initiatives we are undertaking to prevent abuse and neglect of children.

The new risk assessment system will provide child protection workers with a step-by-step decision-making process to better assess the risk of abuse and neglect. It will help workers decide when a case should be investigated, whether a child is in imminent danger, and whether there is a risk of future abuse and neglect. This process will take into account risk factors such as substance abuse or a history of previous child abuse and neglect. It will lead to more informed and faster decisions to remove children from dangerous situations or to take other remedial action.

Starting this fall, child protection workers will be trained in using the new system. The government will provide the necessary funding to train the workers and implement the new model.

Today's announcement completes a five-month review and assessment of various risk management models that have been used in Canada and the United States. The chosen model is being used in four of the six provinces that employ formal risk assessment systems.

Research has shown that workers have found this particular risk assessment model to be effective in protecting children and easy to implement. The system helps workers assess the risk of abuse and neglect in the early phases of an investigation. It also provides workers with a constant focus on the child's safety while a thorough assessment of the child and the family is being undertaken.

The new system is one way we can help child protection workers to detect and prevent child abuse and neglect, and we are pleased that the Child Mortality Task Force has recommended this approach in their series of recommendations.

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My ministry has also undertaken another step to improve our child welfare system. Last month we tendered a contract for a new computer database. It will enable children's aid societies to keep track of high-risk cases, to alert each other to those cases and to track incidents of child abuse and neglect. Other initiatives under way include the establishment of an advisory panel to review child protection issues in the Child and Family Services Act. We will also work with professional organizations to increase their awareness of the requirement to report child abuse and neglect.

We've also heard the message about the need for intervention and prevention, which is why earlier this year the Premier announced an investment of approximately $45 million in four programs to help children. These include Healthy Babies, Healthy Children, a program which helps identify children and families at risk and provides them with appropriate supports; and Better Beginnings, Better Futures, which teaches parenting skills and provides other supports to parents in high-risk neighbourhoods.

Another we have under way is Ontario's reshaping of its system of support for children so that families across the province will have simpler, easier access to the services they need. As part of this effort, each community is expected to provide core services including those focusing on early intervention and prevention services for vulnerable children.

The government continues to work with the Ontario Association of Children's Aid Societies and the Native Child and Family Services of Ontario to review standards and strengthen the process for evaluating the performance of children's aid societies. The new risk assessment system announced today, additional resources for training and a province-wide computer database will improve the monitoring systems already in place.

Children are a priority for this government and we will be taking further steps to help protect children at risk of abuse and neglect. We are concerned about the safety of our children and we will continue to make improvements to keep our children safe.


Mrs Lyn McLeod (Fort William): The response of the minister to the Ontario Child Mortality Task Force report is simply inadequate. It may be tragically inadequate in failing to take the necessary steps to end child abuse and to prevent more child deaths.

Minister, the initiatives you are taking are fine. They are not new. The $15 million to fund them was announced in the last budget. You have announced and reannounced in response to earlier coroners' reports, to investigations by the media, to questions from the opposition in this House, that you are looking at a new risk assessment tool, new reporting protocols, a new information system for children at risk. The surprise is that these are not in place now. They are needed initiatives, they will help, they are part of the solution, but they are simply not enough.

I draw you to the page of the task force report which you seem determined to ignore, as you've ignored the questions on this issue in the House all along, that the review of workloads throughout children's aid societies indicates that the system is operating beyond its capacity. They stress that none of your initiatives can work unless they can be properly implemented, and to properly implement them you need enough staff.

This is the issue you have refused to address time and time again. Our leader, Dalton McGuinty, has stood up in this House and asked you, "Will you restore the $17 million you took away from children's aid societies, the $17-million cut that forced them to lay off 340 staff?" Time and time again you came back and talked about risk assessment and about computers. You refused to acknowledge what the children's aid societies were saying, what the task force now says loudly and clearly: "There are not enough front-line workers out there to protect our children."

Minister, you say throwing money at it won't work, but the dollars for new staff are absolutely critical if we are going to save children's lives.

The risk assessment system detailing what a worker should do is not going to help if there aren't enough workers to investigate the concerns or to monitor the cases carefully enough. There is no risk assessment system that is going to take out the element of judgement, and you need workers who are not overloaded and working under stress if they are going to make good judgements. You need more workers and you need to put $17 million back into children's aid societies so they can hire them.

Your response is also completely inadequate on the issue of changes to the legislation that are needed: the Child and Family Services Act changes. Again our leader has been asking for months for you to bring in these changes to the act. The task force report says that changing this act to define neglect and provide protection on the grounds of neglect is critical. You have known for months that this was an issue. You've been asked repeatedly to bring in the changes to legislation. Not only do we not see the legislation today, but you don't even make reference to bringing in legislation in your response to the task force. That is unconscionable and inexcusable.

But the ultimate failure of your government is found in the very last statement of the task force, in which they recommend that the province of Ontario develop a "children first" approach and evaluate all new activities and initiatives in the context of the impact they will have on children.

It makes me want to weep when I read that. I know how your government's initiatives over and over again have hurt children, have hurt families and have hurt women in single-parent families who are so often the caregivers of children at risk. I go back to the 23% cut in welfare payments to these families. Those hurt children most of all, the half a million children in Ontario who are on social assistance. Acknowledge that more and more children in this province are having to use food banks because they're hungry. Is that not abuse that your government is responsible for? How does that fit with the "children first" approach the task force has recommended?

You ended any new subsidized housing and you're trying to offload the housing that you have on to municipalities. In Metro Toronto alone, 600 individuals are in temporary shelters, and you are surely aware that the largest proportion of children in those families in temporary shelters are five years of age or under. I don't need to remind you of the five-year-old who died just recently living in one of those temporary shelters.

You've cut funding for emergency shelters. You've cut funding for counselling for children. The list goes on and on.

In May our leader raised with you the concern of the coroner investigating the death of Shanay Johnson. The coroner said there was no one there acting as an advocate for children in your ministry. The coroner said there should be a provincial director for child protection and you said we don't need another bureaucrat. Maybe not, but we need an advocate for children. Today you've given us bureaucracy. You have given us no people to work with children and no advocacy for children in your government.


Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-Woodbine): I'm glad to see that you're announcing the new risk assessment tool. It's good that it's going to be in place. Another announcement with respect to the computer system: We've heard that many times. This is the tender. I'd like to know when it's going to be implemented, and I hope the implementation of that goes smoothly because those are some useful tools.

But I've got to tell you I am most disappointed that when there's such a needed response from government, your response has fallen woefully short of that need. Tools are important, and I will acknowledge that, but if you don't have the front-line staff to use those tools, to employ those tools, to go out and really intervene in a way that is going to protect children at risk, then the tools will lie idle and you won't have accomplished what you say is your stated goal.

Time and time again I've asked you these questions. When I've raised this issue, I've tried to point out that the cuts you have made to children's aid societies have affected them right at the very front line of delivery of service. The workload situation in children's aid society after children's aid society across this province is reaching critical levels. There have been articles in local communities that have talked about the desperate state, financially as well as staff resourcewise.

Let me refer to Simcoe. The Simcoe Children's Aid Society has found that their caseload in the first five months of this year is already more than two times last year's total. Social workers are carrying the highest caseloads they've had in 15 years. This is an issue that previous governments have tried to address by increasing the number of case workers out there, by giving more resources. Your response has been the exact opposite, and when we've raised these concerns you've said, "We're a government that's not just going to throw money at the problem."

It's throwing human resources that we're asking for that are going to intervene in human situations in families to protect children. These risk assessment tools are useful, but for a staff person, a social worker out on the front line who is overwhelmed by the caseload they are facing, it won't make a difference whether they have a risk assessment tool or not. They don't have the time and the ability to get to all the families in need out there. Minister, you must address that issue. You can't continue to turn a blind eye to it.

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I appreciate that you're moving with respect to setting up a task force to look at the legislation. On that point, I've asked you time and time again in this House to make this a non-partisan effort, to allow a legislative committee to work with the experts in the field and to work with families who've experienced use of the system to develop proposals for what should happen in changes to the legislation.

By shuffling it outside, by having communication only between you and the people out there whom you hand-select, you once again re-create a situation where people believe this is not an open process, where they can't have a say, where the people who live and work in communities and represent people in communities, and the legislators of this province, can't have a non-partisan working relationship with you to try and develop appropriate recommendations for legislative change.

All of this you do without acknowledging the impact of other actions of your government with respect to children and what is happening out there. You can't continue to turn a blind eye to poverty and what poverty means in terms of developing children and families at risk. Your social service cuts, your cuts to social welfare rates, have left many more families at risk in this province, many more children living in poverty.

Your initiatives like your child care tax credit do nothing to reach into that community. They don't assess the poorest children in this province. Those are the kids who are going to need help. Those are the kids who are going to need early intervention and prevention programs. Those are the services you're downloading to communities and are cutting support for. The children's aid societies and the front-line workers are overwhelmed. A new risk assessment tool is not going to help them reach out and find those children and take the necessary steps.

It's a useful tool you've introduced, but it's been introduced into a context where there is a vacuum of government leadership with respect to dealing with the most vulnerable children in this province. We have seen the statistics. We have seen the names. We have seen the tragic stories of young children, of babies, who are dying because of neglect and because of abuse.

Your ministry must be the place where there is a centralized advocate. You must take on that role. You must go to the Treasurer and to the Premier and ask to have the funding cuts restored to ensure there are adequate resources on the front line to make sure that children in need get the help they deserve and that all of us want to make sure they get.

ORAL QUESTIONS

IPPERWASH PROVINCIAL PARK


Mr Gerry Phillips (Scarborough-Agincourt): My question is to the Solicitor General, and it's a question about Ipperwash. The government has said many times that they were waiting for the trial to be over before they appointed a public inquiry into the situation at Ipperwash. Today the trial is over and the sentencing has been done. There's no longer a reason for the government to hold off.

The Solicitor General will know that we in the opposition and the public have many substantial, serious unanswered questions that only a public inquiry will answer. Will you now agree to holding the public inquiry into the situation at Ipperwash?


Hon Robert W. Runciman (Solicitor General and Minister of Correctional Services): As the member opposite knows, it is not the responsibility of the Solicitor General to call for a public inquiry. That responsibility lies with the Attorney General under the Public Inquiries Act.

Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): And he's not here.

Hon Mr Runciman: I respect the fact that he's not here. We met -- I met, the Attorney General met -- with the leaders of the first nations last week and this issue was discussed. I reiterated the position of the government that there are a number of matters ongoing with respect to the criminal charges, which have been dealt with up to this point in time, but there are other civil actions and there's a strong possibility of a coroner's inquest, which will be resolved in the near future.

Dependent upon whether there is an appeal with respect to the criminal charges -- I think it's a 30-day period; it could be longer. I'm not an expert in this area. There is a period of time allotted with respect to Mr Deane filing an appeal. I think we'll have to await the outcome of that matter.


Mr Phillips: The public is aware of the serious unanswered questions. The government chose to ignore the fact that there was a burial ground in that park. The government made the decision to get the occupiers out of the park ASAP; that was not left to the police. The government decided to take a different course than the OPP had planned; that was not left to the police. The day of the shooting there was a headline in the local paper saying, "Queen's Park Plans to Take Hard Line with Occupiers"; that was an action by the government. The Premier's executive assistant was at meetings daily for a month, two-to-three-hour meetings, and the Premier said she never once kept a note, a file or a memo.

We have a legal opinion that says you can proceed with a public inquiry now. Are you prepared, Minister, to table your legal opinion that says you cannot proceed with a public inquiry now?


Hon Mr Runciman: We've been around this road on many occasions, and it's been clearly indicated by various members of the government that no one has ruled out the possibility of an inquiry, if and when all the matters are completed.

Certainly there are a number of civil actions that have been filed. The outcome with respect to the criminal matter has not been finalized; there's still the possibility of an appeal in terms of the conviction. There is a strong possibility with respect to the calling of a coroner's inquest. An inquest in itself, with the ability to call witnesses for cross-examination, could resolve some of the lingering questions surrounding this matter. It's clear that it would be premature at this time to make a commitment with respect to a public inquiry.


Mr Phillips: It's clear that the last thing you want to do is have a public inquiry, but it's not clear to anyone that you cannot call a public inquiry. I again say to you, we have a legal opinion that says, "Westray" -- this is the precedent the legal opinion cites -- "now stands as a recent unanimous statement by the Supreme Court that a public inquiry may proceed" in a situation exactly like that in which we find ourselves. In other words, you can commit today, the government can commit today to a public inquiry.

I repeat, there are serious unanswered questions about the whole sorry episode involving the Premier and involving senior members of the government. You've put the OPP, in our opinion, in an intolerable position. You've had a tragic conflict between the government and the first nations. We have a legal opinion that says you can proceed with a public inquiry. I repeat, are you prepared to table your legal opinion that says you cannot proceed now with a public inquiry?


Hon Mr Runciman: I'm not sure what the process is with respect to receiving the opinion. I'm sure the Ministry of the Attorney General would be prepared to consider reviewing the legal opinion the member opposite has. I'm of the understanding that the Ministry of the Attorney General has an opinion which does not agree with respect to this.

If we look back a number of years ago when the Liberal government was in power, the Patti Starr inquiry was launched by your government and then there was an indication that it could not proceed with respect to ongoing criminal matters. I think it's clear there is still the possibility of ongoing criminal matters with respect to an appeal of the conviction of Acting Sergeant Deane. Clearly, based on what has happened in the past under the tenure of the Liberal government, it would be premature to make a commitment at this point in time.


Mr Phillips: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I'm prepared to table our legal opinion. I'll do that immediately.

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SUNNYBROOK HEALTH SCIENCE CENTRE


Mr Gerard Kennedy (York South): I have a question to the Deputy Premier. I'd like to ask you about some people, people named John Davis, Janina Zaorski, Fred Robinson, William Brazier. Those are the names of four patients who died at Sunnybrook hospital. This morning the Ontario Nurses' Association presented the point of view that those deaths were connected to cutbacks, the unfortunate Harris hospital cutbacks that have been made, $19 million at Sunnybrook alone. One of those incidents was a fire that took place in a ward where 20 beds had been moved into another ward with no additional staff being added.

There have been five deaths at that hospital, which I am quick to say is one of the highest-rated hospital institutions in this province. If it's happening there, imagine what it is like elsewhere in the province. The Ontario Nurses' Association believes there is a link. Will you support their call for a public inquiry?


Hon Ernie L. Eves (Deputy Premier, Minister of Finance): The honourable member will certainly know that with respect to three of the deaths at Sunnybrook hospital there is currently a call for a coroner's inquest. I'm sure that inquest will get to the root of some of the issues with respect to those individuals. He will also be aware, I'm sure, that Mr Tom Closson, the CEO of Sunnybrook, has stated today that he does not believe the recent incidents at Sunnybrook are in any way, shape or form a result of budgetary reductions.

Mr Kennedy: Unfortunately, the Deputy Premier is not coming to terms with the crisis of confidence that is starting to develop out there on the part of the public, and the reason is very simple. If there is no problem at Sunnybrook, let's clear the air, let's have a public inquiry. There have been four times as many complaints about heavy workload, overload, by nurses there so far this year as there were for all of 1996. It's your cutbacks that are creating the work conditions that have nurses at Sunnybrook afraid of what's going to happen on their shift.

Deputy Premier, you can't get away from the fact that it was your government, the Harris government, that made those cuts. It was your budget that took the money away from Sunnybrook. That may be what the CEO has to say about his fine institution, but we need to know and the public needs to know. There needs to be an inquiry under the Public Inquiries Act where staff can testify without fear of reprisal. If you want to restore public confidence, you'll agree to that today. Will you?


Hon Mr Eves: I'm sure the honourable member in no way wants to impugn the reputation of Sunnybrook hospital, which, as he quite correctly pointed out, is one of the finest health care facilities in the province. It is indeed unfortunate that these tragic deaths have occurred, but as I indicated in my initial response, there is a coroner's inquest that will look into three of those deaths resulting from the particular fire incident and I'm sure the coroner's inquest will get to the root of the cause of that particular incident.

He might also know that the Ontario Nurses' Association has had a different opinion in the past. He will know that Jane Cornelius, the past president of the ONA, is quoted as saying:

"While many other groups in the health care system are fighting to maintain the status quo, 92% of Ontario nurses say they want the system to be fundamentally restructured and redesigned. Nurses believe that if medicare is to be preserved, we must fundamentally change the way it is funded, structured, managed and governed."


Mr Kennedy: It is not confidence-building to the public, to the patients or to the people in this House that you would resort to old quotes from the Ontario Nurses' Association. Let me give you a quote from today. They want a patient inquiry because their members are afraid of the quality of care; 85% of them say the quality of care has deteriorated since you made your cuts.

I want to quote your health minister, who said just a week ago, "There is no evidence of cuts to patient care in this province." You cannot hide, like he would like to hide. We have the Ontario Nurses' Association, we have nurses from K wing, where these people died, we have the opinion of respected professionals in this province that there needs to be a public inquiry.

If you wish to continue to hide, all you are doing is contributing to the problems of confidence that your budget cuts have created. Will you agree at least to a public inquiry where we can get at the systemic causes of why patients aren't getting good care and why nurses have to operate in fear of what will happen in their institutions?


Hon Mr Eves: First of all, there is already an external safety review going on with respect to Sunnybrook's Kilgour wing. This review is expected to be completed by the end of the month and we will see at the end of that period of time if any additional reviews are indeed necessary or indicated.

I would quite agree that these are unfortunate events. However, I don't think one should automatically jump to any conclusions and I don't think you are serving the system well, quite frankly, by doing that. Since 1993, Sunnybrook Health Science Centre has increased the amount of acute nursing care per patient. Those are also statistics.

If the honourable member would wait until the external review is complete with respect to external safety review, if he would wait until the coroner's inquest is complete and we can get the facts -- that's why we have coroners' inquests, to get the facts and get to the bottom of unfortunate incidents such as these.

REPORT, INTEGRITY COMMISSIONER


Mr Howard Hampton (Rainy River): A question to the Deputy Premier: Later this afternoon we will debate the report of the Integrity Commissioner on the inappropriate activities of the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. When the motion passes, and I assume it will, it will then go to committee and it will be up to the committee members to look at the actions of this minister who has shown repeatedly a contempt for democracy and for the people of this province. I won't recite the three incidents that have happened just this session. This is a serious matter, involving public confidence in an elected member. The committee must be allowed to do a thorough job.

Will you commit today that should the committee request the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing to appear before it, the government will not block his appearance in any way and you will not attempt to persuade government members to block the appearance?


Hon Ernie L. Eves (Deputy Premier, Minister of Finance): The leader of the third party has been around here long enough to know that committees order their own business. They will indeed determine. It is not for me in my capacity as Deputy Premier or for anybody else to dictate to the committee what they will do. It's up to the committee to order its own business, so we'll see what happens.

Mr Hampton: I am interested in the Deputy Premier's use of the word "dictate" because members of your own caucus have used that in reference to the way in which the Premier's office tries to dictate how people act on committee or what positions they take, or what positions they take on public issues. We know, for example, that three government members were disciplined by your government for speaking their minds.

In order that the people of Ontario can be assured this will be a full process and a fair process that will really get a look at what happened here, will you make another commitment? Will you commit that you will not try to influence the government members on the committee and will you commit that there will be no effort on the part of the Premier's office or the whip's office or the Deputy Premier's office to hold back the minister from appearing before the committee?


Hon Mr Eves: Those will be matters for the committee and the minister themselves to decide. I might say, though, with respect to the particular report about the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, that the Integrity Commissioner did find, as I am sure you are aware, that the minister acted in good faith and on the belief that he was entitled to do so when he wrote to the commission. I think it would do you well to remember that statement by the Integrity Commissioner.

Mr Hampton: I want to read to you an amendment that we are going to move to your motion today. The amendment is this: "Further, in the opinion of this assembly, proper consideration of the Integrity Commissioner's report will require the participation of the Minister of Health and the member for St George-St David as committee witnesses." If you're interested in having a full and open and fair process, will you commit to voting for this amendment, Deputy Premier?

Hon Mr Eves: People don't usually commit to voting on anything during question period. The way this process works is that the matter will be debated later on.

Mr Hampton: You have no clothes, Ernie.

Hon Mr Eves: I think I have some.

Mr Hampton: Despite all the money you spend, you have no clothes.

Mr Wildman: The emperor has no clothes -- deputy emperor, sorry.

Hon Mr Eves: The individual members --

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Deputy Premier, hold on. Order. Deputy Premier.

Hon Mr Eves: Individual members in the Legislative Assembly will vote on this motion, will vote on any amendment to it, as they see fit. That's the way this place operates.

The Speaker: New question.

Mr Hampton: I regret that the Deputy Premier can't commit that he would favour a full and fair process with the committee.

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MINISTRY OF TRANSPORTATION CONTRACTS


Mr Howard Hampton (Rainy River): My question is to the Minister of Transportation. Two local contractors bid on an MTO highway maintenance contract for the area between Thessalon and Elliot Lake. Their bid was the lowest cost, and as part of the bid they would have re-employed many MTO workers.

A company called IMOS also bid on the contract. IMOS was not the low bidder. You remember IMOS. They employ one of your former assistant deputy ministers who breached the conflict-of-interest rules.

The two local contractors were notified by MTO that the contract would not be awarded. They were the low bidders but they were told, "We're not going to award the contract."

Minister, I'm going to ask you the same question these contractors asked you in their letter of June 9: Was this contract cancelled because IMOS, your friends at IMOS, were not the low bidders?


Hon Al Palladini (Minister of Transportation): I want to thank the member for the question. If you were to ask your critic, I believe he shed some information on this particular issue and how it was handled, and there were supposedly some things that weren't done according to the Scriptures, although we believe it is to the contrary. I believe all the precautions were taken in making sure the tendering process was done in a fair way.

I want to say to the member that I do not know who was the low bidder or who was not the low bidder. As far as I know, as far as the information I have, these envelopes were not opened because of the inquiries that are being done at present.


Mr Hampton: I think the minister is a bit confused here. I'm not talking about the situation in Cochrane South. I'm talking about a contract that was put out in the Algoma district between Thessalon and Elliot Lake. The tenders were indeed opened. There is recognition that the two local contractors were indeed the low bidders, there is recognition that IMOS was not the low bidder, but the contract was cancelled. The two local contractors, who put in a very good bid and would have re-employed the majority of MTO workers, were told, "No, we're not going to tender the contract."

I'm asking you, Minister, why was that contract not put out? Why was it cancelled? Is it because IMOS was not the low bidder?


Hon Mr Palladini: I want to correct what I said earlier. I misunderstood the honourable member. I thought he was referring to the maintenance contracts that have been pulled back. As far as this particular project, I haven't got any information, but I will take it under advisement and get back to the member.

Mr Hampton: It doesn't end there, though. My colleague from Cochrane South gave you the example a couple of weeks ago where MTO employees are being told by way of government memoranda to apply to IMOS for jobs even before contracts have been let. We've had that clearly on the record.

The Kingston Whig-Standard reported this past week that your former ADM, Carl Vervoort, is now project director for the Wolfe, Howe and Amherst Island ferry service. Their business plan -- and get this. They got a contract with MTO with no public tender.

Here's the scenario: Mr Vervoort quit his job at MTO to go to work for IMOS the same day that IMOS got a $29-million MTO contract based on Mr Vervoort's recommendation. Now we see memos floating around MTO saying, "Apply to IMOS," and now Mr Vervoort is getting --


The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Thank you very much. Minister of Transportation.

Hon Mr Palladini: I would like to reassure the House and the member that there were no irregularities. As far as the member saying that because of --

Interjections.


The Speaker: Just a minute. Members for Riverdale and Cochrane South, come to order.

Interjection.


The Speaker: You're the closest.

Minister of Transportation.


Hon Mr Palladini: I want to say again I believe there were no irregularities. As far as that word that was not omitted from the pamphlet that was distributed to potential people at MTO, they took the Chatham guidelines and they forgot to omit "IMOS." That was a very simple mistake. For anyone to assume that it was a predetermined done deal is totally wrong.

SERVICES FOR ABUSED WOMEN


Mrs Lyn McLeod (Fort William): My question is for the minister responsible for women's issues. Your supposed strategic approach to dealing with violence against women is more like a $5-million package of Band-Aids that you're using to try and fix some of the damage that your own government has inflicted on women and children.

The Minister of Community and Social Services cuts funding to children's aid societies and cuts funding for counselling for children, so you put a few hundred thousand dollars into counselling and training CAS workers. The Attorney General has been unable to fix the mess in the legal aid plan, 80% of women are not able to get access to legal aid, so you put $300,000 more into what you call emergency legal advice. But you have not helped with front-line crisis services, and shelters are still trying to cope with fewer dollars and more demand.

The London centre, the shelter in your own home town, Minister, is turning away one woman in need of help for every woman it takes. The London Battered Women's Advocacy Centre has had a 195% increase in requests for service this year. Why have you not provided more support to abused women who need a safe refuge?


Hon Dianne Cunningham (Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, minister responsible for women's issues): In response to the question, I'd like to answer in this regard: We did listen over the past two years to the priorities of communities, individuals, victims of assault and certainly members of this Legislative Assembly with regard to the need to improve our violence against women initiatives.

We came forth with a comprehensive and coordinated strategy, a plan of action across nine ministries and 30 programs. This has not happened in this province. As a matter of fact, I'm shocked at the question from the member, because we have thrown some $100 million at programs that have not been planned, have not been coordinated, have not been evaluated, and we need to know that our programs in Ontario work. As a matter of fact, the NDP's Mr Silipo, in response to a question during his last six months as the minister, said to the shelters, "There will be no new money for shelters."


Mrs McLeod: Minister, clearly you have not heard from the people who are involved in providing services to abused women and to their children that what they really need is help on the front lines, not more cuts. What you have not heard from them is that none of your Band-Aids deals with the overwhelming problems that your government's cuts have created for women who are trying to escape from abusive situations.

The director of the Battered Women's Advocacy Centre in London has said that the huge increase in calls they are getting is just the first reflection in the community of the government's massive cuts to social services, to welfare, to housing, to shelters, to counselling services.

You said this morning on television that you wanted to look at the problems of emergency shelters that are under stress. Surely you understand that women cannot leave these centres because there is no place for them to go and they cannot afford to live. When will your government start to repair the damage that has been done and create conditions where women and children can truly be safe because they can leave abusive situations?


Hon Mrs Cunningham: In looking at the violence against women initiatives across these nine ministries and the programs we offer in Ontario, which are far more extensive than any other province in Canada, we wanted to see how we could improve these programs, and we have responded.

With respect to the dollars the member has drawn to my attention, the former governments increased that program from $10 million to $100 million, as I have explained. There have been reductions, not in front-line services, but I will add that some of those reductions have been taken up by ministries through agencies other than shelters, and I will also add that the money we are providing right now is approximately $111.4 million, which is $11.4 million more, during very difficult times, than these two governments offered during their free-spending --


The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): New question.

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ROAD SAFETY


Mr Gilles Bisson (Cochrane South): My question is to the Minister of Transportation. You know that today we're here specifically to deal with one of the issues here, the road safety legislation. I find it passing strange that on the very day we're here to debate this bill at third reading, you as Minister of Transportation have moved to eliminate the strategic vehicle technology office and its commercial vehicles section. Those are the very people who are necessary to do the kind of research your ministry has to do to improve on truck safety.

How do you square, on the one hand, coming into this House today to try to pass truck safety legislation and, on the other hand, firing the very people within your own ministry who are responsible for improving on truck safety?


Hon Al Palladini (Minister of Transportation): I believe the people of Ontario have asked this government to do better for less and that's what this government is trying to do: better for less. I believe there are lots of people around the world from whom certain information or technology can be bought at a much better rate, and that is what this government is trying to do: give the people of Ontario that much better for less.

Mr Bisson: You don't do more with less when it comes to the question of road safety. You have to have the necessary budgets in place and the people within your ministry so that you, as Minister of Transportation, can take the responsibility you're charged with, the safety of Ontario roads. When you as minister stand in this House and say, "We're going to do more with less," how do you expect to have any credibility in front of the public when it comes to road safety?

I ask you again, how do you square, on the one hand, coming to this House today to pass road safety legislation, and then firing the very people within your ministry who are responsible for improving on truck safety here in Ontario?


Hon Mr Palladini: It's always difficult to justify the dismissal or the surplusing of an individual or individuals, and I understand where the member is coming from, but we do have a responsibility to the people of Ontario to do better for less. We're not going to compromise safety. Safety will never be compromised by this government. I believe we are taking the initiatives that are going to make sure our roads are safe.

The member is referring to the possible surplusing of an individual who has made a contribution towards certain technology we're looking at and certain findings we could be looking at. We can buy that technology -- it is available throughout the world and it is available throughout this province through the private sector -- at a much cheaper price.


The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): New question.

Mr Ted Chudleigh (Halton North): My question is for the Minister of Transportation as well on what is turning into the Al Palladini day. Minister, the maintenance of highways in a land as rugged and yet as beautiful of Ontario has long been a challenge for your ministry. I was interested to hear of a situation which has emerged on Highway 17 in the city of Kanata, which could impact the safety of motorists in this area. Could you please provide the House with the details of this problem?

Hon Mr Palladini: I'd certainly like to thank the member for his longstanding concern with regard to road safety. I believe the member is referring to the beaver who built a beaver dam adjacent to Highway 17, east of Eagleson Road in Kanata. This dam has created a 30-square-metre pond right beside the highway, and the concern for my ministry is that an errant motorist could land in the pond, resulting in great personal harm or possibly drowning. This beaver has been, if you'll pardon the pun, very busy in the area for the past six years, and MTO practice has been to physically remove the dams. However, the beaver is very persistent and always rebuilds the dams. For safety reasons, we have considered a more permanent solution, such as using a trapper.

Mr Chudleigh: There was a great deal of concern expressed by the people of Kanata over the possible solution. I understand that difficult decisions must be made each day by the front-line workers of your ministry at the MTO.

Interjections.


The Speaker: Order. Member for Halton North, look this way. Member for Halton North, please sit down.

Okay: supplementary.


Mr Chudleigh: Thank you, Mr Speaker. Sorry. I couldn't hear you with all the noise going on.

I understand that difficult decisions must be made every day by your front-line workers at the Ministry of Transportation who work to keep our roads safe throughout this great province. Could you please tell the House what course of action was taken in this unique case?


Hon Mr Palladini: I am pleased to inform the House that the water level of the beaver pond has been reduced through natural means. Ministry staff have not taken any further action to date, but we are monitoring the situation to ensure that the water level does not increase dramatically.

I am also pleased to report that our district engineer, Bert Torini, visited the grade 2 class at Roland Michener public school in Kanata on June 19, and he informed the class, all of whom were naturally concerned for the safety of the beaver, that the beaver would not be trapped but relocated only if absolutely necessary. Mr Torini advised the children that we were considering the action because of the need to ensure the safety of the travelling public. I'm sure the children were glad to learn that this particular specimen of Canada's national animal lived to see another Canada Day.

EMERGENCY SERVICES


Mr Sean G. Conway (Renfrew North): In the absence of the Minister of Health, my question is for the Deputy Premier, the Minister of Finance. On May 3, 1995, at Kapuskasing, Ontario, Mike Harris solemnly promised that if he became Premier of Ontario a Harris government was committed to protecting "24-hour emergency service in all northern and rural hospitals in Ontario." That was the promise in the 1995 election campaign. Mike Harris won the election; he formed a government.

Last Friday at Goderich, your Minister of Health announced a new small hospitals policy which did not commit to maintaining 24-hour emergency service in all northern and rural hospitals, but rather, promised only access to such service, perhaps 30, 40, 50 kilometres away from that community hospital.

Why did your government break the promise that Mike Harris made at Kapuskasing almost two years ago?


Hon Ernie L. Eves (Deputy Premier, Minister of Finance): I would say, first of all, that I think the rural and northern health care policy laid out by the Minister of Health last week is an excellent one. It comes, as the member for Renfrew North well knows, from some consultation with people who have a great deal of expertise in delivering health care in rural and northern Ontario. I think the important part of the entire issue to which he refers is that care will be available to people in rural parts of the province. He would certainly understand, coming from the part of the province he does -- I know that every single institution in the province can't be all things to all people all the time. However, having said that, I do think that we owe it to the people of Ontario to have emergency care available, where practical, and as close to home as is possible.

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Mr Conway: It's very clear from that answer that the government's current policy -- where practical, as close as possible -- is a long way from the promise made at Kapuskasing in 1995.

My supplementary question to the Deputy Premier of this government is simply this: In communities like Arnprior, Barry's Bay, Deep River, Winchester and Petrolia, people are very concerned that under this new small hospitals policy their emergency departments are going to close or be substantially downsized and that many of the hospital-based patient services that communities like Arnprior, Barry's Bay and Deep River have enjoyed over the last number of years and decades will either be reduced or eliminated.

Will you commit today to people in communities like Arnprior, Deep River and Barry's Bay that they will not lose any of their patient-based, hospital-based services under your new policy?


Hon Mr Eves: We are the first government in 10 years to listen to the people of rural and northern Ontario. The two previous governments received no less than 26 reports on health care in rural and northern Ontario and did absolutely nothing about any one of the 26.

First of all, in December 1995, I might say to the honourable member, we invested some $13 million in emergency care in rural hospitals across Ontario. That is something that two previous administrations had not seen fit to do. The minister has now acted upon the recommendations of some very notable people with some real experience in rural and northern Ontario. I'm sure I don't have to go through the list for the honourable member. In fact, one of them is from your riding. I have the newspaper clipping, as indeed does he, lauding this person's ability in advising the government.


The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Answer, please.

Hon Mr Eves: We are taking the advice of the task force that the minister had advising him, so places like Deep River, Barry's Bay, Renfrew-Victoria, Arnprior, Red Lake --

The Speaker: Thank you, Minister. New question, third party.

Interjection.


The Speaker: Minister, thank you very much.

BY-ELECTION IN WINDSOR-RIVERSIDE


Mr Howard Hampton (Rainy River): Since we're doing so well here, another question to the Deputy Premier. As you know, a by-election will need to be called in the constituency of Windsor-Riverside. You can imagine the surprise of people living in Windsor that just in the last few days this piece of propaganda turns up on their doorsteps, in the mail. If you read it, it's very clear that this is not a report to the riding or anything like that. This is strictly political propaganda. This is propaganda being put out. In fact, what your government's doing, you're using taxpayers' money to in effect put a political leaflet out there before the election is called. Can you tell us how much taxpayers' money you spent putting this piece of political propaganda out there?

Hon Ernie L. Eves (Deputy Premier, Minister of Finance): No, I'm not familiar with that pamphlet that the leader of the third party refers to. If he'd be kind enough to send it across, I'd be pleased to look into the matter for him.

Mr Hampton: I'll be very happy to send this over. In fact, if someone wants to take it over for the Deputy Premier, he can have a look at it. My point is this: Instead of using taxpayers' money to fund your election campaign, why don't you call the by-election so the Conservative Party can pay the costs of your candidate and pay the costs of your propaganda?

Hon Mr Eves: As I said, I'm not familiar with the pamphlet he's talking about. He knows of course, as does every member of the Legislature, that by-elections have to be called within a certain length of time and I'm sure that it will be at the appropriate time.

SEXUAL ASSAULT


Mr Bert Johnson (Perth): My question is for the minister responsible for women's issues. Yesterday was a historic day for the province of Ontario as the government launched Agenda for Action on the prevention of violence against women. I'd like to commend all those who have been involved in this, especially the minister responsible for women's issues and the Attorney General.

In my riding of Perth, violence against women has been a standing concern. Local initiatives have set a high standard for education and prevention, and I know this new strategic direction will greatly assist our communities in their ability to respond to violence against women.

As the new proposal states, the prevention of violence is everybody's responsibility. A particular prevalent problem and an area of concern to my constituents is the incidence of sexual assault. I'd like to know what actions the minister is taking through this initiative to deal with the serious issue of sexual assault.


Hon Dianne Cunningham (Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, minister responsible for women's issues): For the first time ever in the history of the province we are extending to rape crisis centres annualized funding. I would add that this is on the back of an NDP government that in 1995 reduced the funding to rape crisis centres by 4.8%.

The second piece I would like to extend to the member for Perth is that we're looking at the needs of disabled and francophone women and looking at models that will assist them in providing the kinds of services they need and deserve.

Third, we have put aside an amount of funding to help to close the service gaps in communities, both to rape crisis centres and to shelters.

Thank you for your question.


Mr Bert Johnson: I'm sure my constituents will be as pleased as I am to hear about our government addressing the needs of sexual assault victims. Through the efforts of groups such as the Perth domestic abuse review team, my riding has experienced great success in dealing with domestic violence through the courts. I'm proud to say that successful prosecutions have risen from 50% to 80%. A key element of justice, however, is proper treatment for perpetrators to ensure they do not reoffend.

My constituents would like to know whether yesterday's announcement includes initiatives which will address the need for treatment programs for batterers.


Hon Mrs Cunningham: Currently my colleague the Solicitor General oversees some 28 male batterer programs for convicted perpetrators. In the Agenda for Action we are providing a quarter of a million dollars this year to clear out the backlog in these programs. With the expansion of the domestic courts to six new sites, we're expanding the male batterer programs based on the highly successful model that we have in the North York court. By pleading guilty here, a perpetrator will go directly into a counselling program and hopefully this will assist in breaking the cycle of violence.

We must ensure that our justice system is responsive, and although the member opposite from Thunder Bay stated that every woman doesn't want to go to court, she's quite right. That's why I think the North York court is a good model, because in the end families have an opportunity to be together.

SCHOOL BUS SAFETY


Mr Pat Hoy (Essex-Kent): My question is to the Minister of Transportation. Today you intend to pass your comprehensive road safety bill, and your idea to protect the 810,000 children who ride school buses in Ontario daily is to double the existing fine levels. This gesture is meaningless, Minister. You cannot get a conviction under the current law. Vehicle liability is the only mechanism that will gain convictions.

You have allowed Mr Froese's bill to be incorporated into Bill 138. Any recognition that school bus safety must be addressed is good. I urge you, on behalf of the children, to address the problem, which has caused 11 deaths and 80 injuries over the past 10 years. There are no fatalities associated with Mr Froese's bill. When will you introduce vehicle liability to protect Ontario's school children?


Hon Al Palladini (Minister of Transportation): As I promised the member, the ministry has looked at how we could incorporate his bill into a road safety bill, and it was because of the member that we actually incorporated the higher fines. But for the member to push the issue of absolute vehicle liability -- we have believed in the past that you have to target the driver, not the vehicle. We're trying to do what's right.

One other thing I want to say to the member is that I believe we have a police authority out there that acts as a police authority, and for this government to give police-type powers to bus drivers, I don't think the people of Ontario would like that very much.

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Mr Hoy: Bus drivers currently, if they can identify the driver of a vehicle, lay a charge, so they already have some of those powers you're saying you don't want to give to them. I'm here to support Bill 138 because it involves safety issues. I want you to quit stalling. Bill 78 has the unanimous consent of this House and was referred to the standing committee on resources development. Bill 78 has a right to be considered. Is this a democratic government or not?

School bus experts, legal experts and parents want to tell you why vehicle liability is a necessity. It's fair and it's enforceable. When is the government going to allow Bill 78 to be heard before that committee?


Hon Mr Palladini: I think the member has answered his own question of why we cannot give bus drivers police-type authority. We have something already in place, that if a bus driver can identify the driver, there will be a conviction. Again, I want to say to the member, we are not going to arbitrarily give bus drivers the powers or the authority just to jot down licence numbers and have a conviction based on what licence number they perceive to have seen.

We are working with the school busing industry to see how we can better implement some additional changes that will tighten it, that will protect our children. These things are going to happen, but they're going to take some time. I would welcome the member's input and help on this to see how we can work together.

SPECIAL EDUCATION


Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): I'm sending over a copy of a letter to the Minister of Education and Training. This letter is addressed to a number of officials of the ministry from the superintendent of the Toronto Board of Education regarding section 27 agreements at the Toronto board.

Despite the cuts to social assistance to poor families, to child care and to school classrooms, this government is trying to persuade the public that they really care about Ontario children. The Attorney General and the minister responsible for women's issues announced new funding for school boards and to children's aid societies to deal with violence against women. Today, the Minister of Community and Social Services said, "Children are a priority of this government."

If that's the case, could the Minister of Education and Training explain why his ministry would be telling the Toronto Board of Education to make cuts to its section 27 classrooms, which are classrooms with education programs serving the most fragile, at-risk children in Metropolitan Toronto?


Hon John Snobelen (Minister of Education and Training): The member for Algoma has sent me over a copy of this letter. I have had 30 seconds or so to review it -- the member for Algoma smiles because he knows I probably reviewed some of it in that 30 seconds or so -- and I see no evidence here that the ministry has asked anyone to close down a section 27 program. For those who don't understand section 27 programs, those are programs that are delivered to young people who are in institutions, who are not well, other people in that regard. I see no indication here that the ministry has asked the Toronto Board of Education to do that.

Further to that, two weeks ago, when asked a similar question about the Ottawa school board section 27 agreements, I said in this House and I said publicly on several occasions that this government will not allow any student who needs those services that are covered under section 27 to be denied those services. That includes Toronto and Ottawa.


Mr Wildman: The letter is about four pages of lists of proposed cuts by the ministry to the in-place programs of the Toronto Board of Education. The superintendent who wrote the letter said, "I'm writing on behalf of the Toronto board to request that the ministry reconsider its proposed program closures."

Your ministry has told the board to make cuts in education programs for young mothers at Jessie's; for extremely mentally fragile children at Youthdale Treatment Centre, where there is a 12- to 18-month waiting list already for school programs; for young people moving out of residential psychiatric programs at the Hincks Treatment Centre, and your ministry has given no rationale for these cuts.

As the letter indicates, these programs continue to offer a valuable service in terms of public education for some of our most challenged young people. It doesn't make any sense. Is a child in care or treatment no longer entitled to public education, like every other child in Ontario?


Hon Mr Snobelen: It's surprising to me that the member for Algoma would raise this issue today because as I look at this letter, I believe if the member investigated further, he would find that the Toronto Board of Education was asked by his government to make some permanent reductions in its costs through the social contract. It's been left to this government to bring those programs forward. He will know that his government negotiated, as part of the way of recovering those social contract savings from the Toronto Board of Education, transfers into the Toronto board, into the section 27 schools and transfers between school boards that receive grants and don't receive grants -- part of the social contract program. I strongly suspect that what's in this letter is about programs that were originally talked about under the social contract, which was your government. The member for Algoma knows it was your government, not this government, that initiated that.

OCCUPATIONAL HEALTH AND SAFETY


Mrs Lillian Ross (Hamilton West): My question is to the Minister of Labour. Our government has a strong commitment to ensuring that our workplaces are among the safest in the world. Along with that commitment comes a commitment to occupational health and safety research. I believe that one of the keys to ensuring those healthy, safe workplaces would be looking at various areas of research into the causes and complications of workplace injury and illness. Could the minister outline for us what improvements will be made in this field as a direct result of Bill 99, the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act?

Hon Elizabeth Witmer (Minister of Labour): To the member for Hamilton West, I'm certainly very pleased to respond as to the impact that Bill 99 is going to have on health and safety research because for the first time in this province the Workers' Compensation Board will now have the opportunity to focus exclusively on health and safety, which it never had before. It was never part of the purpose clause. I'm also extremely pleased to indicate that the WCB has set up a task force on research and I'm looking forward to the results of the task force over the next few months.

Mrs Ross: I'm sure that all members would agree that any improvements we can make to the occupational health and safety research system have to be good news. Could the minister please outline for this House what the basis of the new strategy is likely to be.

Hon Mrs Witmer: I need to add that we've not been happy with the record of previous governments when it comes to health and safety research, so the task force on research will be recommending that by the year 2000 we will be spending in this province an additional $7.7 million on top of the $5 million that we already spend. We're going to be focusing on taking a look at occupational disease, ergonomics; we're going to look at diagnosis, treatment; and we're going to find some very practical solutions for health and safety which we can share with workplaces across the province in order that we can actually see a reduction in injury and illness.

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RED HILL CREEK EXPRESSWAY


Mr Dominic Agostino (Hamilton East): My question is to the Minister of Transportation. During the election campaign and shortly after the campaign, when you were elected, your Premier committed to full funding for the north-south portion of the Red Hill Creek Expressway in Hamilton. Following that commitment there has been some debate. In questioning in the Legislature, a year ago I asked you to agree to an independent review of the funding costs because there was a disagreement between what the region believed was the provincial responsibility and what you stated it was. The independent review has now been completed and it shows a $44-million shortfall between what you have committed for the Red Hill Creek Expressway and what the consultant and the independent review has now shown is needed from the provincial commitment. Therefore, we now have a gap of $44 million.

Will you today commit to the additional $44 million that the independent consultant review has shown is the cost the province has to bring forward for the north-south portion of the Red Hill Creek Expressway to go ahead?


Hon Al Palladini (Minister of Transportation): The province obviously remains committed to the expressway and the contribution we committed to was $100 million towards the building of the expressway.

However, discussions have taken place with the regional chair and my staff, including myself, to see how we can find savings, ways to build the expressway in a most cost-efficient way. That has been ongoing, and I believe there has been some RFQ given to the point where the differential is not $44 million, as the honourable member has mentioned. I believe the price is very close to what we said all along: between $200 million and $205 million. I think we have an agreement based on what it is going to cost to complete Red Hill Creek between the ministry and the region of Hamilton-Wentworth. Negotiations are ongoing.


Mr Agostino: I have a letter dated June 24, 1997, sent to you by the regional chairman. You keep disputing the figures. You keep disputing the facts. A year ago you bragged about the fact that your $100-million figure was correct and the region's was wrong.

Let me state to you what the regional chairman has said: "Again, this support results in a shortfall in the current proposal in the amount of $43.8 million compared to the previous arrangement." This is June 24; a week ago this letter was sent to you telling you clearly it's a shortfall of $44 million.

When the people of Hamilton-Wentworth believed your Premier when he said he was going to fully fund the north-south portion of the expressway, it meant they were going to live up to their word and their commitment. You have changed the funding formula, you have shortchanged the region by $44 million, and people in the region are questioning your government's commitment to that promise made by the Premier. Your inability today to come forward and commit to the rest of the money is putting the expressway project in jeopardy.

Minister, based on the independent review that you agreed to, will you bring the $44-million cheque to the region of Hamilton-Wentworth so we can go ahead and start the north-south expressway?


Hon Mr Palladini: This is coming from a member who was opposed to building Red Hill Creek Expressway. I am glad to see that he is now on side, and finally. We're on side; we want to build it. We've been saying it all along.

Mrs Lyn McLeod (Fort William): That is simply not true.

Mr Agostino: Point of order --

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Order. Hold it. First off, let's get this straight. The member for Fort William, that's out of order, and to the member for Hamilton East, that's out of order. You have to withdraw those comments.

Mrs McLeod: I'll withdraw the second one, Mr Speaker.

The Speaker: No, I just want to hear a withdrawal, that's all.

Mrs McLeod: I withdraw, Mr Speaker.

The Speaker: Now, you want a point of order?

Mr Agostino: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: Clearly that comment by the minister was inappropriate. He knows those are not the facts and I really believe you should ask him to withdraw that. I believe he is misleading the House by suggesting I'm opposed to the expressway.

The Speaker: Now you have to withdraw that comment. You can't accuse somebody of misleading the House. It's against the rules.

Mr Agostino: I'll withdraw it if you can ask him to do the same.

The Speaker: It's not a point of order. Minister?

Hon Mr Palladini: Mr Speaker, I will send the honourable member a copy of a newspaper article with his picture on it that basically said exactly what I said earlier.

We are committed to building Red Hill Creek Expressway and there are negotiations going on right now with the regional chair and my staff. I believe we are working towards a meeting date, which is probably going to happen some time next week. I am glad to see the member is on side to get Red Hill Creek built.

PETITIONS

EDUCATION REFORM


Mr Tony Ruprecht (Parkdale): I have a petition that reads as follows, and it is addressed to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"We believe that the heart of educationin our province is the relationship between student and teacher and that this human and relational dimension should be maintained and extended in any proposed reform. As Minister of Education and Training, you should know how strongly we oppose many of the secondary school reform recommendations being proposed by your ministry and government.

"We recognize and support the need to review secondary education in Ontario. The proposal for reform as put forward by your ministry, however, is substantially flawed in several key areas: (a) reduced instructional time, (b) reduction of instruction in English, (c) a reduction in qualified teaching personnel, (d) academic work experience credit not linked to educational curriculum, and (e) devaluation of formal education.

"We strongly urge your ministry to delay the implementation of secondary school reform so that all interested stakeholders -- parents, students, school councils, trustees and teachers -- are able to participate in a more meaningful consultation process which will help ensure that a high quality of publicly funded education is provided."

I affix my signature.

OCCUPATIONAL HEALTH AND SAFETY


Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): I have petitions signed by members of the Ontario Federation of Labour and forwarded to me by the president of the OFL, Gord Wilson.

"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"Whereas this government's contribution to prevention services made through the WCB has been reduced from $62 million to $47 million, with no explanation as to where this money has gone; and

"Whereas the prevention services that the Ministry of Labour once provided are being offloaded to the Workers' Health and Safety Centre and other safety associations, thereby increasing the demand for the prevention services provided by the centre; and

"Whereas this government has gutted the certification training standards for health and safety committee members and is replacing them with minimalist performance standards which, in combination with funding cuts, have resulted in a 40% reduction in the staff of the Workers' Health and Safety Centre; and

"Whereas the Workers' Health and Safety Centre is facing further cuts of $2.3 million to finance the establishment of several new employer safety associations, thereby duplicating administrative costs and services;

"Therefore we, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to stop the gutting of the funding of prevention services provided by the Workers' Health and Safety Centre.

"Further we, the undersigned, demand that the moneys taken from the health and safety prevention services of the Workers' Health and Safety Centre and the other safety associations be returned to them."

On behalf of my NDP colleagues, I add my name to theirs.

COURT DECISION


Mr Jerry J. Ouellette (Oshawa): I have a petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.

"Whereas the Court of Appeal has ruled in favour of the lawful right to go topless in public; and

"Whereas the Liberal government of Canada has the legislative authority to restrict going topless in public places; and

"Whereas sections 173 and 174 of the Criminal Code relating to public nudity be clarified to provide better protection of community standards;

"We, the undersigned, respectfully petition the province of Ontario to continue to urge the government of Canada to clarify legislation on going topless in public places."

I endorse this petition with my signature.

NORTH YORK BRANSON HOSPITAL


Mr Monte Kwinter (Wilson Heights): I have a petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.

"Whereas the final report of the Metropolitan Toronto District Health Council hospital restructuring committee has recommended that North York Branson Hospital merge with York-Finch hospital; and

"Whereas this recommendation will remove emergency and inpatient services currently provided by North York Branson Hospital, which will seriously jeopardize medical care and the quality of health for the growing population which the hospital serves, many being elderly people who in numerous cases require treatment for life-threatening medical conditions;

"We petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to reject the recommendation contained within the final report of the Metropolitan Toronto District Health Council hospital restructuring committee as it pertains to North York Branson Hospital, so that it retains, at minimum, emergency and inpatient services."

I have affixed my signature to it.

OCCUPATIONAL HEALTH AND SAFETY


Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): I have petitions signed by members of the Canadian Auto Workers union and forwarded to me by Buzz Hargrove, their national president.

"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"Whereas workers' health and safety must be protected in the province of Ontario, especially the right to refuse work which is likely to endanger a worker, the right to know about workplace hazards and the right to participate in joint health and safety committees; and

"Whereas the Occupational Health and Safety Act and its regulations help protect workers' health and safety and workers' rights in this area; and

"Whereas the government's discussion paper Review of the Occupational Health and Safety Act threatens workers' health and safety by proposing to deregulate the existing act and regulations to reduce or eliminate workers' health and safety rights and to reduce enforcement of health and safety laws by the Ministry of Labour; and

"Whereas workers must have a full opportunity to be heard about this proposed drastic erosion in their present protections from injuries and occupational diseases;

"Therefore we, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to oppose any attempt to erode the present provisions of the Occupational Health and Safety Act and its regulations.

"Further we, the undersigned, demand that public hearings on the discussion paper be held in at least 20 communities throughout Ontario."

Again, that's a lot more than the few crummy days they've offered us on the WCB. I add my name to these workers.

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COURT DECISION


Mr Bert Johnson (Perth): I have a petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.

"Whereas communities strongly disagree with allowing women to go topless in public;

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

"To enact legislation to require women to wear tops in public places for the protection of our children and for public safety in general."

This is signed by about 200 people in my riding, and I sign it to present it to this Legislature.

KIDNEY DIALYSIS


Mr John C. Cleary (Cornwall): I have a petition that has been signed by over 300 residents of Cornwall and area. Most of these signatures were collected by Mrs Eileen Harris, 81-year-old president of the residents' council of Glen-Stor-Dun Lodge. Mrs Harris sat at the door of the lodge for over two weeks getting this petition signed.

"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"Whereas there is no dialysis available in the Cornwall area; and

"Whereas the lack of local medical treatment forces dialysis patients throughout Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry and beyond to drive to Kingston and Ottawa several times each week, in dangerous weather conditions, to receive this basic medical attention, incurring unnecessary stress, cost and inconvenience; and

"Whereas the Minister of Health promised last April to rectify this by establishing a dialysis treatment facility in Cornwall; and

"Whereas this promise made by the Minister of Health to date has not been kept, resulting in local patients and their families and friends continuing to drive to Ottawa or Kingston for treatment several times a week during the abovenoted conditions;

"Therefore, we, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario and the Minister of Health to follow through on his commitment made last April to bring the long-awaited and much-needed health service to Cornwall area residents."

I will also sign the petition.

OCCUPATIONAL HEALTH CLINICS


Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): I have a petition signed by members of OPSEU and forwarded to me by their president, Leah Casselman.

"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"Whereas the Occupational Health Clinics for Ontario Workers (OHCOW) provides high-quality professional medical, hygiene and ergonomic services to employers, workers, joint health and safety committees and their communities; and

"Whereas the professional services that the Ministry of Labour once provided are being offloaded to organizations such as the Occupational Health Clinics for Ontario Workers, therefore increasing the demand for the services provided by OHCOW; and

"Whereas the professional and technical expertise and advice provided by the Occupational Health Clinics for Ontario Workers have made a significant contribution to improvements to workplace health and safety as well as the reduction of injuries, illnesses and death caused by work;

"Therefore, we, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to call upon the government to maintain the funding of the Occupational Health Clinics for Ontario Workers and oppose any attempt to alter the governance structure or erode the professional and technical services of OHCOW.

"Further, we, the undersigned, demand that OHCOW be provided with the necessary funds to allow expansion into other Ontario communities in order to provide the professional and technical services needed to reduce occupational injuries, illnesses and deaths."

I proudly add my name to theirs.

WATER CHLORINATION


Mr Ted Chudleigh (Halton North): This is a petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.

"Whereas the chemical substance chlorine was added to the people of Milton's pure well water supplies in 1995; and

"Whereas the Halton regional water delivery system in the town of Milton has received the regular maintenance and standard upgrade requirements outlined by the province and is supported by a standby chlorination unit sufficient enough to prevent the spread of a serious bacterial threat; and

"Whereas recent studies on the use of chlorine additives in drinking water have raised the spectre of chlorine as a possible cancer agent; and

"Whereas the people of the town of Milton overwhelmingly supported the belief that a standby chlorination requirement is sufficient enough to prevent the spread of a serious bacterial threat;

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

"Be it resolved that the Ontario Legislature grant the people of Milton's request for a variance allowing only standby chlorination to be used in treating the pure well water supplies of Milton's water delivery system."

I'm proud to add my name to this petition.

MANDATORY INQUESTS


Mr Rick Bartolucci (Sudbury): This petition was forwarded to me from my good friends at the United Steelworkers of America, Local 6500, in Sudbury.

"To the Honourable Solicitor General and Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"Whereas the Progressive Conservative government of Ontario has decided to scrap mandatory inquests as a result of fatalities in the mining and construction industry; and

"Whereas this unprecedented and callous decision sets workplace safety back 20 years;

"We, the undersigned, request that Solicitor General Bob Runciman, on behalf of all workers in the mining and construction industry, reverse his decision to remove mandatory inquests from the Coroners Act of Ontario."

Again I sign my signature to this petition, as I am in full agreement with it.

OCCUPATIONAL HEALTH AND SAFETY


Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): I have further petitions regarding workplace health and safety, this time from members of CUPE forwarded to me by their Ontario president Sid Ryan.

"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"Whereas it is vital that occupational health and safety services provided to workers be conducted by organizations in which workers have faith; and

"Whereas the Workers' Health and Safety Centre and the occupational health clinics for Ontario workers have provided such services on behalf of workers for many years; and

"Whereas the centre and clinics have made a significant contribution to improvements in workplace health and safety and in the reduction of injuries, illnesses and death caused by work;

"Therefore we, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to oppose any attempt to erode the structure, services or funding of the Workers' Health and Safety Centre and the occupational health clinics for Ontario workers.

"Further, we, the undersigned, demand that education and training of Ontario workers continue in its present form through the Workers' Health and Safety Centre and that professional and technical expertise and advice continue to be provided through the occupational health clinics for Ontario workers."

I proudly add my name to theirs.

RURAL HEALTH SERVICES


Mr Toby Barrett (Norfolk): I continue to receive petitions concerning rural health care from my riding and other rural areas in Ontario.

"Whereas there is urgent concern about the future of community hospitals located in Dunnville, Hagersville, Simcoe and Tillsonburg; and

"Whereas distance, weather and doctor shortages are serious barriers to people in rural areas accessing emergency services and health care; and

"Whereas local communities have worked for years to establish, maintain, improve and modernize hospital, physician and other health services;

"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to adopt a rural health policy to deal with these problems and to protect the health care rights of rural communities, and that hospital boards, district health councils, the Ontario Health Services Restructuring Commission and the government of Ontario adhere to this rural policy."

I am in agreement with these petitions and therefore affix my signature to them.

STANDING ORDERS REFORM


Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): I would be prepared to affix my signature to the last petitions as well, but I have another petition. It reads as follows: "A petition to stop the Harris government's plan to kill debate in the Legislature.

"Whereas the people of Ontario want rigorous discussion on legislation dealing with public policy issues like health care, education and care for seniors;

"Whereas many people in Ontario believe that the Mike Harris government is moving too quickly and recklessly, creating havoc with the provision of health care, quality education, and adversely affecting seniors; and

"Whereas the Mike Harris government now wishes to change the rules of the Ontario Legislature, which would allow the government to ram legislation through more quickly and have less accountability to the public and the media through exercises such as question period; and

"Whereas Mike Harris and Ernie Eves, when they were in opposition, defended the rights of the opposition and used the rules to their full advantage when they believed it was necessary to slow down the passage of controversial legislation; and

"Whereas the Mike Harris government now wishes to reduce the amount of time that MPPs will have to debate the important issues of the day; and

"Whereas the Mike Harris government, through its proposed rule changes, is attempting to diminish the role of elected members of the Legislative Assembly who are accountable to the people who elect them, and instead concentrate power in the Premier's office in the hands of people who are not elected officials;

"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly to reject these proposed draconian rule changes and restore rules which promote rigorous debate on contentious issues and hold the government accountable to the people of Ontario."

I affix my signature to this petition, as I am in full agreement with its contents.

REPORTS BY COMMITTEES

STANDING COMMITTEE ON THE LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY


Mr Joseph N. Tascona (Simcoe Centre): I beg leave to present the final report on referenda of the standing committee on the Legislative Assembly.

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ORDERS OF THE DAY

COMPREHENSIVE ROAD SAFETY ACT, 1997 / LOI DE 1997 SUR UN ENSEMBLE COMPLET DE MESURES VISANT LA SÉCURITÉ ROUTIÈRE

Mr Palladini moved third reading of the following bill:

Bill 138, An Act to promote road safety by increasing periods of suspension for Criminal Code convictions, impounding vehicles of suspended drivers, requiring treatment for impaired drivers, raising fines for driving while suspended, impounding critically defective commercial vehicles, creating an absolute liability offence for wheel separations, raising fines for passing stopped school buses, streamlining accident reporting requirements and amending other road safety programs / Projet de loi 138, Loi visant à favoriser la sécurité routière en augmentant les périodes de suspension pour les déclarations de culpabilité découlant du Code criminel, en mettant en fourrière les véhicules de conducteurs faisant l'objet d'une suspension, en exigeant le traitement des conducteurs en état d'ébriété, en augmentant les amendes pour conduite pendant que son permis est suspendu, en mettant en fourrière les véhicules utilitaires comportant des défauts critiques, en créant une infraction entraînant la responsabilité absolue en cas de détachement des roues, en augmentant les amendes pour dépassement d'un autobus scolaire arrêté, en simplifiant les exigences relatives à la déclaration des accidents et en modifiant d'autres programmes de sécurité routière.


Hon Al Palladini (Minister of Transportation): I seek unanimous consent that my time be split with the member for Mississauga South.

The Acting Speaker (Ms Marilyn Churley): Is that agreed? Agreed.

Hon Mr Palladini: Four weeks ago, June 5, we were here for second reading of the Comprehensive Road Safety Act, 1997, a bill that targets some of the worst offenders on our roads. Since then we have gone to the standing committee on social development and we have heard from the public, giving them their opportunity to have their say about the bill.

I am pleased that we are now in a position to proceed with this much-needed legislation. What makes this bill so powerful is the support it has from organizations such as the Canadian Automobile Association, the Canadian Industrial Transportation League, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, the Ontario Medical Association, the Addiction Research Foundation, the general public and even CRASH. I have also heard rumours that the opposition are going to be in favour of this bill.

I appreciate that most of these groups made suggestions on how we could improve the bill. In our efforts on road safety, we are listening and we will keep those good ideas in mind as we implement and come forward with more road safety initiatives in the future. I assure you we will.

Everyone wants the same thing: safer roads. With this legislation we will do that by targeting drinking drivers, suspended drivers, unsafe trucking companies and people who pass stopped school buses.

We are addressing the problem of drinking drivers by providing mandatory education and/or treatment programs that will be paid for by the offender, not the taxpayers. In addition, new fines for driving while suspended will come into effect. They will start at $5,000 and can go as high as $50,000. Fines for a repeat offender will start at $10,000.

Minimum fines for driving while suspended for non-Criminal-Code offences will be doubled, and $2,000 on a second offence. Fines for driving while suspended for Criminal Code offences will range from $5,000 to $50,000. Drinking and driving offences will be kept on a record for a minimum of 10 years, up from five.

We are addressing the problem of repeat offenders. Second-time offenders will be suspended for three years, up from two. A third-time offender must have ignition interlock installed and successfully complete a remedial treatment program. Fourth-time offenders will never get a driver's licence in the province of Ontario ever again.

We are addressing the problem of people who choose to drive while under a Criminal Code suspension. If caught, the vehicle they are driving will be impounded for 45 days. The impoundment period doubles to 90 days if any vehicle owned by that same person is caught being driven a second time by a suspended driver. The impoundment period jumps to 180 days for a third offence.

This is the toughest drinking and driving package in Canada, and will go a long way in reducing the number of collisions, the number of deaths and the uncountable tears that have been caused by an impaired driver.

I think everyone in this House would agree that we could not have come this far without the inspiration and encouragement of the member for Mississauga South, who has made this issue her personal mission for many years. Thank you, Margaret. I know this is a proud day for her. At the same time, I also know she is far from finished with this issue and will keep fighting until drinking and driving is ended in Ontario.

With this legislation we will target unsafe trucks. Ontario will become the first jurisdiction in North America to impound unsafe trucks for a critical defect for 15 days. I've returned with the Wheel Safety Act, which makes wheel separation an absolute liability offence with fines that range from $2,000 to $50,000, the highest in North America.

We are focusing on school bus safety. Anyone caught passing a school bus will face fines that have doubled to a maximum of $2,000 on a first offence and $4,000 on a second or subsequent offence. This initiative was inspired by the member for Essex-Kent and his private member's bill. I congratulate him again on his efforts.

Thanks to the member for St Catharines-Brock, we have taken school bus safety one step further by requiring school buses to stop at all railway crossings. I also congratulate him on his private member's bill.

I am glad we've had the opportunity to incorporate two good ideas from private members into this legislation.

Road safety is everyone's responsibility. I thank the members of this House for their support and for the speedy passage of this bill. This could not have happened without their cooperation, and I want to thank them very, very much.

With this legislation we will be removing some of the worst offenders from our roads, and that will result in a reduction in the number of collisions and deaths on our highways. That is exactly what we set out to do when we first unveiled Ontario's plan for road safety back in October 1995.

I would like again to thank all the members of this Legislature for sharing this particular day and making this bill a reality.


Mrs Margaret Marland (Mississauga South): This is a very special day in my service for the last 12 years in this Legislature. It wouldn't have happened that we would all be here today to vote unanimously in support of Bill 138 without Minister of Transportation Al Palladini's shared commitment to supporting the initiatives to stop the killing on our roads.

For me it's been almost four years in coming. Obviously I'm full of gratitude and appreciation today that we are finally going to pass Bill 138, which incorporates all of the intent of my first private member's bill, which was introduced in this House in the fall of 1994, and then I reintroduced the same bill with a few minor changes in the spring of 1996.

Having travelled this province and done a great number of open-line radio shows and television shows across the province, I've been able to get a tremendous amount of feedback from the general public about what they really feel about people who knowingly drink and then knowingly drive. This bill isn't about criticizing people who choose to drink; that's a private, individual choice. But it's very much a bill about people who, having drunk, then knowingly drive, because that's no longer a private affair. When drunk drivers take to our roads and streets and highways, it becomes immediately a public issue and a public responsibility.

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I'm very proud of Mr Palladini having the courage and the conviction to bring forward this very tough legislation. Frankly, there were times when I was bringing forward my private member's bill dealing with the subject that some of these measures which we are about to vote on unanimously today I was discouraged from incorporating in my private bill. I was told: "You'll never get all-party support. It's too stiff. It's too tough. It just goes too far." Fortunately, it obviously doesn't go too far, because everyone in this chamber agrees it's what we need at this point.

The interesting thing about the subject of drunk driving I think is that in the overall incidence of drunk driving in the last decade we have had a decline, but we have had an increase in the number of those people who drive drunk more than once. So it is the repeat convictions that we are going to try to deter and eventually stop completely with this kind of legislation.

When we introduced the legislation last -- well, it was proclaimed on November 28 last year, which was one part of my bill, the administrative driver's licence suspension, the automatic suspension on being charged: not on being convicted, but on being charged with impaired driving. The amazing thing is we've had now over 10,000 people, just from last November, charged with impaired driving and their licence being automatically suspended for 90 days.

I think what that tells us is that we have, at any time in this province, far, far too many people who drive drunk, because to have stopped, arrested and charged over 10,000 people tells you the amount of police, the deployment of personnel it has taken to accomplish that. What that really tells us is that this is a far bigger problem than we ever really know because we simply don't have the police personnel to do all the RIDE program inspections that we could do and have even greater numbers of charges.

Today is a victory for everyone in this chamber who is going to get an opportunity to vote for Bill 138, but indeed it's a far greater victory for those families who have lost loved ones to the drunk driver. Even recently, just this past holiday weekend, three more people were killed in this province in the last three days by drunk drivers. This bill will go a long, long way, as I said, to stop the killing.

When we talk about drunk driving, that's what we do: We usually talk about fatalities. We don't talk about the families for whom lives are changed permanently, for the rest of their lives, people who are put in wheelchairs, people who lose their opportunity to earn a living because they can no longer physically manoeuvre their torn, ravaged bodies from the injuries sustained from drunk driving.

As I stand today, as I say, it's a tremendous privilege to speak on behalf of all those families for whom the subject of drunk driving means one word in their lives, and that word is "horror." For one of those families, the mother is here this afternoon. In her case, the drunk driving was never proven about the person who killed her son. In fact, that driver was never even charged with drunk driving in that particular incident. But in that particular woman's driving history, there was no question she had already killed someone else; she had put someone else in a wheelchair for life. And in an accident which she caused -- and she was charged I think only with dangerous driving in the end -- she killed Warren Lavery.

I'm very grateful that Mrs Janetta Lavery has the courage to be here today because I'm only the person who's had the privilege of trying to resolve this issue, at least partway, for all those families. We simply hope and pray that with the passage of this legislation today we will be able to reduce the number of deaths, the number of people who are injured, and hopefully in the long run help those people who still don't understand that not only is drunk driving a Criminal Code offence, but they have a huge responsibility. If they don't have responsibility to themselves, they have a huge responsibility to the rest of society.

On behalf of all those families who have hoped always there would be tougher legislation in this Legislature and in this province, I'm very grateful to everyone who will be supporting this bill today. As I say, it's certainly the most meaningful thing that's ever happened in my 24 years in politics to have my private member's bill on this subject incorporated in the government bill. I feel very strongly about the fact that we are all on the right track and we are all doing this together. It's not one individual; it's not even just one government. It's been coming for a long time, and now we're going to have the toughest legislation in Canada and it will be among some of the toughest legislation in North America.

I thank everybody from the bottom of my heart.


The Acting Speaker: Questions or comments? Further debate?

Mr Dwight Duncan (Windsor-Walkerville): I will be sharing my time with the member for Renfrew North and the member for St Catharines.

The Acting Speaker: Is that agreed? Agreed.

Mr Duncan: Indeed it is good to be here today passing this bill at long last. Before I get into the substance of the bill, I'd like to comment about the process that's happened here.

We had our first truck safety bill in February, a bill that was, according to the minister, tough, and he was going to get tough on trucks. He said they wanted to pass that bill right away. Day after day went by and the bill wasn't passed. Then, lo and behold, the Premier said, and was quoted as saying, the bill was too draconian and we would do a more comprehensive bill in the fall. Public reaction was swift and furious that despite its commitments, despite the fact that it had a bill on the order paper, the government was backing off.

No one could quite understand why, least of all the families of a number of victims of flying truck wheels. Had it not been for their passion and their ferocity, I doubt very much that we'd be standing here today. I don't discount the government's desire to do a bill, but I suspect it would have been much later and would have needed even more improvements than we believe it needs today.

We could have passed this bill last Thursday. We could have done it, just as we're doing it today. Instead, a government that is intent on changing the rules of the Legislature insisted on bringing us back here at a cost of about $2 million. Those were the numbers the government members were throwing out in other debates. This government could have done it last Thursday, but instead, two million bucks, just like that.

I must tell you that it is good to see the government House leader and the Minister of Transportation bonding again, because obviously they had quite a falling out last week. Why? Because the Minister of Transportation saw the folly in it himself of not doing this last Thursday, instead racking up a bill of $2 million so that the government could jam its new rules through this House and effectively curtail democracy in the Legislature. It's a shame that the government doesn't apply to itself the same standards it applies to everybody else: $2 million, poof, gone like that. Why? Because the government House leader, in a fit of pique, would not bring forward this bill, much to the chagrin of the Minister of Transportation.

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But we on this side of the House understand full well why: because this government's priority is shutting down debate. It's not about truck safety, it's not about ensuring that we deal with matters expeditiously, because had they really meant that, we wouldn't be here today. We would have done the truck safety bill. Instead, the members opposite prefer to spend millions of taxpayers' dollars so they can stifle debate.

It's absolutely shameless that government ministers like the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing would laugh about $2 million. I suppose we have to discuss his ethical dilemma later today, so I imagine in that regard it's probably money well spent. I say to the government members that you have argued in the past about how much it costs to run this place when we want to debate something, but I'll tell you, when you don't want to talk about something, it's easy to shut it down. That's what your rules were all about and that's why it's a shame that this bill had to wait till today. I could understand why the Minister of Transportation was visibly and publicly angered last week, because we believe he is genuine in his commitment. We saw that minister go through the trial and tribulation of having first the Premier cut the legs out from under him and then the government House leader.

But here we are back today, and now I'd like to turn my attention to a bill we will support. As I said in committee hearings, we support it recognizing that on a scale of 1 to 10, this bill is probably a 7.5. But we proposed a number of amendments to the bill and I'd like to remind the government of those amendments, and I'd like to remind the public that this bill, while it's an important first step particularly in the area of drunk driving -- in fact it's probably a giant step in the area of drunk driving -- there are a lot of things missing from the bill.

For instance, the official opposition made a motion that an advisory board with a sunset clause be appointed to oversee the implementation of all the recommendations in Target '97. What did the government do? Voted it down. It would have been very easy to do. It would have given the public assurance that those recommendations, that those regulatory changes that need to be implemented to deal with the broad range of safety issues, actually happen. I say to the minister and to the government members that we will be watching, we will be following, and every time you fail to move expeditiously, we will remind you and remind the public that you have not yet dealt with the vast majority of recommendations that come out of both Target '97 and the Worona inquest.

The members of the government also had a chance to pass an amendment to this bill which would have brought Ontario's road safety standards and the parameters around those standards in closer sync with other provinces and the national government. The government has argued that this is the toughest bill. In terms of drunk driving, they're accurate. In terms of road safety, we're on the way. But it won't be the toughest until we do the regulatory changes, and those do not require the consent of the Legislature through a bill to do.

We gave the government an opportunity to pass an amendment to the bill that would see the government no longer do business with companies with bad safety records. The government refused to pass that amendment, and we hope that future bills will include that. In fact, we will bring those amendments forward in two years and we will strengthen the Highway Traffic Act to make it better, to make it stronger, to raise this bill from a 7 or a 7.5 out of 10 to a 10 out of 10.

We talked about a graduated licensing system. We in committee, I think on all sides of the House, were surprised to learn how relatively easy it is to get a licence to drive one of those large carrier trucks. I think we were all surprised by that. We brought forward amendments to this bill that were ruled out of order because they deal with another bill. We say that had the government really been intent on comprehensive legislation, we could have dealt with that aspect of road safety as well.

We talked a great deal about the time periods for reinstatement of licence suspensions for drunk driving. We proposed a slightly tougher version in terms of the lockout devices, in terms of the suspensions, in terms of when licences could be renewed, and the government in turn defeated those.

There were a number of issues, a number of items left out of this bill that would have made it in our view a stronger bill, that would have made it in our view the kind of bill that would not require us in two years -- and we will reopen this in two years -- to have to go back and make more amendments.

There were a number of other less significant amendments that the official opposition proposed and we did so in good faith.

With respect to bus safety, I think the role of my colleague the member for Essex-Kent, Mr Hoy, was noted by the minister, and I want to pay tribute to him especially, but I'd also like to point out to the minister who referenced Mr Hoy's bill that you only got it half right. You've got the fines in it but you didn't deal with the key issue, the essential issue of liability, the same type of vehicular liability we see in other Ontario statutes, as was so well pointed out by my colleague from Essex-Kent.

We have here a bill, a piece of legislation that will contribute to improved road safety. It's a shame that we couldn't do it last week. It's a shame that we had to call the House back at considerable expense to taxpayers because the government saw as a greater priority the need to deal with rule changes in the Legislature. There are members opposite who probably feel that they'd rather deal with rule changes, they'd rather have less debate. They're not interested in talking about issues. We wanted to talk about Bill 138 last week, they wouldn't, but here we are today prepared to support this bill, the first time I believe the official opposition supported a government bill.

We're glad for the families that forced the government to deal with this; we're glad that the confusion is ending. We're sorry that these provisions weren't in place last week, we're sorry it took all kinds of prodding, we're sorry that the minister had to endure what he endured both from his Premier and then his House leader, but we think it's time to get on with it. We'll be voting for this bill, and when we get the chance in two years we'll strengthen it so that road safety truly is the strongest it can be in Ontario and stronger than it is anywhere in North America.

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Mr Sean G. Conway (Renfrew North): I rise today to support Bill 138, the Comprehensive Road Safety Act. I'd like to make some observations in that connection. I share with my colleague from Windsor some of the concerns about what's not in the bill because there was a great deal of testimony offered at the standing committee which, as my colleague Mr Duncan has just indicated, is not reflected in this particular piece of legislation. But as Mrs Marland indicated in her remarks, there is I believe unanimous support for the bill as presented. It will remain for later days, I suppose, to improve upon Bill 138, to make the necessary amendments to improve what is clearly not a perfect piece of government legislation.

On the drinking and driving aspect, who could be opposed? I know only too well from personal experience in my own family about the tragedies involved with drinking and driving, I'm sorry to say on both sides of that equation. I have a first cousin who is brain-injured today because of a terrible accident up in Haliburton 10 years ago where, as I recall, it was a drunk driver who hit and killed two students. My cousin was not killed but will go through the rest of her life very seriously impaired as a result of that accident.

You can't have been around this Legislature as long as I have and not have some understanding of the problems and the pressures associated with drunk driving. For as long as I've been here it's been a concern. Continuously we have talked and we have legislated and we have increased the penalties. We're doing so again in Bill 138. I support that.

In supporting it, I'm under no illusions about the frailty of humankind. It is really distressing to me that some people today still don't get the message. I hope the substantially increased sanctions in Bill 138 get through to those people.

We have made a great deal of progress. I grew up in rural eastern Ontario in the 1960s. I don't want to tell you about just how bad it was. We've come a long way. For that, a lot of people -- educators, politicians, police forces, parents, everybody -- can take their share of the credit. We have made very substantial progress.

Just how much work is yet to be done can be tragically told today on the basis of an incredible, a grotesque incident that occurred in my part of eastern Ontario on the weekend, and I'm sorry the Solicitor General is not here.

A wonderful young man whom I did not know but who is a constituent of my colleague the member for Cornwall, David Primeau by name, 31 years of age, married, one child and a wife who is about to deliver their second child; I think the child has now been born. David Primeau wanted to be a police officer, and for reasons I can't recall wasn't able to do so, but was as of last weekend employed as a civilian with the Brockville police department.

Last Friday he was working on a drunk driving abatement program, a public information program, at the Riverfest in Brockville. He left; he went home. He lives just west of Cornwall. Later that day, Friday, he was hit and killed instantly while on his bicycle by someone who, according to the Brockville and the Cornwall papers -- I've got the Cornwall Standard-Freeholder in front of me. The report in the Standard-Freeholder is that the accused was thought to have been under the influence. That's the charge. Can you imagine, on the eve of passing this legislation, that a wonderful young man in this province who surely must have been anticipating Bill 138 because he was at the Brockville Riverfest on Friday talking about the importance of cleaning up our act -- stop drinking and driving. Having done that at work all day -- and according to the Brockville police chief, he was an exemplary citizen and member of the Brockville police force, civilian side -- to be killed Friday night by allegedly someone under the influence is just a tragic and painful reminder of what is still out there.

I'm not a psychiatrist, I'm not a psychologist, and I don't expect perfection. God forbid that I should expect perfection in humankind. That incident happened in our province just a few days ago. He was buried yesterday in Cornwall. And I'm sorry to say that friends, acquaintances, still through these mid and late years of this decade sometimes feel free to drink and drive.

I want to say to the minister, I know of his commitment and his dedication to this. But I'll tell you, when I look at the Loranger case in Ottawa, a police officer of, what, 18 months ago -- I didn't bring the file with me, but in that case there was some concern. There was a fatality. So we've got a lot of work to do yet.

I want to say quickly I support the penalties, though I come from rural Ontario. There is no Mississauga Transit in rural Renfrew. There is no York regional transit, there is no TTC, there is no OC Transpo. Most of this province is today urban and suburban. There is some measure of public transit. If you live in La Passe or Westmeath or Palmer Rapids or Wilno or Bissett Creek in my county, there is no public transit. Your car and your half-ton truck, as the member for Huron would know as well as I, is absolutely essential to your economic livelihood.

I know members will say, "Let that be a good warning to people before they think about drinking and driving," and I agree with that sentiment. But there are hundreds of thousands of people in this province who live in purely rural environments. There is no TTC; there is no OC Transpo. I hear from police officers and officers of the court that that rural reality sometimes causes some behaviour that nobody wants to support and quite frankly most of us don't even want to acknowledge exists.

I want to say something about highway maintenance, and I don't want to be too judgemental or censorious, I say to my friend the minister of highways, wearing a radioactive tie this afternoon. The tie is almost as radioactive as he was here last Wednesday when the government House leader told him that his beloved bill might take second fiddle to the House rules. I'm not here to talk about that today.

There is something going on on the highways. We are seeing altogether too many flying truck wheels. The incidence of this kind of flying truck wheel is obviously going up and going up sharply. I've got correspondence from constituents of mine. I'll just simply cite one. I received a letter this spring, in February, from a Mrs Patricia Brisson from RR 3, Cobden, and she talks at some length about her concerns --


Mr Gilles Bisson (Cochrane South): Is that my cousin?

Mr Conway: It may be, I say to the member from Cochrane. Quoting her letter, "My husband has been a truck driver for over 30 years." She's been talking to him about his concerns and she says in her letter to me that there is something going on. Is it deregulation? Maybe. Is it just a lower standard of maintenance? Maybe. I don't know what the reasons are, but something is going on that is not in the public interest.

I'm selfish in this respect. I live on the highways of Ontario. I've said before, I drive something in the order of 90,000 kilometres a year and I've done that for 22 and a half years of my life. I get worried, and I have been more worried in recent months than I had been 10 or 15 years ago because you hear these stories -- and it's happening in my own constituency. We've had a couple of incidents in the Ottawa Valley just this winter and spring with tires flying off. Fortunately no one was hurt. So it is a very real concern, not just here in the Golden Horseshoe but throughout the province.

I want to take my seat by making the point that I believe there are a number of factors. I do think maintenance is a problem and it has to be addressed. I observed that twice this winter, once with an OPP vehicle just a few weeks ago, and once with an MTO snowplow up in the Sault Ste Marie area in the winter, two government vehicles, or vehicles working in the employ of the Ontario government, lost their wheels.

So I say to the minister, we as government and as legislators must be concerned about that. If government of Ontario snowplows are losing their wheels up in the Sault Ste Marie area, we just better be a little careful about the moralizing that we offer to the private sector or to others. If the OPP vehicles start to lose their tires, it doesn't look very good on the enforcement side, does it? So I think there is a problem with maintenance. I think there is a growing problem with highway etiquette. I think there's a problem with training. As I think my friend from Walkerville pointed out, we don't really have the highest standards before we qualify people to ride the freeways with these huge rigs. I think that's something that's got to be looked at, and I know it was raised in the standing committee.

Let me say finally that highway maintenance in some parts of this province is clearly a part of the problem. I'll tell you, if over the last few winters you've been driving a truck through Algonquin Park, Highway 60 from Whitney to the west gate, and lots of my constituents earn their living by doing that, the road has been a mess. At 5 o'clock in the morning, some truck driver's trying to make his way from a sawmill in Madawaska to a processing plant up in Huntsville or Timiskaming or Quebec and you have to face that spectacle. It is not a pretty sight, and that's our responsibility. Highway 17, between Deep River and Mattawa, with those incredibly rugged hills up through Bissett Creek and Deux-Rivières, has been below standard. Privately, the MTO people who work on that and who are very hardworking people, have told me so.

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Our standards have been dropping and it's helping to create this problem. I won't quote, but the Eganville Leader of February 25, 1997, has an editorial under the title of "Horrendous." They talk about winter highway maintenance through some other parts of Renfrew county. That's our responsibility.

This is a big province in a big country. The tyranny of distance is always with us in a country where five or six months of the year is winter. I say to the minister and to the government that we have some responsibilities that we have not been discharging, I believe, to an adequate degree.

Yes, I support Bill 138. Yes, I have some reservations. And yes, I expect to see, if for no other reason than for the memory of David Primeau, that we are going to improve our performance to ensure that some of these issues get addressed, not just in a debate today when everybody's looking, but tomorrow, next winter and the next decade.


Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): I want to take a very brief moment to simply indicate, along with my friend the member for Algoma, I'm sure, that this is how the Legislature can work when there's consensus on a piece of legislation.

Second reading was limited to, I think, one day at most. Third reading is being limited to less than a day. Committee hearings were expedited, although they were full enough that we had interesting debate there and amendments put forward by my colleague the member for Windsor-Walkerville and others.

I want to say that the cooperation has been there from the opposition throughout. I want to express sympathy with the Minister of Transportation, without trying to cause problems for him. His patience has been a virtue because, as my friend from Algoma and I have noted, this legislation could have been through much before this if the government was more interested in this legislation than in shoving its rule changes through.

I saw the other night genuine anger in the voice and the face of the Minister of Transportation, with justification. He is anxious, as we are, to get this bill through. The good news is that it is going to go through this afternoon and it has been a high priority for all of us. It has many components that are going to be helpful, including some of the suggestions made by my friend Pat Hoy, the member for Essex-Kent, and the bill which was proposed by Dwight Duncan, the member for Windsor-Walkerville, which is now contained in certain parts in this legislation as well.

So this is a good afternoon for the Legislature in this regard. I look forward to my friend from Cochrane South adding his comments to this debate as well.


Mr Bisson: Since there is unanimous consent to get this bill passed, I am going to try not to take too much time. Unfortunately, far more time was taken earlier, cutting in on my time, so I will try to be as succinct as I can.

Let me start off this debate by saying what a difference a day makes. Last week we had the opportunity to bring what was a bill that had all-party support before this Legislature, a bill that members of this assembly from all parties had decided was a priority to be passed for the people of Ontario, a government with a majority on the other side of the House, and this government couldn't get a bill through the House to which there was unanimous consent and all-party support.

It makes you wonder where the government House leader is at and how capable the government House leader is of running this House. I have always understood, being in this Legislature for a while, that normally the way things work is that when you get to the end of a session, those bills that have that kind of support -- private members' bills or even government bills, for that matter -- are dealt with in a very quick manner on the last day of the session.

For whatever reason -- I suspect partly because of the rule changes, but also I'm beginning to suspect because of a lack of understanding of how this House is supposed to run -- this government House leader, Mr Johnson, in my view, was very inept in being able to deal with a bill that had support from all sides of the House. In fact, our NDP House leader, the member for Algoma, had to work with the Minister of Transportation to lobby the government House leader to find a way to get this bill passed. We from the New Democratic Party, as well as the Minister of Transportation, in fairness to him, along with the member for Mississauga South understood that this is a bill that is very important to the people of this province. We're talking about people's lives when it comes to drunk driving. We're talking about people's lives when it comes to truck safety. For whatever reason, the government House leader really had difficulty coming to terms with how to get a bill through the House that has all-party support. You've really got to give your head a shake and wonder where the House leader is when it comes to being able to pass legislation through this House.

The other thing I want to say very quickly, and I want to say this directly to the Minister of Transportation -- it was touched on earlier by the member for St Catharines -- is that this goes to show that when the government decides they want to do something positive, we, the members of the opposition, either in the New Democratic Party or in the Liberal Party, are prepared to work with this government to pass what we think is fair and just legislation. The Minister of Transportation in this particular case, maybe slowly, maybe ineptly, maybe a whole bunch of things, in the end brought forward a piece of legislation that doesn't go as far as I think all of us would like it to go but certainly takes a big step forward when it comes to drunk driving and takes a positive step forward when it comes to truck safety legislation.

The point I want to make here is that whenever the government of Ontario, led by Mike Harris, wants to come to this House and pass progressive legislation, you will be able to count on the members of the NDP -- I can't speak for the Liberals, but I'm certain they're the same -- to work with you to pass what is positive legislation.

Unfortunately this government, on balance, is passing legislation that I and other members of this assembly, and I would even say to a certain extent some members on the government side, have difficulty supporting: rule changes; the megacity bill, Bill 103; the merger of the school boards, Bill 104; the WCB bill; the dismantling of rent control. The litany of bad legislation goes on, and on those we will fight you head to head. We will do what we have to do within the NDP caucus to make sure that the people of Ontario are heard and that we try to find a way to amend what this government is doing so that at least it is somewhat palatable and livable for the people of this province.

But when you're ready to come forward with what we consider to be positive legislation, we will be there and we will not play politics with that issue.

I want to say to the minister again -- I've said this at committee and I'll say it here again -- we know that the government took some positive steps last year to work with the industry to formulate a number of recommendations that are called Target '97. Within Target '97, an industry-ministry task force that was brought together, they looked at the issues of truck safety. They have identified a number of initiatives that can be moved on by this government both by way of legislation and by way of regulation to deal with truck safety in a comprehensive way. This bill doesn't do this. However, it does have two initiatives within it that are positive. It deals with at least one of the issues contained in the recommendations of Target '97. With regard to the flying truck wheel legislation, I think the government may be trying to deal with that issue in a little bit of a political way, but none the less they're trying to deal with it.

The point I make is this: Don't think for one second, Minister of Transportation, that you can now go away and not worry about truck safety legislation. You know and I know that we have a problem on our roads because of what's happened in the industry. We have an industry that has been deregulated, an industry in which there is severe competition. In order to find a way to compete with each other, they're cutting in some cases on safety and that's affecting the conditions of our highways and affecting the safety of the motorists of this province. You, as the Minister of Transportation, have a responsibility, as I do, as NDP critic for transportation, to make sure that we try to deal with how to fix the mess that deregulation has brought in. There have been some positive sides to deregulation. No question when it comes to the shippers, the customers of the trucking industry, they have saved money as far as costs are concerned, but when it comes to safety, there has been a real problem as far as the deteriorating level of safety in the industry is concerned.

There are a number of recommendations within Target '97 that you can move on by way of regulation, about another 30% to 40% that you need to deal with by way of legislation, and I expect you, as Minister of Transportation, to come back this fall with comprehensive truck safety legislation, something you promised us you were going to do all the way back to about two months ago. I'm not going to go through the history of Bill 125 and the history of how the Premier had promised, along with the Minister of Transportation, that we were going to have comprehensive truck safety legislation, but I will just say this: You know, Minister, and I know this ain't it. This is not comprehensive truck safety legislation. There are still 78 recommendations within Target '97 that need to be dealt with.

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The other point I want to make is, as you move forward, if you do -- because my suspicion is your government House leader is not going to give you the time in this assembly to deal with yet more truck safety legislation. I hope I'm wrong, but I believe the government House leader has basically given you your day in the House and it'll be a pretty difficult task for the Minister of Transportation to come back to this House yet again with more legislation.

But if you do, make sure the public is involved. One of the problems we had under Target '97, the scope of the people who participated in Target '97 did not include some of the public stakeholders and other stakeholders who could have been at the table in order to strengthen the process. We say to the Minister of Transportation, look at the recommendations of Target '97 closely. You know what they are. Work with industry, the public, ourselves and others in order to figure out what are the best ways to bring forward legislation, which are the best ways to deal with regulation, and let's move forward in order to make our highways safer for the people of this province.

I say what we need to do is basically two things: We need to make sure that we change, yes, the culture of the industry so that safety is paramount. Although there are some trucking companies out there that are trying to do a really good job of truck safety, there are some bad apples in the bunch and we need to get at those. Work with us and others within the transportation industry in order to make that happen.

The other thing that we need to recognize is that trucks are not big cars. We have to come to terms with the fact that we have vehicles on our roads that are weighing as much as 120,000 pounds and we need to treat those vehicles much differently than we treat a car, and we need to have legislation and regulations that realize all of that.

In the last minute that I have, I will just say --


Mr Len Wood (Cochrane North): Why didn't they bring this one last week?

Mr Bisson: That was going to be my closing comment. The last comment I make, and I want the minister to remember, is that all parties at the committee level have passed a motion that basically says we have the right to call the minister or his appointee back to a committee within 12 months in order to look at progress made on the issue of truck safety.

I hold you to your word. I hold you to the word of the parliamentary assistant and others who have promised that you're going to come back with both legislation and regulations within a short period of time. We were told six months in the committee. I doubt you're going to be able to hold to that, but if there's anything we can do or that I can do as critic to help you once again to try to convince your House leader to take this issue seriously, I will be there to assist you because I believe in the end what's important is the whole issue of making sure that the public is safe.

I will close by saying what a difference 24 hours make. Last week, the government didn't see its way fit to passing what was a bill that had all-party support and it took, unfortunately, a lot of convincing on the part of my House leader and the Minister of Transportation to the government House leader to get him to understand how important this issue is to the motoring public.


Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): Just very briefly. I want to say, as someone who is very concerned about automobile safety on the highways, I think it's unfortunate that this government has turned what could have been an all-party effort to move forward in a concerted manner into a bit of a farce.

The fact is that last Thursday this bill was not a government priority. Changing the rules of the House was the government priority. Then on Friday suddenly it was an emergency and we had to come back here this week to do it when in fact we spent a whole lot of time on Thursday evening arguing with the government House leader to try and persuade him to bring this bill in for debate.

The government has demonstrated, I guess beyond any shadow of a doubt, that for everyone except the Minister of Transportation on that side, or almost everyone, road safety isn't a priority. Changing the rules of the House is far more important.


The Acting Speaker: Questions or comments? Further debate? Seeing none, would the minister like to wrap up?

Interjections.


The Acting Speaker: Order, please, member for Algoma.

Hon Mr Palladini: I certainly would like to once again express my gratitude to all the members of this House for their support on this bill. I think we've gone through a learning experience and we're going to continue to learn. I have listened very carefully to what the members have said in this House today about some of the things that maybe we should consider doing and some of the things we haven't considered doing. Certainly, you have my commitment to make safety very much a priority in Ontario. I look for your help and support and suggestions on how we can work together and realize the safest roads in North America. Thank you all again for your support.

The Acting Speaker: Mr Palladini has moved third reading of Bill 138. Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.

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


Hon David Johnson (Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet, Government House Leader): Madam Speaker, Her Honour awaits.

Her Honour the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario entered the chamber of the Legislative Assembly and took her seat upon the throne.

ROYAL ASSENT / SANCTION ROYALE


Hon Hilary Weston (Lieutenant Governor): Pray be seated.

The Acting Speaker (Ms Marilyn Churley): May it please Your Honour, the Legislative Assembly of the province has, at its present meeting thereof, passed a certain bill to which, in the name of and on behalf of the said Legislative Assembly, I respectfully request Your Honour's assent.

Clerk Assistant (Ms Deborah Deller): The following is the title of the bill to which Your Honour's assent is prayed:

Bill 138, An Act to promote road safety by increasing periods of suspension for Criminal Code convictions, impounding vehicles of suspended drivers, requiring treatment for impaired drivers, raising fines for driving while suspended, impounding critically defective commercial vehicles, creating an absolute liability offence for wheel separations, raising fines for passing stopped school buses, streamlining accident reporting requirements and amending other road safety programs / Projet de loi 138, Loi visant à favoriser la sécurité routière en augmentant les périodes de suspension pour les déclarations de culpabilité découlant du Code criminel, en mettant en fourrière les véhicules de conducteurs faisant l'objet d'une suspension, en exigeant le traitement des conducteurs en état d'ébriété, en augmentant les amendes pour conduite pendant que son permis est suspendu, en mettant en fourrière les véhicules utilitaires comportant des défauts critiques, en créant une infraction entraînant la responsabilité absolue en cas de détachement des roues, en augmentant les amendes pour dépassement d'un autobus scolaire arrêté, en simplifiant les exigences relatives à la déclaration des accidents et en modifiant d'autres programmes de sécurité routière.


Clerk of the House (Mr Claude L. DesRosiers): In Her Majesty's name, the Honourable Lieutenant Governor doth assent to this bill.

Au nom de Sa Majesté, l'honorable lieutenante-gouverneure sanctionne ce projet de loi.

Her Honour was then pleased to retire.

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REPORT, INTEGRITY COMMISSIONER


Hon David Johnson (Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet, Government House Leader): I move government notice of motion number 29:

That the June 25, 1997, report of the Integrity Commissioner be referred to the standing committee on the Legislative Assembly, that the committee consider the report and respond directly to the Integrity Commissioner and that the committee be authorized to meet for two days before July 25, 1997, and that the committee present its report to the assembly on the first available day that reports by committees may be received.

I'm moving this motion in response to the June 25, 1997, report of the Integrity Commissioner and the ruling of the Speaker of that same day. I might also say that the Premier, in a statement to the House on June 25, also responded to the Integrity Commissioner's report, and on that same day a number of members of this House posed questions on the Integrity Commissioner's report which were responded to by the government.

The Premier explained that the Health Services Restructuring Commission was established in the first instance in an effort to remove partisan politics from the necessary and difficult process of health care restructuring. I suppose those who have been in the House for some period of time will know that there has been a concern with regard to elected representatives meddling or playing a high profile in terms of very sensitive health care issues, issues that require a great deal of expertise. The Health Services Restructuring Commission is composed of people with decades and decades of expertise in the health care field, more so, I suspect, than all the members of this House from all parties put together, and certainly are greatly respected for that expertise and their ability.

In response to the Integrity Commissioner's finding that the Health Services Restructuring Commission was a quasi-judicial body, the Premier has asked the Attorney General to meet with the Office of the Integrity Commissioner to clarify issues raised for the benefit of the ministers and the members of this Legislature. This clarification is required to ensure that we as ministers, and all members of this House, appropriately represent the interests of those who elected us.

Certainly this issue has raised the prospect that some members in the hospital community in the riding in question have applauded that certain initiatives were taken on their behalf. Many people do expect to be represented and to be spoken for as constituents, even though, as ministers and perhaps as members, there are restrictions on what we as members of this Legislature can do. This is a question that needs some clarification.

In an effort to support the ruling of the Integrity Commissioner and to obtain clarification on the ruling, the Attorney General has had some preliminary discussion with the commissioner. There may be some confusion over what constitutes "quasi-judicial" and how it applies to various boards and commissions. The commissioner at this point in time I believe is on vacation, but the work will continue with the Attorney General upon the return of the commissioner in July.

In the meantime, the motion I've tabled this afternoon for debate is an attempt to live up to the requirement of the Members' Integrity Act, which was introduced in 1994 -- I think that was when it was introduced -- specifically subsection 34(2). That states, "The assembly shall consider and respond to the report within 30 days after the day the report is laid before it." The motion under discussion would allow for two days of consideration by the standing committee of the Legislative Assembly before July 25, 1997, which is 30 days after the report has been laid before the Legislature.

It's also important to note that in his report of June 25 the Integrity Commissioner recommended that no penalty be imposed. Under the Members' Integrity Act, the Integrity Commissioner, upon finding a contravention of the legislation, can make one of four different recommendations: (1) that no penalty be imposed, (2) that the member be reprimanded, (3) that the member be suspended, and (4) the most serious one is that the member's seat would be declared vacant. Those are the four possible actions that could be recommended. In this case the commissioner recommended that no penalty be imposed. This is because the commissioner did find that the minister communicated with the chair of the Health Services Restructuring Commission "in good faith in the mistaken belief that he was entitled to do so."

Those are really all the comments I wanted to make about this particular matter. It is one the government takes seriously and I am very hopeful that allowing this motion for debate this afternoon and directing the matter to the Legislative Assembly committee will meet the test of the Members' Integrity Act. It shows commitment under the act, that the government takes the matter seriously.

I might add that the minister this afternoon has indicated his willingness to attend that particular committee and speak with the members of that particular committee. In that vein, I hope all the members of this House will be able to support the process we've put before the House, all three parties will be able to participate in that committee process and the members from all three parties will be able to support the motion I've laid before the House this afternoon.

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Ms Annamarie Castrilli (Downsview): This is not a happy occasion in this Legislature. It's the kind of occasion that legislators regret, and I among them. We're brought here together today because of the report of the Integrity Commissioner with respect to the member for St George-St David, the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. But we're all reminded of the fact that this is not the first time, not the second time, but indeed the third time this minister, this member, has been found wanting.

It behooves us all to remember what the integrity act is all about. In particular I want to read paragraph 4 of the preamble of the Members' Integrity Act: "Members are expected to act with integrity and impartiality that will bear the closest scrutiny." It is a very heavy burden on all of us. It is even more of a burden on ministers of the crown.

The particular instance we're considering today has to do with an action on the part of the minister with regard to the hospital restructuring commission and two hospitals which wanted additional time to present their case to the commission.

The response of the Integrity Commissioner to the request by the member for York South could not be more unequivocal if it tried. In fact, the minister was found in breach of the Members' Integrity Act. He was found to have violated section 4 of the act.

The government tried to bury this issue. The government tried to tie us up with debates on procedures and on rules. We are here today at great taxpayers' expense to consider an issue which we are bound to consider under the Members' Integrity Act. We have no choice but to review the report, to consider it and to respond to it, as required under the legislation.

This all really begins with a system created by this government which, at the very least, is unfair. It all begins with the infamous Bill 26, the bully bill, which sets up the hospital restructuring commission. Without understanding that context, you really cannot understand the point at which we got here.

If I may, Speaker, I'd like to ask for unanimous consent to split my time with the member for St Catharines and the member for York South.


The Acting Speaker (Mr Bert Johnson): The member for Downsview requests unanimous consent to split her time. Is it agreed? It is agreed.

Ms Castrilli: We all remember Bill 26. It's that piece of legislation that took away a great number of powers and concentrated them in the executive branch of this government. In particular, schedule F of that legislation, which deals with the functions of the hospital restructuring commission, sets up a commission which has wide powers to develop, establish and maintain an effective and adequate health care system and the restructuring of health care services provided in Ontario communities.

Furthermore, that particular commission is immune from any liability. It is largely unaccountable. There are no proceedings that can be brought against it as long as they act in good faith. Nevertheless, they can proceed with absolute immunity.

It has been argued by the House leader that there is some dispute as to whether the health restructuring committee is quasi-judicial or not. I think the response of the commissioner is very clear on that point. "Quasi-judicial" is not an equivocal term -- it is in fact a defined term in law -- and there is no dispute as to whether it is quasi-judicial or not.

The question then becomes, what should the minister have known? The minister made an error in good faith, but ignorance of the law is absolutely no excuse. It's even less of an excuse for a minister of the crown. For the minister or indeed the Premier or the House leader to plead that this was not a quasi-judicial body and that the error was committed in good faith is absolutely groundless. Even if there were grounds for supporting that proposition, I'm sure the Attorney General could counsel the Minister for Municipal Affairs and Housing and could instruct him on the fact that ignorance of the law is no excuse. You indeed should know that dictum.

What has the commission done so far? It has set about across the province indicating that it plans to restructure the way health services are governed. It's interesting, when you bring it down to Metro Toronto, the kinds of hospitals that are being slated for closure. They're not the big, mega-hospitals, not the hospitals that have wide, diversified systems. They are the community hospitals: Women's College Hospital, Doctors Hospital, Northwestern hospital, North York Branson. It's the smaller hospitals, largely very efficient hospitals.

In my own community of North York, North York Branson is one of those hospitals that has always managed its books very effectively. It provides high quality of service to its residents. It has a very large senior population, which could with great difficulty move out of the area. There are no hospitals in close proximity for that particular group. Therefore, there are decisions that have to be questioned, and citizens are rightly questioning those decisions.

That's not to mention going outside Metro to hospitals like Montfort, which is a ticking constitutional time bomb for this government if that decision should go ahead to close Montfort.

What it means for ordinary people is that the services they are accustomed to in their communities will no longer be there for basic health service for those who need it the most. That's basically what it means. It's no wonder that people are concerned and it is no wonder that people are trying to make some sense of this health restructuring commission and it's no wonder that the member for York South, seeing the kind of interference that was potentially taking place, asked for guidance as to whether this was acceptable behaviour.

It's also clear that other ministers of this government felt there was a difficulty in dealing with the commission directly. The Minister of Agriculture and Food in fact declined to interfere directly with the commission, saying he could not do that, he was not mandated to do that. The Integrity Commissioner himself has said that the appropriate mechanism would be to deal with the minister responsible, not to go beyond the minister to try to use one's position to influence the outcome of the commission's findings.

There is an arrogance to this government that we have seen throughout its mandate. It certainly began with Bill 26 and the sweeping away of some basic democratic rights, the concentration of important decisions with an executive branch which is not open for view, with no input from communities on very important subjects such as health care, which is what we're discussing here today. But there are others that are equally important: the megacity legislation, and here this minister as well has been involved; the megacity legislation in which 76% of the people who voted said they didn't want it -- absolutely ignored by this government, which decided to barrel it through despite the constant objections which still exist from the citizenry of the greater Metropolitan Toronto area.

There is hardly a group that hasn't been touched by the sweeping measures that this government has brought forth with very little consultation and with very little time to adjust to the kinds of changes being envisioned.

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I need only cite some very prominent ones in the labour field: Employment equity is a thing of the past, and women in particular in this province have struggled to earn the same wages as men and to be given the same opportunities, only to find that that particular law is out the window; labour rights; successor rights; the right to a decent compensation if you're injured at work.

It's been nurses and teachers and children and women. There isn't a group that hasn't been touched. For heaven's sake, you've changed the definition of "disabled" to ensure that fewer people could qualify for assistance even though they are in desperate need of assistance in this province.


Mrs Helen Johns (Huron): To ensure the right people get the funds.

Ms Castrilli: A member says you ensure the right people get the funds. I think it's how the government defines "right people" that's exactly the issue. Not just your friends are the right people; all kinds of people require help and assistance.

It's rather instructive to read the report of the commissioner with respect to the minister in question. He refers first of all to the fact that this isn't the first time the minister has been found wanting. He refers to an incident where he was also asked for his opinion and found that the minister's behaviour was inappropriate; where the minister's executive assistant dealt with a senior partner in a major law firm that was thinking of bringing litigation against the ministry, and lo and behold, the litigation did not go forward. The commissioner was sufficiently concerned about that to mention it in this particular report.

Then there was the case of the contempt motion on which the Speaker of this House had to rule. There again the minister was found to have exceeded his capacity.


Hon Al Leach (Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing): Want to read the decision of the House?

Ms Castrilli: I'd be happy to read you the decision of the Speaker of the House, which says quite clearly that the minister exceeded his authority by sending out information before the legislation had actually passed.

But the ultimate arrogance of this government was that when they finally were taken to court on the issue of trustees, what did this government have the nerve to argue in court? That they could implement legislation even before it was passed by this House. And why? Because they had the royal prerogative to do so. It's evident in the court cases that that's precisely what the Attorney General argued through his lawyers.

Can you imagine embarking into the 21st century in a democratic society, which we pride ourselves in having here in Ontario, with a government that has the gall to go into court and claim a right which has not been claimed since Charles I of England? By the way, I remind you that Charles I lost his head over it, as well as his throne. That is the kind of arrogance we see in this government and that is the kind of arrogance we see in this minister.

The Integrity Commissioner is quite right to come down very hard on this issue. He goes to great lengths to talk about the importance of ministerial responsibility. I'll quote some of the commissioner's response with respect to that, because he is very concerned about what it means to be a minister and the kind of onus it puts on a minister of the crown.

It is of no use for the House leader to say this was done in good faith and there was no penalty given. It's interesting that what the House leader did not mention in his speech to the House was the correspondence that took place subsequent to that, where my leader asked for clarification of what Judge Evans meant by "no penalty." Judge Evans said that in his opinion the recommendation that no penalty be imposed refers to the member's status as a member of the Legislative Assembly. He goes on: "Whether a member of the executive council remains in cabinet is not a matter for my office. It would not be correct to draw any inference that my recommendation that no penalty be imposed has any relationship to a member's status as a member of the executive council."

He therefore puts it right smack back into the Premier's court, and in some sense in the court of this assembly, to decide what penalty, if any, should be imposed. It does not mean that the minister is absolved of all liability. In fact, Mr Justice Evans goes to great lengths to say that Mr Leach has significant problems in dealing with his responsibilities as minister. If I might just quote that for you, Speaker, it says, "In my opinion, Mr Leach is having difficulty in adopting an attitude which is less confrontational, more consistent with his present office as a member of the executive council and more appreciative of the parliamentary conventions associated therewith."

I think that's pretty clear, that the minister has had considerable difficulty and that he does not take the responsibilities of his ministry seriously. In fact, it's consistent with the kind of top-down approach this government has had. They feel they can impose anything on anyone. This particular instance shows it very clearly once again.

There is the issue of whether acting in good will is a sufficient reason for excusing the minister. Once again the commissioner is very clear on that. He does not feel that this is any less reason for saying there is a breach. There's nothing in the act that says, "If it's an error in judgement, you are excused from complying with the act." Quite to the contrary. If you are found wanting, you are in breach, and that's precisely what the commissioner has found in this particular case.

It's kind of interesting that the judge in this case said the error in judgement is based on his limited experience in government. I'd like to comment by way of introducing a very interesting letter which was sent to the Globe and Mail on July 2, 1997. I just want you to hear what ordinary citizens think of this error in judgement, this lack of experience. It's a letter that comes from Norman Rosencwaig from Toronto. It's worthy of note:

"Referring to Mr Leach's breach of cabinet rules, Ontario's Integrity Commissioner stated that it `was an error in judgement, based on (Mr Leach's) limited experience in government.' Premier Mike Harris agrees. The Premier said, `In my opinion, we should accept the advice given from the Integrity Commissioner.' The `advice' the Premier accepts is based on the fact that Mr Leach has `limited experience.'

"How can Mr Leach have limited experience and be sufficiently competent to oversee some of the most dramatic and potentially devastating changes in Ontario history? I don't mind Mr Leach gaining experience in government. But couldn't he start with something small and work his way up? And can't Premier Harris find some competent person to fill an important cabinet position until Mr Leach has more experience?"

I think that's the voice of the people and nothing more needs to be added. The notion that the member has no experience is simply not to be believed.

Where do we go from here? The matter will be referred to a legislative committee, but let me say that there is a very strong convention in our parliamentary system that where a minister has been found wanting, the honourable thing is in fact to resign.

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If I may, I will quote one of the strongest authorities on parliamentary procedures and convention that we have in Canada, Senator Eugene Forsey. In his book The Question of Confidence in Responsible Government -- and that's really what we're talking about here, confidence and responsible government -- he states very clearly:

"Notwithstanding the pre-eminent place of the Prime Minister" -- in this case the Premier -- "in sustaining or sacrificing ministers under attack, there does seem to be a universal acceptance of the proposition that where personal culpability on the part of a minister is shown in the form of private or public conduct that is generally regarded as unbecoming and unworthy of a minister of the crown, the expectation is that the minister should tender his resignation." The book cites lots of examples of that.

This of course will be a matter that will be referred to the Legislative Assembly committee, and I endorse that. But there is one thing I would like to suggest at this point, that we have an obligation under the legislation, under the Members' Integrity Act, not only to consider but to respond to the report. The Legislative Assembly committee will consider the report and will hold the requisite hearings and will prepare a report which will come back to this House. But for us to fulfil our obligation under the Members' Integrity Act we are required to respond to it. Simply tabling that report in the House will not absolve us of our obligation under the legislation.

I would like to move an amendment to the motion which would add the following:

"And further, in the opinion of this assembly, that the report from the committee be debated in the Legislative Assembly of Ontario for one sessional day."

That would allow us to fulfil our obligation under the act, that we could in fact --

Interjection.


Ms Castrilli: I submit the amendment to you.

The Acting Speaker: Ms Castrilli has moved that the motion be amended by adding the following:

"And further, in the opinion of this assembly, that the report from the committee be debated in the Legislative Assembly of Ontario for one sessional day."


Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): Agreed.

Interjections: No.

The Acting Speaker: The member for Downsview.

Ms Castrilli: I think it's self-evident on its face. Section 34 of the act is very clear. If I could cite you subsection 34(2), it says, "The assembly shall consider and respond to the report within 30 days after the day the report is laid before it." There is no way that we can respond to the report by simply having it tabled in the House. It would require reading the report and debating the findings of the report in order to have full consideration of the report to be able to respond to it.

It seems fairly evident on the surface. I would have thought it was in keeping with the government's amendment. I did not see it at all as a controversial amendment. I saw it as a friendly amendment, a way to put closure on this issue, to deal with it firmly and finally, and I would hope that all members of the House would support it.

I would also say to you that the language of this act is very clear. We cannot simply have a report that's tabled here. We have to fulfil our ultimate obligation to bring this thing to a conclusion, and that requires a debate. Only through a debate in the House can we deal with all of the issues which we can only touch upon here but which will be dealt with in committee, and indeed there may be others that will come forward. There may be recommendations from the committee which come forward. You cannot have a document which will simply lie dormant, reported to the House and nothing more is done with it.

I would urge all of you to support this amendment and view it as in keeping with not only your amendment but the very clear intent of the act.


Mr Gerard Kennedy (York South): It is with some trouble in terms of the requirement we have here today that I address the motion we have before us. It is on the surface a rather simple issue. It is about a minister who put forward his own views surrounding a matter affecting hospitals or organizations in his constituency, and that is how the government would have us see it. Unfortunately, it is about much more than that. It is about a government rudderless: a government rudderless about health policy, a government rudderless about conflict-of-interest guidelines for its ministers and a government rudderless about how to deal with the basic fundamental integrity required of it.

We have from the Integrity Commissioner a ruling that helps us to understand that the hospital restructuring commission set up in December 1995, originally in Bill 26, by this government has in effect been compromised by actions on the part of this minister who is the subject of the report of the Integrity Commissioner, who acted in a fashion that was contrary to the requirements of a cabinet minister and has been cited for such in the report. But we learn as a consequence of the revelation of that finding that the Premier tells us about two other ministers who acted in a similar fashion.

We find it very disturbing that we are unable to have actions on the part of anyone in the government who would try and bring confidence back to this particular commission. People need to realize that this is a commission appointed by the very cabinet ministers who are seeking to influence it and who are telling us in their different ways that they didn't recognize the problems they were creating with that conflict. The very people who are making the decisions about the closings and openings of hospitals are being communicated with by the same government members, those who have the special responsibility of sitting on the executive council or the cabinet and deciding what the powers are of this committee in the sense of the regulations that are passed, the identity of who sits there and under what conditions, and that power on their part has to be taken with a due degree of responsibility.

We need to say, because it bespeaks the rudderlessness of this government when it comes to matters of this nature, which are about elemental fairness, that some members of this government, a small number, did recognize that. We have, for example, the minister for francophone affairs who told his constituents clearly he could not touch the commission because he understood it was independent. We have also heard about another member, the Attorney General, who made that comment to his constituents when asked weeks and months ago.

In fact this very matter was raised in this House, and rather than any proactive action on the part of this government, rather than an effort on the part of this government to be scrupulous in its dealings with this commission, we had a perpetuation of a defence by no less than the Minister of Health that it was somehow proper for them to put forward the argument that a commission of this nature, owing its life to the Premier, to the cabinet ministers, could then at the same time have an identity as being independent and yet be approached by those same cabinet ministers. It is disturbing that this cloud has settled on the commission and that there is absolutely no action, no voluntary action on the part of this government that would contend with that.

We have some sympathy with the minister affected in this particular case. We recognize that he was cited earlier by the Integrity Commissioner, not for a finding of fault but for going against the preamble in a previous case, of not showing due diligence, in a way, for the integrity standard that's required. Here again is an instance where his capacity as a minister is what has been contravened, that it is his special role as someone who is able to influence, by virtue of that office, the outcome of various things, to make sure that he doesn't abuse or misuse that power. Even when on the surface of it that power is being put to the benefit of some organizations, that power has the effect of changing the outcome.

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The letter which was directed to the Integrity Commissioner makes very, very clear that the minister used this in a way to tell his constituents that not only would he act on their behalf with the commission but that he was successful. He said, "I asked them to change a date and they have done so." In a way, it was public relations on the part of the minister to show that he had some degree of influence with the commission.

We understand, although we haven't been provided with a copy, that there was a published letter, affecting one of the other ministers of this government, also directed to the commission. What we have here is a government that's trying to have it more than both ways, that is wanting to influence the outcome of the commission, wanting to be seen to be doing so when it's advantageous to it.

Yet at the same time, when the really tough business comes down, when the hospitals in the minister's riding, for example, the Wellesley Hospital and Women's College Hospital, unique and extremely valuable institutions in this community, when they appeal to the cabinet in which this minister sits, and they say to him, "You need to be fighting for these institutions by giving us a policy for women's health, a policy for urban health, the kinds of things that would make our hospitals more viable in the eyes of the commission," we don't hear anything about the minister's efforts in that regard.

We learn from the Integrity Commissioner that is a route that's been open to him, that is the proper route for the members of the executive council to take when it comes to this particular commission. There is a route there they can have. We've seen it exercised now on behalf of small and rural ridings. We know the Minister of Finance has been able to influence the opening of a hospital in his riding. We understand that political dimension has now opened the floodgates, if you will, to at least some of the small and rural communities that exist around the province. There has been a policy established there.

Yet we're supposed to bear from this government the idea that all they can do is shrug, that they can't act for Women's College Hospital, they can't do anything except somehow behind the table, with letters that aren't disclosed, with other kinds of avenues. That's not even the fact of the matter. The Integrity Commissioner and the commission itself make very clear that they're governed by the Minister of Health. Every single decision made by this so-called arm's-length commission is a decision that is validated by the Minister of Health. He doesn't need to lift a pen to do it because he can change and bury what they do any time he likes.

That's extremely clear if you look at, for example, the conference proceedings from March of this year. The executive director of the commission says that the commission can make decisions about hospital restructuring; however, if the minister believes that processes or decisions are seriously flawed, the cabinet can change the commission's mandate or dissolve it altogether.

If you look at the legislation and the regulation, the minister can change any little part he wants of what this commission does to any hospital in Sarnia, in Lambton, anywhere in the province -- they've been hiding behind a fiction -- and so too can they do in part of Women's College. Again, to bring back the point, it's the cabinet in which the Minister of Municipal Affairs sits that holds that power to bury what the commission does. The commission itself, back in March of last year, more than a year ago, identified that, told us that the cabinet was effectively in charge of the affairs of the commission.

That's why it's wrong. That's why the commissioner told us, without any reservation whatsoever, "It's wrong for cabinet ministers to directly approach this commission." When we asked in this House, more than two months ago, for clarification, when we asked the Premier, when we asked the Minister of Health, when we asked for knowledge even of the fact that there were cabinet ministers going to the commission, there were no answers. There was no disclosure. There was no openness of process. There was a hidden process taking place. We were forced to take this matter to the Integrity Commissioner, because unfortunately there is a flaw, there is a fault on the part of this government, where it cannot bring itself to the table on matters of integrity on its own.

We hate to be acting in that process when what we're looking for here is the recognition by this government of what it has created in terms of the commission. It has created problems in virtually every part of this province. It has created problems by virtue of the way the commission is constituted. Until very recently, no members on it were from small rural or northern areas. They were making decisions based on formulas, formulas that were imported from the United States, tools that were just slide rules applied to all manner of communities in Ontario.

Each of those communities was made to suffer from the threat of closing, the loss of doctors, the loss of privileges and the battling between different health organizations, all put upon by this commission. We look at the plight of the average members, perhaps even the constituents of the honourable members' ridings of St George-St David or St Andrew-St Patrick, where Doctors Hospital is located. They would like to influence the commission in a fair and open manner, but when we look at how this commission is set up, it is answerable only to itself, in the sense that the only appeal the government has afforded is heard by the commission. So for the commission to change its decision, it has to admit it's wrong.

Yet, well hidden in all the public relations done by the commission and all the public relations done by this government is the fact that it is the cabinet of this government which controls that commission. People are starting to understand that, just as those have been Harris hospital cuts, the 12% cuts that have been marching their way across the province, taking nurses and care out of every emergency room, every ICU, every basic care unit in every hospital across the province. Those are decisions made by this government. They've decided to deliver a tax cut instead of provide basic hospital care. That's a decision they made. But for some reason, for political reasons, we feel, this government has tried to dress up the ordering of closing of hospitals as something arm's length and independent.

You can't have it both ways is what the Integrity Commissioner has told this government. You simply cannot pretend that this is arm's length and independent and then, as the Minister of Health has done -- he has stood in his place time after time after time and invited anyone in the province, including his cabinet colleagues, to influence that commission.

We hear from the commission that they want to be independent, want to be free of influence, and if they aren't they'll resign and so on. But we've just learned that there are ways and means of influencing even a commission that has that aspiration. Those ways and means are expressed right there in the small and rural policy, the policy this government put together three days before they were putting out a decision in Lambton county. Three days before this commission was going to order the closing of Charlotte Eleanor Englehart Hospital, this government intervened in a very political fashion and in a fashion which is not accountable or available to the rest of us.

Why did cabinet decide there would be a small and rural policy? Why has cabinet decided that there won't be a francophone health policy that will at least consider the Montfort Hospital in Ottawa on its merits, that won't just apply some kind of slide-rule to it? Why isn't there going to be a policy that also considers women's health, so that the very unique role of the hospital the minister professes to be in favour of when it comes to the grandstanding letter he wrote his constituent -- that we don't have his cabinet move in any such direction?

Nor do we have a policy for some of the middle-sized urban areas, for the members from Kitchener. We have nothing that will ensure the continued existence of St Mary's hospital, for example, because there simply is not, on the part of this government, the fundamental taking of responsibility in an open and accountable fashion. That is what the government has tried to avoid in the Niagara region, in virtually all parts of this province. They have tried to avoid taking responsibility for their own actions. Yet we found that one of the consequences of that has been, to put not too fine a point on it, to elicit action on the part of some of their own ministers because they can't work with the contorted rules the government has created to be able to reshape hospitals in this province.

We know when we look at the fallout from the Integrity Commissioner that perhaps the most significant result is going to be on the commission itself. Even if it believes it is scrupulous on its end, how can the commission pretend to be free from influence when we don't have tabled the documents that have been sent to it, used to influence it, by the other two ministers of the crown who have written to that commission? Why don't we have those documents tabled? Will we have those put forward in the committee hearings to which this is to be sent? Will that happen? Will the government show that now that it has been directed by the Integrity Commissioner, who is specifically in place with no axe to grind, who specifically even gives to the Minister of Municipal Affairs his seat -- he says, "I won't affect your seat, I won't take away your seat in this House. This isn't that kind of offence."

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However, he has sent us a letter that makes very, very clear none of that, none of his comments of what he said was no punishment, had anything to do with Minister Leach's standing in cabinet. Rather, that is a decision specifically outside his purview.

I think what the people out there -- and almost every part of the province will be among them -- who worry about their hospital, wonder: "If they come and they take my hospital, the Charlotte Eleanor Englehart in Petrolia, if they're going to go and close one in Pembroke, is it going to be done fairly? Has this government set itself up to do right by me and my family? When we're sick, are we going to be subject to some political influence?"

That is where we stand today: A commission that granted an extension which on the surface seems like a procedural matter, but which is substantive; a government, quite conceivably a whole cabinet, with only a few exceptions that we know of, under the impression that, unlike the Ontario Securities Commission, they can walk in and talk to the hospital any time they would like.

How many individual presentations have there been? We don't know. Is there openness and accountability? Should we put that onus on the commission? We talked to the commission two weeks ago, before the Integrity Commissioner told us there was a serious problem, and they said they had no contact from cabinet ministers whatsoever. That was our knowledge until the day the Premier stood up in this House and said not one but three cabinet ministers have tried to influence the commission in a way that's contrary to what the Integrity Commissioner says.

We sit here today not knowing whether or not hospitals and sick people in the future in this province will be treated fairly by this government. What will it take by this government to demonstrate to the people of Sarnia, the people of Kitchener, the people of Niagara region and the people of Brampton that there will actually be some fairness when they come to town? How will they know that somebody else, with a cabinet minister of more standing, didn't have the influence that took away their hospital because of the scarce resources this government is only prepared to put into hospitals in this province? How will they know that?

It will take some conspicuous actions on the part of this government, actions which have been sadly lacking from its repertoire up to now. There has been no forthcomingness on the part of this government. The Minister of Health has not stood up and said, "I have made a fundamental mistake here; I have been directing cabinet ministers to talk to the commission when it's really my responsibility," even though, more than a year ago, the commission he appointed, that the Minister of Municipal Affairs helped to appoint, that the Premier helped to appoint, that the Attorney General helped to appoint, the Solicitor General, that they all were involved in appointing, knew that they were answerable to cabinet. Every few weeks, we get a submission that tells us an order in council has been passed putting members on this commission. Who are they appointed by? The self-same members of cabinet who have tried to influence them.

It's a fundamental issue of fairness, a test for this government on how they deal with this issue. Will they indeed let the minister who is the subject of this report appear before the committee? Will they indeed table the documents from the other ministers who they have volunteered have contacted the commission? Will they table a list of all the cabinet ministers who have contacted verbally, in person or over the telephone, this commission, so we can know the degree to which this commission and the adjustments, the changes, the closing, the shutting down of hospitals, have been politically influenced by this government in a way that's contrary to the legislation which not another government -- this is not a case of ignorance from a previous government, from an unfamiliar situation. This government designed the hospital destruction commission. This is a creation of the Harris government, yet when it's contravened, when its integrity is impugned, the government has no problem raising its hands and saying, "Not us; we don't take any responsibility here." It's extremely unfortunate for the people of this province.

This is not a happy issue for the opposition. This is not something we wish to see brought down upon the Minister of Municipal Affairs. But it certainly is something the Minister of Municipal Affairs and this cabinet and this government have brought down upon themselves. People have been shaking their heads out there and saying: "How can you have a commission that's supposedly independent, when political policies are being made, when cabinet ministers have access to it? How can I believe they're going to do the job for me and my community?"

It's not a laughing matter. It's not the kind of thing that anybody in this province can dare ignore, because people are upset out there. They're upset because their hospital emergency waiting lines are getting longer. They're upset because they don't believe that anyone is looking out for them.

We have, with this motion here today and some of the amendments to it, a chance to prove to the public that this government has at least that much integrity, to say it's been wrong. Either the commission has to be withdrawn or somebody needs to resign in order to show us that.


Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): I have a brief intervention to make in this regard. I want to take the approach of the silliness of having a commission. That's why we have a problem here today. The minister has made representations, and apparently two other ministers, according to the Premier, have made representations to the commission, despite the fact that the opposition has tried, through questioning of the Minister of Health, to determine just what the rules and regulations are. We get different answers at different times from that minister and from somebody else you might talk to.

Essentially, the flaw is setting up the commission and the flaw is Bill 26. If you wondered why the opposition took such extraordinary legislative action in terms of invoking a particular procedure to bring the government briefly to a halt, and bring it to its senses, quite frankly, it was because we understood the provisions and the implications of Bill 26 and the establishment of the hospital restructuring commission or, as I call it, the hospital closing commission. Because I knew, despite the fact that the Premier had said in May 1995, during the election campaign, "I can guarantee you, Robert," referring to Robert Fisher of Global TV, "it is not my plan to close hospitals" -- "I can guarantee you it is not my plan to close hospitals," is actually what he said.

This commission guarantees that somebody is closing hospitals and the reason the government established it was to play the role of Pontius Pilate, simply washing its hands of the closing of hospitals in this province, simply taking its fingerprints off the decisions which are made to close hospitals, and the problem is the commission. My colleagues have both made reference to the fact it is the commission we're stuck with.

We hear sometimes that the commission is hands-off, nobody can talk to it, nobody can try to influence it, and then we find out that behind closed doors people are trying to influence it. Of course, that's what you're going to expect. When they're closing hospitals in somebody's riding, there's somebody going to try to influence the commission one way or the other. The rules apparently said that cabinet ministers can't do so. You ask the Minister of Health and you get one answer one day, another answer the next day. But I go back to the fact that the problem is the hospital closing commission that we have under Duncan Sinclair, which shouldn't be in existence. It should be disbanded, it should never have been set up in the first place.

If the government thinks it should close hospitals, it should take the heat for closing hospitals. I don't think they should be closing hospitals in the province. Certainly the people who are supporters of Douglas Memorial Hospital in Fort Erie, West Lincoln Memorial Hospital in Grimsby, the Niagara-on-the-Lake hospital, the Port Colborne hospital, and the Hotel Dieu Hospital in St Catharines, all of which are under the axe -- not of this commission but of another commission -- those people don't like the establishment of this commission and don't want hospitals closed and don't want the role of those hospitals radically changed, and that's what may happen. They may keep them open, there may be a building standing there, but the hospital may not have many services to provide to people, and that's not satisfactory.

The people who are adherents to the General hospital -- I support the General hospital, the Hotel Dieu and the Shaver Hospital in St Catharines. We need all of them in our community, but we have a hospital restructuring commission that could show up and say, "We're not only closing those, we're going to close more hospitals."

While the rules say ministers can't try to influence this, what do you expect is going to happen? Of course that's going to happen when you have a hospital closing commission. Yet there's a violation as a result of that. What was the answer? Don't set the silly hospital closing commission up in the first place. Get rid of it as soon as possible. Put the funding back in to the health care system in terms of hospital funding in this province. You would find there would be support for that option. That's the option which I support.

This matter is going to the Legislative Assembly committee if this motion is approved today. It will, I know, totally impartially and without any partisan considerations, deal with this matter. I am confident that there will not be instructions from the Premier's office, the whip's office and the government House leader's office simply to do the bidding of the backroom boys in the Premier's office. I'm so confident that that is the case -- it would be the first time, mind you, but where there is life, there is hope.

We can also hope this matter comes back to this assembly after the Legislative Assembly committee deals with it, for the purpose of dealing with it in a debate in this assembly. That makes logical, good sense that it finally be dealt with by this assembly, and I'm very confident the government will see the wisdom of the amendment which was placed by my friend and colleague the member for Downsview.

I hope our amendment is supported. I hope the government disbands the silly and destructive hospital closing commission and I hope the government has learned its lesson with the provisions of Bill 26.

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Mr Wildman: Other members have said, and I concur with their feeling, that we rise today to participate in this debate with some feeling of regret. I say that sincerely. I recall standing in this place in 1986 when my good friend -- and I mean that sincerely, because he is a good friend -- from Cochrane North at that time, the Honourable René Fontaine, announced he was resigning, not only from the executive council, but he chose, I think unnecessarily at that particular point, to resign his seat over a conflict of interest he had found himself in as a cabinet minister.

At that time, I expressed regret that the member had taken this action and had gotten himself into a situation which he then felt required him to take that action. I said at that time that I believed he perhaps should have tendered his resignation as a member of the executive council but that I didn't think it was necessary for him to resign his seat in this assembly. He chose to do that.

He subsequently ran in a by-election. Neither of the other two parties opposed him in that by-election and he was returned to the assembly to represent the people of Cochrane North, until he decided at the subsequent general election not to run in the campaign. We now have, as the member for Cochrane North, Mr Wood, who has represented those constituents very well.

I think the current member would share my view that René Fontaine is a friend of his, as he is of mine and many other members of this House, and that we regretted that he, finding himself in a conflict, chose to resign. But as I said at the time, I believed he did have to resign from the executive council.

That's why I find it so troubling that in this particular situation, the member for St George-St David, finding himself being criticized by the Integrity Commissioner, does not himself take a course of action similar to that taken by the former member for Cochrane North and other members who have found themselves in this kind of situation from time to time over the years serving the public.

As I said, I would probably concur with the view of the commissioner that it is not necessary for the member for St George-St David to resign his seat in the assembly, but I do believe -- not just because of what happened in the particular instance that was criticized by the commissioner in his report, but the other incidents this minister has found himself in because of actions he has taken or that people have taken in his ministry, in his name, that have been criticized by the Speaker and by others as being in some cases viewed as a contempt, in other cases actually breaking the law, as in this one.

I believe that the member, who has been criticized by the commissioner for a "flagrant" transgression, to use the commissioner's word, should have tendered his resignation. Failing that, it was incumbent upon the Premier, the person who determines who should serve in the executive council, who should be a member of cabinet, to have exercised his responsibility and to have requested the resignation from the executive council of the member for St George-St David.

Because the Premier chose not to do that, I believe the Premier has lowered the standards by which we judge members of the executive council. I think that's unfortunate. I think it's unfortunate for this government, I think it's unfortunate for the assembly, and I think it's unfortunate for the people of Ontario.

I won't take long in saying that I support the referral of this matter to the Legislative Assembly committee to comply with the law, the Members' Integrity Act, which says this matter must be considered and responded to by the assembly within 30 days after the report is made, which means by July 25; and also because I'm confident that the government is serious -- I hope the government is serious -- about having a real discussion of the situation and having the committee deal in a non-partisan way with a very important report by the commissioner.

I must say, I don't support that portion of the motion, although I will not vote against it for this reason, which says that the committee should consider the report and respond directly to the Integrity Commissioner. That is just ridiculous. Since when do commissioners, who are officers of this assembly, receive reports from the assembly? The Integrity Commissioner or the Provincial Auditor or any of the other commissioners who are set up by this assembly, who are appointed by this assembly, are there to give advice to the members of the House, to give advice to the assembly and to make reports to the assembly, not the other way around. It's completely ridiculous that this government should say the committee of this assembly should make a report to the commissioner. What on earth for? The commissioner has already made his report.

The Premier has argued that the Attorney General should get some clarification from the commissioner. I don't think that's really necessary, but if the government wants to do that, they can do that. The committee does not report to the commissioner. But I'll leave that, if the government wants to do that, as long as the government recognizes and accepts that part of the motion which says the committee will report to the assembly. If the committee reports to the assembly, those of us who have been in this place for a while know that the report is then debatable. That means there must be a debate in this assembly on that report. In that way, the assembly will be complying with the law; it will be responding to the commissioner's report.

For that reason, I support the friendly amendment that was put forward by my friend from Downsview, which basically said there should be at least a one-day debate. I would hope the members of the government will accept that friendly amendment so it will clarify and make very clear to all concerned that when the committee reports to the assembly there will be a debate. To suggest that it only be one day is most reasonable.

I want to comment very briefly on a couple of things the government House leader said when he introduced his motion. The government House leader and the government failed to acknowledge the differences in roles of an MPP and a cabinet minister. They also failed to acknowledge the role of the commissioner. The government House leader, in making his comments, said the Members' Integrity Act sets out four possible sanctions that the commissioner can recommend if an MPP transgresses. Then he pointed out that the commissioner in this particular case stated in his report that none of those actions should be taken. They range in severity right up to the point of having the MPP removed from his seat in the Assembly.

It is true that in this particular case the commissioner said the member for St George-St David should not be punished, should not be subject to the sanctions that are listed in the act. But the House leader either misunderstands or chooses to misunderstand that the commissioner and the act under which he carries out his responsibilities do not deal with an MPP's role as a member of the executive council. The act deals with the MPP's role as a member of the Assembly, a member representing a constituency.

1730

The commissioner has made very clear that he cannot make recommendations about the fitness or otherwise of an MPP to be a member of the executive council. That is the responsibility of the Premier. The Premier appoints and, to use a euphemism, disappoints members of the executive council. It is the Premier's responsibility to ensure that members of the executive council are not in conflict, that their behaviour is aboveboard and that they are in fact demonstrating the kind of integrity that is required of any member who aspires to hold such high office. It is the Premier's responsibility.

To hang everything, as the government has been trying to do, on the fact that the commissioner did not recommend a sanction under the act is to ignore the fact that the commissioner was only talking about the member for St George-St David in that capacity, as the MPP representing the constituents of St George-St David. He was not ruling, and could not rule or recommend, on his position as a member of the cabinet, and he said so.

The government House leader also pointed out that the commissioner said in his report that the member for St George-St David was acting in good faith. Well, forgive me, but oftentimes people act in good faith but they are wrong. When someone does something that is a flagrant transgression, that is flagrantly breaking the law, even if the individual acted in good faith, there may have to be a sanction, and should be a sanction. That is why my friend the former member for Cochrane North took the action he did, because as an honourable member he recognized that he had broken the rules and he should pay for it. That is why the Premier at that time accepted the resignation. We've seen other examples of that in this House over the years.

I'll just close by making a couple of comments. I think it's unfortunate that the motion as presented by the government House leader does not set forward the terms of reference of the committee. The government House leader argues that committees set their own agendas, that subcommittees work together and make recommendations to committees on how the committee will operate, what they will do, and that it's not the role of the House leaders to intervene.

I agree that that is true, but only to a certain extent, because all of us in this House understand that the way committees work in this majority House and in other majority Houses I've seen is that they are whipped. They even appoint somebody, a member of the committee, of the majority, who is the whip for the majority. That whip determines what the members on the government side in the committee do or don't do. The government whip and the government House leader both know that.

From my point of view, if the government House leader and the government whip and the cabinet are going to give parameters to the committee members, the majority members on the committee, behind the scenes, that is far less preferable than for the assembly to set the parameters right now so that we all know and it's all aboveboard: "This is what the committee can do; this is what we don't want it to do." I think that should be clear.

In my view, the member for St George-St David must appear before the committee. I understand that he has stated outside of the House today that he'd be willing to do that. I also believe the Minister of Health must appear before the committee. The Minister of Health must be a witness before this committee because he has given conflicting answers, contradictory answers in this House as to whether or not an MPP or a cabinet minister can contact the hospital restructuring committee about hospitals in their own riding. He said on one day, "Yes, it's quite all right," and then on another said, "No, it's not proper." That has to be clarified.

When I served as a minister of the crown, it was made clear to me right from the outset that any commission that is appointed by the government to make rulings or to make judgements that then could be appealed to cabinet was out of bounds for me as a cabinet minister in terms of intervention. That was clear. It was made clear to all members of cabinet that if a commission is set up by the government to independently make decisions, which decisions could then subsequently be appealed by an aggrieved party to cabinet, it's quite improper for cabinet ministers to contact such a commission. That's clear. Obviously this cabinet minister didn't know that or, if he did, he contravened that regulation, that requirement. That's very serious. But since the Minister of Health has given conflicting views on this very matter in this House, I think it's important for the minister to appear.

It might also be argued that it would be useful to have the commissioner appear -- I don't know -- so that the commissioner could make it very clear as to what his role is in terms of rulings or recommendations with regard to sanctions of MPPs who are also members of the executive council. My understanding is that the commissioner has said that is beyond his terms of reference; it is beyond his jurisdiction. Because of that, I would be prepared to move an amendment on behalf of my caucus.

Just prior to moving the amendment, I want to state that I expect the government will support this amendment as a friendly amendment, particularly since the member for St George-St David has said he intends to appear before the committee, because the purpose of the amendment is to require him to do that, along with the Minister of Health.

With that, I would move that the motion be amended by adding the following:

"And further, in the opinion of this assembly, proper consideration of the Integrity Commissioner's report will require the participation of the Minister of Health and the member for St George-St David as committee witnesses."

That is of course an amendment to the amendment.

1740


The Acting Speaker: I would like to accommodate what has to be done. This most recent amendment by Mr Wildman purports to amend the amendment, and it doesn't. I would like to either clear up the amendment that was there before so this can be properly put or seek unanimous consent that we would accept this as an amendment to the amendment.

Is it agreed that Mr Wildman's amendment is to amend the amendment? It is agreed, and I will read it.

Mr Wildman has moved that the amendment be amended by adding the following:

"And further, in the opinion of this assembly, proper consideration of the Integrity Commissioner's report will require the participation of the Minister of Health and the member for St George-St David as committee witnesses."

Further debate?


Mr Tony Silipo (Dovercourt): Very briefly, because time is short and I just want to make a couple of points. I look forward to this issue going to the Legislative Assembly committee, not because I relish the debate we're going to get into there but because I believe it's incumbent that we clear up at least a couple of points.

The first point is this question that's been raised by other members, and that is the distinction between MPP and minister. My strong belief, supported by my understanding of the commissioner's position on this -- and this is one of the reasons I believe it's important for the commissioner to either attend or provide us with this clarification -- is that the commissioner cannot make any recommendations with respect to penalties as they relate to someone's membership in cabinet. That remains the responsibility and the prerogative of the Premier, and that's something the Premier has not discharged appropriately in this case.

Second, I believe it's incumbent upon us to also look at this question of what the rules are, not necessarily get into a major discussion here about whether we need to change any of the rules. I have to tell you, I have some sympathy for the position in which the Minister of Municipal Affairs finds himself. I don't agree with what he's done, I disagree; I think he has taken the wrong course in not resigning. But I understand that as an MPP he would, particularly in a case like the closing of hospitals, want to be able to advocate on behalf of his constituents. If we can assist in providing some clarification on that question, I believe that will be useful.

As it stands right now, in my view, that would warrant a changing of the rules. Right now, the commissioner I believe has interpreted the rules in this case as he has consistently, which is to say that as a member of cabinet you have limitations on what you can do. You cannot simply, by putting something on your MPP's letterhead, pretend you are no longer a member of cabinet. That is a very serious issue and I think it's something we need to turn our minds to.

In this case, if time allowed I would go on, but I won't. I'll have an opportunity in committee, if this motion is passed, to deal with these issues and others. I regret very much that we are having to do this. I regret very much that the minister did not do the appropriate thing, I regret very much that the Premier did not do the appropriate thing and that we now are left in this position of having to resort to the House taking on this role, in this case through the Legislative Assembly committee.


Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): I'll be very brief, for the reasons my colleague from Dovercourt has outlined, as well as the fact that we're hoping to get to private bills today. One of those is Pr51, my bill affecting my home town of Hamilton, an important bill, and I don't want to see us miss the chance to get to that. I'm hopeful that the House leaders have been able to find a way to reach agreement and we can deal with that today. If we don't, once again somebody gets stiffed by the improper choices of this government in terms of their priorities. But I'm going to remain hopeful that in the spirit of two days ago, we will do that.

The only point I want to make is that first of all, government members, especially in the back benches, who haven't been through this before need to appreciate that what is happening here in terms of holding ministers accountable is part of the tradition of this place, part of the tradition of parliamentary democracy. I now know what it's like on both sides of the House. I know what it's like when you feel that one of your ministers is under attack. It always feels unreasonable. Rarely are things very stark in terms of black and white; there is always a lot of grey area. When you're on the government side, the grey area for you is that it's unreasonable, "It's the mean-spirited opposition who hate us and want to get at us," and when you're over here, it's a question of accountability. As I say, now on this side I can appreciate why one goes after these things in as tough a fashion as oppositions do, as we are on this issue.

My opinion on this is that the minister at the very least -- speaking to our amendment about the minister participating in the hearings -- needs to come forward and answer a couple of things that are important in this issue. One is the fact that this is the minister's third time for a major infraction of a rule or convention or tradition in this place. There is a point at which, if the minister, through the Premier, isn't being held accountable, then this Legislature has to hold ministers accountable.

When you are a member of the cabinet, you lose the right to act in whatever way you please whenever you please, regardless of how well-meaning your intent might be. It's because of the office, because of the authority, the influence that ministers have in our system, and there has to be that accountability. Unfortunately, because of the politics of having to take down two other ministers in this case, politically the Premier now feels he is going to try and tough this out. That's inappropriate for the one reason I have mentioned.

The second one is that it's incumbent on all ministers -- my House leader from Algoma mentioned that once you're sworn in as a minister, it's drilled into your head on that first day and every day after that, by your own personal staff and by your deputy minister, that you be very careful and you check in as many ways as possible before you take any action -- any action. With experience, you don't need to check the obvious sorts of things, but I'll tell you, particularly in the case of justice ministries, when you don't have a legal background, as I didn't, you don't even stand up and pour a coffee the first day without making sure that what you are about to do is not going to get you or, more important, your government into some hot water.

We see from the record that on May 27, Pat Hoy, a member of the Liberal caucus, contacted the commissioner and said: "I'm thinking of writing to the Health Services Restructuring Commission regarding a hospital in my riding. Would you tell me if that's appropriate?" I think the member, being a backbencher and not a minister, deserves a lot of credit for the level of integrity he is setting for himself, the standard he sets.

For a minister not to check -- if you look at the record, the commissioner has been consulted many times by many ministers. That's why he's there. He even sends out memos to ministers in the executive council saying: "Please contact me. That's why I'm here. I urge you to do it." This minister didn't do that.

The Integrity Commissioner's report says it's "a flagrant breach of parliamentary convention." We have the commissioner stating:

"In my opinion, Mr Leach is having difficulty in adopting an attitude which is less confrontational, more consistent with is present office as a member of the executive council," meaning cabinet, "and more appreciative of the parliamentary conventions associated therewith.

"I am satisfied that the Honourable Allan Leach contravened the Members' Integrity Act."

The Premier ought to be accepting an offered resignation from that minister in this case. That is so clear. In the absence of that, the very least that ought to happen is that there ought to be this review by the legislative committee; there ought to be a provision that the ministers affected will come forward, including the commissioner, if necessary, to clarify some of the meaning around the comments he's made publicly; and at the end of the day, it should report back here to this place, not to the commissioner, who really can't do much with it, but back here to us. That's the very least that ought to happen.

Let's keep in mind that the only reason this got here today is because the government had to bring back the road safety bill, which they didn't think was as important as ramming through their anti-democratic rules to effectively muzzle the opposition. Because they had to come back and take care of that political time bomb, they knew they had to deal with this integrity report. Otherwise, it wouldn't even be here. That is a shame on not just the Premier and the government House leader but all the members of the government who didn't say something in caucus that could have provided for a more honourable course of action.


Hon David Johnson: Mr Speaker, I believe, at least I'll ask, that we have unanimous consent to complete the vote on this matter -- a five-minute bell, is it? -- to complete private bills 75 through 84 and to deal with the motion of adjournment.

Mr Christopherson: Point of order.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): A point of order? The difficulty I have is that when they seek unanimous consent I'm supposed to just put the question. That's the difficulty I'm faced with.

Mr Christopherson: I just want to ask the government House leader for some clarification.

The Speaker: Okay, go ahead.

Mr Christopherson: All I want to do is clarify with the government House leader, through the Speaker, that it's not the private members' bill numbers you just read out but rather government orders. Is that correct? I'm trying to ensure that Bill 51, affecting the city of Hamilton, is included.

Hon David Johnson: You're absolutely right. My mistake. Yes, it's Bills 51, 63, 64, 73, 74, 75, 80, 81, 82 and 83.

Mr Bradley: That includes four opposition hostages.

Hon David Johnson: That includes four opposition bills.

The Speaker: The government House leader has moved unanimous consent to deal with the votes on this motion, the bills he just outlined and the adjournment motion, and that there be a five-minute bell for the votes. Agreed? Agreed.

Mr Wildman has moved that the amendment be amended by adding the following:

"And further, in the opinion of this assembly, proper consideration of the Integrity Commissioner's report will require the participation of the Minister of Health and the member for St George-St David as committee witnesses."

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

All those in favour, please say "aye."

All those opposed, please say "nay."

In my opinion, the nays have it. Call in the members.

The division bells rang from 1754 to 1759.


The Speaker: All those in favour, please rise one at a time and be recognized by the Clerk.

Ayes

Bisson, Gilles

Conway, Sean G.

McLeod, Lyn

Boyd, Marion

Kennedy, Gerard

Ruprecht, Tony

Bradley, James J.

Kormos, Peter

Silipo, Tony

Castrilli, Annamarie

Lankin, Frances

Wildman, Bud

Christopherson, David

Marchese, Rosario

Wood, Len

Churley, Marilyn

Martin, Tony

 
     

The Speaker: All those opposed, please rise one at a time and be recognized by the Clerk.

Nays

Baird, John R.

Hodgson, Chris

Sampson, Rob

Barrett, Toby

Johns, Helen

Saunderson, William

Bassett, Isabel

Johnson, Bert

Shea, Derwyn

Boushy, Dave

Johnson, David

Sheehan, Frank

Brown, Jim

Kells, Morley

Skarica, Toni

Chudleigh, Ted

Klees, Frank

Spina, Joseph

Clement, Tony

Leach, Al

Sterling, Norman W.

DeFaria, Carl

Marland, Margaret

Stewart, R. Gary

Doyle, Ed

Martiniuk, Gerry

Tascona, Joseph N.

Ecker, Janet

Munro, Julia

Tilson, David

Elliott, Brenda

Mushinski, Marilyn

Turnbull, David

Froese, Tom

Newman, Dan

Vankoughnet, Bill

Gilchrist, Steve

Ouellette, Jerry J.

Wettlaufer, Wayne

Hardeman, Ernie

Parker, John L.

Witmer, Elizabeth

Harris, Michael D.

Rollins, E.J. Douglas

Young, Terence H.

Hastings, John

Ross, Lillian

 

Clerk of the House (Mr Claude L. DesRosiers): The ayes are 17; the nays are 47.

The Speaker: I declare the motion lost.

Ms Castrilli has moved that the motion be amended by adding the following:

"And further, in the opinion of this assembly, that the report from the committee be debated in the Legislative Assembly of Ontario for one sessional day."

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

All those in favour, please say "aye.

All those opposed, please say "nay."

In my opinion, the nays have it.

Same vote? The ayes are 17; the nays are 47. I declare the motion lost.

Mr Johnson has moved government notice of motion number 29. Is it the pleasure of the House the 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.

CITY OF HAMILTON ACT, 1997

Mr Christopherson moved second reading of the following bill:

Bill Pr51, An Act respecting the City of Hamilton.


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

Mr Christopherson moved third reading of the following bill:

Bill Pr51, An Act respecting the City of Hamilton.


The Speaker: Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.

Resolved that the bill do now pass and be entitled as in the motion.

BANK OF NOVA SCOTIA TRUST COMPANY ACT, 1996

Ms Bassett moved second reading of the following bill:

Bill Pr63, An Act respecting the Bank of Nova Scotia Trust Company, Montreal Trust Company of Canada and Montreal Trust Company.


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

Ms Bassett moved third reading of the following bill:

Bill Pr63, An Act respecting The Bank of Nova Scotia Trust Company, Montreal Trust Company of Canada and Montreal Trust Company.


The Speaker: Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.

Resolved that the bill do now pass and be entitled as in the motion.

NATIONAL BALLET OF CANADA ACT, 1996

Ms Bassett moved second reading of the following bill:

Bill Pr64, An Act respecting the National Ballet of Canada.


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

Ms Bassett moved third reading of the following bill:

Bill Pr64, An Act respecting the National Ballet of Canada.


The Speaker: Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.

Resolved that the bill do now pass and be entitled as in the motion.

CITY OF OTTAWA ACT, 1996

Ms Castrilli, on behalf of Mr Grandmaître, moved second reading of the following bill:

Bill Pr73, An Act respecting the City of Ottawa.


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

Ms Castrilli, on behalf of Mr Grandmaître, moved third reading of the following bill:

Bill Pr73, An Act respecting the City of Ottawa.


The Speaker: Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.

Resolved that the bill do now pass and be entitled as in the motion.

4588 BATHURST ACT, 1997

Ms Bassett moved second reading of the following bill:

Bill Pr74, An Act respecting 4588 Bathurst.


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

Ms Bassett moved third reading of the following bill:

Bill Pr74, An Act respecting 4588 Bathurst.


The Speaker: Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.

Resolved that the bill do now pass and be entitled as in the motion.

750 SPADINA AVENUE ASSOCIATION ACT, 1997

Ms Bassett moved second reading of the following bill:

Bill Pr75, An Act respecting 750 Spadina Avenue Association.


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

Ms Bassett moved third reading of the following bill:

Bill Pr75, An Act respecting 750 Spadina Avenue Association.


The Speaker: Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.

Resolved that the bill do now pass and be entitled as in the motion.

YOUNG WOMEN'S CHRISTIAN ASSOCIATION OF NIAGARA FALLS ACT, 1997

Ms Bassett, on behalf of Mr Maves, moved second reading of the following bill:

Bill Pr80, An Act respecting the Young Women's Christian Association of Niagara Falls.


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

Ms Bassett, on behalf of Mr Maves, moved third reading of the following bill:

Bill Pr80, An Act respecting the Young Women's Christian Association of Niagara Falls.


The Speaker: Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.

Resolved that the bill do now pass and be entitled as in the motion.

CHINESE CULTURAL CENTRE OF GREATER TORONTO FOUNDATION ACT, 1997

Ms Castrilli, on behalf of Mr Curling, moved second reading of the following bill:

Bill Pr81, An Act respecting the Chinese Cultural Centre of Greater Toronto Foundation.


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

Ms Castrilli, on behalf of Mr Curling, moved third reading of the following bill:

Bill Pr81, An Act respecting the Chinese Cultural Centre of Greater Toronto Foundation.


The Speaker: Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.

Resolved that the bill do now pass and be entitled as in the motion.

ONTARIO ASSOCIATION OF NOT-FOR-PROFIT CREDIT COUNSELLING SERVICES ACT, 1997

Ms Castrilli, on behalf of Mr Crozier, moved second reading of the following bill:

Bill Pr82, An Act respecting the Ontario Association of Not-For-Profit Credit Counselling Services.


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

Ms Castrilli, on behalf of Mr Crozier, moved third reading of the following bill:

Bill Pr82, An Act respecting the Ontario Association of Not-For-Profit Credit Counselling Services.


The Speaker: Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.

Resolved that the bill do now pass and be entitled as in the motion.

MUNICIPAL LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICERS' ASSOCIATION (ONTARIO) INC. ACT, 1997

Mr Tascona moved second reading of the following bill:

Bill Pr83, An Act respecting the Municipal Law Enforcement Officers' Association (Ontario) Inc.


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

Mr Tascona moved third reading of the following bill:

Bill Pr83, An Act respecting the Municipal Law Enforcement Officers' Association (Ontario) Inc.


The Speaker: Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.

Resolved that the bill do now pass and be entitled as in the motion.

HOUSE SITTING


Hon David Johnson (Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet, Government House Leader): Mr Speaker, I move that when the House adjourns today, it stand adjourned until Monday, August 18, 1997, as ordered on Tuesday, June 24, 1997, the terms and conditions provided by that order to apply.

Do I need to ask for unanimous consent to put this motion forward?


The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): The government House leader is seeking unanimous consent to put this motion forward. Agreed? Agreed.

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

It now being past 6 of the clock, this House stands adjourned until 1:30 of the clock, August 18, 1997.

The House adjourned at 1813.

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