16 SEPTEMBRE 1997 ASSEMBLÉE LÉGISLATIVE DE L_ONTARIO
The House met at 1334.
Instead what we have is a unique approach. I say that very carefully, having talked to the doctors and the nurses at Doctors Hospital, for example, in terms of their ability to reach the multicultural community, and Wellesley Hospital in terms of their ability to reach people affected with AIDS and the poor people of this city. That's been rejected out of hand by this government, by a government that chose not to set up an urban health policy.
We have had such weak response, almost no response, from the members from Metro Toronto in the Conservative caucus to say, "These things are needed to keep Metro Toronto as a livable city," these institutions that have become a living part of the neighbourhoods and the communities they're in. Instead we have a sterile court decision saying these services can't exist. Shame on this government.
Agrium Inc, which is the largest North American producer of nitrogen fertilizers and a major producer of potash and phosphate fertilizers, recently announced that it will spend US$70 million over the next two years to develop a high-quality phosphate deposit located in Val Rita near Kapuskasing. Agrium Inc will turn the phosphate deposit, originally drilled in 1954, into an open pit mine. It's certainly good news for the area, to see, after 42 years, the mine brought into production, creating much-needed jobs in the Kapuskasing area.
I would like to congratulate Agrium Inc for investing in northern Ontario and contributing to our local economy. If it's true that the private sector has a very important role to play in job creation, it is also true that we need to provide them with the necessary infrastructure, such as well-maintained highways and access to education and health care for workers and their families, to keep inducing them to invest in our northern communities.
This is the government's role, to ensure that northern Ontario remains a good place to invest now and in the future.
Toronto neighbourhoods are reporting sales increases as high as 34% over this time last year, and some areas have price increases exceeding 10%. Sales in greater Toronto area communities, such as Mississauga and my own community of Etobicoke, showed continued sales increases from 11% to 20%. Surrounding communities, such as Oshawa, Pickering, Markham and Barrie, are experiencing double-digit increases in both sales and prices. Evidence from across the province: Ottawa 26%, Peterborough 15%, Sault Ste Marie 16%, St Catharines 15%.
Not only does the report from Re/Max cite low mortgage rates, a strong economy, and increasing consumer confidence to have made a difference, but market strength is expected to continue.
What a difference two years can make. The proof is in the pudding.
Let me tell you what we need in Windsor to make those changes: $1.3 million in capital change at both sites; $600,000 in staffing costs at both sites. Did you know that our hospitals have spent $6 million in total in restructuring costs, with no reimbursement by this government? Did you know that your health cuts have cost our hospitals $28 million so far in two years? That cut in health care is directly impacting on patients in the Windsor area.
This government forced the closure of the west end emergency site. You forced this closure without other sites being prepared for that. So far our hospitals, having lost $28 million by your cuts, are struggling just to survive and provide care. Unfortunately, that's not happening. What we need today is emergency relief by this minister, by this government, because all of Ontario will be watching what happens in Windsor.
If the minister and the Conservatives cared about kids, they wouldn't be forcing a crisis in education while at the same time spending a million dollars across the province to advertise what a wonderful job they are doing.
If this government cared at all about children in Ontario, the Tories would not be bringing about a disruption in classes this fall for the students of this province and they would not be using kids as pawns in their struggles to try and break the teachers' federations.
Why on earth is it that this government claims to care about the future of Ontario and it is at the same time cutting funding out of the very thing that is important --
Imagine, if you will, that you're on a camping trip in our beautiful Algonquin Park, asleep in your tent in the early morning hours, when you are suddenly startled awake and find yourself being dragged from your tent by a full-sized, rogue black bear.
This is the terror 11-year-old Nicholas Aikins experienced this summer. Nicholas screamed out in terror. Awakened by Nicholas's screams, Mike Hildebrand and his co-counsellor Michelle Hay ran to his rescue and found themselves confronted by the bear mauling Nicholas and trying to drag him away. Mike reacted quickly. He grabbed a canoe paddle and attacked the bear, driving it away from its prey.
From Nicholas's hospital bed his father, Steve Aikens, said Mike Hildebrand is "quite a hero. He without doubt saved my son's life. He put himself, his own life, in danger to save my son."
Much too often we are inundated in the media by negative stories of our young people. We are bombarded in the media with stories of gangs, drugs, fights and vandalism. But these negative images are not representative of the millions of young men and women, boys and girls who make up our youth. I am of the belief that Mike Hildebrand is both a hero and is representative of the fine core of young people in this province.
Mike was willing to put his life on the line in the defence of someone in need. I know I speak on behalf of the assembly when I say to Mike Hildebrand, thank you, Mike, for reminding us of all that is good in our youth.
Rather than sitting down with representatives of students, parents and the teaching profession to reach a consensus on the major education issues of the day, the Harris government is bulldozing ahead with its radical revolution and ignoring the consequences of its haste and its dramatic withdrawal of hundreds of millions of dollars from educational services in the province.
If the Conservative Party of Mike Harris wishes to purvey its partisan propaganda at a cost of over $1 million, the party and not the taxpayers should pay the bill. As residents of Ontario pull these propaganda pieces out of their mailboxes, they should know that it is being paid for with their tax dollars, just as the television ads they see on TV screens are being funded.
John Snobelen and Mike Harris should see education as an essential priority and should stop bleeding the system of its financial resources to feed an income tax cut that benefits the wealthiest and most privileged to the greatest extent.
In response to the entirely unjustifiable recommendation that Hotel Dieu be shut down, Hotel Dieu itself prepared the report Prescription for a Healthy Niagara, released in May of this year. Prescription for a Healthy Niagara prescribes and recommends a system that provides better access to quality care at $30 million less than the recommendations being made by the subcommittee of the district health council, but a mouthpiece for this particular government.
I tell you, that report has been distributed across Niagara region and people throughout all of Niagara are responding with great support. This is what Mrs M.M. has to say: "Closure of Hotel Dieu Hospital would deprive St Catharines and area residents of the high-quality services they now receive." Mr J.M. says, "Hotel Dieu's prescription is the only viable solution, economically and morally."
The fact is that these and hundreds of other people who have read the Hotel Dieu's report oppose Hotel Dieu's shutdown and demand that this government reverse its position on its abandonment of public --
"The nurses call her `Wonder Woman.'
"They admittedly envy the energetic way that 90-year-old Eileen Bain wheels stretchers around the emergency ward at Mississauga Hospital.
"`If you don't use it, you lose it,' said the spunky volunteer, who took time out from her rounds last Thursday for a party celebrating her 90th birthday.
"`Happy birthday, Mrs Bain. I wish I had an ounce of your energy,' said ER nurse Julia Fisher.
"`Mrs Bain is our oldest active volunteer. She's a real trooper and has more energy than all of us combined,' said Susan Zidaric-Seymour, head of community outreach programs for volunteer services.
"Eileen Bain has marked several other personal milestones this year, including 40 years of marriage and a quarter-century of volunteering at the hospital.
"It takes a special person to work in ER, but mere moments after meeting her, it's obvious why Eileen Bain is suited for the job.
"She brings intelligence, humour and a zest for life to her duties. She shows up for work sporting a T-shirt that boasts, `I may grow old but I'll never grow up.'"
She is a role model for us all.
REPORTS BY COMMITTEES
STANDING COMMITTEE ON RESOURCES DEVELOPMENT
Bill 99, An Act to secure the financial stability of the compensation system for injured workers, to promote the prevention of injury and disease in Ontario workplaces and to revise the Workers' Compensation Act and make related amendments to other Acts.
All those in favour, please say "aye."
All those opposed, please say "nay."
In my opinion, the ayes have it.
Call in the members. This will be a five-minute bell.
The division bells rang from 1350 to 1355.
The Speaker: All those opposed, please rise one at a time and be recognized by the Clerk.
Clerk of the House (Mr Claude L. DesRosiers): The ayes are 42; the nays are 34.
Pursuant to the order of the House dated May 29, 1997, Bill 99 shall be ordered for third reading.
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS
EXOTIC ANIMALS CONTROL ACT, 1997 / LOI DE 1997 SUR LA RÉGLEMENTATION DES ANIMAUX EXOTIQUES
Mr Parker moved first reading of the following bill:
Bill 159, An Act to regulate the keeping of Exotic Animals / Projet de loi 159, Loi visant à réglementer la garde d'animaux exotiques.
The standing committee on social development be authorized to meet to consider the bill for the purpose of conducting public hearings for two days at its regularly scheduled meeting times during the week of September 29, 1997, and from 6:30 pm to 9:30 pm on those same days; and
That the committee be further authorized to meet to consider the bill for the purposes of conducting public hearings for four days during the next recess;
That all amendments shall be filed with the clerk of the committee by 5 pm on the fifth calendar day following the final day of the public hearings on the bill;
That the committee shall be further authorized to meet for two days during the abovenoted recess for clause-by-clause consideration of the bill, and that the committee shall be authorized to meet beyond its normal hour of adjournment on the second day until completion of clause-by-clause consideration. At 5:00 pm on the second day of clause-by-clause consideration, those amendments which have not yet been moved shall be deemed to have been moved, and the Chair of the committee shall interrupt the proceedings and shall, without further debate or amendment, put every question necessary to dispose of all remaining sections of the bill and any amendments thereto. Any divisions required shall be deferred until all remaining questions have been put and shall be taken in succession with one 20-minute waiting period allowed pursuant to standing order 127(a);
That the committee shall report the bill to the House on the first available day following completion of clause-by-clause consideration that reports from committees may be received. In the event that the committee fails to report the bill on the date provided, the bill shall be deemed to be passed by the committee and shall be deemed to be reported to and received by the House;
That upon receiving the report of the standing committee on social development, the Speaker shall put the question for adoption of the report forthwith, and at such time the bill shall be ordered for third reading;
That one sessional day shall be allotted to the third reading stage of the bill. At 5:45 pm or 9:15 pm, as the case may be on such day, the Speaker shall interrupt the proceedings and shall put every question necessary to dispose of this stage of the bill without further debate or amendment;
That in the case of any division relating to any proceeding on the bill, the division bell shall be limited to five minutes.
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.
The funeral service was called "A Celebration of the Life of Margaret Mary Scrivener." I can truly say to you, Mr Speaker, after listening to the eulogies there, that it was a celebration of the life of a very extraordinary individual, Margaret Scrivener.
Margaret Scrivener was an activist. She was involved in volunteerism; she was involved in environmental issues; she was involved in her community; she was involved in farming, in having a farm out in Durham county which coincidentally is now occupied by the present member, Julia Munro, the member for Durham-York. She occupies the farmhouse where Margaret Scrivener's farm once was under operation in the 1960s.
As many of you know, of course, and perhaps more relevant to the Legislature of Ontario, Margaret became a member of the Legislature of Ontario in 1971 and was re-elected four times in the riding of St David. Margaret was one of the pioneering women who have occupied seats in the Legislature. It was not common at that time to have a great number of women, or the number of women we have in the Legislature now.
This morning I heard the story of how she got the nomination for the Progressive Conservative Party in the St David riding. She went downtown to talk to the party officials and they wanted her to run in some other ridings which were not as kind to Progressive Conservative candidates as perhaps the St David riding was. Margaret decided, as she was wont to do, that she lived in the St David riding, she had represented those interests as the president of a ratepayers' group, had been involved in the urban planning council of Metro Toronto during the 1960s and was actually the vice-chairman of that group, and that she was going to run there. That was the hallmark of her character and that was the personality trait of being a very determined person. As she went through her political career, she exhibited that tendency time and time again.
She obtained for her riding down in Regent Park one of the first health care clinics for that community, at a time when health care clinics were unusual. We're talking about the early 1970s when they were not as commonplace as they are across the province now. She persisted and persisted in demanding that for her constituents, and it was through her work that one of the first health care clinics in Ontario was put into two converted apartments down in Regent Park, and that health care clinic still operates today for the people of that area of Toronto.
Margaret Scrivener was a very public and private person, kind of an odd combination. Dr Bette Stephenson, who was a former Minister of Education in the Legislature, always mused that Margaret Scrivener remained in politics for some 14 years, yet managed to keep her age a mystery, notwithstanding that each and every one of us has our names printed in various directories and we're constantly being asked for details about our background and our age and all those kinds of things. Margaret Scrivener kept that very close to her.
I didn't realize it when I was a colleague of hers back from 1977 when I first came to this Legislature until 1985, but at that time Margaret was suffering from breast cancer and suffered that disease for some 25 years. I guess that was another hallmark of her character, that she never sought pity.
She was a very, very substantial person in terms of trying to accomplish things. Her family talked about her sickness, that it was a bother to her but that she never let it impede her in her determination to accomplish many things during her lifetime.
She served as a member of the Legislature, and then in 1975 became Minister of Government Services and Minister of Revenue for a period of time in the Bill Davis government.
After she left politics in 1985, she became the chairman of the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board of Ontario. I can tell you that I had many conversations with her after that on her attempt to improve compensation, particularly for children who had been victims of crimes across this province.
One of the tributes paid this morning in church by the former Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, the Honourable Hal Jackman, was that he described Margaret Scrivener as a person who was not a consensus builder. Margaret would size up a situation, she would make a determination and then point herself in that direction, and woe be to anyone who got in the road of that train that was coming down the track, because she was determined and she won many, many fights in terms of driving to what I believe were very significant achievements and ends for the people she represented.
She was known as an environmentalist for saving the ravines in the area she represented, and that was one of her hallmarks before she entered politics.
Today at St James Cathedral in Toronto I believe we really did celebrate the life of a very tremendous person, a person we should all look up to and try to take some of the very positive achievements she had, some of the energy she had and achieve some of the things she did for her constituents. She was a politician to be admired.
I had the opportunity to serve in this Legislature with Mrs Scrivener and certainly recall her contribution very well.
Sometimes the headline of an article in a newspaper captures what a person is about. I notice the obituary in the Toronto Star on September 14 started off by saying, "Margaret Scrivener was a complex figure -- a hard-headed Tory politician, champion of the environment, feminist and defender of the downtrodden." Indeed, we would all remember her in each one of those particular responsibilities. I remember as well that she was a great believer in voluntarism, in having people, those in a position to do so particularly, assist others within the community. In positions of leadership, she was able to make that contribution to her constituents and to everyone in the province.
She was also interested very much in planning, which we recall in the 1970s and 1980s was a matter of great contention and great debate. Margaret believed very much that there should be orderly planning in our communities and that part of that planning should include a good deal of green space. She was not to take a step backward when it came to defending that green space and her principles as they related to planning.
She was also at one time -- I think a lot of people didn't know -- a reporter for the Toronto Telegram, dealing with stories of war. Certainly she would have seen the very great challenges that are faced during wartime.
She also, in her days at home, was able to play the piano with a good deal of competence. It mentions that she loved to pay Chopin and Mozart and had three pianos with different voices in her home. So you can see she had a very great love of music.
She was a valued member not only of her constituency of St David, where she was very popular and returned time after time when she went to the electorate, but also an important member of the cabinet of William Davis, entering the cabinet I think in 1975 and serving as Minister of Government Services and Minister of Revenue. I can recall those two portfolios.
You had to know Margaret, and I think Norm Sterling mentioned in the latter part of his remarks that Margaret was not one to head for the centre in terms of a position, a consensus position. She did indeed look carefully at the issues and then she made up her mind what direction she was heading in. There were many people who would step aside, even within the cabinet itself, as she moved forward. I'm sure there were a few bruised ankles in the Conservative cabinet of people who wouldn't want to do as Margaret suggested they should, because she was very determined. She believed very much in what she was doing.
Those of us in the opposition remember her with admiration as a fierce partisan. There was no doubt that Margaret was a Tory through and through and that the opposition was indeed the enemy in a political sense, and that if you were going to take Margaret Scrivener on in a verbal battle in the House, you knew you could count on all the guns to be ablaze from the other side, because she was a very determined person and a loyalist to the cabinet and to her colleagues and very much admired in that regard.
If you wanted to confront Margaret, I always suggested to my colleagues that you put on the armour because she was always armed with a lot of good arguments herself and was vociferous in putting those arguments forward.
I am sure that her family will miss her very much, her friends will miss her very much and the people of the community will miss her very much. She will be remembered for many years to come for the service she rendered to the people of Toronto and to the people of Ontario.
Margaret and I were elected in the same year, 1971, and it does seem like a while ago. There were many times when I would listen to Margaret, largely in committees, when I was impressed by the large number of topics in which she had an interest and quite frankly some expertise and did not hesitate to express them in committee. That's reflected in the number of careers she had as well: To go from journalism to politics to real estate and silk farming indicates a lively mind and a real interest in the world around here.
She had a patrician bearing but seemed to know when to park that and deal with the real problems of the world around her. I know that she was considered a very tough boss and that if you were on her personal staff or if you were senior in the bureaucracy, you'd better measure up. She was very demanding, but she also demanded a lot of herself, and I think that's what allowed people to cope with that.
I can recall that on many occasions on committees we would engage in differences of opinion, because from time to time she and I differed on matters. I am trying to remember if I won any of those exchanges. My memory doesn't serve me well in that regard.
I can recall as well that one beautiful summer evening here in Toronto there was a reception at our local yacht club. I felt that I had an obligation to understand what my constituents were missing by not having a yacht club in the constituency, so I took myself off to that reception at the yacht club.
I was greeted at the yacht club by Margaret Scrivener, who took me under her wing and acted as my escort and companion and guide for the evening. I think she recognized -- and I mean this quite seriously -- that I was out of my element at that yacht club and she introduced me to all sorts of people and gave me a running history of the yacht club and some of the personalities who had helped build it into a successful yacht club.
I regarded that as an act of kindness and I didn't forget that, because she didn't do it as though she was showing off her yacht club; that is not the way in which the evening was conducted. In politics, we don't forget those things, when people are kind to us.
On behalf of my caucus I would simply say that Margaret Scrivener made a big contribution to public life in this province. She was very tough-minded and, as my friend from Carleton said, she was not a consensus builder but at the same time many of us respected that. When you got into an exchange with Margaret Scrivener, you knew that she was going to put her case very well and she wouldn't play any tricks on you. What you saw was what you got, and that didn't change as the debate went on, and the tactics were always straight ahead as well. So on behalf of my caucus, I extend condolences to Margaret's family and to her friends. She'll be missed by many.
STATEMENTS BY THE MINISTRY AND RESPONSES
Mr Bailie has given the opinion that the City of Toronto Act does not allow this, because the individual municipalities do not exist for the purpose of municipal election. He suggested that the government consider making a regulation to address this transitional issue.
The councils of Toronto and Scarborough have also asked the government of Ontario to see if a regulation could be put in place to permit these questions.
Today I am pleased to inform the House that the municipalities in Metro Toronto will be able to place questions on the election ballot this November.
These questions were put forward in good faith. We believe that municipalities should be able to poll their voters on election day. It's something many municipalities have done in the past as a cost-effective way to gauge public opinion. In fact, it was our government that made changes to the Municipal Elections Act last year to make it easier for all municipalities to put questions on the municipal ballot.
I am happy to say we intend to make a regulation under the Municipal Elections Act within the next few weeks to ensure that these questions, and others in restructuring municipalities across Ontario, can go on the ballot this November. We will leave it up to the existing municipalities to decide what questions they want to put on the ballot.
The regulation will allow each of the Metro municipalities to decide which questions they want to ask of voters within their old boundaries. The deadline for them to give their questions to the chief election officer is September 30.
This is a unique election and the first in the history of the new city of Toronto. As we move closer to January 1, 1998, we will continue to deal with transition issues like this as they arise.
I also ask the minister to listen to another request. As you know, there has been a major foul-up in Bill 103 where the borough of East York only has two representatives. They've asked for a third representative so they would have a voice at the table.
As you've made this change, listening to the referenda, I hope you realize that the people of East York deserve the third member. The city of York, with approximately the same population, has four members on the megacity council; East York only has two. Here's an opportunity for you, Minister, to show that you really listened and allow for a third representative to sit on the megacity so the people of East York could have a voice, because they deserve to be represented. Do the right thing and add that third member for East York before the elections take place. Do it now and let the people of East York be heard.
How about passing a regulation that you're not going to invoke all the police charges to the various communities of the province? It's about $182 million worth. There are actually municipalities that are going to have to pay something like $60,000 or $80,000 for police services they've never had; they've never had them, and you're making the smaller municipalities pay for that.
How about invoking a regulation which will revoke the municipal support grant of $665 million? If you revoke that particular downloading, at least a lot of the municipalities would feel an awful lot better about meeting their budgetary requirements next year.
How about making a regulation that revokes the downloading of all those roads and highways? In eastern Ontario we're going to be left with four highways: Highway 7, the 401, the 416 and Highway 62 north of Belleville. All the other roads are going to be local roads, and the local municipalities simply are not able to pay for them.
How about a regulation that revokes the downloading of ambulance costs in this province? That's a cost municipalities have never paid for, and you are invoking those charges against the smallest municipalities, which can't possibly afford them.
How about a regulation that revokes the downloading of the health unit costs? That's a health service; it should be paid for by the Ministry of Health. Why is that being downloaded on local municipalities? We're talking about something like $225 million.
How about invoking Bill 156, which calls for the direct election of the chair of the region of Sudbury? Why aren't you doing that?
There are so many regulations that you can invoke and thereby right the wrongs you have committed on the municipalities of this province.
There are a couple of other transitional issues we'd like you to take care of. We would like you to take care of the educational financing. Nobody in the province really knows what that's going to be like, who is going to pay for what and what the municipalities will get with respect to that.
How about the assessment rolls? The different municipalities are being told they will not get their new assessment rolls based on the new property tax system until at least March or April of next year. They want to know what their situation is by the time they do their budgeting in January.
While you're in the mood to pass all these regulations, undo some of the harm you have done to this province and that you've done to the municipalities of this province. I've got a file here. This is just one week of clippings of municipalities that are saying that their tax loads are going to significantly increase because of --
I'm glad you're making this regulation change. I'm glad the municipalities in Metropolitan Toronto, for the last time in their individual capacities, will have the opportunity to decide what issues they should put on to the ballot in the form of referenda. But I don't expect any of those are going to make one iota of difference to you and to your government, because if that were the case, you would have listened, this minister particularly would have listened, to the one major referendum that was important. That's the one which you want to pretend didn't exist, the one in which the people of Metropolitan Toronto said to you very clearly and very strongly that they didn't want your megacity. Yet they're getting it, because once again your attitude was and continues to be that you know best. You know best, despite what the people say, despite what the people want.
I'm glad to see that municipalities will have, through this regulation change, the ability to put on the ballot such questions as: What do people think of the download? How are we going to cope with the situation this government and this minister have caused? I think it will be useful for the people of Toronto to express themselves one more time, but at the end of the day the only point that will be made is the point that has been made time and time again, that Mike Harris and Al Leach don't listen, that Mike Harris and Al Leach don't care two hoots about what the people in Metropolitan Toronto have to say.
We're going to see that compounded throughout the process, as we have seen so far. We're going to see that continue in spades, because that's the one sure thing you can say about Al Leach and Mike Harris when it comes to many issues, certainly when it comes to the issue of the creation of the megacity in Metropolitan Toronto: that they're the ones who know best. They don't care about the fact that 80% of the people across Metropolitan Toronto have said no. They're just going to continue to impose their will, even to the extent that when the minister finally has to come to this Legislature and admit that he's fixing a mistake he caused by his actions, he does it in this roundabout way, in saying he believes municipalities should be able to poll their voters on election day, even applauding himself for having made it easier for municipalities to hold referenda, those same referenda that he continues to ignore.
I too wonder what the results of this will be. I know that in the cities of Toronto and Scarborough right now councils are contemplating putting referenda questions on the municipal ballot with respect to charitable gaming casinos and video slot machines. I want to know from the minister, what happens if the people vote no? Will the provincial government abandon its plans to run roughshod over communities that have said they don't want these charitable gaming casinos in their neighbourhoods? What's the response of the government going to be? Will it be like the government's response to the overwhelming no to the megacity?
The ability to have the referendum question placed is an important one and I'm glad you fixed your mistake there. The bottom line is going to be, will you listen? Your record to date has been of a government that refuses to listen to people, that moves ahead so quickly, that makes mistakes, that doesn't understand the consequences of its actions because it doesn't take the time to listen.
Minister, I am hoping that if these questions are on the ballot and if the answer comes back a resounding no, this time you will listen. I can tell you there are people in neighbourhoods all across Metropolitan Toronto, certainly already organized within the city of Scarborough and the city of Toronto, who are saying no to expanded gambling, who are saying no to your charity casinos and to your video slot machines. They don't want it in their neighbourhoods. We'll wait and see whether you'll listen to them.
There's one problem you have failed to address, that in fact you've completely ignored. I want to ask you today, Minister, with youth unemployment rates running at around 16%, where is your plan for the young people of this province? What exactly are you and your ministry doing to help the young people of this province?
First of all, what I'd like to say to the member is this, about any kind of jobs: What we need to have is the right climate in Ontario, and that's what we're creating in this province. As you know, we have cut the personal income tax rate, and I keep coming back to that again and again. That will keep our bright young people in this province. I have spoken to many of the high-technology industries throughout this province and they have said to me that one of the best ways to keep young people in the province and create jobs for them is to have low personal tax rates.
I want to remind you that during all of this period of time, you sat and did nothing while the Minister of Education allowed tuition fees to become the second highest in this country and university funding to become the lowest. According to a vice-president who deals with student loans at the Royal Bank, your government is threatening to put more and more students into bankruptcy by forcing them to take on huge debts.
Minister, you're doing absolutely nothing to ensure that the young people of this province are getting those opportunities they need, educational opportunities that are so critical to our success. I want to ask you again, what is it that you and your ministry are doing to help the young people of this province? What are you doing?
The bottom line really is, since we've been elected, we have created over one quarter of a million jobs in this province. That speaks a lot for what's going on in this province.
As I said yesterday to the member for Sault Ste Marie, there were 33,000 new jobs created in August. I don't think we can stress this enough. I want people who are watching this show today to realize what we're doing in this province. We're creating jobs and economic development. How are we doing it? We're open for business and making it comfortable for businesses.
I remind the minister that you are responsible for economic development in this province. I remind the minister that economic development includes the young people of this province. It's not good enough for you to sit back and hope that eventually something will trickle down to young people. It's your responsibility to see that economic development means just that for the young people of this province.
I ask you again, Minister: What are you and your ministry doing specifically to help the young people of this province?
Also, the Conference Board of Canada forecasts Ontario is going to outperform the rest of Canada in the next few years. Our growth, the GNP in this province, is higher than that of any of the G7 countries in this world. We're creating the right climate and that's what's going to create the jobs for old people and young people, and they should pay attention to that over there.
TEACHERS' COLLECTIVE BARGAINING
You assured us all that you are working very hard to make sure there is not a confrontation, but at this point, Minister, all we have from you is words, empty words and no action. You said you had had some consultations with teachers. That's not what the teachers would call it. You said that you've listened to teachers but you've given them nothing back except your bottom line: You want another billion dollars out of education.
Minister, when will you be going back to the bargaining table to have some serious discussions about how to avoid a destructive confrontation with teachers in this province?
When the teachers came to that table and they sat down in good faith to try to negotiate some alternatives, they were faced with your non-negotiable bottom line. You had to have a billion dollars to give to the Minister of Finance to pay for Mike Harris's tax cut, a non-negotiable bottom line. So the teachers said: "Let us at least try to meet that bottom line without hurting the classroom. Let's look for some ways of feeding the Minister of Finance so he can show his budget cuts without taking services away from students.
Minister, you're going to deny that's what happened but that is true. You are working hard, you say, to avoid a confrontation, but the fact is, you have not gone back to the table, you have drafted legislation you want to pass before Thanksgiving. The clock is ticking and you are not talking to teachers. Is this the ultimate crisis you've been trying to create? Are you determined to sacrifice Ontario's students to pay for the tax cuts?
What has happened is the staff in my ministry took the time to visit with and listen to the concerns of teachers, the people who bargain for teachers, the people who are the heads of the unions for teachers, the boards that represent the boards across the province, and to listen to their concerns as we go through a transition to a better education system. That's what happened. The member for Fort William can twist it and turn it any way she'd like and she can have whatever fantasy she'd like, but that's what's happened.
The teachers still came back. In spite of this totally non-consultative, demanding, absolutely non-negotiable bottom-line approach you took, they came back and said, "Let's find some alternatives." They propose that you look at some use of the surplus in the teacher pension funds.
As you know, you comanage that fund. You both contribute to it. The teachers said, "Maybe we can feed the dollars into the Treasurer's budget from that fund without taking $1 billion out of the classroom," which is surely what has to be avoided. Your own commissioner said, "Look at that alternative, because you must not take more money out of the classroom."
Minister, you said again this morning that the teachers' pension fund was very healthy. You said it might have as much as $10 billion in surplus funds by the year 2000. You said no to that alternative last week.
We have, as you know, put forward in the budget a provision for $250 million, which we hope will be matched by the pension fund, to provide early retirement for teachers in our system so that young teachers who would like to get into the system can. We have been discussing this with the Ontario Teachers' Federation for quite some period of time; we will continue to talk with them about it. We hope we can come up with a program that will allow for a graceful retirement of those who would like to leave teaching a little early. We will be looking forward to doing that with the Ontario Teachers' Federation as soon as we can.
Thousands of Ontario children are back at school in their third week and are rapidly learning the hard realities and the uncertainties of the invent-a-crisis education system we have in this province today. At the high school level, students all across the province are finding they can't participate in school activities unless they pay user fees, ranging from $20 to $40. At the elementary level, students are learning very quickly to become salespeople. They're having to sell subscriptions to magazines or sell chocolate bars to pay for art supplies and other school supplies.
How many arts supplies and textbooks and school supplies could the Minister of Education buy with the $1 million he is using to flog his propaganda in every household in Ontario? How much could we have done for education with that $1 million?
As for what it costs to put out this information piece to the people across Ontario, I'd leave it to the member for Algoma to speculate about how much this might cost versus this full-colour, multipage brochure put out by his government in its final year, with a picture of the then minister, the signature of the minister, his message. I'd suggest this is perhaps a little more expensive than that, and perhaps the member for Algoma can explain that.
Ms Murtha is not alone. This government is pushing the school system and the people of this province, the students and the parents, to the brink. What steps is the minister taking to avoid a confrontation with the teachers of this province, endangering the school year for Ontario children?
I thought he would have the humility of remembering that during the social contract class sizes were negotiated up in Ontario. We are working now to bring class sizes down, or at least to end the time when they've been growing while you were in government. I'd also remind the member for Algoma that your government left every student in this province with a $41,000 debt.
Since the minister is referring to his expert panels, will he follow this recommendation from this panel re education funding, and when will he make that decision clear to us in the Legislature, to the parents and the students, the teachers and the taxpayers of this province so we end this uncertainty and perhaps avoid the confrontation that he seems hell-bent on bringing about in this province?
Yesterday, while your majority on the committee was ramming through over 250 amendments, we heard from your government amendment that you were now taking your draconian time limits and making them retroactive to all injured worker decisions prior to the passing of this law.
Minister, nobody at the hearings asked for that. You didn't put it in the draft law. You never indicated at any point that you were going to make it retroactive. Then, when we had an opportunity to debate it yesterday, your parliamentary assistant refused to allow that amendment to be brought forward in the meagre time limit left to deal with it publicly.
Why are you doing this to injured workers?
But my question to you was specifically around the retroactivity of the draconian time limits. Two things are going to happen as a result. Those who hear about it will flood the system, and are you prepared to deal with that? Second, those who don't hear about it will lose the existing right they now have to file an appeal when they have the information they need to do it.
My question to you, Minister, is, why are you continuing to treat injured workers with such contempt and why did you sneak-attack with this retroactivity amendment?
We have totally revamped the WCB. We are very confident that as a result of the goals we have set for the injured worker system, that is, a 30% reduction in lost-time injury over five years, there are going to be far fewer injured workers in the future than ever before. Our priority in all of this restructuring is to focus on prevention; it is to focus the energies of the WCB on health and safety. It's the first time that any government has set for itself a measurable target. In our regard, we've set 30%, and we are confident that's going to reduce the amount of hardship.
The other change we've made is we are very concerned about chronic pain and we have made a conscious decision to conduct --
I indicated to Governor Pataki that none of our reactors had closed down, as was alleged by him at this point in time, that we were having a parliamentary committee to look at this particular matter and that I understood very much his concern about the increase in fossil fuel and my efforts to try to avoid using fossil fuel if that's at all possible for us.
The question I have for you, Minister of Environment, is, what have you told the Ontario Minister of Energy to tell Bill Farlinger about the very serious concerns that thoughtful people everyone, including the Governor of New York, have about the excesses of the Farlinger plan?
Number two, Ontario Hydro will live within its regulations as required with regard to emissions, but we were left with a significant problem here in Ontario. Because of past actions of all previous governments of all political stripes, we have a problem with nuclear safety, nuclear power in this province. There's one of two answers: We either turn on the lights or we don't have the power to turn those lights on.
Today courageous franchise operators Les and Terry Stewart appeared at a news conference here at Queen's Park to tell their story. They're in the members' gallery now to hear your answer. They say the legislation I've been calling for would give them at least a fair chance. For them and other small operators of franchises in Ontario, will you act to protect small business and families in this province?
We have been working on franchise legislation. We have been working with both franchisors and franchisees to come forward with a consensus piece, something that will address the concerns of franchisees and at the same time ensure that we continue to support business in Ontario.
Having met with both the Canadian Franchise Association and the Ontario Franchisee Coalition, they've identified a number of concerns, including disclosure requirements, a code of ethics and the right to associate. These are all parts of upcoming legislation that we support.
I think what's important here is that we're bringing forward legislation that really is coming forward as the consensus from the industry as a whole. Second, I think it's important for us to bring forward the right solution for Ontario, and this is what we're doing.
When I asked you about this a year ago, this is what you said: "I've asked my staff to restart their efforts to get moving on franchise legislation. I think it's very important." It seems to me that's what you said again today. A year later, you've done absolutely nothing, and people like Les and Terry Stewart are paying the price of your inaction. When will your government listen to these small business owners and introduce legislation to guarantee fairness in the franchise industry in Ontario?
I know the member is well intentioned, but I think he has forgotten a lot of the high jinks that have occurred in this Legislature which have delayed the passage of good legislation.
I agree with the member when he said that this is déjà vu all over again. I will remind him that back when their government was in power, the then Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations, the member for Riverdale, said in 1993: "If, when the Liberals were in power, they had moved ahead with legislation, possibly the problem we're looking at now wouldn't be happening. The issue is that even if we passed legislation today, it wouldn't resolve this specific problem."
Yet, in the two years you had after that, you did nothing. At least we're moving forward with the franchisees, trying to come up with something that makes some sense.
PHARMACISTS' DISPENSING FEES
I wonder if you could comment on whether or not you find it offensive, and also whether or not you find that this is legal.
Members of this House should know that part of the problem is that we're the only jurisdiction in Canada that allows the flexibility in charging the copay. It's against the law in every province to waive the copay. We believe the practice is precipitated because we allow pharmacists to waive the $2 copay.
I want to reassure members of the House that over the course of the last year and a half, this government has advised pharmacy about the inappropriateness of this activity. We have the complete support and concurrence of the Ontario Pharmacists' Association and the college of pharmacy in order to ensure that this practice doesn't go on. I encourage all members when they find samples of this conduct going on to report them to the Ministry of Health or to the college of pharmacy, and appropriate action will be taken against those pharmacists.
TORONTO TRANSIT COMMISSION
Given that there is an Ontario company, Orion Bus Industries, which has been the recipient of millions and millions of dollars to keep it viable, why was it excluded from the bidding, and why would you allow the exporting of 60,000 working days of work to the United States?
But I just want to address your question. As far as the purchase of these buses, I believe that municipalities should have the right to seek the better deal providing the quality is there. But at the same time, obviously I feel we have a responsibility in making sure that we do get Ontario working. However, I will get the information and I will get back to the member.
So we have a situation now where it's sole-source, there was not an opportunity for Orion Bus to even quote on the order, and they do not meet your own policy of having low-level buses available for the mobility-challenged community. The question is, are you going to allow this order to proceed or are you going to stop it?
Again, I want to say to the member that I have no idea of what has transpired, but we do have a policy in Ontario that buses that are purchased must be low-floor, and without the government's permission, they will not be able to buy any of these buses. I would like to assure the honourable member that I will certainly look into this matter to see how it can be best resolved.
My question is very simple. You have announced today that you are putting forward a regulation to allow these referendum questions to be placed. If the answer is no, will your government immediately cancel all plans to proceed with charitable gaming casinos and video slot machines within the boundaries of those existing municipalities?
Certainly nowhere have we ever said that we would force any municipality into taking any gaming initiative; in fact, quite the opposite. We have been listening to various municipalities bringing forward their concerns in their communities.
But I want to point out that in the RFP process for the charity gaming club, it indicates that at this stage right now, after the short list has been compiled, the proponents on the short list are at this point in time to meet with municipalities to discuss the proper locations within communities to do these. Certainly many of the concerns that people have such as in residential areas -- that's silly to even consider that. There are many things we need to discuss with municipalities.
Are you, as the provincial government, going to listen to the results of those referenda? If the results are no, will you cancel the casinos in my community of Beaches, in downtown Lakeshore, in Scarborough Bluffs? Will you cancel them or not, or are you going to slough it off on the new megacity?
The member for Scarborough East last night, at a city hall meeting in Toronto, said very clearly -- it's on CBC, CTV, CITY-TV; every one of them has it on tape -- you will not force it on the cities of Toronto and Scarborough if they are unwilling hosts; you won't slough it off to the megacity. I want that here today, in Hansard, clarified. Will you listen to the results or not?
Secondly, I said it's quite the opposite. We have been listening to municipalities, as you have been requesting us to do. I think it's important for us to consult with councils and to listen to what they have to say. It's very important for us.
But I would like to bring a little context to this, first of all. What we are actually doing with the charity gaming clubs is replacing the old system of the three-day rovers which, it's acknowledged, did not work. In fact, the members of the OPP have indicated they've already issued 34 charges under the Gaming Control Act in the first six months of this year; also, they've had 15 Criminal Code charges.
Clearly the old system was not working. Clearly we need to be more accountable to charities and to the taxpayers of Ontario, and this is what we're saying.
Can the minister tell this House what the ministry has done to help those on welfare put an end to this cycle and how Peel region's current welfare figures compare to the rest of Ontario?
We know that the majority of people who are leaving the welfare system across the province -- 218,000 fewer people -- are going out into paid jobs. We did a survey last year, discovered that 62% are indeed leaving welfare for employment-related reasons; another 11% had additional income, which is why they left. We know that people are moving off welfare rolls because of strong economic growth.
We've heard today in the House about the net new jobs, almost a quarter of a million net new jobs in the last two years in this province, and also because of our welfare reforms, including work for welfare.
I would like to ask the minister how the taxpayers in Peel and my riding of Mississauga South --
What we've seen in Peel is a $14-million saving in the last two years for Peel taxpayers, and I would like to congratulate Peel for the work they've done on our work-for-welfare program. This is one of the things that's contributing to the reduction. That $14-million saving to those Peel taxpayers is one of the reasons they've been able to hold down property taxes. That's evidence of the kind of municipal management that we have great faith in in terms of the partnership we now have in social services. We look forward to this kind of record in many other municipalities. There are now 42 municipalities delivering Ontario Works and it is steadily expanding across the province.
First of all, there is a five-year-old child in my riding whose name is Julia, who suffers from a chromosome abnormality and requires special attention in the classroom. Her parents have been trying to get a teaching assistant in her grade 1 classroom to help with Julia's special needs so that she can stay in her local community school and not be forced to go to private school, which they can't afford. The school and the principal are trying their best, but because of your cuts they told her that Julia has to leave the school and go to a private school.
Minister, do you think it's right that cuts should end up with a young child like Julia being forced to go to a private school and not being able to stay in her local school?
I would remind the member for Oakwood that funds for special education have not been reduced by this government. That's something we want to be very clear about. They have not been reduced by this government. In fact, one of the reasons we're moving to a new allocation model for funding education is to protect special education, to protect the full budget for it so that those students, particularly those students most in need, can receive the support they require.
We think that's an important part of the allocation model. That's one of the reasons why it's a special component, why it's set to the side and protected, so that we won't have these kinds of circumstances.
Don't you see that whether you blame the school boards or whoever, you're hurting children and people who want a basic job like a teaching assistant and who are being laid off? Julia suffers, Antonella suffers, both families are suffering. Won't you look into what is happening to kids and families?
But I remind the member opposite that we specifically have changed and are in the process now of changing how we fund education to protect those who need our services the most. We have not in any way, shape or form, cut special education, and yet there are these cases that you're aware of where the services are just not getting to the young people who need them.
I'd suggest the member opposite support us, support this government in its initiative to get a better funding system, get a funding system that meets the needs of all of our students, particularly those students who need special services, because they should be of greatest concern to all of us. That's why we're changing the funding system, and those are the circumstances our new funding system will provide for.
Even your colleague, two seats to the left of the member asking the question, indicated during his time in government in this capacity that his government -- his position at that point was supportive of what we've done. By and large, the response on a province-wide basis from municipal governments, both large and small, has been supportive.
At the same time, you're saying the dumping and the downloading is going to be neutral. Can you tell these municipalities how they're going to pay for these services without increasing property taxes if this government is saying everything is going to be neutral?
Firearms registration is not new to Canada. The current handgun registration has been in place since 1978. Handguns have been required to be registered in one form or another since the 1930s. But the numbers show it has not -- capital N, capital O, capital T, NOT -- worked. For example, of the 437 handguns seized in 1995, only 12.5% were registered. In 1994 the figure was only 10.6% of over 700 handguns.
The federal government's estimated cost to the system of $85 million -- we think they've exceeded that amount already -- is very much disputed. Even if it were accurate, that's more than enough money to pay for policing in the entire counties of Simcoe and Middlesex combined.
"Whereas the provincial government has discontinued the northern support grant which has traditionally compensated the north for assessment deficiency and increased service costs; and
"Whereas the north is confronted with unique costs, severe weather conditions, higher prices, difficult terrain, higher levels of unemployment and a lower per capita income; and
"Whereas the provincial government has indicated its intention to eliminate all municipal unconditional grants, including the conditional road subsidy; and
"Whereas there has been no indication that the Ontario mining tax, which was implemented to fund northern support grants, will be eliminated or reduced;
"Now therefore be it resolved that we petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to fully support and endorse the position taken by the Federation of Northern Ontario Municipalities (FONOM) in its paper entitled `Fairness and Equity for Our North'; and
"That the province be requested to enact a new act to establish and provide on a permanent basis `northern Ontario investments' for northern municipalities to provide funds to maintain the basic infrastructure in terms of roads, water and sewer facilities and provide funds to stimulate the social and economic development of the north; and further
"We the undersigned believe that the amount set aside for the `northern development investments' be equivalent to the amount set aside for the northern support grant in 1989, indexed on an annual basis."
I affix my signature to this 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 of Ontario 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."
I will sign it so that it will be accepted at the table.
HEALTH CARE WORKERS
"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:
"Whereas we the health care consumers and health care providers of Ontario request that the Ministry of Health take steps to ensure that direct patient care be provided by adequate numbers of regulated health care workers whose skills and knowledge match the role they undertake;
"We the undersigned petition the Legislature of Ontario."
"Whereas at this time in the province of Ontario it is not illegal for a woman to appear topless in public, and due to the fact that this lack of restriction offends a large percentage of Ontarians;
"We the undersigned petition the government of Ontario to introduce legislation that would make it illegal for a woman to appear topless in any public place except in clearly marked designated beach areas."
IPPERWASH PROVINCIAL PARK
"Whereas many questions concerning the events preceding, during and after the fatal shooting of Anthony Dudley George on September 6, 1995, at Ipperwash Provincial Park, where over 200 armed officers were sent to control 25 unarmed men and women, have not been answered; and
"Whereas the officers involved in the beating of Bernard George were not held responsible for their actions; and
"Whereas the Ontario Provincial Police refused to cooperate with the Special Investigations Unit in recording the details of that night; and
"Whereas the influence and communications of Lambton MPP Marcel Beaubien with the government have been verified through transcripts presented in the Legislature; and
"Whereas the trust of the portfolio of native affairs held by Attorney General Charles Harnick is compromised by his continued refusal for a full public inquiry into the events at Ipperwash; and
"Whereas the promised return of Camp Ipperwash to the Stony Point Nation by the federal Ministry of Defence and the serious negotiations of land claims by both the provincial and federal governments could have avoided a conflict;
"We, the undersigned, request that a full public inquiry be held into the events surrounding the fatal shooting of Dudley George on September 6, 1995, to eliminate all misconceptions held by and about the government, the OPP and the Stony Point people."
"Whereas the government of Ontario is proposing to take away the protections of the Rent Control Act; and
"Whereas the government of Ontario is proposing to allow a landlord to charge a tenant who moves into an apartment whatever the landlord can get away with; and
"Whereas the government of Ontario is proposing to raise the limit of how high rents can increase for all tenants; and
"Whereas the government of Ontario is proposing to make it easier to demolish or convert existing affordable rental housing; and
"Whereas the government of Ontario is proposing to take away the rent freeze which has been successful in forcing some landlords to repair their buildings;
"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to keep the existing rent laws which provide true protection for tenants in place."
I affix my signature to this.
"Whereas the Minister of Education intends on taking more than $1 billion out of Ontario's education system at a time when there is an increasing consensus on the importance of supporting our schools and classrooms; and
"Whereas per pupil funding in the province of Ontario now ranks below other jurisdictions, such as Georgia, Kentucky, Missouri and Nebraska; and
"Whereas the Mike Harris government has now embarked on an advertising campaign which will cost the taxpayers of Ontario over $1 million; and
"Whereas the Mike Harris commercial doesn't constitute an important public announcement and instead is clearly an abuse of public funds, because they are self-serving political messages which are designed to influence public opinion; and
"Whereas the Mike Harris government could cancel the advertising campaign and use the $1 million which belongs to the taxpayers of Ontario for the purchase of 40,000 textbooks;
"We, the undersigned, call on the Mike Harris government to cancel their blatantly partisan, self-serving political advertising campaign and redirect the taxpayers' $1 million to classroom funding."
I agree with this petition. I affix my signature to it in my agreement.
"We, the undersigned concerned citizens of Ontario, Canada, oppose the proposed amendments to the Human Rights Code contained in section 200 of Bill 96, the Tenant Protection Act.
"Section 200, which allows landlords to use income information to disqualify prospective tenants, will have a devastating impact on single mothers, the disabled, refugees, seniors and people receiving social assistance, among others. It will severely reduce the housing options for low-income individuals and families, increasing the number of households that are forced into homelessness or into overpriced accommodation.
"If section 200 of Bill 96 is not amended, the government of Ontario will be authorizing discrimination against people with low incomes.
"Thus we, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario that the words `income information' be deleted from sections 36 and 200 of Bill 96."
I agree with this petition and sign it.
PUBLIC SERVICE AND LABOUR RELATIONS REFORM
"Whereas the Harris government's Bill 136 will effectively suspend all labour relations rights for municipal, health and school board employees affected by provincially forced amalgamations; and
"Whereas the Harris government's Bill 136 will hurt average workers in every community across Ontario including nurses, teachers, firemen and police officers; and
"Whereas the Harris government's bill will decrease the quality of health care as well as the quality of education delivered in Ontario; and
"Whereas the Harris government's Bill 136 was designed to provide the government with sweeping powers to override long-standing labour negotiation rights for workers including the right to negotiate, the right to strike, the right to seek binding arbitration and the right to choose a bargaining unit;
"Therefore, be it resolved that we, the undersigned, support our MPP Michael Gravelle in his opposition to this legislation and join him in calling upon the Harris government to repeal Bill 136 which creates a climate of confrontation."
I'm pleased to add my name to this petition.
"We, the undersigned concerned citizens of Ontario, Canada, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario that we do not agree with the proposed Tenant Protection Act, Bill 96, section 200, which would make it legal for landlords to refuse to rent to low-income people. Many landlords would be happy to be able to legally refuse to rent to people on welfare, FBA, disability, single mothers, seniors with low pensions and other low-income people, such as large numbers of minorities.
"This change to the Ontario Human Rights Code is a violation of the Charter of Rights, which Canada signed. We therefore request that the words `income information' be removed from Bill 96, section 200."
I sign this petition in agreement.
ROCK MUSIC GROUP
"Whereas the rock band Marilyn Manson was permitted to play a concert at the Ottawa Congress Centre on Friday, August 1, 1997; and
"Whereas Marilyn Manson's wilful promotion of hatred, violence, immorality and obscenity has been linked to teen suicides and adolescent crimes across North America; and
"Whereas by allowing Marilyn Manson to perform, the Ottawa Congress Centre, a crown agency with a public mandate, helps to legitimize the band and its unethical messages; and
"Whereas the Ontario Court (General Division) has ruled that Marilyn Manson's music does not meet the definitions of obscenity or hate literature in the Criminal Code;
"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to call on the Liberal government of Canada to amend the Criminal Code in order to ensure that Marilyn Manson and other people directing messages of hate and derision towards vulnerable children and youths are not permitted to perform in Canada, and to ensure that messages which offend the moral and ethical sensibilities of Ontarians are not given a voice at venues financed by the taxpayers of Ontario, including the Ottawa Congress Centre."
As required, I have affixed my own signature thereto. It's signed by Victor King and Larry and Denise Slatter.
"Whereas Bill 156 was introduced as a private member's bill and is entitled the Regional Municipality of Sudbury Statute Law Amendment Act, 1997; and
"Whereas this bill provides for the direct election of the chair of the regional municipality of Sudbury by a vote of the electors of the area municipalities; and
"Whereas the election of the regional chair will be held concurrently with the regular election in the area municipalities; and
"Whereas we, the electorate of the regional municipality of Sudbury, want to be part of the electoral process in electing a regional chair; and
"Whereas we, the electorate, believe that as residents of the area municipalities composing the regional municipality of Sudbury we have the right to decide who is elected to the office of regional chair; and
"Whereas we, the electorate, support Bill 156, which lets the people decide;
"Therefore we, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to support MPP Rick Bartolucci's private member's bill enacting the Regional Municipality of Sudbury Statute Law Amendment Act, which will provide the taxpayers of the regional municipality of Sudbury with a voice in electing our regional chair, and urge the assembly to deal with this private member's bill immediately."
I affix my signature to this petition.
I submit it today on their behalf.
"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:
"Whereas TVOntario/TFO is owned by the people of Ontario; and
"Whereas the Mike Harris government has opposed public support for maintaining TVO as a publicly owned and funded educational broadcaster by putting TVO through a privatization review; and
"Whereas the Mike Harris government has not confirmed that full public participation will be part of this privatization review;
"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to hold open and honest public consultation with the people of Ontario before making a decision on the future of TVO/TFO."
This is sent in by Dr G.W. Milne from Thunder Bay. I'm proud to sign my name to that petition.
"Whereas the Mike Harris government has announced its intentions of dumping the financing for ambulances, social housing and public health care services on to the backs of municipalities; and
"Whereas this irresponsible action will create a shortfall of more than $42 million for local governments in St Catharines and the Niagara region; and
"Whereas local representatives in St Catharines and the Niagara region will be forced to either raise property taxes by as much as $200 per household or cut services; and
"Whereas Mike Harris called municipal representatives whiners when they tried to explain to him that his proposal was unfair and would create gaps in important services such as the delivery of public health care services;
"Whereas the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing accused local representatives of being opportunistic simply because they attempted to point out that the Mike Harris proposal was unfair and primarily designed to fund his ill-advised tax scheme; and
"Whereas the Harris government refuses to listen to the representatives, who work most closely with their constituents;
"We, the undersigned, call on the Mike Harris government to scrap its downloading plan, which will cause either an increase in property taxes or an unacceptable cut to important local services."
I affix my signature to this petition as I'm in full agreement with its sentiments.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
That the standing committee on general government shall be authorized to meet at its regularly scheduled meeting times on October 9, 1997, to consider the bill, which consideration may include public hearings;
That the standing committee on general government shall further be authorized to meet to consider the bill for four days during the next recess for the purpose of conducting public hearings;
That all proposed amendments shall be tabled with the clerk of the committee by 5 pm on the fifth calendar day following the final day of public hearings on the bill;
That the committee shall be authorized to meet for one day during the said recess for clause-by-clause consideration of the bill;
That the committee shall further be authorized to meet at its first regularly scheduled meeting times following the said recess for a second day of clause-by-clause consideration; and that the committee shall be authorized to meet beyond its normal hour of adjournment that day until the completion of clause-by-clause consideration;
At 5 pm on that second day of clause-by-clause consideration, those amendments which have not yet been moved shall be deemed to have been moved, and the Chair of the committee shall interrupt the proceedings and shall, without further debate or amendment, put every question necessary to dispose of all remaining sections of the bill and any amendments thereto. Any divisions required shall be deferred until all remaining questions have been put and taken in succession with one 20-minute waiting period allowed pursuant to standing order 127(a);
That the committee shall report the bill to the House not later than the first sessional day that reports from committees may be received following the completion of clause-by-clause consideration, or not later than December 1, 1997, whichever is earliest. In the event that the committee fails to report the bill on the date provided, the bill shall be deemed to have been passed by the committee and shall be deemed to be reported to and received by the House;
That upon receiving the report of the standing committee on general government, the Speaker shall put the question for adoption of the report forthwith, and at such time the bill shall be ordered for third reading;
That one sessional day shall be allotted to the third reading stage of the bill. At 5:45 pm or 9:15 pm as the case may be on such day, the Speaker shall interrupt the proceedings and shall put every question necessary to dispose of this stage of the bill without further debate or amendment;
That the vote on third reading of the bill may, at the request of any chief whip of a recognized party in the House, be deferred until the next sessional day during the routine proceeding, "Deferred Votes";
That in the case of any division relating to any proceeding on the bill, the division bell shall be limited to 5 minutes.
I wanted to first of all say that I will be dividing my time with the member for York-Mackenzie and the member for Etobicoke-Rexdale.
I've just moved a time allocation motion on Bill 152, the Services Improvement Act. It's not something that the government prefers to do. The government prefers to have an open and thorough debate on a matter but to be able to bring it to conclusion, that all members of the House are satisfied, and then send it to public hearings to allow the general public an opportunity to state its case. We are sending this bill to public hearings through the next recess and we do expect input into the bill. I certainly look forward to that; the government looks forward to that. But it's a bit unfortunate that we to bring in time allocation to allow that to happen, to allow the general public the opportunity.
The problem is that this has become the filibuster capital of the world. We have case after case of filibustering, of endless debate, of no conclusion on various matters. My colleague from St Catharines will recall the debate we had, for example, on gasoline pricing just a couple of weeks ago. Here was a motion, a simple motion. Ultimately the third party, the NDP, said, "Okay, we've had enough debate on that. Let's have a vote on this thing," and brought such a motion to the House.
The member for Fort York will know that the member for Nickel Belt, I think it was, stood on his feet in this House and said, "We've had enough debate on this gasoline pricing." The people of Ontario, indeed the people of Canada, are suffering because before weekends back in the summer it was the practice that the gasoline prices would get jacked up and people would have to pay additional costs. So the member for Nickel Belt -- and I'm sure the member for Fort York supported him -- said: "We've had enough debate on this. Let's bring it to a vote." The government said, "Great."
The Deputy Speaker ordered the bells rung.
But I think it's unfortunate for the people of Ontario that the minister, when he went to meet with his colleagues from across Canada, didn't have the force of this whole House, not only of the government support and the NDP support but the Liberal support as well, in terms of dealing with that issue. I will say, though, that he did make progress. The member is here. Notwithstanding that lack of support from particularly the Liberal Party, he did raise the issue and has made progress.
I don't wish to leave the impression that the filibustering and the requirement to bring in time allocations is solely resting on the official opposition. The member for Fort York will recall other debates, the debate we had earlier this week on the select committee to review Hydro. Aren't all the members in this House supportive of setting up this review? We have a report indicating, particularly relating to the nuclear aspects of Ontario Hydro, that there is reason for concern. There needs to be an investigation, there needs to be a review, a financial review, a review of the program. So the Minister of Environment has set in place a select committee, a select committee that must be approved by this House, again something that I would think would be supported by all members of this House, but I have to say that after a full day of debate the motion was not voted on. In this particular case, I have to say that the NDP has stalled in terms of supporting that motion. Again the filibuster goes on.
That's the requirement we face on a fairly constant basis. To bring things to a logical conclusion in this House, some definitive action has to be taken. I believe it's unfortunate, but it's a sad commentary on how things are working at the present time.
The history of this service improvement issue is a long one, and it's one that really deserves to be tackled and really deserves to be finalized. My colleague the House leader, having served in this House for how many years now?
With all his experience, he will probably have sat through several hundred debates, I would think -- more than that maybe.
Even the federal government is involved in that to some degree. If you think of welfare, for example, over the years there has been federal money into welfare, federal requirements around the welfare system, provincial funding, provincial requirements, municipal funding, municipal requirements. When people aren't happy with the welfare system, who do they point the finger at? If they point the finger at the municipalities, the municipalities say, "No, it's a provincial problem." If they point it at the province, they say, "No, it's the feds who are causing the problem." On and on it has gone, all through the ages.
So many issues: roads, partly shared by municipalities and partly shared by the province; the library system, partly funded by the province and partly funded by municipalities, and in that case partly funded by local municipalities and partly funded by regional municipalities. In transit it's the same sort of thing: some funding from the province, some funding from regional governments, and some funding, of course, from the users of the system.
Funding service delivery has been an entanglement. I know the government represented by the member for Scarborough-Agincourt tried valiantly to tackle this issue during their five years in office. I know the government preceding the present one tried really hard for a number of years to bring this forward and indeed did bring forward a formula. They called it disentanglement. I believe that was in 1992. Then what happened? Somewhere in 1993, as I can recall, there was a vote at an Association of Municipalities of Ontario conference, and it was rejected.
But the government of that day recognized the need to try to address this issue, to try to come to grips with it. Why? Because if you have all these levels of government involved, is there accountability for the services? The answer is that there isn't the accountability that there should be. Do you have a fairness in terms of the service delivery and the uniformity of the service delivery? The answer is no, there isn't necessarily the fairness. Is there the efficiency in the service delivery? Are the taxpayers getting the best value for the dollar? Again the answer is clearly no, they are not. That's why the previous government tried to address this issue, brought forward their proposals. Unfortunately, it didn't go. It ended up a failure. That's why governments down through the ages have tried to deal with this issue, have debated this issue.
Before I stood up, I listened to one of the members opposite indicate, in a petition he had, that there would be a $200-per-household increase in a certain area of Ontario. The goal of this government is to reduce taxes. That is the goal not only at the provincial level. Surely this government must have some credibility in terms of reducing taxes now, since there have been three reductions to the personal income tax. We are on track to meet the commitment that we made to the people of Ontario that the provincial income taxes will be reduced by 30% by the end of this term.
The whole purpose of this bill is to ensure that municipalities have the tools to make sure there is the proper division, the proper accountability of service delivery at the local level so that municipalities can keep the taxes down.
The mayor of North York, who is one of the candidates to become the mayor of the expanded city of Toronto, said, "No tax increase," just this week.
The former Liberal member for Ottawa West, who I understand is also a candidate in these elections, says that taxes should not go up. He's committed to keeping the taxes not higher.
So here we are, having these municipal people coming forward saying that there should not be a tax increase, and I agree with them there should not be a tax increase.
I understand that until this is approved, until we've gone through the committee hearing process, seen the approval of this bill, municipalities have had time to work with it, bring it out, then yes, there will be some apprehension. But rest assured that the goal of this government is that taxes should go down, not up.
One of the ways of doing that, of course, is that a huge proportion of the cost of education will be coming off the property tax. Half of the cost of education will be coming off the property tax. Some people, the members opposite, may say, "Well, you're increasing the cost of social housing to the municipalities," or, "You're increasing the cost of public health." Here in Metropolitan Toronto the municipalities already pick up a big chunk of public health, for example; I think it's 60%. But the main point is that the cost of education is enormous. We're talking about taking about $2.5 billion off the property tax. The cost of public health in Ontario is very low by comparison. I believe it's in the vicinity of a couple of hundred million dollars, by comparison to $2.5 billion which is being taken off, an immense sum of money that's been taken off.
Yes, some things are being added on to the property tax. Some things will now be the fuller responsibility of the municipalities. They will have that responsibility, that accountability. They will be able to make the programs more efficient and less costly, but at the same time about $2.5 billion will be removed from their tax bill and that will offset the cost of anything that's being added. This exercise will be revenue-neutral other than the unconditional grant, because that's what all the caterwauling is from the other side.
I know the members opposite, the critics opposite, say no, that the municipalities do not have the ability to do that. But I tell you, you are shortchanging the municipalities. If you give them that responsibility and if you give them that accountability on the services, the roads, the public transit, the housing, the health, take half the education costs off, they will make it work. I've been there. I have the confidence in them. That's what this is all about.
I notice that in addition to the other members I mentioned, the member for Nepean will be sharing my time as well. Since I've already used 20 minutes, I think at this time I will leave my comments at that and turn the floor over to my colleagues.
I want to wade into this debate by quoting from an honourable member of this House who is not on the government side but rather occupies a very important seat in the Liberal Party. That is Mr Jim Bradley. I quote Hansard from the standing committee on estimates on November 1, 1989. That was a very good year. Mr Bradley -- this is according to Hansard -- said:
"[This] is what I am up against." This is like Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof, if you recall. "On the one hand, some are saying, `Move now and never mind consulting any more and going through any studies and determining databases,' and others are saying, `If you don't' consult us, then you don't care about us,' and so on and so forth." We try to steer a middle course there" -- a typical, consistent Liberal format -- "and get sufficient input without having it carry on forever, and that is the dilemma," according to the member for St Catharines.
It's critical that we move this bill into the forum of public hearings so that we can accomplish really two things. One is to ensure that we have input from people on the important elements of this legislation which will affect literally millions of people in this province. It will affect how governments do business in this province.
Secondly, it is also to ensure that we have an opportunity to set the record straight on what this legislation intends to do. Not everyone has the benefit or the time of watching these proceedings, and unfortunately, if they do, if they're listening to members of the opposition sometimes -- and I have to be careful how I say this -- I wouldn't say they misrepresent, because that would be out of order. What I would say is that on occasion certain aspects of the legislation, and in fact the intent of the Who Does What process, are characterized in such a way as to leave people with the wrong impression of what the government intends to do.
By getting out into the public, we have an opportunity as a government to set the record straight, to explain what the intent of this legislation is. I am sure the taxpayers of this province welcome that opportunity.
Why do we want to move forward with this legislation? It harkens back to June 1995 when this government was elected. It was elected on the premise that we would keep certain commitments to the people of Ontario. I know that members opposite like to read from the Common Sense Revolution on occasion. I'm going to beat them to it this time. I will read from the Common Sense Revolution in which we say very clearly to the people of the province:
"Canadians are probably the most overgoverned people in the world. We do not need every layer -- federal, provincial, quasi-governmental bodies, regional, municipal and school board -- that we have now. We must rationalize the regional and municipal levels to avoid the overlap and duplication that exists."
This is in the Common Sense Revolution. I don't know if you have heard members of the opposition, members of the third party, say that the proposals we are bringing forward have nothing to do with the commitments we made to the people of this province. In fact, we've been accused of moving in a direction that we did not discuss with the people of the province. Well, here it is. Very clearly, this is about a commitment we made to the people of the province that we would deal with the issue of duplication, the many levels of government, the inefficiencies that are there.
We go on to say in the Common Sense Revolution, which was widely distributed throughout the province and on which the people of this province based their decision to return many more members on the government side than on the opposition side: "The example being set by a Harris government, of a 24% reduction in the number of MPPs and a 20% cut in non-priority spending, will set the benchmark for municipal politicians and trustees."
Going into public hearings is going to enable us to put out a challenge to municipal politicians, to all of those service delivery agencies in this province that have as an example the provincial government where we have moved on those commitments as well. We have taken the initiative of reducing the size of government here at the provincial level. We've taken the initiative of reducing the number of politicians here at Queen's Park, beginning with the next election. We'd like to be able to begin that much sooner, but I think we are kind of limited in doing that.
What we are now facing is an opportunity. I think municipal politicians around this province should also welcome the opportunity to participate in a process that is a benchmark process. Never before in Ontario have municipal politicians been handed what they have been asking for for many years in terms of the tools to do the job, in terms of having additional authority that they never had before.
The mayor in Newmarket, in my constituency, His Worship John Cole, has had experience now as a municipal mayor and as a federal member of Parliament. In his own words he on numerous occasions has said, "The problem with the current state of affairs in Ontario is that municipalities are simply creatures of the province, that they need and deserve and should have more authority to do the things that they should have." I would expect that his worship as well would welcome the initiative we are bringing forward.
I'd like to point you to an article that perhaps you read with your coffee this morning. It was in the Toronto Star and it's entitled "Residents Support Sharing Wealth, Poll Finds." This has to do with an aspect of restructuring how services are going to be paid for in this province and particularly in the GTA. It's talking about the issue of sharing responsibility for social services. I think it's important that members of this Legislature are reminded of what the people are saying, not necessarily of what politicians who may have a vested interest in not wanting to agree that this is the right direction to go are saying. I'm not suggesting that anyone I know would do this, but there may be some municipal politicians heading to the polls this fall who may find it to their political advantage to rail against the provincial government, suggesting that if we proceed with this legislation, with the restructuring process, it may end up with a tax increase, it may end up having to pay for the benefits of Metro Toronto and so on.
I don't know anyone who's said this, but in case there may be some I thought we should bring to their attention what the people think, the people who will be going to the polls to elect them. What are they saying about this? I'd like to read this to you:
"People across the greater Toronto area show a `robust social conscience' and are willing to share their wealth with the less fortunate across the region....
"Some politicians in the 905 area -- including mayors Peter Robertson of Brampton, Hazel McCallion of Mississauga and Carol Seglins of Caledon -- have raised fears their tax dollars will be susidizing `gold-plated' service levels in Metro."
Mind you, they were quoted here by a newspaper, and all of us have been in a situation where we've been misquoted, so I wouldn't know if these three politicians actually said that. But their conclusion --
I think we have to caution all of our colleagues -- be that at the municipal level, be that in responsible positions as school board trustees and other areas within this province -- to take on the responsibility that the people of the province want us to have as provincial politicians, want them to have as municipal politicians, to work cooperatively together to ensure that what we can bring to the people of this province is less government, more efficient delivery of service and far less burden on the taxpayer.
That is what Bill 152, which is now under consideration, will do for us. It will allow us to assume the responsibility of stewardship in a much more effective way than the province has been conducting business to this point.
I am pleased to have had the opportunity to share my thoughts on the importance of moving this bill forward into the next very important stage of consultation, because I have no doubt that there are many who would have some recommendations to us as legislators where we can improve the legislation. That can be dealt with in clause-by-clause in this next stage. We can make some improvement where necessary and then get on to third reading, and then get on to implementation and make this province a much better place to live.
Before I start, I'd also like to pay tribute to the Honourable Margaret Scrivener, with whom I had the opportunity of working here at Queen's Park. When I went to her service today I found out some amazing things from her family, particularly from her son Paul. The honourable Margaret Scrivener, when she was a member of this House for 14 years, not only was she a feminist, but she was a feminist by example, a very accomplished politician and an avid farmer -- can you imagine that combination? -- also a realtor and a journalist. Here was a person who served the people of Ontario from a large number of perspectives and she brought that experience to produce excellent results in the Davis years.
Now to this bill. This is my second opportunity to deal with some of the issues raised by the members opposite whose classic characterization of this particular bill is that by doing anything you are in essence increasing taxes or reducing services, or both.
It was interesting to note that the member for Sudbury in his remarks about a week ago raised the note that there were alternatives and suggestions made to the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, yet in the correspondence of the organizations he referenced there was not one iota of what those specific alternatives were. I found it rather disappointing that the member for Sudbury did not proceed to flesh out what some of the alternatives are, because when we take this bill to hearings, that's what we want to hear in terms of solid alternatives as to how you can implement some of this stuff, rather than the syndrome that members opposite seem to get themselves into too much, which is reduced services, increased taxes, or both, that there's no other way of handling an issue.
That raises the matter which I want to focus upon again from my previous remarks, and that is the prevalence, the almost addiction -- it is an addiction -- that members opposite have had for years. The member for Scarborough-Agincourt is very good at saying: "We're going to increase taxes and we shouldn't really deal with the issue of assessment. It should be left primarily as it is because it's quite satisfactory that people who are already paying high taxes can continue to do so." That is exactly what the member has said many times in his critiques of any of the changes made to the Assessment Act.
Point of order, Madam Speaker: I have never said that. Speak the truth.
Member for St Catharines, I'm assuming that all of the members in this House are honourable members and I also assume that all of the members always tell the truth. I would suggest to all members that if anything was said that may be provocative or may insult somebody, I would ask that member to withdraw if that member believes he said something that --
To get back to the bill, I think it's interesting to note that what we've had as criticisms about the Services Improvement Act are citing constantly tax increases from here and there, that municipalities and municipal politicians in amalgamated entities aren't able to deal with the challenges that they're facing, that we constantly remain in the status quo.
The member for Don Mills has mentioned that the previous government really did make an attempt to disentangle some of the responsibilities so we could deal with, and eliminate as much as is humanly possible, duplication of services. Yet when they got to the decision point, they retreated, for a whole set of reasons. Now when this government has moved back on that same decision point of trying to reprioritize the whole area of service delivery, provincially and locally, we hear constantly the criticism, "You shouldn't do anything." We're going to end up with a world where nobody is going to be able to deal with their responsibilities in a forthright way.
It seems to me that the previous government's attempt at disentanglement was a courageous one. The point is, why did they not follow through? Then we would be in a more coordinated municipal delivery system today. This particular piece of legislation would not have been necessary had the previous government acted on the whole disentanglement exercise when it got to that decision point.
At least we had that as a contrast prior to the group that ran Ontario between 1985 and 1990. They talk about the whole point that this government does not listen, does not accept change, does not incorporate suggestions into different pieces of legislation. That's not true whatsoever if you look at the record: hundreds of hours on the new city bill, hundreds of hours on Bill 26.
The point seems to be that when this government does accept suggestions -- and some of them come from outside parties and not the parties in the House here -- we have incorporated them into several pieces of legislation, yet we're immediately criticized.
The other day it was interesting to hear the theme across the way, and it's echoed again and again, particularly by the member for Sudbury, that you shouldn't do hardly anything until you get it right; don't go too fast. Yet today the member for Sault Ste Marie is asking this government to act promptly on franchising legislation. You would wish that for once members opposite could get the tune relatively balanced.
Act? We are acting. Acting fast? That doesn't happen too much in government when you look at the bureaucratic levels, when you look at the sclerotic incapacity of government as a whole to act fast. It's like using the oxymoron "military intelligence."
I think the whole Services Improvement Act is a real attempt to reorder and reprioritize the whole municipal, local government, service delivery theme; that is, we have removed education from the property tax by 50%, which people have been talking about for years and years and years.
The member for Don Mills cited the member for Algoma having been here for 22 years very shortly. Congratulations to him. Yet in all that time span when he was in opposition and he came into government, that same theme was here: Remove the education costs from property tax.
We wanted to do it 100%. The municipalities came back and said, "We have some problems with that." We listened to them, so we have taken 50% off.
Finally, I would like to conclude by pointing out that on this whole piece of legislation, once it gets to committee for some very interesting proposals which I'm sure we will hear from various deputants, what I'm most interested in hearing is how we're going to get greater coordination through the services improvement bill. That's one of the great opportunities that has not been realized yet and will be in the coming years when we see how historic this legislation will be, the Services Improvement Act, in terms of realigning provincial responsibilities and local government responsibilities.
This government believes that the local delivery system, the local councillors, whether they be in a township, an amalgamated township system, a county government or a new urban city, will know best how to get on with the job of being able to get the best value out of the tax dollar without necessarily opting for the tax addiction of a tax increase when you have a challenge, a problem, that that won't be their dinosaur-like response to a problem: "Oh, I've got to have a tax increase here." That's what I'll be listening for when we take this to committee.
This is a good bill, finally dealing with the real problems in local government, and how it affects them provincially in a fiscal way.
I would like to begin by noting that once again the government is inflicting upon an elected Legislature a motion which will close off debate and limit the time for committee hearings to a very unreasonable amount of time and of course close off debate on third reading after only one day. It is becoming symptomatic of this government that even though it changed the rules with its overwhelming majority, imposed new procedural rules on the House which give the government the hammer to push through its legislation in record time, it is still bringing in what are called time allocation motions which have the effect of severely restricting debate on any particular bill. I find that most unfortunate.
I think the people of this province who watch the proceedings in this House or who have a specific interest in Legislation are now recognizing that probably the most important legislative initiative of this government has been to change the procedural rules, as though you're playing a sports game and you change the rules to favour one side over the other. I guess a good example would be that if you had a very huge hockey team which could use its size to the greatest benefit, you would modify the rules to accommodate that group. That reminds me of the government, with its very large majority. In the middle of the game the government has decided to change those rules to allow it to slide through its legislation, often very controversial and often opposed by the majority of the people in this province, to move that legislation through rapidly. That's most unfortunate.
There are times when the government should be moving rapidly when it has to, and there are certain areas where we've seen consensus in this House from the representatives of the three political parties, which has ensured that legislation or other measures have moved somewhat quickly through the House. When it is highly contentious, when there is considerable opposition, when the ramifications of the legislation are very substantial, we should take our time and do it right, as opposed to simply doing it quickly so that people will forget about it, so that the opposition out in our society does not have time to grow and express itself in various manifestations.
I always enjoy hearing the government members using their code words. They've been given instructions from the Premier's office to use such terms as "status quo" and "afraid of change" and so on. If anyone is opposed to the government legislation, supposedly they're in favour of the status quo.
Conservatives, in my view, have always been people who wanted to preserve that which is serving the province well. That has been the tradition of the Conservative Party. That is certainly not the tradition of the Harris regime, which seems to want to wreck everything which has been placed in this province in years gone by, by governments of all political stripes, including previous Conservative governments, because this is a government which is really a Reform Party government, an extreme right-wing manifestation of the Conservative Party.
When I look at some of my friends on the government benches, whom I used to consider to be what you would call blue Conservatives, they today would be categorized as red Tories in the context of the way this government is moving forward on its legislative and regulatory agenda.
I was amused as well by the government House leader and his discussion of gas prices. Of course, the government is very vulnerable on this and feels embarrassed by this, because when we used to ask questions of the government, they would -- I must say, the honest person on the other side; I didn't agree with his position, but the honest person was Bill Saunderson, the Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism. He was expressing a very Conservative view, a free market view of the system. I don't happen to believe there is a free market out there in terms of gas prices, but that was the view he expressed to people in this House. When he was asked the questions, he suggested the government would not be making any significant initiatives in that regard.
Now, the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations, who has been coached by Jan Dymond, a consultant at $2,600 a day, on how to answer questions and have funny quips and blame the federal government, blame the opposition or blame previous governments, took a different stance. He wanted to ensure that there was a suggestion that somebody else would look after the problem, so he went out west to Saskatchewan and got a crumb or two out there as the group got together and said, "Well, we'll look at the problem."
I think all of us know, including my friend the member for Quinte, who I think is as expert on this as anyone, that the provincial government has jurisdiction if it wishes to act. But all it wishes to do is huff and puff and make a big noise. Mr Saunderson -- I wish I could find his quotes right now -- when he was asked to comment on this, when he was asked questions on the issue of gas prices, said the government had no intention of intervening at all and suggested that we would be the laughingstock if the government was to interfere in the pricing of gasoline. That's an opinion the government had. I think that was the position of the cabinet.
What happened was in came the polls. I'm sure my friend the Minister of Transportation, who smiles on the other side now, as he so often does in this House, knows that once you see the polls, you had better start listening to what's happening. So we saw a 180-degree turn. I asked him a question about it, because he's the Minister of Transportation. It was too hot; he bounced it over to the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations, because the Minister of Transportation didn't have Jan Dymond to coach him at $2,600 a day. He didn't need it anyway, I want to say. But he bounced the question over. I asked Bill Saunderson, the Minister of Economic Development; he bounced it over.
They had given it to the minister whose only answer is to point the finger somewhere else and say, "You didn't do something," or, "It's the opposition's fault." I guess he wanted to have this resolution to hit everybody over the head with when he heads off to the meeting. Never do you ever consult the opposition on anything else when you go to these multiminister meetings. The fact is that this government can take action. I'm surprised that the government House leader would raise such an embarrassing situation.
I know Bill Saunderson must be extremely surprised when he sees this happening, because of the statements he made on this. What can this government do in that regard? I can tell you the government is able to bring in a predatory pricing law in the province of Ontario. What is that, you ask? That is a law which would prohibit the major oil companies from selling at a higher price to independent operators than it does to its own operators.
Let's get something straight: It's not the retailers' fault. They have to meet all their costs. They have difficulty out there. They meet taxes and they meet wage costs and they meet electrical costs, utility costs. They're not the people to blame. It's the oil companies. I was glad to see our Premier jump on the bandwagon when he hit the skids in the polls. I can tell our Premier, if he really wants to take action, it's within his jurisdiction to pass a predatory pricing law.
Remember what Bill Davis did in 1975? I think a lot of the people here forgot about that. He brought in an act on July 3, 1975, which had the effect of freezing the price of gasoline in the province for 90 days, and then another 45 days. He appointed a one-person royal commission to look into gas pricing in this province.
Bill Davis didn't say, "Oh, it's somebody else's jurisdiction." He said: "No, it's our jurisdiction. I'm not going to blame the feds. I'm not going to blame anybody else."
I'm saying to members of this House, we have the jurisdiction. Bill Davis said we had the jurisdiction. He brought in the price freeze. You didn't bring it in, and I'm saying you've got that chance today. When the gas price was at an unprecedented level, when it was raised to way over 60 cents a litre, we had the chance. What does he do? He points the finger somewhere else, huffing and puffing, but he doesn't want to do anything about it.
Bill Saunderson, the Minister of Economic Development, had given the real answer, which was that the government had no intention of interfering in the marketplace and the government believed the prices were quite reasonable, as Mr Saunderson said. That is the government position.
I'm surprised when I hear the member get up and bring this issue up. Now they say the NDP wanted a vote. I forgive the NDP. They were playing politics on that particular day, because they were in a by-election fight -- not with the Conservatives; they were right out of the battle in Windsor -- and they thought, "How can we maybe score a point against Liberals?" So they said, "Let's vote on this motion." I understand that. I appreciate the position of my friends in the NDP in that regard. But since then, the member for Sault Ste Marie has been up --
The member for Sault Ste Marie has been up subsequently saying, "You know, you people can take action." I'll tell you something: I can't believe what the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations accepted at that meeting and cheered. It was Pablum. I think he should look at what Bill Davis did and bring in a predatory pricing law. I think he could have a commissioner looking into these gas prices right here in Ontario. Forget about the rest of them; just do it right here in Ontario. Then your members could be proud. They could say: "See? Our members took action."
I want to touch on a couple other items while I'm sharing time with my colleagues. I'm surprised that a Conservative government wants to make everything bigger. My knowledge of small-c conservatives, genuine conservatives, and the history of conservatives in this province, is they believe that the smaller units are often the best units -- not always, but often the best units. Now you want big utilities, huge municipalities, boards of education the size of countries in Europe and health councils which cover, again, territory larger than the size of many countries on the European continent.
I'm surprised by this, because Conservatives, to me -- and they'll be saying this at the plowing match, I'm sure, to the Conservatives -- believe there should be smaller units, manageable units and units that are close to the people. I know there are many people out there who are Conservative supporters who are disillusioned when they hear that you're moving away from that. They didn't agree with other parties. They liked the Conservatives because they thought the Conservatives stood for that which was close to the people, wanted to preserve that which was best for us. But this isn't a Conservative Party; this is a Reform, Republican, radical group of people over there -- with some exceptions. I look around and I say there are some exceptions. I see some of my friends here who I think are exceptions. But a lot of them are real right-wingers.
Frank, that's a beautiful tie over there. My friend from Lincoln has a very interesting tie on that I wanted to comment on. I shouldn't comment on this. I wish we could swing the camera over there, but they don't allow this. If he gets up on a point of something, I'm sure his constituents will be pleased to see the colourful tie he has on. But I digress, and I shouldn't.
I've mentioned Dr Joseph Kushner of Brock University, the small-c conservative economist who is often attacked for being too conservative and too cautious on expenditures, I think unjustifiably, who is now doing a study on utilities. If I were to reveal the results of that study ahead of time, I would say they have found that the very large utilities aren't necessary the best utilities to have.
When I look at the downloading, I look at municipalities that thought they were going to get a tax decrease. I heard it was a 10% or 20% tax decrease. I'm going to be watching for that, to see if there's a tax decrease, because that's not what I'm hearing. If there is a tax decrease, there are a lot of kids out there who aren't going to be able to play sports because the user fees will be so high only the children of the rich and privileged will be able to compete in sports around the province.
Lastly, I say -- because I want to share some time in this debate with my two colleagues -- my friend from York-Mackenzie quoted me in the House, and I thank him for that, because I plead guilty to being a person of moderation and of consensus and a person who believes that while you should take your time and do things right, there is a time to move, and that's always a point of debate in this House. I thank him for quoting. He did so fairly, by the way. There were other quotes about Mr Phillips's position which I thought were not accurate, but Mr Klees was kind enough to quote me and I want to tell him that I will always be proud to be a person of moderation, a person of consensus and a person of conciliation. I thank him for drawing that to the attention of members of this House.
I will use an authority that I hope the government accepts as at least independent, if not a government source itself, and that's their own Who Does What panel. David Crombie -- that may be a name that's familiar to the public -- and 14 other people were handpicked by the Premier to study this issue of what things should be handled municipally and what things should be handled provincially, and the taxpayers paid money to have this study done. David Crombie, a well-respected individual, did this study and made recommendations.
Bill 152 runs totally contrary to what David Crombie recommended. This is around the issue of putting on to property tax social housing, social assistance and child care. Crombie recognized that the government might try and do this and this is what Crombie and the Who Does What panel -- and remember, Mike Harris handpicked these people to study this very matter that's in Bill 152. The taxpayers paid the money to a group that Mike Harris picked to study it and here's what they said about putting social housing, social assistance and child care on to property tax: "The panel strongly opposes such a move. We are unanimous in the view that it is a mistake." So I say to the public, what we're dealing with here is something that is going to fundamentally shift service delivery in Ontario, and David Crombie and the Who Does What panel say it is a big mistake and they strongly oppose it.
The Minister of Municipal Affairs, who was in the House earlier and will be back shortly, I'm sure, also acknowledged it's a mistake. I listened very carefully to a radio interview he did where he was asked, "Do you think income redistribution programs should be the responsibility of the province or property tax?" Mr Leach said: "I'm clearly of the view they should be a provincial responsibility. We should not have income redistribution programs on property tax." The interviewer quite rightly said, "But this plan to put social housing, social assistance and child care on to property tax runs contrary to your view." Mr Leach had said, "I think they should be a provincial responsibility." Mr Leach said, and I'm paraphrasing now but I think I've got it fairly accurate, "Well, sometimes you can't get there very quickly."
The point I'm making is this: For Ontario, we are making a big mistake. Dave Crombie says it's a mistake. The Minister of Municipal Affairs himself acknowledges it's a mistake. Surely if they should be a provincial responsibility, we don't turn and go the other way and put it on property taxes.
I will further quote the Association of Municipalities of Ontario. I feel badly for them because the government has said, "We're doing what they want us to do." Well, AMO said, "Don't put social housing on property taxes." In my opinion, the government did a number on AMO. They put out this document showing all these checkmarks, pretending that they were in agreement: AMO proposal and a checkmark beside "social housing." AMO, the Association of Municipalities of Ontario, said, "Don't put social housing on property tax." In my opinion, the government did a number on AMO. They put out this document showing all these checkmarks, pretending that they were in agreement -- AMO proposal and a checkmark beside "social housing." AMO said, "Don't put social housing on property tax."
Surely that isn't what we want to do. Is that the kind of Ontario we really want to build, where in tough times people have to turn to the property tax for their food and their housing and their clothing? Really, it's a fundamental mistake. I say to all of us, we simply can't allow that to happen, and yet this is what this is all about.
I further say that this will occur at a time when the Chair of Management Board acknowledged today that they are dumping about $660 million of extra costs on the property tax. They get around that by saying, "But we told the municipalities about a year ago we were going to do this, so while we're going to do it, they knew about it."
The property taxpayers recognize now that they are going to have to pick up $660 million of extra cost. Why is all of that important? Is this the Ontario of Mike Harris where we are going to put on to the property tax some of the most sensitive social services that we know will be strained to the limit in difficult economic times? I have asked this before. I challenge the government to produce one single study that supports this public policy move. One of the members earlier said, "What are the options?" You engaged and paid Crombie to study this. He has the recommendations for you.
But the second big mistake is putting a significant portion of health on to property tax -- ambulances and public health. Everybody in the health field tells us we have to find a way to integrate the system, make it a seamless system. As a matter of fact, we saw just this week concerns about ambulance services being coordinated with hospitals and concerns about people falling between the cracks with ambulance services. But here we are, we're now moving a significant part of health on to property tax, and surely that is not the integrated health care system that we want. That's the second thing.
The third point I wanted to make was that the member for Etobicoke-Rexdale, for anybody who was watching this earlier, attributed something to me that I simply never said, never would say, don't believe, and I resent it. I don't mind defending my points of view, but I object strongly to a member saying that I said something when it is actually the opposite of what I believe.
He has indicated I have no interest in property tax changes. In fact, the government members often quote something I said five or six years ago about being in favour of property tax changes and we've got to get on to it. Certainly the area I represent needs property tax change. It's dramatically overtaxed, and there's an issue of fairness. So, as I said, I don't mind debating my ideas, but I resent when I'm completely misrepresented.
I would say just on that matter that the government has a property tax bill that we are anxious to be dealing with. The municipalities have been talking to us, saying: "This property tax change is in a shambles. We have got to get on with planning." The government now has a bill before the Legislature that they are refusing to bring forward, for whatever reason. I gather from the Minister of Finance late last week that there are a lot of changes they are making in the bill, but the government has a responsibility to give our municipalities the maximum amount of time to plan.
We obviously have some problems with the bill. I really wonder about an acre of land in downtown Toronto at Yonge and the Gardiner Expressway paying exactly the same taxes as an acre of rail land in the countryside. It just doesn't make sense to me, but that's the government's bill. CPR will pay to the city of Toronto the same property tax for an acre of land as they'll pay to a rural municipality for an acre of land.
The minister will not tell us how they're going to assess small businesses. I tell you, small businesses are going to face some very substantial property tax increases because the government's taking something called the business occupancy tax off. They've ordered that off. It's going back on to the realty taxes and small businesses are going to be dramatically impacted. We want to know how you're going to deal with that. You've got a bill that's sitting on the table there, but the government won't call it forward.
So the reason why we think it's a mistake to ram this bill through is that the government is implementing exactly the opposite of what its own handpicked panel recommended. David Crombie said he strongly opposes, and the whole panel unanimously agrees: Don't do this.
The Minister of Municipal Affairs said on a radio interview that it's a mistake to put these income redistribution programs on to property tax, and yet we're being asked to pass a bill that does that. The government is going to add substantially to property taxes by loading another $660 million on at exactly the same time as the government plans to implement this bill.
Lastly, which is why I reacted so strongly to the member for Etobicoke-Rexdale, we may disagree with much in the property tax bill because we think it's laden with problems, and furthermore, incredibly, it gives to the Minister of Finance taxing powers that I've never seen before. The Minister of Finance is going to be setting mill rates for commercial properties. He's going to be setting mill rates for rights-of-way and for utilities. I've never seen so much taxing power given to a Minister of Finance, but that's the bill before us.
This is not some housekeeping bill that should be rushed through. It fundamentally changes policy in a way that is going to dramatically impact on people's lives in the province of Ontario, and it's not something to be rammed through with time allocation.
When you look at this thing historically, I think it's fair to say that closure was something that was hardly ever invoked, particularly in this Parliament. I can well remember a very celebrated case not too long ago when Mr Kormos was on his feet for hours on end dealing with the insurance bill some time ago. Closure, of course, didn't exist in those days, or governments only exercised it under the most extreme circumstances and situations.
As a result of the rule changes that have been adopted by this House, closure is almost becoming a fait accompli in just about everything. Let's just take a look at the significant bills that you've invoked closure on. You know, this may be one of these issues that the general public out there perhaps doesn't care all that much about, or so you think. But I think that people do care about their democratic institutions and do care about this place and the ability of members to discuss important pieces of legislation that are before the government and before the people of Ontario.
Rent control, Bill 96, you invoked time allocation and subsequently closure. Bill 99, the workers' compensation bill, another very important piece of legislation as far as this government is concerned, you did exactly the same thing; you invoked closure. Bill 142, workfare, what did you do? You again invoked closure. Bill 148, just last week, megacity number 2 that you brought here because you messed up the original bill that you had before the House some time last spring, again, what did you do? You invoked closure. And now another very important bill to the people of Ontario and to the municipalities, Bill 152.
The point I'm trying to make is that you, the government, by changing the rules, are attempting to make it more and more customary, as far as this place is concerned and as far as the province of Ontario is concerned, to invoke closure more often than not.
I'm telling you that in the long run our democratic institutions, institutions that all of us have fought long and hard for in this country, particularly over the last 100 years or so, are going to suffer. Yes, you'll get this through eventually because you've got the numbers, but you're doing the wrong thing. This is an opportunity for people to debate the issues. You may well recall that the reason you brought in the new rule changes was so that more people could get involved in the debate. What have you done in fact? You're cutting off debate because you're invoking the rule to time-allocate specific items, and therefore closure.
I know there are probably a lot of people out there who are saying: "Well, maybe it's not so bad. Maybe it should come to an end." But in the long run, the democratic institutions and the limited powers of authority that the opposition has in a situation like this are going to be hampered more and more. Our province and our democratic institutions that we have in this province are not going to be the better for it.
Now let's deal with the actual bill itself. I have a file here of just newspaper clippings from all over the province of Ontario where different municipal leaders -- yes, some Liberal leaders, some no doubt NDP leaders, some no doubt Tory leaders -- as well as municipal staff in community after community have indicated that if you implement the provisions of Bill 152 together with all the other stuff that you have implemented with respect to municipalities, the amount of services and the amount of dollars that it's going to take to provide those services in those municipalities are going to rise substantially and property taxes will have to increase.
I ask the government, are all these people wrong? Are all these people, who are either totally non-partisan, who are accountants, who are clerks in municipalities, who are chief administrative officers in municipalities as well as some political leaders, wrong? Are they all wrong? I don't think so. I think the government is wrong by insisting that this is a revenue-neutral proposition. You know it isn't true and I know it isn't true. The biggest -- well, I've got to watch my words very carefully; I was going to say something that I know I'd have to withdraw -- is this whole notion that somehow municipalities have bought into it.
You may recall the original downloading. There was about $1.2 billion being downloaded on the municipalities. All the municipalities, through AMO and on their own, said, "We can never carry this." So they went back to the government and the government came back with a plan that, according to our estimates and according to the estimates of a lot of the municipal leaders in this province, is only going to download about $663 million more in costs. Of course the municipalities said, "Well, being saddled with an extra $660 million worth of costs is better than being saddled with $1.2 billion of extra costs." Sure they said, "This is a better deal than we had before." But to take from that they somehow agreed with the overall downloading plan this government is implementing is absolute nonsense. Municipalities don't like it. They will get involved in services in which they have never been involved and they shouldn't be involved.
As has already been so adequately expressed by the member for Scarborough-Agincourt, when you look at some of the public health and social service additional costs being downloaded, study after study, including their own Crombie report, has clearly indicated that it is wrong to charge for health and social services on the property tax roll. It is a regressive tax rate. It is a regressive way to raise taxes. You set the tax rate once a year and that's all the money you're going to get. If there are any major dips in the economy in a particular area during that year so that you require extra money for social service costs or for health costs, you simply do not have the ability to react to it quickly enough.
That's why many years ago, back in the 1920s, 1930s, 1940s, 1950s and 1960s many of the social services and health care services were taken from the property tax rolls, out of the hands of the municipalities, and were funded through the income tax system and, later on, through the sales tax system. You're going back to a situation that existed maybe in the 1920s and 1930s in this province as far as funding the various services is concerned. It's simply the wrong thing to do.
It reaches some ridiculous situations. I know all of you here have heard me talk about the three island communities I represent which have ferry services that are being totally downloaded on them. In effect, both the Minister of Municipal Affairs and the Minister of Transportation are saying, "We're not going to pay for those costs any more as of January 1." As a result, these island communities will have to increase their taxes anywhere from 400% to 800% of what they're currently charging their local people in order to have any kind of ferry services.
It doesn't end there; it goes further than that. Do you know that two of those municipalities -- I haven't heard from the third one, but I'm sure the same thing applies to them -- have received letters from the Solicitor General basically telling them, "As of January 1, since the OPP costs will have to be shared throughout Ontario, your little island municipality will owe the province in one case $60,000 and in the other case $90,000." These are communities that have a tax base of something like $300,000 to $500,000 per year, and they will have to come up with an extra $60,000 or $80,000 to pay for the policing.
You might say: "That's not so bad. They get services for that." I've got news for you. The police never come on to these islands. I'm advised by one of the reeves that on this one particular island the police may come three or four times a year. You know why? For the police to go there they have to take the same ferries everybody else takes. Basically, you don't have a lot of crime on those islands and there's no policing on those islands. So they're being charged for something that they don't get any services for at all.
These people in these communities, most of whom, or a very great number of them, were always Conservative supporters, are saying to themselves: "Why is this province doing this to us? First they take away our ferry boat subsidies. Now they're making us pay for policing costs for services we never get in these communities."
I realize that they are only two very small, isolated examples, but it was always my impression that whoever forms the government here governs for all the people of Ontario. You don't just isolate a group of 300 or 1,000 or 1,500 permanent residents and say: "I'm sorry. You're costing us too much. We're no longer looking after you." I don't think that's fair. I think it's abominable, quite frankly.
Where do we draw the line? What's next? Are we going to take a community at the end of a highway and say: "I'm sorry. Your road costs too much. We're not going to look after it any more"? Of course they've already done that too. In eastern Ontario, as I indicated earlier today, we've got four highways left. On all the other roads, the Minister of Transportation is basically saying: "They're local roads. Let them look after it." These are primarily in communities that simply will not be able to do that. They don't have the economic resources. They don't have the tax base to fund the kind of major reconstruction that may be necessary on those roads two or five or 10 years down the road.
We keep forgetting that the reason a lot of these provincial grants and subsidies came into being was because these local municipalities weren't able to look after some of these services in the past. This is a major piece of legislation, and to invoke closure is the wrong thing to do.
I almost wonder whether it's just by coincidence that these major pieces of legislation I talked about earlier -- workers' compensation, rent control, megacity 2 and on and on -- are being time allocated, that on those bills we are invoking closure.
The final comment I want to make, because I want to leave some time to my friends from the third party, is in response to the member for York-Mackenzie who piously and holier than thou says, "We want to consult with the people." As I indicated in this House last week, I would like him to bring me evidence of how many meaningful changes have been made to legislation as a result of the consultation process. As I've indicated in this House many times before, it is wrong to go to the people and ask for consultation after second reading. That should be done well before each party in this House stakes out their position on it.
If you did this at the local level, if everybody in a council took a position on an issue and then said, "Now I guess we'll see what the general public has to say about it," or "Now we're going to send it to the planning committee to see if a rezoning should take place," you would probably be hauled into court, because you need your consultation before you make those decisions.
Whereas I am greatly in favour of public consultation, to do it after second reading is the wrong time in the process to do it. We give expectations to people who make presentations before these various committees about some major changes that can be made to a piece of legislation, and it just hasn't happened. Let's 'fess up to the people of Ontario. Let's be honest with them and tell them that, tell them that straight out front.
There are many other costs. I've just highlighted two or three of the costs being downloaded to municipalities. We've got a whole other list dealing with public health, which is a total absurdity when you think about it. The entire health budget, health matters, is dealt with by the Ministry of Health, with the exception of public health. You ask yourself, why is public health being singled out for complete financing at the local level? It makes absolutely no sense.
We will be voting against this motion.
Through you, Mr Speaker, I implore the members of the government to take a serious and hard look at this whole notion of time-allocating just about every item that comes to this House. Your rule changes were supposed to open up debates. I'm sure there are all sorts of quotes that I can find on matters that happened just within the last month or so when we discussed that. In effect, what you have done is just found a more convenient way to silence the opposition. It's not right.
I listened very closely, as I always do, to the members of the government when they delivered speeches because I always find it informative. I listened to the member for Don Mills, Chair of Management Board, and he talked about why we are dealing with a time allocation motion on Bill 152. He says the reason for that is because he wants to allow public opportunity for input. Speaker, I don't believe that, and he knows that the public that's watching doesn't believe that either. They understand what time allocation means. It means that the government wants to throttle debate on important bills. That's what it means, and that's what it does when it presents time allocation motions in this House. It is throttling debate, diminishing opposition to its bill, and that is the purpose of a time allocation motion.
Why the rush to deal with a very important bill that I think has serious consequences I will never understand. The government is in a rush quite clearly because they want to offload the cost on to municipalities, even when they haven't figured out the issues around actually delivering the services. You've got to wonder about the competency of this government. There are serious consequences that flow from this bill, things they haven't figured out how to do, and yet they are in a rush to time-allocate this bill.
They're doing the same thing with Bill 136. Bill 136, in my view, is one of the most important bills we will be debating in this House. It is a bill that creates two new bureaucracies -- Tory-appointed bureaucracies -- to dictate labour relations. You know what this government wants to do next week? They want to have one week of hearings while the House is sitting. They don't want to travel.
You heard the member for Don Mills today talking about how he wants to listen to the public, he's interested in input and all that kind of stuff. At the same time, they have a motion dealing with Bill 136 that says: "We are going to throttle debate. How are we going to do that? We are not going to go around the province to hear from Ontarians. We're simply going to have a week of hearings while the House is sitting." Is that not in keeping with the policies and the modus vivendi of this government, which is that it is autocratic, dictatorial, arrogant and dismissive of public input?
I say to the people who are watching who might have an interest in labour relations, call the clerk on the standing committee on resources development and get yourself on that list so you can appear before this House and raise your concerns, because this government is not going to give you another opportunity to speak on the matter. That's what this government is all about.
When they tell you they're interested in public input, I think you have seen, through the evidence of this government, that they're not interested in that. Remember the tenant protection package? I remember it well. I've sat on the committee for the last year and a half that we've been dealing with this issue. The members there said: "We want to listen to what the public has to say. We're concerned about tenants." We listened to them for months. You know what happened, member for York Mills? You guys didn't listen. You're listening now in pretence to show that you are listening, but you know that's not the case. I was there.
Look at Bill 136. One week of hearings while the House is in session, four days. We're going to hear a couple of people and they're going to say, "We heard you," and they're going to send you back home and they're not going to listen to you, not to this and not to the other. That's what it's about. That's what this stuff is all about.
I heard the member for Don Mills talk about how they listened and how the municipalities came to you guys. Imagine this. The municipalities came to the government and they said: "Please give us these things. We want to be able to control this long list of services. We want to be able to control social assistance, child care, public health, ambulances, social housing, children's aid societies, GO Transit, transit operating and capital, ferries, airports, septic inspections, policing, provincial offences, libraries even, property assessment, managed forests, conservation lands, farm tax rebate."
Who are you trying to kid, my good friend from Don Mills? Do you think municipalities would be crazy enough, loony enough, to say, "We want to commit hara-kiri, so please help us"? Come on.
The way I see it, the municipalities went in as baritones and they came out as sopranos by the end of the discussion. That's what happened. If that analogy isn't clear, if the analogy of going in as a baritone and coming out as a soprano isn't clear enough, think of the analogy of having a gun to your head and then you will understand why municipalities said: "Yes, we'll take it. Of course we will do it. We'll take all these services and we'll be happy to do it. By the way, member for Don Mills, we're not going to raise property taxes as we do that."
Who are you trying to kid? These people, including the member for Etobicoke-Rexdale, were talking about how they trust municipalities, how these people are good and how these people are going to be able to manage the cost, because they don't want to raise property taxes. Are you kidding?
There are only two options that flow from this. If you don't raise property taxes to deal with the serious offloading of services, you've got to cut services. There's just no other way out of it. You either cut services or you increase property taxes or you've got to do both. My feeling is they're going to have to do both to be able to deal with these problems; otherwise they won't be able to do it.
Think of the logic, just think about this for a moment. The member for Don Mills said, "We're taking off half of the education costs." In the beginning they were going to take all the education costs off the property tax system. You remember that. Then later, because of the tremendous public pressure, they decided that they were only going to take half of the education property taxes. If I'm a thinking person, I say to myself, "Why would they do that?" What is the motivation behind the government wanting to take education out of the property tax system? If at the end of the day these people say, "We're trying to arrive at a revenue-neutral situation by taking education out of the property tax," in this case now, half, and then offloading another whole list of services down to the municipality to arrive at a presumed revenue-neutral situation, why would you do it?
If you're a thinking person you would say, "Something is up here." Someone is playing a game of deception here, because otherwise it makes no sense. Why would you do anything that brings you to a revenue-neutral situation? I wouldn't do it. Why cause all these headaches to these municipalities having to deal with greater costs for social assistance, greater costs for child care and libraries and GO Transit and housing, go through that serious headache to arrive at a revenue-neutral situation? Are you crazy?
Think of the stupidity of this proposal, because it's serious. A number of people have said that things like social assistance, child care, public health and housing should all be funded by a provincial income tax system. Why? Because it's a little more progressive than passing it on to the property taxpayer.
I know, Speaker, you agree with this. If you had the opportunity to speak, you would be able to say so but I know you're pretty well throttled in your ability to be able to speak in this chamber. I know that you would agree with me because you, as a reasonable man, would say, "If we've got to pay for this service, would I want it to come out of income tax or my home?" You would say: "Yes, it makes sense. Take it out of income. Don't take it out the home because a lot of people invest all their life savings in a home and it's not fair to pay for welfare, child care, public health and housing out of the property tax system. It's not fair."
The government continues to say that what we're doing is disentangling. I was trying to remember the other word that the member for Don Mills used. Well, they haven't disentangled a bloody thing. What have they disentangled? Look here, social assistance is a shared responsibility between the province and the municipality. Disentangling means you take the responsibility from one level of government and it you give it to the other. But they haven't done that. You still have social assistance as a shared responsibility between the province and the municipality.
Everybody, including Mr Crombie, was probably telling you that you should take on social assistance as a provincial responsibility, but you guys decided that you weren't going to do that. You call this process disentanglement, but you still have the municipalities picking up a heavy load and you still have the province mixed up in it. So how does it disentangle, Chair of Management Board? How does it do that? Explain it, because it's not clear to me and it's certainly not clear to thinking people who are watching this program. You haven't disentangled a thing. You've still got a complicated, confusing system that keeps a heavy burden on the municipality to pay for things provinces should pay for.
I don't mind having this political game with you guys here, because at the end of the day it's the public that's going to have to believe either you fine folks or the rest of us. We make the arguments, and at the end of the day they are the ones who will evaluate your performance in this House.
Some of you boys can say that we're the ones who create the myths, but you are the ones who've got the state apparatus; you boys have the money to be able to create the myths. That is why, when you introduce your bills, you title them in the following manner. Listen to what your bill says: "An Act to improve Services, increase Efficiency and benefit Taxpayers by eliminating Duplication and reallocating Responsibilities between Provincial and Municipal Governments." What does this bill tell you? Nothing, except that it creates a mythology around what you believe will have an effect on the public.
All of your bills are titled in such a way as to create a mythology. Every one of your bills is titled to create a mythology. As you read it, people cannot but say: "What gives here? Something's up. It can't be that way, otherwise no government would title it as such." Are you going to believe these guys? No, you're not. I wouldn't believe it, because I would never dream of titling a bill in this way.
In keeping with the explanation I was giving about the purpose of this bill, it is to download the responsibility to the municipalities, which eventually will have to suffer the wrath of the home owners and the tenants when they pick up the tab or suffer the loss of services.
Here's the explanatory note given on the first page of this bill. It says: "The bill is part of the government's Who Does What initiative. Its purpose is to effect a reallocation of responsibilities...." You know what that means, "to effect a reallocation of responsibilities." That's fine, legal language to say: "Hey, boys, you're about to pay. We're shedding our responsibilities and giving them to you. You guys have been the ones telling us you wanted it, and by the way, you guys are not going to face tax increases, and by the way, taxes are going to go down." I don't think so. Even Terry Mundell, the president of the Association of Municipalities of Ontario -- I don't think he's a friend of mine; I think he's one of yours. I could be wrong.
What madness, I argue, for a provincial government to offload housing responsibilities to a municipality. I consider that to be madness. If you guys wanted to effect a reallocation of responsibilities, you should have taken over all of housing. If you guys wanted to disentangle social assistance, member from somewhere in Orangeville, you would have taken over all of that. But you boys didn't want to do that.
On the housing issue, because that's where I was, very few jurisdictions download that to municipalities; everybody knows that, except the loonies in this government. Speaker, you've got to cut the members some slack on the language. You can't just sanitize everything we say. You can't do that.
On the housing issue, a number of mayors from large municipalities wanted a meeting with the Premier. Evidently he met with them and said, "Okay, we promise to do a study of the cost of downloading housing." That was a while ago. Has anybody on the government side or the opposition benches heard about what is happening to that assumed or proposed study on the download of housing? Of course not. Why would the government do a study that would harm itself? That's what it's about. The reason they are not doing the study is they know full well that the study --
I'm waiting for Mike Harris and M. Leach, the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, for this study. I'm waiting for these guys to come up with a study, because I want to see it, and if Mike Harris, the Premier, promised it, I think it should happen.
I want to see it, because I tell you when I see it, it will reveal what we have all been saying, and that is that the municipalities are about to get a big whack. They're about to pick up costs they never dreamed of. They're about to have communities competing against each other for a certain level of service as it relates to everything I have mentioned, as it relates to social assistance, child care, public health, ambulances, social housing, children's aid societies, GO Transit and on and on.
You will find people in all communities competing for a part of the pie as it relates to each and every one of the services they are about to pick up -- voluntarily, as the member for Don Mills said; not with any gun to the head, but voluntarily pick up -- because they want to be able to manage these things. You've got to believe somebody is crazy if they say that. I've got to tell you, someone is crazy if somebody in the municipality says, "Yes, we love to commit hara-kiri." I tell you somebody is really nuts and they need assistance awfully quick.
They want to be able to make amendments to the Building Code Act, the Environmental Protection Act and the Ontario Water Resources Act, which does something of the sort, meaning regulation of septic systems is being transferred from the Environmental Protection Act to the Building Code Act. The appeals will be transferred from the Environmental Appeal Board to the building code commission and the courts.
For me, this is a matter of serious environmental concern. But what are they doing? They pass this responsibility where? To the Building Code Act. You know the connection between builders, people with money in their pockets and this government. You know the connection. I've seen it. Everybody knows about this. They shift this responsibility away from the Environmental Protection Act and pass it on to the building code, where the builders, the people with money, will have an easy time to influence the appropriate people in that municipality. That's what this is all about. This government wants to facilitate their agenda.
This is a bill that has tremendous proportion. This bill should not be rushed by this government. It should be assessed very carefully. They should tread very slowly. They should give themselves plenty of time to know what they're doing. I tell you, they don't have a clue what they're doing. If some of you have the opportunity to read this in terms of what it does, the offloading to municipalities -- the fact is that many of the things they've proposed are not clear as to who does what. This government is seriously incompetent and you've got to mistrust their judgement.
There's a lot that could be said about this bill. There's a lot to be said about Bill 136. I urge people to call the clerk of the standing committee on resources development to get themselves on to speak, because they are throttling debate even on that particular issue.
All those in favour, please say "aye."
All those opposed, please say "nay."
In my opinion, the ayes have it.
Call in the members; it will be a five-minute bell.
The division bells rang from 1800 to 1805.
The Speaker: All those opposed, please rise one at a time and be recognized by the Clerk.
Clerk of the House (Mr Claude L. DesRosiers): The ayes are 58; the nays are 22.
It now being past 6 of the clock, this House stands adjourned until 1:30 of the clock tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 1808.
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