The House met at 1330.

Prayers.

MEMBERS' STATEMENTS

HOSPITAL RESTRUCTURING


Mr Pat Hoy (Essex-Kent): For over a year, Mike Harris has been moving at breakneck speed to close hospitals in Ontario. My colleagues and I have been trying to make the government listen, really listen, to the people they serve; listen and slow down. Recently the OHA released a study conducted by the University of Western Ontario. The study confirms what we have been saying all along, that the speed of restructuring is directly affecting patient care. It means less nursing time per patient, reduced patient supervision, high employee stress and a reduced level of cleanliness. In other words, the government's too hasty agenda is undermining the quality of health care in Ontario.

In my own community, to quote the CEO of the Chatham-Kent Health Alliance, "The amount of change is overwhelming...less time with patients is a reality here." The president of the Kent County Medical Society believes the cutbacks have already adversely affected patient care. He says, "The government hasn't come through with the financial commitments it said it was going to make."

On behalf of all the residents of Chatham-Kent who are already experiencing serious medical underservicing, I urge the government to slow down. Be certain the changes you impose guarantee quality health care for every single resident of Chatham-Kent. The government should only use speed in providing the money required to support our hospitals and community-based patient care.

NORTH BAY DAYS OF ACTION


Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-Woodbine): The North Bay Days of Action are technically over, but the spirit and energy lives on. As organizers projected, Saturday saw the largest demonstration ever in northern Ontario. Over 30,000 protesters filled the streets of North Bay in an orderly and peaceful but unmistakable denouncement of the Harris government's policies and their negative effect on working people.

I met teachers, child care workers, custodians, clerks, psychiatric nurses, garbage collectors, community workers, correctional officers, property assessors, professors, government inspectors, students, people from all walks of life joining together to send a message to Mike Harris.

"We won't back down" was the rallying cry of the day, as speaker after speaker spoke about preserving community services, health care and the quality of education. "Fish or cut bait" was the repeated challenge to Premier Harris, in recognition of the fact that he chose to ignore the people in his own home town and instead went fishing with the governor of Iowa.

As one local resident said in response to the question, what did they think of this event taking place in Mike's town, "It's not Mike's town, it's our town." In a similar vein, others added their voices, "It's not Mike's Ontario, it's our Ontario and we're taking it back."

I want to pay special tribute to the team of ordinary working people who planned, organized and marshalled the Days of Action events. They are a true tribute to the skill, ingenuity and energy of the working people of Ontario.

MUSKOKA-GEORGIAN BAY ECONOMY


Mr Bill Grimmett (Muskoka-Georgian Bay): Small businesses are the economic strength of this province and when they are booming, so is the province. It's my pleasure to inform the Legislative Assembly what the small business owners in my riding of Muskoka-Georgian Bay are saying.

Sue Paul, the manager of Northern Reflections in Midland, said, "We've been extremely busy over last year, an incredible increase." "This year there's a lot more tourists, a lot more cottagers, a lot more travellers. We're seeing more from Europe, England and a lot of Americans. We're just running off our feet."

In Bracebridge, Inn at the Falls owner Peter Rickard said of 1997, "This is the best season we've had since we owned the business."

At The Panhandler in Midland, owner Sharlene Bullock says: "This summer has been very strong. I'm having to bump up orders that I thought were sufficient but now realize are not." She said that a noticeable increase in traffic began last Christmas season and it hasn't stopped since. During that time she found that customers were interested in more expensive purchases.

In Gravenhurst, Russ Brown of the steamboat RMS Segwun had a record-breaking summer. "As of the end of August, we had all record months. We're very pleased."

Muskoka Tourism marketing manager Randy Clark said 1997 was a great year for business and he expects the remainder of the year to be busy in anticipation of the upcoming Bala cranberry festival and the fall colours tour.

The chair of the Midland Business Improvement Area said, "There have been a lot more people downtown and more activity on the main street."

I was very pleased to hear these comments from the business owners in my riding. As they benefit from an expanding economy, so do all Ontarians.

SABIN CAUTIS


Mr David Caplan (Oriole): I rise today concerned that this government does not acknowledge the achievements of the Ontario educational system. It was only last week that the Minister of Education called Ontario "the caboose at the end of the education train." I hope the minister will take some time and learn about the successes of our system before he condemns it, by his irresponsible and reckless actions, to mediocrity.

Let me tell my fellow members about the achievements of a student from my community, Sabin Cautis of Earl Haig Secondary School in North York. Sabin is a member of the 1997 Canadian International Mathematics Olympiad team. Sabin was selected from among more than 200,000 students who participated in local, provincial and national mathematics competitions and has been on the Canadian team for the past two years.

The Canadian team of six high school students won two silver medals, two bronze, and an honourable mention at the 38th International Mathematics Olympiad. The Canadian team placed 29th out of 82 competing countries. Since 1981, Canadian students have achieved a total of eight gold, 21 silver and 39 bronze medals.

Obviously, the achievements of Sabin Cautis and many other students in Ontario are a reflection of the good that can come out of the province's educational institutions.

TAKE BACK THE NIGHT


Ms Marilyn Churley (Riverdale): On Saturday I had the opportunity to participate in Toronto's annual Take Back the Night march. This year, the festivities took place in my riding of Riverdale at the Jimmy Simpson Recreation Centre. Inside, there were displays and information tables to let women know about resources and programs available around Metro. Outside, in the park, we were treated to the music of local female singers and inspiring speeches by women directly involved in the fight against violence against women.

By about 8:30, the crowd had grown to about 600, and it was an enthusiastic, noisy group of women who took to the streets to proclaim our right to be free of violence and to walk in our own streets without fear.

Ironically, this year's event coincided with the Solicitor General's release of the news that they will fund 17 shelters and agencies this year; that is to say, 17 of 261 applications from organizations working to prevent violence and to help deal with the devastating effects of violence against women. This is happening on top of cuts to welfare, legal aid, day care, social housing, second-stage housing and rape crisis centres, and the gutting of rent control. And the list goes on.

This government's war against women must stop. I want to congratulate all of those who organized this year's Take Back the Night event and all those working in the trenches to help end violence against women.

EDNA DAVENPORT DONATION


Mr John O'Toole (Durham East): As a graduate of the University of Toronto, it is indeed a pleasure that I rise to inform the House that the U of T has received one of the largest cash gifts in its history, $9.7 million from a former household science student. The donation, from 90-year-old Edna Davenport in the estate of her late husband, John, was announced by the widow's son, Peter, at a dinner honouring six Nobel laureates last night.

Edna, originally from Owen Sound and now living in Florida, was wooed by her late husband, a chemical engineering student from Hamilton, during her flapper years at the University of Toronto. They wed in 1932 on campus in the Hart House chapel. The widow's son, Peter, said his parents wanted to do something special to thank the institution that meant so much to them.

The donation will be used to build a state-of-the-art laboratory on top of the school's aging chemistry building. It will pay for a three-floor expansion of the current building as well as the necessary new lab upgrades.

University of Toronto president Robert Prichard called the donation a "breathtakingly generous gesture." The University of Toronto describes the Davenport donation as a "spectacular act of generosity." This is extremely significant to the university and Canada, because it is the kind of philanthropy that will some day produce future Nobel laureates like John Polanyi, who was the laureate in chemistry in 1986. I am sure all of us will join in thanking the Davenport family for their generous gift. We all wish the University of Toronto success --


The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Thank you.

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PEOPLE FIRST


Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): On Saturday afternoon in Welland I attended a public forum sponsored by the People First organization where individuals with disabilities gathered to share with everyone in attendance their needs and their hopes and aspirations. It is unfortunate that all members of the Ontario Legislature were not able to hear what the member for Welland-Thorold and I were able to listen to, as the experiences of these individuals with disabilities were most revealing.

The apprehension felt by everyone about the changes being contemplated in Bill 142 was apparent in virtually all the presentations. What each one of these people was seeking was an assurance that an adequate support system would be in place to assist them in being as independent as possible despite their disabilities. To have some of their needs met requires an investment by the government of Ontario, an investment in people.

The People First forum was not a gathering of the rich and the privileged in some posh, private club. They were not people who by virtue of a powerful position and an accumulation of wealth are able to live comfortably without the financial intervention of government. They are, rather, people who need the understanding and help of elected representatives to give them an opportunity to cope with and overcome obstacles presented by their various disabilities.

They live in fear that in an attempt to cater to those who want to randomly slash social expenditures and take advantage of an income tax cut that favours the richest in our province the most, their support systems will be eroded or removed. Let all of us work to allay their fears to ensure that the people with disabilities are not treated as second-class citizens.

PUBLIC SERVICE AND LABOUR RELATIONS REFORM


Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): It's my pleasure to rise today and advise the House that I was also one of those in North Bay this weekend. Even though the Premier thought North Bay wasn't a good enough place to be, there were certainly better than 30,000 of us who thought that was an excellent place to be, and it was, because the message coming out of that rally and those two days of protest is that this government cannot expect that the sham of a process around 136, apart and aside from the content, is going to be accepted in this province. Make no mistake, 136 and 160 are linked decidedly in the minds of all those you have heard from so far about 136.

Talking about 136 and the sham process we just went through, today we received the long-awaited amendments to Bill 136 that effectively give us a completely different bill. Let me point out: There's Bill 136, as originally printed and presented, and there's the 150 pages of amendments we got a few hours ago -- 136 then, 136 now. When do we start clause-by-clause discussion of these detailed legal concepts? At 3:30 today, and somehow that's supposed to be democratic? The fact is you have no interest in listening to anyone. You want to ram through your legislation, ram through your hard-line agenda, without giving a care for anyone, as long as it looks good.

The fact is when I was an alderman in the city of Hamilton, I couldn't get a stop sign put up as quickly as you're ramming 136 through.

AIDS AWARENESS WEEK


Mr John R. Baird (Nepean): I'm pleased to rise today and report in the House that it's National AIDS Awareness Week. From the beginning, the Harris government has clearly indicated that AIDS is one of its priorities. We're doing more for people with HIV and AIDS than any other government in Canada.

This year alone, the Ontario Ministry of Health will spend almost $56 million for HIV and AIDS programs, and that doesn't even include doctor billings to OHIP. This is close to $16 million more than the federal government spends for all of Canada.

Our funding goes to a wide range of programs including outpatient clinics, supportive housing and drug therapies for people living with HIV. In the last provincial budget we announced we would invest $10 million in the Ontario HIV treatment network. The network will exist to improve the health and quality of life for people living with HIV and AIDS by ensuring high quality and appropriate treatments. I believe these initiatives demonstrate our government's solid and long-term commitment to people living with HIV.

I would like to acknowledge the passing of Mr Andrew Lafontaine, who died of AIDS in January of this year. He served as the co-chair of the Ontario Advisory Committee on HIV/AIDS for over a year. His work and insight will be greatly missed.

As well, I would like to announce the recent appointment of Mr David Hoe of Ottawa as co-chair, a respected voice in the AIDS community who will complement the work of the other co-chair, Dr Anne Phillips of Toronto.

Our province has come a long way in fighting HIV and there is a lot more to be done.

MOTIONS

HOUSE SITTINGS


Hon David Johnson (Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet, Government House Leader): I move that pursuant to standing order 9(c), the House shall meet from 6:30 pm to 9:30 pm on Monday, September 29, 1997, Tuesday, September 30, 1997, and Wednesday, October 1, 1997, for the purpose of considering government business.

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

All those in favour, please say "aye."

All those opposed, please say "nay."

In my opinion, the ayes have it. I declare the motion carried.


Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I would like to request the unanimous consent of the Legislature to have a question period with each of the evening sessions this week.

The Speaker: The member for St Catharines is asking for unanimous consent to have question periods for each of the evening sessions this week. Agreed? I heard a no.

PRIVATE MEMBERS' PUBLIC BUSINESS


Hon David Johnson (Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet, Government House Leader): I move that notwithstanding standing order 95(g), the requirement for notice be waived with respect to ballot items 105 and 106.

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

ORAL QUESTIONS

TEACHERS' COLLECTIVE BARGAINING


Mr Dalton McGuinty (Leader of the Opposition): My question is for the Premier. You will know that Ontario teachers have informed us that some time after the beginning of second reading of the teachers' bill and some time before third reading, 126,000 of them, all Ontario teachers at the primary and secondary levels, are prepared to step outside of the classroom and to go on strike. That strike would affect two million Ontario students. There have to be nearly one million families that would be affected if that was to happen.

One of the single greatest stumbling blocks in the resolution of this matter, and you well recognize this, Premier, is found in the person himself of your minister John Snobelen. Teachers across this province do not have any faith in your minister. They do not believe that he understands the importance of the work they do in classrooms. They do not believe that he values teaching or values teachers themselves.

Will you, given that, demand the resignation of your minister?


Hon Michael D. Harris (Premier): From what I have heard, and I have talked with a number of teachers over the last few days, they are concerned. The teachers I have talked to over the last few days and weeks have told me that they were concerned about school boards and their federations cutting deals to increase class size, and they want that to stop. They have told me that they're a little surprised with all the rhetoric, because they know that the Mike Harris who negotiated with them in Nipissing is fair and reasonable and has always fought for quality education.

That's why I appointed as Minister of Education somebody who shares those same goals. The Honourable John Snobelen from Mississauga North is one whose commitment to quality, to improving excellence, to improving our standard of education is unparalleled in North America.

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Mr McGuinty: I'll tell you what your Minister of Education has done to date: So far he's robbed our classes of $533 million; he has killed junior kindergarten; he is attacking special education and he is attacking adult education everywhere across the province.

There is another important stumbling block in the way of a resolution of this matter quite distinct from the minister himself, and that is the fact that he continues to maintain that he will remove another $1 billion from education funding in Ontario. Premier, you yourself can, right now, eliminate that stumbling block by promising that not one more cent will be removed from education in Ontario. Will you do that right now?


Hon Mr Harris: The problem is that the member is coming up with the same amount of accuracy as his critic for health. Most of the stuff he is saying is simply not founded in any facts that I've been able to see.

Interjections.


The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Member for Oriole, member for Ottawa West and member for Hamilton East, come to order, please.

Hon Mr Harris: This Minister of Education has not cut one single junior kindergarten class throughout the whole province. Junior kindergarten is alive and well in Nipissing, alive and well in Durham. Some boards, even though we still fund the full share of junior kindergarten the same as we do for all other elementary classes, have opted not to have it, many at the insistence of their constituents. Certainly this minister has not condoned or encouraged that.

This minister has never used the figure of $1 billion; you have and others have. He has never used that kind of figure. This minister has never taken a cent out of Ontario classrooms. In fact the legislation that is being brought in is to stop what happened in the last four or five years when money was taken out of the classrooms. That's why this minister has brought in a bill to ensure --


The Speaker: Thank you. Final supplementary.

Mr McGuinty: Nobody is buying that. Here is a suggestion, Premier: Leave this Legislature, go into half a dozen Ontario classrooms and talk to teachers, those people who do the work on the front lines, and ask those teachers what this minister has done to them and their working conditions. Then you will gain a good understanding of what's happening to education in Ontario.

Premier, you won't get rid of the minister. You will not promise to stop cutting education. There is one other thing you should consider: Put this bill on ice. Why the unseemly haste? Why do you have to rush it through? Why do you have to engage in this politics of brinkmanship on a regular basis? Two million kids could be evicted from their classrooms as early as this week if you don't do something. You've got to intervene. Will you put the bill on ice and withdraw it for the time being?


Hon Mr Harris: It is teachers who have said we need changes. It is the very front-line teachers in the classroom who have been calling for the kinds of changes we have. I would ask the leader of the Liberal Party, if for the first time in your life you want to be constructive, tell us what it is you object to. Do you object in this bill to limiting class size? Do you object to putting more --

Interjections.


The Speaker: Order. Premier.

Hon Mr Harris: Since this bill takes not a penny from the classroom but merely implements the changes front-line teachers have been talking about, I would ask you, what do you object to? Limiting class size? That's in the bill. Do you object to the longer school year and more contact time with teachers and students? If you do, say so. You see, since you've become leader of the party, you're "No, no, no." You're against everything that comes along. You've never stood for anything constructive, for quality education, for better health care or anything else in this House. That's why you're irrelevant.

The Speaker: New question.

Mr McGuinty: My question is for the Minister of Education and Training, but I might say in passing that arrogance on the part of the government is actually a good sign for us, because it is a classical prelude to the defeat of a government.

Minister, you will know that one of the sticking points in this debate with our teachers is the fact that you have inserted in this bill, through the back door, a provision which allows you to interfere with their right to strike during the transitional period. You have told us that this is purely a technicality and that this was not your intention and really doesn't mean that.

We now have, and you should know this, a legal opinion. The opinion says that such regulatory-making power would permit the stopping of a strike or lockout through regulations resulting in forced arbitration or other methods. No doubt the minister may claim that such power was not intended to be granted; if so, then amendments should be introduced. Will you now admit that you have doublecrossed our teachers?


Hon John Snobelen (Minister of Education and Training): Nothing could be further from the truth. We obviously met with the teachers' federations and others in education before we brought this legislation forward. We answered their concerns. They had a concern about making sure the federations could represent teachers. We honoured that, although it was recommended in a report that we not do that. We heard them say that they wanted principals in the bargaining unit, that this was the best way to run schools and we honoured that. We heard that the right to strike was very important and we've honoured that.

I showed the Leader of the Opposition last week a legal opinion suggesting that this section of the bill does not in any way, shape or form interfere with the right to strike of teachers. That's my understanding of the legal interpretation of this bill. I'm not a lawyer; the member opposite is. I'm surprised he would bring this up in the first place. What it does do is this: It protects the interests of students during the transition, to make sure their programs are not affected, as we have promised teachers and parents and students. That's what it does.


Mr McGuinty: Your understanding of your bill is wrong. We have a legal opinion that makes it very clear you can stop a strike or a lockout through your own regulations.

Furthermore, you attach such tremendous weight to that provision that you have included in your own bill another section which reads as follows. It says, "In the event of a conflict between that regulation," the one I referred to, "and a provision of this or any other act, the regulation prevails."

What you have taken pains to state in your bill is that if there is any doubt whatsoever, your bill, which reserves unto you the right to interfere with the teachers' right to strike, has to prevail. Your bill, which says you can interfere with the right to strike, will be given primacy. Minister, that's like waving a red flag in front of our teachers. Is this bill really so important that you're prepared to risk putting two million Ontario students out of school?


Hon Mr Snobelen: Again, in view of the fact that I brought this up last week with the Leader of the Opposition, I'm surprised he is taking this tack. I have a letter here from Cassels, Brock and Blackwell that says, "In our view, the enabling legislation would not extend to permit the provincial cabinet to enact legislation relating to labour relation matters." It goes on further to say, "As noted above, the enabling legislation would not give the cabinet the authority to enact regulations relating to labour relation matters."

That's the legal opinion we have on this section of the bill. This section of the bill will certainly allow to us to protect the programs students are engaged in during this transition. This is a legal opinion we have obtained. If he has a counter legal opinion, please send it over and I'll send it to the lawyers in the ministry. I'd be more than happy to do that.

1400


Mr McGuinty: I'll be delighted to send a copy of this opinion over to the minister. Minister, what your words and your actions make perfectly clear to us over here is that you just don't understand how serious this matter is: Two million students have their educational career at risk here; over one million Ontario households are going to be affected by this; and 126,000 teachers have been brought together. That's without precedent. You single-handedly have succeeded in bringing teachers together; in a rather perverse way, you've brought about some unity among our teachers.

You've taken half a billion dollars out of the system. You want to take another $1 billion out. Your actions are about to take our teachers out. Why don't you yourself, Minister, get out? Why don't you simply resign?


Hon Mr Snobelen: The Leader of the Opposition sees a different issue here. I see the issue as being, how do we make sure that our schools provide our students with the opportunities they need? How can we take students in Ontario -- despite the fact that we have the best teachers in the world, we have students who are locked in mediocrity, average on the test results in the pan-Canadian international tests.

Our challenge is step by step to build a better education system, to make sure our students have the best performance of any students in Canada. That's our objective. That's what I work on every day. That's what my colleagues and I are behind. I invite the Leader of the Opposition to join us in making a better education for our young people and a better future for our young people, because that's what this effort is all about.

PUBLIC SERVICE AND LABOUR RELATIONS REFORM


Mr Howard Hampton (Rainy River): A question to the Premier: A couple of hours ago, we got a look at your new Bill 136. I must say, it looks like an entirely new bill, and that's a good thing, because the old one was awful. But you've created another problem along the way, Premier. You see, this is the old bill; it's about 63 pages long. This is the new bill; 150 pages of amendments.

You've also got your time allocation order which says that the 150 pages of amendments have to be considered and dealt with in the next 30 hours. What it amounts to is that once again you're trying to change the laws of Ontario without any public consultation, without allowing the public to understand what you're really putting in place. You're simply trying to ram through your legislation. Premier, we know that when you do that your government makes all kinds of mistakes. You've made mistakes on health care; you've made mistakes elsewhere. Will you withdraw the time allocation order and allow the public time to consider what you're really doing?


Hon Michael D. Harris (Premier): I know the Minister of Labour is very anxious to answer and I'll let her do so in a minute, but I want to tell you this: The changes that are being introduced have come from the public, they've come from the unions, they've come from the hospital boards and they've come from the municipalities as a result of extensive consultation over the past year.

If you contrast the amount of consultation on this bill, leading to the bill and the amendments, versus the social contract you jammed through without any hearings at all, the contrast is rather astounding. You may have difficulty understanding it, but the unions don't, the municipalities don't, the hospital boards don't. Those who are affected by the legislation don't have difficulty understanding. In fact, most have been rather supportive that this government has been 10 times more consultative than the government we replaced.


Mr Hampton: Premier, there were a whole bunch of folks in your home riding on the weekend who would very much like the time to completely understand what's in Bill 136. Their point is simply this: You introduced these amendments a couple of hours ago. No one out there in the public has had an opportunity to see them, to understand them or to understand what direction they set.

Let me get right to the point. One of the concerns we have is that you are going to use Bill 136 to in effect take away pay equity from a whole bunch of women who work in the broader public sector. As we read the amendments, that is what you're doing. Can you tell us why you're using Bill 136 to take away pay equity settlements for women who work in the broader public sector? Can you tell us that and can you tell the public that?


Hon Mr Harris: I think the Minister of Labour can.

Hon Elizabeth Witmer (Minister of Labour): I believe if you take a very careful look at the changes which have been introduced today, you will see in there that there have been changes made to the pay equity provisions. We did what we said we'd do: We listened very carefully last week during the course of the consultations and we have made some changes. You will see that we're going to be focusing our legislation very narrowly on the broader public sector restructuring, so we're going to be dealing only with the issue of a sale of a business and we will not be dealing with the issue of pay equity as it relates to home day care providers or retroactivity.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Final supplementary.

Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): Minister, you seem to think it's okay for you to hurry up this process for everybody else, that everyone else has to rush through this. Experts, lawyers, labour leaders have been meeting since about 10:30 this morning, just a few hours ago, poring through all these legal amendments, because we have to start voting on them in another hour and a half. If it's okay for everybody else to have to rush through their understanding, let's test your understanding.

All the people who have been looking at subsections 15(6) and (7) of schedule B aren't quite sure what they mean, including the legal labour experts. Will you stand in your place right now and tell us what it means? If you can't, how do you expect your government backbenchers and the rest of us who are on that committee to bloody well start voting on this thing?


Hon Mrs Witmer: If the member opposite would give me an opportunity to find it, I would be very pleased to respond.

Interjections.


Hon Mrs Witmer: I can understand your desire to get into all of the little nitty-gritty details, because you find it totally --

Interjections.


Hon Mrs Witmer: You seem unable to understand that when we said we were going to listen, when we said we were going to consult and when we said we were going to make changes, we actually followed through on our commitment. We made the three major changes: We did withdraw the restriction on the right to strike; we did eliminate the LRTC and give those provisions to the OLRB; and we did withdraw the DRC.

The Speaker: Answer, please.

Hon Mrs Witmer: I would indicate to you that unlike you, we are quite prepared to review the details with you today --

The Speaker: Thank you. New question, leader of the third party.

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EDUCATION FINANCING


Mr Howard Hampton (Rainy River): I have a question to the Premier again, but I'd say to the Minister of Labour, that's part of our job, to look at the nitty-gritty, to make sure the laws in this province make sense.

We have looked at the nitty-gritty of your Bill 160, your changes to education. Not only are you attacking teachers and attacking children, you are also attacking the fundamentals of early childhood education. In fact you're taking away the capacity of the Minister of Education to approve child care centres in schools. In effect, you're trying to take child care centres right out of the education system.

Premier, can you tell us, why are you attacking teachers, why are you attacking children and, most of all, why are you attacking the fundamentals of early childhood education?


Hon Michael D. Harris (Premier): I know the Minister of Education can.

Hon John Snobelen (Minister of Education and Training): The leader of the third party has I think misrepresented both the bill and the intention of this government.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): You can't say that. It's unparliamentary.

Hon Mr Snobelen: I withdraw that, Mr Speaker. His representations are not consistent with my understanding of the bill; let me put it to you that way.

First of all, this government has very clearly recognized the importance of early childhood education. We have worked with the community to make sure that we have that available in our schools. As the Premier mentioned a few moments ago, we continue to fund junior kindergarten at the same rate that we fund other programs in our schools. We have obviously committed to stable funding throughout the entire year and we are working very hard on finishing an allocation model which will meet the needs of those students right across the province. That's what we're doing. Our track record is very clear. We're keeping the promises we made to the people of Ontario.


Mr Hampton: I know when the Minister of Education is in trouble. First he accuses other people of misrepresenting, and then he mumbles.

It's in your own bill. You no longer have the authority under the Education Act, if your bill becomes law, to provide for capital allocations so that we can have child care centres in our schools. Not only that, you take right out of the Education Act any consideration that a child care classroom in a school is a permanent improvement within the meaning of the act. In other words, you're trying to write child care totally out of the education system.

Already in this province we have over 1,300 classrooms in our schools that are being used for child care. It is absolutely essential in many of our schools, because we have single-parent mothers who want to go back to school, who want to have their children cared for. I put it to you: Why are you attacking early childhood education? Why are you going to make it so much more difficult for --


The Speaker: Minister.

Hon Mr Snobelen: We obviously have viewed child care as a very important issue, and obviously my colleague at the Ministry of Community and Social Services has been working very hard to make sure that those services are available.

Mrs Sandra Pupatello (Windsor-Sandwich): You cut the funding anyway. They have been closing down for two years.

Hon Janet Ecker (Minister of Community and Social Services): We have 3,000 more day care spaces, Sandra.

Mrs Pupatello: That is a lie.

The Speaker: You must go back to your seat to withdraw that. You must be in your seat.

Interjection.


The Speaker: Yes, you have to go back to your seat. Member for Yorkview, you can go back to your seat at the same time.

Mrs Pupatello: I withdraw, Speaker.

Hon Mr Snobelen: Those issues are being addressed and are being improved on for the people of Ontario, but the leader of the third party does not recognize that what this government is doing is changing fundamentally how we meet the needs in education right across the province.

I'd invite the leader of the third party to come to my riding and talk to the people who have been waiting three and four and five years since when you were in government to get a school built in their area. It's time to change that, to bring it into this century before we get to the next one. That's the intention of this bill, to meet the needs of our students right across the province and make sure there are schools for them. That's why we're doing it.


The Speaker: Final supplementary.

Mr Tony Martin (Sault Ste Marie): Minister, even the Common Sense Revolution recognized the value of child care for parent students. It promises a learning and earning and parenting program, saying, "Young single parents on welfare will be encouraged to stay in school and complete their educations."

Instead of following through on that promise, you're threatening programs like the YMCA child care program located at the Alexander Henry High School in Sault Ste Marie, where 24 children are cared for while their parents, aged 15 to their early 20s, finish high school.

The supervisor, Penny Kucyk, tells us that she is aware of only four people who have not graduated into the workforce or further education since the centre opened. Why do you want to get rid of child care centres like the one at the Alexander Henry High School in Sault Ste Marie?


Hon Mr Snobelen: I remind the member of what this government has done to support very young people in this province, including the Healthy Babies, Healthy Children program that we put $10 million into; the preschool speech and language services for children, another $20 million; Better Beginnings, Better Futures, a program you should know about that has $4.6 million. We've committed to over $200 million over the next five years to make a difference for those young people. This is an extraordinary investment in the very young people in this province.

Let me tell you what we're interested in reducing. We're interested in reducing the over 10,000 portables that our students are in, in this province, because of you. That is why we're changing it, to get rid of those portables.

ASSISTIVE DEVICES PROGRAM


Mr Dalton McGuinty (Leader of the Opposition): My question is for the Premier regarding a four-month-old baby girl living in the Ottawa area. Her name is Alyssa Larabie. Her paediatrician has made an assessment that she could die in her sleep as a result of sudden infant death syndrome and has requested that she be provided with a special monitor until reaching the age of somewhere between nine months and 12 months.

You have made a change to the assistive devices program and effectively have said you will no longer pay for these special monitors beyond the age of six months. The paediatrician is saying that this baby should have a monitor until she is at least nine months of age. You have changed the law so that now you're only paying for it until she reaches the age of six months.

I wonder, Premier, first of all if you knew about that; and second, recognizing that the paediatrician has made an important decision in this matter, will you now intervene and ensure that Alyssa Larabie has this monitor until she's at least nine months of age?


Hon Michael D. Harris (Premier): Yes.

Mr McGuinty: Why did I have to learn about this story in the Ottawa Citizen? I had to stand in this Legislature and bring this matter to your attention for you to personally intervene. I'm not sure how many other cases there are like this throughout the province, but just so I'm perfectly clear on this, you are now saying that we are going to change the policy for the assistive devices program in Ontario for every child, and that if any paediatrician deems it appropriate and fit that a child be equipped with a monitor until nine months or 12 months, that's the end of it and you will pay for it? Am I correct in that regard, Premier?

Hon Mr Harris: First of all, you didn't have to raise it in the House; it has already been dealt with. The family has been notified and they will receive it.

I'd love to tell you that in spending the $18 billion that we spend, each and every decision is perfectly executed and there's never any error, there's never any medical decision that is wrong for whatever reason, that everything in the world is perfect. That is not always the case. From time to time there are situations that arise. If you hear of any, we're happy to have you pass them over to us.

There is a policy that has been brought into place that talks in generalities in consultation with the medical community. If there are exceptions to be made, gosh darn, let me know and we'll look after it.

IPPERWASH PROVINCIAL PARK


Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): My question is to the Premier. I hope he is as positive and taciturn in his response to my question as he was to the Leader of the Opposition's first question. My question is regarding Ipperwash and the wrongful death of Dudley George.

Earlier today the crown dropped weapons charges against one of the young demonstrators who drove a car at the riot police on the night of September 6, 1995, the night Dudley George was killed. We have known all along that the demonstration at Ipperwash Provincial Park posed no threat to public safety. Even the OPP identified no public risk and told the interministerial committee that at the meeting Deb Hutton, the Premier's executive assistant, attended. On the next day, the OPP buildup occurred, though, and the police used force to try to enter the park. We've been saying that this is an unprecedented buildup that led to a man's death.

Now another outstanding charge is out of the way. This was the last criminal trial arising out of the events on September 6 and it has now been disposed of. There is no reason to stall on a public inquiry. Premier, it's time to call a public inquiry.


Hon Michael D. Harris (Premier): I know the Attorney General --

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Attorney General.

1420


Hon Charles Harnick (Attorney General, minister responsible for native affairs): There are still matters of appeal before the courts, there are civil actions before the courts, and my understanding is that the crown is continuing with three charges that are presently before the courts even though a couple of those charges have been withdrawn.

Mr Wildman: To deal with the minister responsible for native affairs and the Attorney General, the Supreme Court of Canada has given some clear guidelines regarding inquiries so there cannot be any excuse about legal issues pending in this particular situation. In the case of Westray and most recently in the Krever blood inquiry, the Supreme Court clarified the circumstances in which you can have an inquiry even when there are civil and/or criminal investigations outstanding. The Supreme Court ruling on Krever states:

"The ability of an inquiry to investigate, educate and inform Canadians benefits our society. A public inquiry before an impartial and independent commissioner which investigates the cause of tragedy and makes recommendations for change can help to prevent a recurrence of such tragedies in the future."

All the information we have is that the government can now have a public inquiry. What is the government hiding? When are you going to call a public inquiry? Will you follow the Supreme Court ruling?


Hon Mr Harnick: The member has been told before, and I will say again, that no one has precluded an inquiry taking place. No decision has been made about that. When all the criminal matters and the civil matter and the appeals are dealt with and the three outstanding charges are completed, that's something we will consider. Consideration of that has never been precluded.

ELECTRICAL POWER


Mr R. Gary Stewart (Peterborough): My question is to the Minister of Environment and Energy. In my riding the Peterborough Utilities Commission, and many other local municipal electric utilities across Ontario, are in the process of restructuring the manner in which power is supplied to the customer. As you can well appreciate, recent problems at Ontario Hydro have created a number of questions and concerns.

The PUC is of the understanding that potential legislation is being drafted that would permit third-party access to the system. This would allow any electric supplier the option to supply electricity to any customer in Ontario. The supplier would then have to pay a toll fee to the owners for the use of wires required to deliver electricity. Minister, can you inform me whether legislation to allow third-party access is being prepared by your ministry, or can we expect this issue to be addressed in the upcoming white paper on electricity?


Hon Norman W. Sterling (Minister of Environment and Energy): Many of the municipal electric utilities are interested in the government's plans to restructure its electricity sector. There are some 306 municipal electrical utilities across the province. We are drafting our paper to introduce a competitive environment in Ontario to ensure that we will have the lowest possible electricity rates for our future generations. That will entail a number of changes in the existing structure. It will introduce competition at various and different levels.

I look forward to introducing this paper and being able to clarify these issues with the public in the very near future. We are not at the present time drafting legislation. That would come after the introduction of the white paper.


Mr Stewart: Third-party access is a very serious issue. Local MEUs feel that if third-party access becomes a reality, it should be phased in over a number of years. Issues such as rate subsidies or preferential treatment of large urban customers over rural customers by suppliers must be carefully thought out. Minister, can you reassure my local utility that issues such as third-party access and all other important issues will be carefully thought out before long-term, permanent actions on restructuring take place.

Hon Mr Sterling: There has already been a significant amount of consultation take place with regard to these kinds of issues. There's the Macdonald advisory committee. My ministry has engaged all different stakeholders with regard to their interests in this issue. When the white paper will be issued, the select committee on nuclear affairs will no doubt be discussing some of these issues as well. Then we will have of course the necessity of introducing legislation in front of this House.

There will be an adequate source of opportunities for the municipal electric utilities to let us know of their feelings with regard to the competitive nature of our structure as well as to the timing of when those particular aspects of that white paper and the legislation should kick in.

I understand their feelings, but our goal is to get to a competitive system in order to provide the best possible rates for our future Ontario citizens.

ELGIN-MIDDLESEX DETENTION CENTRE


Mr Peter North (Elgin): My question is for the Solicitor General. Minister, I've asked you on a couple of different occasions questions with regard to the Elgin-Middlesex Detention Centre. Last week you stood in the House and talked about the federal government and what it was doing with regard to young offenders.

In my questions, I've asked you with regard to the people who have been dismissed by your ministry with regard to the incident at Elgin-Middlesex Detention Centre. I want to know if you can tell me what happened between June 6, 1996, when you made a commitment in this Legislature to a member of the third party to do an inquiry, and June 9, when members of your ministry, the Ministry of the Attorney General, the Ministry of Community and Social Services and cabinet office met on a Sunday afternoon and decided to suspend those four people at that time, and subsequently on what grounds you came to dismiss these people in the months that followed.


Hon Robert W. Runciman (Solicitor General and Minister of Correctional Services): The member knows there are a number of matters before the courts with respect to this situation and a number of the individuals whom he is representing, so I'm very limited in what I can say with respect to those circumstances. I know he fully appreciates that.

Mr North: I sincerely do fully appreciate that, but I'm not asking you about court proceedings. I'm asking you about process in the Ministry of the Solicitor General, the Ministry of the Attorney General and the government of Ontario.

These people have been fired from their jobs. These people have not been found guilty of a single crime in Ontario. These people have not been served natural justice by the province of Ontario. So I think it's incumbent on me and incumbent on you as the Solicitor General to explain to these people what exactly they are guilty of and why they are fired. It is important to people who are losing their homes, people who are losing their families, people who have lost their dignity in the community, and people who have lost a tremendous amount of respect and in some cases their mental health as a result of the decision that your and other ministries have made. It is time for you to produce some proof, some evidence, some basis in fact to show these people why --


The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Thank you. Solicitor General.

Hon Mr Runciman: Again, the member is aware that the process is under way with respect to the dismissals involved where the individuals involved will have the opportunity to have their day in court, if you will, with respect to whether the dismissals were indeed justified.

The member and I have had this discussion with respect to the role played by a minister. The minister in any ministry in this government is not making hiring or firing decisions. Those decisions lie with the senior levels of the civil service and the bureaucracy. They are not decisions made by the minister. I have explained that to him on a number of occasions.

I very much appreciate his concern with respect to his constituents, but because of a variety of constraints, I can say no more.

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CHARITABLE GAMING


Mr Bruce Crozier (Essex South): My question is for the Premier. In Mike Harris's Ontario, you said that you wanted to give citizens of the province more say in where we locate casinos. In Mike Harris's Ontario, you wanted to give more autonomy to local governments.

Community after community has said no to charitable gaming casinos. Now we read that municipalities will receive an annual fee of $1,500 per video lottery machine in charitable gaming clubs for services. Premier, who is going to pay this fee?


Hon Michael D. Harris (Premier): I know that the minister --

Hon David H. Tsubouchi (Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations): We've gone through a process over the last several months where the municipalities have expressed some concern in terms of what will happen after the implementation of the charity gaming clubs. They have said they need to monitor the process; they need to have some involvement with the processing of the sites to be selected.

We have listened to the municipalities. We are giving them some resources to deal with this. Yes, it's $1,500 per machine.

Interjections.


Hon Mr Tsubouchi: I don't believe the municipalities think this is a laughing matter. Clearly what we're trying to do is compensate them for resources they're going to have to utilize.

Let's not lose sight of what this is about. This is about replacing a system that does not work and has not worked under any of the previous governments because of a lack of monitoring, because of a lack of accountability. This is all about accountability to both the taxpayer and the charities in this province.


Mr Crozier: I'd like the record to note that first of all the minister didn't answer the question. I asked specifically who is going to pay the $1,500. Some people have said this is a bribe to the municipalities. I suggest that it's a move to put pressure on municipalities by charities in order that the government can buy some moral persuasion, some moral protection.

Minister, what price will you actually pay to justify your downloading to the municipalities and subsequent attempt through this means to pay them off so that they might accept a charitable casino?


Hon Mr Tsubouchi: Currently, under the previous NDP government and the previous Liberal government, the system has been that the municipalities have been participating, whether it has been through the charity bingos or whether it has been through the break-open tickets, and certainly with respect to the roving casinos, but unfortunately there has not been the accountability that's necessary to deal with this. This is all about making sure there's accountability back to the various communities, back to the charities and certainly back to the taxpayer.

Despite what the member is suggesting, there are many people across the province and many municipal mayors who are indicating that's not the case. Very recently, on September 27 in the St Catharines Standard, Fort Erie Mayor John Teal indicated that he welcomes the resources and he doesn't see it the same way as the member does. Clearly this is all about creating a new system that works and getting rid of a system that didn't work.

FIRE IN HAMILTON


Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): My question is to the Minister of Environment and Energy. You know as well as we all do that when polyvinyl chlorides are burned, we get dioxins. Dioxin is the most toxic substance known on this planet. Yet when we had the Plastimet fire in Hamilton, there was no declaration of a hazardous materials fire. Had there been -- and we know now in hindsight that there should have been -- firefighters would have been wearing better equipment, there would have been decontamination units on the site, the evacuation might have taken place sooner. Certainly the people who were sitting by the fire with lawn chairs would have been advised that this was very serious. The police would have been better equipped to protect themselves and protect the public and perhaps there might even have been a need to evacuate the hospital that was ultimately exposed.

Minister, without a public inquiry to determine exactly when a hazardous material fire should be called, how can you guarantee that although there aren't dead bodies in Hamilton because of the fire this time, there won't be the next time?


Hon Norman W. Sterling (Minister of Environment and Energy): Of course no one anticipates having a fire in any kind of situation. Therefore, when a fire does occur, there is a call to the Ministry of Environment and we dispatch the information we have in our files to the fire department and the medical officer of health.

In this case, we had information as to the material at that particular site and we informed the fire department within an hour and a half of the fire beginning. I don't know any other kind of system which would provide any more speedy response, which would provide a more technical response than we were able to provide in this case.


Mr Christopherson: Two things, Minister: First of all, the fact that you don't know doesn't mean they don't exist. In fact it points all the more to the fact that we ought to hold a public inquiry so we can find out how we can do that. For you to just say you don't know is not acceptable.

And let me say, to say no one anticipates a fire, what are fire plans for? Give me a break. Of course you plan for a fire. You don't hope it happens, but you plan for it.

Minister, you have sloughed off all calls for a public inquiry by saying it's just politics. I've pointed out to you that our local officials, both of our local councils, other municipal councils across the province and the Hamilton Spectator editorials five times have called for one. You still say we're all playing politics.

The latest one to call for a public inquiry is your own backbencher from Hamilton Mountain, who says, "I believe that the Plastimet fire is a unique event that necessitates a full public probe into how and why it began and how its aftermath was handled by all levels of government." We agree with the member for Hamilton Mountain. What do you say to him?


Hon Mr Sterling: Contrary to how previous governments acted, our backbenchers have their own individual opinions, and from time to time they express those opinions in public. In this case I don't agree with the member for Hamilton Mountain with regard to this particular matter, but I respect him for putting forward his opinion.

TORONTO TRANSIT COMMISSION


Hon Al Palladini (Minister of Transportation): I would like to respond to a question from the member for Wilson Heights on September 16, concerning the TTC and its intention to purchase additional buses.

I would like to start off by saying that thanks to the growing economy, the TTC is blessed with an increase in its ridership and requires additional buses before they were anticipated. In May of this year the TTC issued tenders to purchase 100 monocoque buses with lifts and up to 50 low-floor buses from three manufacturers.

Although there is only one supplier for the monocoque buses, all three manufacturers make low-floor buses and two of these companies bid on the low-floor portion of the tender. Orion Bus Industries manufactures low-floor buses; however, they did not bid on the low-floor portion of the tender.


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

Hon Mr Palladini: The TTC is satisfied that it has conducted a competitive tendering process. However, I do have some questions about their decision.

The Speaker: Member for Wilson Heights.

Mr Monte Kwinter (Wilson Heights): It's a little difficult for me to respond when I haven't heard the concerns of the minister, but I will say this: The facts of the matter are quite simple. The government has a policy of funding only low-floor buses, and these particular buses are not low-floor buses. The other thing is that they're going to be built in Roswell, New Mexico, with 60,000 man-days of labour that could sorely be used in Ontario. Again, the government is funding that.

My question is, and I am very anxious to hear the minister's reply to his original statement, what is the government going to do about it? Are they going to allow the TTC to place that order?


Hon Mr Palladini: I am aware, number one, that disabled groups have expressed opposition to the high-floor bus purchases, and several of them have actually written to the ministry and to me personally to express their concerns.

I would like to inform the honourable member that I have written a letter to the Toronto Transit Commission asking for further information about this particular purchase. As I indicated to the member when he asked the question, I am reviewing the TTC's request for another exemption to the low-floor bus policy and hope to have a decision shortly.

1440

TEACHERS' COLLECTIVE BARGAINING


Mr Rick Bartolucci (Sudbury): My question is to the Minister of Education. We are on the verge of a crisis of epic proportion in education which is going to affect in excess of two million students because of Mike Harris's new education bill, Bill 160. As late as Saturday evening, on Focus Ontario, you continued to say, "I encourage the teachers to talk to me; I encourage them to dialogue and to meet with me."

Earlier today, in response to a question from the third party, you invited the member to your riding to find out at first hand. This evening in Sudbury members from all the affiliates will be meeting at the Caruso Club to voice their concerns about Bill 160. There will be in excess of 2,000 teachers at tonight's meeting. I have purchased a return ticket for you. Will you accompany me to that meeting tonight?


Hon John Snobelen (Minister of Education and Training): Obviously there is now some dispute about whether or not a plane ticket has actually been purchased. If it has been, please send it over with a page and I'll have a look at it; if it hasn't -- well, just send it over and we'll have a look at the ticket.

I can tell you, and the member should know, that I spent an awful lot of time over the course of the last two and a half years in classrooms talking with teachers, talking with students, and I've spent a lot of time talking with parents. I know their concerns. The door remains open at the Ministry of Education, and I'm glad to have this chance again today to say publicly that the door is open, that I'm willing to meet with the teacher union heads at any time to talk about this bill, to talk about the future of education. From what I've heard from teachers, we have alignment on the need to improve education for our students, on the need to find a funding system that better meets the needs of students and teachers in the classroom. That's what we're working towards. The door is open. I look forward to meeting with those teachers.


Mr Bartolucci: On November 19, 1996, I invited you to tour overcrowded classes with me. Sadly, you said you were too busy. Today you say you're not going. I ask you again, will you accompany me to Sudbury to hear at first hand from the teachers, the group you say you want to meet with, about what their concerns and their alternatives are to Bill 160? Will you come with me or are you too busy again?

Hon Mr Snobelen: The member opposite hasn't responded to the request to send the ticket over. I think there might be some hyperbole going on with the member opposite, but let me tell you I take this very seriously.

Interjections.


Hon Mr Snobelen: While the member opposite would like to engage in theatrics on this subject, it is a very serious one. We do have to have constructive talks. We've demonstrated over the past two weeks that when we get together with teachers' representatives and the ministry, we can come up with agreements that work in the best interests of the young people of the province of Ontario. It's time now to do that again.

I have said time and again, and I've said again today, my door is open. I welcome those conversations. I'll meet teachers' unions whenever they ask me to. I guarantee that I believe and my colleagues believe that those kinds of conversations can be fruitful for the young people of this province. That's why we want to engage in them.

VIDEO LOTTERY TERMINALS


Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-Woodbine): My question is to the Minister of Economic Development and Trade, and it's with respect to your program of introduction of video lottery terminals. You're proceeding at this point with phase one. I have two simple questions to you. First, could you tell me whether phase one, which I know includes racetracks, also includes the Ontario Jockey Club's teletheatre on the Greenwood site? Second, would you tell me, if the municipality says no to video lottery terminals, will you stop the implementation of them in the racetracks?

Hon William Saunderson (Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism): Mr Speaker, I would like to refer the question to the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations, please.

Hon David H. Tsubouchi (Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations): I believe the situation is right now that the proponents have been selected for the charity gaming clubs. It is up to them at this point in time to find appropriate locations. This is partly why we're allocating the amount we are for the video lottery terminals and the charity gaming clubs, so they can have meaningful discussions with their communities to ensure that the appropriate locations are selected.

PETITIONS

PUBLIC SERVICE AND LABOUR RELATIONS REFORM


Mr John Gerretsen (Kingston and The Islands): I have a petition here dealing with Bill 136. It's addressed to the Honourable Lieutenant Governor and the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.

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

"Whereas Bill 136, the Public Sector Dispute Resolution Act, 1997, will not meet its stated objective to facilitate collective bargaining in the event of mergers and amalgamations; and

"Further, if enacted, Bill 136 will interfere with free collective bargaining, impose a new bureaucratic and dictatorial regime, remove the right to fair and impartial arbitration of disputes and the right to strike; and

"Whereas the Ontario Labour Relations Board has a long and successful history of mediating labour disputes;

"Therefore, in the interest of maintaining and enhancing quality public services provided by dedicated public employees, we hereby petition the Ontario government to withdraw its proposed Bill 136 legislation and support a fair and workable system that will not disrupt the supply of public services to the community or the livelihoods of thousands of Ontarians."

It has been signed by some 25 people, and I affix my signature to it as well.


Mr Tony Martin (Sault Ste Marie): I have a petition sent to Mike Harris's government that is holding public hearings on Bill 136 in the city of Toronto only for four days, and nowhere else in Ontario.

"We, the undersigned, are petitioning the Ontario government to hold public hearings here in Sault Ste Marie on Bill 136."

It's signed by literally hundreds of my constituents. I sign it myself and will pass it on to the Clerk's desk.


Mr Marcel Beaubien (Lambton): I have a petition signed by eight people. It's addressed to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario, and it reads:

"Whereas the Progressive Conservative government has failed to address the root causes of waste, duplication and unnecessary administration in our health care system; and

"Whereas the provincial government has instead introduced Bill 136, the Public Sector Transition Stability Act, that makes it easier for employers to reduce the numbers of front-line staff and to lower their salaries and benefits and thus causing further deterioration of quality patient care; and

"Whereas Bill 136 also erodes the democratic process by tampering with collective agreements and potentially interfering with workers' choice of bargaining agents;

"We, the undersigned, therefore petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to withdraw Bill 136, the Public Sector Transition Stability Act, and restructure the health care system in a safe, coordinated and rational way."

1450

HOSPITAL RESTRUCTURING


Mr Dwight Duncan (Windsor-Walkerville): I have a petition to the Legislative Assembly that reads as follows:

"Whereas Windsor-Essex county was the first community to undergo hospital restructuring; and

"Whereas the community supported the recommendations of the Win-Win report based on a funding model that included the expansion of community-based care; and

"Whereas recent reports estimate that Windsor-Essex hospitals are underfunded by approximately $122 per person; and

"Whereas this represents the lowest funding per capita for hospital services of any community in Ontario with a population of over 200,000; and

"Whereas hospitals across the province have been forced to further reduce expenditures 18%; and

"Whereas these cuts have forced hospitals to eliminate emergency services in the west end of Windsor and cut desperately needed services; and

"Whereas the minister acknowledged that additional funding was necessary in high-growth areas;

"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly to call on the Minister of Health to provide the appropriate level of funding to hospitals in Windsor-Essex which would allow Windsor Regional Hospital to provide urgent care services for the west-end community and to restore equitable health care funding across Windsor and Essex county."

I join with hundreds of my fellow citizens of Windsor in signing this petition.

BEAR HUNTING


Ms Shelley Martel (Sudbury East): I have a petition addressed to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario which reads as follows:

"Whereas black bear populations in Ontario are healthy with between 75,000 and 100,000 animals and their numbers are stable or increasing in many areas of the province; and

"Whereas black bear hunting is enjoyed by over 20,000 hunters annually in Ontario and black bears are a well-managed renewable resource; and

"Whereas hunting regulations are based on sustained yield principles and all forms of hunting are needed to optimize the socioeconomic benefits associated with hunting; and

"Whereas the value of the spring bear hunt to tourist operators in northern Ontario is $30 million annually, generating about 500 person-years of employment; and

"Whereas animal rights activists have launched a campaign of misinformation and emotional rhetoric to ban bear hunting and end our hunting heritage in Ontario, ignoring the enormous impact this would have on the people of Ontario;

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

"That the Ontario government protect our hunting heritage and continue to support all current forms of black bear hunting."

This is signed by about 225 residents of the province of Ontario, and pursuant to the standing orders, I am affixing my signature to it.

EDUCATION ISSUES


Mr Harry Danford (Hastings-Peterborough): I have a petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario. It comes on behalf of many of my constituents and others within the province and it deals with education issues.

PUBLIC SERVICE AND LABOUR RELATIONS REFORM


Mr Rick Bartolucci (Sudbury): The following petition was presented to me like this, and I understand that T-shirts are not allowed, so I'll put it down, but it was presented by Marg Rondina with regard to that. I said that I would do that.

"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"Whereas the Progressive Conservative government has failed to address the root causes of waste, duplication and unnecessary administration in our health care system; and

"Whereas the provincial government has instead introduced Bill 136, the Public Sector Transition Stability Act, that makes it easier for employers to reduce the numbers of front-line staff and to lower their salaries and benefits and thus causing further deterioration of quality patient care; and

"Whereas Bill 136 also erodes the democratic process by tampering with collective agreements and potentially interfering with workers' choice of bargaining agent;

"We, the undersigned, therefore petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to withdraw Bill 136, the Public Sector Transition Stability Act, and restructure the health care system in a safe, coordinated and rational way."

I thank Marg Rondina for collecting these 2,000 signatures, and I sign it.

HOSPITAL RESTRUCTURING


Mrs Marion Boyd (London Centre): I have a petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.

"Whereas the Progressive Conservative government of Ontario has decided to reduce taxes by 30%; and

"Whereas this government has proceeded to reduce the level of public health care service through the hospital restructuring committee; and

"Whereas complementary legislation such as Bill 7, Bill 26 and Bill 136 are turning the negotiation process into a one-sided sham; and

"Whereas the morale of these front-line health care employees has hit rock bottom;

"We, the undersigned organized service and practical nursing staff of the London Health Sciences Centre, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario as follows:

"To withdraw Bill 136 and to re-establish the funding and level of service in the public hospital sector."

I agree with this petition, which is signed by approximately 500 people from London, and I am affixing my signature.

EDUCATION REFORM


Mr Tony Ruprecht (Parkdale): I have a petition addressed to the Legislature of Ontario and, by the way, it's signed by a number of people from Parkdale and also from Davenport. It reads:

"We believe that the heart of education in our province is in the relationship between students and teachers and that this human and relational dimension should be maintained and extended in any proposed reform. The Minister of Education and Training should know how strongly we oppose many of the secondary reform recommendations being proposed by the ministry and government.

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

I will cut this short by simply adding one more paragraph. I will not read the rest. It says:

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

I am delighted to add my signature to this document.

PUBLIC SERVICE AND LABOUR RELATIONS REFORM


Mr Wayne Lessard (Windsor-Riverside): I have a petition that reads as follows:

"Bill 136 gives employers unrestricted rights to tear up collective agreements. It affects union rights, workplace rights and seniority rights of many working people in Ontario.

"For health care workers who have not had the right to strike since 1964, it takes away the fair and independent arbitration system that up until now satisfactorily resolved contract disputes between labour and management. The existing arbitration system also ensured smooth transitions in hospital mergers.

"With last week's announcement, the government of Ontario is clearly moving in the right direction on Bill 136. However, we have no guarantee of that until we see the wording of the proposed amendments.

"We, the undersigned residents of Ontario, demand that the Legislature of Ontario immediately make public the amendments to Bill 136 and hold public hearings on Bill 136 in communities throughout the province."

That's signed by hundreds of people who are involved in the health care sector in Windsor from AAHPO, CUPE, ONA, OPEIU, OPSEU and SEIU.

EDUCATION REFORM


Mr Alex Cullen (Ottawa West): I rise in my place to present a petition to the Legislature regarding protecting education services in Ontario.

"To the Legislature of Ontario:

"Whereas the Harris government is proposing detrimental changes to education services in Ontario;

"Whereas the government's obsession with the fiscal bottom line will result in a reduction of the quality of education services for our children;

"Whereas inclusive and open consultation on education reform has not taken place;

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

"That the government of Ontario reconsider its direction in terms of education policy and that they halt any further changes to the education system until a thorough and inclusive review has taken place."

I am pleased to affix my signature to this petition.

SOCCER FIELD


Mrs Marion Boyd (London Centre): I have a petition that petitions the Ontario Legislature as follows:

"We, the undersigned residents of the province of Ontario, petition the Ontario provincial government to keep the London Psychiatric Hospital's soccer fields for use as youth soccer fields even in the event of the closing of the hospital."

This is the first of a large number of petitions that are coming in and it is signed by 500 citizens of London, Brantford and all of southwestern Ontario.

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VIDEO LOTTERY TERMINALS


Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): A very topical subject these days: I have a petition to the government of Ontario which reads as follows:

"Since video lottery terminals will contribute to gambling addiction in Ontario and the resulting breakup of families, spousal and child abuse and crimes such as embezzlement and robbery; and

"Since the introduction of video lottery terminals across Ontario will provide those addicted to gambling with widespread temptation and will attract young people to a vice which will adversely affect their lives for many years to come; and

"Since the introduction of these gambling machines across our province is designed to gain revenue for the government at the expense of the poor, the vulnerable and the desperate in order that the government can cut income taxes, to the greatest benefit of those with the highest income; and

"Since the placement of video lottery terminals in bars in Ontario and in permanent casinos in various locations across the province represents an escalation of gambling opportunities; and

"Since Premier Harris and Finance Minister Eves were so critical of the provincial government becoming involved in further gambling ventures and making the government more dependent on gambling revenues to maintain government operations;

"We, the undersigned, call upon Premier Harris and the government of Ontario to reconsider its announced decision to introduce the most insidious form of gambling, video lottery terminals, to restaurants and bars in the province."

I affix my signature as I'm in full agreement with the contents of this petition.

PUBLIC SERVICE AND LABOUR RELATIONS REFORM


Mr Tony Martin (Sault Ste Marie): I have a petition and letter from numerous members of CUPE in Sault Ste Marie in opposition to Bill 136. It says:

"This letter is written to express opposition to Bill 136. Bill 136 will only serve to distort the balance between workers and management by shifting all advantages in management's favour. We've worked for years to establish an equilibrium between these two parties, and it's very important that it remain. In the past, employers and workers have completed mergers and amalgamations on their own, very successfully, without government intervention.

"As a member of your constituency" -- talking to me -- "I'm requesting you to oppose the passing of Bill 136."

I will certainly be doing that.

NOTICE OF DISSATISFACTION


Mr Bruce Crozier (Essex South): Speaker, pursuant to the standing orders, I wish to advise you of my dissatisfaction with the response of the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations to my question on charitable gaming casinos.

The reason for my dissatisfaction is that I asked the minister who will pay the $1,500 per video gaming slot machine fee to municipalities. The minister did not answer the question. I will file this with the Clerk.

ORDERS OF THE DAY

EDUCATION QUALITY IMPROVEMENT ACT, 1997 / LOI DE 1997 SUR L'AMÉLIORATION DE LA QUALITÉ DE L'ÉDUCATION

Mr Snobelen moved second reading of the following bill:

Bill 160, An Act to reform the education system, protect classroom funding, and enhance accountability, and make other improvements consistent with the Government's education quality agenda, including improved student achievement and regulated class size / Projet de loi 160, Loi visant à réformer le système scolaire, à protéger le financement des classes, à accroître l'obligation de rendre compte et à apporter d'autres améliorations compatibles avec la politique du gouvernement en matière de qualité de l'éducation, y compris l'amélioration du rendement des élèves et la réglementation de l'effectif des classes.


Hon John Snobelen (Minister of Education and Training): I'd like to mention before I begin that I'm splitting my time today with the member for Middlesex and the member for Huron.

Today I'm pleased to begin a very public debate on second reading of Bill 160, the Education Quality Improvement Act. This bill is a significant step in building the future of education in Ontario, a significant step in building a solid foundation for our youth and a significant step in addressing the decade-old grievances within the structure of our schools.

We would all agree that our students deserve the very best, we would all agree that our students must measure up to the best in Canada and the best in the world and we would all agree that our children should not pay for their own education, as they do when we leave them our debts.

Let me be very clear. When we burden our children with our debts, as we have in the past, we diminish their futures. When we formed the government, each of our students owed $41,000, and year after year deficits have added to this burden. For the sake of our children's future, we must embrace the challenge of change: change in curriculum from fuzzy, feel-good outcomes to measurable, year-by-year standards, standards that are regularly tested and clearly communicated to parents and students through a province-wide report card; change to a four-year high school, a high school that recognizes the needs of the 70% who have been left out; change in the governance of schools, with less bureaucracy and fewer politicians, with clear accountability for the ministry, the boards, principals, teachers, parents and students, a governance model built up from the classroom, not down from the boardroom; and change in how we fund our schools from the general legislative grants system. This is a system that was perfectly designed to hide provincial politicians from accountability. We propose a system designed to meet the needs of our students and to end the old game of hide and seek between the province and the boards.

Make no mistake about it. The easiest way for the province to reduce its costs is to reduce the GLGs, to let the boards pile up more property tax or to add to the provincial debt, as have previous governments, with no intention of paying it off, preferring to leave that burden to our children. This government is committed to a different path, to taking on the burden of fully funding our schools and to being fully accountable for providing for our students; and most important, to being accountable for our students' performance.

In his review of Bill 100, Mr Paroian asked groups presenting to him a simple question: "Where does the buck stop in education?" He got the same answer that has frustrated parents and taxpayers and teachers for decades: "The buck stops nowhere. No one is accountable." Once and for all this bill will allow us to say, "The buck stops here." For too long the legitimate bargaining for wages and benefits for our teachers has been cloaked in what is best for our students, but the result of the bargaining has been the opposite: larger classes and less time with teachers, and this simply cannot continue.

In the last two years a number of school boards have increased their class sizes. Some of them, like York region, Haldimand county and Lakehead district secondary, have done so in collaboration with teachers' unions. Our bill would cap class size and guarantee that quality for our students is not negotiable.

Bargaining has also increased taxes way out of proportion with inflation. Our young people pay for high taxes. They pay with their jobs as investment in Ontario declines. This cannot continue. Our bill would end the spiralling education property taxes.

Over the past two decades, the bargaining atmosphere between teachers and school boards has gotten in the way of making many quality decisions for education. Ultimately, sadly, this diminishes the teaching profession in the eyes of the public. This doesn't serve the interests of our students or the interests of our teachers. I believe we must reverse this trend. That is why I was proud to introduce the College of Teachers and why I believe we must have a forum to discuss the changes openly, publicly and regularly.

Old political wisdom would suggest that we should hide from tough questions like: Why is our student performance not the best in Canada? Why are our costs high? Why do our students spend less time on task than students in other provinces? Why are our secondary school teachers out of the classroom more than their colleagues in other provinces? Tough questions, but it's our duty to ask them openly and publicly and to listen very carefully for the responses.

As this bill moves through the democratic process, our task is to engage the questions and to listen with great care. I sought political office for one purpose and one purpose only: to do my part to leave a legacy to the children that is even better and brighter than the future left to me by my parents; to leave a richer possibility for a better life to my niece and my nephew.

I believe we can do that, but it means having the courage to engage the tough questions, the strength to withstand criticism and the wisdom to listen. In the end, I believe we have the courage, the strength and the collective wisdom to make a better place for our children. That is my purpose and my joy.


The Acting Speaker (Ms Marilyn Churley): Further debate?

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Mr Bruce Smith (Middlesex): It's certainly a pleasure to rise today and have the opportunity to share in support of this bill and to compliment the Minister of Education on his comments previously.

I want to start from the perspective of complimenting and recognizing the achievements of students in this province, because there has been a considerable achievement by many students. When I reflect upon the London area and look at three students who won first place in the Ontario Mathematics Olympics earlier this year and a Bramalea student who has been named the 1996 Junior Citizen of the Year by the Ontario Community Newspaper Association, there certainly are many worthwhile achievements that are being recognized by our young people in this province.

The objective of this legislation and many of the reforms that the minister has introduced is simply to ensure that there are more young people such as the ones I just referenced, young people who continue to be leaders in our society and young people who are prepared to act on the opportunities that I think this legislation will present for young people across the province.

We continually see -- and I don't think there would be much disagreement -- that children, students in this province, will face a much more complex, fast-paced and highly technological world. They will need a high level of skills and knowledge to meet all of those challenges that are presented to them. They'll certainly need to learn a new set of skills throughout their lives to meet these challenges of tomorrow and challenges that will present opportunities for new jobs in a new century when specialization and education is paramount.

Right now too many students are not as prepared as those young people whom I referred to earlier, the ones I just applauded. There is opportunity to expand upon the numbers of those individuals and move forward. Time and again we hear parents and students talking about the actions of this government and its predecessors, and they have expressed concern about the quality of education in this province. They've expressed concern relative to achievement of students, not just internationally but collectively, locally within the province and on a national level.

There's much debate and many theories of why this has come about and a great deal of time could be spent debating that particular issue. But the bottom line is our students and our children deserve much better. The bottom line is that Ontarians are not getting the best return on their investment in education. Certainly our students deserve more.

My belief is our students should be among the best in the world. As I indicated earlier, many of them are. Our teachers should be among the best in the world. I would recognize, as I have met with teachers in northern Ontario and central Algoma last week, teachers in Elgin county this morning, there is certainly the dedication and commitment that needs to be brought to the classroom on a day-to-day basis to ensure that our students are achieving and to ensure that the delivery of the service is the best it can be.

It's really not about just students and teachers; it's about addressing problems within the system, a system that can be remedied and a system that will provide us with the best education in the world. Previous governments have responded with studies and commissions. I think it's important to realize that no other particular issue has been more studied by government agencies or government itself than the field of education.

I don't believe the students of Ontario need another royal commission. It's time for action. It's time to make the publicly funded school system more accountable. It's time to build a system that will provide answers to parents' and students' needs. It's time to build a new system that will bring education back as the fabric of our province's planning for tomorrow. It's a time to build new partnerships. Certainly, as we move through some difficult transition periods, it's very evident to me in my capacity as parliamentary assistant that those partnerships are materializing, and those are to be encouraged and built upon.

It's time to use proven methods to build a better education system, to understand those methods and apply them wherever possible. Very clearly, whether it's educators, government people, taxpayers or parents, we all can agree that our bottom-line objective here is to bring the best-quality education in the most cost-effective manner, not with the total focus on cost-effectiveness, but one that delivers a quality education for all of our students in the best possible way.

In January the minister announced our government's intention to move Ontario students to the head of the class. Certainly that commitment has been very evident and I think met very positively by most educators in the province. As I have met with teachers, I find, particularly in the elementary panel, a very clear focus, notwithstanding some of the areas of concern, on the issues of quality, recognition of the need to provide a better curriculum framework for students, recognition of the opportunities that can be realized through province-wide testing, and the opportunities a standard report card can bring so that we all understand the achievements of students across this province.

These quality initiatives the minister has introduced I believe strongly will provide students and teachers with the skill sets they need to move ahead, not only as professionals but as students within their academic careers. They're certainly initiatives that will allow parents to better understand how their child is progressing through the school system. In my opinion, it will encourage our children to reach higher and develop skills they need to succeed.

The introduction of Bill 160 is about taking the next step. As I mentioned, we have seen numerous reports, studies and commissions on education in this province, and we are moving into the next step of reforming that system effectively.

The proposed legislation would help ensure a smooth transition primarily in three areas: by improving the governance of schools -- I think as we look we will recall that we dealt with many of the school board issues through Bill 104; this is the next logical phase of that to provide for a smoother transition with the amalgamating boards and jurisdictions -- and we continue to look at every opportunity for increasing the involvement of parents, and opportunities for simplifying and making the education system more accountable from a financial perspective.

This bill has resulted from many months of hard work, and I want to take the time to recognize the work of many people who have contributed to that bill, particularly those people at the Education Improvement Commission, those people within the ministry who liaised with the commission on a regular basis, and the representatives of school boards who have provided assistance and advice as well.

It's always more important to bring some real life application to this issue, and that experience is best presented by teachers and educators themselves. My colleague from Brampton North shared with me a letter from a public school principal today. While there are concerns raised in terms of implementation and management of change, there is general agreement with the theme of putting students first, which as I said at the outset, no one in this Legislature, I doubt, would argue.


Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): That's like motherhood.

Mr Smith: Yes, that is a motherhood statement, I would say to the member for Algoma. As I mentioned at the outset, I had the pleasure of being in central Algoma last week to spend some time with students and teachers in that area. I must say that the teachers I met with on the elementary side had a great deal of information and input in terms of the effectiveness of new curriculum initiatives, the effectiveness of implementing a new, standardized report card.

It certainly was beneficial in terms of receiving their input and viewpoints on how we move ahead into the next phase. That's the challenge that lies before us. As I indicated at the outset, this bill represents the next phase of education reform for this province, and a large part of that implementation will require the expertise of teaching professionals across this province.

The member for Brampton North's letter continues to recognize the achievements of the new curriculum the minister has introduced for grades 1 to 8, and other quality initiatives that have been presented by the government to date.

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There are some positive indicators coming back from teachers across this province, ones that I think will serve well because, as I said earlier, they are the deliverers, the front-line people who will be dealing directly with the initiatives of the government.

The objective as well is obviously to bring quality initiatives to the forefront and that's a very large part of the initiatives to date, as I've alluded to earlier. This bill recognizes that student achievement generally increases with the amount of time spent with teachers in the classroom. It paves the way for a smooth transfer of administration, a more accountable and streamlined system. The bill requires fair funding of school boards and calls for review of the funding system, a review that would challenge and examine to ensure the standards of fairness are being met in terms of the expectations of our new financing model.

The minister, who spoke earlier about parental involvement and his discussions with parents across the province, has clearly indicated that we want to bring, through this bill, a system that's more accountable to parents and one that looks for their continued involvement in the career paths and education paths of their children.

The bill itself is obviously to some extent controversial for some, but I tend to look more positively to the opportunities, and I think, by and large, people are starting to look more positively to the opportunities that are being presented.

I would refer to the Kitchener-Waterloo Record: "A high school teacher and parent, Bob Bonisteel, says, `Snobelen's education overhaul is long overdue.' The father of two, who has taught 27 years in the Ottawa area, states: `Finally we've got a government that means business. We are performing in an okay fashion and it costs too much money for an okay system of education.'"

There is the recognition, as I said at the outset, that we can pursue opportunities to better the system. There are good things happening in education in this province. I find one of the frustrating things about that is that some of the good new things are not being shared to the extent one might think. They may happen locally, within an individual school, they may happen within a specific school board, they may happen regionally, but very often we do not hear about the success stories that are occurring. This bill, as well as the initiatives the Minister of Education has undertaken to date, will complement those things to ensure we can continue to build upon those success stories in the future.

Some tough decisions had to be made, tough decisions that previous governments, for whatever reason, chose not to act upon, tough decisions that in my opinion will better the education system of this province, and tough decisions that need to be acted upon now.

Now is the time to act, and I welcome and support the comments of the Minister of Education and Training this afternoon. I support Bill 160 and believe strongly that as we move ahead into the next phase of education reform in this province, by putting the kids and students of this province first we will have in the long term and in the short term the quality education system we expect in this province.


Mrs Helen Johns (Huron): It's a great opportunity today to be speaking about Bill 160 and I would like to say how pleased I am to be able to speak to this issue. I think I'm one of maybe 12 people who sit in this House who has kids in the elementary school system in Ontario. I, as a parent, am very pleased with the changes that are happening in the education system. I would first like to give my thanks to Minister Snobelen for the work he has done on both bills and then to thank everyone for the consultation that has gone on over the past period of time.

From the perspective of the people who are watching today and my colleagues here, it's important to know I'm very concerned about education and about my children and the way the environment around them works. That's one of the reasons I chose to try to become elected in the last provincial election. I'm concerned when there's debt and we're mortgaging our children in the future. I'm also concerned about the hope and opportunities for our children.


Mr John Gerretsen (Kingston and The Islands): Did you speak out against the tax cut?

The Acting Speaker: Member for Kingston and The Islands, order.

Mrs Johns: I think it's important that we recognize that there are a few things that are very important to the betterment of our children in Ontario. Of course a strong economy for students to be able to get jobs is important, as is an education that will allow them to compete in an ever-changing world.

I know that when I graduated some 20-odd years ago, and that's probably being very kind to myself, the opportunities were a lot more open. There were a lot of things I could do within the province of Ontario. Today, my children are going to compete in a global marketplace. They are going to have to be able to compete against people throughout the world for very different jobs, technological jobs, different jobs that I wouldn't have even dreamed about competing for 20 years ago. It's very important that we consider, when we're looking at educational reform, putting our kids first.

The first thing I'd like to say is that with my kids in the education system today, the teachers my kids have are doing an excellent job. They spend time with kids. They try and do creative things that allow kids not only to think in the logical terms that I did in past years but also to consider new and interesting environments that we never had the option to consider in the past. I think it's important.

I want to say that over the summertime I hired a high school student who had just graduated from South Huron District High School. He worked in my office for the summer and he was the top graduate out of the high school in my area. One of the things I noticed about him that I can say was not the same for myself when I graduated was how well-rounded he was. He had done a number of things that I had never considered: community involvement; political involvement, I might say; helped work with the federal Tories during the federal election. I'm not saying that you have to be involved with a political party or with the Conservative Party. Don't get me wrong here. But I think, on the other side, a well-rounded group of young individuals is very important for us to have and I was very proud of him. He took independent thoughts and processes and worked through to, I think, a very successful conclusion in the items that he worked through in my riding.

This has happened in my riding despite a very tough education system for the county of Huron. The county of Huron in the past has had a very low education property tax base and as a result of that, we've spent approximately $5,000 per student a year on their education. What has happened in the province since we started with this, what I consider an ill-devised property tax system, was that we created a system where we had two tiers of education. The kids in my community were being educated on $5,000 a year and the kids in some communities were being educated on $9,000 a year.

What I would like to say to that is, I don't believe money is everything in education. I'm the first person to say that in my community there are a lot of things that are different than if you're educated in Toronto or Ottawa. But on the other side, $4,000 per pupil is a computer; $4,000 per pupil is textbooks, it's a speech therapist. All of those things are very important and have led to a two-tiered education system in Huron county.


Mr David Caplan (Oriole): Check your numbers.

Mrs Johns: I'd like to say to the member for Oriole that even Sean Conway admits that the system has been a two-tiered system for a long time. The Liberals are admitting that. Maybe it's because you were just elected that you don't understand that this has been happening in the community. But the member from Renfrew in his dissertation a couple of weeks ago said that this was a very admirable thing the government was trying to do, that other governments just hadn't had the political will to move forward with it.

I'm very pleased that this government had decided that equity and fairness in education are the most important things, and that's what's going to happen with my kids in my system. I'm very pleased about this. I'm very pleased with respect to the financial reform that's involved in this bill, and I think that kids in my riding are going to have a more equitable educational level compared to other people within the province.

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We are not in this world here to say that some kids deserve more dollars spent on them in education than others. Every child deserves to be educated. Yes, that is a motherhood statement, but let me say first that I am a mother and I make motherhood statements, and second, if that's motherhood, that's what I believe in: fairness, equity in the education system.

I'd like to take a minute and talk about the curriculum. I am a big fan of this new curriculum. I have a little boy in grade 1 who is an interesting little guy and he's going to have some difficult times with structure in grade 1. There's no question about that. The new curriculum says some very important things that I think parents would be very interested in when they are dealing with their elementary school children. For example, the overall expectation for the first time is that kids will read by the end of grade 1.

I think the kids should be able to read by then. They should be able to read aloud in a way that allows them to communicate. They should be able to read independently, express clear responses. I think it's important that we aspire to those goals for our children, so we should put them down, we should make teachers and students and parents accountable to those goals and we should work as hard as we can to ensure that they meet these goals. We are the province that spends the most money on education and it should be a results-oriented education.

When we talk about writing in grade 1, I'd also like to say that my little boy should be able to communicate ideas for specific purposes. He should be able to write simple sentences. As a parent, I believe that those are the things he should be able to do by the end of grade 1.

We talk about number sense. Math is my little baby, I have to tell you this. He has to be able to understand whole numbers. He has to be able to add numbers together. He has to be able to understand the concept of sequencing: two, four, six, eight, as opposed to just being able to go through the numbers. I think those are all admirable things we should be demanding of our teachers, of our students and of our families for our children.

I also noticed that we have measurement expectations for these children. They have to be able to demonstrate an understanding of and an ability to apply measurement terms. My little boy came home the other day and had to be able to figure out his height, his weight. I have to admit he had to do it in kilograms and centimetres and I had a really tough time trying to help him with it, but I think it's important for them to be able to do that.

He also has to be able to solve problems related to day-to-day environments using concrete experiences. He has to be aware of shapes and sizes. All these are things that parents expect their grade 1 students to be able to do. With this curriculum document, where we can compare what students are doing to where they should be, what the expectations of education are, I know that parents are feeling much more comfortable about the system. We've been sending this curriculum out to parents with the grades their children are in as they call and they have really thought this was an excellent idea and that it met more of the goals the parents had with respect to educating their children.

I want to talk a little bit about class size. I have a little boy in grade 3. As I have watched over the short time he has been in elementary school, I have seen class sizes growing and growing. I think that especially in early elementary school years there needs to be an ability for children to have a relationship with their teacher. For example -- and because I'm down here, sometimes I talk to my kids on the phone every day as opposed to seeing them like most lucky parents do -- I say to them, "So, did you read today in school?" Before I was so lucky to have this position, I used to go into the school and read with some of the kids who were having trouble in reading. The class sizes are getting too big for teachers to be able to read to students and we need to be able to bring that class size down.

One of the interesting things I have seen as I have watched this, and as a parent it's hard to understand what is happening here -- in the backgrounder that went out it says: "Currently class sizes are larger than the number of teachers would indicate. In the elementary grade, there is one teacher for every 17 students, but average class size is 25." That means, and I have thought about this, some teachers aren't in the classroom. They are doing other things outside of the classroom. I don't think there is anything more important in a school than being with the children. From my standpoint of other items that teachers might be doing, I want them with my kids, helping them to learn to read, write and do arithmetic. We can't continue to run a system where kids aren't getting teacher contact all the time. We need to change the system to make it such that the average size is a more realistic size that allows kids to be taught.

I'd also like to talk about teachers in the classroom. Because my kids are only in the elementary system right now, I have not been in the high school system, I haven't seen the ability of the high school system, but a couple of years ago my husband and I had a foreign student who came to stay with us for a year from Germany. She was in the high school system, so I have a little bit of knowledge about this but I haven't had firsthand knowledge, so I have to say my expertise here is more, granted, by the Ministry of Education. As we have all agreed here, because I seem to be provoking some thought, we need to have teachers in the classroom. I see no reason why the average teacher in the high school system spends 3.75 hours in the classroom when the average across the rest of Ontario is 4.5 hours. I think we need to get to the point where the principal job of people in the education system is contact with kids.

One of the things that has really become a good thing in my riding and maybe we were forerunners in it -- I admit my board has done some terrific things as they've moved forward -- is parent advisory councils. When I was on the first education bill, we heard from a lot of parent advisory councils who were involved in greater roles with their kids in the school system. I think all of us would admit that there is a role for parents in the system. The last thing I want to know at the end of the year is that something has gone awry with my child during that year. I want to be able to work with the teachers. I want to be able to work with my child. I want continually to be able to provide a second source of information to help the teachers. I think there is a big role for parent advisory councils within our school system.

My parent advisory council doesn't only want to be a fund-raiser. They want to decide about things that are happening in their school system. They want to talk about discipline. They want to talk about changing morals and values in the school system. They have had people come and talk to them about how they can better be part of the education system. I went to talk to them about the previous education bill for an evening to try and help parents decide where their children are going and what they need to have. There has to be a greater role for the parent advisory council, and this bill does that.

When I was on the education bill, one of the groups I found the most interesting, and I know a number of us were on this -- I think it was in Windsor -- was a parent advisory council which had really become involved in the school. I think it was the previous member from Windsor -- in the new head of the Education Improvement Commission's riding. They had really got involved with parent involvement and responsibilities within the school system and they were truly amazing. Parents want to be involved. Gone are the days when we want to drop our kids off at the school door and pick them up at the end of the day. Gone are the days when we want to just hear at the end what the report card says. A number of us, and I speak for almost all people in my generation, do a lot with their kids that my parents were unable to do. We run between hockey arena, baseball diamond, soccer field. We do a lot of things with our kids, and I want to be involved with them in their school system. So I think providing a greater role for parent advisory councils is the right thing to do in this day and age. I think it's going to provide a far greater breadth to the parents and the students within the area.

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The last thing that makes me very happy about our movement in education is standardized testing. For many years I have heard some really nice things about my kids, and I've heard parents hearing nice things about their kids when they got their report cards home. It's nice to know my child has a good personality -- I don't want to rave about my child today -- and it's nice to know he interacts well with other people, but I also want to know how he's doing compared to other kids in his class. Maybe that's because I'm a competitive individual, and maybe that's a bad thing, but on the other side, my child is going to have to compete when it comes to getting a job in Ontario, when it comes to getting into university, when it comes to everything. We all had to compete to get these seats we have here today that we're so lucky to represent. So I think it's important for us to know how our kids are doing.

With that information parents will do a lot of things. Some parents will say, "That's fine, I'm not interested." Other parents will say, "I'm going to spend some time with little Johnny or Jarrett at night on that specific issue." Other parents will bring in tutors. Other parents will do whatever it takes to be able to help their children along. Parents deserve to know how their kids are doing. Standardized testing at three, six, along the line to allow parents to know what their kids are doing I think is an excellent opportunity for parents to once again become involved with their children.

I think everything we have done, every movement we've tried to make has been well-thought-out. There has been consultation on those issues. We have looked carefully to see how we can put the student first. It is very important for us to look at this and to say: "This is an opportunity for our kids in the future. This provides us with an even funding base for our children. It provides us with limited class size. It provides us with more teacher hours in the classroom." All of these things are important to our kids getting a big hand up when it comes to education.

It's time for us to move forward with this bill and to look at alternatives we can do to make the system even better. I'm not saying that we do this in isolation; I'm saying we do it in conjunction with teachers, principals, parents and students, because at some levels, especially at the high school level, students are able to give some input into what they think should happen. For example, my husband believes that after grade 13 we should poll these students and ask them: What could have been better in education? How could you have had better teaching methods? These young people are better able to tell us how the system works than some of the people outside, and I think we need to follow through with this. Accountability and fairness are the key to the education system being what we need for our kids in the future.

I'd like to take this opportunity to thank John Snobelen, the Minister of Education, and his parliamentary assistant, Bruce Smith, for the work they've done on these two bills. I'd like to say I'm proud to be associated with a government that is moving forward with a fair and equitable system in education. I think our kids will thank us in the long run.


The Acting Speaker: Questions or comments?

Mr Gerretsen: Let it never be said in this House again that the opposition isn't speaking to the actual bill because, quite frankly, what the minister, the parliamentary assistant and the last member talked about had precious little to do with the bill.

They talk in generalities about accountability, about being concerned for education and putting children first. Who would be against any of that? Nobody. But the other thing people aren't for is for the Minister of Education to take $530 million out of education already and for the other $1 billion that he's going to take out as a result of this bill. Why don't we talk about that for a while? Why didn't the member mention that?

Parent advisory councils: Sure, there should be greater involvement of parents in schools, but how about talking about the reduced roles of school boards? School boards are going to have no say whatsoever. There's no funding say, no say whatsoever. We are looking at school boards that are so large you wonder why anybody would want to serve on some of these boards when the new trustees have to travel anywhere from three to four hours to get to a particular meeting. Why don't we talk about that?

Class sizes: Why don't you just come forward and say what you want these class sizes to be? They could be larger or they could be smaller than they currently are. There's nothing in this bill about that.

To talk in very general terms about how important education is, everybody would agree with that, but let's talk about what's in this bill. This bill is about cutting $1 billion out of education in addition to the $530 million you've already cut. If everybody is so happy about it, how come the teachers aren't happy? They are the ones who are in touch with our kids on a day-to-day basis in schools. I say shame on all of you.


Mr Rosario Marchese (Fort York): I do feel sorry for the poor public who might be watching this, who are being force-fed this Pablum, this grub on a daily basis. I do feel badly because I'm here listening and, I tell you, it's hard to take.

They have eviscerated funding for school boards ever since they took office. You have heard the members for Huron and Middlesex and the minister not comment at all, or barely, on Bill 160. Why? Because they are either ashamed of their own bill or too afraid to talk about its contents. That's why they're not speaking to this bill. By and large, they talk about equity as if somehow these people have become the new champions of equity. Good God. These are the people who are widening the gap between the rich and the poor and they talk about equity.


Mrs Johns: Does $9,000 widen the gap?

Mr Marchese: These people, the member for Huron included, are centralizing control and decentralizing the burden down to the municipal level, in this case boards of education. They talk about putting a cap on class size. We don't even know what those grants are going to be for the boards. I tell you, everybody is quivering with fear. They are quivering because they know they're not going to get what these people are talking about. They're taking the power away from local boards to determine local needs.

The member for Huron must know that needs are as different in cities as they are in some other part of Ontario. She must surely know that. She must surely know that we're not all equal in society. God knows, I wish it were so, but we are not equal. This member pretends to create this illusion that all these kids across Ontario are equal. They're not. That's why boards have had the ability in the past, but no longer, to achieve that equality that they are destroying.


Mr Caplan: I'm very pleased to reply to some of the statements that were made earlier by the minister, the member for Middlesex and the member for Huron. There are an amazing number of inaccuracies in the comments. One comment was to a $9,000 figure as opposed to a $5,000 figure. I would suggest to the member she check her facts. In fact it's way out. If this is just propaganda and spin to sell something, which quite frankly is unsaleable to the people of Ontario, I say shame -- shame on the member, shame on this government.

The whole issue around class size is a very interesting one. The member, and all the members, should know that there is legislative protection for class sizes of 8 to 1, of 12 to 1. They are special education classes. So if you're looking for the teachers, I suggest that's where you find them, because they are there. They are in front of students. I ask the members and I ask this minister, is he going to get rid of special education protection for our kids? Are they any less deserving? I certainly hope that's not the response.

As far as this new curriculum and standardized testing, I can tell the member that as a parent in North York, I want nine grades of standardized testing, not the three that this government is proposing. Why don't we raise the level to what we have? Why, as a parent, do I have to have less for my child? The member cannot answer this. The members have no reply as to why now we only have to have three grades of standardized testing.

Why did the Minister of Education virtually plagiarize a curriculum that was introduced five years ago in North York? I don't have any problem with that. It's a good starting place, but it's not a finished product. We can do much better.

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Mr Wildman: I appreciate the opportunity to comment on the remarks of the three leadoff speakers for the Conservative government.

I really was surprised and disappointed in the presentation, as the minister is wont to say from time to time. The fact is, these three speakers made presentations which have nothing to do with the real world in education.

What we have today in this province, unfortunately, thanks to the moves made by this government, including Bill 160, is a crisis that is about to happen. We may see a major disruption in the classes of students across this province because the government is determined to take a significant amount of money out of education, $1 billion over the $500 million they've already taken --

Interjections.


The Acting Speaker: Order, please.

Mr Wildman: They can barrack all they want, but the point is they are prepared to sacrifice the quality of education for kids in this province in order to get the money out. It reminds me of that Hollywood movie where the athlete is always yelling, "Show me the money." Mr Snobelen is being continually yelled at by the Treasurer of Ontario, "Show me the money," and he's going to get him the money. He's going to get that money out no matter what. If it means ending the special education programs, if it means gutting ESL programs, if it means hurting class size, if it means laying off teachers, he'll do it, because he's got to get that money for Mr Eves.

The Acting Speaker: Member for Middlesex, are you going to sum up?

Mr Smith: Certainly you can approach this issue from two perspectives: one such as the opposition, where they're creating all sorts of chaos, or alternatively approaching the issue as constructive managers of change. This is what we're about. This is a process that we're entering into. I said at the outset that it's not an easy process we're going through, but one that I believe in the long term will benefit the students of this province.

The issue that the member for Kingston and The Islands raised in terms of the $1 billion: I would simply put this matter before you. Last year the government clearly articulated its intention to reduce grants to school boards by 2.4%. That is well known. Instead of finding savings, many school boards simply passed the reductions on to local taxpayers. In essence, they raised taxes $334 million.

That is why there has to be change to the funding system of this province. That is why we're moving ahead to provide a simpler, fairer funding system for the province, one that clearly focuses on students.

You can approach it from a panicked perspective, as the members of the opposition are, or you can deal with it progressively and move ahead. Many of these opposition members were a part of previous governments that have studied this issue to death. As I indicated before, now is the time to act; now is the time to move ahead.

We will be limiting class size. We will be focusing on teachers' expertise in the classroom. We will be addressing student access to specialists. We will provide more time for learning. We'll be providing a simpler, fairer funding model. We will be recognizing free collective bargaining and that whole process. We will be recognizing the needs of those communities that are experiencing growth opportunities.

This is not about panicking about the future and standing up and railing and screaming. It's about doing things properly, things that each of these members on the opposition benches knows has been appropriately discussed for a number of years -- some 22 different studies spanning an extensive period of time. The time has come for some changes. Yes, there will be some challenges with that change process. I challenge them to take the appropriate approach.


Mrs Lyn McLeod (Fort William): This government continues to be absolutely amazing in its sheer bullheadedness and its determination to ram through its agenda regardless of the consequences. It continues to manipulate public opinion in an effort to camouflage the fact that the basic agenda remains unchanged.

We hear today that they may even have managed to convince members like the member for Middlesex and the member for Huron, who I think have some genuine concern for education, that this government's goal is to see some improvement of education. How they can continue to believe that I think is only because they are taught not to look at the evidence of this government's record to date and they are taught not to look at the reality of what is actually happening out in the classroom.

Be that as it may, we are beginning debate today on an education omnibus bill. It is a bill that serves one overall purpose. Let there be no mistake about that. That is to give this Mike Harris government total and absolute control of education in every respect, from funding to the day-to-day activities that go on in a classroom -- total control.

This is a bill that has driven the teachers of this province to the point of being ready to take strike action in defence not only of their jobs but of public education itself. This is a bill that is the result of neither negotiation nor consultation. You can't call it consultation when one side comes into the talks with an agenda which is already set in stone, an agenda which is diametrically opposed to everything the other party to the talks believes is important. Yet that is exactly what happened when Mike Harris and John Snobelen said, "We want to talk to teachers." They came in with a set agenda, and it was an agenda that no teacher concerned about education could ever subscribe to.

You can't talk about negotiation when one side sets down ultimatums. That's again what Mike Harris and John Snobelen and the representatives of their government did at that so-called negotiating table. They made their ultimatum absolutely clear: They wanted $1 billion out of education spending and they wanted the tools to cut those dollars out by cutting out classroom teachers. No wonder teachers said no.

Last Thursday, Mike Harris and John Snobelen were still talking about talking. You'd think if they were serious about talking, if the Minister of Education was serious, as he said in the House today, about sitting down with teachers and actually hearing their concerns, we wouldn't be beginning debate today on a bill which is going to force teachers into strike action across this province.

You'd wonder why not only are we beginning debate today, but this bill is being fast-tracked: debate tonight, debate tomorrow night, debate Wednesday night. On Thursday are we going to see a time allocation motion that cuts off debate? How soon are we going to see second reading? How much opportunity is there going to be for any kind of public consultation on this bill?

Why is this debate beginning? Why is it being debated today? Why is it being fast-tracked? It is clearly an in-your-face response, despite the seemingly conciliatory words that the Premier was using last week and the Minister of Education was using today. Why, I ask you, would this government keep pushing this province's 126,000 teachers to the point where strike action, an action which teachers truly do not want to take, remains their only form of protest against government actions which they consider absolutely indefensible, inexcusable and unacceptable?

There is one answer. The answer is that the government really does need the money for their tax cut. John Snobelen promised Mike Harris that he could deliver more than $1 billion for the tax cut agenda. Mike has said publicly that he needs the $1 billion, and he sent John Snobelen out to find $1 billion for him.

Interjection.


The Acting Speaker: Member for Hamilton Mountain, you must withdraw that.

Mr Trevor Pettit (Hamilton Mountain): I withdraw it.

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Mrs McLeod: If you are going to take $1 billion out of education, you do have to do things very differently, as the Minister of Education keeps telling us, but you've got to read something into the "very differently." When this Minister of Education talks about doing education very differently, he's not talking about constructive change for the benefit of students in the classroom. When this Minister of Education is talking about doing things very differently, read for that "very cheaply," because that's what every single initiative of this government has been about.

If you're going to do things very differently and very cheaply, you need to persuade people that the system is so bad that you've got to break it before you can change it. That's the kind of change management that John Snobelen, the Minister of Education, knows best. It's the kind of change management he believes in: "Break down the system, destroy what's there now, and then you can do whatever you want to do without any resistance whatsoever. You have total power, total control. You have the tools to find the $1 billion." That's what this bill is all about, giving John Snobelen the tools he needs.

You'll remember, Mr Speaker, and I'm sure my colleagues will, that John Snobelen promised school boards a toolkit about a year or a year and a half ago. But all the tools he was able to deliver, he found, were to make a direct cut to junior kindergarten classes -- the Minister of Education again today and the Premier said they hadn't cut junior kindergarten; this government looked for $145 million in direct cuts to junior kindergarten, and that was something they could control -- and they made a direct hit on adult education, cut the funding for adult education to half, and that was something within their control. But Mr Snobelen found that he didn't have the other tools that he needed within his control, so he couldn't deliver the toolkit to school boards. This bill, Bill 160, is the long-promised toolkit. All the tools are there, but they're not tools for school boards to use; they are tools that are vested to be used solely and exclusively by cabinet, by Mike Harris and by John Snobelen. This is total control of education by the central government.

Because John Snobelen needed to destroy the traditional system to get the tools he needed for himself, John Snobelen has been deliberately picking a fight with Ontario's teachers from the time he became Minister of Education. Teachers and trustees, in my view, have been guardians of public education. Teachers and trustees have had their differences at local levels from time to time -- there's no question about that -- but I believe that teachers and trustees have always shared a belief in public education, a commitment to work for it, to fight for it, to make sure that the actions that were taken, even when there were differences about which actions were most appropriate, were taken to preserve and enhance public education and an equality of educational opportunity for our students. I believe that about teachers and trustees. They are guardians of public education and have been so for over 100 years.

Mr Snobelen, our Minister of Education, describes them not as guardians of public education but as defenders of the status quo. These are the people who are committed to education, committed to make education work on the front lines, in classrooms, with students, but they do resist changes they see as being destructive for public education -- of course they're going to resist those changes -- so they are opposed to this government's destructive agenda, and because they are opposed to it, they have to go. The first to go with Bill 104, just a few months ago, were the province's school trustees, rendered absolutely ineffective and non-accountable at the local level, as we soon will see. Now, with Bill 160, it is the other partners in guardianship of public education who are under attack; it's the province's teachers.

In the past year teachers have been demeaned by this Minister of Education as being underworked and overpaid. They have been accused of laziness because they failed to take the minister's rather hastily put together summer seminars on the elementary school curriculum, even though only a handful of teachers could have been admitted. They have been portrayed as wasting time that could be spent with students. The minister has now shown how eager he is to replace qualified teachers with non-certified non-teachers in a host of areas, from guidance to libraries to art to music to physed to technology.

But the minister hasn't stopped there. He has consistently undervalued the work the teachers do and he has maligned the public education system itself. He portrays our students as underachieving while the system itself consumes 10% more than the national average across the rest of the country. The Premier actually said in the House a week or so ago that our students were 10th and last in achievement. The Premier had that mixed up with post-secondary education funding, where indeed we are 10th and last. That is not a reflection on the achievement of our students, which is really quite different from what the Minister of Education describes, and even the figures on Ontario spending versus the national average are completely erroneous. But John Snobelen will say whatever it takes to persuade people that the system is broken.

I think the government has been a little bit surprised at how much resistance there has been to the agenda, despite all their efforts to discredit their opponents, so the government has had to at least give the appearance of stepping back on some of their proposals. They're finding that people are a lot more committed to public education than they realized. They have had to launch a $1-million advertising campaign to try and sell their spin. Talk to parents who are concerned about education and they'll tell you what they would have liked to have done to really improve education if they could have spent that $1 million themselves. But that was the government's attempt to try and spin their agenda, to try and convince people they were doing something to improve education. They have had to refocus their attacks at the last minute so they can try and isolate the issues to ones they think they can manage when they find the public isn't supportive of their agenda, so now they are trying to focus their attack on teacher preparation time. I'll get to that later.

But make no mistake. The basic agenda of this government is the same and it is unchanging: The government wants the control that will let them take another $1 billion out of education.

I want to spend my time this afternoon trying to unravel the web of misinformation and myth that John Snobelen and Mike Harris have spun to try and create the impression that this bill is about something else.

The first myth is that this bill is about improving education. The title of the bill -- the government tries to convince us with their titles -- is the Education Quality Improvement Act. There is nothing in this bill that will ensure any improvement in education. All this bill is is a set of tools to give the power to the minister and to the cabinet to decide what will happen in education. It doesn't tell us how they're going to use those powers, how they're going to use those tools; it just gives them the power.

I ask, do we trust this Minister of Education, this Premier and this government to actually use those powers to improve education for our students? If you have any doubts about the answer to that question, just look at the evidence of this government's record: $533 million in direct cuts after having made the social contract cuts permanent, a total of almost $1 billion already taken out of education on a permanent basis; direct hits, as I have suggested, to junior kindergarten, where they wanted the $145 million in savings; direct hits to adult education; and direct hits to school boards' ability to provide support for the programs that matter, because they have made cuts in the operating grants to school boards. So we have seen larger class sizes, we have seen less special education and we have seen schools that have no textbooks because their budgets have been cut back so far. I heard today from a principal who said, "We have absolutely no money for painting in our school," so when there is graffiti on the school walls, she goes up to the hardware store and buys a can of paint so she can spray paint to cover up the graffiti.

Class size is a big issue, a big issue for parents, a big issue for students and a big issue for teachers, so the minister, when he wants to talk about how he's going to improve education, talks a lot about class size. He talks about it as if larger class sizes -- and we have seen larger class sizes, as the member for Huron has said, have seen class sizes grow in the last two years -- were the fault of bad decisions made by local school boards, and the minister talks as if he's actually going to fix large class sizes. He's even suggested, and I'm still struggling with the suggestion, that teachers have gone out and negotiated increases in class sizes and he uses that as one of his reasons for attacking collective bargaining.

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You have to ask again, why would teachers negotiate larger class sizes? I was at negotiating tables for a lot of years on the management side as a school trustee. In my experience, the focus of those negotiations from the teachers' perspective was always to have lower class sizes, smaller classes. That served their interests as teachers in a classroom, not larger class sizes. I acknowledge that in the last year or so there have been some contracts where the teachers have very reluctantly agreed to some increase in class sizes.

Can I tell you the two examples I know about? One is my home board, the Lakehead Board of Education. Elementary school teachers agreed to have, I think it was, two additional students in their elementary school classes because that was the only way that board could save junior kindergarten. In order to keep the junior kindergarten program the teachers agreed to an increase in class size.

The other example I know about, I hate to tell the member for Algoma this, was in response to the social contract provisions which froze increments and penalized the more junior teachers in the school system. Those increments were not given and they were being paid a lower salary for essentially doing the same work as their more senior counterparts. So I know there are boards that negotiated some increase in class size in order to ensure that the junior teachers in their system could receive those increments.

Those are the only instances I know of where teachers have ever agreed at a negotiating table to larger class sizes.

Why do we actually have these larger class sizes? I suggest to you that if you're concerned about this issue you might want to look at the report of the Education Improvement Commission, which the minister himself set up. The education commission notes that between 1992 and 1997, operating grants fell by just over $1 billion. They also note that enrolment in Ontario's education systems continued to increase at an average rate of 25,000 students per year. They further note that in that same time frame the number of teachers in schools in Ontario fell by nearly 2,000 between 1992 and 1996. The equation is pretty simple: If you have less money, more students and fewer teachers, you are going to have larger class sizes.

I find it quite incredible that the minister's background statement on this bill is as deliberately naïve as it appears to be. It says, "Current class sizes are larger than the number of teachers would indicate." They go on, of course, to talk about the fact that there's a difference between the pupil-teacher ratio and the average class size, but they don't seem to want to talk about where those extra teachers are.

We know where the extra teachers are. My colleague from Oriole has spoken to it. Some of those extra teachers are in special education classes, where the ratio of teachers to students is more like 1 to 8 or 1 to 12, so that individual attention can be given. Some of those extra teachers are in libraries, working with students in libraries. Some of the extra teachers are in our secondary schools. They're in tech shops and in chemistry labs, where you cannot have higher numbers of students because it is not safe for students working with chemicals or with machinery to have larger classes.

Some of those extra teachers are in grades 1 and 2. I was proud to be part of a government that did mandate lower class sizes in grades 1 and 2, not just maximum sizes but lower class sizes in grades 1 and 2. We funded it fully so boards could implement that policy, but as the grants have been cut, trying to keep class sizes lower in grades 1 and 2 has forced boards to have more students in some of the other grades. That's the kind of dilemma that boards have faced when they've been hit by the $533 million in cuts that this government has already introduced. I remind you that these boards are also facing increasing enrolment at exactly the same time.

I suggest to this government that you cannot fix this problem without more money. Fewer teachers, more students make larger class sizes, and the only way to turn that around is to provide more funding directly for the classroom. It will make it worse if you take $1 billion out. The answer surely is not to see all those teachers, who are somehow seen as wasted outside the classroom, disappear, to have those same maximum class sizes in special education or the chemistry lab or grades 1 and 2 that you might see as being a realistic average in the other grades. Surely that won't be the minister's answer to managing class sizes. But until we see from this minister some clear evidence that the dollars are going to be there to provide for the lowering of class sizes, I suggest that his concern about improving the quality of education is entirely hollow.

We would also suggest that the minister's concern about improving the quality of education is entirely hollow. If you want evidence of that, look at what we saw last week, where the hallmark of the minister's current educational reform was to be extending the school year so that students would have more time with their teachers. That was Monday. This was good for education, it was good for students, it would improve the quality of education. By Wednesday morning at 9:30 it wasn't good for kids or education any longer, so the minister decided that he wasn't going to do it.

This is a minister making up our children's educational future as he goes along. How can something be good for kids on Monday and not good for them on Wednesday? It's because at no time has this Minister of Education actually asked what works for students, what is good for students, what will actually improve the quality of education. The basic goal is, if you can get more work out of teachers for less money, you're going to save the dollars you're looking for to get that $1 billion. Will they even care that everyone, anyone, who knows anything about education says that what they're proposing isn't actually good for students?

I'm going to have to hurry up here because I have no less than some seven myths that this government has tried to spin as a justification for this act. The second myth is that the changes in education are needed because our students are doing so badly. Nobody is going to argue that there can be changes that would indeed improve education. Nobody is going to argue that we don't want our students to achieve excellence. Nobody is going to argue against having equity in funding so that every student has a chance. There's no quarrel with that. But I will quarrel over and over again with a minister who takes joy in putting the achievement of our students in the worst possible light, who loves to use the international test results to suggest that our students are doing badly.

Why does the minister never talk about the fact that our students were actually ahead of the United States and Germany in math and science? Germany is always being held up as the example of how effective a streamed system can be, and yet our students were ahead in math and science. Why does the minister never mention that we have a much larger number of students who are being tested than in many other countries because we don't stream out the less academically able, we put them all into a program and we allow them all to be tested and meet a standard.

Why does he never, ever discuss the implication of the fact that in Ontario only 70% of the students who were tested speak English at home? That's lower than in any other province, even BC, with a large immigrant population. In BC, 86% of the students tested spoke English at home. Why doesn't the minister want to talk about the fact that Ontario students performed at the national average or better in measuring and solving problems but have difficulty describing the procedures verbally? It's a verbal problem that some Ontario students had. Does the fact that 30% of our students have English as a second language make that more understandable? Does it explain why some of our students don't do as well in the overall scores? I don't think the minister wants to talk about that, because he doesn't want to enhance understanding; he wants proof that the system is broken.

It is a fact that Ontario's grade 4 students came second among a handful of jurisdictions on international tests that even met the test standards for that grade and that our grade 8 students were slightly above the international average. But that, although it was recently reported, didn't get any headlines and it certainly didn't get any comment from the minister. How well do our students have to do before the Minister of Education stops saying that the system is broken, and when will he look at what the real needs are and what needs to be done? I suggest that it is likely to be never, because then he would have to leave his cost-cutting and political agenda behind.

Despite everything that this minister has done to discredit education and our students' achievement, the recent study by the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education still shows that the public believes that education is doing a good job. Ontario residents are more satisfied than they were a decade ago with education: 60% of parents are happy with the system, and two thirds of adults under 25, the products of the system of the last 10 years, felt the schools were doing well.

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Myth number three that is offered up as an excuse for this legislation is that the government needs to get hold of teacher preparation time because the time teachers spend on preparation is wasted time, so by extension, if we take that wasted time away from teachers, education is necessarily going to improve.

I would ask the most basic question about this myth: If you want to save money by taking away preparation time -- and the Minister of Education has said he thinks he can save at least $200 million by taking away preparation time -- you're going to have to have fewer teachers; it's the only way you can save the money. The estimates are that to do what the minister wants it will be 6,000 to 10,000 fewer teachers in our system. The basic question then is, if you have fewer teachers teaching more classes, how does this improve the quality of education? How does it improve the amount of contact time teachers have with students? It doesn't; it lowers the quality of education.

The second question is, is teacher preparation time good for teachers or good for students? You have to then ask, what are teachers doing with their preparation time? One thing is that they're covering sick leaves. If the minister is going to get a saving, he's going to have to look at that, because there's not going to be as much saving if you have to bring in occasional teachers to replace the coverage the teachers are now doing. But I suggest that more occasional teachers aren't really good for kids.

The second thing teachers are doing with their preparation time is that they're preparing their lessons and they're doing their marking. That's a reality. Then they use the time after school and in the evenings that has been freed up because they've done their marking and their preparation during that preparation time, that after-4 time and that evening time, to coach the basketball team, to provide support to the student council, to work with the drama class, a whole host of extracurricular activities. Surely this government doesn't believe those extracurricular activities are a waste and should be eliminated as a part of the school curriculum, yet I certainly hear the back-to-the-basics folks prepared to give all that up as extra, as frills, as a waste of taxpayers' money. I don't think students and parents will share that view.

This Minister of Education has actually tried to portray all the time spent outside the classroom as being a waste of dollars. Remember when he talked about the $6 billion not spent in the classrooms as if that $6 billion was all spent on administration that could be cut and shaved so that we'd save $6 billion? He didn't acknowledge the fact that the $6 billion included light, heat, maintenance, special education and counselling of kids. Surely all of that is not waste, but it does give you some idea of what the minister thinks is valuable. I heard the member for Huron, indoctrinated in that view, trying to suggest that the only value comes from the teacher in a classroom. Absolutely that is key, that teacher in the classroom, but you've also got to have the full curriculum and the kind of support that the out-of-classroom time provides.

It worries me when we have a government that thinks the teachers only work four hours a day, which is what the minister's friend, Mr Paroian, whom he referred to again, has suggested. Teachers are working outside the classroom when they are spending time with students. I for one consider that to be valuable and important work which should continue.

I'm not going to linger on the preparation time issue. I'm not going to read all the quotations that have come from trustees who believe that preparation time is an essential part of the day. I do want to express my concern that the education information commission -- I'm sorry, the Education Improvement Commission; I keep getting that wrong -- the Education Improvement Commission suggests that maybe 25% of preparation time could be taken away, and the minister is determined to take at least 50% of that preparation time away. I'm going to ignore the fact that the commission says to allow that time to be used flexibly at the local level and this minister is going to control it entirely from the centre. I'm not going to spend a lot of time on the fact that we are already at the national average -- the minister likes to say he's taking us down to the national average in preparation time too -- because in Ontario teachers are providing coverage for other teachers who are away.

I just want to express my concern that I think this minister's goal is to use his power to take away all teacher preparation time, to force teachers to be in the classroom the whole time, the whole part of their school day, and that if there is no preparation time left at all, what will be lost in the balance of the day, with the voluntary commitment of teachers after school and at nights, is not going to serve students well.

Myth number four is that the government needs to take control of spending and take taxing powers away from local boards because boards have overspent and have raised taxes. We've heard that argument from the member for Middlesex today.

In this bill, as I trust everybody is now aware, the government is taking over the power to tax property directly. It's going to be very interesting to see how the public feels about the provincial government having the powers to tax property directly for education once they see the uniform mill rate the government is going to impose for residential taxes. We know they're taking 50% of the residential tax burden for education away, but as they download all the other services on to municipalities and apply a uniform mill rate for the other 50% that's going to be raised for education, I think there will be a great many people in a great many communities who actually see their residential property tax bill go up significantly.

We don't know how they're going to tax businesses in our communities for educational purposes, businesses that have to continue to pay 100% of their share of educational costs but in this case are going to be paying it directly to the provincial government. We don't know whether that's going to be a uniform mill rate.

We don't know much about how this government is going to use this power to raise taxes directly on property for education, because I remind you that this bill is not about how this government is going to use power; this bill is only about this government taking power.

But I want to get back to the myth about whether or not we need this power being taken over by government because school boards have been overspending and overtaxing. I ask the question, why have some boards raised taxes in the last two years? Nobody who's an elected politician believes it's in their political interest to be raising taxes in this climate, so why have boards felt they were pushed to raise taxes in the last two years? It is for one simple, obvious reason: Boards of trustees who are concerned about education have had to raise taxes to make up for this government's cut to their grants, and the alternative was to cut programs and services they believe their students need.

Those boards have been desperate to find the dollars to keep junior kindergarten, to find the dollars to try to keep class sizes down so that they don't go up to 35, 38 and 40; to at least keep the class sizes down in grades 1 and 2. They've been desperate to find the dollars to meet those kinds of needs.

Some boards didn't raise taxes, and I acknowledge that. There are boards that had reserves, and last year when they were hit with this government's cuts and when they were hit with these totally untenable decisions they would not make and hurt the programs their students need, some boards went out and used those reserves. Now I think they're wishing they had raised taxes after all, because they're trapped: They can't raise taxes between January and September -- the minister's new funding formula doesn't take over till September -- and those boards that used their reserves last year instead of raising taxes do not know how they're going to keep their programs, including junior kindergarten, going from now until next September.

As for their spending, what have boards spent their money on? It's not administration. Let's put that myth to rest right away. Administrative spending across this province is less than 5% of the total spending of all school boards. School boards have been spending their dollars on programs that have been mandated by the province, and I will acknowledge that there have been increases in spending as new programs have been introduced by successive governments.

There have been increases in spending because of a previous Conservative government's commitment to special education. Costly? Yes. Important in terms of true equality of education for students? Absolutely.

Spending has risen in the last years because of another government's commitment to having lower class sizes in grades 1 and 2. Costly? Yes. Important in terms of a good start in the elementary grades, the primary grades? I would say absolutely.

Boards have been spending money to try to bring in the computer technology which even this minister acknowledges is crucial for modern education.

All these programs have required increased spending, and remember that we've had increased enrolment at the same time, so we've had increased spending to meet those needs of new students as well. All that has meant increased spending, but all of it has been important in meeting the needs of students.

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Again, I want to go back to the minister's own commission. When they recognized what -- the government members don't want to take my word for this, and maybe they wouldn't, seeing me as having a vested interest as a former school trustee. But let their commission speak. This was in that period of time when operating grants fell by just over $1 billion. The commission says, "Although some of this reduction was offset by increases in the local property taxes used for education, much of it was absorbed by school boards through service cuts and streamlined operations." Boards have done their best to try and bring about the efficiencies that would allow them to avoid the service cuts.

What is going to happen then when the enrolment continues to increase, when the cuts in funding continue and when the boards cannot raise taxes because this government has taken over the power to fund education and to raise taxes itself? What happens when local needs that are identified by local boards simply can't be met? We will lose the junior kindergartens. There's no doubt about that. We will have larger class sizes in some grades because we're not going to be able to find the dollars to meet the minister's rules by having lower class sizes in the elementary and primary grades. We're going to have even fewer textbooks for our students. We're going to have even less special education. That will be the reality of continued funding cuts. So don't tell me this bill is about improving education. This bill is about control and this bill is about cuts.

The Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, interestingly, found that there was no evidence of a tax revolt on the part of Ontario residents. They found that 50% of people were prepared to spend more on education and to pay higher taxes in order to fund that. I think that is a rather dangerous thing for people to want if your government is basing its entire campaign on spending cuts and tax cuts. You can't have a majority of people out there actually saying: "We want to spend more money on education. We think education's doing a good job. It's important to us. We're even prepared to pay more taxes in order to have better education."

That's not this government's agenda. No wonder they've got to do everything they can to convince that public that the education system is broken, that our students aren't doing well, that they're not getting value for their tax dollars. They've got to convince the public that their support for education is misguided, that it's this government's agenda of spending cuts and tax cuts that makes sense. They put all the emphasis on trying to prove that the system is broken so they can find some public support to go out there and take away the billion dollars in the name of having to control overspending and overtaxation.

I would love it if just one day the minister or the Premier, the Minister of Finance or even one of the government backbenchers would stand up and say, "Which of those programs that boards have spent money on in the last five years, the last 10 years, do you think should go?" The junior kindergarten program? I guess the Minister of Education has spoken to that. The lower class sizes in grades 1 or 2? Let's see what his class size maximums do to grades 1 and 2. Special education? Is that what should go? Which of the programs that have caused an increase in spending should be taken out? Which of the programs the boards have raised taxes to try and protect should the boards have cut?

Myth number six is one that I almost forgot. In fact I just put it into my notes when I heard the Minister of Education make his introductory comments. Myth number 6 is that this bill is going to provide greater local accountability. The reason I hadn't put it in my notes was that I thought that was the reason they brought in Bill 104, to provide greater accountability. I thought we'd had that debate, but I guess this government feels they've got to resurrect their old reasons when they can't come up with really good ones for introducing a new bill. This bill doesn't serve the purpose of greater accountability for education. It certainly tells us where the buck stops, because every single decision in education is going to be made at the minister's desk. Maybe that's what he means about greater accountability being served by this bill.

In terms of true accountability for education, true accountability held by local boards of trustees who can actually meet with their teachers and meet with their parents and visit their classrooms and understand what the local needs are and then make those very tough decisions, including a decision to go out and raise taxes if that's what's needed to protect public education, we don't have that kind of accountability left any longer. That has disappeared with Bill 104, which virtually removes the effectiveness of school trustees, and it disappears with this bill, which takes away any right of local school trustees to raise taxes to meet local priorities.

The accountability for education after this bill passes will be so far removed from classes and so far removed from local needs, from the reality of what's going on in our classrooms, from the real understanding of students' needs, that it truly can't be called accountability at all. In fact it will be very difficult to prove that it's the minister who is making the decisions.

We've heard him time and time again, we heard the Premier today, say the minister has never made a decision about cutting junior kindergarten. The minister cut the funding for junior kindergarten. Does that make him accountable for having to see junior kindergarten classes removed? This minister is going to bring in averages and formulas that are going to be virtually impossible to decipher, and whenever there is a problem at the local level he'll say: "It's not my problem. I'm paying for junior kindergarten. I'm paying for adult education. I've put maximum class sizes in place, for goodness' sake. What more can I do to improve the quality of education? If there's a problem, it's at the local school board level." Decentralized blame with totally centralized decision-making: that's what the president of the public school boards said about Bill 104, and Bill 160 puts it over the top.

Myth number seven is that we have to change the way teacher bargaining is done because collective bargaining doesn't work. I've left this to the last of my myths, because not even the government could get this one going very far. Teachers' collective bargaining, of course, has always been done under Bill 100; not always, but since about 1973 it's been done under Bill 100. Bill 100 is repealed in its entirety with this Bill 160. The reason they haven't been able to talk a lot about Bill 100 not working, collective bargaining for teachers not working as a reason for repealing Bill 100 and bringing in new rules for teachers' collective bargaining, the reason they haven't been able to argue it wasn't working is that it has worked: 98% of teacher contracts under Bill 100 have been settled without resort to strike or lockout. That is a record of success. Why are we changing what is clearly already working? They can't even prove that this system is broken, but they are so determined to change it.

The Education Relations Commission, which has served the purpose on those rare occasions in which there are strikes of advising the minister when students are in jeopardy, will continue for a brief period of time to provide advice to the minister on when students are in jeopardy, but the Education Relations Commission is going to function in isolation. It's not going to be involved in the collective bargaining situation. It's not going to be involved in fact-finding or mediation, so its work on jeopardy will be done in isolation and it will be only temporary, because this bill gives the minister the ability, very shortly I suspect, to assign this responsibility to a person or an entity who will then advise the minister on whether the students' year is in jeopardy in the event of a teachers' strike.

It also incidentally gives the minister total power to give direction to that board or entity as to what he expects them to do. So much for the independence of any future body. God forbid that it should be Mr Paroian who ends up being given the responsibility for deciding whether students are in jeopardy, because we are going to see absolute chaos in the collective bargaining field between teachers and local boards over the next months.

The minister's only claim to needing to change the collective bargaining process now is that some negotiations have resulted in an increase in class size, and that's a myth I dealt with earlier.

You have to again ask a basic question. If local collective bargaining under Bill 100 has been working, why is the government wrecking it? There's no question they're wrecking it, because local collective bargaining cannot work when trustees have no financial ability to settle; local collective bargaining cannot work when significant factors of working conditions aren't on the bargaining table and aren't even within local control outside of the bargaining table. The efforts that will undoubtedly be made to make it work are undoubtedly going to fail. I'm not being a Cassandra; I'm not being a doomsayer; I'm not being a scaremonger. I've been at enough negotiating tables to know the conditions are not there for local collective bargaining to work. This government has made sure of that.

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Where it doesn't work and where you have to go to arbitration, the arbitrators will be handcuffed by the ability-to-pay factors introduced by the minister in an earlier bill, Bill 34. They will be handcuffed by the fact that if they should want to look at any sort of salary settlement that might involve an increase in salaries, they have to look at how many teachers would be laid off, how many programs would be reduced with the given assumption that there cannot be an increase in funding or an increase in taxation to support that. How can that be considered fair collective bargaining or fair and just arbitration?

It is not. It is government control where the government appoints the board that manages the process and controls the arbitrators by law. This government, even with all that control, has still kept the ability to prevent strikes by teachers in the transitional period. There is no doubt they need it to have some protection from the chaos that they are about to create.

My leader today has again raised the particular clauses that we have pointed out in the bill. Let there be no doubt about it, that clause 58.1(2)(q) says that, "The Lieutenant Governor in Council may make regulations...for such transitional matters as the Lieutenant Governor in Council considers...advisable to prevent disruption in the education of pupils."

If you go further over, it says very clearly on page 59 of the bill, "In the event of a conflict between a regulation made under clause 58.1(2)(q)" -- that very specific clause that allows the minister to step in, in the event of any concern of disruption of pupils -- and a provision of this or any other act, it is the regulation that prevails.

It's a Henry VIII clause, to quote Justice Campbell, unlike anything we have ever seen before, the ability of government by regulation to override not only this act but any other act -- protection they felt they needed to deal with the sheer chaos of what is going to occur in a transitional period, when this government is not only amalgamating boards but has said that every board, whether amalgamated or not, must negotiate a new contract and that those new contracts must be in place by September 1, 1998. Given the impossible conditions for local bargaining, given the requirement that every single board in the province must negotiate new contracts by September 1, 1998, there is going to be chaos, and kids will pay the price for that.

I suggest that all the reasons the minister has given to justify this bill are based on myths. Why is it here? To give total power to government to make the cuts they need to pay for the tax cut. I will say it over and over again, because that is the bottom line. That is the easiest, the most obvious explanation. It may not be the whole explanation, and that scares me too, because at some future point, once this government has its $1 billion or maybe $2 billion out of education, once they have the total control that this bill gives them, they will be able to turn that control over to parent councils through charter schools or voucher systems, and then we will almost certainly see the privatization of public education.

You have to wonder why the bill provides a number for students. Isn't it enough, if you're going to track students, to have the student's name, grade, report card? Do you need a number, or does the number make it easier to assign a funding mechanism directly to the student? The minister talks about funding going with students. When we see that, we'll see voucher systems, and when we see voucher systems, we will see the breakdown of publicly funded education that has attempted, struggled for years to provide some true equality of education for our students.

Why are statutory contracts for teachers being withdrawn in this legislation? Why are seniority lists now going to be established by boards not in negotiations but in consultation with teachers, that essentially remove the requirement for full system-wide seniority? I have to ask, and maybe it's my cynical hat getting even more cynical, but does this make it even easier, if you don't have a requirement for system-wide seniority, to turn hiring over to parents and to school councils?

Another feature of this bill that I find horrendous is that the minister will have the power to determine who can be a teacher, who has to be a teacher to be able to teach kids. So much for the College of Teachers, which this government took such pride in establishing. It's now going to be the minister who decides who has to be a teacher in the classroom. It's an appalling idea that art and music and physical education and libraries and technology, computers, can be taught by somebody who has no understanding of pedagogy. Surely you have to know something about how to teach. Surely this should matter if you're concerned about the quality of teacher time spent with students.

I don't think that's a question the government asked itself. I think this is all about saving money. I do wonder whether or not having more teachers who are not qualified teachers, non-certified people, makes it even easier for charter schools to operate with a minimum of staff.

The future of school boards is certainly in doubt. Whether the government is ready to move immediately to privatization or whether it will just evolve as school boards essentially disappear is perhaps the only unanswered question. It's not because trustee honoraria are being cut to $5,000 in this bill. We knew that was coming. It is certainly not sufficient recompense for the kinds of hours that trustees spend. But that's not why trustees will disappear. It will be hard to get people to run for school boards because it is a thankless job with no local control, no local flexibility. That's the real cost of this loss of local accountability.

As I was saying earlier, there won't be any ability to really understand what's happening at a local level and to respond to those local needs. That's the reason trustees won't continue to run for school board. School boards may just disappear by default. Find out in your area how many people are seriously looking at running for school board a month from now.

The second reason we're likely to see school boards disappear is a direct result of this bill, because it gives the power to the minister to take over school boards to address their financial affairs. The ministry says that will only be in times of extreme financial problems, but that's not what the bill says. Basically, the minister can come in at any point that he considers important for financial reasons.

The bill provides for a review of this funding in five years -- not a review of whether or not education is adequately funded; a review of whether or not it is equal. Again, we all support equity in funding, but the question that should also be asked is whether or not the funding is fair and adequate for students. Equity at the lowest common denominator does not serve the needs of students.

It's possible that this bill may be found to be not constitutional. I'm sure there will still be legal challenges. Justice Archie Campbell, when the first legal challenge was made, although he recognized the fact that he couldn't adjudicate on it because some of the actions to be taken under the legislation hadn't been taken yet, described a clause in Bill 104 as being the Henry VIII clause because of the breathtaking power it gives to cabinet in this case -- with Henry VIII, it was the monarch -- to legislate by proclamation.

He described that power as constitutionally suspect because it confers upon government the unprotected authority to pull itself up by its own legal bootstraps and override arbitrarily, with no further advice from the Legislative Assembly and no right to be heard by those who may be adversely affected by the change, the very legislative instrument from which the government derives its original authority. If Justice Campbell thought that clause in Bill 104 was breathtaking in its scope, wait until he sees Bill 160, which gives cabinet the power to override any act, including this one.

If this bill goes ahead, what do we face? I'm going to take a moment before the end of my time to read a bit of a column that was done by Frank Dubrovnik, a freelance writer now living in Oakville, who wrote this for the Toronto Star. He used to cover boards of education up in Alberta. He said:

"Month after month, trustees were called on to rubber-stamp various policies passed down from the Alberta education ministry, while actual budgeting issues were being decided upon in the back rooms in Edmonton. Despite a 1996-97 budget shortfall of nearly $250,000, despite rotating delegations of teachers and parents complaining of overcrowded classrooms and inadequate busing, the trustees' hands were tied.

"Aspenview's" -- this particular school board's -- "woes could be traced directly back to two 1995 measures by Ralph Klein's government. It shrank the number of school boards from 181 to 57 and it transferred taxation powers from local boards to the provincial education department.

"Before amalgamation, staffing levels and mill rates were set at the local level, based on the needs of each particular division. After amalgamation, each school division was simply handed $4,099 in annual grants for each student, period. Never mind if student enrolment figures fell short, as they did in Aspenview, despite the fact that staff had already been hired to accommodate them. Never mind that traditional have-not divisions were forced to become one big have-not. That's the price paid for distributing funds equally in Alberta."

It's hard not to predict similar hard times ahead for Ontario, or at least parts of it. It wouldn't be the first time Mike Harris has taken a page from Klein's cookbook, and he's picking up a recipe for disaster.

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A recipe for disaster it is. John Snobelen set out to create a crisis and once again he has succeeded. It's the only thing he's been able to achieve in his two years as minister; that and half a billion dollars in cuts. The crisis is almost surreal in its proportions except that it is only too real: 126,000 teachers ready to strike, feeling as though they must make their voices heard, must do anything they can to stop this government somehow. Teachers know the government isn't listening, isn't interested in understanding them, that there is little point in talking to John Snobelen and Mike Harris. They will keep trying but they are afraid that once again there will only be fixed agendas and ultimatums and no real discussion.

Teachers are afraid that the public doesn't understand what is at risk here: not just thousands of teachers' jobs, which are most certainly at risk, but the future of publicly funded education itself. They want the public to understand that their strength and their determination in opposing this bill and this government's agenda come from their belief in protecting what the Mike Harris government is so clearly ready to destroy.

I believe that Ontario's teachers are ready to take huge risks at significant personal sacrifice. I don't believe that Ontario's teachers want to take strike action. I know that teachers want more than anything else to do what they've always done: They want to be able to go into the classroom, close the classroom door and teach kids. But they also want to be able to teach kids outside that classroom. They want to be able to protect the programs and the services they as teachers have been able to provide to their students that truly create a greater equality of opportunity for each student. They know that kind of teacher contact time with students occurs outside the classroom as well as within the walls of that classroom. It is teaching; it is teachers' work. They want to be able to continue to do that as well as teach in the classroom.

I know teachers want to be able to continue to do the voluntary extra work they have always done in providing a full curriculum, including extracurricular activities to students. They want to have qualified teachers in the classroom. They believe that the physical education teacher is not just teaching a sport that anybody can teach; he is teaching students. You have to have some understanding of the student and the child's needs in order to be able to truly make the experience of a physed class an educational experience.

This is what teachers want. They don't want to strike; they want to teach students, but they also know that this government is making that more and more impossible to do. They know that this government's agenda first and foremost is to take $1 billion out of education, because they've been told that, but they know that this government's agenda ultimately is the destruction of public education. As teachers committed to public education, they cannot stand by and let that happen without making their voices known and heard.

I know teachers are concerned, as they stand on the brink, that they may not be understood, but I believe that in part they will be successful. I think this government has to back off the $1-billion cuts they are proposing and it has to back off the cutting of thousands of teachers. If either of these actions go ahead, every word and every action of every teacher and every other critic of this government are going to be made absolutely legitimate, and that's a big political price for this government to pay. The alternative to this government's backing off the $1 billion in cuts, backing off the firing, the laying off of 6,000 to 10,000 teachers, the alternative to that $1 billion in cuts and that loss of teachers will be absolutely disastrous to an already devastated system. That would be too big a price for students to pay and much too big a price to pay for a tax cut.

I think the government will retreat, but we will have chaos in the meantime, and that too is too big a price for students to pay. In the end I believe the retreat will be temporary, because this government will seek another way to move ahead with its agenda. This bill gives them all the powers they need. They will take control and then they will begin to privatize our public system and they will destroy public education.

The bugles of attack have sounded again. Bill 160 is the second assault. The target of the attack is public education itself, and anyone who cares must now come to its defence.


The Deputy Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): Questions or comments?

Mr Wildman: I'd like to congratulate my friend from Fort William for her presentation on Bill 160. It was most thoughtful and analytical. She has certainly put the issues squarely before the House. As she has emphasized, teachers and boards historically in Ontario, while having some differences, have worked for the quality of education for students. In doing so, that brought teachers and boards squarely into conflict with this government and this government's agenda. As a result, the government has consciously decided first to take away any powers that trustees might have to protect students and the quality of education and now they have turned their guns on the teaching profession. That's what Bill 160 is about.

Earlier I compared this government's approach to education to the Hollywood film Jerry Maguire, where the Treasurer of Ontario is continually, like the athlete in that movie, yelling at Mr Snobelen: "Where is the money? Show me the money." Mr Snobelen has been getting the money. He first cut $500 million from public education in this province, claiming it wasn't going to affect the classroom, but of course it did. It hurt special education, specialized programs, many of which the member for Fort William mentioned. Now he's determined to get another $1 billion out of the system. It has nothing to do with the quality of education, it has nothing to do with protecting students; it's all about getting the money for Mr Eves to help finance the tax cut, and students and teachers are being made to pay for that.


Mr Bill Grimmett (Muskoka-Georgian Bay): I was listening very closely to the comments of the member for Fort William. In her comments she raises some issues that she calls misinformation and myths. I thought I would refer to some of those issues and how they are related in the Liberal Party document, the red book, which the member for Fort William used in leading the Liberal Party in the last election.

The first issue would be international tests. What does the red book say about that? It says: "Just about everyone is worried that our schools are not challenging students to reach high standards of achievement. The lack of consistent standards across the province has left the public concerned, parents upset, students confused, and teachers frustrated.... And we often hear reports that Ontario students don't do as well on international tests as students from other provinces and countries."

Another myth: the need to take control from school boards by the province. "Parents feel especially shut out by the current system's maze of bureaucracy and by regulations that are difficult to understand. They are frustrated by a system that seems overloaded with red tape and administration....

"The core program will be set by the provincial government, not by local school boards." Again it appears that at one time the Liberal Party thought there was a need to take control.

There's another myth, according to the member, that we're not spending too much on administration, but right here in the red book it says: "Sixteen cents out of every provincial dollar and an average of 55% of property taxes are spent on education and training. We must make sure that we are getting value for our dollar. As much as possible, our education dollars must be spent on classroom learning rather than administration."

I think the people at home will see where the Liberal Party really is on education. They can't make up their minds.

Our government said we were going to reform education, and in bills 104 and 160 we're showing that this is what we're doing.

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Mr Bruce Crozier (Essex South): I too want to reply to the comments made by the member for Fort William. As we follow this debate over the next few days, I know for a fact that there will be no one in this Legislature who will speak with more compassion and understanding of the education system than the member for Fort William. There will be others who speak about it, and they will speak with compassion and understanding, but not any more than the member for Fort William. Any time I have heard the member speak about education, she has done so having researched the information.

She did bring up some of the myths that exist. It's interesting that the member for Muskoka-Georgian Bay would quote from the red book. In fact, it's interesting that they often quote from the red book, to the point that I think they too believe and understand and support some of the issues that we presented in there. More importantly, not only do myths exist today in education; I think there is actually sort of a crime being committed. The crime is that we're taking money away from our students.

The member for Fort William alluded to junior kindergarten. They don't care about early education, it would seem. The problem that I see this government having is that they only look at the bottom line when it comes to dollars; they don't look at the welfare of our children and the future of their education. It has been said before, and we'll repeat it time and time again: Mike Harris knows the cost of everything, but he doesn't know the value of anything.


Mr Tony Silipo (Dovercourt): I also commend the member for Fort William for her very thorough analysis of what Mike Harris and John Snobelen are up to, in pointing out that this is all about taking control of the system and taking another $1 billion out of education. I have to say I am more comfortable with the approach she has taken today than that as read back to us that she took during the last election, as described to us by the member for Muskoka-Georgian Bay.

I will just say this. There is one part in what she said that while I wish I could agree with her, I'm not sure that she's right -- and I do hope that she is right -- when she said that she feels that the government will back down on some of this. I don't think that is going to happen. I don't think this government is going to back down from taking the $1 billion out of the system. I think this is what the game plan is all about. It's part and parcel of their taking the total control that they have. It's part and parcel of why they have taken so many powers away from school boards. It's why they are centralizing so much power in the hands of the Minister of Education.

We all know that at the end of the day, if we want the kind of school system that the government claims it wants and that certainly all of us want, which allows our students to do well, which allows them to compete in the world that they are going to be living in, it has to be done not just in a way that plays around with the number of days they spend in school -- yes, those things may be important -- but at the end of the day, it has to be done by the minister and the government being seen to be investing in real dollars and investing in terms of the attitude and the approach they give in working with our teachers, in working with our school boards, to put the emphasis where it needs to be -- on what we teach inside the classroom. You don't make that any better by taking another $1 billion out of the classrooms of this province.


The Acting Speaker (Mrs Marion Boyd): Response from the member for Fort William.

Mrs McLeod: I'm sure my colleagues will understand if I want to focus my two-minute response on the comments of the member for Muskoka-Georgian Bay, although I can't help but note to the member for Dovercourt that I will probably be much more comfortable with the defence of local collective bargaining that they will undoubtedly make in the balance of the debate than I was with the imposition of the social contract on the local collective bargaining process when they were in government.

Having said that, I truly wish that the member for Muskoka-Georgian Bay and his cohort who hands him the red book, which he reads as a Bible, could take the intentions that were there and the places where there is a genuine consensus about what would work to improve education and learn from it and see how different it is from what their government is doing. Yes, we should take international test results and we should analyse them and we should understand what they say to us about the importance of identifying gaps and meeting those gaps.

I was trying to say in my speech that we may have a problem that we are not providing enough support to students who do not have English as a first language. This government's cuts are going to devastate English-as-a-second-language programs in Metropolitan Toronto and Ottawa and virtually every other community where those have been a significant proportion of the dollars that have spent over the provincial averages of dollars spent on other students. When does the government acknowledge that those are unique needs that have to be met and, if they aren't met, our students will do even more poorly on international tests in the future?

Use the data as a basis for understanding what needs to be done in education. Understand that we all agree about the value of core programs, but ones developed in partnership, not ones that are imposed on teachers at the end of June and they're told they're supposed to come back to school in September and start teaching them, and not programs that set students up to fail because every student should learn to read in grade 1, when they're not being provided with enough dollars to get the support they need to actually learn how to read.

There was a huge difference between the commitments I made to education that would have supported and enhanced public education and a commitment that this government made to find $5 billion for a tax cut and to start by taking it out of education.


The Acting Speaker: Further debate?

Mr Wildman: I guess it's almost trite, now that we've been here with this government in office for a couple of years, to try to put their moves on education in the context of the minister's comments only a week or so after he was appointed Minister of Education and Training, but I think it is important for us to recognize that in this particular case the minister, I believe, has been quite honest with the people of Ontario. He has been very straight. He stated that he wanted to make major changes in education and he described the method that he would use as what I guess has sometimes been referred to as chaos theory, that in order to build anew, one must destroy what is there; that in order to be able to force major change, the public must be convinced that the current system is broken, is not working.

It wasn't a situation of saying that we are indeed in crisis that the minister began his term in office with, but in fact he was saying that he, as minister, must create a crisis, and he's done exactly that. In his whole approach he has attempted to destroy the education system that ironically members of his own party historically have built up over the decades since the Second World War. The minister would like to have it appear that he is moving forward with progressive change, when in fact he's trying to take us back to the 19th century. I don't think even Egerton Ryerson would have accepted what this minister is proposing as new for the province and new for students.

Historically the Conservative Party has valued education as one of the central roles of government. The responsibility of government on behalf of the public in this province is to properly educate our students for the future. We've seen historically with the Progressive Conservative Party where ministers of education -- Mr Robarts, Mr Davis and their successors -- were given positions of extreme importance in the government and many of them, certainly Robarts and Davis, went on to become the leaders of their party and premiers of the province because education was central to their agenda.

Education is also central to this government's agenda but it's a very different approach. The approach here is to say that what we have is bad and the people who are involved in the system must be punished. The system must be destroyed so that we can build it anew in a different image.

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The minister, in making those comments to his ministry staff, which were videotaped, was quite frank: If there isn't a crisis, we'll invent it, and we'll do it in such a way that the confidence that has grown over the years in education in this province will be undermined to the point that the people involved in education, the people who deliver the education for students in the province, will not have credibility. Therefore, when they object, they won't be listened to by the public. That will then make the way clear for the minister to move forward on his own agenda.

What has this agenda been? We've had some discussion about getting the money out. That's certainly the agenda, and I'll be talking more about that later. But I think it's even more insidious than simply taking money away from programs and from students. It is, first of all, centralizing, again a complete contradiction of what the Conservative Party historically has been about in Ontario, taking local autonomy, local say over education away from communities and centralizing that control here at Queen's Park. That's also part of the chaos theory the minister espoused when he became minister. If one is to invent a crisis, if one is to make major change, to force that change, one must have control.

We've seen Bill 104 where the government has significantly, not just amalgamated boards but along with this bill, Bill 160, has essentially emasculated the boards, has put the boards in a situation where they are only a shell of what they used to be as of January 1. I'm not certain why anyone would want to be a school trustee in Ontario any more, because as many of us have said all they will be is a complaints department. They won't be able to do anything. They have no authority. They cannot make any decisions. The decisions are centralized in the minister's office at Queen's Park.

Under this legislation it's even greater. That centralization is taken to the point where boards will not only suddenly be very large on January 1 and be dealing with large numbers of students in urban Ontario and large expanses of territory in rural and northern Ontario, but where they will have absolutely no say over how the school is to be funded or organized.

The teachers will be put in the situation of having to "negotiate" with these agencies, these boards, and of being told by the boards, "I'm sorry, we don't have any money; we have no ability to raise any money; it's all decided already at Queen's Park, so we can't negotiate with you," even on things like salaries and benefits, which are the only things left in Bill 160 that are negotiable. Negotiations will be a joke.

Then if the boards and the teachers are unable to reach agreement in those areas and they decide to go to arbitration, what does this mean for arbitration? Arbitrators will have to take into account ability to pay, and since the decisions over the funding -- which we have yet to see because we haven't seen the funding formula -- are all made here at Queen's Park by the minister and his staff, and I suppose by the Minister of Finance, the boards won't have any say. They won't be able to respond. The arbitrators are going to have to simply say, "Well, the boards don't have the money."

The minister, in his own ingenuous fashion, gets up in the House and says he doesn't understand why the teachers are upset. After all, he threatened them with a lot of change, serious change, with regard to collective bargaining -- he threatened to take away their right to strike; he threatened to take principals and vice-principals out of the bargaining unit; he threatened to say that teachers do not have to be members of the federation in order to teach in the province -- and he hasn't done that. That's not included in Bill 160, not one of those three things, so why are teachers upset? He's responded, he's listened, he's consulted, even though he hardly ever meets with teachers, and when he does, all he tends to do is insult them. He doesn't understand why the teachers are upset.

Of course, he will also say, along with the Premier, "It's not the actual teachers who are upset; it's those union bosses and their underlings who purport to speak for the teachers but who don't really represent the teachers." I've often wondered how the people who say that think these people come to be leaders of unions. It's like saying that none of the members of this assembly speak for any of their constituents or the majority of their constituents. How do we get here, then? Anyway, that's what he tends to do.

Let's look at it again in the context of what this government has done. The first thing they did was to make junior kindergarten optional and then they cut the funding for it. The minister says: "It's up to the boards. It's an option. They can do it if they like. They can continue junior kindergarten. They can even expand it if they wish, but it's up to the boards."

If the boards say they don't have any money and if they have the gall to go to the teachers and if the teachers are naïve enough to actually say, "We want to continue junior kindergarten, so we're even prepared to take a situation where classes at the senior levels might increase a bit so that we can maintain junior kindergarten," then the minister gets up in the House and accuses the teachers of negotiating class sizes up and not caring about their students. That is the worst insult I think this minister has perpetrated since he started two and a half years ago.

He said the teachers are underworked and overpaid. He said they're inefficient. He said they are --


Mr Wayne Wettlaufer (Kitchener): When did he say they were inefficient?

Mr Wildman: He said he wants to help them become efficient.

Mrs McLeod: Therefore, they must be inefficient.

Mr Wildman: Therefore, they must be inefficient, if he has to help them become efficient.

Mr Gilles Pouliot (Lake Nipigon): You're going too fast for them, Bud.

The Acting Speaker: Order.

Mr Wildman: He said that the teachers are a self-interested group, a special interest group, who are only interested in their own welfare and their own wellbeing. He said a lot of things about teachers. I heard today he said that we have some of the best teachers in the world in Ontario. I'm glad he said that. I don't know whether this is like Saul on the road to Damascus, where he has suddenly seen the light.

I'm afraid, though, that this minister, like the rest of this government, but in particular this minister, doesn't see words in the context of truth or misrepresentation; he simply sees words as tools for achieving his ends. If he says something today and says something different tomorrow, it's not a matter of flip-flop or changing his position, it's just a matter of the circumstances and what's the easiest way to achieve his ends. As long as you believe that the end justifies the means, which of course is central to the chaos theory, then you've got to understand that it's not a matter of telling the truth or not telling the truth; these matters are relative to what the end is that is in sight.

1720

The minister can vary from insulting the people who have to implement the change, who have to teach the students in the province, to complimenting them, but in my view, in many cases it isn't genuine. The minister has engaged in the canard that the system is broken; that it doesn't serve students well in general; that our students do not achieve; that education taxes are sky high and soaring; that Ontario pays more for education than any other jurisdiction, with poorer results; that our students in this province in comparison to other jurisdictions do very badly. I use the term "canard" advisedly. The --

Interjection.


The Acting Speaker: Did the member for Huron have a comment?

Mrs Johns: I am just cautioning the speaker, Madam Speaker, on the parliamentary language there. I'd like to have your judgement on whether you think that's a proper vocabulary to be speaking in this House.

The Acting Speaker: I would certainly caution the member for Algoma to watch his language and remember parliamentary procedure.

Mr Wildman: The member for Fort William and the member for Dovercourt remind me that "canard" is a French word for duck. I'm reminded by that of the phrase, "If it quacks like a duck and it walks like a duck and it flies like a duck, it's a duck."

What was the second thing? I said the first thing he did was that he got rid of junior kindergarten and then he eliminated the funding. He pretended that it was going to be optional for boards and he took away the funding, so it wasn't optional at all.

Then he eliminated the funding for adult education day programs in the school system and said they could only fund adult education through the continuing education program. This is a denial of the government's and the Conservative party's own program, which is a hand up, not a handout. In other words, they want people to improve themselves, to be able to provide for themselves and their families and contribute to society, but they are at the very same time making it more difficult for adults to go back to school and gain their diplomas so they can indeed do that. Why did they do this? They did it because the minister wants to get the money out, to provide the money to the Treasurer. That's his main raison d'être, his reason for creating the crisis, his reason for the changes he has made.

He ran into a problem, because we actually elected some trustees in this province, up until very recently anyway, who care about education. Trustees were faced with the choice of having to eliminate some of these programs which are central; not just junior kindergarten, not just adult education, but special education programs which by law they are supposed to provide; English-as-a-second-language programs, particularly in Ottawa and Toronto, but also in other centres across the province; special programs for inner-city schools; in the north, some special programs for native students. They had a choice: They could eliminate these programs, or they could try to find the money to continue them, because the government was cutting their grants. So some boards had the temerity to increase property taxes.

The government said: "Wait a minute, this isn't what we wanted. We are talking about equity." They really do subvert the language. For them, "equity" means bringing everybody down to the lowest common denominator: "We want equity. We want everybody in the province, every student in the province, funded at the same level. We do not want flexibility and differences among boards and communities. We're not talking about bringing the students in rural Ontario up to the level, as close as possible, to some of the funding levels in urban Ontario. We're talking about bringing urban funding down." That's how they define equity.

What did they do? They said, "We've got to take on the boards." What they said was, "We'll amalgamate boards and we'll take away powers from boards." In Bill 104 they began that process and it's continued in 160.

That then left them with the education workers, the people who are teachers' aides, custodians, clerical staff and teachers, the people who provide education for students, the people who work with students, as the next target, as part of the creation of the crisis.

I've listened carefully to this debate, and many of the Conservative members have said they want to increase the amount of time teachers have with students, and all of us think that's a good idea. But the inference, the underlying view of the Conservatives seems to be that a lot of teachers are, I don't know, wasting their time or something. I don't know what they think they're doing, whether they think they're sitting in the staff room playing cards all day.

They ignore the fact that while there are a lot of teachers who do not have 32 or 25 kids in their classrooms every day, all the time -- they sometimes have preparation; they sometimes have remedial classes for students; they deal with students on a one-on-one basis; they deal with parents on a one-on-one basis; they attend meetings to deal with students' problems and difficulties; and there are teachers who deal with kids with special needs on a much lower ratio of maybe 8, 10, 12 students to 1.

Of course, they don't count the principals and the vice-principals as teachers because they seem to have no idea of what the principal-teacher concept means. They don't see the principal as the leader of a team in a school who is in charge of the teaching approach in the school. They see the principal simply as an administrator who shouldn't be seen as one of the teachers in the system. They decided to turn their guns on this group and that's what Bill 160 is mainly about.

I honestly think that this government, as part of the crisis-chaos theory of the minister, is determined to provoke a confrontation with the teachers and the education workers in this province, in a real contradiction of terms for a minister who says he's interested in putting students at the head of the class. I think the minister would welcome a disruption in classes. I think the government wants to force the teachers to take action to protect their students, the quality of education and their own bargaining rights.

1730

Just look at Bill 160 and what's in it, what they're facing teachers and education workers with. Let's look at a couple of things. According to this bill the minister may make regulations regarding days of work, some or all of the five working days preceding the start of the school year. They may make regulations authorizing the principal to decide what will be done on those days. The government may make regulations "prescribing...the school year, school terms, school holidays, instructional days, examination days and professional activity days."

The inference on things like professional activity days is that there is nothing useful done, nothing that helps students, that somehow this is a holiday for teachers. What does that say to the profession in this province? It basically is saying to them: "We don't value what you do for students. We don't think that you're really interested in the best interests of your students, when you go on a professional development day, you're just goofing off."

It's a little hard to understand exactly what the minister is about, because as has been pointed out in this debate, last Monday the minister said, "We're going to have the students and the teachers going back to school a week before Labour Day." Then on Wednesday and Thursday he backtracked and said, "Oh, no, I was just talking about the teachers." Of course he had justified having teachers and students going back a week before Labour Day on the basis that there needs to be an increasing amount of time when students and teachers are in contact with one another. If the minister was only talking about teachers when he said that, how on earth does that increase contact between teachers and students if the teachers are the only ones who go back a week before Labour Day?

Then, afterwards, he said, "Maybe we'll find the extra time for contact between students and teachers during the school year, and if we have the teachers come back a week early, they can do what they were doing on some of these other days during the year in the last part of August so we'll have more time for contact during the school year."

The problem was even then the math didn't add up, unless he was talking about changing the holidays, shortening the Christmas holiday and the March break. But the minister then said no, he wasn't talking about that. What on earth was he talking about? I don't think he knows. If there is anybody who needs to do a little remedial math, it's obviously the minister because he can't work out the number of days he is talking about in the school year.

Obviously these changes the minister can make to the regulations under Bill 160 will change the number of days that there is contact between students and teachers, and most people would say: "That's reasonable. I don't understand why the teachers would be upset about that." Except they don't understand in making those kinds of statements that on some of the professional development days the teachers are dealing with issues that affect the quality of education for students. That's what those professional development days are about, and if you cut them from nine to five, I guess arbitrarily you're saying, "They can do all that in five days; they don't need to have nine days." The point is that up until now all of these matters have been negotiable between teachers and boards.

This Bill 160 is about constricting the terms of negotiation. It's about constricting the scope for negotiation between teachers and boards. Some would say: "What difference does that make, since the boards have no power anyway? Why should the teachers be concerned? Boards aren't going to be able to really properly negotiate."

Also, Bill 160 says that the government will have regulation-making powers governing class size and the method for determining it, as well as the minimum amount of instructional time in a day, limiting the assignment of a teacher to non-instructional duties, designating non-teaching positions and the minimum qualifications for a designated position. I'd like to go through each of these.

Most people in Ontario -- teachers, trustees, students, parents, members of the general public -- would welcome limits on class size. The problem is that in Bill 160 it doesn't say anything about numbers. I know the minister has difficulty with numbers, except when it comes to taking money out, because he can't figure out the number of days in a school year. That's part of his problem: He can't add. If he's genuinely interested in lowering class sizes in Ontario, why didn't he put the numbers in the bill? A range: Primary level should have this range of numbers of students in a class; intermediate level, another number; senior level, another number. Why? There are some who might be tempted to think the reason is that he isn't about lowering class size, but he may in fact be aiming at increasing class size.

There's another problem with this, though. If the government is determined to take the $1 billion out, over and above the $500 million they've already taken out of education, and if at the same time the government is limiting class size, how are the boards going to square this circle? Well, that's where we get to the other parts of this machiavellian plot.

What the government is going to be able to do is limit assignment of a teacher to non-instructional duties and deal with questions around preparation time. What is this about? It's about freeing up teachers from prep time to do more classroom work. Most people would say that's a good thing, except they forget what they are preparing for. What do teachers do in preparation time? Why is it called preparation time? They're not playing cards in the staff room. What they are doing is preparing new lessons for their students or they are working with remedial students or they are doing interviews, meetings, whatever, for the benefit of students.

But you only believe that if you actually believe that teachers are interested in students, and I guess those in this government who have said that teachers spend too much time away from students don't really believe that teachers are interested in their students. If they believe that, I don't understand why they think these people became teachers. Surely the only reason for becoming a teacher is because you want to help students achieve. You have a love of learning. You care about kids.

The real reason for limiting preparation time is to lower the number of teachers. The estimates vary depending on what actually comes out of this, but the change in preparation time may mean there are going to be anywhere from 4,000 to 6,000, and there have been estimates as high as 10,000, fewer teachers in Ontario as a result of this change.

How does eliminating positions for teachers improve the quality of education for students? If one of the Conservative members could just answer that question, I would start to understand, I guess, what the minister's program, what his agenda is really about, if it isn't just the chaos theory, if it isn't just about creating and inventing a crisis so that he can change the system substantially.

Let's look at a couple of other things: designating non-teaching positions and the minimum qualifications for a designated position. What this is about is saying that in certain areas people do not have to have teacher qualifications, they do not have to be certified as teachers in order to instruct students.

1740

What sorts of areas? We've had the list before: library. The people who say that don't see the library as a teaching resource. They don't see the librarian as a teacher. So they think we can just bring in technicians who will be able to catalogue books and other learning materials and won't be involved in the actual development of curriculum and teaching of students, teaching research skills, the ability to analyse and to be able to use resource material to solve problems and to learn.

We've also seen guidance, the suggestion that we should have social workers or psychologists doing guidance at the secondary level in particular rather than teachers; the suggestion that at early childhood education, at junior kindergarten and lower, we should really just have early childhood educators trained in community colleges teach. It's important to recognize that their diplomas give early childhood educators the right to instruct children up to the age of 10. We're not just talking about preschoolers.

This is really scary for some teachers and we may be seeing it, certainly in junior kindergarten if it still exists, kindergarten if it still exists after the cuts in education and the money is taken out. We may find in the future people designated who aren't teachers who may be instructing at the primary level, grades 1 and 2.

For those of us who have observed this government and the way it deals with so-called special interest groups, we understand why people are cynical and worried about the intentions of this government and in particular this minister. While the government and the minister say they are interested in improving the quality of education for students, they know the whole purpose is to take the money out, and by changing the designation of a non-teaching position, what this means is that boards can hire people who do not have teaching qualifications and they don't have to pay them the same level they pay teachers. That's what it's about, getting the money out, not improving the quality of education for kids.

These non-designated staff people could also teach other things. They could teach music. They could teach art. They could teach technical subjects. They could do computer studies. The possibilities are endless. Why are the teachers then worried? They're worried obviously about their own positions and their own jobs. There's no question about that. But they are also worried, and this is something nobody on the other side of the aisle seems to understand, about the quality of education for the kids in the classroom.

Teachers aren't the only people who care about quality of education, but they are perhaps, as the minister has said from time to time, the most important people in the system. The most important education tool we have is a dedicated, knowledgeable, caring teacher.


Mr Steve Gilchrist (Scarborough East): Students are the most important thing.

Mr Wildman: I said the most important tool for educating students. There's no question the students are what the education system is for. But this government sees the education system as a money cow to help finance its tax cut. That's what it's about.

What position is the board going to be in if the board cannot maintain with dwindling grants the class sizes that will be set out under regulation? In the past, boards have been able to raise municipal taxes, set higher mill rates. What does Bill 160 do about that?

Section 234 of the bill gives the provincial government funding powers requiring that the government "operate in a fair and non-discriminatory manner." That sounds reasonable, except what does it really mean? It means the Minister of Finance will prescribe tax rates for school purposes across the province. This applies to both businesses and residential ratepayers. There will be a uniform tax rate for single-family and multi-unit residential properties for the education portion of the tax bill, and the government has said it will freeze education property taxes.

What does this mean? The power and the accountability for tax levies at the local level has been taken away from the local authority, the school board. It has been centralized at Queen's Park, part of the centralizing agenda of this government. The power has been taken away from the boards and given to Queen's Park. So on the one hand the ministry will cut the grants to get the money out; on the other hand, they will set the mill rates and set the tax rates, and they are going to set class sizes. How on earth are the boards going to be able to comply? How on earth can teachers negotiate with boards that don't have any ability to raise money and will be directed from Queen's Park as to how they can tax and how much money they are going to have?

The ultimate irony in Bill 160 is that it says that if the provincial system for setting tax rates and funding education is found lacking, it may be repealed in five years, and they likely will restore local taxing powers. So we have a situation where the government will by then, I guess they feel, have achieved the $1 billion in savings, where they'll have taken that money out of education, a total of $1.5 billion away from the students in this province, where the boards aren't doing well, the students' education is suffering, and after five years the government can turn it all over to the municipalities again and say: "Okay, now you're stuck with this situation. You raise the property taxes to make up for the problems that have occurred because this government took so much money out of education." It really is machiavellian.

What are we faced with this fall? We're faced with a situation where there is tremendous uncertainty: for parents and students, for teachers and taxpayers. There may be a significant confrontation between the teachers and the provincial government that will lead to a disruption in classes for students right across Ontario. There is the certainty that as of January 1, 1998, there will be complete chaos in the education system because Bill 104, the companion piece, will have taken effect. New boards will be in place. In the next two years those boards will be busy trying to reorganize themselves and they won't be doing very much of anything that is going to benefit the quality of education for students.

The government will have all the power here at Queen's Park. The minister will have achieved the changes he wants. We still don't know what his funding formula is going to be -- it may be coming later this fall -- but we do know that he will have all the control over the funding of education and he'll be able to get the money out. He'll have gotten that money out. Students will have been hurt. The quality of education will deteriorate. Teacher morale will be very low. Local parents and ratepayers won't have any real say over their local education. But the bottom line is that the government will have achieved a saving at the expense of the students and their education.

1750

Bill 160 does a lot of things. It provides for regulations that will restrict the ability of teachers and boards to bargain. It will set class size and the method for determining class size. Regulations will determine preparation time and instructional time, the length of the school day and the school year. All of these have been matters, particularly class size and prep time, for negotiations in the past. This bill is about limiting the scope of negotiations between teachers and boards. There will be a repeal of statutory teacher contracts.

I guess the school year will have been lengthened, although we're not sure exactly what the minister means by that; he doesn't seem to know himself. But Bill 160 will permit regulations authorizing principals to determine what work will be done before Labour Day. There will be changes in terms of regulations about instructional days, examination days and professional activity days.

There will be some sort of regulations governing class sizes and the method for determining that; again, a matter that used to be a matter for negotiations. We don't know whether that will benefit students, but we certainly know that it is going to be achieved in a way that will make it possible for the government to save money.

Bill 160 will permit positions that are not teaching positions and duties that are not teaching duties, and it will prescribe the minimum qualifications for a designated position, for performing these duties. In other words, people who are not teachers will be taking the place of teachers in front of students and instructing students.

Taxation powers of local boards will be suspended indefinitely and the provincial government will set the rates for business and residential taxes. I guess there will be a new funding formula that hasn't been unveiled yet which will determine the total amount of money available to each board. This funding formula will be reviewed in the year 2003 and it may be changed at that point.

This government has levelled a concerted attack at public education in Ontario. The minister came to power on the basis of a commitment made by his political party in 1995 that they were in fact going to make changes in education without affecting classroom education for students. That was based on misinformation that I think they believed. I may be giving them too much when I say that, but I think they believed that 45% to 47% of school expenditures were outside the classroom, when in fact about 10% or 15% are administrative for school boards; 70% of every board's budget, or close to it, is teachers' and educational workers' salaries.

It is impossible for this government or any government to take the amount of money they are talking about out of the education system without getting rid of staff. It's just impossible.

If members of the governing party believe, as I believe some of them do, that teachers aren't really valuable and aren't important in the education system, I suppose it's okay to cut teachers, but if you believe as I do that the vast majority of people who are in the education system as teachers and instructors are there because they care about kids, they care about learning and they want to help students achieve as much as possible and to reach their individual potentials, then cutting their positions, attacking them, hurting their morale and forcing them into a position of confrontation is not good for education -- but it does fit with chaos theory. It does make sense if the person who is designing the agenda and implementing that agenda believes that changes must be made and the way to make change is to ensure that there is a chaotic situation and to undermine the credibility of those who are central to delivering education to students.

We have seen the attacks on trustees and school boards by this government, and now we're seeing the attack on teachers. The government is doing everything they can to try and isolate the teachers from the parents, to try and isolate the teachers from the community, to isolate the teachers from their students and to try and divide the teachers themselves. Frankly, I think the government may have underestimated the determination of teachers to protect the quality of education in this province.

Everyone recognizes that there needs to be continual improvement in education, that education is not static, that it is something that continues to grow. There must be change in order to meet new circumstances and meet new needs for students in the society that we live in and in the community that we serve, but that kind of change must be on a continuum and it must involve the very people this government is attacking. Even the minister must recognize that if there is going to be change delivered in this province in the education system, it must be delivered by the people he is attacking. Surely that is self-defeating.

One does not improve the education system by hurting teacher morale. One does not improve education for students by forcing teachers into a confrontational position. One does not improve the quality of education for students in Ontario by continually badmouthing the very people who deliver that education, by telling people that they're not really interested in the quality of education, they're just in it for high pay and low amounts of work. That in itself demonstrates a misunderstanding of the role of the teacher, the responsibility of the teacher.

Teachers care about kids, they care about learning, and they work very hard, both in school, during the school hours, at home and in the community after school on behalf of their students. If we had a minister and a government that would recognize that and work with teachers to improve education for students, then we would be in the tradition of people like Robarts and Davis. I had lots of differences with them and their successors, but I believe they were genuinely interested in education. Now we have a government that calls itself Progressive Conservative, that only sees dollar signs when they see kids in schools and teachers in schools, and is only interested in cutting the amount of dollars going into that system. Well, the teachers won't allow it. They care enough about their students that they will not let some theorist about chaos theory destroy the very system they have worked so hard to make serve the interests of students.

Bill 160 must be changed. It must recognize the central role of teachers and education workers in the lives of our students and in the future of our communities. I call on the government to withdraw Bill 160 and start over by consulting with the people who are important in terms of delivering education for our students.

I think at this time it would be best to adjourn debate.


The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): It now being past 6 of the clock, this House stands adjourned until about half past 6.

The House adjourned at 1801.

Evening sitting reported in volume B.

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