28 AVRIL 1998 ASSEMBLÉE LÉGISLATIVE DE L'ONTARIO

The House met at 1330.

MEMBERS' STATEMENTS

JOHN BASSETT

Mr Gerry Phillips (Scarborough-Agincourt): I rise on behalf of Dalton McGuinty, my leader, and the Liberal caucus to pay tribute to John Bassett, who passed away yesterday. I think it's fair to say that few people have had such a broad impact on Ontario as Mr Bassett.

As we move increasingly to an era of sort of faceless multinational organizations led by relatively anonymous people, we're struck all the more by the memory of John Bassett who personally and by the sheer force of his personality shaped events in Ontario. For the last 50 years few people have had an impact on Ontario such as Mr Bassett.

All of us knew him first as the owner and publisher of the Toronto Telegram, then as the chairman of the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Argos at the same time, and then as the founder of the first private TV station here in Ontario.

Obviously Mr Bassett was a strong Conservative supporter. I'm a Liberal, but we recognize that he had the strength of his convictions.

I have a saying that I carry with me which says that at least someone like Mr Bassett, who, if he wins, knows the triumph of high achievement and who, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat. That personifies Mr Bassett.

On behalf of our colleagues, I particularly want to say to our colleague Isabel Bassett and the Bassett family that we extend our sincere sympathies.

MAY DAY

Mr Tony Martin (Sault Ste Marie): This weekend the beginning of May, May 1, or May Day as it has come to be known across the world, is a time when workers unite to recognize the contribution they all make to the quality of life of their communities and their countries.

In Sault Ste Marie this year the Sault Ste Marie and District Labour Council and myself will be sponsoring a number of events, celebrations, public education, a chance to recognize some groups who participate in the work of our community. We're bringing to Sault Ste Marie Charlie Angus, publisher/editor of High Grader Magazine, as well as an author, journalist and musician; and Ted Schmidt, another author and journalist, community activist and retired teacher and public speaker, to participate in a number of events that will happen Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

On Thursday, these gentlemen will be presenting to senior high school students at Bawating and Sir James Dunn public secondary schools, and on Friday to the St Mary's and St Basil's secondary schools senior high school students. On Friday afternoon at 4:30, at the Canadian Motor Hotel, we will be recognizing the contribution teachers have made to the quality of life of families and students in the province over a number of years. Then of course on Saturday we will be having a celebration of labour, a celebration of work, at the Moose Lodge Hall on Trunk Road, being entertained by the Grievous Angels.

SCHOOL SAFETY

Mr Dan Newman (Scarborough Centre): I'm pleased to rise in the House today to make the House aware of the work I have been doing on safe schools legislation for our province.

For the past two years I have been consulting with parents students, teachers, principals, police and other education experts across Ontario to draft my private member's bill, entitled An Act to Promote Safety in Ontario Schools and Create Positive Learning Environments for Ontario Students.

My Safe Schools Act will require all boards in Ontario to design and implement school safety programs, school codes of conduct, and anti-vandalism policies; provide for effective early intervention strategies by requiring boards to design and implement anti-bullying policies and by providing boards with the ability to direct psychological assessments of students they believe are at risk; provide a provincial violence- and weapons-free schools policy and allow boards the ability to exclude violent students from regular classroom settings; give police the tools they need by creating a special new provincial offence for trespassing on school property and backing it up with real consequences; direct all boards in Ontario to design and implement alternative education programs for suspended and excluded students; require parents to be liable for any damage done to school property by their children; and protect teachers and staff from civil liability.

My Safe Schools Act is a proactive and carefully designed policy that will make Ontario schools the safest places in the world in which to study and work, and I look forward to the support of every member in this House when I introduce my bill.

People across Ontario can vote on line for the first time on this private member's bill at www -

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Thank you.

PSYCHIATRIC HOSPITALS

Mr Michael Gravelle (Port Arthur): If anyone needs to understand what a high price we have paid for the Mike Harris revolution in Ontario, one can certainly point to the state of mental health care in our province.

In my community of Thunder Bay, psychiatric bed cuts and an ever-shrinking number of psychiatric professionals have brought us to a point that can only be described as a crisis. Beds at the Lakehead Psychiatric Hospital, as well as at the psychiatric wing of the Thunder Bay Regional Hospital, are almost always full, leaving many people with no access to needed hospital care.

People are frightened, and the situation has now reached a point where the Thunder Bay district jail has even turned into a holding tank for people who cannot access a bed but who need to be protected or detained.

The Minister of Health can talk all she wants about ensuring better community supports and the value of deinstitutionalization, but the fact is that these supports are not in place. She must recognize that the crisis is real and must be dealt with now.

To add to this horrible situation, the Lakehead Psychiatric Hospital is still officially slated for closure in March 1999, less than a year away. Surely this deadline cannot be met, and Minister, you need to publicly state that.

Long-term goals for the care of our mentally ill are laudable and that process must continue. This might be better achieved if you met your commitment to form a northwestern Ontario mental health agency to coordinate this effort. But regardless, the crisis we face today should be where your attentions are directed now.

People deserve quality mental health care. Your drastic cuts to the system must be stopped before it is truly too late.

BOROUGH OF EAST YORK

Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-Woodbine): Members of this House will know that on numerous occasions I and my colleague Marilyn Churley from Riverdale have asked the Minister of Municipal Affairs to bring democratic representation at the municipal level to the people of East York. We asked him to provide a legislative solution to provide a third councillor for East York.

Members of this House will also know that on repeated occasions the minister responded to us by saying that that was the municipality's decision, that if they decided that's what they wanted, he would facilitate the legislative provision for that. That assurance was given in the House, it was given at committee, and I'm here to collect on that assurance.

The city of Toronto has passed a resolution calling for a third councillor, calling for a by-election to be held by this September. This afternoon I will be introducing a private member's bill to facilitate that.

My commitment to the minister is that I will work with him, either with respect to my private member's bill or with respect to legislation he may want to bring forward, to achieve that in a timely fashion that does not take up a lot of time on the legislative agenda of this House.

I know the minister will live up to his commitment; at least I'm hoping the minister will live up to his commitment. It's well recorded. It is expected by the people of East York. I'm here to say, along with Ms Churley, that we're willing to work in a very constructive manner to ensure that the people of East York receive the fair, democratic representation they should have had from day one, that they get their third councillor for East York.

WINE INDUSTRY

Mr John O'Toole (Durham East): I recently had the pleasure and company of the Honourable David Tsubouchi, Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations, as well as Bill Saunderson, chairman of the Ontario International Trade Corp, in my riding of Durham East. Minister Tsubouchi was on hand to present Ocala Wines of Port Perry with a certificate recognizing their newly listed product for retail sale with the LCBO. The LCBO has purchased cases of Ocala's Montmorency Cherry Wine for sale across the province.

I would like to acknowledge the owners of Ocala winery, Alissa and Irwin Smith. Ocala is one of Ontario's smallest and most northerly wineries. Since 1915 the Smith family has been growing orchard fruit. This fourth generation family business expanded in 1994 when a fruit winery was established. Ocala has already received 13 medals since opening just three years ago.

I would also like to recognize the activities of another winery in Durham just recently opened by Fred and Sandy Archibald. Their estate winery is located just north of my home in Bowmanville.

The Archibald family has operated a successful apple orchard in the area for over 40 years. They expanded their business in June of last year with the opening of an apple winery with 15 different apple-based wines. The Archibald orchard just recently won an award at the Toronto Wine and Cheese Show with their Spiced Winter Apple, a version of ice wine.

I'd like to commend the Archibalds and the Ocala winery for their successes.

MUNICIPAL RESTRUCTURING / RESTRUCTURATION DES MUNICIPALITÉS

Mr Jean-Marc Lalonde (Prescott and Russell): I would like to comment on the downloading of provincial responsibilities to municipalities and their actual impact on services and tax rates in my riding of Prescott and Russell.

Every since he started dumping responsibilities on to municipalities, the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing keeps repeating over and over that this whole exercise will be revenue-neutral, that no tax increase will be needed and that the quality of services will remain the same.

He should come and visit my riding, where already one of the nine municipalities recently announced it will have to increase its taxes by up to 20% in order to maintain the level of services. Furthermore, a local newspaper reported last week that some businesses will see an increase of 800%. Yes, 800%.

Depuis le premier jour où les détails de ce délestage massif ont été annoncés, j'ai dénoncé le fait que les municipalités des comtés unis de Prescott et Russell devront faire face à un manque à gagner de plus de 20 $ millions par l'an 2000.

Constituents from Prescott and Russell do not want municipal services to vanish while taxes are increased by 20% or more. It is obvious that this government's downloading will mean tax increases at the municipal level in Prescott and Russell and in many other ridings throughout Ontario.

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BOROUGH OF EAST YORK

Ms Marilyn Churley (Riverdale): I am calling on the Minister of Municipal Affairs to act quickly to allow East York a third member to sit on the Toronto city council. I fought along with my colleague from Beaches-Woodbine and the Citizens for Local Democracy and Team East York in East York to try to get the minister to amend the City of Toronto Act to allow this to happen, and then to get the minister and the Tory caucus to agree to support the private member's bill of my colleague from Beaches-Woodbine. The minister repeatedly said he would wait and let the new city council determine whether this should happen. They have made a decision. They are calling on the government to enact legislation to allow a by-election in East York by September.

I have spoken to the minister personally, and he seems to be assuring me that he will allow this to happen. I would like to see the minister stand up in the House as soon as possible, because the residents are concerned - they haven't been assured yet that he will keep his commitment - and tell the residents of East York that he will keep his word and allow this by-election to happen.

My colleague is going to present a private member's bill today, but I can assure you that our caucus will be willing to accept anything the government has to offer, and we will make sure that nothing else is added to this bill.

JOHN BASSETT

Mr Jim Brown (Scarborough West): Today I rise to honour a great Canadian, a great inspiration for me and for many people, a fellow I used to work for some 35 years ago, John W.H. Bassett. Mr Bassett ran the Telegram, he owned the Argos and the Leafs, and he provided a great deal of excitement for Toronto. His positive motivation in everything he did certainly created a great feeling for this great metropolis and for this country.

Mr Bassett founded CFTO, CTV, Baton Broadcasting; Mr Bassett helped immeasurably in the creation of the Toronto Sun; he went on to head CSIS. He was a great Canadian, and on behalf of the House, I would like to send sympathies and condolences to the Bassett family.

VISITORS

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): I would like to inform the members of the Legislative Assembly that we have in the Speaker's gallery today the interns from the National Assembly of Quebec: Patrik Gilbert, Philippe Launaz, Mathieu Belleville and Gilles-André Gosselin. Welcome.

Interjections.

The Speaker: The next time you are here, the member for St Catharines will translate.

WORKERS' MEMORIAL DAY

Mr Richard Patten (Ottawa Centre): Mr Speaker, we have unanimous consent for each party to have one speaker address this day of mourning for injured workers and workers who have died on the job.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Agreed? Agreed.

Mr Patten: Today I rise in recognition and observance of the day of mourning for persons killed or injured in the workplace. As many members may know, the Canadian legislation designating the day of mourning to remember workers who were killed, disabled or injured in the workplace and workers afflicted with industrial disease received royal assent on February 1, 1991. Today, April 28, has particular significance since it's the anniversary of the day in 1914 when Canada's first workers' compensation legislation was passed here in Ontario.

In 1996, 388 Ontarians lost their lives in the course of doing their jobs, including 96 immediate deaths, 23 not immediate deaths, 77 on 100% pension and 197 from occupational diseases. Injury data for 1996 indicate that 345,000-plus claims were registered that year and 227,000 injuries happened to workers. Workplace injuries and illness accounted for millions in compensation claims.

We can't rest, of course, until all such tragedies are eliminated, tragedies such as the death of Robert Robinson, a 41-year-old man who lived in my community who, on April 15, when he was repairing a wood chipper being used to shred tree limbs downed in the January ice storm, was killed instantly when several pieces of metal flew out of the clipper and struck him in the head; and earlier this year in Thunder Bay Wallace Hynnes died due to complications from a fall he suffered last June. Mr Hynnes fell from the platform of an 80-tonne front-loader while working in a service bay.

Deaths in Canada from traumatic injuries in the workplace are approximately 1,000 every year. This national figure does not include deaths which occur from industrial diseases, however. Then the figure would jump significantly. The elimination of the Occupational Disease Panel by the government has seriously jeopardized what I believe to be a valuable independent body that, among many roles, served to examine the impact of workplace carcinogens on workers' health.

The number of casualties at the moment statistically is dropping, but, with all statistics, we of course must be cautious in our interpretations. Are they dropping because we are doing a better job of accident or injury prevention in the workplace or because of the general drop in employment, particularly in those sectors such as construction, mining, logging and heavy industry where injuries and accidents have a disproportionate amount of the statistical base.

The quality of worker health and safety means healthier families and healthier communities. Employers and employees alike must ensure that proper health and safety protocols are in place. When the people responsible do not take these matters seriously and do not act on health and safety issues, persons are unnecessarily killed or seriously injured in the workplace.

The threat of job loss, coupled with privatization, restructuring and layoffs, has contributed towards the continuance of unsafe conditions in some workplaces. No one should be reluctant to speak out against unsafe conditions at work for fear of losing their jobs.

On this the day of mourning, I'd like to underscore the need for employers and employees to work together to prevent workplace injuries and illnesses. All of us in our party join with our colleagues in the Legislature and our constituents in communities all over Ontario as we observe a moment of silence and pay tribute to those who have died. We especially pay tribute to their loved ones - to their spouses, their children, their parents, their colleagues and their friends who are living without them.

Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): Today is the day we set aside in Ontario each year to honour the memory of all those who have died in workplace accidents or from occupational disease. Each year on April 28 workers take time to remind ourselves that it is important at all times to "Mourn the dead and fight for the living."

In Hamilton this morning, my leader, Howard Hampton, and I were part of a solemn ceremony of observance. Our Hamilton community has been saddened by several recent workplace tragedies, including a fatal accident last month at Dominion Castings that took the life of Michael Jess, leaving five young children without a father.

There have also been observations here in Toronto and in other cities throughout the province.

It's always worth remembering why April 28 has been chosen as a day of mourning. This date commemorates April 28, 1914, when this Legislature passed Ontario's first Workmen's Compensation Act. That legislation embodied an historic compromise between workers and employers in which injured workers and their families were guaranteed fair compensation and employers were shielded from liability litigation.

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There has been official observance of the day of mourning in Ontario since 1988 when this House passed unanimously a resolution introduced by Bob Rae, then Leader of the Opposition. Since then, the federal Parliament has also declared April 28 a day of mourning. The idea has also spread to the United States and to Australia.

In the 10 years since this tradition began in Ontario there has been a steady decline in the annual totals of deaths and injuries recorded in Ontario. For 1997 there were nearly 200 deaths and almost 350,000 reported injuries. But even one workplace death is too many. We cannot rest until we are assured that everyone is safe from danger on the job.

Here in Ontario a key tool for eliminating hazards is the joint health and safety committee that is mandated under the Occupational Health and Safety Act. Through this committee, workers and employers are able to work together to advance the cause of safety on the job.

If I might, I would mention I also attended an event this morning at St Joseph's Villa where the employer and the employees have done such an outstanding job that not only do they hold joint ceremonies in the workplace, but in recognizing that this is meant to be a day of public awareness, they invite the public to come in and participate also. I was pleased to be there to congratulate both the employer and the union in their partnership in trying to achieve the ideals of what this day represents.

I might point out that CUPE Local 1404 presented the workplace with a national award, but in doing so also mentioned that Bills 99 and 15 have taken us in the wrong direction in terms of workplace health and safety.

Recently, the importance of the system we have here in Ontario was emphasized by the report of the inquiry into the Westray mine disaster in Nova Scotia. That inquiry cited the Ontario legislation, including mandatory joint health and safety committees, as a model that could have prevented the Westray disaster.

While working to stop accidents on the job, we must also redouble our efforts to eliminate conditions and substances in the workplace that lead to cancer and other diseases. A recent book entitled Workplace Roulette: Gambling with Cancer, calls attention to the way blue-collar workers in our society "are suffering the greatest cancer risk and are being treated like test subjects for the effects of industrial chemicals."

While we organize and fight for the living, it is fitting that today we observe a moment of silence in memory of all those who lost their lives on the job in Ontario. Our collective thoughts are with their families and friends.

Along with my colleagues in the NDP caucus, I am proud to join all members of the House in remembering these fallen workers.

Hon Jim Flaherty (Minister of Labour, Solicitor General and Minister of Correctional Services): Today, April 28, we join with all Canadians in a national day of mourning. On this day, we acknowledge the human toll of workplace injury and death. I ask everyone in Ontario to observe this day of mourning and to reflect on lives lost and families left behind.

Today is also an opportunity for workers, employers and legislators to affirm a shared commitment to preventing workplace injury and death, because in an instant lives can be lost or changed forever. In an instant loved ones can vanish. In an instant children can be left without parents, or parents left without a child. In an instant the world can be a different place, once full, now with a gaping hole.

All of us, every employer, every worker, every legislator, have a duty, a duty to do our best to prevent this human tragedy, to prevent this human suffering. All of us have a duty to prevent that instant from happening.

If we are not responsible for the safety of our workplaces, then who will be? If we as employers and employees together are not responsible for our own safety and the safety of all workers, then who will be?

As Minister of Labour, it saddens me almost every day when I receive reports of every serious injury and every death in the workplaces of the province of Ontario, and I make a point to reflect on what this means to the families and people involved. I make a point to remember what can happen in an instant.

We are making progress. The number of lost-time injuries has been declining in the province. For the first time in our history we set a provincial target to reduce lost-time injuries by 30% by the year 2000, and we are on target.

We have placed a new and vigorous emphasis on prevention of workplace injury and death, but we cannot judge the success of our efforts and the efforts of all our very genuine and innovative partners in workplace health and safety by looking at statistics alone. We will never know whose life was saved, whose limb was saved, whose family was spared the agony of the loss of a loved one, and they will not likely know themselves. That is what at times can make this work seem less urgent to some. But we can know and do know those whose lives were lost, whose limbs were lost and whose families were broken. It is their faces in our minds and in our hearts that drive us forward for those we cannot see.

So it is today that I ask that we stand for a moment of silence to honour those who have lost their lives on the job and to remember with compassion their families and loved ones.

The House observed a moment's silence.

INTRODUCTION OF BILLS

HIGHWAY TRAFFIC AMENDMENT ACT (LICENCE SUSPENSIONS), 1998 / LOI DE 1998 MODIFIANT LE CODE DE LA ROUTE (SUSPENSIONS DE PERMIS)

Mr Grimmett moved first reading of the following bill:

Bill 5, An Act to amend the Highway Traffic Act with respect to the suspension of drivers' licences / Projet de loi 5, Loi modifiant le Code de la route en ce qui concerne les suspensions de permis de conduire.

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

A short comment?

Mr Bill Grimmett (Muskoka-Georgian Bay): This bill would amend the Highway Traffic Act to automatically suspend the driver's licence of a person convicted of impaired operation of a vessel, which is already the case for persons convicted of impaired operation of an automobile or a snowmobile.

PARTNERSHIPS STATUTE LAW AMENDMENT ACT, 1998 / LOI DE 1998 MODIFIANT DES LOIS EN CE QUI CONCERNE LES SOCIÉTÉS EN NOM COLLECTIF

Mr Tsubouchi moved first reading of the following bill:

Bill 6, An Act to amend the law with respect to Partnerships / Projet de loi 6, Loi visant à modifier des loi en ce qui concerne les sociétés en nom collectif.

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

A brief comment, Minister? No.

CITY OF TORONTO AMENDMENT ACT, 1998 / LOI DE 1998 MODIFIANT LA LOI SUR LA CITÉ DE TORONTO

Ms Lankin moved first reading of the following bill:

Bill 7, An Act to amend the City of Toronto Act, 1997 / Projet de loi 7, Loi modifiant la Loi de 1997 sur la cité de Toronto.

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

A brief comment?

Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-Woodbine): This bill is I hope the last step in what has been a long road. This bill amends the City of Toronto Act, 1997, to increase the number of councillors elected for the ward of East York from two to three. A by-election will be held to fill the new seat and the new councillor would hold office until the next regular election, in the year 2000.

IRISH HERITAGE DAY ACT, 1998 / LOI DE 1998 SUR LE JOUR DU PATRIMOINE IRLANDAIS

Mr O'Toole moved first reading of the following bill:

Bill 8, An Act proclaiming Irish Heritage Day / Projet de loi 8, Loi proclamant le Jour du patrimoine irlandais.

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

A brief comment?

Mr John O'Toole (Durham East): I expect everyone in the House would like to celebrate their heritage, and most importantly the Irish heritage.

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MOTIONS

HOUSE SITTINGS

Hon Norman W. Sterling (Minister of the Environment, Government House Leader): I move that notwithstanding the order of the House of April 27, 1998, the House shall not meet from 6:30 pm to 9:30 pm on April 28, 1998. That's today.

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.

ORAL QUESTIONS

CHILDREN'S SERVICES

Mr Dalton McGuinty (Leader of the Opposition): My first question today is for the Minister of Community and Social Services. You will know that I have made every effort to put the children of Ontario on the political agenda. You will know that I've spent a lot of time trying to figure out a way for us to give them a hand with their special needs. I happen to believe that especially if you get the early years right, the child can be set for life. You end up with somebody who is responsible, happy and productive, the kind of adult we'd all like to have living next door to us.

I've put together a solid package of proposals, and I know you have had a copy to review those. They're called First Steps, 41 positive recommendations that would act in a real way, if you were to implement them, to help Ontario's kids.

My question is very simple: Will you implement First Steps?

Hon Janet Ecker (Minister of Community and Social Services): As the honourable member will know, both the Minister without Portfolio responsible for children and I have reviewed his report. We appreciate the input. He will also note from the response that I sent back to him recently that many of his recommendations we are already implementing to improve the lives of children in Ontario.

Mr McGuinty: What your response in writing and your response here tell me, Minister, is that you don't understand the extent of the problem. Some 500,000 kids today in Ontario are growing up at risk. Either they are growing up in poverty or they are the subject of abuse or neglect or they have psychological or emotional problems.

We have five new studies that are talked about today in the media. Do you know what those studies are telling us? Things are getting worse for kids in Ontario. The rate of poverty for kids is going up; the rate of abuse and neglect is going up; the rate of psychological and emotional problems is going up; the number of inquests held into the death of kids who were killed by people who were supposed to care for them is going up.

Madam Minister, my question for you is, when are you really going to put kids at the top of the political agenda? When are you going to make them a priority for your government?

Hon Mrs Ecker: I can only assume that the honourable member didn't hear me when I said before that many of the recommendations that he has put in his report are already either recommended or under way, because we agree that many of them are very useful recommendations and mirror our thinking in many areas.

I think, though, it's important to recognize that while we acknowledge and are putting forward different strategies and programs to improve the lives of children in this province - for example, the healthy babies screening program through the cooperation of public health and municipalities is one - I should point out that the use of figures that predate this government, the use of figures that predate the economic growth and the more people in the job force that they are using, the use of figures that predate the decline in the number of children on welfare - I would respectfully ask the honourable member that if we're going to discuss this issue, if we're going to work together to improve the lives of children, which I think we would agree on, we should really pay more attention to using figures that are more appropriate to this discussion.

Mr McGuinty: All right, let's talk about what your government has done when it comes to kids. First of all, you have shut 60,000 four-year-olds out of junior kindergarten in the province, you have cut welfare payments for 500,000 kids in this province by 22% and, just a couple of weeks ago, your Premier was so vindictive and so cheap, he cut the food supplement to expectant mothers who find themselves on welfare by $37 a month.

Here's an opportunity for you to tell me and to tell Ontarians at large that you really do care about kids. You understand that when you cut that $37 a month what you're talking about is leading to a growth in low-birth-weight babies. That costs easily $100,000 in terms of medical expenses, and low-birth-weight babies tend to have learning problems, tend to drop out of school and end up on social assistance. You understand all of that.

What you're going to do right now, Madam Minister, is you're going to stand up, you're going to tell us you're going to restore that supplement because it's good for kids and it makes good financial sense.

Hon Mrs Ecker: What this government is doing is responding to the words of experts like Dr Offert, whom I had the opportunity to listen to at a forum on child poverty in Durham, who talked about the barriers that kids have when they're on welfare. He looked at the future that those children have, the research and the statistics about how they have problems in education and problems all through their lives. We agree that kids living on welfare is a very bad thing for them. That's why we are working so hard to get those parents and those families off social assistance. We have over 108,000 fewer children on welfare today. I think that is good news for those kids. That's why we are doing the early learning study that the throne speech announced. That's why we are putting more money into intervention and prevention strategies to get those problems caught as early as we can.

HEALTH CARE REFORM

Mr Dalton McGuinty (Leader of the Opposition): My question is for the Minister of Health and again this comes down to a question of trust. We can't trust the government to do the right thing when it comes to kids and we can't trust this government to do the right thing when it comes to health care. Let's look at the record here.

First you said you wouldn't close hospitals. You are. Then you said you wouldn't charge user fees for seniors and the poor. You have. Then you said you wouldn't cut health care. You've cut our hospital budgets by $800 million. Then you said the cuts to health care wouldn't hurt patient care. They are. You have caused a patient care crisis in Ontario today. We've got patients stacked up in hospital corridors, we've got them being turned away from our emergency departments and we've got patients being discharged quicker and sicker. They should be staying in the hospital longer to recover and your cuts are causing them to be shipped out before they've had time to do that.

Tell me, Madam Minister, do you still maintain today, knowing all of that, that your cuts aren't hurting patient care in Ontario?

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Hon Elizabeth Witmer (Minister of Health): Mr Speaker, through you to the leader of the official opposition, I would indicate that when we were elected in 1995 we were faced with a health system that unfortunately had been neglected by two previous governments. I am very pleased to say that we are redesigning the health system so we can respond to the needs of the population which you and I both know is changing; it is growing and it is rapidly aging.

Our government has taken significant steps to ensure that the priority services for people can be provided in this province. We have made new reinvestments into cardiac care, cancer care, hip and knee replacement, dialysis. Every area where service has been required and needed, we are taking action to ensure that people in this province -

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Supplementary.

Mr McGuinty: Minister, your kind of action, when it comes to health care in this province, we can do without. You can talk about reform, you can talk about restructuring, you can talk about service improvements. I'm going to talk about patient care.

Let's talk for a moment about a few letters - in fact over 1,000 - that I have here, Madam Minister. Do you know where these letters happen to come from? They come from your neighbours. They come from Kitchener-Waterloo. You know what people are doing in these volumes of letters here? They're telling story after story about their mom or their dad or their son or their daughter or friends or loved ones who have been hurt by your health care system. It's as simple as that. They're showing up and they're not getting the kind of care that they are entitled to expect in Ontario.

My question for you is, when will you start listening to patients? When will you start listening to the neighbours you have in your community and start doing the right kind of thing to help improve health care for patients in Ontario?

Hon Mrs Witmer: We are taking action. I would just remind you of some of the headlines that were in the Toronto Star when your government was in office.

October 15, 1989: "Man, 62, Died of Heart Attack Waiting for Cardiac Operation: Health Minister Caplan Tells the Legislature She's Doing All She Can."

Again, November 10, 1988: "Wait for Surgery was Fatal for Husband, Widow Says." Again, Elinor Caplan.

Again, May 12, 1988: "Probe Launched over Wait at Toronto General Hospital." "Health Minister Caplan said, `I've asked the ministry to investigate.'"

May 12, 1988: "Arthritis Sufferer on Hospital Waiting List: Pain-Wracked Man must Wait until 1990 for Operation."

These were headlines when your government was in power. These are issues that have not been addressed. Our government is moving forward to ensure that when these types of services are necessary for people in this province, the services will be there at every stage in their life and when they are needed.

Mr McGuinty: Madam Minister, you're in the driver's seat now. How much comfort do you think these old stories are to patients who are stacked up in hospital corridors today? How much comfort do you think they are to some mother who's worried about getting her child care in a timely way today? That stuff is over and gone. I can't believe you're raising that kind of stuff. You're in the driver's seat.

Interjections.

The Speaker: Stop the clock. Leader of the official opposition.

Mr McGuinty: Madam Minister, you and your government no longer have the trust of the people of this province when it comes to delivering quality health care in Ontario.

You know what? Tomorrow, I'm off to London. I'm going to do a health care conference there. There is a group of people there who signed a petition. Do you know what the petition says, effectively? Cuts are hurting them. Guess how many people in London and the surrounding areas have signed that petition? Some 250,000 people have signed individual petitions saying that you are hurting them and their health care system. That's what your actions are doing. That's what you're doing to health care in Ontario. You are hurting patient care.

My question is this: When are you going to make it a real priority for your government to help patients in Ontario by delivering -

The Speaker: Thank you.

Hon Mrs Witmer: Last week we made a very quick response to the situation of overcrowding of emergency rooms in this province. Again, I would quote from Dr Sutca who says, "Overflowing hospital emergency rooms are nothing new," and, "They have been a problem for almost 20 years." Yet it was our government that first brought forward recommendations last week.

We added $225 million to the system last week in order to construct an interim 1,700 beds to accommodate people who are waiting in acute care facilities. We invested money into community care services. We are training nurses in emergency and critical care areas. We took a very significant step last week to ensure that the services for people in this province will be there, and we will continue, step by step, to redesign the system to -

The Speaker: Thank you very much.

Just a cautionary note to the member for Hamilton East and the member for Ottawa West. Will you please come to order. Heckling is out of order.

DISCLOSURE OF CONFIDENTIAL INFORMATION

Mr Howard Hampton (Rainy River): I have a question for the Attorney General. Attorney General, yesterday your colleague the Solicitor General stepped down because he recognized that an apparent breach of the criminal law happened last Thursday in the reading of the throne speech. He stepped down and said that he was prepared to cooperate with any police investigation. The Premier acknowledged that. The only problem is that you, as the chief law officer of the crown in Ontario, have failed to do your duty.

I have now a letter from the RCMP that states very clearly that it is up to you to call for an independent investigation of the apparent breach of the criminal law which happened here last Thursday. Mr Attorney General, are you going to do your job now? Are you going to call for an independent police investigation of the events so that we can get to the bottom of what happened and who is responsible?

Hon Charles Harnick (Attorney General, minister responsible for native affairs): This morning the Deputy Attorney General received a copy of a letter from the RCMP to the leader of the third party, Mr Hampton. The letter explains that the RCMP will not normally investigate a case like this without the approval of officials in the Ministry of the Attorney General. I am informed that in accordance with established ministry policy, the assistant deputy attorney general for criminal law has reviewed the facts. He has requested that the RCMP review this matter to determine the appropriate course of action.

Mr Hampton: At long last, five days after the event, the Attorney General of Ontario finally recognizes his responsibility, not as a partisan cabinet minister but as an independent agent, as the chief law officer of the crown.

Minister, I want to ask you this: It was very clear from the information we obtained yesterday that the Solicitor General did not write the throne speech. It was very clear that the throne speech was written in the Premier's office by the Premier's advisers. We were given information from officials in the Ministry of the Solicitor General that said that advice had gone to the Premier's office: "Don't include this name in the throne speech. It may lead to the identification of a young offender, which is contrary to the criminal law of Canada."

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

Mr Hampton: Can you tell us, Mr Attorney General, will the police investigation include the Premier, the Premier's office and the advisers to the Premier?

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Hon Mr Harnick: The assistant Deputy Attorney General for criminal law has requested that the RCMP review this matter to determine the appropriate course of action. The course of the review will be up to the law enforcement officials at the RCMP. We do not direct them. They will take the appropriate steps to review the matter.

Mr Hampton: I want to help the Attorney General get to the bottom of this. He avoided the issue for five days, so I want to give him some help.

This is an article from the Toronto Star dated April 18. It's entitled "Mr Fix-it."

"Trading his sledgehammer for a paint brush, key Tory strategist David Lindsay.... "

Then it says in the second paragraph, "...Lindsay, Mike Harris' main man since 1990 and one of the key people drafting Thursday's speech from the throne."

This is an article from Ontario Legislative Highlights by one Tory insider, Sally Barnes, which says, "Next week's speech from the throne, to be read by Hilary Weston, the Lieutenant Governor, was apparently drafted by chief Harris strategist Deb Hutton."

Can you tell me, please, since these are the people who drafted the throne speech, will the investigation include David Lindsay and Deb Hutton, who work in the Premier's office?

Hon Mr Harnick: Again, elected officials such as myself do not direct law enforcement agencies as to how to investigate. An allegation has been made, it has been referred to the RCMP, and the RCMP will review the matter and determine the appropriate course of action. There really is very little else to say.

The Speaker: New question, third party. Leader of the third party.

Mr Hampton: I beg to differ, Speaker; there is a lot more to say.

Mr Attorney General, when I was the Attorney General for Ontario -

Interjections.

The Speaker: Stop the clock.

Can you please come to order. Leader of the third party.

Mr Hampton: Apparently the Conservative members of the Legislature don't understand that they are only temporarily the government. In a democracy, you won't be the government much longer.

Attorney General, there was a protocol in place in the Ministry of the Attorney General which dealt with situations where allegations were raised against cabinet ministers. I want to ask you, is that protocol still in place in Ontario, a protocol which is to be followed whenever allegations are raised against a particular cabinet minister or the Premier? Is that protocol still in place?

Hon Mr Harnick: Last Thursday, upon learning that there were concerns arising from the throne speech, I immediately asked senior officials for their legal advice. They were in the process of reviewing this matter when the leader of the third party referred it to the RCMP. Once the matter had been referred to the RCMP, further ministry action was held in abeyance.

Now we know that the RCMP has reported back to the member, indicating that they needed approval of officials in the Ministry of the Attorney General. The assistant Deputy Attorney General for criminal law, in accordance with the protocol, has reviewed the facts and has referred it to the RCMP and requested that the RCMP review the matter. That's exactly what was done.

Mr Hampton: It's evident that officials at the Ministry of the Attorney General have given this Attorney General a crash course overnight. That's very evident. But you didn't answer my question. What I asked you is, there has been in the past a protocol in place in the Ministry of the Attorney General which deals with situations where allegations are brought against the Premier or are brought against a fellow cabinet minister.

I'll ask the question again: Is that protocol still in place? If it is still in place, why did you not follow it last Thursday, last Friday, last Saturday, last Sunday or yesterday? Why did it take until now? And, Minister, would you table that protocol in the Legislature for us so we can determine what that protocol says you should have done?

Hon Mr Harnick: As I said in response to the last question, last Thursday when allegations arose, I referred those allegations immediately to senior officials. They were in the process of reviewing this matter when the leader of the third party called the RCMP. They then held this review in abeyance until this morning when the response from the RCMP was received.

The protocol has been followed. This matter has been in the hands of the assistant deputy minister responsible for criminal law, who makes the decisions in this matter, and that's exactly what's been done here.

Mr Hampton: I think what I heard here is that the Attorney General sat and waited to see what the opposition would do. I think that's the truth that emerges from the answers - which were non-answers - yesterday, and from the attempt to now cover it over today.

What I don't understand is this: When it comes to going after poor people and accusing them of health care fraud, your government is right there. When it comes to going after injured workers and accusing them of fraud with respect to the Workers' Compensation Board, your government is right there. When it comes to going after children who don't have enough to eat, when it comes to going after the poorest people in Ontario and accusing them of welfare fraud, your government is right there. Here we had last Thursday, open on the face of the record, a clear breach of the criminal law -

The Speaker: Question.

Mr Hampton: - and you have done nothing until you were forced to do it. Is this one law for the poor in Ontario, one law for injured workers, and a different law for Conservative -

The Speaker: Attorney General.

Hon Mr Harnick: The matter has been referred to the RCMP. It was initially referred by the member. The RCMP did not proceed on that basis. The assistant deputy minister responsible for criminal law has taken the immediate step of referring this properly to the RCMP. That is what's being done, and I have no further comment.

ROAD SAFETY

Mr Dalton McGuinty (Leader of the Opposition): My question is for the Minister of Transportation. You will know that every year, far too many people are dying needlessly at Ontario intersections. You will also know that a number of municipalities around the province now are looking to you to give them a hand to enforce the law. We've got people running red lights. We've got people who are being injured. People are being killed in these accidents.

They're looking to you for a bit of help. They don't even want any money. They want authorization so that they can bring into effect red-light cameras. Will you give them a hand? Will you provide them with that authorization?

Hon Tony Clement (Minister of Transportation): I thank the Leader of the Opposition for the question. In fact this government does want to target aggressive driving behaviour on our highways and also on our roadways. That is why we are looking for proposals from the municipalities that target the aggressive driver not only through fines but also affecting the aggressive driver's demerit points and insurance rates. That is the most effective way to target that behaviour, and that's what this government is for.

Mr McGuinty: I interpret from that response that you are not going to give them permission to put into place red-light cameras. If I'm interpreting that in the wrong way, I want you to tell me that.

Municipalities have studied this. These red-light cameras have been used elsewhere, in Australia, Switzerland, the United States and Germany. Municipalities have taken it upon themselves to study this issue and have made a determination that this would be a very effective instrument in reducing fatalities and injuries as a result of people running red lights. All I want to know from you now, Minister, is will you or will you not give our municipalities the right to install red-light cameras?

Hon Mr Clement: Again, our concern is to target the aggressive driver and that aggressive driving behaviour. As the member well knows, when you take a photograph -

Interjections.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Order. Member for Lake Nipigon.

Hon Mr Clement: I think the target of our actions should be that aggressive driver. You lose the ability when you take a photograph of the plate. You lose the ability to issue demerit points. You lose the ability to jack up that aggressive driver's insurance rates.

In answer to the question, this government is not in favour of any form of technology that does not target the driver, and merely targets the owner. That is the answer to the question. But this government is going to work very hard with the municipalities to ensure that we target the aggressive driver and ensure our roads are safer. That is the goal of this government.

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DISCLOSURE OF CONFIDENTIAL INFORMATION

Mr Howard Hampton (Rainy River): My question is for the Solicitor General, and I suppose I should congratulate the Solicitor General on his new job. I have a very simple question for the new Solicitor General. Is it normal procedure for your ministry to provide the Premier's office with the names of young offenders?

Hon Jim Flaherty (Minister of Labour, Solicitor General and Minister of Correctional Services): I thank the honourable member for the question. As the member knows, the RCMP have indicated they will proceed with an investigation and that's an area that would be a subject of that investigation so I am not going to comment on it.

Mr Hampton: I was very clear in my question. I did not ask about a particular incident. I asked a general question. Is it normal procedure for the Ministry of the Solicitor General to provide the Premier's office with the names of young offenders? That's a very general question. I'm asking you about normal procedure. You should know the normal procedure of your ministry. You are now the Solicitor General.

Since you didn't answer that question, I ask it again, but I want to ask you this as well: Will you commit to the Legislature right now to establish procedures that will guarantee in the future that the Premier's office cannot run roughshod over the laws of Canada and does not have access to the names of young offenders?

Hon Mr Flaherty: At the request of the leader of the third party, an investigative process has been put into place which I imagine would include those areas with respect to which he is inquiring. For those reasons, I will not comment on them.

AGRICULTURAL FUNDING

Mr Doug Galt (Northumberland): My question is directed to the Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. This government is on track to bury the sorry legacy of deficits run up by previous NDP and Liberal governments. They were also the governments that cut the agricultural budgets. There are calls by farmers of Ontario and from Northumberland - they were in to visit me on March 27 - to reinvest in agriculture. Minister, can you assure my constituents that this government is committed to the agrifood sector?

Hon Noble Villeneuve (Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, minister responsible for francophone affairs): I want to thank my colleague from Northumberland. Yes, the Ontario government is very much determined to strengthen and maintain a strong agrifood sector.

To start, we've reversed the -

Interjection.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Order. Member for Ottawa West, will you come to order, please.

Hon Mr Villeneuve: We have reversed the trend of former governments of reducing the amount that the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs has had to spend. We spend as much on agrifood research and development as the province of Quebec and the province of Alberta together - $41 million. Last October we launched a $30-million rural job strategy fund - very successful, many projects going. We invested $3 million to create 3,000 summer jobs last year. We funded 4,200. We were right there with money for ice storm victims of eastern Ontario within a week.

We are committed to the agrifood sector. It's a very important part of our economy.

Mr Galt: Minister, that indeed is an impressive list. What has been the result and how does this government's commitment to the agrifood sector stack up against our previous governments?

Hon Mr Villeneuve: I recall a Liberal government from 1985 to 1990 which said it would double the expenditures on agriculture. Two years later they transferred the farm tax rebate from Municipal Affairs to Agriculture to make it look good - a little bit of smoke and mirrors.

The NDP answer to that was to shut down two of our agricultural colleges.

Let me quote from the throne speech.

Mr Gerry Phillips (Scarborough-Agincourt): Did the Premier's office tell you to do this? Don't do it.

Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): You better check with Guy Giorno.

Interjections.

The Speaker: Minister.

Hon Mr Villeneuve: I am proud to quote from the speech from the throne: "Agriculture and food industries leading the nation in farm cash receipts and value-added...production."

In the fiscal year 1996-97 we exported $5.6 billion of agrifood products to the world, fully 170% more than a decade ago. For every billion dollars that we export, there are between 12,000 and 15,000 jobs. That is very important and that is why this government will continue to fully support the agrifood sector.

HOSPITAL RESTRUCTURING

Mr Gerard Kennedy (York South): My question is for the Minister of Health. I'd like you to stand up and be accountable for closing three hospitals yesterday. Your destruction commission shut down Toronto Grace hospital, Runnymede Hospital and Riverdale Hospital.

Further, your commission ordered the closure of 3,500 chronic-care beds, and in their place you might, you maybe, you perhaps will put some long-term-care beds which will have the hotel services but won't provide medical services to people, and you're doing it, Minister, because it costs $100 a day there and today it costs at least $250 a day for the very important services they are getting at Runnymede and at Riverdale.

Minister, I want you to make an assurance to those 700 patients in those hospitals that are closing, those 3,500 patients you've decided can be dispersed somewhere else. They want to hear from you. Will you guarantee that the medical care they get will be as good or better wherever you try and send them? Will you guarantee it today?

Hon Elizabeth Witmer (Minister of Health): As the member knows, we are restructuring health services in order that we can respond to the very specific needs of people in this province, so part of the task of moving forward is to ensure that each individual receives the appropriate level of care. Certainly I would indicate to you that those individuals who need chronic care, need rehabilitation care, need long-term care, need support in their homes, our government is going to make sure the appropriate level of service is provided.

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Mr Kennedy: Here's what one of the nurses at North York General who wrote to you recently thinks of what you've been doing. They've seen many changes, little planning, much chaos, and a deterioration of patient care.

Minister, we're going to hold you accountable to your words of a few minutes ago because there are patients like this one from my riding who is in Runnymede Hospital where she is receiving superior care. Her daughter writes to say that the disease, which is Alzheimer's and multi-infarct dementia, is sad but what's worse is to have a government evict her from her home, because that's what you propose to do. You gave the power to the commission that is closing that hospital.

I want you to guarantee that the care that is going to be given will not be diminished in any way whatsoever, and when you do that, I want you to tell us how much money will follow these patients. Will they get the same amount of money to be cared for in future as they do today?

Hon Mrs Witmer: As our government moves forward with the restructuring of health care, we are specifically responding to the needs of people in this province, needs that I indicate again have been sadly neglected by past governments. We will be providing to individuals the appropriate level of care that is going to be required in order that it is consistent with the needs that they have.

COMPENSATION FOR HEPATITIS C PATIENTS

Mrs Marion Boyd (London Centre): My question is for the Minister of Health. We all know the pain and suffering that victims of Canada's tainted blood system have had to endure, and we know that those who were infected with hepatitis C from tainted blood have been waiting for years for a decision on compensation. When we were the government we supported the formation of the Krever commission to look into, to investigate all of what happened with that tainted blood scandal and to make recommendations to us, which we were committed to follow, for compensation for the victims of that tainted blood.

Minister, 85% of Canadians support a fair and compassionate compensation for these victims. Mr Justice Krever urged that governments be compassionate, not that they stick with legalistic versions of what kind of liability they might have.

I want you to tell us, why did you ignore the Krever report? Why did you sign on to a compensation package that arbitrarily excluded anywhere from 20,000 to 30,000 victims of the tainted blood scandal?

Hon Elizabeth Witmer (Minister of Health): As the member knows, there were ongoing deliberations and discussions by health ministers throughout the Dominion of Canada, including Mr Rock, the provinces and the territories. There was very careful analysis done of the Krever report, of all the information that was provided, and after that very, very careful deliberation there was a decision made and an assistance package was provided and agreed to by all of those individuals at the meeting.

Mrs Boyd: You have to accept the responsibility then for your broken promise to haemophiliacs in this province who were infected with hepatitis C through the tainted blood. You promised them, on February 11, when you finally met with them - your predecessor of course refused to meet with them - that whatever the settlement was, for sure haemophiliacs in Ontario would be fairly compensated, would be compassionately compensated for the pain and suffering they are experiencing because of hepatitis C they received in tainted blood.

You've broken your word to them. You have refused to listen to them since. You won't answer phone calls, you won't see them. You have simply dropped all of your responsibility at the door. There are not a great number of them. Where is your compassion and where is your commitment to these people that you made directly?

Hon Mrs Witmer: To set the record straight, I think it's important to take into consideration the fact that when the discussions regarding the package of assistance began, there was no indication that there would be support for haemophiliacs. Actually, it was this province that indicated that there was a need to include haemophiliacs in the final package. I had indicated to them at a meeting that we would certainly bring forward that point of view, and I'm pleased to say that Ontario did take a leadership role in ensuring that the haemophiliacs would be included in the final assistance package, and they have been.

Furthermore, with regard to requests for meetings, there have been ongoing meetings by those groups of individuals with the ministry staff and with my own personal staff as well.

ONTARIO ECONOMY

Mr Joseph Spina (Brampton North): My question is for the Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism. I read with great interest today Ms Leatherdale's article in the Toronto Sun. According to that article, Canada's senior investment managers were polled and 81% of them ranked Ontario as the best place in the country to invest. They obviously used some rationale, some research behind that poll. What hard evidence do you have that Ontario is the best place to live, work and invest?

Interjections.

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

Hon Al Palladini (Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism): I would like to thank the member for Brampton North for the question. The Fraser Institute survey just confirms what we already know, that Ontario is booming. Private forecasters such as the Conference Board, Toronto-Dominion Bank and Bank of Montreal are all projecting Ontario to become one of the fastest-growing economies in Canada over the next year. In the last four months alone, over 80,000 net new private sector jobs were created. Ontario's job gains represent over two thirds of the jobs that have been created in Canada, although Ontario only has one third of the population.

Our plan is working, and getting the deficit under control, eliminating red tape and cutting taxes has gotten our province's economy going again. The proof is in the numbers, the job numbers.

Mr Spina: Out of that two thirds that you talked about, I am seeing in my own riding some evidence of this change that our government has brought into place. In my own riding, Chrysler Canada will be bringing on its third shift at the end of next month. That's 1,000 more CAW men and women who will be working and contributing to the economy of our province.

What are you doing to help ensure that Ontario will continue to be the leader in attracting these quality new investments in our province?

Hon Mr Palladini: Our government is 100% committed to making sure that Ontario is first in the minds of all potential investors. Our ministry is constantly generating leads and promoting Ontario's improved business climate to investors, not only here but also abroad.

Last Friday I had the pleasure of attending a groundbreaking ceremony where Showa Corp of Japan is installing a plant up in Schomberg Ontario which eventually will employ 80 people.

In the fall, Honda will open up its new expansion project, creating an additional 1,200 jobs in Ontario. Places like S&P Data Corp will hire 500 new people for a call centre in St Catharines. In London, Philips Lighting is going to hire an additional 75 people because of their expansion project.

Finally, I want to say to my colleagues in the House that if I have to get on a plane, on a train, on a bus, I will go wherever it's going to take me to bring investment to Ontario.

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TUITION FEES

Mr David Caplan (Oriole): My question is for the Minister of Education and Training. In December's financial statement, your colleague the Minister of Finance announced a policy that we fundamentally disagree with. He announced the government's intention to allow the deregulation of tuition for professional and graduate programs, starting September 1998. To date, there has been no announcement from your ministry as to which programs are going to be deregulated and how much tuitions are going to rise.

Students are registering now for programs that start in the fall. Their hands are tied because they can't anticipate tuition fees that they will be expected to pay. In an April 18 article in the Globe and Mail you were quoted as saying that you didn't have a particular time frame for announcing the parameters. Minister, how long do you think students, and quite frankly colleges and universities, should have to wait for you to get your act together? Come on. Come clean with us today. Isn't this just another funding formula fiasco?

Hon David Johnson (Minister of Education and Training): What this is all about is looking at increased opportunities for our young people in our post-secondary institutions, in our colleges, in our universities. There's any amount of evidence, for example, that in certain areas, such as electrical engineering, computer science, computer engineering, there is a great shortage of opportunity, that in the real world there are many openings, many opportunities. The private sector would like to hire more computer scientists, more electrical engineers, but they can't find the opportunities through the post-secondary institutions.

We are working very closely with the colleges, with the universities, to look at a program that will allow for more opportunities for our young people. At the same time, I will say that many of the colleges and universities -

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

Hon David Johnson: - have gone ahead, have set their fees for next year and those students know precisely what fees are in order.

Mr Caplan: You're completely out of touch because your answer is not even close. We have to be concerned. Students need to know what tuition fees will be for the programs they plan to start in September. What do you plan to do? Sandbag them in August with the news that you finally decided what fees they're going to pay, that they're going to double or triple?

Come on. Don't you think this should be announced prior to the budget? You know that this decision is going to have an impact on OSAP dollars for this fiscal year. Your lack of concern is irresponsible and yet is another indication of a lack of commitment and a lack of interest by your government towards our post-secondary institutions and towards students. I've got to ask you again, Minister, when will you give our institutions, especially our students, the information that they need and that they deserve?

Hon David Johnson: We are today dealing with a funding arrangement that essentially has been passed through from a Liberal government to an NDP government to this particular government. We are trying to make sense out of this arrangement. We are trying to increase the number of opportunities for our young people. We're working very hard on that. We are working with the colleges, we are working with the universities.

I believe there's great room for improvement. I believe there is an initiative that can come forward which will allow for more opportunities in the particular persuasions that I've mentioned, particularly electrical engineering and computer science. We have given the universities and the colleges the latitude to increase -

The Speaker: Answer, please.

Hon David Johnson: - five and five this upcoming year, five and five the year after that, provided they improve the quality of the education experience at our post-secondary institutions.

CHILD WELFARE

Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-Woodbine): My question is to the Minister of Community and Social Services with respect to concern about the state of your welfare reforms. Children's service advocates, including the Ontario Association of Children's Aid Societies, are asking a couple of pretty blunt questions. They want to know, first of all, why has there been a delay in releasing the report of Judge Mary Jane Hatton and the expert panel reviewing the Child and Family Services Act, consultant Barry Lewis on the ministry's accountability for child welfare and the review of 3,000 case files. Second, why was there not one mention of this government's commitment to improving child welfare in the throne speech?

Hon Janet Ecker (Minister of Community and Social Services): First of all, regarding the throne speech, one of the strong messages that we have been hearing from child experts is that in order to prevent families and children from ending up at the door of a children's aid society, we must have more supports, more intervention and prevention programs to catch the problems earlier, if you will. That's one of the reasons we have increased spending in the intervention-prevention area.

Our Healthy Babies, Healthy Children program, as I mentioned earlier, is one where, through public health units, we will be screening newborns to try and identify them at that particular time so that we can get the supports to that family then. I think that's one important thing to try and prevent people from ending up at the child welfare door.

Second, there has been no delay in releasing the reports. Those reports will be released. That has been our indication since we first commissioned them. But I think it's also important to note that they're all interrelated because they're looking at different things and -

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Supplementary.

Ms Lankin: Minister, in fact word on the street is that the child advocates' report, which is going to be released tomorrow, has been held up for over a month by your ministry's failure to respond and holding things up and holding up responses. Second, we've got the Ontario Child Mortality Task Force Recommendation: A Progress Report, released today. So the two outside reports in outside independent agencies' hands have been released. The three reports that your ministry has been sitting on are necessary to complete the picture.

Minister, will you give us a commitment today that you will table those three reports in this Legislature tomorrow so that we have the full picture and are able to judge what progress is or isn't being made with respect to child welfare?

We fully support any initiative that gets that prevention. But you know, there are some kids who are at the child welfare door now and they are being put at risk by the cuts your government has made. The associations themselves have indicated that the funds that were announced in last year's budget go nowhere near replacing the 455 staff that were cut.

The Speaker: Question.

Ms Lankin: Kids are at risk because of your government's actions. Will you table those reports? Will you restore those budgets and staff to the agencies?

Hon Mrs Ecker: Again, it has been our intention and it will be our intention that those reports will be released publicly as soon as we are ready to do that, after we have gotten some very good answers and some policy work in place to respond to those recommendations.

Second, what we are doing to fix the child welfare system, there is no secret about that. We have announced those steps as they have been made: everything from the new money, which has meant over 200 new front-line staff; the new risk assessment process, and the training is occurring even as we speak for those many front-line workers; trying to improve the education that those child welfare workers get; the review of the legislation. We know we need to change that. There's a whole range of steps that we have taken and will continue to take.

It's interesting that the report that was released today by the child mortality task force talks about the progress that is made.

The final point is we do not control the timing of reports or of anything that the child advocates office may wish to do.

SCHOOL CURRICULUM

Mr Bert Johnson (Perth): My question is for the Minister of Education and Training. Many dedicated teachers have expressed concerns to me about the course of study for their students. Employers I speak with tell me they need workers with an excellent command of the English language as well as a solid background in science and math. However, many of the recent graduates they interview do not meet the standards set by these firms. What is our government doing to help students meet these standards?

Hon David Johnson (Minister of Education and Training): I thank the member for Perth for this question. This is a concern for the curriculum of parents and employers and students, I might say. In particular, our students do not accomplish, I think on national and international tests, what our parents hope that they might be able to accomplish.

I am pleased that this government has moved forward with regard to curriculum improvement at the elementary level: the language curriculum last fall with more rigour; the literacy test, which has been announced for the secondary school; the mathematics curriculum has been announced and implemented last fall at the elementary level, a program which used the excellent mathematics programs from the western provinces - BC, Alberta, Manitoba, Saskatchewan - and was implemented with specific expectations in mathematics at each grade and a consistency right across the province; finally, the science and technology curriculum, which I'm very proud of, which we released very recently.

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Mr Bert Johnson: Minister, I don't think that math and language have changed very much since I was in school, but advances in science and technology have been phenomenal. How is the new science and technology curriculum an improvement over previous versions?

Hon David Johnson: I don't know precisely how much math and language have changed, but I know that science and technology have changed, particularly the technology component. The science component has been updated. For the first time in 30 years we have a new science curriculum, which was recently announced, and for the first time ever we have a technology curriculum which has been announced and which will be in place this fall at the elementary level with specific expectations at every grade - grade 1 right through grade 8.

We have an earth and space component which for the first time will teach our young people about astronomy and soils and minerals and all the other components of earth and space. The students will learn about the theory, which is the science, and they'll learn about the practical applications which pertain to technology.

I want to thank York University and the 17 school boards. They did a fabulous job on the science and technology curriculum.

MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES

Mr Frank Miclash (Kenora): My question is to the Minister of Health. Let me quote from your throne speech of last week. You indicated, "People who work hard and pay taxes - or who have settled into retirement after a lifetime of doing the same - demand that government guarantee health care that is not only modern but available...."

Minister, I have a great number of constituents in my riding wanting to know why they are spending time in jail rather than a hospital bed. You will know that psychiatric patients needing health care after 5 o'clock in the evening during the weekdays or on weekends are being put in jail rather than into a hospital bed. How can this be, when you've indicated that the government is not only guaranteeing health care, but health care that is modern and available? How can you say that to my constituents who are spending time in jail rather than in a hospital bed?

Hon Elizabeth Witmer (Minister of Health): We certainly had recognized several months ago that the mental health strategy in the province of Ontario needed to be reviewed, based on those type of situations and certainly other concerns that had been brought to our attention.

I asked the parliamentary assistant, Dan Newman, to do a review of the mental health strategy. There were consultations held with hundreds of people throughout the province. There were submissions that were received by Mr Newman and we are now in the position that we will be announcing the results of those deliberations. We will be indicating where we plan to go in the area of mental health reform and we will be making announcements to ensure that the appropriate level of service can be provided to those individuals, that the appropriate community support will be there and also the appropriate care providers. We hope to very soon be making announcements regarding the mental health strategy.

Mr Miclash: This issue has been going on since last February. Very soon is not soon enough for patients who are spending their evenings, their weekends in jail when they should be in a bed in one of our hospitals in today's Ontario. Minister, you just don't get it. We don't need another study; we don't need a report on this. I need your commitment today to ensure that we will reintroduce these services so I don't have to go home and face families who have had family members locked up in jail rather than where they belong - in a psychiatric unit in northwestern Ontario. Minister, can I have that commitment from you, to turn this around, and for immediate action so that this weekend we will not see psychiatric patients locked up in the jails of northwestern Ontario?

Hon Mrs Witmer: I'm aware of the situation that is faced and I would indicate to you that I will make sure that ministry staff are instructed to investigate and make whatever arrangements they can as quickly as possible.

PETITIONS

CONDITION D'UNE ÉCOLE

M. Gilles E. Morin (Carleton-Est) : J'ai une pétition présentée par 441 représentants de ma circonscription, et elle se lit comme suit :

«À l'Assemblée législative de l'Ontario :

«Attendu que le bâtiment vétuste de 43 ans occupé par l'école Nouveaux-Horizons depuis six ans devait être temporaire et avait été condamné en 1983 ;

«Attendu qu'il n'y a aucun gymnase et que des déficiences majeures existent dans la bibliothèque, la salle d'ordinateurs, la salle d'art et la salle de musique ;

«Nous, les soussignés, pétitionnons l'Assemblée législative de l'Ontario comme suit :

«De libérer des fonds pour permettre la construction d'une nouvelle école catholique française à Gloucester dans le secteur de Chapel Hill.»

J'y appose ma signature.

CHIROPRACTIC HEALTH CARE

Mr Wayne Lessard (Windsor-Riverside): I have a petition to the Ontario Legislature, to Premier Mike Harris and also to Health Minister Elizabeth Witmer:

"Whereas the Ministry of Health has recently strengthened its reputation as the ministry of medicine through its $1.7-billion three-year agreement with the Ontario Medical Association; and

"Whereas the Mike Harris government is restricting access to alternative cost-saving treatments for patients of the province; and

"Whereas two recent reports commissioned by the Ministry of Health called for increased OHIP funding to improve patient access to chiropractic services, on the grounds of safety, effectiveness and cost-effectiveness; and

"Whereas over one million Ontario adults now use chiropractic services annually, increasingly those with higher incomes because of the cost barrier caused by government underfunding; and

"Whereas the Mike Harris government has shown blatant disregard for the needs of the citizens of Ontario in restricting funding for chiropractic services;

"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly to recognize the contribution made by chiropractors to the good health of the people of Ontario, to recognize the taxpayer dollars saved by the use of low-cost preventive care such as that provided by chiropractors, and to recognize that to restrict funding for chiropractic health care only serves to limit access to a needed health care service."

I've signed my name, along with Dr Madeline Crnek, a chiropractor in Windsor, to this petition.

STATUS OF BILL 119

Mrs Julia Munro (Durham-York): I have a petition addressed to the Legislature. It reads as follows:

"Being that Bill 119, the proposed Red Tape Reduction Act, 1997, was not introduced prior to the end of the last sitting of the Ontario Legislature;

"Being that the act's aim was to reduce red tape by amending or appealing certain statutes administered by the Ministry of Natural Resources, especially in relation to the Conservation Authorities Act;

"Being that the contents of the bill are of vital importance to the operations of conservation authorities across Ontario;

"Be it resolved that the undersigned petition the Legislature that the aims, principles, purposes and contents of the proposed Bill 119 be reintroduced into this House in this session in the appropriate manner at the Ministry of Natural Resources's earliest convenience."

I affix my signature to this.

MUNICIPAL RESTRUCTURING

Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): This petition is most appropriate, with two municipal representatives from Niagara in the members' gallery. It reads as follows, signed by a large number of people:

"Whereas the Mike Harris government has announced its intention of dumping the financing for ambulances, social housing and public health care services on to the backs of municipalities; and

"Whereas this irresponsible action will create a shortfall of more than $42 million for local governments in St Catharines and the Niagara region; and

"Whereas local representatives in St Catharines and the Niagara region will be forced to either raise property taxes by as much as $200 per household or cut services; and

"Whereas Mike Harris called municipal representatives `whiners' when they tried to explain to him that his proposal was unfair and would create gaps in important services such as the delivery of public health care; and

"Whereas the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing accused local representatives of being opportunistic simply because they attempted to point out that the Mike Harris proposal was unfair and primarily designed to fund his ill-advised tax scheme; and

"Whereas the Harris government refuses to listen to the representatives who work most closely with their constituents;

"We, the undersigned, call on the Mike Harris government to scrap its downloading plan, which will cause either an increase in property taxes or an unacceptable cut to important services."

I affix my signature to the many signatures that are on this petition from the Niagara region.

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OCCUPATIONAL HEALTH AND SAFETY

Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): I present to the Legislature a petition forwarded to me by Cec Makowski, administrative vice-president of the Ontario region of the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada, signed by many of their members in the Hamilton and surrounding areas.

"Whereas approximately 300 workers are killed on the job each year and 400,000 suffer work-related injuries and illnesses; and

"Whereas the government of Ontario continues to allow a massive erosion of WCB prevention funding; and

"Whereas Ontario workers are fearful that the government of Ontario, through its recent initiatives, is threatening to dismantle workers' clinics and the Workers' Health and Safety Centre; and

"Whereas the workers' clinics and the Workers' Health and Safety Centre have consistently provided a meaningful role for labour within the health and safety prevention system; and

"Whereas the workers' clinics and the Workers' Health and Safety Centre have proven to be the most cost-effective prevention organizations funded by the WCB;

"Therefore we, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to immediately cease the assault on the workers' clinics and the Workers' Health and Safety Centre; and

"Further, we, the undersigned, call upon the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to ensure that the workers' clinics and the Workers' Health and Safety Centre remain labour-driven organizations, with full and equitable WCB funding, and that the WCB provide adequate prevention funding to eliminate workplace illness and injury."

On this national day of mourning for workers injured and dying on the job, I hope that government members have listened to the plea of these workers.

ABORTION

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

"Whereas the Ontario health system is overburdened and unnecessary spending must be cut; and

"Whereas pregnancy is not a disease, injury or illness and abortions are not therapeutic procedures; and

"Whereas the vast majority of abortions are done for reasons of convenience or finance; and

"Whereas the province of Ontario has exclusive authority to determine what service will be insured; and

"Whereas the Canada Health Act does not require funding for elective procedures; and

"Whereas there is mounting evidence that abortion is in fact hazardous to women's health; and

"Whereas Ontario taxpayers funded over 45,000 abortions in 1993 at an estimated cost of $25 million;

"Therefore we, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to cease from providing any taxpayers' dollars for performing of abortions."

This is signed by about 1,530 people on 54 pages from my riding and close by, and I'll sign it too.

CHIROPRACTIC HEALTH CARE

Mr Bruce Crozier (Essex South): I have a petition to the Ontario Legislature addressed to Premier Mike Harris, Health Minister Elizabeth Witmer and members of the Ontario Legislature.

"Whereas the Ministry of Health has recently strengthened its reputation as the ministry of medicine through its $1.7-billion three-year agreement with the Ontario Medical Association; and

"Whereas the Mike Harris government is restricting access to alternative, cost-saving treatments for patients of the province; and

"Whereas two recent reports commissioned by the Ministry of Health called for increased OHIP funding to improve patient access to chiropractic services, on the grounds of safety, effectiveness and cost-effectiveness; and

"Whereas over one million Ontario adults now use chiropractic services annually, increasingly those with higher incomes because of the cost barrier caused by government underfunding; and

"Whereas the Mike Harris government has shown blatant disregard for the needs of the citizens of Ontario in restricting funding for chiropractic services;

"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to recognize the contribution made by chiropractors to the good health of the people of Ontario, to recognize the taxpayer dollars saved by the use of low-cost preventive care such as that provided by chiropractors, and to recognize that to restrict funding for chiropractic health care only serves to limit access to a needed health care service."

I submit this petition on their behalf.

OCCUPATIONAL HEALTH AND SAFETY

Mr Wayne Lessard (Windsor-Riverside): I have a petition that is especially fitting today, the day of mourning. It's with respect to Workers' Health and Safety Centre clinics.

"Whereas approximately 300 workers are killed on the job each year and 400,000 suffer work-related injuries and illnesses; and

"Whereas the government of Ontario continues to allow a massive erosion of WCB prevention funding; and

"Whereas Ontario workers are fearful that the government of Ontario, through its recent initiatives, is threatening to dismantle workers' clinics and the Workers' Health and Safety Centre; and

"Whereas the workers' clinics and the Workers' Health and Safety Centre have consistently provided a meaningful role for labour within the health and safety prevention system; and

"Whereas the workers' clinics and the Workers' Health and Safety Centre have proven to be the most cost-effective prevention organizations funded by the WCB;

"Therefore we, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to immediately cease the assault on the workers' clinics and the Workers' Health and Safety Centre; and

"Further, we, the undersigned, call upon the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to ensure that the workers' clinics and the Workers' Health and Safety Centre remain labour-driven organizations, with full and equitable WCB funding, and that the WCB provide adequate prevention funding to eliminate workplace illness and injury."

I have added my name to that petition as well.

SCHOOL SAFETY

Mr Dan Newman (Scarborough Centre): I have a petition signed by a number of Ontarians and it reads as follows:

"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"Whereas all schools in Ontario should be safe learning and working environments; and

"Whereas all Ontarians should be assured that safe school programs are in place in all Ontario schools; and

"Whereas...a private member's bill entitled An Act to Promote Safety in Ontario Schools and Create Positive Learning Environments for Ontario Students, 1998; and

"Whereas" this "bill will:

"Require all boards in Ontario to design and implement school safety programs, school codes of conduct, and anti-vandalism policies;

"Provide for effective early intervention strategies by requiring boards to design and implement anti-bullying policies and by providing boards with the ability to direct psychological assessments of students that they believe are at risk;

"Provide a provincial violence and weapons-free schools policy and allow boards the ability to exclude violent students from regular classroom settings;

"Give police the tools they need by creating a new provincial offence for trespassing on school property and backing it up with real consequences;

"Direct all boards in Ontario to design and implement alternative education programs for suspended and excluded students;

"Require parents to be liable for any damage done to school property by their children; and

"Protect teachers and staff from civil liability;

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

"To pass into law" the "Safe Schools Act as quickly as possible."

I have affixed my name to this petition because it is a worthy one.

ABORTION

Mr Jean-Marc Lalonde (Prescott and Russell): J'ai ici une pétition qui provient de plusieurs municipalités de Prescott et Russell :

"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"Whereas the Ontario health system is overburdened and unnecessary spending must be cut; and

"Whereas pregnancy is not a disease, injury or illness and abortions are not therapeutic procedures; and

"Whereas the vast majority of abortions are done for reasons of convenience or finance; and

"Whereas the province has exclusive authority to determine what services will be insured; and

"Whereas the Canada Health Act does not require funding for elective procedures; and

"Whereas there is mounting evidence that abortion is in fact hazardous to women's health; and

"Whereas Ontario taxpayers funded over 45,000 abortions in 1993 at an estimated cost of $25 million;

"Therefore we, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to cease from providing any taxpayers' dollars for the performance of abortions."

OCCUPATIONAL HEALTH AND SAFETY

Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): A petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.

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

"Whereas the Workers' Health and Safety Centre has provided such services on behalf of workers for many years; and

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

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

"Further, we, the undersigned, demand that the education and training of Ontario workers continue in its present form through the Workers' Health and Safety Centre."

I proudly add my name to those of these workers.

UNITED EMPIRE LOYALISTS

Mr Harry Danford (Hastings-Peterborough): "Whereas it is important to recognize the important role that the United Empire Loyalists have played and their descendants continue to play in our province's history and development; and

"Whereas the multicultural Loyalist heritage is one that belongs to all citizens of Ontario; and

"Whereas the passage into law of private member's Bill Pr150, An Act proclaiming United Empire Loyalists' Day, establishes June 19 of every year as a day to celebrate that heritage and to acknowledge the ongoing contributions that the descendants of the Loyalists continue to make to Ontario society;

"Therefore we, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly as follows:

"That the government of Ontario ensure that a suitable learning unit on the United Empire Loyalists be included in the history curriculum for Ontario schools."

I affix my signature as well.

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ACCESS TO LEGISLATIVE BUILDING

Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): On a point of privilege, Madam Speaker: Around the building, we have a number of signs which prevent the public from having access to certain parts of the building. It's my understanding, and you may know about this, that there was a committee of the three parties which was involved in the development of this particular policy.

Interjections.

The Deputy Speaker (Ms Marilyn Churley): Order, please. I need to hear the point of privilege.

Mr Bradley: What has happened as a result is that everywhere you go in this building now the public, whom you and I represent, the good people of Riverdale, the good people of St Catharines, and of all the ridings in the Niagara Peninsula -

Ms Annamarie Castrilli (Downsview): The people of Downsview.

Mr Bradley: - Downsview included, people who try to get around this building, if they go on the third floor, second floor or first floor, even where they come in one of the doors, what happens is that they are confronted with a sign that says "Staff Only," even in our library, which you know to be something we should be very proud of, and those various signs on the walls, the lovely maps on the walls and so on. I hope you will investigate that.

The Deputy Speaker: Member for St Catharines, thank you very much for your point of privilege, but it is not a point of privilege. Perhaps I'll recommend that you take it up with the Speaker later. Now, moving on, orders of the day.

Hon David Johnson (Minister of Education and Training): I want to pay tribute to the member for St Catharines for that very excellent stall, but we would have granted you a recess, if you had just asked, until the leader came.

ORDERS OF THE DAY

THRONE SPEECH DEBATE / DÉBAT SUR LE DISCOURS DU TRÔNE

Resuming the adjourned debate on the motion for an address in reply to the speech of Her Honour the Lieutenant Governor at the opening of the session.

Hon David Johnson (Minister of Education and Training): I understand that we do have consent not to run the clock, as a courtesy to the leaders of the official opposition and the third party.

The Deputy Speaker (Ms Marilyn Churley): Agreed? Agreed. Leader of the Opposition.

Mr Dalton McGuinty (Leader of the Opposition): Thank you very much, Madam Speaker. May I at the outset, before I join this debate, also thank my capable House leader for his usual highly expert strategies in terms of helping us move things along and for ensuring I could be present here to participate in this debate. I think it's a good opportunity for us to review the government record, during my response to the throne speech, and to outline some of what we stand for here as members of the Ontario Liberal Party.

The first thing we should look back at is what has happened during the past four months when this House was not sitting. The clock obviously didn't come to a standstill. Things continued to unfold in Mike Harris's Ontario.

First of all, with respect to health care, we can see that both health care and patient care have continued to deteriorate in Ontario. Let's put it this way: I don't think there are many Ontarians left today who have not been touched by the cold hand of Mike Harris when it comes to health care in our province. There just aren't many people left who haven't got some kind of a story to tell about a neighbour or your mom's neighbour or someone within your own immediate family, somebody who has gone to a hospital and found there was this long waiting line at the emergency ward. They've heard about ambulances that were forced to bypass the emergency ward because it was too crowded. They've heard about how long it took to get treatment. They've heard about people who have been stacked up in hospital corridors because there weren't enough beds inside the hospital because of the cuts Mike Harris has made to hospital budgets.

We've had the unfortunate responsibility here in opposition to raise questions in the Legislature before the House recessed, and we will continue to do so from here on in, about people who have been caught short by Mike Harris's health care. We've had the responsibility to raise the case of a man who actually died after waiting for hours in a hospital corridor for a cardiac bed.

The government has tried to make light of this. They said that the problem was connected with some seasonal fluctuations, that apparently every once in a while, I guess on kind of a regular basis, we see a greater increase in demand for hospital services, especially at the emergency wards. You know what? We have now heard from many other experts who tell us that this isn't just a case of a seasonal fluctuation; it's not a case of more people suffering from the common cold or the flu. The patient care crisis we are living right now in Ontario is a direct result of hospital cuts, cuts by Mike Harris to our hospital budgets, and Ontarians understand that.

We should also look at what has happened to education in Ontario. We should look at the impact of cuts in that sector as well. We are now experiencing the death of adult education programs throughout the province. They have now caught up with Toronto and Ottawa, which were saved from it until the new funding formula kicked in. There are thousands and thousands of adults, especially young adults, 21 years of age, who said to themselves: "I've got my grade 9 and I can't make it, I can't get a job, unless I pull myself up by my own bootstraps, so I'm going on to high school. I want to complete my high schooling." What has the Premier done? What has Mike Harris done? He set up a funding formula that has shut them out of their classrooms.

We have also had, to date, 60,000 four-year-old children who have been deprived of junior kindergarten, and the jury has been in on this thing for a long time. Everybody understands that junior kindergarten is absolutely essential in a knowledge-based global economy. When our kids have junior kindergarten, they simply are better prepared to learn in the other grades, and they happen to do better in primary, secondary, college and university. For any out there who might think junior kindergarten is some kind of fancy baby-sitting, I want them to take that notion and throw it out of their minds. It's absolutely essential.

You know what? I was proud of the fact that the Ontario Chamber of Commerce, a few weeks back, came to Queen's Park and pleaded with Mike Harris to fund junior kindergarten. Even business understands that if you're going to cut it in this competitive world, you've got to have a highly skilled and educated workforce, which means you've got to have top-quality education, which means you've got to start with junior kindergarten. We're losing junior kindergarten in Ontario today.

Just take a look at what has happened to our universities. We have continued to experience tremendous difficulties there too. Over the last two years in North America, every other jurisdiction throughout the States and Canada has increased funding to the universities. What did we do in Ontario? We cut funding by 15%. On the other hand, we're allowing tuition fees to increase by 60%. In fact, the Premier has talked about deregulating tuition fees, so we have students who could be looking 100%, 200% and 300% increases in their tuition.

Let's for a moment pull back a little bit. Whenever any young person who has the ability to do so does not pursue post-secondary studies in our province, that is a loss to that student and that is a loss to every one of us. It's in our self-interest that every young person who can, does pursue post-secondary studies.

We've got students today who are telling us they're suffering from what we call sticker shock. That's where the price of whatever it is you're buying is so great that it deters you from making the purchase and even properly considering it. We have young people in Ontario today who are saying to themselves, "I really would like to go on to university," or "I'd like to go on to college," and it's especially tough for young people who don't have a university or college in their home town and they've got to travel and they've got to find accommodation, pay the rent and the food and the travel and all the expenses associated with going to school out of town.

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Those young people are now looking at what has happened to other young people. They're saying: "Well, hang on a sec. I hear that you're graduating from university now with a debt of, on average, $25,000." They're saying: "That frightens me. That notion frightens me, of graduating from university and not getting a job and, furthermore, having a debt of $25,000." It seems to me that in this great province of ours we can do better, to ensure that our young people can find that they can afford university, that it's accessible to them, and that they've got a province that's partnering with them by making the appropriate investments in post-secondary education.

What about Mike Harris's broken property tax promise? That has threatened thousands of small businesses. The Common Sense Revolution promised that Mike Harris wouldn't raise property taxes, but then he unleashed a new scheme on the province that had a real, devastating impact here in Toronto. Thousands of small business people had to take to the streets to plead with the Taxcutter to not raise their taxes: their business taxes, their property taxes. We're talking about doubling, tripling and quadrupling their taxes. This would put these people out of business.

Ironically, the hardest hit weren't the people in the downtown bank towers. It was the equivalent of those businesses located on main streets throughout Ontario: small mom-and-pop operations with three, four, five or maybe six employees; people who had invested all of their lives and their energy into building up a business. Suddenly we've got a government that is supposed to be pro-business, a government that is supposed to cut taxes, a government that is supposed to understand and identify with the special challenges before a small business in Ontario, and what does this friendly government do? This friendly government says, "Your property taxes are going up by 300%, 400% and 500%, and I don't care about the consequences."

They're given a bit of a reprieve right now by the government. There's going to be a cap on them. But what after three years? How much comfort does that cap lend our small businesses in Ontario? They've got a cap for three years and no promises beyond that. Owners of those small businesses understand what we in my party understand: It's just a ploy to delay the problem until after the next election. That's all it is.

The other thing that has happened during the past four months is that Mike Harris's war on the poor has continued. I think that's a very appropriate and apt expression of what's going on. This government is waging a war on our most vulnerable, especially on our poor. Perhaps we never understood that any better than when the Premier said he was going to stop funding that special food supplement for expectant mothers who find themselves on welfare because he thought they were going to put it into beer. Our Premier, of this, the greatest province in the most blessed country on the planet, actually said that you can't trust mothers to do the right thing for their kids. That's what he's saying.

I have talked about it - if I've talked about it once, I've talked about it a hundred times: You spend a dollar up front, you save $7 down the line, when it comes to making sure kids get a good start in life. Low-birthweight babies - and it just happens that in this great province of ours, that Mike Harris tells us is on the verge of an economic boom, the number of premature babies is skyrocketing. You'd think this was a Third World country. Kids who are being born prematurely because they haven't had the proper nourishment are on the increase in Ontario.

Do you know what it costs to treat a premature baby? At least $100,000, in most cases, at least $100,000 when it comes to their medical costs. Kids who are born prematurely also tend to have lifelong problems, in particular lifelong learning problems. So they end up dropping out of school, they end up having difficulty keeping a job, they end up on social assistance, and in many cases, unfortunately, they end up having trouble with the law. You spend a dollar up front, you save $7 down the line. You spend $37 every month to help expectant mothers who find themselves on welfare eat properly, you're saving a lot of money down the road.

Perhaps something else that we should understand, what this tells us is that Mike Harris somehow thinks that the poor are different from the rest of us. What he doesn't get is that but for fate, we would be the poor and they would be us; but for fate, we would be the disabled and they would be us; but for fate, we would be the sick and they would be us; we would be the homeless and they would be us, and so on and so on. The people of this province didn't elect the Premier just for the healthy and wealthy. He was elected as a Premier for all Ontarians.

What I'm asking the people of Ontario to do now is to understand what happened at the time of the delivery of the throne speech. We had some very skilled writers, wordsmiths, who sat down and worked long and hard to select the right words and then put them in the right sequence to create the impression that this government is genuinely intent on listening, that this government genuinely cares and that this government can be trusted.

My words of advice to the people of this province are, take a look at this guy's record. This leopard cannot change his spots. We know where he's been and we know what he's done. Take a look at what he's done to health care. Take a look at what he's done to education. Take a look at how he has made it harder for kids in Ontario to get the kind of start they need in life to find success. That's all they've got to do. The record is there and it speaks for itself.

Something else about this Premier that we have right now: You notice, he's the kind of guy who divides. He attacks; he pits one group against another. I've had the opportunity to travel this province on an ongoing basis since becoming leader, and everywhere I go I learn about one hospital fighting against another hospital, I learn about one school board fighting against another school board, I learn about one community fighting against another community.

I was up north and I heard about the public health officer who's fighting with the representatives of the local municipality, saying, "I need to have enough money to implement these programs." The locally elected officials were saying on the other hand: "But that's not what we were sent here for. Those weren't election issues." That kind of a debate, that kind of conflict has been set up by this Premier and he derives his strength from the fact that so many of us seem to be fighting with one another. I think it's important for all of us to understand that if we are going to put this guy out of office, we're going to have to pull together.

I think people now understand. Mike Harris is going to put on a new mask and it's one of those that has a kind of a permanent smile. People can see beyond that mask and they know that when he ran, remember, he didn't say at the time of the election, "I'm running to become your Premier because I care about your health care." He didn't say that. He didn't say, "I'm running to become your Premier because I really care about education for our kids." He didn't say, "I'm running to become your Premier because I really, really care about the disabled, about the elderly, about our sick, about our poor, about our young." He didn't say that. What he said was, "I care about the size of government and, come hell or high water, I will cut it down to size, and if people are hurt along the way, well then, so be it."

You see, for this guy there's just one bottom line. That's just the numbers; that's just the dollars. I want the people of the province to understand that there is an alternative. It's the Liberal alternative. We believe that government has a responsibility, not only to look after the dollars but to look after people. We believe that there is more than one bottom line.

We don't just speak in terms of a financial deficit. We talk about the human deficit and we ask ourselves all of the time: How well is our government treating people in the dawn of life, our kids? How well is our government treating people in the dusk of life, our parents? And how well is government treating people in the shadows of life, our sick, our poor and our disabled? We think those are important questions to be asked of government. We think that test ought to be applied to all governments, including this one, and that's the kind of test we would apply to ourselves.

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Something else that the government is intent on creating the impression of is that it's listening. This from the guy who has staked his reputation on not listening. He told people from the outset: "You give me the job and nobody's going to stand in my way. Nobody is going to stand in my way." He doesn't even listen to his own backbenchers, people found within his own caucus. We heard criticisms once again today and yesterday by members of his own caucus, criticizing the Premier, saying that he has hung the Solicitor General out to dry.

This is not an unusual thing, Madam Speaker, and you will know this, for us here during the time of this Mike Harris government, to hear of his own backbenchers who stand up, go outside, speak with the media and criticize the very actions of their own government. He doesn't listen to his own backbenchers. He hasn't listened to the nurses who have been telling us for a long, long time now that health care cuts are hurting patients in Ontario. He hasn't listened to the families of patients.

I am off to London tomorrow and in London - I'm not sure how many people are living in the city of London, but I think 250,000 people have signed a petition there. I don't think there are that many more people living there. I think virtually everybody in the city of London has signed a petition directed to this government. These are individually signed petition cards and that petition is saying: "Mike Harris, your health care cuts are hurting patient care in our community. Our people are getting hurt as a result of what you're doing to health care."

He's not listening to families and he refuses to listen to the thousands of people who work and volunteer to help our kids in Ontario. We had something unprecedented take place here a couple of weeks ago. We have an advertising campaign put together by the United Way and a number of other agencies that are interested in children. It's called the Campaign Against Child Poverty. They've got a very effective campaign under way. It says: "We're getting a tax reduction. He's paying for it. So will we."

We've got people now who understand implicitly that we've got a couple of choices when it comes to kids in Ontario. Get them off to the right start and you end up with somebody you'd like to have living next door to you; or ignore their needs and stand back and watch out when these kids grow up and they feel they've been deprived of hope, they feel they've been deprived of opportunity and they feel the rules have been stacked against them.

The other thing, of course, is that the Premier has refused to listen to parents and teachers when it comes to our educational needs. We've got a new funding formula in place. There was an article in the paper the other day: "The Toronto Board of Education is saying that under the terms of the new funding formula, funding available for textbooks and classroom supplies will be reduced by 31%." This is the Mike Harris Ontario. People should understand what we're getting into here. We are simply not going to be able to deliver the kind of education our kids need in order to find opportunity.

Then, of course, there were the megacity opponents. Tens of thousands of people came out and said to Mike Harris, the guy who apparently listens: "Don't proceed with your plans. We want to be involved in lending shape to our communities. Give us an opportunity." Isn't it ironic, now that Mike Harris has gone into coast mode, he's taken his foot off the accelerator, he's saying: "Now I'll listen. I've got everything I've wanted done done and now I'll listen. Come and talk to me."

If you can believe it - if you want to talk about irony that's just too delicious - we've got this guy now, Mike Harris, saying he'll introduce a referendum law. This is the guy who staked his reputation on not listening now saying, "What I will do is introduce a law that would allow you to force me to listen."

It's ridiculous. It's just too much for people to accept. It won't work. People remember the Premier's previous treatment of referenda in the province. There were all kinds of referenda connected with the megacity. Tens of thousands of people came forward, marked their ballot and said, "We will have nothing to do with your megacity." You know what the Premier said? He said: "Too bad. I'm going ahead anyway."

We've had municipalities throughout this province that have voted when it came to the issue of having a casino in their community. They clearly indicated, "We will have nothing to do with your casinos." What has the Premier said? "I have a plan to put 44 neighbourhood casinos into place in this province. I need that money and they're going to go in come hell or high water." That's what the Premier said. So we all know that the jig is up when it comes to this Premier trying to create the impression that he really does listen and that somehow passing a referendum law is going to make it all better.

Another key theme of this throne speech was trust. I think all Ontarians today understand that you can't trust this guy when it comes to health care.

He started by saying that he would never close any hospitals. He's closing 32. He said he wouldn't implement any user fees. "No new user fees." That's what the Common Sense Revolution promised. In fact he's now raising $225 million in new user fees on seniors' medicine.

Then there's this underserviced areas issue. We've got a number of communities throughout the province, some larger and some smaller, where there's a shortage of doctors. People there just can't get the kind of health care they need, that we have access to in many of our larger centres. Mike Harris said: "Don't worry. I promise you I'll fix it." You know what he said? With great fanfare he had a media event and he announced that he was going to send $36 million into those communities to fix that problem. Eighteen months later the cheque is still unsigned. People in those communities haven't received a cent. They're still at risk when it comes to getting quality health care within their own communities.

I can tell you something that we believe as Liberals and that people of this province should understand. We believe that the quality of health care that you have access to shouldn't be a function of where you live. You should have the same kind of high-quality health care regardless of where you live in Ontario. I just think that's a very important principle for us to respect.

Mike Harris said he wouldn't cut one cent from health care. He's cut $800 million from our hospitals. There are 10,000 fewer nurses available today working in our hospitals.

Last week I flew home from Toronto to Ottawa and I sat beside a nurse who was returning from England. She'd been there on a six-month contract. I said to her: "Why did you go to England? Surely there ought to be lots of work available in this province." Whenever I talk to people around the province they all tell me the same thing. They tell me that if somebody close to you is in the hospital you had better make sure that you can find the time or that somebody else can find the time to be in there to help deliver basic nursing care, because there are too few nurses in our hospitals. Knowing this, I said to her: "I can't understand. Why aren't there any jobs in Ontario?" She said, quite simply: "There are no jobs for us. We've been told we're not needed."

She told me that those friends of hers who are working here are experiencing some severe morale problems. They're under tremendous stress, not only as a result of physically being run off their feet but the stress that comes from knowing that you're not doing as good a job as you could do, from knowing that you're not doing as good a job as you should do. We can't deliver the kind of quality health care in this province today that we all know we should be delivering, because this guy, Mike Harris, is stopping us from doing it.

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I want to make this perfectly clear: Unlike Mike Harris, a government led by me will make health care a top priority. For us, health care isn't just a line in the budget. It's not a necessary evil for government. In fact, for us it's one of the very fundamental purposes of government: simply to make sure we look after our sick, so that when human bodies break down and they stop working, or when one of our people suffers injury, we have people in place and we have places in place where we can care for our sick.

This isn't some kind of an abstract concept for me. I took a year off after high school and got a job for one year as an orderly. I worked at a hospital in Ottawa called the National Defence Medical Centre. My job was very simple: It was to provide basic nursing care to First World War and Second World War veterans. My job required that I shave these men, bathe these men, brush their teeth, brush their hair, clip their nails, give them backrubs, change their diapers, treat their bedsores.

That impressed me with a couple of things I will never, ever forget. They're very strong motivators for me when it comes to government. Number one, the importance of maintaining a fundamental respect for human dignity. Secondly, the importance of always retaining both our willingness and our capacity to care for our sick.

What would I do? That's a fair question. I'll tell you what I would do if I was in charge right now. Number one, we'd stop the hospital cuts. This guy has cut too far, he's cut too deep, and it's hurting patients. You know what? On top of all that he still has left another $500 million in projected cuts dangling over our heads. He hasn't had the good sense to come forward and say, "Not only have I cut too deep, but I'm going to stop that further plan to cut even more."

The other thing we would do is we would make patients a greater priority; we would make them the priority when it comes to delivering health care in our province. It seems to me this is a government that has become overly concerned with systems and structures and reform and other such language, which makes me conclude they've lost sight of the single most important person in our health care system. Those are our patients.

The third thing I would do is I would hire more nurses. That woman I met on the plane shouldn't be flying back to England next week. We need her here. We paid for her to become a nurse. We've made that investment in her. She wants to work here, in the province where she was born and raised, with her family. This government is saying to her: "You and 9,000 others, get lost. Leave us alone. We're doing enough when it comes to health care." I can tell you, patients and their families know better.

The fourth thing I would do is I would immediately shut down Mike Harris's hospital closing commission.

Number five: I would stop the hospital closures. No hospital should be closing unless we can provide better health care by some other means. This isn't a fund-raising exercise. The purpose of our health care system is to ensure we can deliver top quality health care to all Ontarians.

Number six: We would stop the move towards a two-tier, American-style health care system. I had my first small taste of American-style health care when I visited Florida recently with my family. I brought down my four children, of course, together with my wife. It was our first time visiting the States as a family. My daughter, who is 16 years of age, was running around a pool and she got what I thought was a small sliver in her foot.

I thought it was not a big deal, but her foot began to swell up quite badly. She was experiencing a lot of pain so we thought we'd better go see a doctor. I had been told ahead of time by our insurer: "This is what you do if you run into any problems. You provide the physician, the American doctor, with a form. The doctor fills out the form and sends it to us, and that's how it works." I thought great. So I go visit the doctor, together with my daughter and my wife. My daughter's in obvious pain and we meet with the doctor. I explained the procedure to the doctor and I'll never forget what he said. He said: "These are the United States of America. You want me to treat your daughter, I'll take your travellers' cheques, I'll take your American cash or I'll take your credit card."

Those are the United States of America. This is Ontario. By cutting away at our system, hacking away at our system, what we are doing bit by bit is driving some people away from our system because if they believe they can't get top quality health care here, they will go elsewhere and so it begins. That's what happens.

When I'm talking about the development of two-tier, American-style health care in Ontario, I think there's real reason for concern when it comes to that development. Not only is quality, fully accessible health care the hallmark of a caring and compassionate society, I think what the Premier still doesn't understand as well is that it also happens to be one of our competitive advantages. The states that we happen to compare ourselves with on an ongoing basis, when we do that, business people in those other jurisdictions will tell us that one of the things we've got going for us is that it's a heck of a lot cheaper here, less expensive for an employer to have our health care system in place than it is to have the private system in place in the United States of America.

Another issue of trust - gambling. Let's spend a minute here talking about this. Mike Harris told us to trust him on the issue of gambling, and in fact one of the things that he said - just to quote him so we get the record straight - back on May 17, 1993 was: "There is no doubt that communities in Ontario will...change if a casino comes to town. It brings crime, it brings prostitution. It brings a lot of things that maybe an area didn't have before." That's a big crisis. That's what Mike Harris said before he became Premier.

During the campaign he said, "I don't want the money." He wouldn't take the money from gambling. Now what he's saying is, "I want 44 of our neighbourhoods in Ontario to take a casino." He's offering bribes and he's changing the package a little bit, tinkering here and tinkering there, but what he's saying in effect is, "I want 44 neighbourhood casinos set up throughout this province." That's what he's saying. What he's saying is: "I want $1.1 billion. I want to suck it out of Ontario communities and bring it into the provincial coffers." He's dangling charities before us and saying, "Listen, this will benefit the charities." But we know that for every $2 he's prepared to give to charities, he's going to take $8 or $9 for provincial revenues.

What we're talking about here is a Premier who has developed a serious addiction to gambling revenues. What he's doing is, he wants to institutionalize now a system whereby Ontarians in those 44 communities would go in and lose money on an ongoing basis. He needs people to go into our casinos and to lose their money. Just ask yourself for a minute, quite apart from the social problems that are caused by gambling, what kind of economic sense does it make for $1.1 billion to be sucked out of local communities and sent here to the provincial coffers? Wouldn't that money be better spent, wouldn't it be wiser to spend it on clothes for your kids, on rent, maybe buying a washer or a fridge or a stove in a local community, maybe putting a downpayment on a car from the local car dealer? Isn't that a better use of local dollars, to invest in local communities?

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There's another issue I want to touch on here when it comes to trust and that's the disabled community, one of the groups that was the most upset with the throne speech because it made no reference to them and their needs, and a campaign promise was our disabled community.

While in opposition Mike Harris made several promises to the disabled community. He promised in his Common Sense Revolution that aid to seniors and the disabled would not be cut. I can tell you, I have heard one sad story after another about people, especially on the special services at home program. These are by and large parents, and in many cases we're talking about parents in their 60s and 70s who have taken it upon themselves to keep their disabled children at home and to provide for their care. All they've asked for from the province is a little bit of help along the way. They're looking for maybe 15 or 20 hours' respite care, just a bit of a break. I can recall one gentleman 71 years of age with a 38-year-old son who was disabled. All he wanted was 20 hours a week reprieve. That's all he asked for. Do you know what the government did? They cut his 20 hours to 10 hours.

So when people out there like this notion of a tax cut in the abstract, let's understand what our parents told us. There's no free lunch. It's going to have to come from somewhere else and it's coming from the disabled community, together with many other communities.

Do you know what else Mike Harris said when it comes to the disabled community? He promised he was going to put into place an Ontarians with disabilities act. I've got the letter he signed. He specifically made that campaign promise. He repeated it more than once and he put it in writing. Now that he's in government and he has the power to honour that promise, he's breaking it, he's not living up to it.

Mike Harris likes to say he's made the tough decisions: "Nobody else was prepared to make these decisions, so I'm going to make the tough decisions." The problem is they weren't the tough decisions, they were the wrong decisions.

Taking on and smearing women who find themselves on welfare and who are pregnant isn't tough, it's mean. Playing hardball with the Dionne sisters, stepping up and saying, "It's my way or the highway," wasn't a tough decision, it was mean.

This implementation of property tax reform that has driven small business owners into the streets wasn't tough, it was incompetent. Closing hospitals with nothing to replace them, that's not a tough decision, that's a dangerous decision. Cancelling junior kindergarten, that's not tough, that's short-sighted. Cutting funding to our colleges and universities, again that's not tough, that's short-sighted.

Do you ever notice that too often with this government toughness gets in the way of doing the right things?

Do you know what? I think it's time to look towards the future. This government has put on its campaign face. I think it's important for all Ontarians to recognize that because we sure as heck do over here. They're running now and they're trying to convince us all is well in Camelot. You know what? We're going to put forward some alternatives. I've spent some considerable time talking about one in particular and I want to take a few minutes to talk about it now, because you can't talk about the future and not talk about our priorities.

Our priorities are very simple: health care, education and making sure our kids get a good start in life.

Some people, and I suspect this government, will go into the next election saying, "We want to buy you again with another tax cut," and some people have said to me, "What about another tax cut?" My response is, "Health care, education and making sure kids get a good start in life."

Others are saying: "Shouldn't the debt come first, the debt that was accumulated over previous generations? Shouldn't that be paid off as quickly as possible by this generation? Don't we have the responsibility to make the debt our number one priority?" I want to make it clear again: My priorities are health care, education and making sure kids get a good start in life.

I have also said that we will not raise taxes. I have also said that we will not take a balanced budget out of balance. We believe you can and must be both fiscally responsible and compassionate, and we intend to do that.

Everybody in this Legislature knows I have made children's issues my first priority, and those aren't just words. Earlier this year I released a children's platform called First Steps. I and my colleague Sandra Pupatello travelled the province and we were joined by many of our other colleagues along the way. We met with over 70 experts and we have released 41 comprehensive recommendations that would have the effect of improving health care, education and the safety of our kids.

From time to time in opposition we are accused of not putting forward any positive alternatives. One third of our priorities have been addressed. We have put forward 41 recommendations when it comes to making sure kids get a better start in life in Ontario. I want the public to understand that.

Here are some of the things we have talked about as important recommendations.

First of all, we think there should be 48-hour hospital care for new moms and their babies. We are finding that today in Ontario, as a result of hospital cuts, cuts made by the Premier to our hospital budgets, mothers and their newborn babies are being evicted at about the 24-hour mark. That is simply too soon. I wrote to the Minister of Community and Social Services, and do you know what she said on that point? She said that experts are telling her that 24 hours is sufficient. You know what I say? I have spoken to young mothers who have delivered babies - I call them the experts - and they tell me that 24 hours is too short a period of time and that they need to have the option of staying on for 48 hours. What we will do in government is ensure that no mother and her newborn baby can be evicted from a hospital in Ontario before the 48-hour mark.

Here's another good idea I've offered to the government, and it doesn't cost a cent. It's called family medical leave. We are finding today that people throughout this province are caught up in a struggle to juggle workplace responsibilities and responsibilities on the home front, whether it means you've got to look after a sick child at home or a dying parent.

We think there should be a law in Ontario, a law that says you shouldn't have to choose between the family you love and the job you need. That law would say that if you need to take some time to stay at home to care for a sick child or an aging and dying parent, you can do so without fear of losing your job.

There is no obligation on the part of the employer to pay. They have had a law like this on the books in the United States for five years. They have made it work. In that socialist bastion to the south of us, they have made it work. The numbers are in on this. Both employers and employees have reported that this works very well. The thing employers really find and enjoy is the fact that it has instilled in their employees a greater sense of loyalty, because suddenly you have an employer who says: "I understand what you're going through. I understand you need some time now, so you can have the time." It has worked very well there, and I think it could work just as well here. We will reserve it only for our middle-sized and larger corporations because it would just be too hard on our smaller companies. That's something we might address farther down the road, but right now we could put this into place. I'm offering this idea. It's another good idea, up to the government of the day, for them to implement. If they don't, we will.

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Junior kindergarten: I'm not sure how much more time I'm going to have to spend talking about this one. As I said earlier, even business gets this one. Business is at the forefront now. Business is saying: "Please, give us junior kindergarten, Ontario. We need it." Do you know what they do in the throne speech? They promise another study. You want a study? I did a study. It's called First Steps. There are 41 recommendations in there. One of those recommendations is you've got to fund junior kindergarten, Ontario, and you're going to have to fund it at a level that's reasonable. Right now, the government's funding it at the level of 25 students per classroom. Anybody who knows anything about four-year-olds knows that you can't take 25 of them and put them together in one classroom and expect to be able to devote any individual attention to them. It just doesn't make any sense. We would fund junior kindergarten and we would do it at a reasonable level.

Here's another good idea: education. Let's understand what we're talking about here when it comes to education. We're investing in our people. We could give a young person a lot of money. We might give them some fancy car or we could provide them with quality education. Only the last one is 100% affordable and entirely theft-proof. Only the last one will provide them with what they need to find success in this new economy.

Here are a couple of facts: Our high-tech industries in this province over the course of the next five years are going to create 56,000 jobs. That's good news. The problem is that our universities right now are only equipped to produce during that same time frame 14,000 graduates. That means we're going to have a shortfall of 42,000 jobs that will be unfilled. Every time we create one of those new jobs we create three or four spinoffs for people who know nothing about high-tech. In other words, education is the industrial strategy for this knowledge-based economy. Those with the most brain power win. Those with enough foresight to invest in their people win. There are too many people being left behind now. This is a very simple proposal.

Do you know what the private sector has offered now? They've come up with a proposal. They've made it through the Canadian Advanced Technology Association. They're saying if the government puts up $50 million to expand these programs over the next five years they will put up $270 million. I mean, that's win-win. We put up a dollar, they put up five. That's a good deal, and Mike Harris ought to have the foresight to understand that this is a winner. It's a winner for the students, it's a winner for the universities, it's a winner for the private sector and it's a winner for all those other people who would find jobs as a result of these jobs being created in the first place. There's another idea for the government to consider.

Je veux prendre un instant pour dire un couple de mots en français. J'ai eu la chance, pendant la fin de semaine, de visiter un de mes collègues, M. Jean-Marc Lalonde, le député de Prescott et Russell, là où habitent plusieurs de nos amis francophones, et j'ai eu la chance de jaser un peu avec eux, de faire un petit discours, et de mieux connaître ce qui se passe dans cette région de notre province.

Je peux vous dire, Monsieur le Président, que dans cette circonscription dans l'est de notre province, comme dans toutes les autres circonscriptions partout dans la province, ils sont inquiétés par ce que fait M. Harris à nos soins de santé, avec ce qu'il fait au niveau de l'éducation, et ils reconnaissent très bien ce que M. Harris fait en causant des dommages à nos enfants qui ont besoin d'avoir les services, la nourriture et l'amour nécessaires pour mieux grandir et devenir des adultes qui respectent la loi, qui sont capables de trouver un emploi et qui sont capables d'agir comme adultes responsables dans notre province.

The Premier's backroom boys and spin doctors want us to believe that Mike Harris has made Ontario the best jurisdiction to live in, work and raise a family. That's what he says. That's the phrase now. They're going to use it all the time. We should probably get ready to hear it over and over again. The truth of the matter is that Ontario was the best jurisdiction before Mike Harris got here and, hopefully to God, it will remain so after he has long departed from the scene.

What this guy forgets is, do you know what makes us the greatest jurisdiction in the world, the greatest province? It's our hospitals, it's our schools, it's our neighbourhoods and it's the sense of compassion that we feel for each other. It's the fact that until recently we have had leaders in this province who felt that their overall responsibility was to pull us together, to look for solutions by working with people, not by dividing us, not by pitting us against each other.

One of the things I learned at home, growing up in a family of 10 kids, was that you accomplished so much more when you pulled together. It wasn't always easy. It calls for compromise on an ongoing basis. I just happen to believe that "compromise" is not a dirty word in politics. I believe in learning from people out in the front lines, whether it's our teachers or our doctors or our nurses or our auto workers or anybody else in the province who is out there and wants to help. I think we have a responsibility to work with them, not against them; not to pit them against each other. The fact that we have looked out for each other, the fact that we've always assumed a special responsibility for our sick, our poor, our disabled, our very young and our very old, those are the things that made this province great.

In the future, we will be working very hard leading up to the campaign, and I want to assure the people of this province that we can restore greatness to Ontario, and we will do that by never, ever forgetting who sent us here, by never forgetting what we were sent to do, by never, ever forgetting the sick, the poor, the disabled, our kids and our parents.

Interjections.

The Acting Speaker (Mr Bert Johnson): Order. The Chair recognizes the member for Ottawa South.

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Mr McGuinty: I have a motion to amend the government motion on the throne speech.

I, seconded by Mr Bradley, move an amendment to the government motion on the throne speech by adding the following:

Whereas the Harris government has ignored the needs of patients and compromised patient care by firing 10,000 nurses, cutting hospital budgets by $800 million annually and threatening to close 32 community hospitals; and

Whereas the Harris government has ignored teachers, parents and students by cutting over $1 billion from our children's classrooms, forcing the elimination of programs such as junior kindergarten and adult education and continually attacked friends of public education; and

Whereas the Harris government has refused to listen to the voices of children by ignoring the need to reform the child welfare system, by reducing the benefits available to children on welfare and by failing to make children a real priority in Ontario; and

Whereas, despite promises not to open unwelcomed neighbourhood casinos, the Harris government has recklessly moved ahead to create 44 neighbourhood casinos; and

Whereas the Mike Harris government has broken its promise to not cut programs to the disabled and has done nothing to increase the access that disabled people desperately need to go to school and find jobs and to participate in our communities; and

Whereas Mike Harris holds those less fortunate in contempt and continues his personal attack on the poor and most vulnerable in Ontario;

This House profoundly regrets that the Harris government has acted on an agenda which has caused significant hardship for our youngest, our oldest, our sickest and our least fortunate in society.

I so move, Mr Speaker.

The Acting Speaker: Mr McGuinty moves, seconded by Mr Bradley, an amendment to the government motion on the throne speech by adding the following -

Interjections: Dispense.

Interjections: No.

The Acting Speaker: Whereas the Harris government has ignored the needs of patients and compromised patient care by firing 10,000 nurses, cutting hospital budgets by $800 million annually and threatening to close 32 community hospitals; and

Whereas the Harris government has ignored teachers, parents and students by cutting over $1 billion from our children's classrooms, forcing the elimination of programs such as junior kindergarten and adult education and continually attacked friends of public education; and

Whereas the Harris government has refused to listen to the voices of children by ignoring the need to reform the child welfare system, by reducing the benefits available to children on welfare and by failing to make children a real priority in Ontario; and

Whereas, despite promises not to open unwelcomed neighbourhood casinos, the Harris government has recklessly moved ahead to create 44 neighbourhood casinos; and

Whereas the Mike Harris government has broken its promise to not cut programs to the disabled and has done nothing to increase the access that disabled people desperately need to go to school and find jobs and to participate in our communities; and

Whereas Mike Harris holds those less fortunate in contempt and continues his personal attack on the poor and the most vulnerable in Ontario;

This House profoundly regrets that the Harris government has acted on an agenda which has caused significant hardship for our youngest, our oldest, our sickest and our least fortunate in society.

Mr Tony Silipo (Dovercourt): I move adjournment of the debate.

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

Hon Noble Villeneuve (Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, minister responsible for francophone affairs): May I move adjournment of the House until tomorrow?

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

This House stands adjourned until 1:30 of the clock tomorrow.

The House adjourned at 1626.

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