2 DÉCEMBRE 1998 ASSEMBLÉE LÉGISLATIVE DE L'ONTARIO
The House met at 1331.
For the past two and a half years, residents from my area have urgently requested the government to act. However, the government stalled time and time again in forcing local patients to travel to Ottawa and Kingston three times each week for treatment. It is inexcusable that the government dragged its feet for so long on the issue. This has been a life-and-death struggle for local dialysis patients.
At long last, the persistent efforts of area residents have finally paid off. However, the minister knows that the initial announcement numbers do not fully meet the needs of local patients.
I would like to thank the hundreds of Cornwall and area residents who have contacted me on this very important issue, in particular to thank the many individuals, groups and organizations in my area, like the Royal Canadian Legion and others, who offered money and supplies to get the clinic up and running.
I am pleased that the local dialysis patients will finally receive treatment closer to home, and it is thanks to the residents of the greater Cornwall area. I would like to wish Dr Posen, the staff and the patients good luck.
I'd like to read into the record some of the words of Evelyn Teft, a 69-year-old woman whose disabled husband will be one of those affected by the switch from chronic care to long-term care.
"My husband and I have lived through many government changes, both good and not so good. We, like many others, have absorbed the changes and adapted where needed. Mr Harris, you and your hospital restructuring committee have gone too far. You have accomplished what no others before you have. You have angered this average `little old lady' from Sarnia, Ontario. Your government's pursuit of the almighty dollar at any cost is the final straw."
Mrs Teft went on to say:
"I am not a politician. I'm just a very stressed-out lady who is concerned about where my husband will end up. I promised to take care of him in sickness and in health and that I will do to the best of my ability. But how does one compete with people who have no feelings? They are getting rid of the nurses who take care of these people like my husband, because they can hire unqualified help and save the almighty dollar. Will this help recognize when patients need medical help -"
ELK RELEASE PROGRAM
This banquet was attended by over 150 people and raised almost $10,000 to go towards the reintroduction of elk in the Bancroft and north Hastings area. This $10,000 will help the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation meet its commitment of $100,000 per year over the next four years for the elk release program. This program is a joint program with approximately 10 partners, including the Ministry of Natural Resources, the Safari Club and the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters.
I'd like to congratulate the organizers of Saturday's banquet. They include John O'Donnell, Barry Wanamaker, Nancy Nieman and Al Woodcox. These individuals are very committed to seeing the successful reintroduction of elk in the Bancroft and north Hastings area. I would like to congratulate all of them on a job well done.
I would also like to add that I look forward to a decision on north Hastings' suitability as a location for the release of elk. Elk were once found in north Hastings, which I believe makes this location a perfect one for the reintroduction of elk.
I also know that many constituents of mine feel that Bancroft would be an ideal location for this program. Given that broad public support in my riding for this project, I hope the Ministry of Natural Resources will give the green light for Bancroft and north Hastings to participate in the elk release program.
Mr Speaker, you were probably as outraged as I was when the government dropped its 33rd closure motion yesterday. Do you know that both the Greater Toronto Services Board legislation and the seventh property tax bill are going to committee the same day, at the same time?
What is more outrageous is that the Harris government will not allow public input on either bill. If any government in the history of Ontario needed help, it's this one. Who needs to hear from the experts more than Mike Harris, Ernie Eves and Al Leach?
On Monday, a government member took part in the debate on this bill. It seems to me he pretty well summarizes the attitude this government shows for local politicians. He said, "If we made a mistake, it was because we believed the municipalities had the intelligence to use the tools we provided them to ensure that small business would get the benefit of the tax cuts."
How arrogant can that be? This is clearly the contempt Mike Harris has for elected municipal politicians. Why don't these guys just listen to the experts and withdraw the bill? Let the people who know what they're doing do it. Listen to the Frontenac management board: "Withdraw Bill 79." Listen to the clerks and treasurers: "Withdraw Bill 79." Listen to the town of Prescott: "Withdraw Bill 79."
Let me tell you, these guys aren't going to be around to clean up the mess they're creating. They are following the Peter principle and have risen to the level of their incompetence.
If people will recall, an all-party resolution put forward by myself was accepted by this House on October 29. I understand from the minister responsible for women's issues, in response to a question I asked, that the Solicitor General has met with the OMA. I don't know yet what happened as a result of that meeting, but that resolution called upon this government, indeed the federal government as well, to co-operate and put money into the special investigation unit. This latest development calls on the government to act immediately to put an end to this.
The Northland project is the proposed redevelopment of Northland Manor at the Port Colborne General Hospital site. I believe this proposal will help bring even better quality care to the seniors and long-term-care patients in the Port Colborne area, as well as delivering operating savings to the taxpayers.
As you may know, Northland Manor is an 87-bed home for the aged that is owned and operated by the region of Niagara. The quality of staff and the programs at Northland Manor are excellent. It has a strong reputation. However, the physical building that exists today does not meet the higher ministry standards for long-term-care facilities.
This summer, as many here will know, the Ministry of Health committed $6.6 million to upgrade or rebuild Northland Manor to meet the new higher ministry standards. To facilitate the redevelopment project, the hospital itself has committed the property, a $4-million contribution to capital costs and has undertaken to raise another $1.5 million.
I encourage the region of Niagara to promptly complete their evaluation of long-term-care facilities and needs in Niagara. I expect their review will result in a strong regional endorsement to match my own of the Northland project.
I am pleased that Mayor Badawey, regional councillor Bob Saracino and the hospital board have dedicated their considerable energies and efforts behind this proposal. I think with this broad-based approach we can get the Health Services Restructuring Commission to support it as well.
Clinton residents understand that despite the pious pronouncement of the Harris government that it would not proceed with its plan to force 44 so-called charity casinos, more appropriately known as Mike Harris gambling halls, on communities across Ontario; that despite this announced retreat in the face of widespread public opposition, Harris government agents are quietly trying to sneak thousands of slot machines into cities, towns and villages under the guise of assisting race tracks.
In the absence of any meaningful consultation, Clinton citizens conducted a door-to-door survey of 844 residents and found 70% against the establishment of a new casino and only 10% in favour. This result hasn't stopped Mike Harris's lottery corporation from trying to impose the slot machines you find in their casinos on the people of Clinton.
Mike Harris has gone from being a politician who wanted nothing to do with gambling revenues to a Premier whose appetite for gambling expansion knows no limits.
We wish the people of Clinton the very best as they try to stop the Harris gambling steamroller from forcing his slot machines on their town.
HEALTH CARE FUNDING
Yesterday's headline: "Hospital Funding Falls Short by $20 Million." Today's headline in the Hamilton Spectator: "Region Wants Answers about the Future of St Peter's Hospital."
The minister rolled into our community earlier this week and announced that she was providing tens of millions of dollars for health care. What she didn't talk about was the fact that, first of all, it's based on numbers that lowball the total cost of restructuring. Secondly, she didn't point out that a third of the total cost, even her low numbers, has to be picked up by our taxpayers. It's another phantom download.
We're already out $36 million because of your downloading, money that our property taxpayers and businesses have to pay for. We're also out $17 million because the business education tax discriminates against Hamilton. And we're still out the $38 million that our hospital, the Hamilton Health Sciences Corp, is out in terms of operating costs for this year. Then the minister has the audacity to come into Hamilton and pretend she's doing us some kind of favour. The fact is, you're dismantling Hamilton's health care system piece by piece just to pay for your phony tax scam.
Under the guidance of teacher Brian McKenzie, the students identified possible obstacles in their path. Major issues for the students were economic uncertainty, access to jobs and job markets, and the cost of post-secondary education. In describing how these issues can form blocks, the students outlined the solutions. Among the recommendations were: public-private partnerships to establish job registries and job search databases; improved education about our economy; job shadowing in the workplace; and job shadowing so students can see how their governments work.
The students concluded that the Ontario government, business and education leaders must recognize the need for change. They asked for change with partnership, not partisanship - wise words from our future leaders. I thank these three young people for their interest and contributions to their province and to the conference.
REPORTS BY COMMITTEES
STANDING COMMITTEE ON REGULATIONS AND PRIVATE BILLS
Bill Pr23, An Act respecting the Corporation of The Town of Richmond Hill.
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS
ADOPTION DISCLOSURE STATUTE LAW AMENDMENT ACT, 1998 / LOI DE 1998 MODIFIANT DES LOIS EN CE QUI CONCERNE LA DIVULGATION DE RENSEIGNEMENTS SUR LES ADOPTIONS
Ms Churley moved first reading of the following bill:
Bill 88, An Act to amend the Vital Statistics Act and the Child and Family Services Act in respect of Adoption Disclosure / Projet de loi 88, Loi modifiant la Loi sur les statistiques de l'état civil et la Loi sur les services à l'enfance et à la famille en ce qui concerne la divulgation de renseignements sur les adoptions.
CITY OF KINGSTON ACT, 1998
Mr Gerretsen moved first reading of the following bill:
Bill Pr22, An Act respecting the City of Kingston.
LOWER PROPERTY TAXES IN HAMILTON-WENTWORTH ACT, 1998 / LOI DE 1998 SUR LA RÉDUCTION DES IMPÔTS FONCIERS PRÉLEVÉS À HAMILTON-WENTWORTH
Mr Agostino moved first reading of the following bill:
Bill 89, An Act relating to property taxes in Hamilton-Wentworth / Projet de loi 89, Loi concernant les impôts fonciers prélevés à Hamilton-Wentworth.
STANDING COMMITTEE ON ADMINISTRATION OF JUSTICE
Premier, why are you continuing to stall on this issue, which we have been pushing in this Legislature now for over two and a half years?
Pursuant to that, I can report to this House that the Ontario cabinet has decided to pursue pilot projects on red light running which would include traditional police force road safety blitz enforcement, funded either by the municipality or through a proposal by the Insurance Bureau of Canada to fund up to $1 million matching by the municipalities funds for police forces for road safety enforcement. But this pilot can also include red light cameras targeted at the vehicle plate registrant or targeted to the vehicle owner or the use of videotape cameras. This is the best policy and it's the policy that I think will make the most sense for Ontarians.
Premier, what happened to your cap? You specifically promised there would be a cap on class sizes in Ontario. Do you think it's now justifiable, do you think it's a good thing, for us to have in one classroom as many as 39 students?
The leader of the official opposition wants to know what has been the result. I'll tell you what the result has been. In London, the Catholic district school board: last year, 23.7 students per class; this year, 21.9 - down. Lakehead district school board, elementary: 26.79 last year; this year, 24.3 - down. Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board, secondary: over 25 last year; this year, 21.74 - down. The cap has stopped the growth of the average class size. I appreciate the -
Let's take a look at one of the pieces of propaganda you have put out recently. This particular piece cost $800,000, it was delivered to four million Ontario households, and it specifically says that it caps class sizes, no explanations, no conditions attached. You said that you were going to cap class sizes. That's exactly what Ontarians understood. That's what you spent $800,000 telling them. Now they are rightfully outraged. Why are there over 550 classes at the elementary level alone which exceed your cap?
I appreciate the fact that the Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario has raised this issue, because the question goes out, where are the boards spending this money? We are giving each and every board in the province the money to have the class sizes at 25 at the elementary and 22 at the secondary.
The secondary board in Durham: 24.6 last year, 21.7 this year - down. On and on, boards across the province -
Why is it today that there are at least 550 cases at the elementary level alone where you have exceeded your cap? It's your cap. They're your classrooms. It's your education system. You've broken your commitment. Tell Ontarians why you told them you were going to cap class sizes when in fact you haven't.
The Liberals indicated there would be 10,000 teachers laid off; they were wrong. They indicated there would be 10,000 fewer teachers; they were wrong. They indicated there would be $1 billion taken out of education; wrong again. Today, once again, wrong again.
The proof is in the pudding: Simcoe Muskoka, 1997 average, 27 students per classroom, and today, 24.6; Durham Catholic District School Board, elementary, 25.1 last year, and this year, 24.5; Simcoe County District School Board, elementary, 26.3 last year, and this year, 25; and on and on it goes.
We have put a cap on the average class size exactly as we said we would for the betterment of education in Ontario.
The reality is that there is some difference on a definition of the social union. As a New Democrat, I believe the social union means that in the future no province should fear drastic unilateral cuts in funding by the federal government to areas of health care, education and social services. It means that provinces should be able to count on these things and provinces should be able to guarantee to their citizens a certain level of funding for health care - and high quality of health care - education and post-secondary education.
I ask you, Premier, what's your definition of the social union? What leadership are you going to provide on behalf of Ontario?
The social union discussions have been ongoing now for two years. Ontario, quite frankly, is acknowledged as the province that is leading the way in these discussions. We had seven or eight provinces onside originally and finally last summer we were able to get 10 provinces and two territorial governments to agree when the Premier of Quebec concurred that disentangling who does what - and we've made great progress in those areas - putting aside supremacy of exclusive provincial jurisdiction versus federal spending power and instead concentrating on how we work together to deliver the best-quality health care, the best-quality social programs -
People in Ontario have experienced your cuts to hospitals, your cuts to colleges and universities, your cuts to education, your cuts to transit, your cuts to social assistance. We need to know, is this about ensuring that the federal government puts the $6 billion back that it took from health and post-secondary education? If that is the case, does it mean that you're prepared to go to the table and guarantee, as the western premiers are prepared to guarantee, that all of that money will go back into health and education?
What I think is going on here is that an NDP Premier is coming to visit me this afternoon and for the first time in three and a half years you've expressed some interest in social union.
Leader of the third party.
Obviously, if somebody moves out of an apartment and the apartment is vacant, it's not an increase in rent, it's just a new rent.
Your rent decontrol scheme was and is designed to jack up rents. That's all it was intended to do. We've always said to you and to your government that this was a big hidden cost of the Harris agenda. Lower middle class families get a small income tax cut but they get to pay higher property taxes through their rents; they get to pay much higher tuition fees, higher transit fares and higher drug costs; they face a health care system and an educational system that is on the brink of ruin.
In my view, it is your responsibility -
The other thing the member mentioned was property taxes on apartment buildings. When your government was in power they were four times higher on an apartment than on a single-family residence. This government has taken action to allow municipalities to bring that back to single-family residence.
We've taken action to protect tenants, action that you never did, and I can't understand why you didn't. You stand up there and say that you're the party that protects tenants and you didn't do a damned thing to protect them while you were in office. We've taken action to make sure that property taxes on apartments are brought down. We've made sure tenants are protected by making sure -
"It's a propaganda blitz so you can pat yourself on the back to voters. It's certainly morally a misuse of taxpayers' dollars. I'm shocked that they're doing it. I think it's wrong."
Premier, if you believe that spending $1.5 million on political propaganda is morally a misuse of taxpayers' dollars, what do you call it when you spend $47 million of taxpayer dollars on political propaganda?
We criticized ads like Smile Ontario - $10 million that we didn't think was particularly beneficial in communicating a program. We criticized the ad with the big poster of the now leader of the New Democratic Party that was promoting parks or some feel-good stuff, as opposed to ads that publicized programs or invited input or invited comments back.
We have been responding to a huge number of requests that said: "Talk to us. Involve us more. Give us questionnaires. Let us have a say." All of our ads promote Ontario abroad. They promote our companies, they promote our businesses, they promote our tourist establishments and they promote our programs. We invite -
Premier, yours is the government that has cut university and college funding by $400 million a year. You're the Premier who has frankly influenced colleges and universities to increase tuition fees. We know that tuition fees have to be reduced. I've said we should reduce them by rolling back some of your income tax scheme. Could you tell us how you're going to help those students by shutting down the university?
What has been the result of that to date? The result of that to date has been: The percentage of 18- to 24-year-olds participating in post-secondary education in 1997-98 was 35%; under your government, 28%; under the Liberals, 23%. Clearly, far more young people are now, under our government, because of our massive infusion of OSAP money -
Let's look at the facts. This government slashed funding by $400 million. The latest figures from Stats Canada show a sharp drop in student enrolment linked to the funding cuts. Tuition is soaring, colleges and universities are squeezed, and student debt keeps going up. The Canadian Federation of Students is also calling on you today for answers.
When you mix unbelievable claims that you've increased funding with reckless threats to close universities, why should anybody believe you today?
My constituents and local law enforcement officials have told me they want to see more accountability in the justice system. They have told me they want to see criminals sentenced appropriately for serious repeated offences. They have told me they are frustrated by a justice system that does not match the punishment with the severity of the crime -
I think the treatment of Chief Fantino by the Liberal majority on the committee was nothing short of shameful. They offended not only the police officers in this province but victims' organizations and the public on this issue. I can tell the member that the Attorney General and I have written to the sponsor of the bill expressing Ontario's support for the principles of consecutive sentencing and, in effect, truth in sentencing for convicted criminals in this country.
There have been reports that ultimately the federal government will kill this legislation and take no action on the issue of consecutive sentencing. My constituents want something done about repeat serious offenders. Is this going to be just another example of the federal government's mishandling of the justice file?
Ontarians expect and deserve a better justice system than one that grants get-out-of-jail-free cards to criminals who serve time for just one of multiple offences. If the Liberals were serious about fighting crime, they would follow Ontario's lead by investing in front-line police officers, quit rubber-stamping pardons for sex offenders, abandon their expensive and ineffective gun registry scheme, and take effective public safety measures like cracking down on gun smuggling.
The Premier maybe could take this question; he's back.
This question has to do with a complaint that 5,000 people in Kitchener-Waterloo have about you and the other members locally, Minister. For the last number of weeks and months, they have had a campaign to save the beds that you have cut in their hospitals.
Premier, these people want an answer. Why are you ripping beds that are needed out of St Mary's hospital such that now they're releasing people and in the last 17 days they have had to shut down 20 times to new patients? It's the same thing at Grand River hospital. They have also had an increase in people going to emergency, partly because they have to let people go too early.
There has been a campaign to save these beds in Kitchener-Waterloo. You may know what they aren't aware of: that, yes, you have cut $16 million, fired the nurses and got rid of the beds, but you plan to cut some more.
Will you stand up and give back to the people of Kitchener-Waterloo the beds that you have cut and assure them you will not take away more?
I think what the member across the way needs to do is to get all of his facts as accurate as they can be in order that the information being communicated is accurate. We know that yesterday some of the information that was communicated was not accurate as it related to Brockville.
I would say to you today that fortunately for the people in Kitchener-Waterloo, our government has addressed years of inaction by your government and by the NDP government, and we have added $59 million in spending. In fact, the commission has recommended major improvements to the health system in Kitchener-Waterloo. They have recommended an MRI. They have recommended a new cancer centre.
There are another 12,000 people in Sarnia who also understand what you and your government are really about. These 12,000 people include the people who delivered them today. They are the housekeepers who clean the linen, they are the RPNs providing the care -
We've heard from spouses who want to know what is going to happen. We have heard from the people who provide the care, and they know that the care isn't there any more.
They want you to answer simply and directly as the Minister of Health: Will you guarantee that those beds will be there and that you will stop the cutting of chronic care and acute beds in Sarnia? Will you do that, Minister?
But let's take a look at Lambton county, because again we are taking the initiatives to reform the health system in this province -
I want to just ask the members, let's just try and get back on the rails. I think it's derailing here. We'll respond to the questions and try to stay away from the personal attacks. Minister.
As we saw on CBC TV, Mr Ford described how he "went along the Westway and some people of ethnic origin were playing cards in the dirt there. I stopped and I asked them their names, and they could not speak English." Apparently he then signed them up as Conservative Party members.
I don't know if that's a government question, and I understand where you're going on it.
I'll let the question stand to the Premier.
I could cite to you all the actions you have taken as a government to get rid, piece by piece, of all the anti-racism activities in the Ministry of Education, in the Ministry of Citizenship and in all other ministries. Perhaps that's why you're not prepared to take the tough decisions that you should. But I also want to tell you, what troubles us is that we see then a growing racism in the province that is reflected in all sorts of ways. It's reflected in the kind of regrettably derogatory comments that we've seen throughout and in the kind of -
Accordingly, I was concerned yesterday when I read an article by Robert Blohm in the National Post that indicated he believed that the Energy Competition Act would cause an increase in my constituents' hydro bills in the form of hidden taxes. Minster, what reassurances can I give to my constituents that their hydro bills will not in fact increase as a result of this legislation?
Anywhere in the world where we've seen competition introduced into the electricity sector, including Australia, the United Kingdom, Argentina, Sweden and California, we've seen prices fall. So Mr Blohm has no basis anywhere in the world that we're aware of - and the honourable member for Scarborough East sat on a committee and reviewed this with all parties -that prices would go up, so I don't know on what basis he wrote his article.
In the committee hearings all parties heard just the opposite, particularly in Sarnia, that this bill would prompt new investment.
I know from the presentation you made before the committee that you've been meeting with energy players in the industry over the past year. As we approach the open energy market that is the goal of Bill 35, is it true that companies will be making new investments as a result of that bill being passed?
We've seen the largest cogeneration plant of its kind announced by TransAlta, a $400-million new project creating hundreds of jobs in Sarnia, other companies like Sentinel - Sudbury Hydro is building its first cogeneration plant. Toronto Hydro is building its first cogeneration plant with a Montreal company called Boralex. That one is great for the environment because it tears down the smokestack that's on the sewage treatment plant that's down on Commissioner Street. It will tear down the smokestack and use the methane gas to produce electricity, something that other governments should have done a long time ago and failed to do.
To date in summary on the job front, the bill only passed a couple of weeks ago and we've seen $1 billion worth of new investment in this sector. We have many more companies poised to make new investments in this sector and I think you'll hear those announcements in the very near future.
Using your ministry's documents for protection, innocent and unsuspecting victims like Mrs Phyllis Lamont, who is in the gallery here today, are being defrauded of thousands of dollars - in her case, $25,000.
Because of your pathetically loose procedures and any lack of safeguards or checks in your ministry, our car thief was able to defraud Mrs Lamont of her hard-earned $25,000, paid unknowingly for a stolen car that was registered too easily through your ministry by a car thief.
Minister, don't you think your ministry should be held responsible for what happened to Mrs Lamont and what is happening to people like Mrs Lamont in this province? Because of your negligence, because of your not doing anything, you've got car thieves hitting a bonanza here in Ontario.
The case that the honourable member mentions is a new twist by the criminal element to launder their stolen cars. I can tell the honourable member that we are working with the province of Quebec and other provinces to ensure that their information on stolen cars and whatnot is shared with us, and vice versa, so that that particular avenue is closed for car thieves in Ontario.
Your ministry is a farce when it comes to registering vehicles. The police know it's a farce, the insurance investigators know it's a farce, innocent victims know it's a farce. You are not protecting innocent people who are trying to register cars. When are you going to take responsibility?
Tell Mrs Lamont you're getting to get her money back. Get her $25,000 back, which is the result of your negligence, because all your ministry does is rubber-stamp applications. It doesn't even ask for names, it doesn't ask for any ID; it just gives the registration form, no questions asked. It's a joke.
HOTEL DIEU HOSPITAL
"We, the undersigned, oppose the proposed closure of Niagara's only denominational hospital and the devastating effects that proposal will have on patients and potential patients from across the region.
"We ask that the Health Services Restructuring Commission reassess its recommendations for the Niagara region and ensure quality, accessibility and affordability through a continued role for the Hotel Dieu Hospital in St Catharines."
I affix my signature as I'm in complete agreement with the petition.
These petitioners are asking the Legislature to adopt Bill 39, the Access to Adoption Information Statute Law Amendment Act, which would allow access to birth registration and adoption records for adult adoptees, birth parents, adoptive parents and other relatives, implement a no-contact notice option, recommend optional counselling, offer access to other adoption information and acknowledge open adoption.
I am proud to affix my signature to it.
"Whereas the people of German descent have been a part of Ontario's history since the days of pre-Confederation; and
"Whereas the German culture has always been an integral component of the cultural mosaic of Ontario; and
"Whereas we wish to demonstrate official recognition of the positive contribution of German heritage in the province of Ontario;
"We, the undersigned, respectfully petition the government of Ontario to pass the bill entitled the German Pioneers Day Act and we respectfully petition the government of Ontario to designate the day following Thanksgiving Day as the date of the annual German Pioneers Day."
I am happy to affix my signature.
"Whereas the Ontario government has directly downloaded services such as policing, general welfare assistance and certain provincial highways to municipalities, resulting in substantial expenditure increases; and
"Whereas the Ministry of Natural Resources has offered some municipalities one-time funding for reconstruction purposes of certain crown land access roads with all future maintenance costs to be incurred by the individual municipalities;
"Therefore, be it resolved that since municipalities have received many downloaded services causing additional expenditures to local property taxpayers, the province be petitioned that having regard to the fact that the Ontario government owns very substantial amounts of property in rural counties like Renfrew that the province now be required to pay full taxation on the lands and properties owned by the government of Ontario in counties like Renfrew."
I'm pleased to sign this petition and present it to the House on behalf of the good people of Brudenell and Lyndoch.
"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:
"Whereas we are the residents covered by the tri-county Lambton-Kent-Essex; and
"Whereas we are the taxpayers covered under the Health Services Restructuring Commission, Lambton hospitals; and
"Whereas we are the health care providers and users;
"Therefore we, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to reinstate all complex continuing care beds and transitional care beds and funding slated to be removed under the Lambton hospitals restructuring report."
I am proud to add my name to this petition.
"We, the undersigned, beg leave to petition the Parliament of Ontario as follows:
"That the Attorney General or his representative take action on behalf of the people of Ontario, by injunction, to prevent further prohibition of the public's use of traditionally used beaches of Tiny township."
The Preserve Beach Use Association is a large group of concerned citizens who feel that the reasonable public use of historically open beaches should continue and are well aware that use of the beach is the issue as opposed to ownership. The over 1,600 signatures enclosed represent a number of concerned citizens as well as some who are not physically in the area. This is signed by the co-chairs, Ross Hastings and Gail Barrie.
GLENGARRY OUTREACH SERVICES
"Whereas we, the residents of north and south Glengarry, request an inquiry by the Ministry of Health into the hereunder:
"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly as follows to investigate:
"The administration and management of the funds of the Glengarry Outreach Services regarding: (a) Audit covering April 1, 1997 to March 31, 1998 (closed). (b) Audit covering April 1, 1998 to August 31, 1998 (pending);
"Whereas we, the residents of north and south Glengarry, request an inquiry by the Ministry of Health into the hereunder:
"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly as follows to investigate:
"The reason the Victorian Order of Nurses was chosen to administer the funds for Glengarry Outreach Services when the finances of the Victorian Order of Nurses have been reported to be in a serious state of deficit.
"Whereas we, the residents of north and south Glengarry, request an inquiry by the Ministry of Health into the hereunder:
"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to investigate:
"The disbursement of monies accumulated by donations and fundraising activities."
That's signed by 100 of the residents of Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry and the Cornwall riding.
CHILD CARE CENTRES
"Whereas providing daycare spaces is critical for the families in Toronto that need access to them; and
"Whereas the well-being of children should not be sacrificed for tax cuts; and
"Whereas the provincial government has significantly cut the budgets for Toronto school boards; and
"Whereas under the provincial government's ill-conceived Bill 160 there is no flexibility for boards to make up for those cuts; and
"Whereas daycare spaces in schools are now threatened by these cuts with the prospect of full-cost recovery arrangements with daycares and the threat of school closures;
"Therefore, be it resolved that we, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly to repeal Bill 160 immediately, and
"Further be it resolved that the Legislative Assembly of Ontario instruct the Minister of Education and Training to restore meaningful and flexible funding to the Toronto school boards to ensure that they are able to continue to accommodate our community daycares; and
"Further be it resolved that the Honourable Dave Johnson, Minister of Education and Training, takes responsibility for his government's funding cuts rather than passing the buck to school boards who have no control over provincial government spending cuts."
I support this petition and I'm signing it.
"Whereas most Ontario residents do not have adequate access to effective palliative care in time of need;
"Whereas meeting the needs of Ontarians of all ages for relief of preventable pain and suffering, as well as the provision of emotional and spiritual support, should be a priority to our health care system;
"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to resolve that a task force be appointed to develop a palliative care bill of rights that would ensure the best possible treatment, care, protection and support for Ontario citizens and their families in time of need.
"The task force should include palliative care experts in pain management, community palliative care and ethics in order to determine effective safeguards for the right to life and care of individuals who cannot or who can no longer decide issues of medical care for themselves.
"The appointed task force would provide interim reports to the government and the public and continue in existence to review the implementation of its recommendations."
NORTHERN HEALTH SERVICES
"To the Honourable Mike Harris:
"Whereas there are circumstances at the Lake of the Woods District Hospital that could cause the cessation of the anaesthetists' services, the loss of two psychiatrists and the loss of the diabetic education service in the near future; and
"Whereas these facilities are required by the people in a very large area of the Kenora district; and
"Whereas even a short-term elimination of these facilities could result in the loss of the professionals providing these services;
"Therefore, we, the undersigned, are calling on your government to provide an immediate long-term solution to guarantee the continuation of health care facilities currently available at our district hospital."
I have certainly added my name to that petition.
"Whereas the province must develop a funding formula based on children and programs, not square feet and dollars, and it must reflect the differing needs of communities across Ontario;
"Whereas the province must immediately cease spending our tax dollars on education advertising;
"Whereas the new high school curriculum has been developed too hastily and implementation must be delayed for at least one year;
"Whereas Bill 160 gave the Minister of Education the obligation to fund the needs of all Ontario students;
"Therefore, on December 1, the anniversary of the passage of Bill 160, we join parents and students across the province to demand that the minister live up to that responsibility."
I will affix my signature to this petition.
"Whereas it is important to honour the courageous memory and sacrifices of Canada's war dead and of our veterans who fought in defence of our national rights and freedoms;
"Whereas there is a need for succeeding generations of young, school-age Canadians to learn more about the true meaning of Remembrance Day;
"Whereas Ontario veterans' associations have created excellent educational materials for use in Ontario schools on the meaning and significance of Remembrance Day;
"Whereas a special Remembrance Day curriculum for all grades in Ontario's education system, developed on the basis of the programs by Ontario veterans' associations and involving their direct participation, would increase awareness of and appreciation for Canada's wartime sacrifices in the hearts and minds of all Ontario citizens;
"Therefore we, the undersigned, petition the Parliament of Ontario as follows:
"That the provincial Ministry of Education and Training ensure that a suitable Remembrance Day learning unit be included in the curriculum of all grades of Ontario's education system."
I support this petition and have signed it.
"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:
"Whereas heritage is vitally important to the social and economic health of Ontario communities and Ontario residents; and
"Whereas community museums, galleries and heritage organizations work hard to protect, promote, manage and develop our provincial heritage resources; and
"Whereas the provincial government has a responsibility to the people of Ontario to promote the value of heritage and heritage conservation; and
"Whereas the Mike Harris government has abdicated their responsibility for heritage by cutting support to community museums, galleries and heritage organizations; and
"Whereas the Mike Harris government has not implemented a new heritage act that would give communities the ability to better protect heritage sites; and
"Whereas the Mike Harris government has not undertaken meaningful consultation with Ontario's heritage community;
"Therefore, we, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to provide stronger support to Ontario's heritage institutions and organizations and to work with the people of Ontario to establish a new heritage act."
I have some from the Norfolk Historical Society, Brockville and various other communities, and I'm glad to sign my name to the petition.
"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:
"Whereas we are the residents covered by the Waterloo-Wellington-Dufferin District Health Council; and
"Whereas we are the taxpayers covered under the Health Services Restructuring Commission, Waterloo health services restructuring report; and
"Whereas we are the health care providers and users;
"Therefore, we, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to reinstate all acute care beds and funding slated to be removed under the Waterloo region health services restructuring preliminary report."
I am proud to be able to affix my signature.
PROTECTION FOR HEALTH CARE WORKERS
"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:
"Whereas nurses in Ontario often experience coercion to participate in practices which directly contravene their deeply held ethical standards; and
"Whereas pharmacists in Ontario are often pressured to dispense and/or sell chemicals and/or devices contrary to their moral or religious beliefs; and
"Whereas public health workers in Ontario are expected to assist in providing controversial services and promoting controversial materials against their consciences; and
"Whereas physicians in Ontario often experience pressure to give referrals for medications, treatments and/or procedures which they believe to be gravely immoral; and
"Whereas competent health care workers and students in various health care disciplines in Ontario have been denied training, employment, continued employment and advancement in their intended fields and suffered other forms of unjust discrimination because of the dictates of their consciences;
"We, the undersigned, urge the government of Ontario to enact legislation explicitly recognizing the freedom of conscience of health care workers, prohibiting unjust discrimination against health care workers because of their refusal to participate in matters contrary to the dictates of their consciences and establishing penalties for such discrimination."
That has been signed by a number of constituents of Leeds-Grenville, and I add my signature.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
That no deferral of the second reading vote pursuant to standing order 28(h) shall be permitted;
That the standing committee on general government be authorized to meet for clause-by-clause consideration of the bill on Monday, December 7, 1998, from 9 am to 12 pm and following routine proceedings until the completion of clause-by-clause consideration;
That at 4:30 pm on Monday, December 7, 1998, those amendments which have not yet been moved shall be deemed to have been moved, and the Chair of the committee shall interrupt the proceedings and shall, without further debate or amendment, put every question necessary to dispose of all remaining sections of the bill and any amendments thereto. Any divisions required shall be deferred until all remaining questions have been put and taken in succession with one 20-minute waiting period allowed pursuant to standing order 127(a);
That the committee shall report the bill to the House not later than the first sessional day that reports from committees may be received following the completion of clause-by-clause consideration. In the event that the committee fails to report the bill on the date provided, the bill shall be deemed to have been passed by the committee and shall be deemed to be reported to and received by the House;
That upon receiving the report of the standing committee on general government, the Speaker shall put the question for adoption of the report forthwith and at such time the bill shall be ordered for third reading;
That two hours shall be allotted to the third reading stage of the bill, after which time the Speaker shall interrupt the proceedings and shall put every question necessary to dispose of this stage of the bill without further debate or amendment;
That the vote for third reading of the bill may, pursuant to standing order 28(h), be deferred until the next sessional day during the routine proceeding "Deferred Votes"; and
That, in the case of any division relating to any proceeding on the bill, the division bell shall be limited to five minutes.
I think all members of the Legislature would agree in principle that now is the time to move forward with a Greater Toronto Services Board. I think it's recognized that there is a tremendous need to coordinate the services across the GTA to make sure they are delivered in an efficient, expedient and cost-effective manner. It's important for everyone to recognize that this bill, Bill 56, should be passed before the Christmas break. Then we will have the GTSB up and running on January 1. That's important because there have been steps taken previously to transfer the operation of GO Transit to the municipalities and this legislation will allow the Greater Toronto Services Board to be responsible for the operation of GO Transit.
It's also my hope that the new board will be up and have its first meeting early in the new year so that it can begin that very important work of providing better cooperation and coordination of the greater Toronto area.
All the municipalities have for the most part agreed in principle that there's a need for better coordination of the delivery of services in the GTA. There are some differences of opinion from different municipalities as to whether the board should be stronger than has been recommended. There are certain municipalities that feel we should initially give total responsibility to the board to be responsible for all services and all aspects of service delivery within the Greater Toronto Services Board. There are other municipalities, on the other hand, that feel the board is too strong as it is and that we shouldn't put the board in place and should only transfer the responsibilities for GO Transit to the municipalities at this time and then wait for some future date to do it.
I think the time for that debate has come and gone. Now is the time that we have to show some leadership and decisive action in making sure that we get this very important piece of legislation through the House and enacted and in place by January 1. Obviously, that is why we are moving this time allocation motion. Time allocation motions are designed specifically for that purpose, to make sure that we can take important pieces of legislation and get them through the House in a timely fashion so that their recommendations can be implemented in a timely fashion, so that the legislation that is designed to provide better services to the municipalities can be enacted. That's the principle behind the time allocation motion, and I think this bill is a prime example of why time allocation motions should be enacted on occasion.
Some would think that the first order of business for the Greater Toronto Services Board would be the election of the new chair. We have given the board authority to elect its first chair, and I would like to point out that that is a departure -
« a) la présence d'au moins 20 députés, y compris le Président de l'Assemblée, est nécessaire pour que l'Assemblée puisse valablement exercer ses pouvoirs.»
Je crois qu'on n'a pas les 20.
The Acting Speaker ordered the bells rung / Le Président suppléant fait entendre la sonnerie d'appel des députés.
As I was saying, I thought the first order of business for the Greater Toronto Services Board should be the election of the chair. We have given the board itself the authority to do that, which is a departure from what has taken place when other regions were formed. I think for all of the regions in Ontario that were put together in the late 1970s and early 1980s, the government of the day appointed the chair to ensure that they would have someone in place who could carry out the direction of the government and make sure that it got up and running efficiently. We, on the other hand, think the most democratic process would be to allow the Greater Toronto Services Board itself to deliberate, to search, to find an individual, male or female, who can provide the leadership to the board to ensure that the coordination and delivery of services is done well.
It's a very important position. It's one that I know the board, when it is entering into those deliberations, will take a considerable amount of time and effort to perform.
I know there are several individuals who are prepared to put their names forward to act as chair for the first term of the board. The several individuals I am aware of are very capable. I don't want to name them at this point in time, but I'm sure that most individuals would know who they were and that anyone of that quality and of that stature would be able to do a very fine job. I think when the board does its search and does its review of an individual to chair the board, there will be a great number of individuals who will put their names forward, and I'm sure they will have a very difficult choice to make in selecting the best of a very fine group of individuals.
Another aspect of discussion on this bill is the amount of public consultation that has taken place. There have been some comments made by members of the opposition that further public input and further public debate is required before we move forward on this bill. I would like to point out that in my view there has probably been more public input, more study, more debate, more individual meetings with members of council, with councils as a whole, of all the municipalities within the greater Toronto area, than with any other piece of legislation we've dealt with.
Just as an example, I'd like to point out the past studies that have taken place on the GTSB issue.
The GTA task force by Anne Golden reported to the government in January 1996. I'd like to emphasize the point that there is strong recognition and acceptance in principle of the need for more coordination in the greater Toronto area. Anne Golden was appointed by the previous government to undertake a study of the greater Toronto area, which I think emphasizes, as I pointed out, that all parties recognize the need for the GTSB to be put in place as quickly as possible.
Following the Golden report, there was a review panel on the GTA task force by Libby Burnham, who took the recommendations of the Golden report throughout the GTA for further input and further refinement and reported back in April 1996.
Further to that, David Crombie is a former mayor of the city of Toronto, a former member of the federal Parliament and a former cabinet minister with a great deal of expertise on Toronto and the surrounding area. He's presently chair of the Waterfront Regeneration Trust and has extensive knowledge of what is required to ensure the delivery of services and coordination throughout the greater Toronto area. He took the reports, met with numerous individuals and reported his recommendations and findings in December 1996.
We then formed some draft recommendations on where we felt the government should go with the creation of a Greater Toronto Services Board and we retained Milt Farrow, who was, prior to his retirement, a career civil servant involved in municipal affairs. Mr Farrow was recognized by all the municipalities within the greater Toronto area as having unique experience and expertise to understand the total issues of what was required to serve the greater Toronto area. He met with the councils in whole and individual councillors for all the municipalities throughout greater Toronto, and he provided some recommendations to us as well.
I think that's a pretty good indication that the consultation that has taken place was pretty extensive and far-reaching, and certainly a lot of input over time.
I should point out that the individuals who carried out these studies didn't do it on an individual basis. For example, David Crombie's Who Does What panel that consulted on this issue in 1996 was made up of a variety of individuals, including Mayor Hazel McCallion, Gordon Chong who is presently a councillor in Toronto, Tom McCormack, a very well-known individual from Oakville, Steve Lowden, a respected businessman from Toronto, Enid Slack and Terry Cooke, presently the regional chairman of Hamilton-Wentworth.
I think you can see from this that there was a broad cross-section of expertise, people with a lot of knowledge who put their minds to determining just what was best for the future of the citizens of this greater Toronto area, some 4.6 million people.
Following Milt Farrow's review in early 1997, we drafted the legislation. We took action that is not common practice by various governments, but is a procedure I have personally a lot of respect for, and that was to draft the legislation and then have that legislation taken out and distributed to all the municipalities, all the councillors, all the affected stakeholders, and that includes the urban development industry, the hotel association, any number of stakeholders who have an interest in ensuring that the Greater Toronto Services Board works efficiently and effectively.
We put that draft legislation out to everyone, all the stakeholders, in April 1997, not after first reading but before first reading so we could have, as a government, an opportunity to make sure that the legislation we were putting in place would suit the purposes of everybody. We did that and we received more comments, more input and more feedback from the municipalities, from the regions, from the lower-tier municipalities, from all the interested stakeholders. They all provided further input. We took that information, refined the legislation taking that input into consideration and then, and only then, did we introduce it for first reading, and that happened in June.
After first reading of the bill, we made another move that is not generally accepted government practice. We took the refined first reading bill back out to the same stakeholders, to the same municipalities, to all those councillors, to ensure there was input from every municipality, at the region, at the lower tier, by every stakeholder, by private citizens, to ensure we were going in the right direction, because there's no doubt that the creation of the Greater Toronto Services Board is a major step in the right direction. This is something that's going to affect the governance of the greater Toronto area for many years to come and the government wants to ensure that whatever we do is done right and is done properly.
Mr Alan Tonks was retained by my ministry to take that legislation out. He had over 100 meetings on that bill with various stakeholders to review the bill after first reading. It was only after that time that we felt we had sufficient input to introduce it for second reading, where it is right at this point in time.
I've talked about various individuals we have retained to review the bill and meet with stakeholders, but I'd also like to point out that I, as well, met with numerous stakeholders personally to extract their input so that I was very comfortable with the structure of the board we were recommending, that I was comfortable with the voting methods that were determined, to make sure that every municipality would feel comfortable that they had a place at the table.
I should point out that every municipality in the greater Toronto area has a seat at the table. That was one of the concerns of the rural municipalities when we first started. They felt they may not have a strong voice at the table. That's one of the changes we made during the process of getting the bill in shape to bring it in for second reading: to change the composition of the membership to make sure that every municipality in the greater Toronto area was represented.
I think we all know that, on a population basis, the city of Toronto forms about 50% of the population of the greater Toronto area, and they were concerned that the city of Toronto wouldn't be properly represented. So we developed a method of weighted voting which allows a balance of representation between the urban centre in Toronto, the suburban centre in the 905 and the rural centre in the outlying parts of the 905. It's a very well-thought-out, weighted voting system that gives everybody an opportunity to make sure that their voice is heard and that they have input into the important issues that will be facing this greater Toronto area in years to come.
As I mentioned, this is a board whose time has come. I was very pleased, when we introduced first reading, that Mr Phillips, the Liberal member from Scarborough, agreed that this was the time for this board to go on. In his view, he felt the board could be somewhat stronger, but he also agreed that we had tried to put in some balance. I think the words he used were, "This bill was designed to allow the Greater Toronto Services Board to walk before it ran." I think that's a good quote. That certainly was the intent of the government, to make sure that we put in place procedures that would allow the board to move slowly into additional areas of responsibility. The legislation gives them that ability.
By a two-thirds majority, the board can develop strategies that would deal with very important issues like the disposal of waste, which is an issue that has been controversial in the greater Toronto area for the last two decades. Now, with the passing of this legislation and the creation of the board, we'll have an avenue that will allow for that extremely important issue to be dealt with in the best interests of all the citizens of the greater Toronto area.
Another issue that was strongly recommended that the Greater Toronto Services Board become involved in was economic development. I think all members of the House and all parties would agree that economic development is key for the proper operation of the greater Toronto area. Toronto, I believe, is the hub, the engine of the greater Toronto area; the greater Toronto area is a key component in the operation of the entire province; and of course we all recognize that a strong and prosperous Ontario is key to a strong and prosperous Canada, something which we all support. So you can see that the moves we're making here are all integrated to make sure that the rights of citizens right across this great country are protected.
We're doing it in a planned, coordinated fashion to make sure that the board, again to quote Mr Phillips, has an opportunity to walk before it runs. It may not be as strong as some people feel it should be; it's stronger than some other people feel it should be. So I think we have a balance of a Greater Toronto Services Board that should satisfy the vast majority of the stakeholders involved.
I say the vast majority because I know there are individual municipalities, there are individual regions, there are individual members of this House and there are individual members of this party who have some reservations about the direction of the Greater Toronto Services Board. Again, there are those members who feel the board is not strong enough. There are other members who feel it is too strong.
But I would urge those members to consider the absolute need for coordination of service delivery in the greater Toronto area. If they would stand back and look at the broader picture, I think they would recognize the absolute need for service to be coordinated, and the time to do that is now.
I may have failed at the beginning of my remarks to indicate that I intend to share my time with the member for Oxford and the member for Durham East. This might be an appropriate time for me to make that pass-through to the member for Oxford.
I want to point out that this act did not just appear as it was introduced. It had a lot of study. There have been numerous studies done, as was mentioned earlier, first of all the Golden report. Anne Golden was appointed by the previous government to prepare a study on how best to govern the area in the GTA. In fact, her report suggested that there was a great need to coordinate the services across the greater Toronto area, not just across each individual region.
The panel was reviewed by Libby Burnham again in April 1996 and came back with similar recommendations, not necessarily that there was a need to structure a regional government for the whole area, but that there was a need to coordinate services across the area.
I think it's very important to recognize that when David Crombie, as he was looking at the realignment of municipal services between the provincial and municipal governments, immediately recognized that some of those services would require some extensive coordination between the different regions in the GTA and that we would need some type of structure set up to accommodate that.
Milt Farrow was appointed to look at all the reports and to talk to all the stakeholders that would be involved with it and come back with some recommendations on how this could be implemented to serve the needs of all the participants. From that discussion, draft legislation was introduced in March 1998 for public consultation.
I want to point out that Mr Alan Tonks, the former mayor of Metropolitan Toronto, was retained to do the consultation process for the greater Toronto area and to look at how best we could implement some type of structure for that coordinated delivery of services. Of all the studies that were done over time, Mr Tonks's study perhaps included the participation of more people or more stakeholders than many of the other studies had done.
I have here a list of people and municipalities and organizations that were consulted. The list is extensive. I find it interesting that as I go over the list, members of provincial Parliament - I don't believe there is anyone not on this list who represents any area adjacent to or in the greater Toronto area, including members of both sides of the House. As I look over the list, I see they were also consulted.
It was a very intensive consultation and a very telling consultation. It became quite evident from that consultation that there were different views in the greater Toronto area of how best to provide coordination for the services that need to cross regional boundaries. I think almost exclusively the position of the municipalities or the regions that were involved was that yes, there was a great need for coordinating the services, but most, if not all, felt that it was also very appropriate that the provision of those services remain with the regional governments, that there was no specific need to have a new body that would become a governing, taxing body that would take over a portion or all of the regional services. They felt that yes, the coordination was needed, but no, it should not be a third level of government. I think that's very important, that we don't create a third level of government. That's not to say that as time goes on and as the world changes, the services presently being provided by one level of government could not be changed to another, but I don't think any of the restructuring the provincial government has embarked upon in municipal government has been to encourage more levels of government or more politicians in the process. I think it was very evident from the consultation that the municipalities felt that a coordinating body that would have no taxing authority but would be responsible to the municipalities that elected the members of the board would be the appropriate way to set up the structure.
As was mentioned by the minister in his presentation, it was also evident that there was somewhat of a difference of opinion or there were different concerns in the more urbanized parts of the GTA and those areas that are still in agriculture and are a more rural nature in the GTA. The more rural parts of the region were concerned that as a governance model it was going to become autonomous in the more urban centres and would take away their ability to control their lifestyle and their services in the more rural parts. They felt it was very important that it become a coordinating body operated by and for the different municipalities. That's what the end result of this bill will do: It will create the greater Toronto area services board to coordinate and it will be operated by the elected officials from the other municipality.
I know there's been some concern expressed in the previous debate about the fact that they do not have the teeth in the legislation to implement what they recommend, but I think it's very important to point out that all the members of the board will be elected representatives from the municipalities. Indeed, I think municipal politicians can be counted on to make the decisions in the best interests of their community at large, not necessarily just in the community that they may be directly elected for. I think as they serve on the board, they will make coordinating decisions to the benefit of the whole region to which they are accountable and they would then proceed back to their local municipality and implement those decisions as they were put forward.
I think it's very important to recognize that the board will be made up of the regional chairs of all the regions and it will be made up of councillors from the city of Toronto. In order to recognize the difference in population between Toronto and some of the other regions, they will have extra members of their council serve on it. For a similar reason, there will be an extra representative from the city of Mississauga in order to complement the disparity of population in the different areas. In fact, the rest of the representation by population will be taken care of in the board based on the weighted vote process.
In some of the urban areas, "weighted vote" may not be a common term or a common approach to doing business. I can assure you, representing rural Ontario, that for many years quite successfully there have been counties that, because of the disparity in size of municipalities at the lower tier, when they go to county council have the weighted vote. So a municipality that has three times the population does not necessarily have to have three times the members on the upper-tier council. In fact, they have multiple votes and their vote carries the weight of three votes as opposed to the smaller municipality which carries one. It's a very efficient and effective way of having a manageable board size and still making sure that we have a fair and honest way to adjust the authority within the board so that, as everyone is paying the bill, we have equal representation based on how much money they're expected to pay.
The other area where there has been some concern, and a suggestion that there is a bit of problem with the ability of the board to operate properly because of the split between the vote, is that one municipality would have 50% of the vote and they would always be at - what shall we say? - a 50-50 split. I had the opportunity for quite a number of years to serve on an upper-tier municipality where it was structured in exactly the same way, where the lower tiers were based on a 50-50 urban-rural split. I can tell you, in all the years I served on that council, that is not the way the political representatives voted. Once you take the partisan politics that we have in this place out of the system, the members all vote based on what they believe is in the best interests of their people, and I can assure you that in municipal government that does not necessarily divide down the lines of urban-rural or, in this case, the Toronto-and-everyone-else scenario.
It might become unmanageable, and this is particularly true in the area of finances in the service board, if on the straight 50-50 you could change the proportion of funding certain of the functions or you could decide to either perform some of those functions or not perform some of those functions. If you based that on the straight 50-50 vote, strictly the majority rules, there may be times when that could create some difficult situations.
The bill accounts for that. For certain areas of changing jurisdiction or changing the proportion of funding for the services they are providing, it would require a two-thirds vote to change those. The bill goes to great lengths to make sure that those things are looked after.
As I mentioned earlier, there is no ability for the board to tax any of its members. The only ability to collect funding would be at the discretion of the participating municipalities, save and except that the cost of their operation will be billed to the municipalities proportionately as their assessment would relate. It's also very important to recognize that the bill points out the need to re-evaluate the proportion of the board from time to time. So if the census suggests that the population in one area is growing dramatically more than in another, over a period of time you would not have an inappropriately functioning board. The adjustments would be made in the weighted vote scenario to make sure that everyone was getting equal say for their pay.
It's also important to realize that beyond the coordinating activities of the board, they will also become responsible through the transit authority for the operation of GO Transit. As we've talked about the GTA area in the bill, we recognize that only for GO Transit purposes is the region of Hamilton-Wentworth part of the GTA scenario. For that reason the region of Hamilton-Wentworth will have a member on the Greater Toronto Services Board but will only be voting on issues that deal with GO Transit. As it relates to their portion of the GO Transit, that vote would be weighted in order to have more than one vote because of the size of the region of Hamilton-Wentworth. But they would only be involved with the board as it relates to transit.
I would point out that in terms of the ability of the transit to be expanded, as with all other services, it's the vote of the majority of the board to recommend such expansions and if they have the required support, then those services can be expanded, again, with the participation of those municipalities to which those services would be expanded. It provides the opportunity for local government to make the decisions on how best to provide local government services.
I think it's very important that we do not lose sight of the fact that the government has the responsibility to put the legislation in place for this coordinating purpose, but the function of that will be done by locally elected officials to provide the services that their local people require.
I could go on, but I will at this point turn it over to the member for Durham East. He has some comments he would like to make on the bill.
This debate is not new. I think it's important to put it in context. In my research, I can trace for you, without boring you, that this government and all previous Progressive Conservative governments, beginning with Leslie Frost in 1950, are responsible for the structure and governance models that we have in this great province of Ontario today. If you think back and look at January 16, 1950, when Leslie Frost met then with the 13 municipalities that made up Toronto, and where we are today, all of the changes between 1950 and 1996-97 were made by a Progressive Conservative government for the right reasons: to provide good governance and good leadership and government with vision for the province of Ontario.
That's really what we have before us today. Without going through too much chronology, I want to share with you in my research the history of how we got to this very important piece of legislation, Bill 56.
I was first elected to regional council - actually, I was first elected in 1982 as a school trustee, but I always kept an important eye on my community and watched through a role as a councillor and as a regional councillor the important events of the day. Those important events on this issue, the Greater Toronto Services Board or GTA, were first started, I might add, by the Liberal government. They had a report. At that time the Deputy Minister I think was Liz McLaren for the greater Toronto area. The report was called GTA 2021 - The Challenge of our Future: A Working Document, a study that was reported to the House in March 1992.
The next report was done by the same sort of group, which was the Office for the Greater Toronto Area, which set up by the previous government, the NDP government. They set up a report, Shaping Growth in the GTA. That report was tabled in September 1992.
The purpose of this background is very important. It's one thing to study. The most difficult thing is to govern with leadership and courage. That's the central theme here: The importance of governance with leadership and courage; the courage to follow through on the studies of the professionals and the consultants who are employed and the taxpayer of Ontario pays for.
I'm going to go back further and say that even in our document to be elected in June 1995, there's a lot of background, deliberate recognition that governance, the amount of money - we coined a phrase that we were overgoverned and overregulated. I don't think there's one taxpayer today who would disagree that that was the case, and this government has made significant changes in the governance. There's been a great of reluctance and there's a great deal of trying to delay any implementation of change.
The previous government started off by appointing the Golden commission, which is the next study. These are all studies, these are all background that our Minister of Municipal Affairs, the Honourable Al Leach, has continued relentlessly with. He brought to task the Golden commission, which reported in January 1996, again serving as a reference document, refining it from the earlier late-1980 report by the office for the greater Toronto area, much of it focusing on the coordination role, their need to recognize the governance and coordination.
All the speakers have made reference, but I've gone to the trouble of actually reading these. Even before I got to this House, I knew, looking forward, that we had to have less governance and less bureaucracy so you could get through the layers of making change. There was the Moving Forward Together report, known as the four mayors' report, which was part of the discussion that the ministry and I received by Mayor Hazel McCallion, Mel Lastman, then-mayor of the city of North York, Mayor Nancy Diamond from the city of Oshawa and Mayor Barbara Hall from the city of Toronto, filed in January 1996. Their position was that they could stand on their own - of course, they were the largest: Peel, North York, Oshawa and the city of Toronto - because they had the assessment base, the growth and the wealth. What this coordination is about is being able to share the strengths within an economic region. Arguably that region is the GTA.
How do I translate that vision? It doesn't take very much science, technically. I drive every single day to this House. I leave my house at 6 o'clock in the morning, around that time, and I see my constituents driving westbound on the 401 or getting off to take the GO Transit, and I encourage the expansion of GO Transit to help my constituents who live in Durham and work in Toronto. That's the reality. The reality is that as I get into Pickering and Ajax, you can barely tell where the boundaries of Toronto start and Durham region ends.
That report, Moving Forward Together, was received, and it had its own particular persuasion. Then the minister wanted to refine the analysis. Really what he did was he set up an excellent small committee, which was the Libby Burnham committee. In fact, Libby Burnham - Walter Beath was the first regional chair of Durham, appointed during the Davis government, remember? It was only a Progressive Conservative government that ever had the courage to make significant change. Is it perfect? We will ensure that we work with the change agents to move forward. As far as having a political war, we leave that to the opposition and the third party.
The third member of that was Ron Starr, who, as the minister said earlier in his comments, was an eminently qualified member of that panel who listened. I attended presentations in Durham and I think they did a fine job of commenting on the differences in the regions. Whether it's Halton or Durham or Peel or York, they all have differences. Arguably, the point they made in their report was that some regions were more mature than others. Obviously I would support that observation.
There are other reports: the six mayors' report called Change for the Better, and that was the mayor of Scarborough, Frank Faubert; Doug Holyday of Etobicoke - this was prior to the new city of Toronto. The six mayors had their report, and there were further reports. As the minister has mentioned, there was the Milt Farrow report, the Crombie report and also the minister's latest report, which finally was the Alan Tonks report, I guess, which really served as the basis for the legislation we're talking about, Bill 56.
I've given you a bit of chronology of how this bill got here. First it took the courage of this government to bring in Bill 56, and Bill 56 was introduced in June 1998. A considerable amount of consultation has occurred in that whole process. But the difficulty for me is I want clear assurance that the rural portion of Durham region, as mentioned in the Golden report as well as the Burnham report, must have special consideration. That's absolutely critical. At the same time, the dilemma, why I may appear to be sitting on the fence, I want clear opting-out provisions.
To satisfy my need to support this particular bill, I need to be assured by the minister - and I can assure you he does listen. I respect both the Premier and the minister in this government. We are listening and we are able to respond to any kind of opportunity. I would say that the thing I need to see is some clarification in a certain section of the bill for an opting-out provision, and this was mentioned by previous speakers.
"33(1) The board shall conduct, before December 31, 2000, a review of the following:
"1. The board's size and composition.
"2. The number of votes each member of the board has.
"3. The powers which have been or should, in the opinion of the board, be assigned to it.
"4. Whether this act should be amended so that the board's powers no longer extend to a municipality and so that the members of the board no longer include a representative of the municipality."
Arguably, that could be an opting-out provision. I'm looking at the minister as I speak at this moment.
The other thing I need to see is some strengthening of a mandate for the GTSB to examine the options and the importance for the rural component: the rural component of the greater Toronto area, arguably Durham, the second-largest industry in Durham next to the auto sector, very important. In fact, my riding of Durham East is really the rural section of Durham. That's why I've got to stand up and respond to my constituents. It's absolutely essential that the message I'm leaving on the record of Hansard today is that I need to have protection for the rural environment and I need to have some provisions for the regions to re-examine them and their own boundaries. I have to see amendments to this bill to be supportive of the bill.
That being said, I could repeat that time after time, through resolution after resolution, members of all parties say, "First there's a requirement to coordinate services." Every single report that I've referred to has made continuous reference to the need to coordinate services through the GTA. Other reports have asked the various regions to define themselves. I think the member for Dovercourt specifically in the Hansard record yesterday suggested that he would like to see the regions restructure themselves. They won't restructure themselves until they're forced to. This whole process between now and 2000, they're going to have to decide their future.
The people of the GTA pay very close attention. The minister is making important change. Think back to 1950 when Leslie Frost made important changes in government. This is the next government that's about to make those changes. These are historic times. It's time to pay attention and it's time to act. I'm listening, Minister. I want to see important amendments to this legislation in order to support it. Thank you very much for my time this afternoon.
He went beyond Bill 56 and the Greater Toronto Services Board to express some concern also about the amalgamation process of this government when they rammed through that bill in such haste and without much consultation. Listening to the member for Durham East brings very much to light that when we have democracy, when we have debate and when we have a Legislature where people come forward to represent the people of Ontario, who come with a different view, we want the time to be heard.
Let me just go back to put it into perspective so that the folks out there who are listening and watching will understand what this is all about. We should be debating Bill 56, the Greater Toronto Services Board Act. But, oh no, we are debating the fact that this government will restrict the time for us to do a proper debate on this.
Let me first look at the bill itself and tell you exactly what the statements are all about. I will first express what the bill is and then express the concerns we have in that regard. The minister referred to the section in the standing orders or the procedures on how we do our business in the House. It is a standing order which is not of great concern to the people out there, but just as a matter of record it is standing order 46.
Then he said "and notwithstanding any other standing order or special order of the House relating to Bill 56," - meaning you have no concern; this one is the power one - "An Act to establish the Greater Toronto Services Board and the Greater Toronto Transit Authority and to amend the Toronto Area Transit Operating Authority Act," and they say that whenever they call this bill, which is Bill 56, before the House, the Speaker, having been vested with the power, "shall put every question necessary to dispose of the second reading stage of the bill without further debate or amendment, and at such time, the bill shall be ordered referred to the standing committee on general government."
What it is saying, Mr Speaker, and you know it and the people should understand it, is that they want to do this without any of the procedures of the normal democratic process of debate, that as soon as a certain time has come about, that's it: "We are the government. We lay our iron hand down and that's the end of it all," regardless of what we want to amend, regardless of what we want to say. Even their own member for Durham East is saying, "I have some concerns," but he's running out of time.
Who put the time constraint on that? The Harris government, which through its mandate continually has acted like a bully through the process, ramming things through.
This is one of the typical ones: The government rammed through a bill amalgamating greater Toronto. Here we are and we haven't been given an opportunity to put our point of view forward to the government about the manner in which they did the amalgamation process. It's an opportunity now to revisit that - in quite an awkward way. The fact is that with this bill establishing the Greater Toronto Services Board, it's an opportunity to say, "Here is what's going to be managed."
We have expressed that what they're going to manage is going to be quite a nightmare. There are certain things that have not yet even been debated and discussed. There are people who have shown concern. They've had some very good individuals who put forward some recommendations about amalgamation.
Anne Golden, quite respected, put forward great recommendations, very good recommendations. David Crombie is a very well respected individual and former cabinet minister, former mayor of the city of Toronto, someone who, although from the Conservative Party, has been quite respected by the Liberal Party and other people outside. They put forward excellent recommendations in the first place. Did this government listen? No. They did not listen to all the recommendations put forward. They would take one or two and say, "We have listened very well." They expressed some concern that these recommendations should be adhered to, but they did not do that.
Bill 56 falls very short of the reforms that David Crombie put forward in his Who Does What panel review. Crombie actually tied support for Toronto amalgamation to significant restructuring of municipal governance across the GTA.
If they really had supported the Crombie recommendations, Bill 56 would look very different today. But oh, no, they know it all. They are the ones who feel they have been elected by the people, have all the thinking of the people, and would just ram things through without listening. Even though they were spending all those funds and money on David Crombie, who came up with great recommendations, they did not listen. Bill 56 falls short of the original reform plans promised by the Harris government two years ago.
One then has to start thinking, what is the real support for this initiative by the Harris government? This government, as I said, rammed through the amalgamation of Toronto a few months ago. As you know, this city that we have created today, the greater city, has four million people. Many cities were there with mayors before. Many things have to be looked at, to find out how we will manage them.
I'll name one, for an example, a concern in the city of Scarborough, where I'm from, Scarborough North. They were concerned that maybe it's a good idea to amalgamate this city; maybe some of the good things that are happening in other cities may happen, things like in North York, that collected garbage twice a week. Maybe Scarborough would collect its garbage twice a week. Or is it North York that may be referring to the point: "Will this amalgamation make us lose our garbage collection twice a week? Maybe all the cities will have once a week."
The concern is, if we reduce the garbage collection to once a week in North York, "Maybe my taxes will drop." In Scarborough we say, "If garbage collection is twice a week, my taxes will go up." These are concerns to look at. It's rather simple. It's a matter of costs; it's a matter of how we administer this process. Many of these things had to be looked at. This government was in such a hurry to amalgamate greater Toronto that they did not look at some of those details and give those people time to find solutions and address some sort of resolution of these matters.
Another area of great concern was transit, which is one of the biggest issues today, whether GO Transit or the TTC. We all know that the TTC, which is a very efficient system, which is totally funded by Toronto, has many riders. Now we start dividing them into the 416 area and the 905 area. Many thousands of people from the 905 area who come down here use that system. Of course I think it's wonderful that they use that system, but again it is Toronto that bears the entire expense, the entire cost of that. If we are going to amalgamate all that and have the Greater Toronto Services Board here, we're going to have to start to look at costs: Who shall pay for all that? Will Toronto continue to pay that cost?
On another aspect of GO Transit, we know the figure that is used is 15% of the people within the city of Toronto use GO Transit and the rest come from outside the transit area. We are paying the bulk of that. Has that been resolved? No, that has not been resolved, but in the haste with which this government went ahead to amalgamate the cities - which could be a good idea, if it was done properly, but now we have a board that will have to look at some of those issues. I don't see how it could be done without great debate. Even the representation on the Greater Toronto Services Board is in some question, because the representation seems to be on a 50-50 basis, where there are more people coming from outside Toronto who will be on the board than people within Toronto. It's a great concern. They're going to make decisions about Toronto.
We continue to say that if you're going to rush this thing through, you will make lots of mistakes. You have made mistakes before and you're doing it again.
Closure on these debates is something I feel very strongly against. In a democratic society, the opportunity is given to each of us here in this Parliament of coming here and representing the people of Ontario. When we come to represent out people, we want their concerns to be heard. When we get here to express our concerns and the concerns of our constituents, we are then shut down by this government in a very dictatorial manner which is completely against the democratic process.
Although we in the opposition from time to time have complained over and over about the fact that you should not be going in that direction, we're quite patient about that and the people outside are quite patient too. If you have a government that does not listen, what will happen sooner or later is that when you go to the polls, then I presume the people will make their decision. I think that's the good thing about democracy. If they had the right, if they had that power and they felt they had that power, the Harris government would cancel the election in the coming year because they would feel: "We have it right. We don't have to listen to the people. We'll go forward. No matter what we say, no matter what we do, the fact is that we are right." But when the election comes, maybe that will be adjusted.
Another area of great concern, and I have expressed this very much - I don't see how it could be settled that easily unless we have people sitting down in the long term, finding out how it will be resolved, how the financing could be done - is the matter of housing. The housing situation in our city has come to a point now where we have seen the CMHC survey that came out to state that we have the lowest vacancy rate in this province since 1990. The fact is that in 1995, when this government took over, the vacancy rate was still dropping. They did not see it in any way as a sign that their policy was not working. What this government did was add fire to all the fury. It immediately took a decision - I presume it was one of their first decisions in the Legislature here - to cut the poorest of poor, those people who need the support of the government. That's why we have government: to help the most vulnerable in our society, those who are on the edge in many ways, whether it's feeding themselves or having affordable housing or clothing for their children. The first decision this government made was to cut 22% from their incomes, and it felt very much like abuse, telling them that they are just squatters and abusers of the system.
I understand that the Premier in his remarks today was throwing insults at the minister for employment insurance, asking how dare that minister cut it, that this is the people's money. Let me remind the minister and the Premier and the Conservative government that the money you were giving to those on welfare was their money too. It was taxes that you collected for a time to help those who are in need. I don't know where you get off saying the federal government picks up the money to give it to employment insurance, and when you take the money up for social assistance or welfare, you feel it's not theirs.
I know you are wondering, Mr Speaker, what the relevance is to this. It has so much relevance to how the government has put the residents of Toronto and across the province in a position that they can't afford housing and then turned around to the city and said, "We will download housing on to you." All these issues have to be debated, so you see the relevance here. It is very important to know how you are going to pass on and download the responsibility to a group of individuals without any funds, but you fixed it after you created the crisis yourself. You have caused the poor to be poorer and then said that this will happen.
We hope that the Greater Toronto Services Board will able to solve that. I would say it will not solve it. The evidence is all over the place. We have seen the evidence. The Minister of Housing has downloaded the responsibility to the Minister of Community and Social Services and also to the Minister of Health. That means there is no concern about housing.
But we have a concern about homelessness in this city that is growing. A greater number of people are homeless. The evidence is all over the place. The evidence is on the sidewalks everywhere, a city that is fast decaying because of the policies of this government: the policy and direction of ramming things through, a direction that when we want to debate and bring these things together about closure, we are shut down; conditions where they do not listen at all, where constituents of mine would like to come forward to the minister and to the committee and say their concerns, groups that are fighting the cause of the poor because this government just ignores them and feels that they are somehow impediments to their policy.
In his opening comments for this, the minister talked about the great engine of this province called Toronto. He calls it the hub, the key to success - these are words that he has been using - of how Ontario's prosperity goes on.
Minister, what is happening now is that our greatest resources and some of the people who would use their potential to enhance this province, to enhance this city, are being dumped upon and ignored. It will be considered that we can listen to those who have money and those who are on Bay Street. But those individuals who need access to the training, those who need access to affordable housing, those who need all the support and help so they can contribute to what we call the greater city, the greater Ontario, of course are being ignored.
We have great resources here; I have no doubt about that. The challenge and the opportunity we have are that the diversity of our city speaks for itself: the diversity of the many cultures; the diversity of the many languages; the diversity of a good, educated society. The situation here is that as soon as we ignore those resources, the responsibility becomes greater.
There was a wonderful commercial which becomes reality at times. I think it was -
The commercial went like this: I think it's about a transmission and it stated, "Pay me now or pay me later." If you don't fix what is happening right now, later on you'll pay a higher price.
Some of the concerns we have about the ways the citizens of this city and across the province have been treated will cost us a lot more, a tremendous amount more. We'll be paying much more for this - lots more. In saying we've put a body in place and saying, "They will fix it," what you have done is ignored the situation now. You have totally ignored some of the concerns we have in the city, especially for those who have an affordability problem; totally those who want some training; totally those who would like English-as-a-second-language programs to be promoted so that they can enhance and make a better contribution to the economy of this province.
I am appalled but not at all surprised at the direction this government is going. It is consistent with the way they behave. It's consistent with the way they feel they have it right. It's consistent with the way they have shut down many of the debates in this House. It's consistent with the way this Conservative, right-wing Reform agenda is behaving. As a matter of fact, it's to the delight to the Reform Party. I heard Preston Manning saying the other day: "We won't wait for them to ask us to come in. We're just going to go in and take it over." That's why Tony Clement spent so much time -
Government is about governing all people, about listening to all people. The fact is that this government is not interested in listening to all. Even their own backbencher from Durham East is complaining that he has great concerns about this legislation, and they continue. As a matter of fact, I have great respect for a member who will stand up and say, "I want some other things addressed in this." We identify many of those concerns.
I want to continue to make comments about what they have done in regard to housing in that respect. The Minister of Housing - today he is the Minister of Housing. For many days he would not answer any questions; he abdicated responsibility to someone else. I was very proud that he took on the answers to questions today. He took it because his boss asked him to speak on it. When he spoke in response to rent control, he stood up and said that the rent control protection act would protect tenants. What the minister didn't realize was that he killed the Rent Control Act. He buried it altogether.
There's an old saying back in my country that sometimes people are given a basket to carry water. What he has said to the tenants is: "The legislation that protects you is empty. The only protection we're going to give you is if you stay a prisoner within your house. If you ever dare to move outside your rental accommodation, we will slap you with as high a rent as possible and we'll no longer protect you." What sort of government is this? What sort of government would see individuals who should be protected by them at all times, yet they find out, "If you move, we'll hand you over to the big landlords, and they can charge as high a rent as possible"?
The fact is that the Liberal Party's policy towards housing was very much concerned, completely concerned with how this government handled itself. If they could take a page out of the Liberal government's -
I know, Mr Minister, that you don't understand what the people out there want. You have determined already what you want and what your government wants and therefore you say, "We can shut down this debate any time."
If you want to leave, if any of the members of the Conservative Party want to head down to the Albany Club because they've cut the debating time, they can go, because there is an alternative. The alternative is the Liberal Party and Dalton McGuinty, who will then manage this and govern for all the people, not for the few. It's a Liberal government, with Dalton McGuinty, that will have ministers who are responsible, who will make sure that we don't shut down debate and have closure to debate, because that's what it's all about, Mr Minister.
That's what it's all about, Mr Speaker. I'm so glad the Speaker is here to umpire and referee the situation.
We are talking about closure, about shutting us up. I know you don't want to hear what I've got to say and I know it's very difficult for you. It's only a matter of time, you would say in your speech, "Just a matter of time and they will all be gone," because you have introduced legislation to say, "We put time allocation to their speaking. We put time allocation to their comments and their contribution to the debate. We will shut them down as fast as possible." It's very difficult to hear.
The truth sometimes hurts. As a matter of fact, for those who don't want to hear the truth, the government will close their eyes. Some of the issues and the services that are to be done by the city, they don't want to hear that. "We just want to ram it through and look glitzy, and the only way we can look glitzy is to spend $47 million on propaganda."
The young people I speak to in my riding of Scarborough North are saying to me: "I understand that they don't have much money in the government any more for the services in our city. I wonder if they could put back the $1 billion that was taken out of education and help with not closing our schools." That's what grade 6 and grade 5 told me. They were here today from Percy Williams. They asked me, "Could we take the money that the Premier stated is not there and put it back so we could have our school?" But, no.
They spent $47 million to push their propaganda. As the Premier said today: "We have to shut this down quickly. We have to get the glitz out. We've got to make sure that it is flashing out there and make sure that we have a commercial here. We've got to make Dalton McGuinty look bad because he's looking too good. If he's looking that good, we've got to put question marks around him." They don't want to have questions about that. They want to look good.
The fact is you cannot shut us down. You may try to shut us down inside the Legislature, you may shut us down in committee hearings, but you won't shut the people outside down for what you're all about. You'll never shut them down, because the fact is they know what is the truth and they want their services. It's their taxpayers' money. As the Conservative Party always says, there's only one taxpayer, and that one taxpayer is not happy about the way they are being governed, the dictatorial way you handle debates, the way you handle the situation here.
I know my other colleague wants to speak. I saw him all ready. He wants to make his contribution, but I must make a couple of more points here before I sit down.
This one-tier government cannot go on like this. You see, it's a democracy, and I've got to emphasize that. It won't come home to you. It will come home the day you go to the election polls and the people have rejected you. They will say to you that they want their voice to be heard.
The individuals in our city - it's a great city. It's a great city of cultural diversity. It's a great city of educational diversity, where people are quite educated but they're not given the opportunity, because this government is only concerned about Bay Street, not Main Street. They're just concerned that wealth will trickle down from the table, the big fat feast you have there, that if we ourselves eat and we get big and fat, some of the food will be left over and will come down to the poor.
We see it differently. We feel, as the Liberal Party, that it's those most vulnerable who must be helped, because we know your Bay Street colleagues down the road there can feed themselves, they can find accommodation, they can find transportation, all those services that must be provided for all the people within the greater city. But we also feel that those who are using it should also serve and pay towards that.
We are concerned about the structure of this, but we will vote on this and I will vote for this bill. We will vote against closure on this but we understand the direction in which you're going with the Greater Toronto Services Board and putting that into place.
I want to thank you very much, Speaker, for giving me the opportunity to make those comments.
In fact, people are concerned about it. You would think they wouldn't worry about procedures in the Legislature. I get calls all the time from people who are saying: "What does a time allocation motion mean? Because every day, instead of debating legislation, you people appear to be debating closure motions, procedural motions." I have to explain to them, "Mike Harris's office gives the orders and says, `We've had enough debate; it's embarrassing to hear the arguments put forward against this legislation,'" no matter what that legislation is. "`Shut the debate down.'" They want it to be like cabinet, where Iron Mike just puts his fist down on the table and that's the way it is, the argument is over.
You know what this time allocation reminds me of? It reminds me of the time allocation motion we had where we wanted more debate on video lottery terminals. Remember the expansion of gambling in this province? I think all members will remember that very much. The member for Etobicoke-Humber knows that. We had the time allocation motion that was brought forward because the government wanted to put video lottery terminals in every bar and every restaurant in every neighbourhood of every village, town and city in Ontario so that they could be bleeding money from the most desperate, the addicted people, the most vulnerable people in society to fill the coffers of the government, because they had already given a tax break through their tax scheme to help the rich people in the province. The wealthiest people in the province did best by that income tax cut. So they had to bleed it somewhere else and they wanted to take it out of very vulnerable people in our society.
Then, of course, they got a lot of criticism. Even some of the government backbenchers said: "Look, we're getting all kinds of flak. We go to church on Sunday morning and there's a petition in the church saying we shouldn't have gambling expansion in this province." I don't blame those people for feeling that. They went to the ministers.
Every day I'd be up asking questions in the House and making statements and speeches and issuing press releases. Finally, the government sounded the bugles of retreat. You could hear the "beep, beep, beep" as they were backing up on the issue, because there was a firestorm in the province against the gambling expansion that was taking place. I remember that time allocation motion when they tried to push that bill through and close off debate.
Members of the House should know that even today, through the back door, the government is trying to put in more slot machines. In Clinton, Ontario, tonight there's a major meeting taking place where they have an internationally renowned expert, a professor from the US who has been in many jurisdictions.
Of course we've seen some of it in Ontario. We don't even have an election campaign on and they're running ads against the Leader of the Opposition, the leader of the Liberal Party, Dalton McGuinty, ads spoiling the football game. You try to watch a football game and you've got Conservative government ads on all the time. People are concerned about that. They say, "Are these people that desperate?"
Here's the other theory they have, because I know my friend from Humber always wants to know what the theory is. The theory is that the Conservative Party - we're not talking about all the government advertising paid for out of the pockets of the taxpayers, closing in on $50 million, the self-serving advertising; we're not talking about that. We're talking now about the one set of Conservative ads. They said, "The Conservatives have so much money in their coffers from all of the fundraisers they're having in the province that they have to spend it before the election campaign," because as my friend the member from St George knows, even with the new limits you've put out there - the sky's the limit in some areas - there are still limits on how much a political party or a candidate can spend in a campaign.
I don't know if the member from Humber agrees with me on that, but that's the theory I've heard from some people, that you have to spend that.
On the other side are the forces of good, trying to prevent Mike Harris, who you will remember - I know the member for Mississauga West remembers this well. When the Premier was in Windsor he said: "I don't want any part of those funds that you derive from gambling, don't want any part of them. Please, let's not have those."
Now he's addicted to them. What do you call those things they put in your arm at the hospital?
I know that the family coalition caucus within the government, the family values folks out there, must be putting the pressure on him, saying, "Look, we thought we closed down this opportunity to put 44 Mike Harris gambling halls in Ontario, so-called charity casinos, yet we see them showing up everywhere."
They've now made racetracks into casinos. What the racetracks need, of course, is for the government to take its hand out of their pockets and allow them to keep more of the profits from the horse racing industry itself. Then they could be viable. But now, everywhere in Ontario they're setting up new casinos. There are people now who say, "It's not the racetrack we'll be going to any more, it's going to be the casino we go to." It'll distract from a very legitimate industry in this province, a good industry in this province, that of the raising and breeding of horses and the racing of horses.
That was previously a time allocation motion, I want to tell my friend from St George who was wondering how I was getting around to speaking on this particular time allocation motion.
Or I thought this afternoon, instead of a time allocation motion, we would be talking about new user fees in the field of health care. I was speaking to some officials who are involved in collective bargaining with their company, a private sector company. They said that what you have to look out for now is that hospitals are charging more for semi-private and private accommodation in the hospitals, and for certain physiotherapy the Workers' Compensation Board - I still call it that - would pay a certain amount and the hospitals would accept that. No longer so. Now there's a user fee on top of that.
What does that do to collective bargaining? That forces those involved in collective bargaining to go back to the company to demand, to make the request, as part of their package, for more in order that they can cover that. In other words, the insurance premium goes up for the company. The company becomes less competitive.
I thought this government was all about making companies competitive. I know my friend the minister of industry and tourism, and many other things, economic development, when he was in St Catharines giving a non-partisan speech at the Premier's conference - I think it was non-partisan; I read in the paper it wasn't - said, "We want to get out of the hair of business." Now, of course, business is going to be placed in a less competitive mode because the government is now demanding that the union people go back and negotiate this instead of it being paid as it always has been through the Ontario health insurance plan.
Or I thought this afternoon the Minister of Health might be making an announcement, that instead of having this debate, perhaps she'd be up in the House saying that we're going to now fund the PSA test, the prostate specific antigen test, which tries to detect prostate cancer.
People have to pay for that at the present time. There are a lot of other diagnostic tests that they don't have to pay for, and I'm glad of that, but this is one that's a worry to men in our society. The older men get in our society, the greater the chance that they are going to unfortunately end up with prostate cancer. It is said that if you're 90 years old, for instance, you probably have it and you'll die of something other than it because you're 90 years old.
I'm not saying the test is perfect and I know there is some division within the medical community on it, but I'll tell you, there are a lot of people out there who are delighted, not at the fact that they have prostate cancer but that somebody suggested they get this test, or the doctor ordered this test so they would be able to identify it early and get the kind of treatment that would confine it and perhaps even cure it in that person. I would hope that this government would do that. That's certainly something I would be very much in favour of and I'd be the first to compliment the government if that were done.
Or this afternoon I thought that when we were talking about the greater Toronto services area we might be talking about Highway 407. I see the minister in charge of privatization. He hasn't been all that busy; I'm glad of that.
We talked about Highway 407. Did he see, and this would be interesting to this particular Speaker, what the CAA had to say, what the Ontario Motor League or the CAA had to say - that's now the Canadian Automobile Association - about Highway 407? They're afraid that, like so many things in Ontario, there is going to be one road for the rich and one road for the rest. They're afraid that if you are going to have huge tolls on Highway 407, Conrad Black's chauffeur will be able to pay those tolls as he goes along Highway 407, but the average person out there may find it somewhat onerous to pay that cost to avoid the huge traffic congestion that we have north of Toronto. I thought we might be dealing with that this afternoon.
We're talking about the Greater Toronto Services Board and we're talking about a time allocation motion. I thought, again, a more productive way of spending the afternoon would be to talk about school closings. The government threw some money at it and changed the formula a bit for one year, but I know the people who are before the board of education representing Merritton High School in St Catharines are very perturbed that a school which has provided so much service and has been the home of so many secondary school students over the years, which has such tradition, could be closed down as a result of the funding formula that will eventually be applied - there's a one-year stay of execution - to boards of education.
You and I know, Mr Speaker, as do I think all members of the House, that a school is not simply used by those who are involved in direct education during the day. It's almost a community centre. Most schools are a community centre, utilized in the evening and on weekends in various different ways. Particularly in smaller communities, it is exceedingly important. So I thought we might have been talking about that.
I thought, when I saw the Minister of Housing here this afternoon - and Municipal Affairs - that he would be talking about rent control.
Now, if he wanted to address a problem that landlords had, it wasn't how much they were obtaining for rents. It was good, solid landlords, your smaller landlords who have tenants who destroy the property and who don't pay the rent. They are the people I think all members in this House will be very sympathetic to. I know the minister mentions there are some provisions, but I'm telling you, the problems are ongoing. While the huge landlords in Metropolitan Toronto, the Barnickes of this world - is Barnicke a -
But I do want to say that people are finding out that you have removed rent control for people who move. Yes, if you stay a prisoner in your apartment - in other words, if you never move out of your rental accommodation - you may not experience a decontrol of rent. But I'm going to tell you, you do experience a decontrol of rent if you move out of it, so in effect, on a step-by-step basis, you have removed rent control.
I don't know whether the member for Renfrew North wants to join in this debate on time allocation this afternoon, whether he has anything else, but I do want to give him that opportunity if he wanted to.
The Greater Toronto Services Board: The minister will help me out -
When we had that, Bill 26 gave power to the Ontario hospital destruction commission. I'm over-emphasizing; I'm being unfair.
I remember on the 50th anniversary, which was this year, my good friend Tom Froese, the member for St Catharines-Brock, read out a nice letter from the Premier saying: "You've done such a great job for 50 years. I wish you well in the future." Well, that future is mighty short because the doors are to shut pretty soon if somebody doesn't prevent it from happening.
I'm in danger now that the member for Scarborough East is here. He'll be listening assiduously to my remarks and wanting to comment on whether they're exactly on topic or not.
I won't mention a name, but a person phoned my office last week - I was just looking at the note again today - and here's the situation this person faces. I'm not going to point fingers. The person will probably not vote for you next time, but that's going to happen. Some will vote for you; some won't. She phoned up and said, "My husband died while waiting for medical care, they're closing down the school I teach at and my kids can't afford to go to university or college." There are three of the kinds of problems I think we have to address in this House.
We are dealing with the time allocation motion which closes down debate on the Greater Toronto Services Board. One area where there is a need for coordination - and the member for Mississauga West will be able to help us with this - is between Mississauga and Toronto in terms of transit. There is a debate that goes on between both. I know some of the members from Durham are concerned about this particular board and how much influence Durham might have. In terms of transportation, it would be nice to see that coordination. It makes a lot of sense.
The provincial government, in my view, has a central role to play in public transportation. One is to facilitate the movement of people in and out of major metropolitan areas, such as Toronto in this case. A second is to improve the environment. If more people have easily accessible public transportation, where there's good service at a reasonable price, they're going to use it. If they don't, they're going to tend to drive themselves into and out of Toronto, one person in the car. We'll have huge congestion and of course much greater problems with the environment.
As I say, there are a lot of things I would have preferred to discuss this afternoon other than a time allocation motion: the condition of our hospitals. Anybody who was in the hospital 10 years ago and is back in now will tell you there's a radical difference between the two times. In other words, the service available now simply isn't there. Is it because the people who work in the hospital don't want to give it? No. They're excellent people, outstanding people, trying to provide this service. There are simply far fewer of them.
People call our constituency offices and say, "I've been waiting a long time for this procedure." It might be a hip replacement or another joint replacement that a more senior person requires, and there's great pain at this time. It may be the fact that the provincial government has put a cap on people getting eye examinations, so if they have diabetes, for instance, and they want to get an eye examination more often than the government prescribes, they can't do it. As you know, Mr Speaker, being a person who has been in this Legislature and who talks to his constituents, a person with diabetes or another affliction that affects the eyesight needs far more eye checks than you would normally allow to happen and may even need glasses more often because the eyesight in some cases unfortunately tends to deteriorate in those individuals.
I wish we were dealing with that instead of another time allocation motion. One motion procedurally that I would prefer to deal with is a motion to revert back to the rules of this House as they existed in 1991. They served us very well then. A good debate took place. Time allocation was not invoked that often those days; it was occasionally. You tried to have public hearings for people. The Minister of Municipal Affairs - it's not his bill - would know, because he's worried about this, that his friends in the municipalities were very perturbed when another time allocation motion came in closing off debate on the property tax bill and not allowing the input in committee.
I know, for instance, that the regional municipality of Niagara was looking forward to the opportunity, as were the Clerks and Treasurers of Ontario, to coming before that committee tomorrow to present their views on now the seventh bill on property tax, because they didn't get it right in the first six. What happened was that through a time allocation motion which passed I think earlier this week, they closed off debate on the bill and closed down the public hearings. People out there are asking: "What is the government afraid of? If their bill is so good, if their bill is outstanding and is going to provide some relief for small business and taxes, why are they afraid to have public hearings?"
That bill, as you would know, gives a break. I shouldn't say that specific bill, but the whole thrust in property taxes is that the bank towers in downtown Toronto get a huge break, as do the big box retail outlets that are usually at the highway outside of the downtown area of the city. They get a big break and many of the small businesses in the plazas and in the downtown areas of our municipalities across the province get zapped. All that bill does is prevent the zapping from happening before the election, but ultimately those small businesses are going to be zapped.
It is with a good deal of regret and sadness and lament that I've had to speak this afternoon on yet another time allocation motion. I hope we see no more of them. I hope we see this government start to listen to the people of this province, particularly as they get closer to an election. But from what I've seen so far, there's no evidence that that is going to happen.
It's not even the full implementation of the government's own Milt Farrow report. I feel pretty strongly, when you've got that kind of expert review of an issue that has brought forward some very solid recommendations - difficult to implement, I'll acknowledge, just in terms of the controversial nature of them - backed up by a lot of consultation, a lot of research, and then the government decides to do something that is virtually the exact opposite, that it would be appropriate for an opportunity for people to comment on that.
I think the bill, in its form as we see now, should have had an opportunity for actual public hearings and an opportunity for people to come forward to speak directly to the legislators who will be sitting on that committee and who would have an opportunity to listen very carefully to what people had to say and perhaps take advice from those people and bring forward some amendments to the bill. I'm saying to the member opposite who was muttering over there that those kinds of reviews and opportunities for public comment have taken place.
As you well know, many people look at reports and draft bills as just that, or as statements of intent from government. It's not until it's crystallized in an actual bill and the government says, "This is the law that we are going to bring in," that people turn their minds to whether it makes the grade and want to have an opportunity to comment on it. I regret that in this time allocation motion the government is precluding the public from having that opportunity. In fact, as a legislator, I regret that I am being precluded from hearing from those people in direct response to this bill, because I suspect there would be some comment out there that says that this step, while I think there is probably large agreement - I'm not going to say it's unanimous, because there are some people, particularly in some of the regions in the 905 area, outside the Metropolitan Toronto area itself or the city of Toronto, as it's now known, who I think hold a different view about the importance of moving to any kind of GTA governance.
I think there is, however, a large and growing consensus that it is important that there be a form of GTA governance, and given that that consensus has been driven through a hard-knocks approach over the course of the last six years of debate on this and of the kind of reviews I have referred to, like the Golden report, I think there are a number of people who would come forward and say to the government, "You are being much too cautious in this bill that you're bringing forward." While I suppose the government could argue it is a first step, in many ways I think it can be seen as just papering over what is a very important issue and what is a very important need in terms of this economic region that we call the greater Toronto area.
The time allocation motion sets out one day of committee, not to hear from the public as I was just raising a concern about, but one day of committee time to deal with clause-by-clause analysis. I suggest even that has been grudgingly given and is inadequate. If you look at how it is set out, the committee will have three hours on a Monday morning to begin the process of analyzing each of the clauses, the provisions of the bill, and to debate those clauses, to get further information and answers about the clauses, to put forward amendments to the clauses and then to debate and deal with the amendments. There will be about an hour on Monday afternoon, and then the time allocation motion indicates that the clerk and the Chair of the committee must just move the procedure on, deem that all of the amendments have been put, have been moved, that they're all officially in order and moved, and there will be no further discussion, debate or exploration of the intent of those amendments.
One of the things that concerns me about that kind of time allocation motion, and what I believe is quite a draconian move to simply shut down the exploration of what happens in the clause-by-clause review, is that good legislation is forgone in that process. Mistakes are made, and the government can well look to its own experience on a number of bills where you have had to bring back subsequent bills to fix problems or where it has taken unanimous consent to open up the process again in order to deal with an amendment that didn't get put by the government or should have been put or whatever. It is bad process, and bad process can also produce bad content and therefore bad law.
The process of creating legislation and passing legislation is a responsibility that we are charged with as elected members. It is a responsibility that some of us take seriously, as opposed to being little puppy dogs or little seals that simply do their trained clapping with they're asked.
The process we have seen in this House more and more often with respect to the passage of legislation doesn't befit a democratic parliamentary House such as this. I have great concerns about that. I believe that one of the things this government will go down in history being known as is a government that has trampled seriously on the democratic process. I think that is a sad legacy they will have.
I want to speak to why I have a concern about there not being sufficient time either for committee hearings or for the clause-by-clause analysis. That comes to the issue of the content of the bill itself and some of the concerns I have with respect to it. I spent quite a few years trying to come to terms with this very issue: What is the best type of governance for us to have in this large economic area?
I think all of us would acknowledge that you can't talk about the region of Peel or Halton or Durham or Toronto or Markham or Vaughan, all of these municipalities and regions, as entities isolated from each other. It's no longer possible to view them in that way. Historically, there may have been times when there were long distances and many fields and concession roads in between those communities. They had hearts, they had centres, they grew up in different ways, they grew up for different reasons around different activities - economic activities, lifestyle activities - some of them being commuter communities, some of them centred around farming and rural activities, some of them centred around employment opportunities that might be driven by things such as hydro plants. For various reasons, communities grew up in the areas where they grew up. But over time, as they have continued to grow and as we have seen in some cases good planning in terms of urban growth, in other cases some bad urban sprawl, I would argue, the lines and boundaries have become blurred and there is a greater relationship and interdependency between these various communities.
What that means when you boil it all down is that this is an economic region. The greater Toronto area is an economic region. I think there are things that have to be addressed on that area-wide basis that can't continue to be left to the hodgepodge approach of various municipalities or regions without regard to the impact or the effects that decisions made in one area will have on another area.
In particular, I'm concerned that the bill that sets up this new Greater Toronto Services Board gives very limited powers to the board. Essentially, the only power is for the governance of GO Transit, which has devolved from the province to this new Greater Toronto Services Board.
I think there are some other key areas that really should be included at this time. I appreciate that there is a process of review in the future and that maybe - keep your fingers crossed - if people get over some of the parochial responses we have heard in some areas and/or if they find some of the answers to legitimate concerns that have been raised in other areas, there will be an evolutionary process here. Maybe we will see in the future this board, with the consensus of its membership groups, the various municipalities and regions that are being represented on it, determine and come to the province and ask to be given greater powers or to assume powers for municipalities and regions. I hope that will happen, but I think that it need not wait for that. I think it's one of the great failings of this piece of legislation.
Let me talk about the type of powers in particular that I'm concerned about. I started off by saying I think we recognize this as an economic region, and I believe the issues of economic development should be addressed on a region-wide basis, an area-wide basis.
I had the great privilege of spending a couple of years in the portfolio of Minister of Economic Development and Trade. One of the things that always disturbed me was the competing nature of some of the municipalities and regions in the GTA. It's understandable, of course, when a region or municipality is attempting to build an industrial-commercial tax base, that they must work towards attracting economic development opportunities to their region. But some of the type of competition was quite destructive, and of course it has led to disparities in levels of taxation, for example, differential burdens on consumers, on residential taxpayers in different areas as they pick up the slack for discounted property tax rates being used to attract industry into an area. It seems to me that much could be accomplished by greater coordination and a sense of shared goals and responsibility for attracting new economic investment in our region.
When I met with companies from Germany, for example, or from the Asia-Pacific Rim, and we were talking about the advantages of locating in Ontario - and depending on which sector the company was from and the type of workforce that they were looking for, different parts of the province might be involved in that discussion - when we were talking about the GTA, I have to tell you that those companies didn't make a distinction as to whether it was actually Mississauga they were locating in or the city of Toronto or the city of Vaughan. That wasn't what was important.
What was important was the access to an excellent, well-educated workforce; reasonable levels of corporate income tax in terms of taxation; the fact that we have a tremendous competitive advantage as a result of our health care system and the low cost to employers compared to parts of the United States, for example; access to transportation routes, so the development of the 407 was a very important advantage that was coming on line; of course the regional airport and the international airport. All of these things were what they looked at if they were looking at the GTA when they were considering locating here. It wasn't, "Is it Mississauga or Vaughan?" They weren't thinking in those kinds of competitive ways, but our municipalities and our regions were, and largely because of the history. I understand that.
I think this is such an important issue for us to take the next step. There have been some attempts. There has been some interesting work done in the mayors' committee and papers around economic development, the Toronto alliance and some of the work that's being done there. There are some steps, but they're fledgling steps and this legislation does nothing to promote a maturing of that very important need, requirement, for the economy of this important economic region.
Economic development, I believe, is a power that should be given to this new Greater Toronto Services Board. It should be in recognition of the regional nature of our economy, and quite frankly I think it is short-sighted and it is a true failure of this legislation that it's not addressed.
The second issue in particular that I think as a set of powers should be taken over by the Greater Toronto Services Board is with respect to waste management. There is a huge issue of waste management; a large population, 4.5 million people we're talking about, and the level of industrial activity we're talking about. There's a huge issue of waste disposal. Whether it be industrial waste or human waste, consumer waste, there is a huge issue that we have faced in terms of challenges around landfill sites, challenges that I think governments have been attempting to respond to, I'll say, over the last 10 years to varying degrees of success, but trying to deal with in terms of aggressive policies of reduction and reuse. I think they could be more aggressive - to attempt to slow down the actual production of waste in some areas.
The whole area of waste management in terms of waste disposal is an issue, but also in terms of planning. We're talking water and sewers here. Water planning is hugely important. As you look at how development has grown in the GTA, it has often been without serious regard to an overall well-developed master plan for sewers in this whole area. I happen to have a particular interest in that because I represent a constituency that is at the end of one of those big pipes. Down in the Beaches we don't have control, for example, at the top end of the sewer pipe when new communities start to build trunks and to add on to them, and it gets sent and processed through Ashbridges Bay sewage treatment plant. The waterworks are there as well, just down the beach a little bit. We don't have any control and/or input over what planning decisions are being made in other parts of the GTA which have a direct effect, by sewer hookup, to our community.
Surely we should be looking at ensuring that growth and urban development in the future is, first of all, not urban sprawl; is respectful of the very important environmental considerations in this region, things like the Niagara Escarpment and the Oak Ridges moraine; is respectful of the farmland that we hope to keep in active farm production and is also respectful of the infrastructure capacity that we have; and that there is a master plan that is brought together with serious consideration to those factors that I just listed. That's not happening today, and it won't happen under this bill either. That's the second tremendous failure of the bill, I think, with respect to lack of powers. The whole area of waste management and water and sewer management really needs to be brought to that level.
A natural corollary to that for me is some level of significant coordination along planning. I still believe in a strong role for local municipal governments with respect to certain bylaws and zoning issues, but I believe there should be an overall regional master plan for development that again is respectful of the issues that I raised before. That's not addressed in this particular bill and those powers aren't there.
The minister might say to me in response, "But there is the ability in this coordinating body for those issues to be discussed if the municipalities wish to discuss them. I would say in response that the mayors' committee and the various iterations of that over the years that have been meeting have always had the ability to discuss these issues if they wish to do so, and we haven't made much progress. There are obvious reasons for this that we can look to in terms of some of the differing interests. It needs a structure and it needs a sense of power being given to that structure in order for those issues to actually be dealt with in a meaningful way.
GO Transit, which is one of the powers provided to this new board, the power of its governance, is an incredibly important transportation infrastructure for this economic region. I think it will become an important addition to the boards dealing with GO Transit for them to talk about coordination of their municipal transits as well to a greater degree. There has been a lot of work done on that, however. We can see over the years that there has been progress made. One of the things I'm concerned about in terms of the GO Transit position is not the governance, although we could talk about downloading. There have been some concerns about the overall direction of the government: "Is this going to end up being another example of a cost?"
My concern at this point is truly more to do with the formula that's being put in place and the cost-sharing. I don't think it is fair. I don't think it works well. I asked the minister to explain it to me and I appreciate him taking the time to go through it with me. I understand that he looked for something that recognized population, recognized ridership and tried to recognize service. I think some of those things are pretty concrete: population and ridership. The nature of service, in terms of who's benefiting from that service, is more difficult, and I think the way in which the formula has been put together puts too heavy a financial burden on the new city of Toronto as compared to the outlying municipalities and regions. I think one of the numbers I have seen is that the cost to the city of Toronto under this formula that's put in the legislation will be 50%, that they'll be funding 50% of the cost of GO Transit. The ridership of GO Transit is made up of about 85% of individuals from the municipalities and regions other than the city of Toronto.
One of the other things that has happened here is that a couple of issues have been mixed up. One of the concerns the minister had is in convincing or attempting to rationalize to some of the municipalities and the regions, other than the city of Toronto, in the GTA the need for pooling of paying for social service costs and that there needed to be some balance. You don't find these balances within the same piece of legislation, and I think it's very difficult for people to understand, has the right balance been struck? This, to me, is an issue that we should explore when we get to committee. I hope there is some thought being given to it. I hope this is not just going to be rammed through, because I do believe the people of the city of Toronto will feel particularly hard done by by that provision.
I have talked about the shortfall of the legislation with respect to powers. One of the other things that I would have preferred to see the legislation be a bit more bold about at this point in time are the actual boundaries that we're talking about. The GTA as it is depicted now isn't necessarily rational. I'm not sure it's easy for anyone to draw the lines themselves, but through the process of looking at this that went on through the Golden report in particular and from others, I think there are some obvious problems in terms of what communities are considered in and what communities are considered out.
Also, we have to recognize that there are changes developing. Within the Hamilton area and in many of the communities around Hamilton - Burlington, Flamborough and others; the minister and I were talking about this actually - there is a discussion happening about whether there is an economic region there that should at some point be recognized as a greater economic region in and of itself. That to me is interesting, and that would mean some rejigging of the boundaries.
Some of the areas that are included in the GTA, because of the natural boundaries of the municipalities or the regions, particularly north of the city of Toronto, and most particularly north of Highway 407, are very different than most other parts of the GTA. There are large rural communities there.
It is in part because of the conflict of those communities being included in the GTA and because of the strong desire to ensure that rural concerns are met that they have been resistant to some of the things I would be arguing for in terms of greater powers being invested in the Greater Toronto Services Board, and I understand that. I think there has to be recognition of that. One of the members from the Durham region was speaking earlier, and I think he makes an interesting point around that.
If you were to attempt, either through boundary adjustments or through some rural strategy, as he suggested, to explicitly address those concerns, you might find some greater consensus to address some of these other issues around master planning in terms of development, around coordinated economic development instead of competitive economic development, around waste management and sewer/water management. Some of those things might come easier.
So I think that the bill falls short and lacks courage in a sense. That's something that we hear all too often from the government in question period, "We're the only government who has had the courage," and I've got the Premier's arm swing down quite well at this point in time. Here is a place where we could use a little bit of courage, and I see it lacking.
I think some of the issues of boundaries should well be addressed, and I mentioned earlier some of the environmental considerations as well, the Niagara Escarpment and the Oak Ridges moraine, and what they mean in terms of the natural boundaries, the geographic boundaries and as well some of the historical municipal boundaries. I am concerned that we don't get much bang for the buck here. We don't get the necessary coordination of economic development that is important at this point in time.
I also want to say that this is entirely consistent with the position that we put forward during the debate on the government's megacity bill when you rammed through legislation to do away with local municipalities in the old Metropolitan Toronto region and to create the new city of Toronto. At that point in time we did bring forward and put out our position that said instead of moving to dismantle local government, we would like to see you move towards the elimination of regional governments and create a greater Toronto area governing body.
I know that's not without its controversy, I understand that, and it was a position in some ways hard come to over a long period of time of looking at this issue. But we were clear as a caucus that that is the position we took, and I say to the member who is not muttering right now but who has been muttering that is consistent with the argument I'm putting forward today in terms of my concerns with respect to the bill.
Before I turn over the rest of our time to the member for Ottawa West and the member for Dovercourt who will be participating, the last comment I will make is a comment on why I think the government has failed to act, particularly given that all the road maps were there. The work had been done. There have been extensive reports through Golden and Crombie and Farrow and others looking at this. I think, unfortunately, it does come down to a lack of courage and it does come down to some pretty basic partisan politics.
The minister and others have talked about how it's time for this because we have, they imply, this unwieldy situation of 29 municipalities in the municipalities and/or regions in the greater Toronto area. Is it 29 municipalities and five regions? I think those are the numbers in the greater Toronto area.
I'm sorry, but I had to laugh when I heard that because I thought it was a dumb thing to say. It's kind of like leading with your chin, because of the 29 municipalities, one of them, the one that you forced through the megacity legislation and created the new city of Toronto, represents 2.3 million people, just over half of all of the people in that greater Toronto area. That's one municipality. The other 28 municipalities represent the other half of the people, and you're doing nothing about that.
All of the fine words that we heard in the Legislature when you were ramming through the megacity legislation about the need to end duplication, the need to bring about some rational sense of governance, then you go out to the GTA and you hear tremendous opposition from the local municipalities and, lo and behold, if you take a look at the political demographics of the region and, correspondingly, of the members opposite, you will find that there is a correlation there. There are a lot of Tories who were elected in those ridings and there are a lot of angry municipalities and angry people who came forth. I guess when your own political interests were at stake, you decided to blink on what the road maps set out as the courageous path.
What we have now is a situation where, contrary to all of those words of the government in the past about ending duplication, about reducing levels of government, we have in effect all the municipalities being left in the greater Toronto area, except where you forced through megacity amalgamation in Toronto - 28 municipalities out there. On top of that, you've got five regions and on top of that now the Greater Toronto Services Board. Folks, you're going to have to come to terms with this. This is directly in contradiction to all the things that you have said in the past. I think it's a contradiction that the province is going to have to live with, because I suspect that you will force this closure through today, and then there will be one day of clause-by-clause and we'll vote on this and the government majority will carry the bill.
I'm sorry it is such a missed opportunity. While I acknowledge and think that having some structure, as loose as this is, may be a very tiny first step, and I hope there is evolution that grows from it, I think we have missed a tremendous opportunity to deal on an economic region basis with powers such as economic development, transportation beyond GO Transit, waste management and water management, and master planning for those areas.
The fact that the boundaries haven't been addressed will leave in the future a continued resistance, particularly from communities that are primarily rural-based that see their interests, and quite rightly so, as being very different from much of the rest of the communities in the greater Toronto area. That conflict will remain, so it's a tremendous missed opportunity.
Had we had some time in committee to hear from people, we might have been able to build a consensus among the members to take a few more steps forward. It appears that won't happen and that's unfortunate.
Thank you very much, and I'll share my time with the member for Ottawa West now.
I have to say to my colleagues here that looking at the extent of territory this bill covers, we're talking about the planning functions for a megalopolis of four and a half million people spanning some 29 municipalities and five regional governments, and one would think there would be some considered debate around this bill, particularly since it falls so short of the recommendations that were made by a great number of studies to examine this very important part of infrastructure and planning for a very large part of the population in Ontario.
Of course we know the government is not interested in listening, is not interested in debate and simply wants to close things off and get these things out of the way. Quite frankly, it's a little shamefaced because this is such a tepid, timid bill, falling far short of what was being proposed in its own sanctioned studies, let alone the studies initiated by other, prior governments.
It's with regret that we find ourselves yet again with another time allocation motion closing off proper consideration. The member for Beaches-Woodbine is quite correct when she says that this legislative process we engage in is to seek to perfect legislation, and that requires due consideration and due opportunity so that we don't make mistakes.
I'm just boggled by what happened with the property tax reform that this government initiated some 23 months ago. We're debating the eighth bill in that long list of corrections, amendments and revisions of their property tax agenda, to the point that even when the Minister of Finance tabled his eighth property tax bill in this House, he announced he would be submitting further amendments. It just boggles the mind and it just continues and continues.
Today's bill that we are discussing, the time allocation motion the government has presented, is no small matter. We're dealing with the process of urban planning for a major portion of this province, involving billions upon billions of dollars. We're talking about the provision of infrastructure: roads, sewers, sidewalks, parks, community centres, all the range of services that every community needs, spanning such a large area, based on boundaries that were set 150 years ago, and yet we find that what is being proposed here is simply a forum.
I would like to read from the press release that was put out by the Minister of Municipal Affairs. "The GTSB, the Greater Toronto Services Board, if approved by the Legislature, would be a forum for promoting better coordination and integration of interregional services in the greater Toronto area." Such a magnificent advance: a forum. Do the mayors who already meet not have the ability to chat with each other? Is that not in itself a forum for discussion? But oh, no, we must have legislation to formalize this process. Does this help in terms of accountability? Does this help in terms of creating a decision-making body that can say where the taxpayers' dollars are going to go?
We heard the member for Durham East earlier this afternoon say to us that for his region out in Durham, he wanted to see amendments coming forward to protect the interests of his region. Well, in the four and a half hours that this bill is going to go before committee, will there be the opportunity to have rational discussion of the amendments needed to make this a better bill? I don't think so. Quite frankly, is there going to be the ability for any of the 29 municipalities or the five regions, including the newly created city of Toronto, which is paying the freight for the bulk of these decisions through its assessment - is there going to be the ability for those bodies who have a long history of planning for their communities to contribute towards a more rational form of decision-making? We all know, reading the results of the previous report, that there is a crying need for an official plan process for this megalopolis that we call the Golden Horseshoe, the greater Toronto area.
This government's not interested. This government is just not interested. This government has downloaded so many services to the municipalities, particularly at regional government level, has abandoned public transit entirely to the local property taxpayer, and yet we're dealing with something here that cries out for the appropriate investment into public transit, an investment that the property taxpayer cannot carry on his own and that there are huge provincial interests in. If we simply allow for urban sprawl to go on and service car-oriented development and we end up creating conditions of congestion, it costs us all. It costs us in terms of the health aspect, it costs us in terms of the environment, and it costs us economically. Congestion means greater delays in the moving of goods and services throughout our community and greater delays in terms of ensuring that the people who provide these goods and services, the employees in these industries ranging from top to bottom, have proper access not only to their jobs and the services necessary to maintain those employment opportunities, but also where they live.
This is no small matter. This is a matter that affects taxpayers in Ottawa-Carleton, taxpayers in London, taxpayers in Windsor and Hamilton and throughout all of Ontario, because we know how much the greater Toronto area provides in terms of economic activity, and we want this to be done on a sane and rational basis.
The Golden report laboured mightily to produce a magnificent report that talked about the infrastructure challenges facing the residents of the greater Toronto area and the challenges facing the taxpayers of Ontario. This government has transformed that report into a tiny mouse. This bill is so sad in terms of its timidity and its tepidness. But unfortunately, the legislative process that we have with us today permits the government, after three days of debate - the second reading of this bill started just one week ago. Last night was the third opportunity for members in this House to participate in this debate, a debate that is going to have consequences in terms of billions of taxpayer dollars. Yet last night was the third opportunity.
So what do we see this government doing? As soon as we have accumulated three days of debate, it steps in and moves its time allocation motion, because it knows all the answers. It's not a government interested in listening whatsoever, although it's amazing to see $47 million being spent on government propaganda that "Mike Harris is listening, and please send in all those forms." The proof is directly the opposite. It's not interested in providing opportunities for any of the players to come and speak to the actual bill. True, there was a version that was tabled and they had opportunities to comment on it, but the final bill that we have here is remarkably disappointing in the inadequacy of its achievement.
Here we are, faced with this bill, no opportunity for hearings, and four and a half hours of consideration on Monday, December 7. This is not good government. What happens when we see the government go down for the umpteenth time? We have lost count. I hate to say this, but we've lost count on our side of the House of how many times this government has shut off debate and just proceeded on willy-nilly. We know this government is not perfect. We see the eighth bill on property tax.
It's with regret that we find ourselves here dealing with yet another time allocation motion that shuts down debate on what should be a very important topic to provide the basis upon which we can plan properly and appropriately for the next 20 years for the greater Toronto area.
In my community of Ottawa-Carleton, we've just completed an official planning process where we have come forward with an official plan that's going to look at growth for the next 20 years, that's going to seek to avoid the cost of urban sprawl so we can have balanced communities, affordable communities that do not have such a tremendous environmental impact, that are livable communities that won't cost the taxpayer an arm and a leg, that will support public transit, support good community facilities such as schools, recreation programs, community programs, so people can live in a well-balanced community.
That's what people expect from their planning authorities, yet this government takes an existing mayors' forum, where the mayors of the GTA meet and talk about these issues, and formalizes it here with the Greater Toronto Services Board Act and then emasculates it by saying under certain circumstances you need 75% of the vote to change anything, and in other circumstances you need two thirds. How have we advanced any yardsticks here?
It is with regret that we're dealing with this time allocation motion, it is with regret that we aren't given the opportunity for further commentary on such an important process and it's with regret that we find the government stating in its time allocation motion that it shall go to committee, no public hearings, four and a half hours of clause-by-clause, and then to come back to this House with the amendments, whatever amendments may come forward - I hope the member for Durham East will be satisfied; we'll find out - to only two hours of debate here.
With that, I'll turn the debate over to my colleague from Dovercourt.
As my colleagues from Beaches-Woodbine and Ottawa West have indicated, this is another example of this government rushing forward to bring in legislation. In this case, they brought it in some time ago but they let it sit on the books, didn't do anything, gave for the last couple of months no indication that they were serious about proceeding with this. Then all of a sudden, with two weeks left in the sittings, we're asked to rush this through because they've now decided again that it's a priority for them and they have to get this done and they want to get it done before January 1. That may be one of the clearest indications that the House may not indeed come back after we recess, whether it's going to be next Thursday or the week after that, because we expect to be here another couple of weeks, and that's fine.
The point is that this is again another clear example of the government not just using its majority to muzzle debate here but, quite frankly, not being able to manage its own business and having to resort to these types of tactics to try to push through legislation at the last minute. I'm sure we'll see this again during the course of the remaining week or two on other bills. Whether it's the budget bill that we're debating later tonight and tomorrow, whether it's the yet-to-be-introduced bill that the Minister of Transportation promised - not even in this House, but in the scrum outside following question period today - to implement the pilot projects on red light runners, we'll have to see what that's like. But I heard him say that whether the legislation gets passed before Christmas or not is up to the opposition because he's now a hostage of the opposition.
Who determines within the government what in heaven's name they're going to do with various pieces of legislation, Speaker? Surely they have the power. They certainly have the majority in this House to decide what they want to do, to decide what priority they're going to give to legislation as opposed to then deciding at the last minute, after lots and lots of time, that they weren't going to do something, in this case the GTSB, in that case moving on the issue of red light runners, and now all of a sudden, in the last days of this legislative session, all these things have to be done, all these things have to be passed or the world's going to crumble.
The world is going to crumble around the Mike Harris government. It's going to happen in the next election, and none too soon. If all of this is simply indication after indication that the government really wants to close down the House, not come back, call an election, whether it's going to be late winter, early spring, late spring or whatever they choose to do, then that's fine. Let's just get on with it and let the people of the province have an opportunity to pass judgment, as they surely will, on the Mike Harris government.
In that election, we'll have a great opportunity to talk with people about those people who have benefited and those people who have not benefited from the actions of the Mike Harris government, actions that have had at the basis of their activity the implementation of the 30% income tax cut that has not benefited most people. For most people we are in fact seeing cut after cut.
Even in this important area of restructuring of the greater Toronto area we've had that the government is doing something, the government is not doing something. They certainly were prepared to ram through major changes within one half of the GTA, that is the city of Toronto, to make haste with that and to make changes despite all the good warnings and good advice they received from all corners. Now, on this one they are proceeding to set up, as my colleague from Beaches-Woodbine was indicating, another chat session for the GTSB and the mayors and other politicians in the greater Toronto area.
What we need is fundamental reform in terms of the regional level of governance in the greater Toronto area. I had a chance to talk a bit about that in debate on the actual bill yesterday and will have very limited opportunity, obviously, to get into some of that discussion in committee, given what the government is doing with this, which is sending the bill to committee for one day for some amendments to be made.
We'll be pursuing some amendments in committee along the lines of what I indicated yesterday, which is that at the very least, if the government is insistent on proceeding with the establishment of the Greater Toronto Services Board, they should see it as a transition to a greater Toronto area regional level of government. That's the course of some of the amendments we'll be pursuing.
I'll be very interested to see how the government reacts to that because therein will lie the truth about how serious they are about turning this very mild, very non-existent move, other than at a symbolic or public relations level, in terms of establishing this board, which will simply be another discussion forum with very little in the way of any powers. We will see if the government is serious about looking forward to the next millennium and setting the framework within which real reform can happen, reform that they were not prepared to bring in as the Crombie study suggested, as the Golden study suggested that in fact should be the first priority of any restructuring of governance and the delivery of services in the greater Toronto area and not the work they did to amalgamate the municipalities in the city of Toronto as they have done.
We will be pursuing those issues and we will see how serious the government is about real reform in this area. We suspect that they are not because they don't want to rock the boat in the 905 area, where a lot of the political support for the government is, and they don't want to lose any potential support as we head into the next election there. They have carefully crafted and recrafted the GTSB legislation. They have even taken any real or seeming powers that this body would have had in the previous incarnations, as we saw it in the previous reports. What we have is simply another discussion forum that, if left as it is, will not lead to anything more significant than what we have now in the informal meetings that happen on a monthly basis between the mayors in the greater Toronto area.
We will be pursuing the issue of real reform through some amendments that would establish this as a transition body towards establishing one regional government in the greater Toronto area. We understand that there has to be lots of discussion about the parameters of that and we encourage and want to have that discussion. That would be a far better discussion than the kind of ramming through of this type of mild legislation that the government wants to use simply to be able to pretend that they're doing something when in fact they are not.
Mr Leach has moved government notice of motion number 43.
Is it the pleasure of the House the motion carry?
All those in favour, say "aye."
All those opposed, say "nay."
In my opinion, the ayes have it.
Call in the members; it will be a five-minute bell.
The division bells rang from 1801 to 1806.
Ford, Douglas B.
Guzzo, Garry J.
Jordan, W. Leo
Leadston, Gary L.
McLean, Allan K.
Ouellette, Jerry J.
Parker, John L.
Rollins, E.J. Douglas
Runciman, Robert W.
Stewart, R. Gary
Young, Terence H.
Bradley, James J.
Conway, Sean G.
Morin, Blain K.
It being past 6:30 of the clock, this House stands adjourned until 6:30 tonight.
The House adjourned at 1809.
Evening meeting reported in volume B.
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