LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY OF ONTARIO
ASSEMBLÉE LÉGISLATIVE DE L'ONTARIO
Thursday 26 June 2003 Jeudi 26 juin 2003
Thursday 26 June 2003 Jeudi 26 juin 2003
Mr Mike Colle (Eglinton-Lawrence): It's a great privilege to be here in the Ontario Legislature to stand up and support the good citizens of Oakville, some of whom are here today, who care so much about this beautiful part of the greater Toronto area and who care so much about the future of the Oakville area and the legacy that this will mean for their children and their children's children.
I commend Councillor Allan Elgar, who is here today, who has been soldiering on many fronts in Oakville and I think is a councillor in ward 4; Iris McGee and Renee Sandelowsky from Oakville Green; Mike Lansdown, another brave soldier, and so many others who have taken on all comers in standing up for what's right. They basically have said our future health and our future natural environment is more important than the developers making dollars at the expense of the health and well-being of the people of Oakville. So I really commend them for taking on in many cases city hall, taking on the provincial government, taking on the developers, with a great deal of, as I said, abuse at times. But they've been brave and they've been persistent in standing up for what they think is right.
The Trafalgar moraine represents more than just a pure ribbon of very important geography. It represents a symbolic battle that is going on all over southern Ontario between proper planning, sustainable planning, and cheque book planning. Right now in Ontario we in essence have planning that is dictated by who has the biggest bank account. In essence, what has happened too is that an unelected, appointed group of individuals who are nameless and faceless are also making decisions about the future of the people all across Ontario, as they are in Oakville. Those are the appointed, unelected members of the Ontario Municipal Board.
In other words, the people who have lived and worked in a region and care about its wildlife, care about the air they breathe, no longer have a say in its future. That's what's happening in Oakville. They feel disenfranchised. They say they're taxpayers, they're part of the Lions Club, they care about their community, yet they have no say in the future of their community. That right to be heard has been taken away from them. Now it seems the development industry and unelected people of the Ontario Municipal Board are in charge of mapping the future of their community, and that is not right.
This is, ironically, the third anniversary of when I introduced the Oak Ridges Moraine Protection Act in this very House. I remember that at that time members on the opposite side said, "This is a silly proposal." They said, "You can't do it." They said it wasn't necessary. They said, "There is a local process in place in Richmond Hill. There's the Ontario Municipal Board; there's the region of York. All these things are already in place. You don't need to protect the Oak Ridges moraine." In fact, I remember they even questioned whether there was an Oak Ridges moraine.
We have a repeat scenario here today, where people who are for unbridled sprawl are saying, "You don't need to protect the Trafalgar moraine." Some even say there is no Trafalgar moraine. Some say it's a silly proposal to protect this. It's the same naysayers as were here in this very chamber three years ago saying, "You don't need to protect the Oak Ridges moraine."
Ironically, as you know, there was a hue and cry from Pontypool all the way over to King City. People stood up and said, "Yes, there is an Oak Ridges moraine. Yes, we have a right to protect it. Yes, we want to be heard on this. Yes, the provincial government has a role to play in protecting communities against sprawl and planning our communities properly." People got up by the thousands to shame this government into finally admitting there was an Oak Ridges moraine and finally getting them to freeze development of the Oak Ridges moraine for six months until they put in a plan. They did it because the public stood up and were not afraid to stand up.
I'm asking for the same thing here. This bill asks for a temporary hold until all the studies are put in place so that we know exactly where we're going. It's a map to the future. We need all the watershed studies. We need all the mapping to be completed. We need the provincial government in here because they can at least mitigate the interjurisdictional disputes. Because the Trafalgar moraine and its future not only affects the people in Oakville; the critical thing about the Trafalgar moraine that is very much of provincial interest is that it is right on the border of the Niagara Escarpment, which goes from Tobermory all the way down to Niagara, one of the true treasures that even the United Nations has named as an international biosphere site.
The Trafalgar moraine is a corridor on the edge of the Niagara Escarpment. So whatever we do to the Trafalgar moraine not only affects protection in Oakville; it's going to affect the internationally recognized Niagara Escarpment. If you allow unmitigated sprawl north of Dundas, you're not only, as I said, going to bring about horrendous congestion and smog; you're going to wipe out over 300 wetlands -- 300 wetlands. I've seen them: Shevchenko Park, north of Dundas, a beautiful little oasis where there are fowl and fish and birds still thriving on the edge of cookie-cutter homes to the south of Dundas.
If the province doesn't step in and say they care about the future of the Trafalgar moraine and the Niagara Escarpment, they're going to basically allow creeping sprawl to go north of Dundas, and as you know, in the town of Milton, there's going to be more sprawl coming from the north. We don't want all of Oakville to look like Mississauga.
There has to be a line drawn in the sand somewhere, because this Westward Ho of sprawl is going to eat up farmland. As you know, right now most of the area north of Dundas, in the Trafalgar moraine area, is farmland -- countryside. At what point does the provincial government ever stand up and say that this countryside-farmland area in the western part of the GTA has to have some protective plan? They haven't said that.
There are even more pressures: we have the proposed escarpment expressway, which this government is trying to jam through the escarpment. So you add the escarpment expressway. The 407 already cuts through the Trafalgar moraine, and then you're going to have 55,000 people living in the natural areas north of Dundas.
This is about stopping smog. We know that if you have more people in that area, you're going to have more cars, you're going to have more smog, you're going to have lower quality water. The air quality index in Oakville yesterday was up, I think, to 69, one of the worst air qualities you'll ever get in southern Ontario. How can they absorb another 55,000 people, another 35,000 industry jobs with all their cars in that Trafalgar-Oakville catchment area?
My bill tries to say, "Let's have a time out. Let the province look at a way of protecting this area from the impacts, not only on people, but on the escarpment, on the wetlands, on the wildlife corridors."
We have Bronte Creek Provincial Park, the only provincial park in the GTA, right on the edge of the Trafalgar moraine, a beautiful gem. This government just the other day sold off 60% of the public lands right on the edge of Bronte Creek Provincial Park.
We need some long-term vision. We need to pause for six months, put in a plan that recognizes the sensitive areas, looks at the transportation issues, looks at the air quality issues and plans for 100 years from now, not for what the developers want to get at the Ontario Municipal Board. That's no way to protect the future of this beautiful, precious area known as the Trafalgar moraine.
Mr Frank Mazzilli (London-Fanshawe): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: Our wonderful page Tyler Goettl from London-Fanshawe would like to welcome his mom, Lise; his dad, Kyle; his brother Travis; and his sister Hannah to the Legislature. They've come to rescue him at the end of the day.
We have an interesting bill before us. The Oak Ridges moraine was of course a wonderful piece of Ontario that I voted to protect when Ms Churley brought forward a bill -- I think you brought forward a bill on the Oak Ridges moraine perhaps about a year and a half ago. I was pleased to support that, although I remember distinctly as I rose to support that bill, there were a whole bunch of people sitting down over on this side. So my record on supporting environmentally sensitive land in this place is one that I'm proud of.
The member mentioned smog. Well, driving in this morning, it looked like a very early morning on a plain somewhere in western Canada. The mist was beautiful -- except that it wasn't mist; it was a pea soup of smog, chemicals and everything else that's probably very bad for us. So protecting land and making sure that we have green space available to us is a very important part of being a government in Ontario. Finding that balance between what is good for the environment and what is good to keep the economics of a province booming as we have in Ontario is the job of government, and it's a very sensitive job.
The Trafalgar moraine is indeed a moraine, as is most of southern Ontario. I was talking about a moraine the other day to a chap here, and he didn't realize what a moraine was. As the glaciers that covered Ontario some 20,000 years ago receded, as the weather began to warm up and the glaciers flowed south, they hit this warm front -- just south of Lake Ontario, originally, their southernmost extreme -- and they began to melt. As they began to melt, of course they continued to flow, and that built-up soil and land at the end of the glaciers. That buildup of soil is known as a moraine. If that moraine occurred at the southern limit of the glacier, it was known as a terminal moraine. If it occurred on the edge of a glacier, it was known as a lateral moraine. If the glacier just receded in a somewhat consistent fashion, it was known as a moraine.
Now, most of Ontario is a moraine, as is the Trafalgar moraine. It's a defined geological area, and it's very important. I think it's important that we put into perspective what this government has done just last week with regard to the Trafalgar moraine. One small portion of that moraine is owned by the Ontario Realty Corp. That corporation has about 1,100 acres of land north of Dundas highway. Within those 1,100 acres are about 175 acres that are in river valleys and extremely environmentally sensitive lands. As Mr Colle pointed out, there are really some beautiful spots. If you walk up through the Sixteen Mile Creek, it is unbelievably beautiful. You would think you were standing in a location that was there prior to the arrival of Europeans on this continent.
So it's a beautiful piece of land and it deserves to be protected. Originally, about two years ago, we had looked at about 175 acres of land being protected in that area. Through the efforts of myself and Ann Mulvale, the mayor of Oakville, that level of land has been increased so that, as of a week ago, 420 acres were protected, over twice what was originally thought to be protected. Not only have the north-south corridors of the river valleys been protected but, because wildlife doesn't always travel north-south -- it has to travel east-west as well -- east-west corridors were also protected. So within that 1,100 acres, there is the beginning of a network of trails and environmental land that eventually can go up rivers like Oakville Creek, for instance, or Sixteen Mile Creek and join the Niagara Escarpment, where most of these rivers rise. That would provide an environmentally sensitive area with a trail system that runs basically from Lake Ontario and Oakville -- Oakville harbour -- all the way up to the Kelso conservation area and Rattlesnake Point and the areas that are known to be around the Niagara Escarpment and tie in with that most sensitive area as well.
Finding that balance -- and it's been an interesting project, certainly a very rewarding one -- in how much environmental land has to be set aside or can be set aside is important. I'm personally very pleased that the Chair of the Management Board, the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing and the Minister of Natural Resources have all come together and supported this 420 acres of environmentally sensitive land that has been set aside on the Trafalgar moraine to begin the process -- this is not the end of the story; this is to begin the process -- of protecting that land for future generations in Ontario. I'm very pleased that we were able to do that.
I might just say that I appreciate the member for Eglinton-Lawrence's work on this bill. Mr Colle was really the first member of the Legislature that I can recall who got very active on the Oak Ridges moraine issue. I can remember many days when I'd talk to Michael and he'd say he was off to a meeting that night in Richmond Hill or Aurora or Pontypool. It almost seemed like every night of the week he was heading toward a meeting -- this was a couple of years ago -- dealing with the Oak Ridges moraine. That really started with the community there, which identified the Oak Ridges moraine as a treasure that, if we collectively didn't look at it in its totality and put together a plan to deal with it in total, would disappear piece by piece by piece.
I take my hat off to Mr Colle. As I say, he was, in my memory, the first provincial politician who really got extremely actively involved. So he doesn't come to this issue cold. He has that experience of having dealt with another very similar situation. His bill is an extremely sensible bill which essentially -- to quote him, "The purpose of the bill is to temporarily freeze development on and around the Trafalgar moraine until all environmental studies underway are completed and the province puts in place a protective plan that identifies and protects the moraine's environmentally sensitive features." It's essentially the process followed with the Oak Ridges moraine.
I represent an area in Scarborough and have some experience with another similar issue, and that's the Rouge park. I salute the members of the community who, actually in the early 1980s, identified the Rouge as another of our treasures in the province of Ontario and began to work very hard to preserve that. It started with relatively few people but grew to an enormous movement -- that probably is not too strong a word for it.
I don't live in the past, but it happened we were in government in those days, from 1985 to 1990. It was the government of the day that needed to address it. It was the result of community activists, people who understood and cared about the environment, who took a long view of the environment against some very considerable odds. There were enormous interests at stake in the Rouge park. Developers stood to make a considerable amount of money developing the Rouge park. For the provincial government itself, there was a major road that had probably been planned for decades that was going to go right through the centre of the Rouge park. The Ministry of Transportation of the province of Ontario was very determined to protect their future roads. One of the most difficult parts of preserving the Rouge was persuading the Ministry of Transportation to remove that road from the centre of the park.
The purpose of saying all this is that I've learned from experience to listen to the community, to recognize that things that seem relatively challenging can be overcome. In this particular case, it's putting a pause on development until there is a chance for all of us to look at a long-term, comprehensive plan. If the people who mounted the campaign to preserve the Rouge had not been so determined and so committed -- all volunteers -- we wouldn't have that enormous resource. I walk my dog in the Rouge probably twice a week, year round. It's an absolute treasure that's there only because the community felt it was important and put the time and effort into it. Finally, the politicians of the day were dragged into making the right decision.
My second experience with a major thing such as this was the Oak Ridges moraine. I was relatively uninvolved in it but my colleague Mr Colle was there from the start. Once again, the community there identified the dangers we were all facing. I might add that sometimes these things kind of creep up on you, so that it's happening one piece at a time and we never force ourselves to take the decision to say, "Let's look at this in a comprehensive way."
My colleague Mr Colle also mentioned the Ontario Municipal Board. I have had some experience with the Ontario Municipal Board where a significant local planning issue was sent to the OMB so quickly -- because the rules of the OMB are such that a planning issue can move to the OMB before the local community is even aware of it. It was the sale of some Hydro lands in the area I represent. The local community had virtually no opportunity to have a say in the planning for that. It went directly to the OMB. Then they were forced to try and represent their interests to the OMB, with limited resources, against the enormous resources of the developer. My colleague rightly points out the problem communities face in trying to deal with the OMB with their limited resources, often against almost unlimited resources on the other side.
I think the bill is modeled on an approach we took on the Oak Ridges moraine, supported, I might add, by all three parties. I would hope we would find an opportunity today to support Mr Colle's bill and give ourselves a chance to preserve another of the treasures in Ontario.
Ms Marilyn Churley (Toronto-Danforth): Before I begin my remarks, I want to take this opportunity to introduce Ken and Helen Cressman who are here today from New Hamburg, sitting in the gallery. I'd like to welcome them. I believe this is their first time in the Legislature, and I hope they have a nice day in Toronto.
I am happy to stand and support this bill before us today. It's not the first time I've supported a bill from Mr Colle. In fact, Mr Colle and I worked closely together. We each had a bill on protecting the Oak Ridges moraine. Mr Colle has, I believe, made this almost his life's mission. The work he's done on the Oak Ridges moraine and now on this is to be commended and congratulated.
I also want to take the opportunity of course to thank and congratulate Oakville Green. I believe that's the name of the local group that I met on one occasion. That is the group that's been working very hard, fighting against development of the moraine. I know they're very supportive and perhaps worked with Mr Colle on the bill that's before us today.
This bill is about protecting, in the same vein that we worked and fought so hard for so many months to protect the Oak Ridges moraine. You will recall what we had to go through to get the Oak Ridges moraine protected -- numerous local meetings where thousands of people came out to protest the government's plan for development on the Oak Ridges moraine.
I put forward a bill, along with my colleague Shelley Martel, as did Mr Colle. We raised the issue many times in the Legislature. I guess people learned through that whole process -- it's kind of sad in a way; good in one way, but sad -- that the squeaky wheel does get heard sometimes. It is unfortunate that citizens have to spend so much of their time, freely given -- they're not paid to do this -- to fight these proposals that will cause great damage to their communities perhaps and to environmentally sensitive land. It shouldn't have to be this way. You would think we would have learned from what happened around the Oak Ridges moraine, that it's not fair and it's in nobody's interest to put people through this kind of process.
We're here again today -- it's almost like déjà vu all over again, really. Here we go again. Again, I want to congratulate Mr Colle for his dogged -- he's like a dog with a bone who will not let go -- approach to protecting these sensitive lands.
I know it's private members' hour, but I want to say categorically that we in the NDP all support this bill before us today, and we do that because support for this cause is consistent with the NDP's green planning principles of stopping sprawl, creating compact growth, which we've talked about a lot in this Legislature, and supporting green space and ecological preservation. That's what this bill embodies here today.
Just let me tell you, though, what I think we have to do. Certainly I would recommend that people take a look at Public Power: Practical Solutions for Ontario, the NDP's platform for the coming election, which is going to be called, we think, soon. You can get it on a Web site, www.publicpower.ca. You can turn to pages 34 and 35, and within these practical solutions, there are two very important -- and this does relate to your bill, Mr Colle. I'm not going off subject here. Because one of the concerns --
Ms Churley: Yes, I think he had fun too. However, that in itself is a very serious issue: curtailing smog in this province. That's one of the issues that Mr Colle raised, and I know it's been raised by the member for Halton, Ted Chudleigh, that smog is a very serious problem now.
Yesterday we had a little fun with it, but we were also deadly serious that we have to do everything we can, not only to reduce pollution by phasing out and closing down the coal plants by 2007 and bringing in very strong conservation and efficiency targets, which is what the NDP has been calling for for a long time now and we still don't have, but also to increase and enhance public transportation and not increase urban sprawl in an area where, in fact, the lay of the land is such that you have to drive to get anywhere. Mr Colle has outlined how much smog will be increased by the development if it takes place as planned.
In our document Public Power: Practical Solutions for Ontario -- the web site is www.publicpower.ca, but that's for another day. Seriously, I want to talk about two things. When our government was in power, many people here -- I understand the government and the Liberals; we all do this to each other -- point out the things that you consider we did wrong when in government and, yes, there are a couple of really good examples. But what you don't do is talk about some of the many things we did right when we were in power.
One of the things we brought in was the green planning act. Many of you were not here at the time. Mr Colle was not here and many of the Liberals who are sitting here today were not here, so I'm not going to blame them. But I will say that both parties, the Tories at the time who were sitting right here as the third party -- it must be Gerry Phillips's and Alvin Curling's fault; they were here -- voted against our plan for a tough green planning act.
We didn't just willy-nilly bring in a plan without examining it very carefully. We had a team of experts -- John Sewell was the chair of that panel and Toby Vigod was then from the Canadian Environmental Law Association, and others -- who went across the province. John likes to brag that not only did he come in on time but under budget, which is very rare in this place. Developers, planners, environmental groups and local communities all worked together and, yes, there were some compromises. However, at the end of the day people were generally happy with our comprehensive bill that in fact did what Mr Colle talked about today and what we all talked about when we were trying to protect the Oak Ridges moraine: that is, a green planning act that looked at the province as a whole.
We shouldn't be doing this piecemeal. We need a comprehensive green planning act, once again, that automatically puts in place processes that protect this kind of land, prevents urban sprawl and protects our drinking water at the source. All of those things were embodied within our green planning act.
It was one of the first things the Tory government threw out when they came to power. I found it very regrettable because, not only did they revert back to the previous planning act that was in place before we brought in this new green planning act, but they brought in some other very regressive measures that would actually make it easier for developers to develop on these environmentally sensitive lands.
That is part of our platform. It's the fifth practical solution: "Implement a tough green planning act to fight urban sprawl and preserve valuable agricultural land, wetlands, woodlands and other important natural areas ... from development." We did it before and we must do it again.
The second thing I want to talk about, and this is on page 34 of our Public Power platform, I believe is the second practical solution. That is bringing in my Ontario Drinking Water Source Protection Act. You will recall that after the tainted water tragedy in Walkerton there was a comprehensive inquiry which we demanded, the people of Walkerton demanded, the Liberals demanded, many of us demanded, and eventually we were able to force the government to appoint Justice O'Connor, who I must say did an incredible job that we're all very happy with.
One of the key recommendations, the linchpin of all of those recommendations, was to bring in the source protection act. Justice O'Connor said that even with the Safe Drinking Water Act -- you may recall I had put forward a private member's bill on that which came very close to being passed, but at the end of the day the government did its own. One of the differences between my Safe Drinking Water Act and the government's was that I tried to bring at least some components of source protection into it as we did under the NDP's Oak Ridges moraine act. We also brought in pieces of the green planning act which had been thrown out, and pieces of, even before Justice O'Connor recommended it, on source protection. In many ways, what the bill before us today is about is source protection. When the government says, "You guys did nothing when you were in government on source protection," it's not true. There was not a specific source protection bill at the time, but under the green planning act, there certainly was source protection.
Practical solution 2 talks about bringing in the NDP's source protection act. I'm going to tell you what that would do, because it's relevant to this bill before us today, which is for us to protect a specific environmentally sensitive piece of land. In a nutshell, it "establishes watershed planning boards across the province with the mandate and resources to protect the quantity and quality of water in the watershed. These boards would produce source protection plans that would prevent water contamination by human activity, intensive factory hog farms" -- I must say, that's another bill I brought forward some time ago that I've been urging the government to pass; that is, curtailment of these huge factory hog farms, which are also causing environmental havoc in some locations in our province -- "massive water taking and other development." The bill is more comprehensive than that, but that, in a nutshell, is what the source protection act would do.
It is absolutely essential, so that we don't have to keep coming back over and over again, as Mr Colle has had to do today and we had to do on the Oak Ridges moraine piece -- we're about to do it over another highway the government is talking about bringing in that goes against the grain of their own recommendations of Smart Growth. This is another example of it today. The government received a fair amount of credit for their Smart Growth panel and the recommendations. I gave them some credit for that. I do that from time to time. When I think a government is doing something right, I will stand up and say I think they're doing something right. What is disturbing to me is that after I give them those compliments, they really severely disappoint me by then turning around and going against their own recommendations. That's what we're seeing here again, the government practising dumb growth, not smart growth.
We have to put together comprehensive legislation that protects environmentally sensitive land across this province so that we don't have to keep coming back and doing this over and over again. We need to protect green space, preserve important ecological features and stop urban sprawl. I must say to the government today that you must not allow the Ontario Realty Corp to sell the land it owns on the moraine to developers. You just can't do that. Once again, it belies everything you said about protecting the Oak Ridges moraine and protecting water sources in this province.
I have to add before I close that if land is deemed to be appropriate to develop on, another good thing the NDP did -- there were many we had in place when we were the government -- was that government-owned land be set aside to build affordable housing. I know this is an aside. This land, in my view, should not be developed. But certainly there's a great concern now that when there is land owned by the government that is available and appropriate to build housing on, instead of setting aside some of that land to build affordable housing, it's all sold off to developers.
Their friends get to buy it and get to build condos and high-priced houses so they can make money. That's an aside, I know, but one that's very serious, because as we stand here today talking about protecting our environmentally sensitive land, curtailing smog and urban sprawl, we also have a very serious affordable housing crisis in this province because the government stopped building housing, as did the Liberals in Ottawa. They've put some money back on the table and we're waiting for this government to match that money -- they haven't done so -- so we can start building housing again.
I know I digressed a little bit, but it's another passion of mine. I want to speak in favour of Mr Colle's bill and hope the government will see fit to pass it today, to pass third reading, and let it go through so we can protect this environmentally sensitive land.
Mr Joseph N. Tascona (Barrie-Simcoe-Bradford): I'm certainly pleased to join in the debate on Bill 27. Essentially, the purpose of the bill is an emergency freeze with respect to the Trafalgar moraine. It says very clearly that it's to take effect May 1, 2003, and the act is repealed on the day the plan made by the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing to protect the environmentally sensitive areas and other natural features of the Trafalgar moraine from development comes into force. Essentially what the member is asking for is a freeze with respect to anything the municipality can do, and also for a plan from municipal affairs to deal with this land. That's the nature of the bill.
I would say that our government's record with respect to protecting environmentally sensitive areas speaks for itself. We were the first government to protect the Oak Ridges moraine for future generations. Other parties may have talked a big game when they were in government, but they did nothing to deliver real protection. I think it's appropriate that the Environmental Commissioner recently presented an award to the province for its historic protection of these lands.
More recently, the Minister of Municipal Affairs, Mr Young, protected the Pickering agricultural reserve from the prospect of development by issuing a ministerial zoning order. This bold action ensured that these lands would be protected forever, just as the people of Pickering were promised back in 1999. While the city was looking to possibly reopening that agreement as part of a developmental study, the province made it clear that this land was to be protected in perpetuity. I'll be touching on both of these examples at greater length in a few moments.
It's interesting that the candidate who is running in Pickering, Mayor Arthurs, was not happy with the provincial action taking away the powers of the municipality with respect to dealing with the lands in Pickering and in fact wanted those lands back for development by the municipality, and that's what triggered the province to bring in the zoning order. It's interesting that we have one Liberal bringing forth a bill that will strip municipalities of their powers to deal with the Trafalgar moraine, whereas another Liberal wants to make sure the municipalities have the power to deal with lands that are in the municipality. It would appear that, as usual, the Liberals are going both ways on a particular issue.
Before development can be considered in the study area covered by Oakville's official plan amendment 198, a secondary plan will have to be put in place. As part of the secondary planning process, a sub-watershed study of the area will have to be completed. Let me tell the members of the Legislature about the terms of reference of that sub-watershed study. The terms of reference will ensure that all the environmentally significant features in the area being considered for development will be identified. Those terms of reference include the identification and evaluation of wetlands, woodlands, wildlife travel corridors, habitat areas, areas of natural and scientific interest, environmentally significant areas, watercourses and associated characteristics of the Trafalgar moraine. They call for analysis and determination of water recharge and discharge areas. I repeat, all this will happen before any secondary plan is prepared, and before any consideration is given to individual development proposals. So an emergency freeze, as proposed in Bill 27, is strictly premature.
This government has demonstrated time and again that it is not afraid to act decisively when such action is necessary. When the Oak Ridges moraine was threatened by proposed development, this government stepped in with the Oak Ridges Moraine Protection Act, which created a six-month moratorium on planning applications on the Oak Ridges moraine. The idea was to provide an opportunity for competing interests to get together to reach a consensus on what parts of the moraine needed protection, how that protection should be accomplished and what areas could be developed with certainty. For more than a decade, people had been arguing about exactly how much protection was needed and how it should be done. Much of the debate about the Oak Ridges moraine had been before the Ontario Municipal Board at tremendous cost in both money and time to municipalities, the province, environmental groups and developers. Three different governments had faced this issue; this government was the first to take action.
In 2001, the government committed to resolve the issue. The situation had come to a head, and the only way to find a solution was to create a six-month moratorium on all planning applications on the moraine. As I said earlier, we are now in an excellent position to protect what needs to be protected in north Oakville through the planning process before we get into the situation we faced on the Oak Ridges moraine.
Let me mention some other examples of the government's commitment to protecting environmentally sensitive areas. In 1999, when the Ontario Realty Corp agreed to sell land it owned in what was then the town of Pickering, it did so on the condition that those lands would remain in agricultural use forever. Pickering, the province and the region of Durham all signed an agreement to that effect. When the city of Pickering decided last year to undertake a growth management study that included these agricultural lands, the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing acted decisively. He imposed a zoning order to make sure the agricultural and open space lands in the agricultural reserve would be protected.
Let me give you another example. The province has plans to exchange lands it owns in north Pickering for privately owned lands on the Oak Ridges moraine. Last December, the government made a commitment to retain in public ownership more than half the lands we own there, because these lands have been identified as environmentally sensitive.
These lands were identified and mapped by provincial staff using the principles in the Oak Ridges moraine conservation plan, as recommended by the North Pickering Land Exchange Review Panel. Protecting these lands will ensure a robust natural heritage system in north Pickering.
I mention these examples to demonstrate that this government is more than willing to make tough decisions and act decisively to protect the environment when such action is called for. In the case of north Oakville and the Trafalgar moraine, the legislation we are considering today is unnecessary, because the system is working as it should.
The town of Oakville, the region of Halton and the provincial government are working together to ensure that all environmentally sensitive features in north Oakville, including the Trafalgar moraine, are identified and protected, and that is being done within Ontario's existing land use planning system.
Mrs Leona Dombrowsky (Hastings-Frontenac-Lennox and Addington): I'm very pleased to have the opportunity this morning to speak to the bill that my colleague from Eglinton-Lawrence has put forward with regard to protecting the Trafalgar moraine. I have been very inspired by the good work of my colleague from Eglinton-Lawrence in many ways, and particularly his commitment to the Oak Ridges moraine. This man walked the entire length of the Oak Ridges moraine to make a point with the public that he was absolutely committed to its protection. The member from Barrie-Simcoe-Bradford indicated that a situation came to a head and so the government acted. The situation that came to a head was the consequence of the good work of my colleague Mr Colle, the member from Eglinton-Lawrence, who worked tirelessly to bring the public's attention to the travesty that was about to happen should development of the Oak Ridges moraine have been allowed to unfold as was happening, so I'm inspired by this man.
Here again we see a piece of legislation before the House. The member from Barrie-Simcoe-Bradford just suggested it's not necessary. I suggest that Mr Colle, with the experience he had with the Oak Ridges moraine -- that is an example that demonstrates why it is absolutely essential that there is legislation to protect the Trafalgar moraine. When it comes to matters of the environment, you cannot trust this government to act in the best interests of the environment.
I know there are many examples even in my own riding where this government has demonstrated an abysmal record in terms of protecting the environment. I point to water-taking permits. There has been an issue -- it's ongoing -- with the OMYA company out of Perth that was granted a permit to take 1.5 million litres of water per day. That amount will increase to 4.5 million litres of water a day that will be taken out of the Tay River. The people in the community reacted to that. They said, "Wait a minute. We don't think that is in the best interests of our local environment, of the surrounding ecosystem." So they challenged the decision to allow the permit. They took it to the Environmental Review Tribunal. There were 30 days of public hearings where members of the public who are concerned about their local ecosystem made their points to the tribunal. The review tribunal handed down a decision in consideration of all the issues that were placed before it by the community, and certainly the government had an opportunity to make its case at that tribunal hearing as well. The tribunal handed down a decision saying that the company should only be able to take 1.5 million litres of water per day. The tribunal was convinced by the arguments put by the people in the community that it would be only that amount that would not put undue pressure on the local ecosystem.
What did this government do? What did the Minister of the Environment do? On Valentine's Day, when the House wasn't sitting, when he thought that no one would notice, he overturned the ruling of the Environmental Review Tribunal.
The member for Barrie-Simcoe-Bradford would like to suggest that the people of Ontario should be confident in the record of this government protecting the environment. The people in my riding do not have confidence that this government has the better interests of the environment at heart.
Another, more recent example: last week the Superior Court of Ontario ruled that the terms of reference for a proposed landfill expansion in my riding were not sound. The terms of reference were approved by the Minister of the Environment. The people in my riding, the Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte and concerned residents in the Napanee area, petitioned the minister. They explained all of the reasons why they believed the terms of reference were not adequate to address their concerns around this expansion. They presented to the minister that they were scoped and that it prevented them from considering alternatives which the Environmental Assessment Act would say they have a right to consider. The terms of reference prevented the community from providing those alternatives. This government did not listen to them. Their only option was to appeal to the courts. They did, and last week the courts found in favour of the people and even awarded their costs to them. The courts obviously recognize that the law that's in place now is rather redundant. On one hand, the Environmental Assessment Act says that communities should have the right to consider alternatives, and yet on the other hand the act does give the minister the ability to approve a scoped EA. It is that point exactly that the court ruled on.
Of course, the other issue in my riding is Mellon Lake, where with Ontario's Living Legacy this government has supposedly created acres and acres of parkland. However, there's an insidious little caveat there that talks about forest reserves within the boundaries of these conservation reserves. What can happen in forest reserves? You can mine; you can log; you can produce hydroelectric power. It is another inconsistency. I know the Premier is getting all kinds of e-mails, because I'm getting copies in my office, about the inconsistency and the lack of concern for the environment. They produce a document that says one thing but in fact allows something else. Mellon Lake is a classic example of that.
We are not confident in this government. In fact, it is only the record of this government that inspires my colleague to move forward with legislation of his own, because he knows their record. They would suggest that they have been protecting the environment. Their own record would demonstrate that that is not the case. So I am delighted to have this opportunity to support my colleague. I know the people in the communities that include the Trafalgar moraine are encouraged by his commitment to preserving it as a green space in a part of the province that is very beautiful and that in fact needs that; our environment needs it. So I do intend to support this bill, and I encourage all members on both sides of the aisle to support this in the best interests of the environment of Ontario.
Mr John O'Toole (Durham): It's a pleasure, in the very few seconds left, to comment with respect to the contradictions made by the mayor of Pickering and their position on a permanent agricultural zone, and on this debate here today.
What really appals me is, first of all, if a person looks at the bill -- I'm not sure it's in order. If you look here, there is "No action to be taken" on decisions of the Ontario Municipal Board. Its retroactivity clauses are also, in my opinion, very provocative in terms of nullifying any decisions made by local council. I'm sure this bill has been put together by Mr Colle --
Mr Colle: Again, I just want to say that I remember three years ago when the member for Barrie-Simcoe-Bradford, who is the mouthpiece for the backroom boys in the Premier's office, stood in this House saying the same thing, "You don't need this bill," that it was a silly bill. They had things in place. He talked about their record. The people of Ontario know the record of this government. It's abysmal.
They talk about the Oak Ridges moraine act. They said it was a Communist plot. They ranted and raved about me having the audacity to protect the Oak Ridges moraine. Then they rose up because they were afraid of losing the election and they came up with an act to protect the moraine. But the day after they put in the act, Minister Hodgson passed a secret order to allow 10,000 homes to be built right in the middle of the moraine -- the day after they passed the bill.
They talk about the area in Duffins Creek. They don't mention, again, that one half of the area in Pickering is going to be protected; there's another half to the agricultural preserve that's in Markham that is publicly owned and that they are allowing to be developed. They don't mention that. Always half the story.
But I want to talk about this beautiful, precious area called the Trafalgar moraine that needs to be protected if we're going to stop sprawl. This is a litmus test to see if this government really wants to stop sprawl. It's a litmus test to see if this government really wants to do something about smog. It's a litmus test to see if this government is or is not in the pockets of developers.
Well, they ask, will the developers like my bill? They won't. They're afraid to stand up to their developer friends. They are going to say, "We don't need this because the developers have millions to make by paving everything from here to Fort Erie." We need to protect the escarpment. We need to protect air quality in the Oakville-Trafalgar area. We need to protect the birds, the wildlife, the water for our future generations. We don't need to put money into the developers' pockets any more. They have enough money.
Bill 73, An Act to facilitate families by requiring that all buildings open to the public be equipped with family restroom facilities / Projet de loi 73, Loi visant à assister les familles en exigeant que tous les bâtiments ouverts au public soient équipés d'installations sanitaires familiales.
Mr Ernie Parsons (Prince Edward-Hastings): Several months ago, a gentleman named Jack Palmer approached me with a wonderful smile on his face to indicate that he was getting married or had just gotten married. I'm very pleased that Jack is with us today and that his wife, Kay, has joined him.
I first met Jack when he approached me about a year ago with an issue. Jack's wife at that time, Rita, was very, very ill. She very much appreciated and enjoyed getting out into the community, but one of the challenges they faced at that time was access to a washroom where Jack could be of assistance to Rita. They really don't exist. So for families that have a need to assist a partner or a child or a friend, a companion or whomever -- a very simple issue to most of us is using the washroom, but to some people it's a very difficult challenge and they require assistance.
Jack said he felt there was a very simple solution to solving the dilemma of people who required some assistance with washrooms. I thought and thought about that. I thought, "What an amazingly simple idea, not terribly complicated, but the provision of a family washroom would profoundly change the quality of life for hundreds, if not thousands, of individuals in our province."
I introduced a bill that would provide that provincial or municipal government buildings that are open to the public on a regular basis or commercial stores with a floor area in excess of 50,000 square feet would have, along with the men's washroom and the women's washroom, a family washroom.
Once I introduced the bill, I started to be contacted by a number of individuals who shared with me how absolutely delighted they were that this came forward. Some of the stories were very moving. I had some people approach me who are responsible for residents in a group home. These individuals require assistance with virtually every aspect of their lives, but they also get a great deal of enjoyment from being out in the community. It's good for the community and it's good for them. But the people said to me, "When we go out, the major challenge is, if we have female staff with male clients, how do we use the washroom? We can't go in with them. We can assist them at the group home but we can't assist them when we're travelling." The solution they have arrived at in many cases -- in too many cases -- is to not take the residents of the group home out. So they are in some ways prisoners in the group home, when for so very little money they would be able to travel and be part of our community and enrich their and our lives.
I also have become increasingly aware, and I guess I faced it for myself when I was a parent with extremely young children, travelling with my daughter when she was five or six years old. You go to use public washrooms -- she would go in one, I would go in the other. Then when I came out, I would wonder, "When will she be out? Are there any problems? Are there any difficulties in there? Are there people in there that I should be concerned about?" Or indeed, if she had not come out, I'd wonder, "Did she come out before me and someone engaged her in conversation and led her off or whatever?" We've now seen some absolutely tragic and horrible instances, instances that would have been unbelievable years ago, of people literally snatching children off the street. So from a safety viewpoint, this bill would provide the opportunity for a parent to say, "There's a family washroom. I know that if my daughter or son goes in there, there's no one else in there. I can wait outside with absolute security that there is no one else using that washroom."
Following up on Jack's idea, I talked to some businesses in my riding of Prince Edward-Hastings. Dennis McCulloch operates a Canadian Tire store in Belleville. Dennis voluntarily, I believe about 1995 or 1996, put in a family washroom. He knew that it was the right thing to do as a corporate citizen, knew it was the right thing to do as a parent, and knew that it also opened his business up to additional people who could come in and shop in the store knowing they had access to it.
Right across the street from the Canadian Tire in our community is a very large mall, the Quinte Mall. Questions went to them: "What's your reaction to the idea of having a family washroom?" Their reaction to it was to build one. They said, "It's good business, it's good corporate citizenship, it's just a smart thing to do."
I confess that this bill isn't the most glamorous that has ever come before the Legislature. It isn't terribly exotic and exciting, but it is exciting in the sense of what it can do for the people of Ontario. I applaud the businesses that have chosen to do it voluntarily. The reason for the bill is to require that it's done, and I quite frankly don't expect opposition from businesses. The conversations that I have had, not just within my riding but across Ontario, have been highly supportive of it. But the purpose of the bill -- to have it compulsory -- is so that someone can travel from one area to another and have complete and total assurance that they will have access to what is a very basic need. We live in a society that has been described as an aging society. We have a large number of people, described as the baby boomers born just after World War II, who are now in the 57 or 58 age group. The fact is that the older we get, the more help we need from our friends. We need to address the reality that we will have an increasing need for people who can support us. What are our most basic needs in some ways? We need food and we need access to a washroom. This bill will ensure that all across Ontario a citizen can set out knowing that they will have access to it. I would even strongly suggest that it will make the province more open to tourists. People from outside the province and from outside the country will be able to travel to Ontario knowing that they have assurance that it's somewhere in the larger ones.
It is certainly not the intent of this bill that individual stores be confronted with it. The smaller stores in a mall or the smaller free-standing stores, quite frankly, have what is probably best described as a unisex washroom now and can meet that need. The need applies only to very large businesses.
My belief is that if there was ever a non-partisan bill before this Legislature, this is it. This is a bill that has the potential to make every member in this room look good. All of us came to make a change. Some of the changes that we can make are very profound, like improving education or improving health care or improving the environment. But there's an expression that says all politics is local. This is a very small, local issue in every one of your offices. I guess it was so obvious that we have in the past collectively not thought about it. This demonstrates the wisdom and the advantages of how politics works in Ontario, where one citizen can come in and say, "Have you thought about this? Would you consider this?" This has been my experience.
As I mentioned earlier, the response from across Ontario has just been overwhelming, from virtually every part of Ontario saying, "This would help my father; this would help my mother; this would help my brother who is developmentally handicapped" -- from a sister who said, "He lives with us and it has made us prisoners."
For people who require this assistance, what we're talking about really is much more than just access to a washroom. We're talking independence; we're talking freedom; we're talking a simple little -- almost no cost -- change to large malls and large stores that would provide freedom for the people of Ontario to travel. In a sense, it's almost an equity issue. For the people who require assistance, for our citizens who reside in group homes and need assistance, for the safety of our children, I urge every member in this House to support this bill. We need to get it in place as quickly as possible because we have literally thousands of Ontarians waiting to enjoy the freedom, to enjoy the access, to be a full and complete part of our society, to get out, to contribute to us rather than literally being prisoners in a house, which I'm sure every member will agree is unthinkable.
Mr Gerry Martiniuk (Cambridge): The government of Ontario fully supports the principle behind Bill 73. What's more, our government is committed to the families of this province. There are approximately 850,000 children under the age of six in Ontario. The government wants to make sure that they and their parents are accommodated.
In principle, Bill 73 is striving for the same goal that our government is working towards: family-friendly facilities for young families. However, rather than have a separate piece of legislation, any laws or regulations governing buildings in Ontario should be part of the Ontario Building Code Act. I am happy to report that the Eves government has been actively working on revisions and amendments to the Building Code Act that would serve many of the same purposes as Bill 73. As you know, the Building Code Act already has enforcement mechanisms in place. In addition, the building code applies to new or substantially renovated buildings and is not retroactive, that retroactivity being a weakness of Bill 73 that my colleague has pointed out.
Finally, there is nothing in Bill 73 that describes what would constitute an adequate family restroom facility. How many stalls should it have? How many sinks? How wide must the doors be? For instance, Bill 73 states that a family restroom facility means a restroom facility that "is large enough to permit a member of the family or group to accompany another member of the family or group to assist him or her in using the facilities." The difficulty is, how big is that?
Starting in 2001 and continuing until March 2002, our government consulted intensively and extensively on barrier-free requirements for the Ontario building code. We have a technical advisory committee that includes persons with disabilities, advocates for those with disabilities, building designers, builders and municipal building officials. That committee worked diligently through the public consultation process and then reviewed what it heard to come up with recommendations it considered a priority for any amendments to the Ontario building code. Included in these recommendations were proposals related to family washrooms.
We held another round of consultations from February 12 to May 12 of this year, a round of consultations that just ended. In this most recent round, we asked Ontarians with disabilities, the general public, building officials, designers and builders for their input on the recommendations set out by the technical advisory committee. Our government is just now reviewing the comments we have received from the latest round of consultations, and they will be incorporated in our code review process.
Our government is on the right track. We are reviewing and considering existing legislation and, where warranted, amendments will be made to the body of legislation we already have, legislation that already has enforcement mechanisms in place, legislation that is well thought out and legislation that has received the benefit of stakeholder input.
Our government's package of barrier-free design requirements includes amendments that encourage the installation of family washrooms in all buildings used by the public. These requirements are being given careful consideration.
All that said, the intent of Bill 73 is both welcome and laudable, and I'm pleased that both the opposition and government members are calling for further positive steps to be taken. Supporting Bill 73 is a good way to show this Legislature's commitment to supporting families and disabled citizens, and I'm proud to join my colleagues in supporting this bill at second reading.
Mrs Leona Dombrowsky (Hastings-Frontenac-Lennox and Addington): First of all, I would like to commend and congratulate my colleague from Prince Edward-Hastings for bringing this bill forward. He has worked tirelessly on behalf of persons with disabilities in this province, and on this side of the House we're all very proud of the very good work and advocacy he does.
While I am aware this issue perhaps first came to his attention as a disability issue, I intend to respond this morning as a colleague, but in my role as critic for children, considering children's issues in this province. This bill, I believe, is very important for families with children.
I can perhaps also comment with regard to what the member from Cambridge has presented already. He indicated that perhaps a way to address the concerns raised by my colleague would be to revise the building code, and that the government is in the process of doing that, on some of the questions around the size of washrooms that would be large enough to permit a member of the family or a group to accompany another member of the family or a group in the particular facility. I would say to the member from Cambridge that while I appreciate the point he's making and while I would not argue the Building Code Act might be an area where this issue can be addressed, the fact of the matter is it's not there. They are considering it. This bill is immediate. My colleague is bringing it forward and it would be an effective law if it were passed right now.
That is why I would hope the members of the government -- I believe my colleague will be supported, certainly on this side of the House, in an overwhelming way -- will move this issue forward so that the government has the will -- it certainly has the ability -- to move it for immediate third reading, so that families in this situation who have disabled members can see some action on this, and also families with smaller children.
I want to go to that. Particularly today, in recent weeks, sadly we are aware, now more than ever, that parents of younger children must be ever more vigilant about their safety in public. As a mother with four children myself, I can remember those days when we'd go off on a shopping trip or some kind of expedition with the family, and of course with children one of the inevitable stops we make along the way is a washroom.
I think my colleague from Prince Edward-Hastings has described a situation where dads will take their daughters with them. It comes time to go to the washroom and dads cannot bring the young girl into the men's washroom and they cannot accompany the young girl into the ladies' washroom, so there's a dilemma. What do you do? You stand outside and you wait and hope that everything is OK when she is in there. In today's society there are all kinds of situations that can arise accidentally that could, I believe, put children at risk. The presence of a family washroom in a facility would pre-empt all of those needless concerns, or those concerns would be needless if there was a family washroom. They are certainly very valid now. I think families, now more than ever, are conscious of not letting their children, particularly their small children, out of their sight.
A number of months ago I was on a radio-television program and one of the calls I received was on this very issue: why isn't there a law in the province of Ontario to assist individuals who need to be assisted in this way? They thought it was something that was very important. They were also able to name businesses in the community that provided this service. My colleague talked about some businesses in the community that have very wisely incorporated family washrooms into their building plans. Sadly, though, they are more unusual than usual.
The purpose of my colleague's bill this morning is to change that so that people either with the need to have someone assist them or whose family member needs to be assisted or if they're in a work situation where they would need to accompany a person of the opposite sex to assist them in this area -- they are very restricted. This bill will alleviate that.
My colleague talks about people feeling like they're prisoners in their own community, that they would like to get out, but when they get out they encounter these particular challenges. We have an Ontarians with Disabilities Act which is supposed to level the playing field for persons with disabilities. It's supposed to be enabling legislation and yet there continue to be many situations and circumstances in our communities when that is not the case.
My colleague has identified one of those and has brought forward a private member's bill to try to address that in a very meaningful way. I think it's fortuitous that, while it will have an impact particularly for persons with disabilities who have a need, it's also going to benefit families. It will enable them to travel and feel more safe and confident when their younger family members have a need, because they're now going to be able to address that in a more safe way.
I was encouraged when I heard the comments of the member from Cambridge. While he did identify that there might be another act that could achieve this assistance, I believe that this bill today will do that more quickly. The questions raised by the member from Cambridge could be addressed with regulations around size and how they can be located or situated, but I sincerely hope that all members of the Legislature will support this bill so that Ontarians, disabled and able and families, will be able to safely access these very necessary facilities in public.
Mr Tony Martin (Sault Ste Marie): I appreciate the opportunity to stand in the House this morning in private members' public business to lend support to this piece of public business brought forward by the member for Prince Edward-Hastings, Mr Parsons. I think it's an important piece of public policy that we deal with here this morning. It may not present as very gripping or large in terms of some of the issues that we are confronted with here every day, but I suggest to you that it is an important issue when those occasions arise when all of us are confronted with the need to get to a bathroom with a young child or somebody who's in need of assistance and all you have are the more public offerings that you run into.
The fact that Mr Parsons has brought this forward speaks to probably some of his own experience with family and the people in his care whom he has needed to look after in his travels across the province. I was fortunate to travel with him earlier this week up into northern Ontario, where he and I got a first-hand look at the vast amount of territory and the roads that we find in this province. Never mind family washrooms, they don't even have washrooms. You find the nearest tree and you pull over, and in those instances --
In northern Ontario, to put this in context, we're in need of some bathrooms, clean and accessible, in many of the places that you, Speaker, and I know about as we travel, as you travel in particular to cover the vast territory that you represent in northern Ontario, and understand that when you travel with family you're not out of your house more than five or 10 minutes when some voice from the back says, "Dad, I need to go to the bathroom," and then you're into wondering where you might stop and where you might go. We all know that if you stop at a restaurant or a place of business, in most instances you have to buy something before you can actually use the washroom. Of course, the first place you stop is oftentimes a coffee shop, and if you have a coffee, then you have to stop another hour down the road, particularly those of us who are getting a little older and are starting to have some difficulties with our plumbing. When we do need to use the facilities it's often in a big hurry and when it's family, of course, it's always in a big hurry.
I think this bill is a timely one and will respond to some of the very real challenges that families in particular face out there as they go shopping or travelling with youngsters and want to assist them in looking after their very personal needs, not to speak of some of the safety issues we all have to deal with these days as well. I have four children, two boys and two girls, and from time to time out in a public space, when one of them needs to go to the bathroom, you think twice before letting them go off on their own to a washroom. You hear stories. How many of them actually happen in any particular place is another question, but you hear of stories that are very real, in many instances, and you have some concern and would like to attend with your child. I've spent many a five or 10 minutes standing outside of the washroom door waiting for my young daughter to come out, hoping that she'll be OK. This bill certainly would go a ways to being much more helpful on that front.
My only concern is that this may end up being another cost on municipalities. It would be a problem if that became an issue. We know that over the years this government has already downloaded almost everything the provincial government used to be responsible for in terms of cost. To put another challenge in front of them I think would be difficult.
This bill reminds me a little bit of the exercise that both Mr Parsons and I went through in critiquing the Ontarians with Disabilities Act that came forward last year and that certainly went a small distance to indicate that there's a concern and a real need out there to do something. But again this government wasn't willing to come forward with the kind of money that was necessary to make sure that some of what was required under an Ontarians with Disabilities Act would get implemented.
I would hope that in passing this bill, and I hope it will pass -- certainly our caucus will support it -- the government will also recognize the need to make sure that there's money made available to municipalities, if that's where this ends up being taken care of, that there's money made available to those organizations to make sure that they can in fact provide these washrooms.
We're in need of these kinds of facilities across the province for all kinds of people. Certainly the bill as it's presented speaks of the need of children and people with disabilities travelling with attendants. I would guess that probably our elderly are another group of people who need to be considered when we look at the issue of providing comfort stations across the province, knowing where those comfort stations are and making sure that they're accessible and free for people to use. I remember back in the 1960s, as a young person coming down to Toronto to visit from northern Ontario, running into the phenomenon of pay toilets and having to spend a dime to get into a toilet. If you didn't have a dime, well, you were out of luck. Many of us, though, became very creative in that we would wait until somebody came out and grab the door and get in and do our business. I don't know if we'd be charged with that or not --
Here I am in Toronto, confronted with a toilet that you have to pay for to use. I used to take the bus down, the old bus station down on the corner of Bay and Dundas -- I guess it was there someplace. Here you are, you've spent the night on the bus and you get off. You've drunk a lot of coffee and the first thing you want to do is use a washroom, and you either don't have a dime or you don't have the change. You're confronted with quite a dilemma. I have to say that on more than one occasion I actually waited until somebody came out and grabbed the door and got in and did my business.
You don't understand the currency in an issue like this, as I said earlier, until you're confronted with it yourself in the first place. So I hope that whatever we do here to make it easier for families to access comfort stations and provide relief for their children in a supportive and safe way, we'll make sure the resources are available so we don't end up going back to a time -- although it wouldn't surprise me with this government; they've found ways to add a fee to almost everything or to privatize almost anything that moves in this province over the last eight years. It wouldn't surprise me that we would find ourselves returning to the issue of pay toilets.
I would guess that the government's response to this would be: "This is a really good idea. We'll see if there's a private sector operator out there who wants to run these things, and then we'll find a way to make people pay."
Mr Martin: I'm not saying this is where we should be going. All I'm saying is that I can imagine a return to the days of having to put -- well, it wouldn't be a dime any more, would it; it would probably be a loonie or a toonie that you'd be putting in. We're now paying for parking anyplace you go. There's another thing they might do: first you pay for the parking around the facility and then, when you actually get to use the facility, because it's a private sector operation under the ideology of the government of the day, we would probably have to dig into our pocket for a loonie or a toonie to actually get into the facility.
Mr Martin: There are a few, every 500 miles. But now there is actually a little box that you have to put a coin into, first of all to park, if you want to use the restroom or if you want to go for a little swim on a hot day like we've had in the last couple of weeks. You're out in the middle of nowhere, nothing but you and the blackflies. There's nobody parked for miles around, but there's a little box there that you've got to put money in, because this government feels that it doesn't matter where you are, they want to fleece you.
Anyway, up in northern Ontario you're starting to have to pay for facilities and the great outdoors that you used to take for granted when you lived up there before -- it was just there, it was yours and you would use it. Don't be surprised, if they accept your bill here this morning, that that in fact is where they go.
Just by way of a little commercial for a local entrepreneur in my area, there's a fellow by the name of Jimmy Fitzpatrick, who builds very comfortable stations that he sells to the Ministry of Natural Resources or the Ministry of Transportation. They've very clean and affordable, and the ventilation is excellent. If anybody is interested in making sure there are facilities for families, particularly in some of the more remote areas of our province, they might want to give Fitzpatrick Industries in Sault Ste Marie a call -- it's on the Web -- and check that out.
I think we do need to be looking at making sure we are providing these kinds of facilities, these kinds of comfort stations, these kinds of opportunities for the travelling public in the province. Just recently in the Soo I was at a meeting of the seniors health advisory committee, and one of the issues identified by them was this issue of comfort stations or rest stations, because seniors like to travel, like to go places. If they're like me -- as I'm getting further into my 50s, I find that I'm in need more often of a place to stop to take advantage of a comfort station. But they identified that there weren't very many of them; or if they were available, they weren't readily identifiable; or they may in fact be opportunities you have to spend some money to access. As I said before, if you have to buy a coffee in order to use the comfort room, usually an hour later you have to get rid of the coffee and do it again.
So they took upon themselves a project to identify every rest station available in Ontario and put it in a little brochure, and they shared it with the membership of the various senior groups across the city of Sault Ste Marie. I thought it was a great service and a great idea. It speaks to the issue in a way that reflects how, in some instances, it's sort of an innocuous sort of piece of public business -- or should I say private business -- that we all need to deal with from time to time, but it becomes rather critical when it's your time or the time of your family to actually participate in it.
So we in this caucus will have no difficulty supporting the bill brought forward this morning during private members' public business by the member for Prince Edward-Hastings, Mr Parsons. We think it's a good move forward in this time of real concern about the safety of children, and about how we support each other as we travel across the province and provide opportunities for people with disabilities and people oftentimes with seniors, so there's a level of comfort around that kind of business as we do that. We need to support any effort to further that agenda.
My only concern, and the concern of our caucus, as I said, is the question of who pays for it and that it not become another exercise in downloading, that something we think is a great idea and should be provided out there for the travelling public, families, the disabled and seniors across the province not be downloaded on the backs of municipalities or other not-for-profit groups or, in fact, be turned over to the private sector and we go back 20 or 30 years and begin to have to pay for these kinds of facilities again.
Mr Joseph N. Tascona (Barrie-Simcoe-Bradford): I'm certainly pleased to join the debate with respect to Bill 73, which essentially would require that "family restroom facilities be available, as of January 1, 2005, in significant public buildings, including privately owned buildings such as shopping centres, arenas and stadiums that have significant public access."
What's important is what this is meant to cover. It would appear that it's meant to cover privately owned buildings over 50,000 square feet and municipal and provincial buildings that are open to the public. What is meant by "family restroom" is one that allows for babies to be changed, is accessible to people with disabilities and would allow an adult of either gender to help a child or disabled adult of either gender to use the facilities.
Certainly the government supports the principle of this bill. In 2001 we passed the Ontarians with Disabilities Act, and that act states that, "In consultation with persons with disabilities and others, the government of Ontario shall develop barrier-free design guidelines to promote accessibility for persons with disabilities to buildings, structures and premises, or parts of buildings, structures and premises, that the government purchases, enters into a lease for, constructs or significantly renovates." That act also requires that every municipal council shall each year establish an accessibility plan that will "address the identification, removal and prevention of barriers to persons with disabilities in the municipality's bylaws and in its policies, programs, practices and services."
"(b) the measures in place to ensure that the municipality assesses its proposals for by-laws, policies, programs, practices and services to determine their effect on accessibility for persons with disabilities;
"(b) the measures in place to ensure that the organization assesses its proposals for bylaws, policies, programs, practices and services to determine their effect on accessibility for persons with disabilities;
The government of Ontario is committed to working with every sector of society to move toward a province in which no new barriers are created and existing ones are removed. This responsibility rests with every social and economic sector, every region, every government, every organization, institution and association, and every person in this province.
The right of persons with disabilities to equal treatment without discrimination in accordance with the Human Rights Code is addressed in a number of Ontario statutes and regulations. We have the Assessment Act, which provides for exemptions from property taxation where improvements, alterations or additions to existing homes or designated portions of new homes are made or built to accommodate persons with disabilities who would otherwise require care in an institution. We have the Blind Persons' Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination in services, accommodations, facilities or occupancy against blind persons using guide dogs and prohibits persons who are not blind from using white canes. We have the Building Code Act, 1992, and the regulations made under it that establish standards for the construction, renovation and change of use of buildings and structures, including standards related to the accessibility of buildings and structures for persons with disabilities.
I've taken the time to list the work this government has done to advance the cause of all Ontarians with disabilities because I want to emphasize the strong support this government gives to the principle behind Bill 73. As you will recall, in October 1998, this government gave its full endorsement to 11 principles in support of Ontarians with disabilities. There are, however, some concerns about Bill 73 that will need further discussion.
Before I get to that, I want to be clear that what the member is dealing with here is not just persons with disabilities; he's also dealing with families, with respect to their children. Certainly, the family restroom is something that, myself being a father of four children aged five to 12 -- when you're travelling or you're going through areas of the community and you have to deal with situations with children, it's nice to know that there's a consideration with respect to the needs of families. I think that's what the member is trying to put forth here, a recognition that, as it says, allows for babies to be changed. Having those facilities available I don't think is a lot to ask for, in terms of dealing with your children in public facilities.
There are some concerns about Bill 73 that, as I said, need further discussion. For example, the bill is retroactive. Many businesses may have to undertake expensive renovations that they'll have to put into their cost figuring and their budgets that they may not have yet done; it includes no enforcement mechanisms in terms of making sure that the organizations that are covered by this bill in fact do what is requested. It does not describe what constitutes an adequate family restroom facility in terms of standards, which may have to be addressed in regulations. It doesn't say whether an owner or a tenant is responsible to undertake the modifications in dealing with this situation. Those are issues we can discuss in the future. As I said, the principle behind this bill is commendable and I'm pleased to support it in terms of supporting families and also persons with disabilities.
Mr Gerretsen: First of all, let me congratulate the member from Prince Edward-Hastings for being an ardent advocate for the disabled in the last four years that he's been here. The number of issues he has raised, the number of times he has requested that the government increase the ODSP payments, the number of times he has just talked about issues relating to the disabled and wanting to better their lives so that they can lead as normal a life is possible has been just tremendous over the last number of years. I think he should be congratulated for that.
Certainly this bill is another example of where he has taken an issue that maybe doesn't mean very much to most people out there and said, "Look, there are individuals who have real difficulties when they're travelling dealing with family situations where somebody has to use a restroom, whether they're a child, whether they're disabled or whether they're elderly."
I understand that Mr Jack Palmer, in his riding of Prince Edward-Hastings, actually brought this idea forward because he had circumstances that caused him some difficulty in not having these kinds of restrooms available. He brought this idea forward and he's put it in a bill that to some people may be laughable or may not be all that important.
But let me just remind you that there have been many changes that have been brought about in our society over the last 100 years, I suppose, that have started with an idea. It wasn't that long ago when there were literally no public washrooms available at all in many of our towns and villages and in many of the early shopping centres that were built. Somebody then said, "Hey, we have to do something about it." Eventually, it almost became a norm that as municipalities developed, as they redeveloped, as shopping centres were built, as arenas were built, these kind of facilities were put forward.
The other one that comes to mind immediately is our whole attitude toward smoking. I can remember years ago being approached by the non-smokers societies of Ontario suggesting that perhaps there shouldn't be any smoking in public places. That wasn't necessarily accepted at that time. Maybe it was because a greater number of people smoked. But again, it was the idea that was brought forward and over a period of time of 10 to 15 to 20 years, it gained general acceptance in our society, whereas by now it's the norm that smoking should only be done in areas where it's not going to interfere with the rights of other individuals. This bill, this law is much the same.
I should also give tribute to my other colleague from eastern Ontario. It does look from this bill as if it's eastern Ontario day as far as our caucus is concerned, having heard from both the member for Prince Edward-Hastings and of course the eloquent debate that was made by Ms Dombrowsky, the member for Hastings-Frontenac-Lennox and Addington, that great riding that covers almost the entire part of eastern Ontario that lies between Kingston and Belleville, all the way up to Algonquin Park.
The other nice thing about this -- and I know the members of the government have some concern about this -- but I think from what I've heard so far, it is wonderful to see that we can actually work together on an idea collectively. That's what private members' hours should be all about. Here, an individual member has brought an idea forward that has been given to him by one of his constituents, and there seems to be general acceptance of this in the House. What we obviously hope will happen in a situation like this is that the bill will be given second reading, it will then be referred to a committee so that all the kind of difficulties that some of the government members talked about can be ironed out. It's only at the committee stage where the committee can hear from some of the experts, hear from the general public, have some input from a variety of people and from a variety of sources, because undoubtedly we want to hear from the shopping centre owners, from the arena owners, from some of the municipalities how perhaps this bill can be strengthened, how it can be implemented, what changes should be made to it. That is the whole idea of bringing this kind of bill forward, so that in effect it can be given approval in principle on second reading, then be referred to committee and come back.
I'm somewhat concerned when the government members talk about the fact that this can be dealt with through the building code, when I hear them say things like, "The building code encourages a certain kind of development." The word "encourage" I suppose is better than not doing anything, but I can tell you that the word "encourage" doesn't really lead to action necessarily, and in most cases it doesn't lead to action. There really has to be the will there of the individual owners and operators of these facilities to actually make it happen. Sometimes when we don't see that will there, then in effect it has to be imposed through government action. That's really what this is all about.
Just talking about the restroom issue in general, it wasn't that long ago when the notion of having a change table for babies in restrooms was almost unknown. I don't know how long they've been around. It may even have been some of the commercial establishments, quite frankly, like the McDonald's or the Burger Kings, that started that. I'm not quite sure. But it wasn't that long ago when that wasn't the norm. Now you see that in most public facilities and in most restrooms that are associated with public facilities.
This is just one step forward, that we do this not only for individuals with small children but also for individuals who are elderly. We all know we live in a society where our median age is getting higher and higher. People live longer, but they also need then the kind of situations presented to them whereby they can still be involved in the normal activity and the normal way of life by having the kinds of facilities that are talked about in this bill.
I just want to once again say to the member that he should be congratulated on bringing this idea forward. I hope that this House will give it unanimous approval, that it will send it to a committee. Over the summer, perhaps, we could have public hearings on this issue, not only here in Toronto but elsewhere as well, so that when we come back here in September one of the first courses of action that we could take at that point in time would be to have this bill brought back here and given third reading and implemented as soon as possible.
Hon Frank Klees (Minister of Transportation): I'm pleased to provide a couple of comments on this bill. I suppose that I'll speak in my capacity as Minister of Transportation as well as from my former position as Minister of Tourism.
Anything that can be done in this province to make life better for travellers, for people who are either visiting from outside of the province or visiting within the province, is appropriate. So I certainly look forward to some more detail on this. As my colleagues have expressed, there are some implementation concerns, whether in fact it's the right level of government to deal with this. That's yet to be determined. But certainly there's nothing wrong with considering the ideas that have been brought forward, nothing wrong with further discussion relating to them.
At the end of the day, Ontario is a great place to live, to work, to raise a family, and it's a great place to visit. Anything we can do throughout our communities to make Ontario more attractive is supported by me.
Mr Parsons: I'd like to thank the Minister of Transportation, the members from Cambridge, Hastings-Frontenac-Lennox and Addington, Sault Ste Marie, Kingston and the Islands, and Barrie-Simcoe-Bradford for their discussion on this item.
I especially want to thank Jack Palmer, who cared so much for his late wife, Rita, that he came forward and said, "I'm going to try to make a difference and I'm going to try to make a change for everyone."
I can appreciate the comments that the building code encourages the provision of washrooms, but, folks, the building code doesn't encourage the provision of washrooms for people with special needs; it requires and mandates that there be washrooms for people who do not have special needs. Surely in the name of equity, then, it should not encourage but require washrooms for those who have special needs. It's insane to have it otherwise.
We have the opportunity to do what may be a very small step to profoundly change the lives of thousands of people in Ontario. Everyone here can think of someone who would benefit from that. Everyone has a friend, a neighbour, a relative, a son or a daughter whose lives would be changed by doing this. Seniors and people with disabilities are not second-rate citizens. This gives them the equity to enjoy and be fully part of our Ontario.
For children, this bill has the potential to literally save a child's life. We have seen some things that cause us to say, "What is the world coming to, that someone would do that?" We have a wonderful province with wonderful people. But this bill could literally save a child's life. I urge you to support it, and I urge you to move it through the system so that we can say collectively we made a difference in someone's life today.
Ms Caroline Di Cocco (Sarnia-Lambton): The Minister of the Environment turns a blind eye to the importation and landfilling of untreated hazardous waste in this province. He takes no responsibility to toughen the rules to raise the standards with other jurisdictions. These lax rules are making Ontario the dumping ground for other people's toxic waste, yet this minister thinks that this is acceptable for our environment.
The coal-fired plants continue to burn about 2,000 pounds per person in this province, and the Conservative government has not provided any material to educate the public on how to conserve energy. We know that the use of cars continues to rise. But have no fear because the Minister of the Environment, the Honourable Jim Wilson, had a brainstorm to solve our air quality problems. He is asking the people of Ontario to stop using their barbecues. This ridiculous advice shows the level of incompetence and lack of knowledge of the minister and this government.
It's the lack of leadership in this current government and tremendous ignorance of the causes of our smog that should be a concern to the people of Ontario: the government that says it's acceptable to landfill untreated hazardous waste and it won't hurt the environment, but that a barbecue does.
Mrs Julia Munro (York North): Last Saturday I had the honour of attending the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals awards luncheon, along with my colleague, the Honourable David Tsubouchi, Chair of Management Board and Minister of Culture.
Although all of the staff and volunteers should be praised for their efforts, I only have time to mention a few here today. The Queen's Golden Jubilee awards went to Frankie Gowland and Terry Looker. The Inspector of the Year went to Mindy Hall. The Agent of the Year went to Angie Babiak.
One Animal Award for Courage went to Tootsie, who is an elderly quarter horse. Tootsie has been rescued not once but twice in her lifetime by the OSPCA and is now living out her old age in a loving home. The second Animal Award for Courage went to Carlos. Carlos had been subjected to such severe abuse that one of his hind legs had to be amputated. Carlos is now a happy dog in a loving home. I had the honour of presenting the animal awards to Carlos, his owners, and Tootsie's new owners.
The Appreciation Award recipients were the Honourable David Tsubouchi, the Honourable Robert Runciman, Dr James Young, Dr Mona Campbell, Lloyd and Lindsay Robson, Dr Brian Westgarth-Taylor, Centennial Animal Hospital, Warden Animal Clinic, and retired Brigadier-General Chris Snider and I.
The Animal of the Year award went to Marilyn. Marilyn is a Doberman who had been abandoned after weaning a litter of puppies. The same volunteer who was helping Marilyn also had an orphaned litter of kittens. It was not long before Marilyn became their new mom.
Mr Smitherman: The member for Kitchener Centre says, "Cool down," because he doesn't care about dealing with auto insurance. Two hundred days of inaction from that government since they passed Bill 198, 200 days since the promise of some relief for Ontario's motorists, and nothing from that government. They've focus-grouped it. They've gone out and talked to little groups, they've had roundtables, and they've conducted everything except anything that will lead to action and will lead to any relief for Ontario's driving motorists.
The Ontario Liberal Party is working hard to offer solutions on this matter, and over the course of this summer, while they play run-and-hide, while they duck their responsibilities, we'll be moving around from town to hamlet to city in this province and we'll be talking to people about the solutions for automobile insurance in this province.
I say to the Minister of Finance, the Minister of Finance has a shameful record on the issue of automobile insurance in this province. While Ontario's motorists are facing an average increase of 19.2%, she has taken 200 days -- 200 days -- and still no action on the issue of rate increases in the province.
We're counting the days. They are numbered for that government, and they are numbered because they are unable to act in the face of the crisis facing Ontario's driving public. But Dalton McGuinty and Ontario Liberals will.
I rise today to relay to the House my privilege of launching the Polar Bear Protection Act. As members will know, I introduced the bill on Tuesday in the Legislature, and earlier that day I announced my intention to introduce the bill at the Toronto zoo. I was joined there by Kimberley Davies, who is the director of sales and marketing at the Best Western Executive Inn in my riding of Scarborough Centre. Kimberley has also agreed to take the lead on a special committee I set up to assist Scarborough in its economic recovery from the SARS crisis. Also present were Dr William Rapley and Dr David Barney, who are both from the Metropolitan Toronto Zoo. They take care of Inukshuk, our little orphaned polar bear, who in part is the inspiration for my bill to protect Ontario's polar bears.
I was happy to see children present, who can learn that one part of our ecosystem is integrated with the others. I was happy to see the children learning to respect nature and all of our natural resources.
In closing, the Polar Bear Protection Act will prevent the abuse of this precious Ontario natural resource. I urge all members to support the bill when it comes up for second reading, and I encourage everyone to visit the Toronto zoo to witness first-hand the magnificence of little Inukshuk and the other wonderful animals.
Mr Michael Gravelle (Thunder Bay-Superior North): It is with great sadness that I stand in the House today to inform the Legislature that as a result of continued underfunding by the provincial government, the Lakehead Regional Family Centre, which provides vital mental health services to children in the Thunder Bay area, has been forced to announce major staffing and service cuts, an announcement that is in fact taking place at this very moment in my community.
It is difficult to contain my anger, as the reality of this forced cut would not have been necessary if the government and specifically the Minister of Community, Family and Children's Services were simply prepared to provide the necessary funding to enable children in desperate need to receive these services.
Last year the LRFC announced its first ever deficit, a deficit caused specifically by a constantly increasing caseload and the province's absolute denial of a funding increase to meet this growing need. The family centre, desperate to justify the need for increased funding, agreed to an operational review by the government, which has been completed and has resulted in the agency being told it was using its budget properly, was well managed and superbly led.
Minister, you are tearing the heart out of children's mental health services in my community. The funding you are providing for fundamental, core services to children and families in need is simply not enough to meet the increasing need, and you cannot be allowed to get away with it. Staff cuts announced today will double by the end of this fiscal year unless you are prepared to do the right thing and provide this desperately needed funding.
The provision of mental health services to children cannot be viewed as anything other than vital. Today I put the minister on notice that all of us advocating for the necessary funding will not rest until she and the Premier treat this as the absolute priority it should be.
I had a chance a couple of weeks ago in a member's statement to thank all the dedicated staff I've had personally over the years. Today what I'd like to do is express my thanks to all the support people who make this place operate, all the way from the Clerk and the staff at the table, to the Sergeant-at-Arms, to the people who work in the mailroom, to the people who clean this building, all the folks who actually make this place go.
I was struck that when you walk up the stairs today you could literally shave based on the reflection of the floor; that's how beautiful it is and we need to thank those people who do that every day. We need to thank the Hansard people who put up with so much from all of us. Harold in the parking lot is just perfect in dealing with those problems we all have and we want to thank him; the page support staff who make it possible for the pages to be here and provide the support they do; the people down in the restaurant and the snack room; the ministry staff who are non-partisan and are there to do the job for the people of Ontario; the leg counsels who write laws when we have great ideas and when we have boneheaded ideas -- they're to be thanked for what they do. There are the people down at the information desk who are there to greet the public, make this place comfortable for them and let them know that this is their House, that this is the people's House.
Lastly, I saved a special moment to thank the security staff. We talk a lot in this place about the policy of where that fine line is between public access to a democratic building and providing security for the public and people who work here. That's fine and dandy, but at the end of the day, it's the individual security people who have to make that immediate call when the adrenaline is pumping and there is the possibility of things getting out of hand. They have to make that judgement. I want to say to the security staff that you are professionals who do an admirable, honourable job for the people of this place and this province, and I want to thank you for what you have done to make this the kind of place it is.
Mr Bert Johnson (Perth-Middlesex): A decade ago, many of us in this House and people across this province watched spellbound as the Jays won a second consecutive World Series. Few of us will ever forget watching Joe Carter leap in the air as he realized he had hit the three-run homer that would win the World Series. I remind my colleagues of that moment because this weekend I'll be proud to be on hand when Joe Carter is inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in St Marys, Ontario.
Joe Carter will be inducted, with former California Angels and Chicago White Sox pitcher Kirk McCaskill; former president of Baseball Canada and former director of the International Baseball Federation youth commission, Richard Belec; and Vancouver's Asahi Japanese baseball team of the 1930s.
The Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum is in St Marys, because that is where Adam Ford, an early settler, organized a league after chronicling the first recorded game played in nearby Beachville, Ontario.
I also want to take this opportunity to remind all members that the Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, at 386 Church Street in St Marys, is one of many treasures found in my great riding of Perth-Middlesex, and I invite you and the member for Windsor-St Clair to visit over the summer recess.
Mr Dwight Duncan (Windsor-St Clair): Like my colleague from Hamilton West said, this may be the last day of the session. Unlike him, I hope to return. But that's certainly someone else's decision and not mine at this point.
I'd like, on behalf of the Liberal caucus, to thank everyone in this place: the ushers and pages for their excellent work ensuring that the chamber runs smoothly; our friends at the table, who always have sound advice and good judgment, even though we often don't agree; Hansard, and the dedication and accuracy that Hansard brings to their job; the broadcast and recording services, who at least try to make us look good and, considering what they have to work with, do a fairly good job of it; and of course, the public servants in the Legislative Assembly -- the library, food services. We all benefit from their outstanding contributions.
On behalf of the members on this side of the House, we want to thank all the MPPs in here of all parties. We have an important obligation to represent the people of our communities, and I don't think anyone here takes that responsibility lightly.
Finally, we want to thank the media. They have a hard job listening to all of us down here and trying to make sense of it. There's always a tendency in this business to shoot the messenger -- I know I have fired a few shots myself -- but the media bring professionalism in bringing the news to the people.
This will be an interesting summer and definitely, from our perspective, time for an election. I look forward to the people of Ontario having the opportunity to choose change. But unfortunately, we have a feeling we might all be back here on September 22 nonetheless.
Ms Sandra Pupatello (Windsor West): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I'd like to take this opportunity, if I may, to introduce my family. They're here in the House today. For that reason, I hope that everyone might want to behave. I'm very happy to introduce constituents of mine of course, my family: my big brother, Walter Pizzolitto; his wife, Linda; the twins, Nadia and Niklas; the eldest, Dominic; and my mother, Ada Pizzolitto.
Hon Dan Newman (Associate Minister of Health and Long-Term Care): If we're all introducing family that's here today, I'd like everyone to welcome my father, Victor Newman, who's here today to watch question period.
While there has been cooler, rainier weather in the northwest part of the province, the fire situation remains very serious. Without additional rain in the next few days, conditions could again become extreme.
There are currently 51 active forest fires of various sizes, burning over an area of almost 184,000 hectares. Ontario is spending about $2 million a day to combat these fires. Our priority is to protect human life and property as well as timber values.
Ontario's 700 fire rangers and 600 contract firefighters are being supplemented by over 500 firefighters and support staff from as far away as British Columbia, including Alberta and the Northwest Territories. All our nine water bombers are in operation and we've got four water bombers from outside the province also in operation. We're also using 94 helicopters in support of firefighter operations moving firefighters from one zone to another.
The restricted fire zone in the southern half of the western part of the province has been lifted, but much of the north remains a restricted fire zone. That means that all open burning, including campfires, is banned, with a goal of ensuring that no fires caused by humans will add to the difficult situation that we face already. I call on the residents of those parts of northern Ontario covered by the restricted fire zones to strictly observe these provisions. Don't start a campfire or conduct any outside burning.
I would also ask members of the public and stakeholders to be patient with their requests to the office of the Ministry of Natural Resources. The ministry is directing its focus almost exclusively on fighting these forest fires.
Mrs Claudette Boyer (Ottawa-Vanier): I'm pleased today to see that my resolution of last fall with respect to the board of directors of TVO has had a positive effect on the government. For quite some time now the francophone community has been very concerned over the lack of adequate representation on the board of directors of TVOntario, also responsible for the French-language educational television network TFO.
The fundamental problem is that very few of the current board members speak any French or they have little or no understanding of French language and culture. How can one govern with competence a television network that operates in a language one does not comprehend?
I'm proud to say that recently a third francophone, Madame Diane Simard, has been appointed to the 13-member board of directors of TVOntario. Madame Simard is a credible member of Toronto's francophone community, active in local institutions, and she has a background as an independent radio and television producer.
Croyez-moi, sa nomination au conseil d'administration est un pas important pour rectifier le déséquilibre actuel au sein du conseil. C'est une mesure positive qui démontre que ce gouvernement a su écouter les demandes de la communauté francophone exprimées par l'entremise d'une députée.
I therefore wish to thank the Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities, Dianne Cunningham, and the president of TVOntario, Isabel Bassett, for listening to the requests of the francophone community. I look forward to the next step, which should be two separate linguistic sections working together for the benefit of all in educational television.
The Speaker (Hon Gary Carr): I beg to inform the House that pursuant to section 30 of the Members' Integrity Act, 1994, I've laid upon the table a request from the member for Windsor West to the Honourable Coulter Osborne, Integrity Commissioner, for an opinion on whether the Honourable Tony Clement, Minister of Health and Long-Term Care, has contravened the act.
Hon John R. Baird (Minister of Energy, Minister responsible for francophone affairs, Government House Leader): On the same point of order, Mr Speaker: I was pleased to be the only member of the House to vote for his bill when it came to a voice vote. I'd like to read the bill first before we pass it at second and third reading.
Bill 130, An Act to amend the Fire Protection and Prevention Act, 1997 in order to protect the employment of volunteer firefighters / Projet de loi 130, Loi modifiant la Loi de 1997 sur la prévention et la protection contre l'incendie afin de protéger l'emploi des pompiers volontaires.
Mr Ted Arnott (Waterloo-Wellington): This bill amends the Fire Protection and Prevention Act, 1997, with respect to salaried firefighters who also work as volunteer firefighters. It provides that if a person is denied membership in an association of firefighters, is expelled or disciplined by the association, or engages in reasonable dissent within the association in connection with this kind of dual employment, the association is not permitted to require the employer to refuse to employ the person as a salaried firefighter, terminate his or her employment as a salaried firefighter or refuse to assign the person to fire protection services.
This bill is identical in principle to my amended Bill 30, which I presented to the House last year. I want to bring it to the attention of the House again. It's my understanding that Justice Adams's report that the Minister of Public Safety and Security commissioned earlier this year will be released to the public today. My bill is intended to remind the government that this issue needs to be addressed.
Mr Wayne Wettlaufer (Kitchener Centre): Amateur baseball is thriving in Ontario. There are 250 local baseball associations active in the province today. They involve players of all ages: from eight years of age to over 21 years of age. Local baseball associations hold their own championships for teams, involving tens of thousands of players. In August this year, the city of Windsor will host all seven of the elimination championships that send representative teams to the Baseball Canada National Championships, involving 70 baseball teams, representing all provinces, and including over 2,000 players and coaches. Proclaiming August 2003 as Amateur Baseball Month would recognize the contributions that baseball makes to the well-being of communities and individuals. It would also help to increase the profile of amateur baseball in Ontario and honour baseball coaches for their invaluable work.
Hon John R. Baird (Minister of Energy, Minister responsible for francophone affairs, Government House Leader): I move that, pursuant to standing order 9(c)(ii), the House shall meet from 6:45 pm to 12 am (midnight) on Thursday, June 26, 2003, for the purpose of considering government business.
Mr Dwight Duncan (Windsor-St Clair): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I seek unanimous consent to allow Mr Wood the opportunity to put a motion to refer his bill, Bill 4, An Act to proclaim Genocide Memorial Week in Ontario, to second reading and committee.
Mr John Gerretsen (Kingston and the Islands): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: In light of the fact that this government has referred to greater accountability in all of their throne speeches since 1995, and in light of the fact they've also mentioned greater accountability in all of their budget speeches since 1995, I seek unanimous consent to give second and third reading to Bill 6, An Act to amend the Audit Act to provide for greater accountability of hospitals, universities, colleges and other organizations that receive grants or other transfer payments from the government or Crown agencies.
Ms Marilyn Churley (Toronto-Danforth): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: In honour of the finance minister's refusal to confess to Ontarians that they plan to sell off Hydro One to cover up their $2-billion deficit, I ask for unanimous consent to declare this, Ontario's fourth smog day of this summer 2003, Smog Day Ecker.
Mr Wayne Wettlaufer (Kitchener Centre): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: As this is the last day before August that we can proclaim this and in view of the level of co-operation there was on first reading, I would like to seek unanimous consent to move second and third reading of An Act to proclaim August 2003 as Amateur Baseball Month.
Hon Ernie Hardeman (Associate Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I just want to remind the House that we have been so well served by a page from Oxford county, Lucas Mol, for the past number of weeks. He spoke so highly of this Legislature that today we have with us the family of Lucas: Rob Mol; his mother, Kathy Gorham-Mol; and his two sisters, Jacoba and Leah. I would like the Legislature to welcome them to Queen's Park from the great riding of Oxford county.
The Speaker (Hon Gary Carr): Just before we begin with the member for Niagara Centre -- I was going to do this just before question period, but everybody is probably here now for the votes anyway. As you will know, this will probably be the last day for our pages. I think all the members would like to join me in thanking this wonderful group of young people.
To all of the families watching, you can be very proud. They've all done a very good job, including our good friend Penny, who has been just excellent. I had to make sure I cleaned out the dog biscuits we've been sending to her because I didn't want to leave them here over the summer.
Mr Peter Kormos (Niagara Centre): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I seek unanimous consent for second and third reading of Bill 110, An Act to amend the Employment Standards Act, so that every worker in this province can have a long weekend this July 1 holiday.
Hon John R. Baird (Minister of Energy, Minister responsible for francophone affairs, Government House Leader): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: Of course we have no idea when an election will be held -- it could be this fall, the spring or this summer; the writs could be issued later today -- but I understand we have unanimous consent for each party to make a statement on the pending retirement of the member for Oakville.
You were first elected in 1990, which was no small accomplishment for a Conservative to get elected in that year. It was not a great year for Conservatives, only capturing 23% of the vote, but you bucked the tide and were elected.
From 1990 to 1995, you were a hard-working and dedicated member in your job as critic for economic development and were very active in putting together the Common Sense Revolution. I'm pleased, as I'm sure you are and all members of the House, that your wife Teresa and your daughter Makenzie are in the gallery. Your other children, Lindsay and Gavin, I'm sure, are watching on TV or will see this.
In government, you worked hard as parliamentary assistant to the Solicitor General. You worked with Janet Ecker to consult and develop our strict discipline facilities concept, the boot camp for young offenders. You've worked hard and represented your constituents in Oakville for 13 years, displaying courage and conviction. As Speaker from 1999 to today, you have, I know, endeavoured to work hard and deliver decisions fairly and impartially. Your decisions and comments certainly get a good amount of emotion from all sides of the House, I think it would be fair to say.
This job we have as members of the Legislature, as politicians, is a difficult and demanding one, and it's one which you have worked hard at for some 13 years. Your constituents are tremendously fortunate to have the results of that hard effort, that hard work that you've made on their behalf in Oakville, both in opposition, in government and then the last four years as Speaker.
You have a difficult job. It's often a lonely one when you of course aren't sitting in any caucus, and I'm sure you've had many difficult decisions to come to and had to make them alone. I know you've been very capably served by a very knowledgeable table.
On behalf of my caucus colleagues on the government side, we want to wish you and your family well as you embark on what is an exciting career for you in coaching professional hockey on the other side of the pond. All the very best to you, sir.
I first met Gary in 1975 as one of 6,666 Sudbury Wolves hockey fans who were screaming at this very young and tenacious goalie for the Toronto Marlies, who had an outstanding ability to block every puck that came his way. The Toronto Marlies won the series against the Sudbury Wolves in the seventh game of the of the OHL championship series. They went on to the Memorial Cup, and the Toronto Marlies won the Memorial Cup that year. Gary was voted the most valuable goalie. He was a member of the all-star team and is always known as a Memorial Cup champion. Speaker Carr showed courage and leadership as that young goalie years well beyond his very tender age at the time.
Gary continued to be a champion. Since 1990, he has championed the needs of the people in the Oakville area, having been re-elected in 1995 and 1999 because the people were convinced that Gary Carr would represent them with courage and leadership.
In his last four years as Speaker, all of us in this House have been impressed with his outstanding interpersonal skills, his ability to communicate with individuals, with groups, with pages, with visitors who come to this building. He exemplifies what politics is all about in the form of representation with honour.
I'm reminded that courage has been defined as the quality it takes to look at yourself with candour, your adversaries with kindness, and your setbacks with serenity. Gary, you've done that as the Speaker in this place. You have definitely made a difference. You have created your own legacy within the democratic process, and this too has been built on courage and leadership.
Now, as this chapter as a representative closes, Gary has the courage and leadership to embark on a new role, returning to the world of hockey to share his leadership and his courage with other hockey players. As coach and mentor of the London Racers in the Elite Ice Hockey League, he will bring the team on the road to cities like Sheffield and Nottingham and Belfast and Coventry, Glasgow, Cardiff and Manchester. Home games will be played in the London landmark known as the Alexandra Palace. This building is also known as the People's Palace. How ironic it is that Gary Carr will be leaving the Pink Palace and moving to the People's Palace.
The measure of an individual is the set of principles by which he or she lives. I went on the Web site today, the London Racers' Web site, and I looked at the Coach's Diary. This is what Gary says to the people of London and to his players about his expectations for himself and his players:
"It is my mission to develop and promote a competitive team dedicated to obtaining the highest level of performance and skill development.... Each player must commit to work together as a team, have a completely unselfish attitude ... direct all of our combined efforts toward a common set of goals, care for each other ... have a mutual respect for each other despite the individual differences in personalities and character that always exist in a group of individuals, never be outworked ... bring enthusiasm and concentration" in order to reach their full potential, and finally, "accept total responsibility for our actions."
Indeed, Gary Carr has done that as Speaker and as representative. He has lived the mission statement he will now ask others to live. I know that today Gary's beautiful 83-year-old mother is watching. I want you to know that everyone in this chamber looks up to your son with respect, admiration and appreciation for his commitment to public office and to people.
To Teresa and your children, Lindsay, Makenzie and Gavin, enjoy the ride you're experiencing. You experience this ride because your husband and father has the courage and leadership ability to accept new challenges and to be a real champion.
Mr Peter Kormos (Niagara Centre): Thank you kindly, Speaker. You understand that there are only two occasions that prompt these sorts of things to be said about a member of the Legislature. Obviously, this is the preferable occasion.
I've always found it strange that when people, as members of the Legislature, persevere and go back for that last election and get the stuffing kicked out of them by their opponent, they are not feted in the same way, but that's just the way this parliamentary convention has established itself. I know that you, among other things, would be the first to protect parliamentary convention. You've demonstrated that in the most capable way.
But I remember after your election, when you were a member of the third party over here, just about in this area of the Legislature. I recall you, as I believe do others who were fortunate enough to have been here then, as an extremely effective, well-prepared, studied member of the opposition who posed questions in an extremely capable way but who clearly had done his homework. That isn't always the case, and from time to time we witness those occasions where people will perhaps pose questions without having done the thorough research. You demonstrated yourself to be an extremely effective opposition member. I for one believe that's an incredibly important thing. I believe people should have to be proven and demonstrated as extremely effective opposition members before they acquire the power and the trappings that accompany it in government. I take a look at remarkable governments of the last 15 years, all of which lacked that element and in fact have suffered for it.
Again, it is noteworthy that you were elected as a Conservative in 1990. I speak to some of your colleagues here from time to time who talk oh-so-proudly about their political skills, talking about how well they won their riding in 1995 and 1999. I say, no, the real test is when you can get yourself elected or re-elected when the polls aren't with you. We as New Democrats understand that full well.
But you proved yourself in 1990, and you proved yourself to your constituents, such that your re-election in 1995 was a certainty, but not unjustified. I recall that election. I recall your returning to the House. I know that a whole lot of us expected you to become a member of the cabinet. I think you expected yourself to become a member of cabinet. For any number of reasons, good or not so good, that didn't happen. But I put to you that at the end of the day, you've occupied a position here of stature, one that has all of the trappings attached to it, and you've never had to answer a single question; you've never been the victim of a single FOI; you've never had to account for a single expenditure. I put to you that you've got it made over any of your colleagues who ever aspired, especially who successfully lobbied, to get into cabinet. Some of them are long gone. You're still here, unblemished, unimpeached and unquestioned. It truly is one of the better jobs around here. But it's a job that you've performed in an exemplary way. It's been a long time since we've had a Speaker who has fulfilled his or her responsibilities with firmness but who has at the same time maintained a sense of humour, who at the same time has avoided arrogance, and who at the same time has avoided, I say to you as well, hubris.
I want to thank you on behalf of New Democrats for your role as Speaker. Of course, every member of this Legislature voted for you. You've heard them tell you that. All 102 members repeat that over and over again. After your successful election, it's as if your opponents voted for you themselves. There wasn't a single person in this House who would identify themselves as somebody other than a supporter of Gary Carr. But I put to you that, at the end of the day, you've demonstrated the true independence a Speaker ought to display. You've also demonstrated leadership. Among other things, it's tradition that the Speaker speaks for the assembly; you've done that. You've done that with courage; you've done it when it meant consequences for you in terms of your political life and perhaps the role you have in your community. You've done it in the true spirit of a Speaker who is independent and who has to come to the protection of Parliament and those parliamentary institutions.
You will undoubtedly be documented and recorded in every volume of Beauchesne, Erskine May and all those parliamentary guides that will be published from this point on. You will undoubtedly be in the index, and for good reason. You've made some strong and important rulings. You've done them fairly. You've been outspoken when that has been required of you. We admire you for that, and I put to you that the people of Ontario admire you for that.
I suggest that if there were a provincial popularity poll right now, you've managed to remove yourself far enough from partisan politics that you would top any popularity poll of politicians. You're really not seen that much as a politician and more as the person who has guided this very raucous and polarized Parliament through what have been some very painful parliamentary sessions, I think, for all of us here in this assembly.
We wish you well, and we thank your family for their contribution, because, of course, your family makes great sacrifices, as they do for any member of the Legislative Assembly. We know you have high regard for them. You've referred to them and spoken of them often. You've expressed your pride in your kids and your hopes for their futures. You've demonstrated your commitment to your family. Often you make reference to your mother preferring us over the afternoon soaps, and for the life of me, I can't understand why. But I say to Mrs Carr that it's been a pleasure sharing these afternoons and some of these evenings with the Speaker's mother; we appreciate the attention you've paid to us. New Democrats, to our credit, have done everything they could to give Carr as much camera time as possible.
Speaker, we thank you for your contribution to this Parliament and to this province as a member of the assembly and as a Speaker who will, as I say, be noted as one of the important Speakers of this Parliament and whose rulings will be referred to for many years to come. We regret that you will not be in this assembly, because as Speaker, as a government member or as an opposition member, you have truly been a valuable player in this arena, on this rink.
We thank you, and we wish the very best for you and your family's future. We trust that the occasional controversy you've managed to attract will continue to be the case in the future. We look forward to the newspaper reports of those events and wish you well throughout all of them.
I want to say to the member for Sudbury -- I hate to say it -- we also beat Hamilton and Kingston that year. I remember my first speech up there; I actually got booed by them when I went up there and spoke. I said we beat them, and they actually booed me. But it was a fine series and a great tradition.
When I was first thinking of running, I came back and said to my wife, "I don't care if I get two votes, I've got to run for the nomination." The first thing she said is, "What makes you think I'm going to vote for you?" After that first election was so close, I needed your vote, hon.
I want to thank each and every one of you. It's been a great job and I've enjoyed it a tremendous amount. We look forward to following you. Hopefully, I'll still be able to play on the Legiskaters. I've told a few of you, particularly the better players -- Mr Hodgson, Mr Hampton, Mr Gerard Kennedy, a couple of the really good players, Mr Stockwell and Mr Kells -- that if your political careers go in the wrong direction, there will always be a place for you on the London Racers. We'll be like the Toronto Maple Leafs: we'll be a little bit older but we'll be the champions anyway.
Good luck to each and every one of you. I will be following you. I also want to thank the table for their tremendous help and support over the years. They've been just fantastic. As we said earlier, they have been my caucus. And hopefully you may keep a few jobs open for me, because if we aren't doing well by Christmas, I may be back here.
Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: There's something that's been hanging over your head for quite a while now, a number of months. I know your mother has felt very bad about this and you've received a lot of telephone calls about it. I want your mother, Joyce Carr, to know that I have forgiven you for being the only Speaker who has thrown me out of this Legislature in 26 years. Even though it was a terrible call on your part, I've still forgiven you.
Hon Frank Klees (Minister of Transportation): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I know you'll rule that this is not a point of order, but we do want to wish you that the road ahead will bring you much success and happiness.
Mr Dalton McGuinty (Leader of the Opposition): My question today is to the Premier. We've been asking the Minister of Community, Family and Children's Services for weeks now about her office's interference with Ontario's child advocate, that person who has to assume very heavy responsibilities for the 23,000 vulnerable children in care. When we asked the minister directly about her attempts to muzzle the child advocate, she said, "Neither I, nor any member of this government, has done a single thing in any way to impede the activities of the child advocate."
The truth of the matter, Premier -- and this is why I am appealing to you today -- is that Ontario's child advocate is being prevented from fully exercising her responsibilities by this minister. Judy Finlay, the children's advocate, said today, "I feel my job is at risk. The viability of the office as an independent voice for children in this province is at risk." Your minister is acting in a way to thwart the activities of the children's advocate in the province of Ontario. My question to you is, what are you going to do about it?
Hon Ernie Eves (Premier, Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs): I am not aware of any action that the minister has taken with respect to the child advocacy office. In fact, I am fully supportive of the child advocacy office.
Your minister said she hasn't done a single thing to impede the activities of the child advocate; her actions prove otherwise. According to the child advocate herself, your government is trying to take away her independence. She is saying that your minister wants to censor all reports before they're made public. The children's advocate is saying that your minister wants to be able to veto her decisions about launching an investigation that could implicate the government. Your minister is saying that she wants to sign off on any and all communications that come from the child advocate's office. The child advocate is saying, "They see me as a public servant, even though historically I am to be arm's length from the government."
I repeat, Premier, your minister is getting in the way of the children's advocate's doing her job, which is an important job, to protect the interests of 23,000 children in care. I ask you again, what are you going to do about that?
Hon Brenda Elliott (Minister of Community, Family and Children's Services): First of all, I want to put on the record that I find it disappointing that the child advocate would take concerns to the media or the opposition instead of working with my office. Issues have been raised that relate to performance appraisals and other human resources issues. It is inappropriate for this minister to handle personnel issues. I do not manage ministry personnel issues -- I do not hire; I do not fire -- and I think it is important that that is on the record.
Let me say very clearly that no measures have been taken by me or anyone in my office or from the ministry to curtail any measures taken by the child advocacy office to address her ability to do her job effectively. No one tells the child advocate which cases to report on, which children to advocate on behalf of or what needs to be investigated. The child advocate has complete authority to make these determinations.
Mr McGuinty: You are refusing to meet with the children's advocate. She's gone to the media, she's gone public because she's trying to defend 23,000 vulnerable children in the province of Ontario and you won't meet with her.
Over the past several years, she has written over 50 reports that have been critical of your government. She's made very disturbing findings, including the following: she's talked about inadequate facilities with bedsheets that are used as window-coverings and exposed light bulbs as the only source of lighting in some rooms. She's talked about kids who can't go in the backyard -- these are children in your care -- because they're going to disturb neighbours. She's talked about dangerous and illegal use of physical and chemical restraints. She's talked about restraints being used inappropriately. She's talked about dangerous activities including physically manipulating youths' arms behind their backs, hands being wrapped together, arms being twisted, staff grabbing youths by the hair, youths reporting difficulty breathing when staff sat on them. That's what this minister has been doing. That's important work, and you have a responsibility to pay some attention to her.
I return to you, Premier: that minister is getting in the way of a children's advocate doing her job and standing up for 23,000 vulnerable children. I ask you, Premier, on behalf of those kids, since this minister won't do the job, what are you going to do about her to protect those kids?
Hon Mrs Elliott: Let me be very clear: I have never prevented the children's advocate's office from writing reports or articles. In fact, the child advocate has written several in the course of the last number of years. No one from my office or from the ministry has ever asked for a sign-off on any reports written. What we have asked for is the courtesy of seeing any reports before they're made public, the same practice we have in place for other agencies -- nothing more, nothing less. No one in my ministry or my office tells the child advocate which cases to report, which children to advocate on behalf of or what needs investigation. The advocate has complete authority to make these decisions. Until yesterday, I had never received one piece of communication from the child advocate's office. I would have thought that she, before approaching the media or the opposition, would have expressed her concern --
I want to read to you something you are probably not familiar with. It's a copy of the report filed by the children's advocate in May of this year. She says, "Since 1996, six children have died in group homes or institutions in Ontario. Two children died during the use of physical restraints, two children died from successful suicide attempts, one died from assault by a peer, and one youth died of neuroleptic malignant syndrome. The rate of one death per year of children in care is unprecedented in the province of Ontario. All of these deaths were avoidable and unnecessary. There are lessons to be learned from these deaths. Society collectively needs to draw the line in the sand."
I'm asking you today on behalf of those 23,000 children -- they're our kids. Their parents have either abandoned them or they're disabled or they're troubled. They might be hard to handle, but they're ours nonetheless. I'm asking you to stand up for those kids. Your minister is not doing that. On behalf of those kids, I'm asking you to fire that minister and replace her with somebody who's going to stand up for those kids.
Hon Mr Eves: I certainly take the matters he has raised in the House here today, and raised apparently by the child advocate, very seriously. Nobody in this province, I believe, would want to see any child in any program in the province subjected to some of the things he has just reiterated in his question. I would be happy to take the matter under advisement myself, to look at it and to follow a direction or suggestion that's being made by the child advocate.
Mr McGuinty: Premier, we have raised this several times over. Here are the facts to date. Your minister is thwarting the efforts of the children's advocate of Ontario. I urge you to look into this personally. I want you to understand that this minister is trying to stop reports from being made public. She is trying to veto all press releases. She says she's not doing this, but she has not spoken to the children's advocate. Your minister is asking for the final say on investigations that could implicate the government. She has refused to meet with the children's advocate. Seven children have died in care since 1995. None died in the previous 17 years. That speaks volumes.
I think the right thing to do in the circumstances, as evidence of your commitment to those 23,000 kids who are in our care, is to replace your minister and put somebody else in place who will stand up for those kids and work with the children's advocate to protect the interests of children in Ontario.
Hon Mr Eves: I have given him my undertaking that I will look into the matter personally. Obviously the situation with respect to any child in Ontario, in any set of circumstances, deserves the utmost attention and respect of the people of the province of Ontario. I will personally undertake to him that I will look into it.
It's my understanding that the current child advocate has been in her position for some 13 years. She is a staff member of the OPS. She reports directly to an assistant deputy minister. I would quite concur with the comment he has made, that nobody should be there trying to tell her what to put in a report in any way, shape or form. It's my information -- but I'm happy to look into it; in fact, I will look into it -- that the minister has not done that. I will look into the matter. You have my undertaking. I will report back.
Mr McGuinty: I want to remind you that this has been going on for a long time now. The children's advocate, to my knowledge, has had a good working relationship with other governments. She has failed to be able to establish that kind of a relationship with this minister in particular.
What I'm going to do today, then, Premier, given your determination now, as you've expressed it, to get to the bottom of this, is to ask that after you've conducted your investigation, you report in a public way so that you can tell us where your government is going on this matter, what it is you're going to do to ensure that the children's advocate can in fact carry out her responsibilities, and ask you to tell us how long it is that you're going to take so that you can report in a public way on this very important matter.
Hon Mr Eves: I would be happy to do so, and at the earliest possibility. I'll have to look into the issue. I'll have to have somebody in the ministry and the minister's office give their input into this as well, and I'll report back as soon as possible.
Mr Howard Hampton (Kenora-Rainy River): My question is for the Premier. Ontario does not have enough electricity. I think that is painfully obvious. We are now seeing localized blackouts due to transformer failures in a number of communities. Your deregulated, privatized hydro system was supposed to have us rolling in new electricity supply. It hasn't happened. The private generators aren't generating enough electricity.
Premier, the answer is public power. I think you're starting to acknowledge this. It's the government that has negotiated a contract with Manitoba Hydro, or is in the process of doing it. You said the other day that you want to negotiate something with Hydro-Québec. That says to me that what you're starting to recognize is that we need publicly owned electricity. Will you make that commitment to the people now that you're going to give up on electricity privatization and deregulation and return the province to public electricity on a not-for-profit basis?
He makes the statement during his question that there isn't enough power supply in the province. If he heard what Terry Young of the IMO said this morning -- he said that we do have enough power in the province of Ontario, that what the honourable member refers to as "blackouts" are reductions in power that happen when equipment in the system for the transmission and distribution in various points, having operated at full capacity on extraordinarily hot days -- no one in any jurisdiction, not just the province of Ontario, can guarantee that every single piece of equipment in a system that operates at full capacity for four consecutive days, at temperatures in excess of 30 degrees Celsius, that no part of it will ever break down anywhere; there'll never be a switch, there'll never be a transformer, there'll never be anything that doesn't work all the time. He knows full well that that has been the situation not just in this province but in virtually every jurisdiction that has hydro transmission for many decades.
Mr Hampton: Mr Young also pointed out that it is the responsibility of those who run the power system to have enough of a margin, to have enough of a reserve to ensure that those things don't happen. The IMO report makes clear that we don't have enough of a reserve any longer. Premier, it's also very clear that this province has to get serious about conservation and electricity efficiency. In fact, that should be the number one priority because we could probably reduce the need for electricity by about 15% over the next four years. What has your government done? You've got a sales tax rebate scheme that has reached 1% of the population and you're going to create a committee to study the matter.
Hon Mr Eves: The honourable member is very selective in the parts of the IMO report that he chooses to raise during question period, and he does this consistently on a daily basis. You're really going to be disappointed tomorrow when the temperature drops down to 23 or 24 Celsius. There won't be, in his mind, a skeleton under his bed or a big collusive group gathering together in a closet to plot a blackout somewhere in Ontario.
At least he's been consistent. He rises in his place every day when the weather is warm and he's silent about this issue when the weather is cool. There are lots of things government can control but they can't control the weather.
The IMO report goes on to say that when the 2,500 additional megawatts come on stream later this summer, we will have 3,300 more megawatts of power than we had last summer, which is an 11% increase in the power available, and it says that is more than enough to provide the necessary power for the people of the province. Too bad you didn't take some of these measures when you were the government.
Mr Hampton: Premier, I don't know where you've been, but I've been raising these issues on the cold days, the hot days and the in-between days. As for your story that just around the corner another 2,000 megawatts are going to be available, you've been saying that for three years, and for three years, on multiple occasions, you've been wrong, wrong, wrong. Resorting to prayer now isn't going to help you.
Are you going to bring on new generation or are you not? The private sector hasn't. Are you going to implement an effective energy efficiency strategy or are you not? The people need to know what the strategy is, other than prayer.
Hon Mr Eves: The honourable member is incorrect. I have not been responding that way because, quite frankly, the deal with Bruce Power with respect to an additional unit just came on stream. As he knows, that deal was just made this spring, so how could I have been saying that in this House year after year after year?
You always stand up in your place, you embellish facts, you make them up and then you expect, I guess, that the people out there will actually believe them. I think you're in for a rude awakening whenever that day of reckoning called election day comes.
I couldn't possibly have stood up in this place and talked about the TransAlta plant, which has just been completed. How could I have said last year that it was coming on stream? I didn't. Those facts are totally incorrect and if he has any class at all, he'll stand up and retract the ridiculous statements he made in the House.
Mr Howard Hampton (Kenora-Rainy River): My next question is also for the Premier. We know that six troubled children have died during your government's term over the last eight years while being in care of the government. We know as well that the child advocate felt so strongly about this that she went to the media today and said that your minister is trying to muzzle the child advocate, is trying to stop the child advocate from conducting investigations, wants to have control over whether or not the child advocate issues reports or press releases.
You said you'd look into this. Will you determine today that this proposed contract as put forward by the minister and her staff has in fact been rescinded? Will you notify the child advocate immediately that you are calling off any attempt to restrict her investigations and restrict her communications and reports that she may issue? Will you do that today?
Hon Ernie Eves (Premier, Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs): It's my understanding that I've already undertaken to look into the matter, that that is not the case. If it is the case, I will deal with the issue, but I have to get the facts before me before I can deal with it. I've given my undertaking.
I couldn't agree more with the leader of the official opposition and the leader of the third party on the issue that's been raised today. Any time a child in the province dies in the custody of the province, it's a serious matter to be taken seriously and we should be paying attention to those people whom we charge with the responsibility of doing it.
Mr Hampton: I agree that this is a very serious issue. I think it's very serious when a child advocate who has served this province for 13 years -- under Conservative governments, NDP governments and I believe before that under a Liberal government -- feels so strongly that she has to go to the media.
Premier, you will know that the child advocate's office in every other province in this country is independent. They report to the public through the Legislature, not to the minister. We know that every other child advocate's office in this country has the tools to do their job and to make annual reports to the public.
Six children have died in the last eight years while in the care of your government. Will you let the child advocate of Ontario report to the public, free and clear of the minister's office? Will you ensure that the child advocate's office has the tools and the resources to protect children, rather than, as she has suggested, attempt to muzzle the child advocate? Will you do that, Premier?
Hon Mr Eves: I'd be happy to look into that, but it is my understanding that the child advocate can report to the public now and that she does do the things the leader of the third party suggests. But if there's a better way to do it, I'm always open to suggestions that make sense, and I'm prepared to look at doing so. If, as he says, every other child advocate's office in the country is totally independent and is not a member of the public service in that jurisdiction and they report directly and independently, I'm happy to look into that.
I will point out, as he did point out in his question, that this office has existed since 1990. It has been there during three different political parties' governments, and to this point, nobody has taken that step. But I'm quite happy to look into it. If it's a good system and a good way to do it, I'm quite prepared to look at it.
Mrs Leona Dombrowsky (Hastings-Frontenac-Lennox and Addington): My question is for the Premier. Premier, a month ago I brought a child advocacy issue to the attention of your minister, and her response was so pitiful that I late-showed her. When I asked her about children's rights information that had not been printed in three years, this was her response:
This from a minister who is responsible for protecting 23,000 children in your care; this after a coroner's inquest identified that the child advocate was unable to get this important information for children. I spoke with her yesterday, and she said she still doesn't have it, even though your minister's bureaucrats would say they do. The child advocate has not received this printed information for children in care.
Hon Mr Eves: I share the honourable member's concern about children in the province. I don't share her opinion that this minister does not care about children in the province of Ontario. She's standing in her place. I understand the concern over children, and I certainly understand the concern over children who are in the care of the province, and I don't think there's a member in this House who wouldn't share that concern.
I would suggest that we focus on the issues at hand and that we deal with those issues. To start to attack the personal integrity of this minister or any other minister is not helpful to this discussion, quite frankly.
Mrs Dombrowsky: Premier, the issue at hand is that seven children have died and this minister has not sought the advice or the counsel of the person who is responsible for advocating for children in care. That's my point.
I called the child advocate. I could not believe that the minister would not have connected with her. The child advocate herself indicated in an article on the weekend that there was a dynamic tension between herself and the ministry. That should be a flag: "Maybe I should call this person and deal with this tension." It didn't happen.
Because your minister has done nothing but try to silence the advocate, Judy Finlay would say this is her report. Many reports have gone to the desk of the minister. She doesn't even get a response. These reports contain recommendations to protect children in care, and there's been no response from your minister. This is exactly why the office of the child advocate should be separate from the minister and should report to this Legislative Assembly. Thank God the child advocate has done what she's done. She should not be ridiculed for doing what she's done in going to the media. That was a last resort for her.
Hon Mr Eves: To suggest that somehow the minister is responsible for the deaths of six or seven children who happened to be in the custody of the province of Ontario is kind of politicizing this issue.
Hon Mr Eves: We are going to look into the issue. It is my understanding from talking to the minister that she has absolutely no objection to meeting with the child advocate. She tells me she's never had a request from the child advocate to meet with her, but she's quite willing to do so. Obviously there are different pieces of information in different quarters.
Mr Norm Miller (Parry Sound-Muskoka): My question is for the Minister of Citizenship. Canada Day is rapidly approaching, and I know that Ontario traditionally celebrates this very special day with large festivities on the grounds of Queen's Park. This year marks Canada's 136th birthday. How is the province of Ontario commemorating Canada Day?
As I announced earlier today, we are indeed hosting Ontario's 37th annual celebration of Canada Day on Tuesday, July 1, from 11 am to 5 pm on the grounds of Queen's Park. As Minister of Citizenship, I'm very proud to participate again during this year's celebrations.
As Canadians, we have come from different places in the world to this beautiful land. On Saturday, I will be attending a Canadian citizenship ceremony in London, Ontario, which will remind me of the time I became a Canadian citizen just a little bit over a quarter of a century ago.
My ministry, in partnership with the Ministry of Tourism, is hosting this year's festivities. On Canada Day, Toronto will jump up and say to the world, "Welcome to Toronto. Bienvenue à Toronto. Bienvenido a Toronto."
Mr Miller: Canada Day is also a celebration of our ethnic and regional diversity as a province and a nation. It is always wonderful to see Canadians of all backgrounds and ages gathering for the celebration of our great country. Indeed, Ontario is home to an exciting collection of people who make this province one of the most diverse communities in the world.
In my case, I will be celebrating Canada Day at various events around the riding of Parry Sound-Muskoka: in Honey Harbour, Sundridge, South River, Orrville, Pointe au Baril, Huntsville, Gravenhurst, Birks Falls and Bracebridge, to name but a few of the places.
Here at Queen's Park, we'll have a 21-gun salute, clowns, interactive games, children's amusement rides, family activities. We'll have Arthur the Aardvark show, the Slam Jam air team, Eric Nagler, Veronica Bolota, Case Madeira Folklore Group, the Yakudo Drummers, the 48th Highlanders of Canada Pipes and Drums -- all here at Queen's Park on Canada Day.
Mr Dalton McGuinty (Leader of the Opposition): My question is to the Minister of the Environment. This week you actually seriously suggested that the backyard barbecue was a bigger problem than coal-fired generation when it came to the smog in Ontario. Of course, Minister, that is absolute nonsense. Your comment is very telling, though. What you've been saying is that when it comes to reducing smog, that's not the job of government.
Let me read you something you said to the Report on Business magazine in February of last year. Asked about government programs to promote energy conservation, programs that would reduce smog, you said, "The private sector asked us to get out of large-scale government conservation programs. Those efforts may have made the odd person feel good, but they have absolutely no effect."
Minister, is that true? Is our province today suffering in large measure under a blanket of smog and teetering on the edge of brownouts because your government gave in to pressure to get out of conservation programs?
Hon Jim Wilson (Minister of Northern Development and Mines, Minister of the Environment): Certainly we didn't continue the so-called conservation program of the previous government, the NDP government. They spent millions of dollars and usage of energy kept going up. It was the opinion of the staff, the professional civil service, given to me when I first became minister, that we should discontinue that and start a new program, which I believe the Honourable John Baird is working on. Second, in no way did I say that backyard barbecues somehow cause more smog than coal-fired generation plants. That would be ridiculous, even for me.
Mr McGuinty: What you said about barbecues is now a matter of record, but what you also said when it came to government conservation programs was, "Those efforts may have made the odd person feel good, but they have absolutely no effect." We're going to have more than a month of smog days this summer in Ontario. The Ontario Medical Association tells us that bad air is going to kill over 2,000 people.
In New York state, as a result of their conservation programs, they have conserved the equivalent of 400 megawatts. That's the equivalent of one nuclear reactor unit. In California, they have conserved 14%; they've saved 5,000 megawatts. That's the equivalent of Nanticoke and Lakeview combined. In other jurisdictions in North America they are getting serious about energy conservation. They're cleaning up their air, they're making for a more healthy environment for their citizens, they're creating good high-paying jobs and they're making for a more competitive economy.
Hon Mr Wilson: Really, you don't know what you're talking about. The fact of the matter is that good energy conservation programs do exist in parts of the world. It's just that the one that was in place when we came into government wasn't the best, given that energy use was going up -- not because new jobs were being created, like over a million jobs on this side of the House, because they actually lost jobs, and not because new industries were moving into the province, because we all know industries moved out. So the program was not that effective.
Mr AL McDonald (Nipissing): My question is for the Minister of Public Safety and Security. In just a couple of days, thousands of law-abiding citizens will become criminals because they have failed to meet the deadline for the federal government's gun registry. I've heard from many of my constituents in Nipissing. Northern Ontarians are concerned about this billion-dollar boondoggle. Could you remind my constituents and northern Ontarians of our government's position on the gun registry?
Hon Robert W. Runciman (Minister of Public Safety and Security): I have to say that many Ontarians -- many Canadians -- are concerned about the July 1 deadline, especially with the admission by the federal Solicitor General, Wayne Easter, that there had been a crash of the system at the first of the year and approximately 500,000 registrants were suspected lost from the system. Despite the confession, the federal Liberals are pressing on with what I call their power-gone-mad approach to this gun registry. We have serious questions about the integrity of the system, especially the security of information, and we have made the federal government aware of our concerns.
Mr McDonald: As most people are aware, the taxpayers' federation has the cost for the gun registry exceeding $2 billion by the year 2012. I know our government has been at the forefront of the fight against this waste of taxpayers' money. Could you tell us what support you're receiving from other Ontarians?
Hon Mr Runciman: I think Ontarians generally understand the wasteful nature of the long gun registry. One group that is clearly out of step is the Ontario Liberal Party. Dalton McGuinty, the leader of the Liberal Party, was quoted on CFRB radio in Toronto in February 2000 as saying, "I am a big, huge fan of the gun registry, and it doesn't cost anything." This is the same Dalton McGuinty who, when it comes to recognizing the scope of the SARS disaster in Ontario, is an apologist for his big brothers in Ottawa.
We're told that he's a Premier-in-waiting, but when Ontario faces a crisis he acts like a lackey, a sycophant, a toady of the federal Liberal government. This province deserves better. We deserve a government and a leader who will stand up and fight for Ontario. We're getting that with Ernie Eves and this government.
Mr Peter Kormos (Niagara Centre): My question is to the Premier. Working people in this province need your help. They need your help to get the Canada Day long weekend they deserve. You know that MPPs get Monday as a holiday and get paid for it to boot. Canada Day falls on a Tuesday. You should make Monday a holiday and get people out to our tourist attractions with their families, spending money and helping our troubled provincial economy. Newspapers carried stories yesterday about workers and the stress they're under, working longer hours, working harder.
Making June 30 a holiday is going to be win-win; everybody's going to gain. It's the only logical thing to do. So don't be the grinch who stole the long weekend. You need a legacy too. Be the guy who creates a long weekend for the deserving, hard-working citizens of Ontario. Will you, Premier?
Hon Ernie Eves (Premier, Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs): As I am sure the honourable member understands, it is a fairly unique situation that June 30 is on Monday and July 1 is on Tuesday. I don't know about him, but I'm sure he, like the rest of us, will be in our ridings working on Monday and Tuesday. I'm afraid I can't acquiesce to his request to make June 30 an annual holiday.
However, I do think that Canadians -- not just Ontarians -- would sort of look favourably upon some break in the month of February, when other countries honour their first ministers, their leaders, their presidents -- their prime ministers, in the case of Canada. I think a Heritage Day in the month of February would be a great idea.
Mr Kormos: I'll tell you what, Premier: New Democrats, as part of our Public Power platform, advocate two new statutory holidays. We're glad you agree. But you see, this year is special, and that's why our bill identifies June 30 for this year alone. You can have a legacy you can be proud of. Pass Bill 110. Give workers a long weekend this year. We'll work on it for the two new stat holidays in years to come. If you want to call it Premiers' Day, God bless; I'm with you. But give workers a long weekend.
The Speaker has given 403 legislative employees a free paid day off so they can have a long weekend to spend with their families. Your caucus has got Monday off. If it's good enough for you, your caucus, good enough for some government employees, why not make it fair for everyone? Give all workers a stat holiday this coming Monday. There's still time -- a legacy you can be proud of. Be a hero; don't be a party-pooper. Pass our bill. Make Monday, June 30 a holiday this year only. We'll work on subsequent years in months to come, OK?
Hon Mr Eves: I have to compliment the honourable member on his enthusiasm for this request and this extra-long holiday weekend that he's proposing for this year. I really do think that the appropriate approach is for us to look at a Heritage Day sometime in February.
Hon Frank Klees (Minister of Transportation): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I'd like to ask for unanimous consent that we designate, in addition to Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve, the first Monday of every February as Ernie Eves Day.
Mr Dalton McGuinty (Leader of the Opposition): The question is to the Premier. I want to return to the matter of the children's advocate and the conduct of your minister. Your minister has informed you that she was never approached by the children's advocate for purposes of a meeting or to establish some kind of a connection. My critic just got off the phone a moment ago with the children's advocate and was informed by Ms Finlay that, shortly after your minister's appointment, Ms Finlay asked for a meeting with the minister in order that she might brief her. She was informed that that responsibility of briefing her would lie with the bureaucrats, not with the children's advocate.
I tell you this to impress upon you how serious the poisoned relationship is and how it is jeopardizing 23,000 children in care in the province of Ontario. I provide you with that additional information and I ask something that I'd asked earlier, but I think it's important to return to it. Given this new information, given what Ms Finlay has just advised us, given what you now understand, do you not think the appropriate thing to do in the circumstances is to at least set the minister aside and relieve her of her responsibilities while you look into this matter?
Hon Ernie Eves (Premier, Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs): The leader of the official opposition knows very well that the context in which the question was asked was whether the child advocate had ever asked to meet with the minister with respect to the issues he raised in the Legislature today. It may or may not be true that the child advocate asked to meet with the minister when the minister was first appointed. He will know that there are many ministries in government with many agencies, and there are many people who ask to meet with ministers. He also will know that in this particular case, this particular advocacy office reports directly to an assistant deputy minister in the ministry. It's the way it was set up.
I've already said during question period that if that is not appropriate, and a more appropriate way of structuring the child advocate's office, as suggested by the leader of the third party, is to have the child advocate report directly to the Legislative Assembly, as indeed do some officers of the assembly who are charged with the responsibility of reporting directly here, we will gladly look into that.
Mr McGuinty: Seven children have died questionable deaths since 1995. That is unprecedented because, in the 17 previous years, not a single one died. Ms Finlay, the children's advocate, has filed a number of reports. She has been very critical of a number of ways in which your government has mishandled these affairs. Your minister said that she has never been contacted by, or never been approached by, or never had a request for a meeting from the children's advocate. The children's advocate informed us that that is not true. She tells us she's approached the minister. It doesn't matter technically whom she is supposed to have approached. The fact of the matter is that seven children have died questionable deaths in Ontario since 1995. You would think some kind of light would go off inside the minister and she would say, "I've got to look into this. I've got to get to the bottom of this. I've got to make sure this doesn't happen again." She has failed to do that. I'm asking you again -- and I understand you're going to look into the matter -- given this information, is it not appropriate, is it not right, to set aside this minister so we have somebody in place who will establish a good working relationship with the children's advocate and look out for the interests of those children?
Hon Mr Eves: I've given the leader of the official opposition my undertaking that I'm looking into the matter. Obviously, nobody is pleased and everybody is concerned that there have been seven unfortunate deaths of children in the province of Ontario's custody in the last several years. We are going to look into the matter and report back. But to suggest that this is a political issue and that we should ask the minister to step aside because the leader of the official opposition doesn't agree with how she's conducted her duties and that it's inappropriate is, I think, frankly inappropriate itself. I have agreed to look into the matter, I've agreed to report back to the House and I've agreed to look into the matter raised by the leader of the third party as to the way the office is structured and who it reports to.
Mr Toby Barrett (Haldimand-Norfolk-Brant): My question is for the Associate Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, responsible for rural affairs. As you know, communities in my riding have been facing economic challenges lately due to several factors, including the declining demand for tobacco. Many businesses and communities depend on this industry for their economic survival. This government will continue to work with tobacco growers, as we have in the past. What can you do to help the good people in my riding?
Hon Ernie Hardeman (Associate Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing): I want to thank my colleague and neighbour, both for his question and for his unstinting hard work on behalf of his constituents in his rising of Haldimand-Norfolk-Brant.
Ontario's rural communities sometimes lack the resources to drive their economic development processes internally. That's why our ministry has created a powerful Web-based tool called REDDI. REDDI enables municipalities to access a wealth of provincial data and powerful analysis tools focusing on economic development. When municipal leaders can identify strengths, competitive advantages, current trends and conditions that are affecting their economies, half the battle is already won. REDDI is one program that tackles barriers to economic growth in rural communities.
Another is the business retention and expansion program. The township of Delhi piloted the business retention and expansion program, which was very successful at retaining jobs and diversifying businesses in Delhi, which of course is part of the great riding of Haldimand-Norfolk-Brant.
Mr Barrett: I thank the minister of rural affairs for that explanation. We certainly recognize the work he has done in my riding and his neighbouring riding as well for our industry. As he indicated, that Delhi project was a success. It saved jobs in my riding and helped generate new economic activity. Clearly, these are the types of results that rural residents expect and that people in my riding look forward to, and the kind of results we need in the future to sustain rural communities.
I also understand that jump teams have been able to assist, with respect to economic development and diversification, where a major industry like tobacco is in decline, not only in my riding but also in the southern part of your riding, Oxford, Brant County, Elgin and beyond. Could you tell us a bit more about the concept of jump teams? I know it's something that came up during our deliberations on the Premier's task force with respect to rural economic development.
Hon Mr Hardeman: Jump teams are specialists in business structure who study a particular community and its situation, and then provide specific, doable recommendations to address local economic issues.
Recently in Napanee, a jump team helped develop a business plan to establish the Upper Canada Woods Co-operative. The jump team provided them with an action plan to create a woodlot co-operative which will maximize their revenues in a sustainable way. We found that sometimes people just can't see the forest for the trees. Jump teams help folks gain perspective on how they can best solve their economic challenges.
These programs are just three of the tools we're using to help rural Ontario. Further, we will soon unveil our rural strategy, further proof of our concrete commitment to rural Ontario, unlike the vacuous, empty promises of the members opposite.
Mr Gerry Phillips (Scarborough-Agincourt): My question, in the absence of the Minister of Finance, is to the Premier. It has to do with your plans for selling $2.2 billion worth of assets, which is a very big part of the budget.
The last time we saw a sale of this size was in 1999, the budget just before the election. In that, when you planned to sell $2.2 billion in assets, you spelled out in the budget what assets you were going to sell so the public had an idea of what you were going to do. To date, we have not been able to get from you or your Minister of Finance any indication of what you're planning to sell. It's a huge sale, $2.2 billion worth of assets, presumably major assets of the province. Will you tell the people of Ontario today what assets you are planning to sell to raise the $2.2 billion?
Hon Ernie Eves (Premier, Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs): The honourable member talks about this specific and that specific with respect to the budget. He will know, as I know he goes through every single budget every single year, and quite thoroughly, I might add, that every year there are challenges the government faces with respect to balancing its books, that not every single measure or step taken by the government during the course of the year is outlined in particular or in specifics in the budgetary document.
The job of finding savings, whether it's in how government performs its services or whether it has surplus assets or whether it has things that could be done better, is never done. We continue to make those efforts. Actually, in last year's budget, not this year's but last year's budget, there was a similar provision made, and he will recall that at the end of the day there was no need to sell any significant assets at all.
Mr Phillips: The people of Ontario have a right to know what in the world you're selling. They got ripped off by you. You negotiated the 407 deal. It was a rip-off, and people have been ripped off ever since, paying enormous toll increases year after year. That's why they are so suspicious and why they say, "Well, what is Mr Eves planning to sell? What of our assets is he going to sell, and is he going to put me on the hook again?"
I repeat: the 407 deal closed May 5, 1999, and an hour later the election was called. The 407 users are still being ripped off. You have put $2.2 billion of assets to balance the books. They have a right to know what in the world you are going to sell. Can you please tell the people of Ontario today -- and I want to know this before you call this election so we have some idea of what you're going to sell off. Can you come clean with the people of Ontario and tell them what you're going to sell for $2.2 billion so they don't get ripped off like they did with the 407?
Hon Mr Eves: First of all, the honourable member is wrong. Last year was the most recent time in which a budgetary provision was made for the potential sale of assets in the $2-billion range. It was in last year's budget, not the 1999 budget, when the last provision was made.
The point is that this provision is quite often made in many budgets. He'll recall that last year we did not have to have a significant asset sale to balance the books of the province. He also knows that there is a $1-billion reserve set aside every year. He also knows that there is a contingency fund that Management Board has that has over $800 million in it every year. He also knows that we are seeking efficiencies in the operation of government of $700 million a year, which is less than a cent of every dollar government spends in the province of Ontario.
So his assumption that there has to be some magical solution to make the books balance at the end of the year -- we have balanced the books of this province for four consecutive years in a row. We will balance them for the fifth consecutive year in a row.
Mr Bart Maves (Niagara Falls): My question today is for the Associate Minister of Health and Long-Term Care. I'm proud to be part of a government that has demonstrated such a strong commitment to meeting the long-term-care needs of Ontario's seniors. Not only have we dramatically increased home-care funding since 1995 and long-term-care funding, especially in the last two years, but by yesterday's passage of a property tax cut for seniors, which Liberal leader Dalton McGuinty doesn't believe they deserve, we've shown our commitment to seniors in Ontario.
I'm very pleased that in my riding of Niagara Falls, the new Bella Senior Care Residence opened recently and will be home to 160 residents. I was at the grand opening. I know how much this move to a brand new home means to my constituents and their families, not to mention the 120 new staff members who are working at Bella. Minister, I would appreciate it if you could tell the House a little more about the tremendous new facility and when you'll be able to visit.
Hon Dan Newman (Associate Minister of Health and Long-Term Care): It's always a pleasure to respond to the honourable hard-working member for Niagara Falls. The new state-of-the-art Bella Senior Care Residence in Niagara Falls is one that will make an incredible difference in the lives of residents, their families and loved ones.
The three-storey facility follows our government's new construction guidelines for long-term-care facilities. It's divided into neighbourhoods for residents, allowing them to develop closer relationships with each other and to feel more at home, because that's what it's all about. Bella Senior Care also offers dining and recreation lounges for residents, secure outdoor space and pastoral care services. The operators of Bella Senior Care Residence have said they will strive to set new standards in long-term care. I wish every resident the very best as they make this new facility their new home.
Mr Maves: I'm very pleased to hear and, when visiting, see at first hand that our government's commitment to long-term care is making such a difference in the lives of residents and families in Niagara Falls. The new beds at Bella Senior Care are yet another example of how we're making long-term-care services even more accessible for seniors all across Ontario. Also recently in Niagara Falls, in our 16,000 bed change-over from D beds in the upgrading, we totally replaced Dorchester Manor with the Meadows of Dorchester facility, which is one of the best I've seen in the province all around.
I know that many more beds are being built in Niagara Falls and throughout the province and I would like to ask the associate minister to please update the House and my constituents on the status of long-term-care bed construction in the Niagara area.
Hon Mr Newman: I once again thank the hard-working member for Niagara Falls for his question. I'm pleased to say that 1,532 long-term-care beds will be built and redeveloped in the Niagara service area as part of our government's unprecedented $1.2-billion investment in long-term care. In fact, 624 of the beds will be new and 906 beds at eight existing long-term-care facilities will be upgraded to meet the ministry's new design standards.
I'm pleased to report to the House today that 256 new and 523 redeveloped beds have been built and are in operation, and it's anticipated that 160 new beds will be completed in the next month. This morning I happened to be in St Catharines for the opening of the T. Roy Adams Regional Dementia Care Centre, which has 22 additional beds that are providing much-needed services to the people of St Catharines --
Mr Gilles Bisson (Timmins-James Bay): My question is to the Premier. Ernie, I'm coming to you. Seriously speaking, Premier, one of the large hotels in our community, without naming names, was in danger this morning of having their electricity cut because of the high hydro rates they suffered through this winter and over the year.
Just to share with you some of the hydro bills: in January of last year, prior to the opening of the market, the hydro rate for that particular establishment was about $12,000. This year in the month of January the hydro rate escalated to $26,000. If you take a look at the month of March, they paid almost $10,000 for the same usage prior to market opening; after market opening, we're looking at a bill of $18,000.
We were able through my constituency office to make arrangements for that hotel to pay the bill over a longer period of time to keep the hotel open. My question to you is: what are you going to do to lower the rates of the hydro bill of this establishment in my riding that has almost been forced to close because of the high hydro rates?
L'hon John R. Baird (ministre de l'Énergie, ministre délégué aux Affaires francophones, leader parlementaire du gouvernement): C'est mon plaisir de répondre à mon cher collègue le député de Timmins-James Bay. Je vais lui dire que le gouvernement a mis en place un plan pour protéger les entreprises de la province qui sont plus grandes que 250 kilowattheures par année. Il y avait un programme pour protéger ces entreprises : chaque fois que leur taux de l'électricité augmentait à plus de 3,8 sous par kilowattheure, ils étaient éligibles pour un rabais qui était originellement contemplé dans les premiers jours de l'ouverture du marché. Je suis fier que vous avez trouvé ce plan que le gouvernement a mis en place pour protéger cet hôtel. Je vais dire que c'est là pour assister toutes les entreprises dans la province ou les autres consommateurs, et aussi que l'on va payer ce rabais quatre fois par année pour protéger ces petites entreprises. Je sais que vous êtes très fier; cela veut dire que le prix est en moyenne cinq sous par heure.
Mr Dominic Agostino (Hamilton East): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: With the Premier's embracing of an Ontario Heritage Day in question period earlier today, I would ask for unanimous consent for second and third reading of my bill, Bill 65, that would declare the second Monday in June to be Ontario Heritage Day and a statutory holiday.
Hon Ernie Eves (Premier, Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: Even though it's probably not a point of order, I would just like to rise in the House today and add my congratulations to you as you move on to a new career. I can only say that we all, on every side of this House, appreciate the tremendous effort that you have put forward on behalf of the people of Ontario during your term as Speaker of this place.
I know that it's not exactly an easy job from day to day, having watched several occupants of that chair try to bring order and discipline to sometimes unruly members, although I must admit you must have done something because today was relatively peaceful compared to some of the days here.
I think that probably speaks to the respect that you have earned. I know that the members, including myself, don't always agree with the opinions and rulings of Speakers, but that's why we have Speakers, quite frankly. We have them there to lend some objectivity, some dignity and some respect to this institution of Parliament. Each and every one of us is elected in our own ridings, regardless of political party, to do the best job we can do to represent our constituents and the people of Ontario, to try to make their lives a little bit better and their corner of the province a little bit better place. It is really a thankless job that the Speaker has, most often to give rulings that he or she knows will not be agreed upon by probably close to 50% of the members but to maintain that sense of decorum, dignity and respect for the very institution of a democratic society that we have and are fortunate to have in Ontario, in this great country of Canada. You have certainly distinguished yourself in that regard. Ontario's loss perhaps will be the UK's and London's gain, especially with respect to your particular special love of hockey and life that will take you and your family there. We wish you nothing but the best.
The Speaker (Hon Gary Carr): I thank the Premier very much. I know he's an avid hockey fan and a season ticket holder with the Toronto Maple Leafs. I want to wish him all the best if he does come over. Of course, as Canadians we always like to have a little touch of Canadiana when we're in London. If he does get over there and wants to come and see the team, we'd be pleased to have him. We're not quite the Toronto Maple Leafs, so it might not be the calibre, but certainly the arena is a little bit unique. I know with your love of the game we would love to have you there and it would be an honour to see you there to watch the team play. With your love of the game, having watched the Toronto Maple Leafs, you may be getting a few calls from me asking for a few tips along the way. As somebody said, it looks like I've gone from one blood sport to another blood sport, and it may actually be an easier job that I'm going to. Some days I don't know whether that's true. But we're going to miss you all, and hopefully you'll all be able to follow my progress. If we have as much fun as we've had here, we certainly will enjoy it very much. So all the best to each and every one of you, and thank you very much.
Hon John R. Baird (Minister of Energy, Minister responsible for francophone affairs, Government House Leader): Mr Speaker, I understand we have unanimous consent to waive petitions but that they may be filed with the Clerk's table today.
Hon John R. Baird (Minister of Energy, Minister responsible for francophone affairs, Government House Leader): I move that pursuant to standing order 46 and notwithstanding any other standing order or special order of the House relating to Bill 41, An Act to implement Budget measures, when Bill 41 is next called as a government order, the Speaker 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 for third reading, which order may then be immediately called; and
Mr Dwight Duncan (Windsor-St Clair): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I believe we have unanimous consent to allow each caucus five minutes to pay tribute to three members who are retiring imminently: in order, Mr Hodgson, Mr Christopherson and Mr Hastings. That's five minutes for each caucus.
Hon Helen Johns (Minister of Agriculture and Food): It's my pleasure today to pay tribute to my colleague Chris Hodgson. He is retiring from politics at a very young age. I think it's important today to talk a little bit about his life in politics and the things that he has done at this stage.
Let me say first of all that we'll miss him greatly in the House. He has been one of the people that many of us who came in 1995 had the opportunity to learn from. From that perspective, I have to say personally that I will miss him greatly. He spent a lot of time ensuring that I didn't make all the wrong moves, although I made some of them.
Chris was born in Millbrook and spent his early years, all of his life per se, in Haliburton county. He had a wonderful life, as a young man, playing sports and being involved in all sorts of activities in the community. He was probably a little less focused on education than other things, but certainly involved in his community, and it shows in the things that he's done since. He went to Trent University, graduated in 1985. I've said to him that I won't tell you what age he was when he was doing all of this, but you can guess.
His political life started pretty early, though. He became the reeve of Dysart township and the warden of Haliburton county in 1993. He also served on a health committee, and I think if we had known that along the line, he would have had a different provincial political career. But he kept that secret from us. He has been involved in politics at the provincial level since he came here in a by-election in 1994. As you will remember, Mr Speaker, it was a pretty big by-election for the Conservative government. It was something that we believe was the start of a ripple that turned Ontario blue. We, in the Conservative third party, thought at that time that we were pretty lucky to attract a person with the talents of Chris Hodgson. He was quickly recognized by the Premier. He was utilized heavily because he is tied very carefully to the north, to the outdoors, fishing, hunting -- he loves all those things. So as soon as we were elected in 1995 he became the Minister of Natural Resources and Northern Development. Boy, did the community love him in those two portfolios.
From the beginning he was thought of as a person who could find practical solutions to very difficult issues. He could make magic with consensus, if you will. He brought people of differing interests together. Maybe he just locked them in the room and threw the key away --
Hon Mrs Johns: "With a case of beer," my colleague says. I don't know that. He was able to build this consensus and we all sat back both in caucus and cabinet and watched his magic as he did deal after deal that set the stage for what he's going to be known for in his retirement.
He was able to work co-operatively with hunters and animal rights activists. He introduced and amended a Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act that hadn't been changed in 50 years. He preserved the environment. I think when he leaves here he's going to be known as Mr Parks because he did so much work on the Living Legacy. He was the person who had the vision about the biggest expansion of parks in the province of Ontario.
At one time in 1997 he had both that ministry and Management Board, and when we came back after the election in June 1999, he moved to just being at Management Board. Many people, especially from northern Ontario, thought that was quite a demotion for him, to lose northern mines. Of course from there, we know he went on and did many things. The gaming file was wonderfully handled by Mr Hodgson. He created a responsible gaming environment and at the same time rejuvenated the horse racing industry.
I can encapsulate his work by something Mayor Hazel McCallion from Mississauga said. All of us know that the mayor is a little challenging sometimes, that it's difficult to get consensus with her sometimes, but she expressed her disappointment when Chris Hodgson decided not to run again: "He was always open and accessible and made an excellent minister who understood the issues facing Ontario municipalities. His advocacy and support of municipalities will be greatly missed. He was the best Minister of Municipal Affairs that we have had in a long, long time."
Although I've talked a lot about Chris's political career, I think I have to say there are other things that are important. His riding is very important to him because he loves the riding he is elected to. He speaks highly of it; he stands for it.
The other thing he loves, probably more than anything in the world, is his family. He has a family that is very important to him. He has a wife, Marie, who is a wonderful young woman. She looks much younger than Chris, especially now that he has developed from the fair-haired boy of the Premier to the grey-haired scholar in the stands. He also has four kids who my kids have been fortunate enough to know: Clayton, Cody, and two daughters, Charlotte and Caroline. Caroline was born after Chris came to the House. They're a wonderful family.
One of the things you always read when you go into these little places that talk about good sayings is that many years from now you won't be remembered for what you did or you didn't do, but you will be remembered by the look in a young child's eyes. From that perspective, I want to say that Chris Hodgson will be remembered really well, because his children think the world of him. He spends time with them. I am always talking to him as he is running to a hockey game because all four kids play. They're involved all summer long in fishing and hunting and playing chess; I'm sure he has those kids reading history books and planning for one of them to go into politics as he is in a long line of people, although he guarantees me that that's not the case, that he's going to change history here.
I know I speak for all of my colleagues, both on this side of the House and throughout the House, as I say that we wish him well. We wish him happiness with his family. We hope that he has a wonderful career where he can spend the time that he wants to with his family, because it's so important to him. We hope, especially I hope, that he'll be back in politics someday in this province.
Mr Alvin Curling (Scarborough-Rouge River): It is my honour and privilege, on behalf of Dalton McGuinty, our leader, and all the members of the caucus of the Liberal Party, to pay tribute to an individual whom I have come to know and respect.
Chris Hodgson, the member from Haliburton-Victoria-Brock, has been a person within this place whom we have watched very closely. As a matter of fact, there were many times that we thought he was an heir apparent to Mike Harris. His quiet and deliberate attitude says that he has the character of great leadership. So paying tribute to you today, Chris, is a matter that is not difficult. You are someone whom I've watched and admired.
We all know that public life is difficult and challenging. Public life is not merely a job, as we see it; rather, it's a duty and a responsibility. It's a job for which we have commitment and dedication, and it's a job that we have to earn each day for our constituents.
Chris, when you came here in 1984 in that by-election, we saw this young, black-haired individual. Today as you leave looking just like me, with this kind of white, grey hair, we say, "What has this place done to this wonderful man's hair?" But he has not lost his posture at all.
We know that it requires perseverance and sacrifice when you dedicate yourself to this job. We know, too, about the giving up of family; we who have children all know about that. Your wife, Marie, of course may have said it was blessed for you to leave the house so she could get on with the kids. But we know, too, what it does to a family when we are not there quite as often and the children would like to identify. As my daughter would always say, "Bonding, Daddy; we need to bond."
Now they have this great opportunity, Chris, to bond with you, Marie and the kids, the two boys and the two girls. I know it's quite challenging. You learn more from kids anyhow, so you are going into another school of learning where they will start to educate you about life itself.
This week we know we have had the unfortunate occasion to bid farewell to many great colleagues that I've worked with. We saw, of course, Lyn McLeod, Sean Conway, the Speaker himself, Gary Carr, and Chris. Of course, there are others we will be bidding farewell to, I understand. As we do that, a part of us as members leaves, because the bonding and the identification we have gone through tell us that we became one.
We may disagree. We have disagreed, Chris, in many ways. As a matter of fact, when he became the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, I said he was treading on very dangerous ground, ground that maybe the party here had established. We hoped that he had not walked in any way to damage the kind of reputation and the cohesiveness we had put together in those establishments. However, as you leave, we understand that on the new grounds on which you go, you will carry that education and the fact that here was a great learning ground for you too.
As we know, politics is a learning curve, and it always has intrigue and of course opportunities and purposes. But as I said, it demands a lot from us. It demands commitment. Many times you have to be here -- especially being a minister at a very early time. You came, and after just short of a year, you were a minister and taking on that role. I know what it is as you take that on. There are different dynamics altogether; the dynamics with your colleagues in your caucus and the dynamics with those in the opposition. Of course, we did not spare the child here when we took the rod out to tell you how we felt. You have handled it in a very dignified and graceful manner, and I want to thank you for that. You continue to give the decorum that the House deserves, and again, we want to thank you for that.
As I said, I may not always agree with you, Chris, but I understand the challenges you faced through those nine years. Your wife, Marie, your two sons, Clayton and Cody, and your two daughters, Charlotte and Caroline, of course are individuals who know a father. I remember once seeing you in the shopping plaza. I could not identify at all -- it was the minister, Chris Hodgson, I saw. I saw the kids hanging around you, and I said, "That's the individual whom I know as an individual and a person."
I wish you luck in your future endeavours, and I'm sure you'll be successful. I look at you as more of a soccer player than a hockey player. I hope with that kind of team-playing you continue that role, not only in the endeavours you have in the future but also as you carry that great family tradition that you have carried on. We wish you all the best.
Mr Gilles Bisson (Timmins-James Bay): First of all, on behalf of the New Democratic caucus and our leader, Howard Hampton, I want to wish you well, Chris, in your choice to leave this place. Now, the neat part about your exiting is that you got to pick it. As you know, in this business you're a very fortunate person if you get to choose your out in this particular walk of life that we have chosen. After the next election, there's probably going to be a number of people who wish they had had that opportunity rather than being told they had to leave. But that's another story.
I go back to our time in government. Chris was elected in the by-election in Haliburton, if you remember, after Mr Dennis Drainville had decided to take his leave of this place, I guess some time in 1992-93. I remember you coming into the Legislature, Chris, at the time, a new guy elected in a by-election, full of vim and vigour, coming in here to do your job and to do your part as a member of your caucus, then the third party. What impressed me at the time that you came in -- you may not remember this, but we sat on the legislative committee dealing with the Sustainable Forestry Development Act. I was actually very impressed that, as an opposition member, a new member first elected to this place, you picked up what the gist of that was all about very quickly, and I found out why. It was that you had a certain understanding of the woods industry, coming from Haliburton, and in fact had worked in that particular industry yourself over the years.
I just want to say to you that I remember, through that committee process, we did have our differences as far as where we wanted to go with the final outcome of the legislation, but I always got the sense, and this is a tribute to you, that you really were trying, from your own perspective, to do what you thought was right for northerners by way of that legislation. You never really came at that particular debate around sustainable forestry development from a partisan nature. You looked at it from a policy perspective and brought that forward.
Now, you were fortunate. You were re-elected in 1995. That probably attests to the work you did for that short time from the by-election up to the election. But also the sweep certainly helped, because I know it helped me in 1990 for sure. But I've got to say -- and this is as a northerner saying this to a southerner, so I hope you take this as a really good compliment -- when you were appointed Minister of Northern Development and Mines originally, if I remember correctly -- I think it was your first ministry, am I correct? As minister? Yes -- a lot of people in northern Ontario were going, "Well, here comes somebody from southern Ontario who's going to become our Minister of Northern Development and Mines. What does that person know about northern Ontario?" There was a lot of worry, and rightfully so, as Mr McDonald would know as a fellow northerner. When you've got somebody who's not from the north representing one of the key ministries in northern Ontario, there was a lot of concern on the part of a lot of people -- I'm not just saying the opposition parties -- and community leaders across the north. You, quite frankly, managed in very short order to impress a lot of people.
As I go around northern Ontario as our northern development critic, being from northern Ontario and knowing many people, I know that I speak on their behalf when I say they really enjoyed your time as Minister of Northern Development and Minister of Natural Resources. People really got the feeling from you that again, as you had while you were in opposition on sustainable forestry development, while you were Minister of Northern Development and Minister of Natural Resources you really did give a darn about the north, tried to do what was right and always had time for the mayors, the councillors and whoever was walking through your door with an issue that dealt with northern Ontario.
People may have been happy or unhappy about the results of meetings, and such is the case for any minister of any government, but at the end of the day nobody ever walked out your door saying, "I didn't get a fair hearing." I think it is really quite something -- for any minister -- that you managed to stay above the fray in what is in our day a very -- we're not a divided Parliament, but we're certainly much more partisan than we were before. Everybody knew Chris Hodgson was a Conservative, everybody knew he was one of the key architects of the Common Sense Revolution, everybody knew he was loyal to his party. But you were never so partisan that people in northern Ontario, who by and large didn't vote Conservative, didn't feel that you tried to do what was right, and many times did.
On behalf of people from northwestern to northeastern Ontario, I want to thank you, as a northerner, for your time in Northern Development. You were there to listen to our concerns. You dealt with many of them. There are some issues that are unresolved, but that is the case for many governments. So I want to make sure you know that from the people in northern Ontario.
I want to say, however, this may not be our last goodbye because it could be that we have to do this tribute all over again in the fall, should there not be an election. So we're saying don't get too comfortable being gone. I am not convinced that event will happen as said.
I also want to say, in closing -- I've touched on this a bit but I think it really needs to be said -- that a number of people come to this Legislature sometimes with their politics on their sleeves and never see beyond the politics, from all parties. So this is not just a Conservative attribute; this is anybody who takes politics seriously. You're one of the few people, and there are few people in each caucus who have managed to do this, who have understood that you've got to be proud about who you are, but that at the end of the day you're here to serve all people no matter what your political party is. I consider you one of those people on the Conservative benches who has risen above partisan politics and has always remembered that you're here to serve all Ontarians, not just people of your provincial party.
On behalf of New Democrats, on behalf of northerners, we wish you well. We know that your family is going to be very happy to have you on a more full-time basis. Make sure that you look us up every now and then. We just thank you for your time in this Parliament. It was time well served.
Mr Chris Hodgson (Haliburton-Victoria-Brock): Thank you very much, Mr Speaker, and thank you to Helen, Alvin and Gilles. I know that's not parliamentary, but I consider you friends and I really appreciate all the kind words you said about me. It's kind of embarrassing to be spoken about this way. I suppose I should have quit years ago if I'd known you were all going to think that way about me.
It has been an honour and a privilege to serve the people of my riding and it's been an opportunity of a lifetime. I would recommend it to anybody who has an interest in their community or their province, in making life a little better for their residents. It's been a great ride and I've enjoyed every minute of it.
It wasn't easy to decide not to pursue running again in the next election. I'll miss the campaign. But when your hair is turning grey and you're only in your early forties and you've got four kids, it's time to move on, and if I'm going to do other things in life, I feel this is the right time to it, right now.
You mentioned a number of the things here, and I've been humbled to hear that. I want to thank particularly the people of my town of Haliburton and my whole riding of Haliburton-Victoria-Brock. They've supported me in three general elections. They took a risk in electing a young person to represent them, and I've always been humbled by that and honoured to be a part of trying to make our area a better place to live. I think together we've improved life there: new hospitals, new schools, better roads, there are a number of investments that have taken place. You've got to understand that in rural Ontario the government has a more day-to-day impact on people's lives than it may appear on the evening news in some of the larger urban centres.
The MNR, for example, the ministry that I was first asked by Premier Harris to be the minister of, along with Northern Development and Mines -- and Gilles is right; at the time there was a lot of scepticism about a southerner until they looked at the map and realized that there are a lot of things in Haliburton in common with northern Ontario, except for the provincial funding, which to my great regret I was never able to change.
That was the government in a lot of small towns across northern Ontario: the crown land and the forestry and all the issues and all the stakeholders who make their living from our land base, and that was a great learning experience and a great pleasure, actually; Management Board, working with the unions, I enjoyed that. We were able to find resolutions without having strikes, and I always thought that was because of the goodwill of the union leaders. In municipal affairs -- that's where I came from. I first got involved at politics at the community level. I enjoyed working with municipal leaders. It's an honour to be the Minister of Municipal Affairs.
I got into politics through the municipal side, and it was non-partisan. In fact, the hardest challenge I had, even though my family -- uncles and cousins -- had been elected to this Legislature, and my grandfather had been a member in Ottawa for 18 years -- we'd never grown up around partisan politics. My father was a director of education, and we weren't involved in the day-to-day activities and the hurly-burly of partisan politics. So I remember the greatest challenge was the nomination, and later on during the by-election, when they were doing polling, it turned out that all my friends were Liberals. Eventually, I just said, "I don't care what you call yourself. As long as you're voting for me, that's fine." They've placed their faith in me for three elections. I will truly always be thankful for that.
I had a couple of perceptions about politics before I came here. Studying politics at university, you learn all the theory, how the political systems work and how government functions. Then you get elected. A lot of the things we learned were true, but there were two assumptions that you always have in the back of your mind that turned out to be totally false. The first was conspiracy theories, that somehow there's an organization that thinks ahead and plans out these things and has grand designs. As soon as you're elected, you realize we're not that well organized, so you dispel any notion of conspiracy theories existing in government.
The second was that if you're lucky and have a successful political career, you'll have the same friends you started with before you got elected. I found out, since I announced my resignation that is going to take place when the next election is called, that that's not true. I've made a lot of friends across Ontario who have phoned me and continued to send me cards, advice and encouragement, both outside of this Legislature and inside this Legislature. It has been a true honour and a privilege to serve with you, my cabinet and caucus colleagues, and members of the opposition. These are important roles that we fulfill in representing our residents. I've always found that it's been a pleasure to work with people who cared about their ridings, because ultimately you can't control all the big things. If you know how it's working in your riding and you look after the little things, the big things will look after themselves. I've always found it a pleasure to work with members in this House who cared about the people in their communities.
Hon Ernie Eves (Premier, Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs): On a point of order, Mr Speaker, I have news for the honourable member from Victoria-Haliburton-Brock: this may well not be his last day in the Legislative Assembly. I hope you didn't take all those nice words to heart, Chris, because the House does reconvene on September 22. We'll be proceeding with the rest of our throne speech initiatives.
Having said that, in case Chris plans not to come back on September 22, it really has been an honour and a privilege for me to have worked with someone whom I regard as a true gentleman, a person whose integrity, as has been pointed out by some of the honourable members opposite, has never been questioned. There aren't that many members who are liked by virtually everybody in the Legislative Assembly, no matter their political party. I think it speaks to Chris's approach to public life that he has never been full of himself, he has always looked for his constituents and he's always done the right thing, even when that was difficult politically to do. He has always spoken his mind, done the right thing and tried to achieve things by way of consensus as opposed to confrontation.
I can remember campaigning on Chris's behalf in his by-election when he first got elected. I can remember also the pain that he felt when one of his children recently had a difficult time physically. Chris, being the honourable individual that he is, put his family first, put his family above his career and did the right thing. I think if Chris Hodgson is remembered for anything in this place, in his riding and throughout the province of Ontario, it will be for being a representative who truly was a person of the utmost integrity, who always did the right thing, regardless of one's political allegiance, and was respected by all.
Hon Mr Baird: I'm very pleased to have the occasion to talk about my colleague the member for Etobicoke North. As the Premier said, I, like he, am looking forward to coming back to the House in the fall, on September 22, but on a just-in-case basis I'm pleased to have the opportunity to rise on behalf of our Premier Ernie Eves and on behalf of the government caucus to talk about my friend John Hastings, the member for Etobicoke North.
The one thing I'll always take from John Hastings's time at Queen's Park is that he is a strong advocate for fiscal responsibility and common sense at Queen's Park. I think he brought that same approach to Etobicoke politics long before he arrived here. He detests wasteful bureaucracy and is a frequent reminder to all of us when we get into some bureaucratic battle of red tape, put in, of course, by politicians. We're very fortunate to have John as someone to remind us of that every day.
John has been a very strong advocate for his constituents. First and foremost, he's never afraid to stand up and fight for them and to fight to eliminate red tape for them. He has been a strong supporter of Big Brothers in his constituency. In fact, he has quite often hosted an annual Big Brothers' bowl-a-thon in Etobicoke. Pinball Clemens of the Argonauts, I understand, has been there a number of times. He has supported and has run in the Terry Fox Run, something I have never been able to do. I'm not an athlete.
John has been a strong advocate and supporter of seniors in his riding. He has hosted numerous seniors' seminars, which have been attended by a good number of seniors from across his constituency. When you look at someone who takes an interest in the vulnerable, to me that says a terrific amount about this man's integrity and his capacity.
I had the opportunity to visit his riding once with him when I was Minister of Community and Social Services. We visited a group called CHIRS in his riding. John attended and accompanied with me. They're a group who help people with disabilities. There was a program with Ontario Works where it was providing training and giving some experience to these people. When I attended that event with John in his constituency, he was well known to all in attendance because he's a member who's very much in touch with his riding.
John, like many members of this place, is a workaholic. He, like all of us -- like many of us, not all of us -- works around the clock, works evenings and weekends in support of his constituents in the northern part of Etobicoke. That's an approach he took when he was on city council and has continued. In this place, he's been a strong supporter of technology, the Internet, e-commerce and alternative energy. He has had a number of private members' bills on this and has certainly given us a lot of advice on alternative energy.
John has been a strong supporter of the William Osler Health Centre in his constituency of Etobicoke. As I think all members would agree, if it's not the economy, it's health care as far as the major issues of concern to people in our communities. John has been a big supporter of the William Osler Health Centre, which serves people in his part of the GTA. Of course there's some very good news going on with that centre right now that John has certainly been a contributor to.
John's riding is a diverse part of the province. It's perhaps one of the most diverse ridings in Ontario. It is not what I would call a natural Conservative seat. John has pulled off an upset win in two consecutive elections. He had the guts and the courage to put his name on the ballot back in 1995 when few people would have predicted a Conservative win as far as a government and probably fewer would have said he could have beaten a very popular incumbent in that riding, which was not a traditional Tory seat. But the local candidate can make the difference, and John not only made that difference in 1995 but surprised many folks in politics on all sides of the House by making the difference and returning to Queen's Park in 1999.
John goes door to door regularly to meet with his constituents. I think he knocked on just about every door in his two campaigns. Being in touch with his community is undoubtedly the reason he is held in such high esteem by his constituents.
In preparing to say a few words -- and I'm glad to have the opportunity -- I reviewed his biography. The government House leader has certainly reviewed, John, a number of the tremendous commitments you've made in your community over the years. As I reviewed your biography and looked at the various parliamentary assistant roles you've had, cabinet committees, committees of this Legislature, it reinforced what I think most of us on this side observed about you. I should tell you that all of us wanted the opportunity to do this, because it is probably the only time we can address that side of the House without you being one of the strongest voices shouting us back down. You are a man of great conviction; you have been. You have introduced a number of private member's bills, which, on review, inevitably are unique, inevitably are good ideas and inevitably bring something to the public debate that wasn't there previously.
Your career prior to coming here is a testament to somebody who has given of himself throughout his life, as a teacher, as a communications specialist with the WCB and in all your various activities. I think it's a reflection of the kind of man you are and the kind of conviction you've brought to your entire career, not just the years you've had here.
As the government House leader reflected, you were elected in 1995 and re-elected in 1999. You were one of those members, as I was, who found themselves virtually running in a new seat after the redistribution, and that is inevitably a challenge. You met that challenge head-on and served your party and your constituents well in that election and in your years of service here.
I spoke with John Gerretsen, the Chair of public accounts, and he told me that throughout the last eight years you have probably been one of the most diligent members of that committee and, as the government House leader said, always concerned about fiscal probity on the part of government in politics and in the Legislature. You are a man whose views are very strong and very well defended. Though from time to time we differ, it's a mark of your integrity and a mark of your firm conviction that you have never wavered in those views and you have defended them in committee, in bills you've introduced here, in your statements in the House and in your work in the community.
I think it's a tribute that your greatest activities, as the government House leader outlined, have been in your community. Sponsoring athletic teams, the fundraising events you've done, your activities in Rotary and the Kinsmen are all activities that speak of somebody of enormous character, somebody who truly cares about the people and the society around him.
As is often the case in this place, we don't get a chance to get to know one another as well as we might like to. I've had the opportunity to serve on committee on several occasions with John. I think you were down in Windsor with the alternative fuels committee. We were in Dearborn together, and we had the chance to sit together on the bus, as I recall, and talk at great length. My recollection of that was the knowledge that you brought to those discussions at that time on the issues you were researching and your depth of conviction on that particular issue.
On behalf of the official opposition, John, and on behalf of the people of the province, we thank you for your service, for your integrity, for your character, for what you have done for the people you represent, for your contribution to the government in which you serve, the party which you served, for the integrity that you've brought to your office and the decency that you've brought to this Legislature.
As we wish all, we wish you, sir, well in your future endeavours. No doubt you will find other challenges to occupy your time. You have hopefully good health and many years ahead of you to pursue those challenges, and we on this side, on behalf of Dalton McGuinty, the leader of our party, the Ontario Liberal Party, wish you the very, very best in all future endeavours.
Ms Marilyn Churley (Toronto-Danforth): I'm pleased to say that I'm making John smile. That's nice. I feel privileged to represent our caucus, the NDP caucus, and Howard Hampton to wish John Hastings all the very best in the future.
We don't get to know each other very well outside of this place. A lot of us have seen John scowl from time to time and throw books down angrily and stalk out, which is something that my caucus is familiar with my doing from time to time. I can't tell you how many times I've walked out slamming doors and throwing books around, so I can relate to that.
But I do want to say that one of the first things that impressed me about John was that after he defeated Ed Philip, who of course had been a member of the NDP for about 20 years -- and that was a devastating time for us, when we lost the election in 1995. We weren't surprised, but we thought we were going to win that seat. I think John won by about 900 votes. But I was very impressed, and I got the clipping of this today, by the gracious words that Mr Hastings said at that time about Ed Philip. Not everybody did that at the time; people just got out and bragged about having won and beaten the NDP, the dastardly socialists, and how they were going to change the world.
But here's what John said about Ed Philip at the time: "It's a pretty significant event when you defeat someone of Ed Philip's calibre," adding that, "he served his riding with distinction, and he is to be congratulated for all the good work he's done." I thank you for that, John, because I thought that was a very gracious response to having defeated somebody, and I expect you understood that he must have gone through a very difficult time when he lost that election.
I have had the privilege of getting to know John outside of this place. I've served on a committee with him, the select committee on alternative fuels, which was a rare committee around here. Although the Tories had the majority, as on all committees, this was a committee where, although compromises were made at the end of the day like the closing of the gas-fired plants in 2015 and a few other things, we worked really hard in a non-partisan way to make that committee work and to come up with recommendations for the benefit of all the people of Ontario. John was an enthusiastic, hard-working member of that committee who came every day with his piles of paper, having clearly done the research. I learned some things from him, and I will admit that. I'm not a total expert in this field, and John was very knowledgeable and brought some very good ideas to the committee.
I also got to know John when I was sitting in your seat, Mr Speaker. Those weren't the happiest days. Mr Hastings then sat way, way up there in that corner, and it was my responsibility during petitions to try to pick out of every caucus which member would get to stand up and read their petitions. I'm sure you'd remember this, John. Now, John was way up there, and then there would be people like John O'Toole, who would be taking $5 bills out of his pocket and flashing them: "Pick me. Pick me." Of course, I never succumbed to that. But John sometimes quite truthfully would get missed up there, and he would be very angry with me from time to time. He's nodding his head that that's true. But we survived those difficult days. We had a few difficult exchanges. I'm sure the table officers remember that.
But the third opportunity I had to get to know John was in Newfoundland. It's the only taxpayer junket that I've taken for a long time, to St John's, Newfoundland. As you well know, that's my birthplace. I grew up in Labrador, and I was delighted to go back to Newfoundland to replace Shelley Martel, who couldn't go, on the accounts committee. I hadn't known this, and I'll bet members in the Legislature do not know this, but John is an art collector. I was delighted to be able to show John around St John's and show him the art galleries. I know he went around and contributed to the economy of Newfoundland, for which we were very thankful.
One last thing I want to say: I had been told that John is in fact one of the fiercest independent voices on the public accounts committee, that he stands up for the people of Ontario and that he often speaks out against his own government if he feels it's necessary in that committee.
Those are some of the things I want to share about Mr Hastings, whom many of us have not had the opportunity, as I have, to get to know. I certainly want to wish you all the best, John, in your future. Good luck to you.
First off, let me say that I would like to accept the appreciation and the remarks and the gratitude of members opposite and of colleagues in my own caucus and thank them for pointing out some of the things I have tried to do in the last number of years.
This, as the member for Victoria-Haliburton-Brock said, has been quite a ride. I think the first time I decided I would make a run for public office was in September or October 1985, when I ran for the hydro commission, which despite its low order in the food chain in terms of its significance back then seems to have created a tremendously important role in today's Ontario economy, if not the world. I can remember going door to door in an area that was predominantly NDP. You had to run city-wide. I think I ran my first campaign on about $1,200. We were able to create the illusion in our small group that I was in the south and the north and all over when in fact there were huge gaps, if you looked at a map, where we had never got to. But we had some decent publicity.
I think the other reason I was fortunate in winning was that we had so many candidates running. There were about 12 or 13. I came in second in a group of 11 or 12 candidates, and we won by a landslide -- this would be a good experience for the member from Nipissing to know -- of about 21 votes; no, 42 votes out of 21,000 cast between number one and three. Then there was this huge distribution throughout that time. We ended up in the courts down here because there was a dispute in terms of my colleague from Etobicoke-Lakeshore and my colleague from Etobicoke Centre back in those days, both of whom had run for board of control, and Ms Jones, who is about to run against Mr Kells in the upcoming election, whenever it occurs. We ended up having a court order because everybody who had been under 200 votes ended up having to present their case as to why the vote was the way it was. There was a certified recount involving my position. That was my introduction to public office.
Then in 1988, when the council of that day decided to split two five-member voting districts into 12 single districts, I decided I'd take a chance on running for Etobicoke council in the far north end of that city, and we were successful, thanks to the people.
So at the outset I would like to thank the people of Etobicoke North, for whom I have had the direct distinction and honour to serve in my modest capacity over the last number of years. It has been a difficult challenge because I am only single-language trying to become "deux langues," but I'm not doing very well. Then there are about 80 other new groups in the country. This is truly a diverse community. I have made an attempt to represent them and to show them the Conservative way, if you will, in terms of these issues. That's been a dramatic story in itself.
As for being here, I have enjoyed being able to present private members' bills on education, technology, energy and science. I think, as the previous speaker has said, I'm very interested in that area because I believe, perhaps naïvely in a sense, in the value and the hope for humanity of the potentiality of technology, whether it's through the Internet or through alternative fuels or what have you. I don't want to get too pessimistic in my remarks here, but I strongly urge members who are coming back here that this Legislative Assembly needs to look at updating itself in terms of the use of technology, in terms of the 21st century. While I don't want to say, "Let's throw out tradition," I don't think that by invoking an electronic voting system you're doing that. You would be not a leader, unfortunately, but a follower in this whole area. I think it's one of the major things that needs to be done to connect with the outside world. That's my perception.
Unfortunately, my sense is, and it's no direct reflection on any of you, that this place has a certain irrelevancy in modern-day life. I don't want to take away from anybody's hard work, but I think all of us need to look at how effective and relevant we are as a group, as parties, as members of a Legislative Assembly in terms of reflecting the views of the people, and how we impact the lives of those people. If you talk to young people today, aside from the folks who are serving here as pages, there are very few people who understand the political process and all its intricacies. I think we need to be doing more with the use of technology. It is not the only solution, of course. The potential of the human condition is the key; technology is only a way of reconnecting to the world.
I would also like to comment briefly on the whole aspect of democratic politics in this province and in Canada. In my personal estimation, when people ask you, "Why are you leaving?" I am less than enchanted with what I see occurring in this House sometimes, and I have been a part of it: I am the first to admit that the poisoned well of partisanship, in a sense, prevents members here from reaching some pretty needed solutions to a whole set of issues. I think that's unfortunate. Whoever is responsible, I think it denigrates the political dignity of this assembly and of the political process in the province of Ontario and in Canada.
I don't want to overstate this issue, but I fundamentally believe that there may be a little bit of a parliamentary crisis facing this institution and other places; if we don't find ways of enhancing the independent role, the representative role, the democratic role of the legislative member. It's not just in Canada; it's throughout the world. Democracy can't be a shell. It has to have substance to it. In my estimation, in the experiences I've had here, working in committees is the way to go, whether it's a select committee on alternative fuels or a standing committee. Committees, to me, are the model. Certainly, we have partisanship, and we're not going to eliminate it, but we need to moderate it, ladies and gentlemen, if we're going to attract new people in government in the next generation, in the 21st century.
With those few remarks, I would like to thank you for the companionship, the fellowship, the associations which I have formed in this Legislative Assembly of Ontario. I thank you for your support, your encouragement and I wish all of you well in the upcoming election, whenever the Premier decides that comes.
To all the members of the Legislature, it is my pleasure to say a few words about the career here of the member from Hamilton West, who is now, as we speak, our Speaker for the afternoon, but who came here first as the member for Hamilton Centre.
I must tell you, I did not know Dave Christopherson before the evening of September 6, 1990. For many of us, that was a very memorable occasion. For those of us who were here before 1990, we remember going into the election and the Peterson government was at 53% in the polls the day the election was called. Earlier that spring David Peterson had been identified by the Toronto Star, no less, as the most popular Premier possibly the province had ever had. So many of us went into the 1990 election thinking, "Well, a few of us will survive." Now we all know what happened in that election. There was a total reversal of fortunes. I know some of my Liberal colleagues still feel bad about that. They still are rather upset about that.
But Dave Christopherson the member then for Hamilton Centre and now Hamilton West was elected. He took on someone who had been a very popular cabinet minister from Hamilton; in fact, a Liberal cabinet minister who had a long association with the Liberal Party and a long association with some very powerful figures in the Liberal Party. All of us were quite impressed that this new member of the NDP caucus had been elected quite unexpectedly and in effect had taken out a very well known and popular Liberal cabinet minister.
I have to tell you -- Mr Kormos will appreciate this -- about the first time I met Dave Christopherson. Shortly following September 6, there was a dinner planned for all of the new members at a place on Avenue Road, I think it was called the Bradgate Arms in those days. I was sitting at a table and the new member for Hamilton Centre was walking in and introducing himself to all the members. He walked over and sat down at my table, looked at my name tag and said, "Oh, you're Howard Hampton. I'm Dave Christopherson from Hamilton Centre." Then Mr Kormos walked over and sat down at the other table and Mr Christopherson -- I don't know if he remembers this -- said to me, "I've got to go say hello to Peter Kormos. Later on this week he's going to be sworn in as the Attorney General for Ontario." Later on that week, I was sworn in as the Attorney General for Ontario. I didn't have the heart to tell him at the time that his intelligence was wrong.
Mr Hampton: That was the first time that I met the member for Hamilton Centre. He quickly established himself in our caucus. In fact, he was very soon elected the chair of our caucus and, after being a very effective chair of our caucus, he was then welcomed into cabinet as Solicitor General. Those people who have worked in the Solicitor General portfolio, or what is now called the Minister of Public Safety and Security, will know that this is one of the cabinet jobs that most of us don't want to have, frankly, because you can do everything right and still find yourself being pilloried in the press. Or you can have a very effective agenda and then suddenly something will happen out there in the world of policing which will totally upset your effective agenda and put you in a very different setting.
Dave Christopherson became Solicitor General of the province at a time when, I think it's fair to say, the relations between the NDP government of the day and the police services of the province were not the best relationships; some would say they were strained relationships. I think the reason that Dave Christopherson was put in as Solicitor General is that Premier Bob Rae felt that he had the experience, the knowledge, the capacity to do something to improve that relationship. In fact, in very short order Dave Christopherson did a number of things which improved that relationship. I would say that within a year we actually had police services across the province saying, "Boy, I really like the new Solicitor General. I like the positions he takes. I like the fact that his door is open. I like the fact that he works with us. I like the fact that he has taken a number of our issues forward."
Mr Christopherson was also Solicitor General -- and I think the Conservative members will appreciate this -- at a time when the Conservative Minister of Justice federally brought forward gun control legislation. In effect, this was gun control legislation dealing -- surprise, surprise -- not just with handguns but with what we would ordinarily call rifles, .22s --
I'm going to relate another story that only the member for Hamilton West and I have actually shared. I don't know that he's ever talked to anybody about this or that I've talked about this. Following the unforgettable election of June 8, 1995, Bob Rae stepped down as leader of the New Democratic Party and then there was a lot of discussion among the MPPs, the band of 17 of us after Bob Rae stepped down, as to who was going to run for the leadership. The member for Hamilton Centre, now Hamilton West, thought long and hard about running for the leadership. So it actually did happen that -- I think it was late at night -- the member for Hamilton Centre and myself sat down for a tête-à-tête about who was going to run for the leadership and what we thought our prospects were, because we were both at the time thinking about entering the race.
I often, to this day, have thought about how that leadership race may have played out differently if the member for Hamilton West had entered the leadership race, because he would have been a formidable candidate. I think all of us who have served with him here in the Legislature know that he would have been a very formidable candidate. But, for whatever reason at the time, he decided not to run, and that was probably the single event in my leadership aspirations which helped me, because I think he and I both recognized that we would likely be talking to relatively the same audience and appealing to the same people or very similar people across the province.
I have never had an opportunity to thank him, although I suspect that my spouse would never thank him for this. I've never really had an opportunity to thank him appropriately for the decision he made at that time, because I believe that was the single largest contribution to the leadership aspirations I had.
I suspect that all of us here know that the member for Hamilton West is a very effective parliamentarian. In his work as Deputy Speaker he has proven to be quite good in terms of his understanding of the rules and in terms of always being alert and observant as to what is going on in the House and how those rules should be interpreted and applied from day to day.
In his role as a parliamentary spokesperson he is eloquent, articulate, passionate and always effective. I would argue that anyone who has ever ventured into his constituencies -- either Hamilton Centre or now Hamilton West -- will know that he has been a very effective constituency member and that very little happens in the city of Hamilton without Mr Christopherson knowing exactly what's going on and how that will play politically, whether it be municipally, provincially or federally.
Now, as everyone knows, he is about to enter another electoral campaign to become the mayor of Hamilton. I must say that I don't know what it is about elected members from Hamilton -- I don't know if it's something in the air or something they put in the water -- but virtually every elected member I have known who has come from Hamilton has had aspirations at one time or another to return to Hamilton to be mayor of that fair city.
I can remember as a student being in this Legislature 30 years ago when Ian Deans was the NDP House leader. He was Stephen Lewis's right-hand person. Ian Deans would get on his feet and he would wax eloquent for hours about Hamilton. Those of us who knew Ian Deans privately know that he always had the aspiration to return to Hamilton and run for mayor.
So I don't know if it's something they put in the water or if it's something they breathe in the air, but members from Hamilton are extremely dedicated to their city, to the institutions of their city and to the people who come from Hamilton.
I know I can say on behalf of all the members of our caucus and, I suspect, all the members here that while we will miss the member for Hamilton West, while we will certainly miss his booming voice, and while members of the government may not miss his capacity for incisive questioning, shall we say, if not the very tough supplementary question, we all acknowledge his ability and his contribution.
I recognize that there's a certain danger when you are in fact elected before someone and you're going to be here after them. I think it is sometimes passing strange when you're here, then you see someone elected, and then you see them return to another kind of life while you're still here, continuing on in the work. It's a bit of a different perspective.
I want to say this personally to the member for Hamilton West: we have appreciated your contribution as a member of the Legislature, as a member of cabinet, as a Deputy Speaker, and most of all we have appreciated your contribution to the caucus.
As I say -- I think I speak for all of us -- we wish you well in your next undertaking to become the mayor of Hamilton. We wish you well. We will miss you but we wish you well. Thank you for a job well done.
For 13 years now, I've been saying that Dave's an unrepentant, unreconstructed socialist, but now that he's leaving and won't be around this chamber any more, I think it's time to admit there's much more to Dave than his ideology. As we pay tribute to Dave, what stands out most throughout his extraordinary political career is his love of Hamilton and his extraordinary passion and commitment to his constituents and the issues that matter to them. Among other things, Dave stood for the safety of guards in prison, for injured workers, for the integrity of the family support plan, and for not turning a blind eye to the death of a homeless man. Dave stood up for these issues in a way that enabled his compassion to serve the needs of others, and he did so in a highly effective manner.
Aside from the issues he brought forward, there are many milestones that mark Dave's long public career. He first became politically active when he was elected for two terms as president of the United Auto Workers Local 525. He then went on to represent his community as an outspoken alderman and regional councillor, from 1985 to 1990. He then brought his fight for working families to the provincial level when he was elected in 1990 as the MPP for Hamilton Centre.
In government, David served as parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Finance and was elected chair of the NDP caucus. Then in September 1993, at the age of 37, he was appointed to his first cabinet position, as Minister of Correctional Services. Five months later he was appointed Ontario's Solicitor General, where he oversaw the merger of both these ministries into the single largest provincial ministry in Canada, with more than 15,000 employees.
While he was Solicitor General, he set partisan considerations aside to support my private member's bill, while I was in opposition, to allow volunteer firefighters to use flashing green lights on their personal vehicles while travelling to and from emergencies, and Mr Speaker, I again express my appreciation for your support on that issue.
At the cabinet table, Dave lobbied for Hamilton at every opportunity. Bayfront Park, the GO station and the courthouse are just a few of the major initiatives Dave fought for and helped to bring to Hamilton.
In 1995, Dave rose to the new challenge of opposition, not a role he had sought or desired, but what the electorate had decided, serving as House leader and labour critic. During his years in opposition Dave has earned a reputation as one of the most skilled and passionate orators in the Legislature, and he's a tireless fighter for working families, as we all know. In 1999, Dave was re-elected as MPP for Hamilton West, and since that time has played an important role as finance critic and as the Deputy Speaker of the House, where he has earned the respect of members on all sides of the House.
His life experience has given him an extraordinary education. I'm not surprised by how well he's advanced in public service, because I know him to be someone who learns from experience and forges his own progress by confronting issues directly with a mind I would liken to a steel trap. He is in fact one of the smartest members in the Legislature, and those doing the public's business with him will likely tell you that he's as fearless as he is smart.
In the 13 years I've had the privilege of working with Dave, I can also say that he has an exceptional amount of energy, the positive kind, that not only keeps him going strong but helps to make the Legislature a more civil and better place. I think Dave illustrated quite aptly how he stays positive in a quotation I found in an article recently written by Ian Urquhart of the Toronto Star. Dave clearly explained one of the fundamental tenets of politics when he said, "Credibility is the currency of politics ... and you earn credibility one day at a time, not one magical issue at a time."
He understands this definition full well because he has lived it here in this House. Sure proof of his own credibility is found in his electoral record at the municipal level and in three successful elections as MPP here at Queen's Park. The fact that he held on through the 1995 and 1999 elections, when it was perhaps not as easy to be an NDP candidate as perhaps it was in 1990, speaks volumes about the kind of MPP he has been.
In my 13 years here, I think I've only crossed swords with Dave once. That's fairly good, considering how adversarial this place is. Now that he's leaving us, I'm prepared to concede that I don't recall coming out on the winning end of that argument.
Most of our time, I think Dave will agree, has been spent as colleagues working constructively and, in fact, working as friends. I think back to the committees we've served on together. Most recently -- actually last winter -- we spent a considerable amount of time on the standing committee on finance and economic affairs, which toured the province last February to conduct hearings on our budget. We travelled to London, Sudbury, Thunder Bay and Ottawa. We travelled at night after long days of hearings, and we always sat beside each other on either side of the aisle of this tiny passenger plane, up front right behind the pilots. When we weren't reviewing the instrumentation and one-upping each other on who would best take over in the event of the incapacitation of the pilots, we talked about the world of politics.
As I speak to members today about my friendship with Dave, I'm reminded of what I hear from MPPs who have served here in previous generations and in previous Parliaments. They tell me there was a time when most members respected the wishes of the electors by respecting the MPPs who had been sent here, when more friendships crossed party lines because of that respect and when this House was, quite frankly, a much more civilized and friendly place.
I'm saddened, in a way, that we as members might lose some civility with Dave's departure. But we should be optimistic in knowing that his goodwill will carry on. For on June 17, Dave made it official that he's running to be elected mayor of the city of Hamilton. I expect this will give him an excellent chance to continue to make a strong and positive contribution through his public service.
I know that Dave will be well supported and motivated always by the love of his daughter and the light of his life, Kayla, who is 11 years old, I understand. I'd also like to take this chance to wish Kayla and Dave's partner, Denise, the very best. My fondest regards go out to them as they continue to support you, Dave, and guide you in your life's journey.
Mr Dominic Agostino (Hamilton East): Certainly on behalf of my leader, Dalton McGuinty, and all my colleagues, it's my honour to spend a few minutes talking about the leaving from Queen's Park of someone I consider not only a colleague but a close friend, someone I've had the opportunity of knowing and working with over a number of years, both here and on Hamilton city council.
Dave got elected to city council in 1985, and I got elected in 1987. One thing that's been consistent, though, is Dave's hairstyle, which has not changed since 1985. Mine, because of aging and the loss of hair, has had to change without any choice, but Dave's has not. Certainly other things have not changed since 1985: his integrity, his values and the principles he stands for and fights for.
I remember the thing that stood out the most in the time I spent with Dave on council -- the three years between 1987 and 1990, before he went to Queen's Park -- was his true, fundamental belief in the causes he fought for. I remember he quietly took on championing the cause and fighting on behalf of people with mental illness -- people who had been forgotten in our community -- and dealing with cleaning up second level lodging homes and making life for people who are disabled or suffering from mental illness much better in the city of Hamilton. Dave had a personal commitment to seeing that happen. He fought many of those causes quietly, without any political fanfare, knowing there was no real political win in the sense of votes, in those types of issues, but it was the right thing to do.
I remember when the massacre at Tiananmen Square occurred, Dave took the lead on city council in bringing forward across this country a reaction and a response to the brutal massacre and murder of those students; again, not a very political win, but it was the right thing to do.
When Dave chose to run for the Legislature in Hamilton Centre, I happened to be running the campaign for the Liberal candidate, the cabinet minister who Dave defeated, Lily Oddie-Munro. I remember we met the day the writ was issued, shook hands on a street corner and said, "Let's go out, let's keep it clean and let's keep it above board." Dave did that and won quite handily at that time.
As members know -- and Speaker, I'm sure you know -- Hamilton politics are different, I think, as many other communities are. When it comes to the election campaign with the NDP, it's trench warfare, it's guerrilla warfare. It's step on their head, step on their neck and keep them down as long as you can. And they feel the same way about ours. But when that writ period is over and the electorate has spoken, we come together as a community and we come together as members from all sides of the House, and Dave has done that extremely well. As a cabinet minister, he delivered for Hamilton. He often was at odds with his cabinet and spoke out on behalf of the community, and we are very grateful. Many of the things we have in Hamilton today -- the waterfront has been talked about, the court house, the GO station -- have been because of the leadership of David Christopherson. He brought that forward. As a member of council at that time, I fundamentally disagreed with much of what the NDP was doing across Ontario, but I can tell you that I agreed very strongly and give a great deal of credit to David Christopherson in his work and role that he brought forward on behalf of the people of Hamilton. Certainly, he was a fighter. He has been a fighter for our city, but certainly as a cabinet minister he delivered tremendously for the city of Hamilton.
I remember in 1999, with the boundary changes, part of my riding was part of Dave's riding and there was going to be the potential for a crossover and a clash. I think we both made the right decision to run in opposite directions and away from each other. We were both fortunate enough to survive and be back here. I know that the people of Hamilton West have been extremely well-served by Dave, by his integrity, by his compassion and by the principles that he has held.
He had to make some tough decisions. Mr Hampton talked about the relationship of police officers, where Dave, as a cabinet minister -- actually, at a time when police officers were not armed with the technology to the extent that they should be, Dave brought that forward. Dave, I think, created a great deal of credibility within the policing community for understanding that they needed that.
I remember an incident that talks to the integrity of David. There was an issue where one of his staffers had somehow overstepped the boundary in the role that they were playing and it was raised as an issue in the House. This staffer was a close personal friend and a confidant to Dave, but he did the right thing. He showed integrity, courage and leadership as a minister and immediately moved, dismissed that staff, with much regret, but certainly did what he believed was the right thing. That is the type of integrity that he brought as a cabinet minister.
As he moves on to the next phase, running for mayor, I am absolutely delighted to be able to support David in his endeavour. I believe he will be the next mayor of Hamilton. I think he's going to bring the same type of commitment, passion and principled value to our great city as he has to this Legislature. We're going to miss you, Dave. I'm certainly going to miss your guidance and friendship. I'll look forward to working with you in the next phase of your career, of your life, as the mayor of Hamilton. I know that the city of Hamilton has been blessed through your contribution as a city councillor and as an MPP, and I know the city of Hamilton is going to continue to be blessed through your contribution as the next mayor.
The Acting Speaker: Watch what you wish for. It occurred to me, when Marilyn Churley mentioned earlier, "You know, Dave, given where you are and the way the afternoon's going to unfold, you've got the floor. You could filibuster for as long as you want." Of course, now it doesn't do me any good, so I'll have to pass on that opportunity.
The first thing I want to do, obviously, is to thank the leader of my party, the member for Waterloo-Wellington, and the member for Hamilton East for their comments. I'll speak to those very directly in a moment. I want to say to every member that if you're like me, you've often given thought to this moment. Are you one of the lucky ones, as Peter Kormos talked about earlier, to have two tributes, one where you're actually around to hear it -- or not -- and if it were the case that you could, what on earth would you say?
I've got to tell you that I've given up, as I've thought about this the last couple of days, trying to reach for the words that are appropriate to the circumstance, to this place, and to the way I feel about this place and the way I feel about each and every one of you. So I'm just going to talk straight out on a number of things.
I'll try not to be too long, but I do want to take an opportunity, first of all, to thank my leader, Howard Hampton. Your remarks mean a great deal to me, Howard. All of us in our caucus, as some of you have lived through who are veterans, have been through some of the best times you can have as a politician and we've been through some of the toughest. Like any family, we've had our feuds and we've stood together against the challenges. When it felt like the entire world was coming at us, we just linked arms and stood there united in what we believe and why we came here. All of that, I want to tell you, means nothing. All that really matters is the good times and the strength and the absolute honour of sharing so much of my life, my political life and my personal life, with people of the calibre of my colleagues in the NDP caucus.
I have taken note and it meant a lot to me that every one of you arranged your schedule so that you could be here for what otherwise is really not that big a deal in the scheme of things, but it means an awful lot to me. I thank each and every one of you for this moment today and every moment that's been there for 13 years.
I might also point out that my leader, Howard Hampton, was so appreciative of the fact that I didn't run and the fact that I actually stood with him -- I think I was one of the first MPPs, at least the surprise MPP to stand with him when he announced -- that he rewarded me with the wonderful job of continuing to be the labour critic, added on finance critic and WCB and then said, "Now you can go be the House leader and go negotiate our party status back." That was his way of thanking me for that. But I thank him again, and I think he knows how much his words today have meant to me.
I think one of the most important things that can happen during this moment, for any of you who also go through it, is to have an opposition member, in this case a member of the government, stand up and say things that -- by and large, I was listening to carefully and I didn't hear any outright lies.
The Acting Speaker: No. Very seriously, I want to thank you. You obviously took an awful lot of time. I know you phoned around to research some of your remarks. You took the time to lay them out, which is very consistent with the kind of member you are. It's been a pleasure to be a parliamentarian with you, a colleague but, most importantly, a friend. Your remarks came from the heart and they were received in the heart, and I thank you, Ted, for what you said today.
To my friend Dominic Agostino from Hamilton East, speaking on behalf of the official opposition, the Liberal caucus, I thank you, Dom. Given the fact that we're from two different parties, we've probably had one of the closest political relationships, given that both of us have very similar backgrounds in terms of why we're here and what motivates us.
Some have argued that Dominic is just a left-wing-enough Liberal and I'm a right-wing-enough New Democrat that maybe there's not that much gap in between. But what really matters is that at the end of the day, whether it's Brad Clark as a current Tory minister, Dominic Agostino or Marie Bountrogianni, Ted McMeekin or those who came before, it is true that we have a good tradition, a proud tradition and it's one that I hope my successor and any other new MPP follows, and that is, when you're so close to the city of Toronto, it's easy to feel like you're getting forgotten because you're in that shadow and the rest of the province ignores you. Anyway, the point is that the only way Hamilton can really be properly served is when the MPPs unite together, set aside their partisan membership cards, and act on behalf of the collective community.
I appreciate Dominic reflecting on that. It's an important part of our relationship, and it's an important part of what it is to be a Hamilton MPP. I thank you for all your words, and I appreciate very much your support in my current endeavours. I only want to say that for a number of people who are endorsing me, there's at least one, maybe two issues, but one in particular, that gives them a lot of static, a lot of grief. I'm fully aware of that and sensitive to that. The fact that you're prepared to take that kind of heat, if you will, from people who disagree with me on a position and look beyond that and try to see what I have to offer means a lot, and I thank you and Marie both, who have gone out on a limb like that.
I'm realizing now that I'm already getting -- surprise, surprise -- a little long-winded. I'll try not to comment on everything I was going to. But the first thing, beyond commenting on the remarks of those who took the time today: I want to thank, as all of you would, and do when you get an opportunity, the constituents who elected me here for three elections, the people of Hamilton Centre and now Hamilton West, who placed their trust in me many times when it wasn't expected. Against odds, against demographics they still took a chance. To all those constituents of mine who have shown that support, let me say thank you. It has been such an honour to serve in this place. I could only do the best I can. One can never do the absolute job that our constituents are entitled to, we can only do our best, and I've tried to do that. I thank you for your ongoing support, to the people in Hamilton.
I want to also make a quick comment on Gary Carr: I want to acknowledge his remarks. For the last little while he's not only been a friend and a colleague but in some ways my boss. We don't usually, as MPPs, take kindly to having bosses, because we don't see ourselves that way, but I am so proud to have been associated with the term of the speakership of Gary Carr. Gary and I go back to the very first day when I was elected. We came here for the new member orientation. I don't know if they still do it. Do they have the new member orientation breakfast?
They used to put that on at the end of every election. If they don't, they should start it again. It was a great opportunity to get to know other members, to learn about being a parliamentarian without partisanship being the priority. At my table were Gary and Teresa Carr. From that moment forward, up to and including last Tuesday, when Gary was good enough to come down the highway and be there for my recent announcement, I've considered Gary to be the epitome of a parliamentarian. I think his speakership will go down in history as one of the finest. I consider him a very, very close friend and I thank him for everything that he's done.
I remember the first time I took my seat in the Legislature as a new MPP, we had a huge caucus of 74 members. Most of us were rookies, as my leader has pointed out, and we came in for sort of a mock day to get used to it. I deliberately stood through the whole thing and didn't take a seat because that wasn't the real moment. I waited until we actually came in. I believe the throne speech was the first time I actually formally took my seat. I'm sure many of you can recall now, at this exact moment, what it was like as you took your places for the first time in this chamber. The emotions are hard to put to words, I want to say, particularly for somebody who never, ever in a million years expected to be in a place like this. A high school dropout from the streets of Hamilton doesn't normally plan to be taking a seat in the Ontario Legislature, and yet that was where I found myself at that moment. The honour that I felt, as you all do, is just incredible, and as I think back on it now I can still recall vividly the sharpness of that emotion and the honour overwhelming me, the trust that people had given me to come to this historic place where such giants in our community have spoken and spent their political careers.
I want to talk about my first speech, only because I didn't say anything that was of any particular note and I regret that. I wish I had spent a little more time. What's important to me about that moment was more the fact that I was sitting about where Steve is now. As a new member -- Marilyn Churley was my seatmate -- I delivered this speech that absolutely nobody paid any attention to except for my mother, perhaps. It was a new government; it was history in the making, this huge new NDP government. There was nobody paying any attention to this backbencher from Hamilton. So I did my speech, and all I really wanted to do was get through it without collapsing out of nervousness or from the pressure of what it means to have a seat in the Legislature and stand up for the first time and give voice to that privilege. It went fine. I sat down, and that was that. And then around the corner here came the Honourable Bob Nixon, who at that time was the interim leader of the official opposition, the Liberals. There were lots of things going on on the floor. Again, I was just sitting there pretty much by myself, collecting my papers. I caught him out of the corner of my eye and I watched him come across the floor, stop in the middle and bow to the Speaker. He came over, stuck his hand out, shook my hand and said, "I just heard your first speech in the House. I saw a little bit of it when I was in the House, but then I had to go into the lobby and I caught the rest of it on TV." I now know what that really means, but the fact of the matter is -- members will understand that inside joke -- he came over, and it was more the fact that he came over and said nice things -- more than what the speech deserved -- that made that moment special.
That was 13 years ago and I still remember how honoured I felt that somebody of that historical significance -- I mean, he was a huge personality in this place at that time. There was just an aura around Bob Nixon, one of the great speakers, by the way. What a great opportunity for rookies to listen to people talk about the history of this place, much like listening to Sean Conway, such a lesson -- but to have him come over and do that meant so much. I thought to myself, "Boy, if that's what this place is like, it's going to be wonderful." I soon learned why they call it a blood sport and felt all the other emotions that happen.
I would pass on to members that those things matter when new members come to this place. That's something we could afford to revisit and place a little more importance on, particularly for the unknown backbenchers who are otherwise insignificant, particularly in the early days. For somebody to go over, any one of you, and you're all well known, and shake a hand like that makes such a huge difference.
It reminds me of a joke that was told to me not long after I was here. I shared it with AL McDonald, I think within a few weeks of his arrival here. I said to him that somebody told me, and I found it to be true, that within the first six months of getting here, every time you sit down you're going to wonder, "How did I ever get here?" and after that you spend the rest of your time trying to figure out how everybody else got here.
I was quite privileged to be Floyd's parliamentary assistant. I won't go into great detail, but those who know Floyd know the kind of person -- I didn't know him that well and he gave me phenomenal opportunities, just on trust, and sent me out to speak on his behalf. At the time he was the Deputy Premier as well as the Minister of Finance and I was well known for not following scripted speeches very well. He took enormous risks, but he gave me a lot of support and a lot of room to grow and expand. When you can have that relationship with your minister, if you're a parliamentary assistant, it makes a world of difference, particularly if you have aspirations that you would like a shot at cabinet, to stretch, to see what you can do, as well as to serve in that capacity.
I want to thank Bob Rae. Bob Rae gave me the chance to be a cabinet minister, one of the highlights of my life, and without his making that decision it wouldn't have happened. I want to say thank you to the Honourable Bob Rae for that opportunity.
Many of you were here too for this story. It was one of the funniest moments. It's not going to sound funny now; it's one of those things where you just had to be there, or it just struck me, but I was literally in tears when this happened. It was Al Leach when they were talking about, I think it was a municipal bill, and it had to do with the gas tax and roads and the cost of roads. At one point Bob Rae was really mixing it up with Al Leach, who was the Minister of Municipal Affairs. They were going back and forth and finally Al Leach made the huge mistake of accusing Bob Rae of not knowing what he was talking about. Bob stood up and took a deep breath. I still think to this day that he had waited his whole life for this opportunity, given what they were talking about. I can't deliver it the way it was and I'm paraphrasing, but Bob stood up and he looked at the minister and he said, "I will have you know, sir, that I know exactly what I'm talking about. I am a Rhodes scholar." You had to be there. Actually it was funny, though, for somebody to be a Rhodes scholar and say that.
I also want to take the chance to thank Michele Noble, who was my deputy minister the whole time I was a cabinet minister. Howard has pointed out how difficult a portfolio that can be. I was blessed with an outstanding deputy minister, Michele Noble, who the government in their wisdom made the Deputy Minister of Management Board at an incredibly impossible time. I can imagine what that job was like for her, and she pulled off that job as well as everything else she ever did.
I was also blessed with a phenomenal chief of staff, Darlene Lawson, who came in and shepherded me through. She ultimately went on to work for caucus services. She ran my 1995 re-election campaign, she ran my 1999 election campaign and she's also the campaign manager for my mayoralty campaign. I am pleased with that.
I want to thank the people within the ministry that I had the privilege of being the minister for. I see Mr Sampson here, who will understand working with the correctional officers, the probation and parole officers -- incredibly professional people who care about the safety and the citizens of this community. I had a chance to work with the police, firefighters, emergency measures people, as the civilian head of the OPP -- phenomenal stress but phenomenal opportunity; Commissioner O'Grady, one of the finest, outstanding police chiefs that this province has ever had. I was privileged and lucky to serve with him.
I've already had a chance to thank all my staff and to thank the people here for what it means to be a member. I lost my train of thought. Oh yes, I wanted to say this because I heard it at a retirement. Frank Moroz got up, and people had thanked him for the sacrifice that he'd made. He got up, and it was the first time that I'd ever heard anybody say this, and it struck me. I thought that at the appropriate time, I'd like to say it too because I think it's true. He said that a lot of people have commended him for the personal sacrifice that he had made to the labour movement. He said that the sacrifice really wasn't his. The sacrifice was his daughter's when, on her birthday, dad couldn't be there because dad had other responsibilities for the union. He talked about his wife making the sacrifice that, on special occasions that meant everything to the two of them, he couldn't be there because he had to be somewhere else because of his responsibilities. It's true that the family makes the sacrifice because we're off doing what we want to do, the thing that we ran to get here to do. That sacrifice is the family's, not ours. When they accept that and support us, we owe them everything: our love and our support and our thanks.
I'm going to end by saying it has been an incredible honour to serve in all the different ways, but the opportunity to spend the last two years as the Deputy Speaker, having seen this place from there, from the cabinet room, from the opposition benches, and then to see it from here and to try to be non-partisan and to put whatever limited experience I had to this position in serving the tradition of this House and this place has been a distinct honour. I feel grateful that I've had a chance to be in these robes as I take my leave from this place.
I thank all of you for the kind things that you've said. Most of all, I thank all of you for the friendship and time spent together and the fact that collectively, I don't care what side of the House you're on; we all come here for the same reason: to make this a better place to live. I've been blessed to serve at a time with people of your calibre. Thank you all.
Hon Mr Baird: Of course, I started my speech and was interrupted by the opposition House leader a few hours ago to do these tributes to people, even though we're likely to be back in the fall anyway. I was hoping to ask for unanimous consent to split the remaining time between the three parties.
Hon Mr Baird: I'm only going to speak for a brief moment because I know one of my colleagues is going to speak in the rotation, but let me just say to you, I have a huge amount of respect for you. You're a class act. I look forward to the chance of working with you in new responsibilities.
Mr Joseph Cordiano (York South-Weston): It is somewhat difficult to carry on with the normal business after having heard an afternoon full of tributes to members that are retiring. Just let me say this and take one minute to give you my best wishes and to also say that when those of us who are remaining choose to leave this place, I hope that I can say this when I do leave this place: that you leave this place not forgetting how you got here, but certainly the trappings of office and all the accolades that go with it compare not a whit to if you can leave this place and say you've made some friendships. I think that is the greatest tribute you could have. I say to you, sir, that you can say that and can leave this place proudly, having made a great number of friendships. I'd like to pass that along, not only to you but to the other members who also take their leave of this assembly.
There is a very short period of time remaining. Getting back to the budget measures, I would like to say that this is indeed a budget of desperation. It is a budget by a government that is desperate to be re-elected. It is a budget that is born out of desperation with a desperate attempt to seek favour with constituents who would seek to re-elect this government. It is a desperate attempt to buy votes. That's the only crass way I can say it, because it deserves that kind of crassness.
How much more cynical can you get than this budget when you think about the measures in this budget with regard to seniors, property taxes and the property tax credit that is being offered to seniors? It is nothing but crass, cynical politics if you get right down to it. At the end of the day it's not an effort to help average seniors or seniors who are living on fixed incomes and having a difficult time of it. This tax measure will help those at the very wealthiest end of the spectrum the most.
I say to the government that if this were a measure designed to help seniors who are living on fixed incomes, designed to help seniors who are having a hard time, then I might support this measure. If there were a cap on this measure, if there were a ceiling, if there were some kind of a means test applied to this, then I might bring myself to support this measure. But nothing like that exists in this budget. It is designed to buy votes. It is designed specifically to curry favour with those who would support this government, people at the highest end of the income spectrum. When we look at mortgage deductibility, for example, it's another crass move on the part of this government to buy votes.
When Ernie Eves was first finance minister, in the first budget I think -- yes, it was in 1996 -- he said regarding mortgage deductibility, "When I presented the costs to the Premier of the day, he asked me what drugs I was on. `You can't go there.'" That's what he said about mortgage deductibility. Yet what do we see today? This very same then-Minister of Finance, who is now Premier of this province, brings forward something he fundamentally doesn't believe in and does not believe will work and will be a huge cost to the treasury of this province.
I could go on, but I'm looking at the clock. I'm not certain but it says there's 39 seconds on the clock. Let me just say this about the budget: it is a crass effort on the part of this government to buy votes with the electorate. An election is coming. This is a budget that's based on a number of measures that will cost the people of this province in the long run. It's not designed to help those most in need -- people who need home care; we need health care reform. It does nothing to speak to those issues, let alone deal with the problems everyday people are facing.
Mr Kormos: This may well be the last Tory time allocation motion that gets debated in this Legislature. Lord knows there's been enough of them. It's as if the last eight years started with a time allocation motion, and how befitting that it ends with a time allocation motion.
If there are members of the press gallery watching or monitoring this part of the session in any way, I want you to know that the Minister of Community, Family and Children's Services, Brenda Elliott, is in the chamber now. You will have a chance to scrum her when she leaves the chamber, presumably in about 20 minutes at 6 o'clock. This is an alert to members of the press gallery who weren't able to speak to the Minister of Community, Family and Children's Services earlier. Lord knows they waited for her. They waited and waited. An alert to the press gallery: the Minister of Community, Family and Children's Services is in the chamber now. I would suggest that the press gallery monitor all exits, including cowards' alley, which is where we suspect she scurried down earlier today.
I'm asking the press gallery to please pay attention. This is an important issue. This could be the last opportunity for members of the press gallery to talk to the Honourable Brenda Elliott, Minister of Community, Family and Children's Services, who I am telling you now is in the chamber as I speak and will be leaving the chamber at some point in the next 20 minutes. The press gallery will monitor the exit points from the chamber so that they can interview her and speak with her.
I would suggest as well that the press gallery monitor the elevators up on the third and fourth floors, which are becoming an exit route for cabinet ministers who don't wish to speak to the press. The press is well aware of the notorious cowards' alley, which is the back lane from the government gallery to the exit point down by the Premier's office. The press gallery cannot confront those members when they leave the government members' lounge.
Mr Kormos: I still haven't been given a tour of it. I don't know what happens. I think we should include that in tours of Queen's Park. They should show them the little charred piece of wood out in front of the doors to the chamber and then show them cowards' alley, where cabinet ministers zip away and out of the focus of the lenses of the press gallery, be they still or video.
Starting on a time allocation motion and, eight years later, ending on time allocation motions -- this government has never seen a bill that it didn't want to close debate on. This government has never met a piece of legislation that they don't want to time-allocate. This government has never had an interest in full and thorough debate on a bill. Indeed, over the course of the last number of years, I don't even think we've had third reading debate on a single bill.
Mr Kormos: What shocks me and rots my socks, let me tell you, is now we have all these little government members saying, "Oh, pass my bill, pass my bill." No. If you guys want your bills passed, you wait until the government returns on the fourth Monday of September, and then the government can devote as much time as it's inclined to to passage of private members' public business.
Mr Baird, the government House leader, is here. Government backbenchers, prevail upon Mr Baird to get your bills presented as government business. It's as simple as that. We've done it before. Mr Baird is your House leader.
Ask Mr Baird if you want private members' public business passed, because Mr Baird as House leader can call your bill, should it be considered worthy of calling by the government House leader, and have it presented for third reading or second reading, whatever the case might be, and then it will be put to a vote. You then have the responsibility to persuade your colleagues to vote for it, because assuming that your colleagues are here, you have a majority and your bill will carry. That's how bills get passed. You don't say to the House leader for the NDP, "Oh, please let my bill pass." No. You present your bill and let it go through process.
I've said "please" all week about Bill 110, a holiday for workers on Monday so they can have a long weekend too. I've said "please" every day. What do I get from the government? "No." Well, no holiday? Fine. No bills. It's as simple as that. I've asked for support for my bills; you've denied it. Don't you dare ask for support for yours.
Mr Maves: I say to him that he doesn't know about some of the routes on this side of the House that cabinet ministers may take the odd time because he wasn't cabinet minister long enough to discover them, I don't think.
Anyhow, Mr Speaker, during your speech and speeches earlier in the day -- I wanted to make a couple of comments in my four minutes about some of the members leaving. I've spoken about Conway and Carr. He's a better hockey player than anything else, so I think it's fitting he's going back to hockey. Snobelen is not going to be with us again. He was a great member, a very humorous and intelligent member. There's McLeod, Cleary, and my seatmate and a member I sat on the public accounts committee with, Mr Hastings. Today I'm surprised he did not say "bloody bureaucrats" in his closing speech. It's a phrase we've all come to know and love him for.
I want to thank Hodgson very much. I looked up to him for many years. He's been very helpful to me, especially in Niagara Falls with the casino when he was in charge of gaming in the province. I want to thank Chris.
Mr Speaker, you mentioned a story about Mr Nixon and a comment he made, someone from the opposite party, after your first speech. I want to remind you that when I was a new member back in 1996-97, I was parliamentary assistant for labour. You and I travelled on Workers' Compensation Board system reform. You were the labour critic, as you mentioned. I was the point person, as the parliamentary assistant for labour. Everywhere we went, for two solid weeks we were followed by organized labour in a bus, injured workers in a bus. Everywhere we went, when we started out for that morning's session, they had a half-hour parade of flowers to the Chair's desk and interrupted the proceedings. Every now and then they'd speak, and they were often the same speeches. They'd start a ruckus in the room, and you never failed to raise the temperature of the room. I used to sit across and say, "That so-and-so. He had a chance to calm things down because they're all looking at him for leadership, and he kept raising the temperature of that room."
I remember that after one of those occasions when I was particularly cross with you, we got on a flight to Ottawa. We landed in Ottawa and I got in a cab. All of a sudden, before the cab could pull away from the curb, who opened the door and jumped in but you. I thought to myself, "I have to ride with this guy to the hotel?" I looked at you and you kind of smiled at me and you said, "Sorry about that. That's my job." Then you smiled with a big broad smile, slapped me on the knee and said, "So how are you liking it so far?" So I got the message. I understood some of the politics versus the non-partisan friendship that happens in the place.
I will say that at the end of that tour, you gave me a compliment I've never forgotten and always appreciated. You took me aside when we landed back in Toronto after our last meeting and said to me, "I just want to extend my congratulations to you. As the point person for the government, I thought you handled that whole two weeks very well." That was a compliment I was surprised to get, but very appreciative of. It was something I've never forgotten.
I will always remember in my days in politics that you took the time, as an opposition member who gave me such a hard time, to talk to me about the job I had done. I thank you for that. So maybe what Mr Nixon did for you in your opening speech stuck with you, and you were able to do something similar for another young member of the Legislature. I appreciate it. I thank you and I wish you the best of luck.
I will say one last thing about you. You've been a very good Speaker when you've been in the chair. I believe this place is kept in best order when -- I think it's the Speaker who sets the tone and I think it's very possible for this place to stay in good order when the Speaker in the chair sets the tone. We're all afraid of you. We don't want to get thrown out by you. You've always done a very good job of keeping order.