The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): The administrator of the government transmits estimates of the certain sums required for the services of the province for the year ending March 31, 1998, and recommends them to the Legislative Assembly. It is dated December 9, 1997.
Mr Frank Miclash (Kenora): I am making an appeal to the new Minister of Labour today. The new Minister of Labour will be well aware that the Goldcorp mine in Red Lake - actually in Balmertown in my riding - has now been on strike for well over 18 months. I am receiving calls personally to my offices, many calls on many occasions, asking for the new Minister of Labour, now that we know we have a new Minister of Labour in this government, to become personally involved in this labour dispute, the longest strike in the province at the present time.
It's a strike that the new minister must become aware of and must get involved in. Today what I'm asking is for the minister, once we get into the break in January, to personally travel to Balmertown to meet with the miners at Goldcorp to find out what the problems are.
We have many families suffering. We've had teachers tell us that children are showing up at school hungry: "showing up with a tomato for lunch" was the statement that one teacher made in the past. What I'm asking this government to do and what I'm asking the present Minister of Labour to do is take a keen interest, take an interest in what is the longest strike in the province of Ontario today, one that is happening in Golden today at the Goldcorp mine. I plead with the minister to take a personal involvement in this issue.
Mr Rosario Marchese (Fort York): I rise today to congratulate John Sewell on his receipt of the Civic Award of Merit from the city of Toronto. Others have commented on the irony of John Sewell receiving the highest award of the city of Toronto in the same week that he was threatened with being barred from the legislative precinct.
"The role of the informed citizen in a democracy is critical. Reasonable sharing of financial resources is surely a cornerstone of a strong democratic society. But democracy in Ontario is under a fierce attack." I agree with him on this.
"First, no longer is our society one where every individual is valued and supported, and second, we know that democracy is under attack because the opinion of citizens is no longer valued" by this government. "The provincial government scorns such opinions. It refuses to explain its proposals or allow reasonable opportunities for public input. It is deceitful in its statements. It proposes to ban from its buildings those who complain."
Mr Douglas B. Ford (Etobicoke-Humber): As recently noted by our government's Minister of Finance, the Ontario economy is showing many signs of improvement. Indication of that was evident today in my own riding. Building on the success of its first two locations, the newest Koo Koo Roo restaurant has now opened at Humbertown Shopping Centre. This morning I attended the opening celebrations, and I am pleased to report to the Legislature that this latest venture will result in 52 new full- and part-time jobs, and an investment of more that $1.5 million to Etobicoke.
This is indicative of what is happening across the province. Ontario continues to lead the country in job creation. In fact, 204,000 new private sector jobs have been created in Ontario over the last nine months. This represents 63% of the total private sector jobs created in Canada. Beneficiaries of this endeavour in Etobicoke will be the youth, and this in turn will assist with their future. Evidence of that is also province-wide. Youth employment was up by 4,300 jobs in November. Over the last seven months, youth employment has increased by 43,000.
The partners in Koo Koo Roo Canada have a history of experienced management in operations, with a positive role in the community. I am pleased they chose Etobicoke for this new location, and I know the residents of the community are as well.
Mr Dominic Agostino (Hamilton East): Yesterday, the Hamilton fire department moved to take control and seize a warehouse on Gage Avenue North that was storing dangerous materials and chemicals. The department has done this as a result of extensive work that they have done since May to try to bring this company in line.
After the Plastimet fire, the fire marshal's office brought forward a report with a number of recommendations. Today as we sit here six months later, this government and the Solicitor General who spoke so highly of this report six months ago have not taken one step to implement one simple recommendation in this fire marshal's report. It is an absolute disgrace. It has taken the fire department six months. They have done a great job, a commendable job, but that is without the help of this government, without the help of the Solicitor General, who refuses to give local municipalities and fire departments the tools to deal with a dangerous industrial site such as we've had in Hamilton. This company was operating illegally. They had no sprinkler system. It sounds like the same old story.
I urge this minister to move on the priority here in ensuring the tools that municipalities need to go after companies that operate illegally, that pose a threat to the environment, pose a threat to neighbourhoods, and to do this - the minister has sat on his butt for six months with this report. People in our community and in our province will have to pay a price. I ask the Solicitor General to get on with it. Implement the fire marshal's recommendations and give us the power we need -
Mr Wayne Lessard (Windsor-Riverside): I'm pleased to announce the recipients of the Windsor Women of the Year Award for 1998: Shirley Ann Durocher, Usha Jacob and Maureen Rudall. They will be honoured for their community work at the 16th annual Women of the Year Award banquet sponsored by the Women's Incentive Centre -
Shirley Ann Durocher has been a parliamentarian with the Beta Sigma Phi Sorority for 48 years. She is the vice-president of the local council of women, a board member of the Citizens' Advocacy Association of Windsor and Essex and an organizer for the Special Olympics.
Usha Jacob has been a volunteer, leader and role model for the South Asian community women in Windsor through her work over the past 20 years. She's been a member of the South Asian Centre, the Cultures of India Association, the Red Cross Society, the Victorian Order of Nurses, the La Salle Police Services Board, and many other organizations.
Constable Maureen Rudall was nominated by CAW Locals 1973 and 200 women's committees. She helped develop the Windsor Police Service domestic violence unit and now is a coordinator with the Windsor Police Service family violence unit. She volunteers at Hiatus House and the Women's Incentive Centre and has worked hard to make the Windsor area a safe and caring community.
Mr Bart Maves (Niagara Falls): It's an honour for me to stand up in this Legislature and commemorate the first anniversary of the opening of Casino Niagara. One year ago today Casino Niagara opened its doors to the public and turned a dream into a reality for many of my constituents.
One of the key promises I made to my constituents during the 1995 provincial election was to work to bring a casino to Niagara Falls. I was proud to be part of a local team of citizens who worked diligently to convince our government that a casino in Niagara would be good for the local and provincial economy. There are 3,600 people directly employed in Casino Niagara, 3,000 more in the Niagara region also have jobs because of Casino Niagara, and another 3,000 throughout the province are employed through Casino Niagara's presence.
Today I was delighted to be present at a ceremony marking the first anniversary at which Casino Niagara gave $500,000 to the MRI campaign in the Niagara region. It was a tremendous announcement and that's on top of a more recent announcement where Casino Niagara associates gave $100,000 to the United Way campaign.
Mr Alvin Curling (Scarborough North): Today marks the two-year anniversary of the day and night in December 1995 that my colleagues and I stayed in the Legislature to stop the omnibus Bill 26 from proceeding.
Bill 26 marked a watershed where this government started to show that it's all about bulldozing through with its agenda set out by the backroom whiz kids at all costs to democracy. The government's handling of Bill 26 sent the clear signal that Mike Harris's regime was going to govern with an iron fist and rule this province in a new, undemocratic way.
Then what did Mike Harris's Tories do? They made unprecedented changes to the rules of this Legislature to limit the opposition in the House. They set more time allocation motions than we have ever seen to limit debate over major provincial issues. Is this what democracy means for Mike Harris's Ontario?
In the words of Jefferson about 200 years ago, "The tyranny of the Legislature is really the danger the most to be feared." What Jefferson was warning us against was governments that use their majorities to bulldoze their way over the will of the people, warning us about the arrogance that even an elected majority government can have.
Mike Harris is the politician leading that kind of arrogant government. Demonstrators have ranged from ordinary citizens, union members, civil servants and firefighters. This fall we saw 126,000 teachers in the province walk off the job in protest against Bill 160. Teachers gave up two weeks' salary -
Ms Shelley Martel (Sudbury East): Despite the passage of Bill 160, public concern about the bill and this government's destructive education agenda is growing. Students, parents and teachers do not believe the government listened to their concerns with respect to the bill and are looking for a way to hold the Conservatives accountable for ramming it through.
That's why there is widespread support for the petition campaign. Parents' groups in particular want to compel this Conservative government to hold a referendum on Bill 160. If the bill is so good, then this government should not be afraid to stand by its own rules on referendums and let the people have their say.
My colleague from Nickel Belt and I launched the start of our local campaign to collect signatures three weeks ago. The response in the Sudbury area has been overwhelming. Last Thursday, students at Laurentian University held a press conference to announce they have gathered 1,000 signatures already. The Steelworkers, CUPE, OPSEU, CAW, the Labourers all have petitions in their workplaces and petitions for available for signing at their offices. OSSTF has petitions at its office and all the teachers' affiliates have distributed copies to their members. Many school council presidents have already picked up their petitions. All presidents will receive a package on the campaign and their petitions by the end of the week. Local legions and seniors' groups have obtained their copies too.
Hershey chocolate in Smiths Falls is expanding its production line to include Mr Freeze and Jolly Rancher Freeze Pops which will create 40 new full-time jobs. Perth Soap increased its full-time employment from 40 to 65 employees and has created work for 50 full-time contractors.
On the electronic highway front, the Lanark Communications Network, with substantial support from this government and partners in Lanark county, has leveraged $3.7 million to build an integrated telecommunications system for the county. This regional initiative will develop the electronic infrastructure that creates jobs, provides better access to social and educational services and ultimately breaks down the barriers of distance to draw Lanark even closer to the global economy.
Finally, I want to thank all those who have made Lanark a better place for taxpayers by reducing the number of governments from 30 to 16, and especially former warden Gordon Patterson, acting warden Ormond Giles, Chris Tyson and -
Hon Chris Hodgson (Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet, Minister of Northern Development and Mines): The Fuel and Gasoline Tax Amendment Act, 1997, delivers on the 1997 budget commitment to make fuel and gasoline tax rules fairer and more efficient, cut red tape and preserve tax revenues.
Responding to the fuel and gasoline industry concerns, the bill will require a consistent system for measuring the volume of fuel for both billing for tax and product sale purposes. This is to ensure changes in volume due to chemistry are taken into account in the same way for both calculations.
This bill will remove barriers to marketing special products such as diesel and heating fuel refined from waste oil. To improve tax fairness, this bill will enhance the objections in the appeals process and ensure Ontario has the same priority as other jurisdictions to collect taxes held in trust.
Deferred vote on the motion for second reading of Bill 120, An Act to reduce red tape by amending the Mining Act / Projet de loi 120, Loi visant à réduire les formalités administratives au ministère du Développement du Nord et des Mines.
Mr Dalton McGuinty (Leader of the Opposition): My question is for the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations. Minister, I want to talk to you today about the subject of gambling and your mad, reckless rush to expand it in Ontario. Before we get into this in some detail, I want to take you back to some of the things that your leader and the deputy leader said in the past.
The Premier once said in this Legislature: "Gaming doesn't come cheap. I have to agree with a lot of the critics on that. It brings crime. It brings prostitution. It brings a lot of the things that maybe areas didn't have before. There is a big cost to pay."
Your deputy leader once said, "Sure the income comes, the money comes, but there are some side effects that aren't so wonderful: drug trafficking, increased petty crimes of all kinds, increased prostitution...policing needs, societal costs, gambling addiction."
Hon David H. Tsubouchi (Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations): I think we need to revisit, as we've been doing on a fairly constant basis in the House, what we're trying to do with respect to the charity gaming clubs. We've clearly been told by the police and we've clearly been told by charities that the current system, which was introduced under the Liberal Peterson government, was not working, for several reasons.
First, let's look at the police perspective. Currently, I think anyone who reads the paper, whether in the Toronto Sun or the Toronto Star, can see there have been a number of armed robberies taking place at the roving casinos that have been held because there's a lack of security. There's a lack of knowledge by the police in fact where all these things are popping up all over the province.
There have been a number of charges as well which have been laid against a number of operators in this area for a variety of cheating offences. We've been told by Detective Staff Sergeant Fotia of the OPP there's a real need to do something about this system because it's not working. Clearly we're listening to the police in trying to replace a system that's not working with one that has some integrity.
Mr McGuinty: The minister can try to couch it as being something that's going to benefit Ontario charities, but the fact of the matter is that this minister is going to ensure that an additional $1 billion in gambling revenue is going to be poured into provincial coffers. That's what this is about. This is a money grab by this government through gambling.
What I want the minister to understand is that some of this money is money that would have been dedicated to groceries or to rent or to children's clothing. I want the minister to understand that gambling hurts Ontario families. I want him to understand and to admit that the real reason they're after another $1 billion is to deliver on this foolish, ill-considered tax cut promise that's going to cost us $5 billion. They need $1 billion from gambling revenues to put towards the tax cut. That's what this is all about.
Hon Mr Tsubouchi: I think we need to look at very closely the reasons why this is happening. The old system, which was introduced under the Liberal government, clearly lacked the enforcement, it lacked the accountability, it lacked the integrity needed to really be accountable to charities.
What's really laughable about this is that under the old system, last year there were 4,900 of these events across the province, which resulted in over 15,000 gaming days. Open up the Toronto Sun every morning and you can see the number of events that are happening just in this general area.
To police 4,900 events and 15,000 gaming days, the previous government had six police officers. You don't need to be a rocket scientist to understand that six police officers cannot police 4,900 events. This is what the police have been telling us. This is what the police have been saying. They need the tools to deal with this. That's clearly what we're giving them right now.
Mr McGuinty: I think the minister is afraid to admit that he's expanding gambling in Ontario. That's what you're doing. Just admit to that. You're introducing 6,600 video lottery terminals into Ontario that weren't here before. You're introducing those. They're the crack cocaine equivalent for gambling. That's what that's all about. You're going to introduce 44 new casinos.
The public has clearly spoken on this. They understand what gambling does to Ontarians. They don't want anything more to do with it. For some reason now you're trying to skirt around that and continue this expansion.
I think there are a number of questions we've got to answer before we go any further down that road. How much gambling money is coming from grocery money? How much is coming from rent money? How much is coming from children's clothing money? How much damage is gambling causing in terms of depression, violence and abuse in the family home? You've got to answer those questions.
Hon Mr Tsubouchi: As I was saying, when the Liberal government of Peterson introduced the roving casinos, it didn't give one penny to gaming addictions. To the credit of the NDP government, when it introduced commercial casinos, it allocated $1 million to deal with this problem.
Under this new plan, we're able to allocate around $9 million to gaming addictions. This is money that's been clearly welcomed by many of the organizations out there, that say it's very important for them to have these kind of tools.
I'll also remind the Leader of the Opposition that yours was the party that wanted to introduce the lottery for the environment. I believe the member for St Catharines, who is screaming at me right now, was the one who wanted to introduce this lottery, so he's no stranger to introducing gaming to this province.
Mr Dalton McGuinty (Leader of the Opposition): My second question is for the Minister of Education. I want to bring to your attention a crisis at the Ottawa Board of Education right now with respect to a particular program for students over the age of 21. There are 72 students involved in this program. They are developmentally delayed. Their funding is at risk next year. What the parents are looking for is some commitment from you, some solemn assurance that they need not worry.
That program has been funded to date for 72 young adults who are having difficulty learning, to learn basic kinds of skills at school - job skills, how to read signs, how to handle money, possibly get some kind of basic entry-level job. They want your assurance, Minister, since you now have all responsibility for all education, including funding in Ontario, that this program will not be lost and that their children will be able to continue attending school in those programs in the coming years.
Hon David Johnson (Minister of Education and Training): This situation arose because of one particular individual maybe in a specific way, but it certainly involves a number of other people. The individual, as the leader of the official opposition has mentioned in the past, is, as I understand it, currently enrolled and is participating in the classroom.
In terms of the future, the funding model will certainly allocate moneys for various circumstances in terms of learning opportunities: special education grants for other paraprofessionals, for example, who may be available in a supportive sense. The moneys will be made available to each board on a fair and consistent basis across the province, and the boards will have the opportunity to provide the programs that their students need in their jurisdictions.
Mr McGuinty: I don't think the parents watching this today can take much comfort from what you said, so I'm going to give you another opportunity. There are 72 students enrolled in this post-21 program. They are developmentally delayed. They're following programs like life skills, job skills, literacy, which means essentially learning how to read signs and labels, and basic numeracy skills, which means learning how to handle money.
All they want to know is that you are going to guarantee them that this program is going to survive under the Mike Harris education regime. That's the question in its most simple form. Can you provide them with the assurance that this program is going to survive under the Mike Harris education regime?
Hon David Johnson: I can certainly provide the assurance that in terms of the consideration of the formula, all these kinds of programs have been brought in and considered under the umbrella of the full formula and all the moneys that are being spent today by the various boards across the province of Ontario, including the money spent on this particular program and all the other special education programs, will indeed be part of that funding formula. The boards will be allocated fair and equitable funding right across the province: the Ottawa board, the Metro Toronto board, all the boards across the province. They should have every opportunity to provide these sorts of programs to the children who need them.
Mr McGuinty: You're still not giving me a yes. The Ottawa Board of Education has scrimped, scrounged and saved and pulled this program together to meet the needs of 72 developmentally delayed adults over the age of 21. Their parents aren't asking for a heck of a lot. Some of their kids are never, ever going to leave home. All they're asking for from you is that the program that their children are benefiting from today will survive in the future.
You wanted control of education; you've got it. Here's where the rubber hits the road. This is an important program. It serves an important social need; it's meeting an important social objective. The question is very simple: Will you guarantee that this program is going to survive under the Mike Harris education regime in Ontario?
Hon David Johnson: What I will guarantee, unlike the leader of the third party, who wants to roll back the clock, who wants to turn back the education system, who has indicated he's prepared to turn back Bill 160 and the other improvements that have been brought into the education system, is that not just one board, not just the board in Ottawa, but each and every board across Ontario will have fair and equitable funding which will take into account all the needs: the special education needs, the early learning opportunity needs, the adult continuing education needs. Then that money will be made available to the boards on the basis of their particular situation and it will be up to the boards, as it is at the present time, to deliver those services to their students.
Mr Howard Hampton (Rainy River): I have a question to the Minister of Education and Training. I have a letter from the Ontario Federation of Home and School Associations. It's a letter directed to you. The federation says in this letter:
"The 18,000 members of the Ontario Federation of Home and School Associations believe that education is a partnership between students, parents, teachers, communities, school boards and the provincial government. Bill 160 represents a breaking of that partnership. Despite the objections of tens of thousands of people, your government is prepared to push forward with its agenda."
Minister, can you tell us why you ignored the advice, and you continue to ignore the advice, of such a grass-roots parents' organization like the Ontario Federation of Home and School Associations; why you ignore their heartfelt advice and continue to ram ahead your negative education agenda?
Hon David Johnson (Minister of Education and Training): Unlike the leader of the third party, and the third party in general, this government is intent on listening to the message that the people of Ontario have conveyed over the last many years that there needs to be reform in education.
We need to do two things in particular. The two most notable things are, first, to improve the quality in the education system, which is part of Bill 160 and part of the overall reforms that are associated with the education system in general, and second, we need to make sure that there is efficiency and a value in the education system; that we can do better for less in the education system and give quality to the students and value to the taxpayer. This government said it would do that and this government is going to do that.
Mr Hampton: I didn't have an answer to my question, so I'll ask it again. The Ontario Federation of Home and School Associations is one of those grass-roots parents' organizations that supports schools all across this province. They are the people who go to the meetings before school starts in the morning, at lunchtime, after school and in the evenings. They are truly a grass-roots organization. This is what they say about your educational agenda:
"The specific objections have been previously detailed in our initial brief which was addressed to you. They include issues of authority, accountability, accessibility to parents, funding and quality."
They then go on to say in their letter: "We have strongly demonstrated a desire to work with all stakeholders to enhance the education of students. The government's actions around Bill 160 have alienated many."
Hon David Johnson: For many years now - decades, I would say - the people of Ontario have been saying, "We need to improve the education system in the province." When your government was in place you commissioned various reports - the Sweeney report, the Royal Commission on Learning - and these bodies brought forward recommendations for improvements in education. Unfortunately, your government did not take specific actions to address the concerns of the parents and the people of Ontario.
Mr Hampton: The minister's staff should give him some new letters. Those are the same letters you read two weeks ago. I will refer people to Hansard because they are direct quotes of what you read two weeks ago. The minister has a stack of three letters and he reads them over and over again. You've missed the point.
Minister, here is the point: The Ontario Federation of Home and School Associations represents the grass roots. They represent the people who do a lot of the fund-raising for our schools. They represent the parents who are actually out there involved in education. You have totally ignored them. You have totally denied them any credibility, any currency on the issue of education.
Let me tell you what they are doing. They are among the groups out there who are going to get 700,000 signatures on a petition demanding a referendum on Bill 160. They are not taking this lying down. Minister, when you receive those 700,000 signatures from eligible voters across this province, will you then do the right thing? Will you honour their request for a referendum?
Hon David Johnson: I don't know why the words of Winston Churchill come to me at this point, when he said, "The member is never fortunate in the coincidence of his facts with the truth." I don't know why I think of the -
I will say that, over the years, surely the leader of the third party has talked to parents through the years, the people of Ontario, who have said that the education system is not satisfactory. We are spending a lot of money in the education system. We are not getting the value. Our students are not having the same opportunities as students in other provinces. Our students in national and international competitions are not performing to the level that we expect.
We want the quality improvement, the report card, the testing, the longer school year, for example, that they have in other jurisdictions. We have listened to that, we have acted upon that. We are introducing the quality, we are giving value. These are the things that the people of Ontario want to see and this government, for one, is prepared to deliver.
Mr Howard Hampton (Rainy River): I have a question for the minister who is responsible for protecting consumers in the province; I think his title is Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations. I'm reading from a Pollution Probe press release: "Hundreds of thousands of Ontario natural gas consumers stand to be charged 40% more to rent the same water heaters that are already in their basements if an Ontario Energy Board decision is allowed to stand."
You're supposed to be protecting consumers. Are you going to stand up for consumers on this? Are you, in your position in cabinet, going to ask that this Ontario Energy Board decision be reviewed? Are you going to protect consumers from being gouged $35 million more while at the same time receiving no additional service?
Hon David H. Tsubouchi (Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations): The response I've got for the leader of the third party is that apparently there has been an application to the Ontario Energy Board for approval to transfer their water heater rental business to an affiliate and not, as he suggests, to increase the rental rates. I think that's something he should certainly check out.
Mr Hampton: We can see how interested this Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations is in protecting consumers. If you look at the fine print of the OEB decision, you will find that implicit in this is, as I say, an increase of over $35 million, and they've admitted it.
Under sections 13 and 26 of the Ontario Energy Board Act, your colleague the Minister of Energy can force the Ontario Energy Board to hold a hearing and can force them to consider whether the gas companies' 40% rate hike is in the public interest; in other words, you can force them to look at the public interest. If you don't force them to do this, then people are going to be ripped off to the tune of $35 million. Will you do your job for consumers? Will you ask your colleague to use his powers under the Ontario Energy Board Act and force a hearing on the public interest?
Hon Mr Tsubouchi: The leader of the third party will know that water heater rental rates are not regulated by the board. They're not currently and they weren't when you were the government either, and I assume that when you were in cabinet you would have known that.
Ms Marilyn Churley (Riverdale): What a terrible message Ontario is sending out right now while a major international conference is going on on global warming, because if this goes ahead, fewer people will switch from electricity to gas, and that means more pollutants which contribute to global warming.
Your government has cut the budget of the Ontario Energy Board by 15%. The gas companies have suggested to the OEB that these cuts are a good reason for less regulation, and the board seems to agree with that. As a result partially of your cuts, the environment will suffer and consumers will pay more, so I'm asking you today: Come on, give us a straight answer here unequivocally. Condemn this price gouging by the gas companies. Will you demand that the energy minister order a hearing in the public interest? You are the minister responsible for consumers. You can do something about it. Stand up today and say you will. Protect the consumer.
Hon Mr Tsubouchi: I guess there are two members of the third party who were in the former cabinet when they were in power under Premier Rae, who should know that in fact it is the same as when they were in government, that the OEB does not regulate the water heater rental rates. Clearly not only do they not regulate them, but with respect to the hearing they're referring to, it's only for approval to transfer their rental business to an affiliate. It has absolutely nothing to do with rental rates.
Mr Sean G. Conway (Renfrew North): My question is to the same minister on the same issue. The proponents, Union and Centra, have made it plain that they intend to take their energy services business, which is currently regulated, out from underneath the regulatory framework and off to an unregulated energy services business. They have also advanced material - the Wood Gundy study, to be specific - that makes plain that the 870,000 Ontarians who currently rent hot water units from those two companies can expect upwards of a 40% increase in their annual rentals.
Minister, what are you going to do, as the minister responsible for consumer protection, to protect the nearly 900,000 Ontarians who are going to be liable for stiff increases because of this particular move?
Hon Mr Tsubouchi: First of all, the water heater rental rates are not regulated, so that's incorrect. They weren't regulated under the Liberal government or the NDP government. They never were regulated. In fact, if we can refer once again to the reality of what we're dealing with, this hearing has got nothing to do with water heater rental rates; it has to do with the transfer part of the business. Clearly, both opposition parties should know that it has nothing to do with rates.
Hon Mr Tsubouchi: You're clearly wrong; it is not now. We're talking about the transfer of services; we're not talking about rental rates, nor, once again, were they regulated under your government or under the Liberal government.
Mr Conway: Just a few weeks ago, Premier Mike Harris mounted a white stallion and rode around this Legislature and this province saying that he was going to protect Ontario consumers against the gouging oil companies. Remember that? It was just a few months ago.
My question remains. Groups as divergent as Pollution Probe and Wood Gundy have agreed that this proposal from Union Gas and Centra Gas will almost certainly expose nearly a million consumers of hot water unit rentals in southern Ontario to annual increases in the order of 40%, because under the proposal, Union and Centra plan to take their energy services business, including hot water unit rentals, out of the existing regulated environment, aside into an unregulated business. The Wood Gundy study makes it plain that if that is allowed, there will be increases of a substantial kind.
Hon Mr Tsubouchi: If we could deal with realities first of all, and then we'll deal with something else, once again, this is not regulated. It wasn't regulated under you, nor was it regulated under the NDP. Clearly this is not a hearing to deal with this; that's real.
Now, dealing with the consumer, if there is any danger that there are going to be huge price hikes to the consumers of this province, we'll stand up for the consumer, we'll intervene and we'll make sure that doesn't happen.
Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): My question is to the new Minister of Labour. As tradition dictates, I want to take this opportunity to congratulate him on his elevation to cabinet and wish him well.
I want to raise an issue that I know was of concern to the previous labour minister, so it's likely that you've been briefed on this also. I want to know if you believe it to be appropriate for a government backbencher to simultaneously (1) act as a lawyer for employers in employment standards cases, (2) work to change existing legislation to make it more favourable for his employer clients, and (3) also take an active role as a lawyer and MPP to prevent some of his constituents from being paid money that your own ministry officials have concluded they are legally entitled to. What do you think about that kind of conduct, Minister?
On the day I was sworn in I made it a priority to call some of the union leaders in the province and I was lucky to reach Sid Ryan of CUPE, and also Gord Wilson, the president of the Ontario Federation of Labour. I was pleased subsequently to have an opportunity to congratulate Wayne Samuelson on his election as the new president of the Ontario Federation of Labour.
Mr Christopherson: Obviously, we haven't got to that briefing yet. Let me see if I can help out. There are two workers in the gallery today who worked for a company that went bankrupt in the Barrie area. They went to the Ministry of Labour and your ministry officials agreed they should be paid severance and back wages.
They are amazed and angry, however, that one of your government backbenchers, MPP Joe Tascona, has been working for two years now to stop them from getting their money. This is the same Joe Tascona, member for Simcoe Centre, who worked hard as a committee member, and speaking in this House, to get the Employment Standards Act changed in ways that benefit his employer clients.
Hon Mr Flaherty: The honourable member has raised a question that he views, I gather, as a conflict-of-interest matter. As the honourable member knows, those matters are governed by the Integrity Commissioner in the province. I'm sure if there is genuine concern on the part of the member, he'll raise the matter in the appropriate forum with the Integrity Commissioner.
Mr Christopherson: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: Anticipating that answer, because I knew he wouldn't take responsibility, in accordance with section 30 of the Members' Integrity Act I am now providing you, Speaker, in writing, with a copy of my request that the Integrity Commissioner investigate this matter and provide an opinion as to whether or not -
Mr Carl DeFaria (Mississauga East): My question is also to the Minister of Labour. My constituents would like to know what we as a government are doing to ensure that Ontario has a system of labour relations that is both fair and balanced and which reflects the needs of both working families and employers in Ontario.
Hon Jim Flaherty (Minister of Labour): I thank the member for Mississauga East for the question. As I emphasized to the labour leaders with whom I've been pleased to meet since being appointed minister, we remain committed to the collective bargaining process. We believe that the best solutions are the solutions reached by the parties in a self-reliant way. Our government is committed to a fair and balanced system, a system that reflects the needs of employers and employees. We believe in a stable labour relations environment that promotes growth and confidence and we're prepared to make the tough decisions to maintain a stable labour relations -
Hon Mr Flaherty: By cutting red tape, by eliminating waste and duplication, by making the government more accountable to the taxpayer, by creating an environment that creates jobs, attracts investment, by keeping our promises to the working families of Ontario, we are now, more than ever before, able to improve the service taxpayers are entitled to expect for their hard-earned tax dollars. A stable, fair, balanced labour relations system is an essential cornerstone of our plan for Ontario families. We made our promise in the Common Sense Revolution and we have kept it.
Hon Mr Flaherty: The question raises the important issue of the relationship between employers and employees in the province relating to employment standards. Our government is committed to a comprehensive review of the Employment Standards Act which will result in a system that better serves employers and employees.
The Speaker: Order. I'm not going to warn the member for Welland-Thorold again, nor the member for Cochrane South, and the member for Lake Nipigon as well. I'm warning you to come to order. If I have to get up again I will name you.
Hon Mr Flaherty: This comprehensive review will not be about deregulation or lowering standards. It will be about ensuring that vulnerable workers are protected, giving employers and employees the flexibility they need while maintaining a set of basic standards, strengthening workplace self-reliance, focusing protection and enforcement where it is most needed and providing clear definitions in understandable language for the benefit of both employers and employees. This statute has not been revised since about 1974. It is anticipated that we will be in a position to release a discussion paper later this winter, which will be followed by extensive consultation.
Mr Gerard Kennedy (York South): I have a question for the Minister of Health. I'm speaking today on behalf of patients with heart problems in this province. They heard your answer the other day, and many of the people treating them did. The system we have in cardiac care is falling behind the rest of the world. We simply are not keeping pace.
You tried to tell us the other day that we were dealing with things, but in fact we've got longer waiting lists. You may not know this because your ministry doesn't keep track, but people are dying on some of those waiting lists. There's a 26% increase in the number of people waiting for cardiac tests and there has only been, despite the efforts that have been made by some of the hospitals, a 6% increase in procedures.
A simple thing is needed here: a commitment on your part to meet the target set by your own ministry, which is going to require more money to get to the end of the year and take some desperate, worried people out of the hospital beds to get the tests that they need. Will you make that commitment to us today?
Hon Elizabeth Witmer (Minister of Health): I certainly understand the concern. As I have indicated to you since becoming Minister of Health and as my predecessor indicated to you, certainly cardiac care is a priority for our government. In fact, I've indicated that we've already spent well in excess of $50 million to ensure that we can reduce the waiting lists. We now have the Cardiac Care Network of Ontario, which is providing us with the best advice possible. Surgeries are up this year across the province by at least 13%, and we are continuing to do everything we can - the recent announcement of another $5.2 million that I made, and that was for capital renovations in eight centres throughout this province. We continue to move ahead very aggressively and we are doing what the previous government was not able to do: We are responding to the needs of patients in this province.
Mr Kennedy: I don't think, to heart patients in this province, that counting on money and not counting in terms of people is acceptable. There's a 28% increase in the number of people on the waiting lists and you chose not to address that at all.
There are some other people I want you to be aware of. There are 100 people between now and the end of the fiscal year who need a new lifesaving device. It's called an implantable cardiac defibrillator. You personally, Minister - your ministry rations these devices. We are way behind the rest of the world in availability of this device. There are studies out now that show this can increase the survival rate of heart attack victims by 44% over other methods, and already hospitals are having to send people away to other hospitals, spend money out of the budgets they don't have. Minister, there are 100 people affected here, people with severe heart problems and people who need your response. Will you provide additional funding to ensure they can receive the treatment they need this year?
Hon Mrs Witmer: I would just like to share with you some information regarding how the $58 million has been invested into cardiac care. Since our investment was made, there are 14,000 procedures that have meant a difference in the lives of people in this province. Also, you refer to the ICD. They were included in the $35 million that we announced earlier this year, in March, and there are over 200 that have been put in place in the last year.
We continue to move forward. We are responding to the needs. We realize this is a priority area for people in this province and, as I've indicated, $58 million since we were elected. We will continue to respond to the needs of the patients in this province.
Mr Tony Martin (Sault Ste Marie): My question is for the Minister of Labour. Yesterday in the House, our leader raised a question of unemployment and older workers. I've met in Sault Ste Marie with around a dozen older workers over the last couple of months who have lost their jobs at Sears. None of them was given a legitimate reason for their termination except that the company was restructuring. All have been replaced primarily by younger part-time workers. Most of these people were but a few years away from qualifying for their pensions.
As the member knows, employment in Ontario is up more than 250,000 jobs since our government was elected in 1995, and welfare rolls have been reduced by about 250,000. In terms of job creation, it is good in Ontario and additional jobs continue to be created.
Mr Martin: Minister, Sears is but one example of this phenomenon that is happening across the province. I suggest to you that it's probably becoming somewhat epidemic, as older workers are laid off so that you can hire more younger workers and add them to your employment statistics. Will you, as a responsible minister of the crown, work within your cabinet to tighten up employment standards so that companies like Sears can no longer abuse older workers in this way?
Hon Mr Flaherty: As I've already indicated this afternoon here, we are committed to embarking on a review of the Employment Standards Act. It is a statute that has not been revised since 1974. Most users find it quite cumbersome and awkward to use. I have made that commitment. We intend to release the discussion paper during this winter.
Mr Steve Gilchrist (Scarborough East): My question is for the Minister without Portfolio responsible for privatization. My question relates to the review of TVOntario presently being undertaken by his ministry, and specifically the public meetings which have recently taken place across the province.
I received a call from a constituent in my riding, a Mr Dave Austin, who attended the TVOntario community forum here in Toronto on November 19. Mr Austin was pleased with the opportunity he had to express his views at the meeting and he indicated to me that there was a very large turnout at that event.
Minister, he asked me whether he'll be able to get a copy of the report of the community forum panel. You indicated that you're committed to a fair and open process, and I would ask you to provide assurance to my constituent that the report will indeed be made public.
Hon Rob Sampson (Minister without Portfolio [Privatization]): I want to thank the honourable member for his question. Let me say at the outset that he is indeed correct, or his constituent is correct, that the public forums were well attended not only here in Toronto but throughout the province. I'd also like to take this opportunity to congratulate the panel for their hard work and effort in doing the forum for us and travelling throughout Ontario to listen to the views of Ontarians as we ask them how they value and what they see as important in TVO.
Mr Gilchrist: I understand that the series of public meetings that took place across the province - Thunder Bay, London, Toronto and Ottawa - have just concluded. I wonder if the minister could provide an explanation to the chamber on how the panel's report will fit into the overall review of TVOntario by the Office of Privatization.
Hon Mr Sampson: As we stated when we announced the privatization framework, we believe Ontarians have a role to play when we assess the various government businesses that are under review. The panel that conducted a number of hearings throughout Ontario is just part and parcel of how Ontarians will have that role to play.
We in the secretariat are receiving phone calls, letters, e-mail, from a number of Ontarians who either were not able to participate in the particular forums or have elected to communicate to us directly. That information, in addition to the information we received from our business consultants, will be put together, and based upon that collective information we will be able to make the decision on TVO and other matters.
Mr John Gerretsen (Kingston and The Islands): My question is to the Minister of Health. Last Thursday afternoon, a very tragic event happened in the city of Kingston. Without any advance warning, your officials abruptly closed two Kingston centres providing services for those with mental illness: the Community Crisis Centre and the Kingston Clubhouse Activity Centre. You dismissed the staff on only four hours' notice, changed the locks in the centres and hired security guards to stand watch. According to your officials, a drawn-out closing would "provoke anxiety among the centres' clients."
The crisis centre serves hundreds of people in the community. The clubhouse centre has operated for 16 years and has served more than 150 of the most vulnerable in our society. This is their second home, a place where they feel accepted, where they are working on their self-confidence and self-esteem.
Hon Elizabeth Witmer (Minister of Health): I think it's important to know that this was a decision that was made by the board of Kingston Friendship Homes, as there was some overlap in the types of programs that were being offered at that time. However, I will tell you what I have done. I have asked for some information regarding the way in which the situation was handled on Friday. I would agree with you: I need an explanation and you deserve an explanation as well, as do the people in the Kingston community.
Mr Gerretsen: The people who have used these centres for the last 15 years need more than an explanation. I'm not concerned about some kind of turf war between competing organizations. What I'm concerned about are some of the issues that are addressed in letters to the editor and in an editorial today. One of the persons who uses the centre, a Phyllis Sparks, states - this is directly from a letter - "`You take so much abuse. They help me to open up,'" said Phyllis, choking back tears. `Without them I'd be gone from this earth.'"
There are other quotes here as well that I could be using from other people who have used this centre for the last 10 years. Why don't you do something immediately so that at least the centre can stay open for this Christmas, so that the people can have their Christmas party, so that they can have their Christmas concert, so that they can exchange gifts? This is the only home for these people. This is not something to look into. This is something to do something about and to do it today.
Hon Mrs Witmer: The Ministry of Health is still providing the same amount of funding to the Kingston Friendship Homes. In fact the organization received an additional $200,000 through our community investment fund.
The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Member for Durham East, your help is not needed and you're in the wrong seat again. Member for Kingston and The Islands, you must come to order. You must give the minister an opportunity to answer the question.
Hon Mrs Witmer: The role of the Ministry of Health is to ensure that the appropriate services are provided to the community. We are confident that this is the case and in this situation it was the board that made the decision because they felt there was an overlap in the services being provided in the community.
Mr Tony Martin (Sault Ste Marie): My question is for the Minister of Northern Development and Mines and the Chair of the Management Board. You will know that in Sault Ste Marie the Ontario Lottery Corp is one of the major industrial foundation blocks upon which the economy of our whole area thrives, and that it's under attack at the moment by your government and your wont to privatize everything that moves.
Your colleague the Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism has a report on his table that would give you and me and others who have responsibility for giving leadership around economic stability for communities like Sault Ste Marie in the north the information we need to make some decisions about where we go and what we do, and whether the decision to privatize the lottery corporation is a good one in the first place.
Would you ask your colleague to give you that report so you and I can share it, or to table it here so those who are responsible in Sault Ste Marie for the future of all the people who call Sault Ste Marie home would have access to that and be able to make appropriate decisions and plan for their future?
Hon Chris Hodgson (Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet, Minister of Northern Development and Mines): I appreciate the question from the member of the third party. As he is well aware, I believe the mayor of Sault Ste Marie has had discussions with the Minister of Economic Development and his staff. I appreciate the openness of his offer, that he concedes there might be some good news in privatization and allowing the private sector to get involved with the Ontario Lottery Corp. I appreciate his concern for the future of Sault Ste Marie. I can assure him I've been talking to the minister and also to the mayor and to the local officials.
Mr Martin: We have never refused to be partner in any exercise that would concern the future of our community. The only thing is, we are short of the information we need. You've got an advantage. You've got some information that obviously indicates what's in the best interest of the corporation and your government and hopefully our community. All we want is access to that information so we can work with you to do what's in the best interests of the people who work at the lottery corporation, who work in Sault Ste Marie and who work throughout Algoma.
As I said before, the lottery corporation was seen when it was moved to the Sault as our first opportunity to get into the new economy, the new telecommunications industry that's unfolding out there. If you take it away, if you diminish it in any serious way, you take that away from us. Will you get that report and share it with us so that together we can make decisions that are in the best interests of Sault Ste Marie and Algoma?
Hon Mr Hodgson: I appreciate the question from the member of the third party. It's our intention as a government to work with the city of Sault Ste Marie, to work with the people of Sault Ste Marie, to work with the Ontario Lottery Corp, not only to improve the lottery corporation itself but also to improve Sault Ste Marie and the economic opportunities there.
Just recently, the heritage board met there and we announced a number of exciting projects for Sault Ste Marie. So our past history shows that we are very interested in and concerned about the economic vitality of the city and the region and we will continue to do that.
Mrs Brenda Elliott (Guelph): My question today is for the Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. Last week you introduced proposed legislation to transfer the raw milk quality program to the dairy farmers of Ontario. The constituents in Guelph and across this province are concerned about the health quality issues of raw milk testing and they're also concerned about the ongoing issues of giving a non-governmental organization a responsibility like this. I would like some further information on this and assurances about how the quality of milk will be protected for our consumers.
Hon Noble Villeneuve (Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, minister responsible for francophone affairs): I am pleased to answer my honourable friend from Guelph. Yes, last week I was very pleased to introduce Bill 170, An Act to amend the Milk Act, in order to meet the needs and to meet the deal that had been done between the dairy farmers of Ontario and the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. OMAFRA will be supporting the dairy farmers of Ontario to the tune of $300,000 a year for the next four years to assist them in transferring the responsibilities.
Hon Mr Villeneuve: I am always concerned when I hear the third party. Do you know what they did in 1993? They cut by two thirds the inspectors in the raw milk area and now they're trying to preach to us. Ladies and gentlemen of the third party, please look at your record before you look at ours.
"Whereas two recent reports commissioned by the Ministry of Health called for increased OHIP funding to improve patient access to chiropractic services on the grounds of safety, effectiveness and cost-effectiveness; and
"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to recognize the contribution made by chiropractors to the good health of the people of Ontario, to recognize the taxpayer dollars saved by the use of low-cost preventive care such as that provided by chiropractors and to recognize that to restrict funding for chiropractic health care only serves to limit access to a needed health care service."
"Whereas animal rights activists have launched a campaign of misinformation and emotional rhetoric to ban bear hunting and to end our hunting heritage in Ontario, ignoring the enormous impact this would have on the people of Ontario;
"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to call on the Conservative government to stop the cuts to base funding for hospitals across Ontario and to ensure that community services are in place before the removal of hospital services. The Conservative government must fund hospitals with a funding formula that reflects demographic and regional needs. The Conservative government must ensure that health services are available, including emergency and urgent care, to all Ontarians."
"That the Ontario government, in its efforts to protect and preserve the present black bear population, introduce a complete ban on hunting, trapping and killing of black bears during the spring season."
"We, the undersigned electors of Ontario, petition the Lieutenant Governor to withdraw those sections of Bill 160 which will impact the current status of principals and vice-principals as members of the teachers' federations."
Mr Joseph Spina (Brampton North): I have a petition here which is with respect to the withdrawal or repeal of Bill 160. There are only a couple of people from my own riding, but I'd be happy to present it on their behalf. I'm still puzzled as to why I got this because it clearly states on the bottom that the original is to be presented to the East End Parent Network, care of Howard Hampton, leader of the Ontario NDP. Some of these people must have thought that I switched parties, so I will present -
"Whereas Thunder Bay and district are suffering from serious deterioration in our health care system because of the closing of hospital beds before community services and long-term-care facilities are available;
"We, the undersigned, therefore petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to make it an urgent priority to provide more long-term-care services in the home and to provide a sufficient number of long-term-care institutional beds and staff in order to restore the standards of health care to an acceptable level."
Mr Toby Barrett (Norfolk): I have been receiving thousands of signatures on petitions from hospitals that serve people in the eastern portion of my riding. This petition is from the Haldimand War Memorial Hospital in Dunnville.
"We object to less acute care beds at Haldimand War Memorial Hospital; a limit of three days for patients at Haldimand War Memorial Hospital; possible downgrading of the emergency department at Haldimand War Memorial Hospital; the district health council's involvement in selecting hospital board members; one regional corporation for the three Haldimand-Norfolk hospitals; and unequal budget reductions for all three Haldimand-Norfolk hospitals."
"Whereas the freedom of choice regarding tobacco smoking in a privately owned business, as previously allowed, is being unfairly curtailed by the strict and unnecessary enforcement of the regulatory tobacco act, as passed by the previous provincial government, in the counties of Brant, Elgin, Oxford and the riding of Haldimand-Norfolk-Brant;
"That within the tobacco-producing counties of Brant, Elgin, Oxford, and the riding of Haldimand-Norfolk-Brant, the policing of the regulated no-smoking protocols be left up to the municipalities to enforce as they see fit and that this also apply to any municipality, county or riding within Ontario where tobacco production or processing is an economic factor;
"That privately owned businesses who produce or process tobacco and/or whose businesses service or supply the tobacco industry and reside within the designated regions be exempt from the posting of the regulated no-smoking signs and be allowed proprietary discretion on tobacco use within their establishment; and
"That the use of legal tobacco products, as used by adults, be allowed in businesses who produce or process tobacco and/or whose business services or supplies the tobacco industry within the designated regions without the fear of penalty or fines to their clients or staff."
The orders for concurrence give us an excellent opportunity to highlight the significant achievements made by ministries this fiscal year. As all members know, we did not inherit an $11.2-billion deficit in 1995 because we didn't tax enough; we inherited an $11.2-billion deficit because we spent significantly more than we should have been spending. The estimates illustrate the work ministries have done to rein in uncontrolled spending and to focus on the core businesses of government, to reduce red tape and overregulation, to improve the business climate in Ontario and to encourage investment.
The policies of this government have helped to create over 270,000 private sector jobs since June 1995. Three quarters of all the private sector jobs in Canada over that period of time have been created in Ontario.
Total health care spending: The commitment by this government for 1997 will be $18.5 billion, the highest spending in health care in this province's history. I'm sure my colleagues will have further examples of the great work being done by ministries in this government.
Mr Bill Grimmett (Muskoka-Georgian Bay): I'm certainly pleased today to join in the debate on the concurrences in supply, which of course involve the estimates of the province of Ontario. In doing so, I wish to highlight a number of ministries that were spoken about and also reflect on my experience on the estimates committee, which I certainly enjoyed and which, as the minister has said, was a reflection in many cases of a change in the management style in Ontario which has occurred since we were elected as the government.
The estimates of our government reflect the efforts of the different departments in this government to bring themselves in line with our ambitious and critical plan to restore fiscal balance and fiscal prudence to the government of Ontario. I think throughout the estimates process we saw, as the ministers were defending the estimates and speaking to the questions that were presented to them, that we have a very prudent approach to planning in each of the ministries and there is a strong discipline within those ministries that is reflected in the estimates and in the planning of the fiscal policies for each ministry.
In commenting on that fiscal prudence, I thought I'd go back to the document with which we planned the approach of each ministry and with which we planned the overall approach to fiscal prudence, and that was the Common Sense Revolution on which we ran in the 1995 election.
I thought I'd deal first with page 7, where we talked about "Protecting Priority Services." This is particularly important when you look at the estimates for the Ministry of Health. We said during the introduction of the Common Sense Revolution and during the election when we ran on this platform that we would be protecting the budget of the health ministry, that it was the number one priority of the people of Ontario.
When the minister came to the standing committee on estimates, it was very clear that not only had we protected the budget of the health ministry but in fact we have enhanced that budget. We have enhanced that budget by increasing the overall expenditures in the health ministry from around $17.3 billion, as I recall, at the time of the 1995 election to in excess of $18 billion when you take into account the capital moneys being invested in the hospital restructuring process.
Also, in the Ministry of Education, when I reflect back on our campaign, right from the outset we indicated quite clearly that we felt - and I have been very consistent in my discussions with my constituents in the riding of Muskoka-Georgian Bay - when we talk about education spending, in trying to restore fiscal balance and a balanced budget to Ontario, that aside from health, all of the other ministries had to be looked at, that there were savings to be found through efficiencies, that there were savings to be found in the Ministry of Education, that we would be very careful in finding savings within that ministry and that we would not endanger the classroom, which is critical to the health of the Ontario economy and to the future of all the young people in this province.
As I reflect back on the questions that came up in the estimates committee to the Minister of Education, he was very thorough in explaining that in the ministry's estimates great care has been taken to protect the classroom while still keeping the ministry in line with the general fiscal plan of the government to balance the budget by the year 2000.
I think it is also worth stating that because we are keeping in line with our fiscal plan, and in fact, as the Minister of Finance has stated on a number of occasions, it appears that we may be ahead of our fiscal plan even for this year, that allows us to take on some projects in all these ministries that are very important to Ontarians, and I think it also has restored a feeling of confidence to the economy of Ontario. I'd just like to highlight some of the areas in which the economy appears to be doing well.
In the second quarter for 1997, the April to June period, Ontario recorded another strong quarter of economic growth, with real gross domestic product increasing by 7.2% in annualized rates. This followed a 6.8% increase in GDP in the first quarter. Growth was stronger than the national gain of 4.9% in that second quarter, and that is yet another indication that the Ontario economy is leading the Canadian economy, and that is of great benefit not only to Ontario but to the whole national economy.
For that reason and for other reasons, I'm sure, that relate to the federal government's fiscal prudence as well, the whole Canadian economy showed very strong growth in the third quarter, with real gross domestic product at factor cost rising 4.8%, at annual rates, following a gain of 5.1% in the second quarter and 3.8% in the first quarter. Nearly half of the rise in gross domestic product in the third quarter in the national economy was concentrated in manufacturing and wholesale trade, very important aspects of the Ontario economy. The output also rose in mining, construction, transportation, storage and communications, retail trade and financial services.
For the Ontario economy, the forecasts in the private sector are very strong for the balance of 1997 and for next year. Private sector economists are becoming increasingly optimistic that the Ontario economy will accelerate in 1997 and remain strong throughout 1998. The average private sector forecast for Ontario real GDP growth is 4.4% in 1997 and 4.2% in 1998. All private sector forecasters expect Ontario to grow faster than the Canadian average in 1997 and 1998. Most private forecasters expect Ontario and Alberta to have the fastest growing economies in 1997.
As a couple of examples, the Bank of Montreal has said, "Ontario's economy became red hot in 1997 and is likely to remain so through 1998, growing at a 5% pace in both years." Scotiabank has said: "Ontario's economic engine is moving into higher gear. While exports will benefit from solid US activity, the domestic economy also is revving up." The International Monetary Fund has forecast that Canada will lead all industrialized nations in economic growth, with real output rising 3.7% in 1997 and 3.5% in 1998.
Much of the growth in the economy has to do with the creation of new jobs and new spending that's generated from those jobs. In November, Ontario's private sector employment continued to do well and we saw 13,000 jobs generated in November. Ontario youth employment was up by 4,300 jobs in the month of November.
The help wanted index, which records the newspaper ads for jobs throughout the province continued to climb. It was up by 0.8% in November, and that's up 24.3%, reaching its highest level since October 1990.
Another important indicator that there is more confidence in the economy has to do with the intentions of employing firms to hire more employees. A Manpower Temporary Services employment survey showed that 14% of firms were expecting to raise employment levels in the first quarter of 1998. That certainly is a very welcome result from a survey and one that is of great importance to the families and especially the young people who are eligible for employment in my riding of Muskoka-Georgian Bay.
Further indicating optimism in the economy, a recent Angus Reid poll showed that 51% of Ontario residents fully expect the Ontario economy to improve in the coming year. Confidence has been rising steadily in Ontario since mid-1996, and this survey marks the highest level of Ontario optimism since Angus Reid began tracking this economic indicator.
Ontario retail sales rose 2.8% in the third quarter of 1997, a very important indicator, especially in central Ontario where I reside, where retail sales certainly needed to increase. I'm sure the retailers in my riding will be very pleased to see that information. Department store sales are up 12.5% for the month of October 1997.
A very important indicator for the Golden Horseshoe in Ontario is auto sales and how that spinoff affects the rest of the economy in Ontario. Bolstered by rising consumer confidence and low interest rates, Ontario unit auto sales rose 18.3% in September from the same month a year earlier, so there has been tremendous growth on the already strong auto sales that were in place in 1996.
The Ontario housing market is a major indicator of economic confidence and growth because of the tremendous number of people who are affected in an employment way by the housing market. The 1997 Ontario housing market remains very robust. Over the first 10 months of 1997, all area starts in Ontario are running 29% ahead of last year's pace, which is even stronger than the 20.4% gain that was recorded in Canada as a whole.
Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp has issued a statement that they feel the strong housing market performance in Ontario will continue. I'll just quote from that recent statement: "Ontario's economy has shifted gears from job recovery mode to job growth. Jobs are a key ingredient in boosting housing demand, but combine jobs with affordable mortgage carrying costs, strengthened home resales and moderate inventories of newly completed and unoccupied homes," and they suggest that housing starts should grow further.
Another indicator of the strong housing market is the residential building permit index, which rose tremendously in 1997. Over the first 10 months of this year, the value of residential building permits issued in Ontario rose 36.5% compared to a year ago. Scotiabank has predicted that this strong rise will amount to 32.6% for the whole year, and they have indicated that strong economic tailwinds are boosting activity, especially in Toronto, and housing starts will account for almost 25% of the Canadian total.
The Ontario social assistance caseload fell again in November, 4,411 fewer cases of social assistance in Ontario, so we continue to reduce the number of people dependent on social assistance. Since June 1995, the number of people depending on social assistance has fallen by almost 250,000. That's a decline of 18.6% in people in Ontario dependent on social assistance.
Business investment is also rising. According to Statistics Canada's recent investment intentions survey, Ontario business plans to raise plant and equipment spending by 11.8% in 1997. This follows a 10.2% rise in 1996.
Non-residential building permits are also up. There is a building boom forecast for the Toronto area. Ontario manufacturing shipments are up strongly in 1997, Ontario exports are up strongly in 1997, and Ontario wholesale trade continues the upward trend for the year 1997.
"Ontario businesses are more optimistic than other regions as they enter the fourth quarter of 1997. As our nation's major economic catalyst, Ontario should lead the country into a good close in 1997, particularly for retailers, which in turn will position us well for the new year. Ontario reported sharp gains in sales optimism, significantly above the national figure."
To some extent there are international and national reasons that our economy is doing well, but I think it's also an indication that our fiscal plan and our discipline, which now is throughout our government, is working well. I'll conclude my remarks now and turn it over to other speakers.
Mr Pat Hoy (Essex-Kent): I want to make my remarks with regard to transportation here in Ontario and specifically school bus safety. Members of the House would know that last year, on November 28, this House, by unanimous consent, deemed that my private member's Bill 78 should be referred to the resources development committee. That is over a year ago now, and as yet that bill has not come forward at that committee.
We continue in my office to receive calls and letters of concern about people who pass school buses when the red lights are flashing. The government did increase the fines for that offence, but as was the case before they increased those fines, people continue to pass school buses with reckless abandon and are jeopardizing the lives of our young people. Over the last 10 years, 11 children have been killed and over 80 injured.
My bill, Bill 78, would have given bus drivers the opportunity to use what is known as vehicle liability, because the current law states, and always has stated, that the bus driver must identify the driver in the offending vehicle. It's almost impossible to identify those drivers.
"As I was approaching to let two students off the bus, I looked in my rear-view mirror to check for any traffic following me. I observed a car coming up at 100 to 200 feet behind me. I also checked for oncoming traffic.
"After making sure it was clear, I then activated the top red flashing lights to warn the car following me that I intended to stop to let students off the bus. After completing my stop, I activated the flashing stop arm. Before opening the doors I once again looked in my rear-view mirrors to make sure everything was clear.
"As I opened the doors to let the students off, the nitwit zoomed past on the right soft shoulder. If the students had stepped out a second earlier, both would have been killed on the spot. I just had time to stop the kids and take the licence number of the car.
"I went to the first OPP detachment to report this incident. The officer was very understanding of what could have been a tragic and unfortunate situation, but said nothing could be done unless I could identify the driver. Under these terrifying circumstances, I did not see the driver; I simply did not have the time.
"In the next school term, drivers will be issued a form to fill out when an infraction is committed against a school bus. One question on the form will be: `Can you identify the driver?' Think of the money that will be spent on making up these reports, and for what purpose?
"I certainly hope that the transportation minister reconsiders his new law and takes this question out of the report form, because every student who is killed and the driver gets away scot-free, I and thousands of bus driver all over Ontario will hold him totally responsible for their deaths.
It's exactly what Bill 78 would do. It would answer the question of identifying a vehicle in those cases when we cannot identify the driver of the same vehicle. Bill 78 would not ticket both the driver and the vehicle. It's either one or the other. Clearly, the law is flawed. There is no mechanism for conviction.
We know from other press stories that the police have gone out and said to the public that this is a dangerous circumstance. You're putting the lives of very young children all the way up through secondary school age at risk when you pass school buses. Continually, my office hears from school bus drivers who say that the driving public is not terribly influenced by the government's increase in fines. It is a moot point if one cannot make convictions.
There was also an editorial in the Guelph Mercury headlined, "Drivers Who Pass School Buses Illegally Should Lose Licences." I'm not advocating that, but this is what some people think should be brought about to stop people from passing illegally. It goes on to say, "Yesterday we asked: Should people lose licences for passing school buses illegally?"
One gentleman said, "Yes, of course they should.... I've been driving for over 60 years, from vehicles with tracks on them to 34-wheelers. And if people are on the road that don't know the rules, get them off, permanently. They are potential killers."
I remind the House that that is not what Bill 78 would do and it's not what I advocate, but some people think the law should go even further than what either the minister has suggested by raising fines or by what I am saying, which is, let's have a mechanism to attach those fines under what is known as vehicle liability if we cannot identify the driver.
I urge the government to keep Bill 78 alive. We're nearing the end of this session. It has been over a year since it was deemed to go to the resources development committee. There are many people who would like to come forward and speak to the bill and show the soundness of that very same bill.
"I wrote to your predecessor on September 10, 1997, requesting reconsideration of the decision to amalgamate Ontario's 33 district health councils to only 16 large councils. To date, I have not had a reply from Mr Wilson, but in view of the reallocation of responsibilities, I'm enclosing a copy for your response.
"I would also like to take this opportunity to raise other urgent issues. Health services are a major concern in my riding. In addition to a serious problem of medical underservicing, citizens are facing the extreme turmoil of a restructured district health council, the closure of one of Chatham's two hospitals and the downloading of the responsibility for public health units to municipalities.
"Physicians and residents are also concerned about the lack of support services in the community for patients who are being released from hospital earlier and sicker because of government cuts to hospital spending.
"In Kent county the mortality rate from heart and stroke is 64% above the provincial average, while Essex county is 20% above the average. Kent county has the highest rate of suicide in Ontario. Cancer rates are also high. Smog blown in from the United States and heated in the warm sun of southwestern Ontario is a serious problem in Essex and Kent counties.
"In the heart of Kent agricultural land, it has been reported that the village of Merlin records 932 hours of smog above 50 parts per billion. Merlin's top reading last year was 125 ppb, one of the highest in Ontario. Ozone values from 50 to 80 parts per billion represent moderate air quality and are considered a risk to people with heart or lung disorders. Readings higher than 80 cause greater irritation and warnings are issued for the people at that level.
"These factors contribute to a greater health risk for residents of Essex-Kent and puts greater stress on available health care resources. Specialized public health programs are required to deal with these unique circumstances. Indeed, we see public health programs downloaded to municipalities, along with ambulance services, social housing and transportation, without any guarantee there will be enough local dollars available to continue funding for public health programs. This could be of grave circumstances to Essex-Kent."
That, in part, is what I've written to the minister. Clearly the people of Essex-Kent deserve answers to some of these situations. We have a unique situation perhaps in regard to the fact that some of our health-related statistics are very high.
If public health programs have to compete with other services for local funding, it will certainly decrease the availability of crucial public health and health promotion programs. Undermining prevention, protection and promotion programs for short-term savings will result in increased health care costs in the long run. "You can pay me now or pay me later," as they say.
Now we're starting to see the results of a wrong-headed approach. I met with the Kent-Chatham Health Unit personnel this week and I was disturbed to learn about recent decisions of the Chatham-Kent transition team pertaining to public health. There are plans to change the makeup of the board, downsize the health unit and reduce the role of the medical health officer.
The list of concerns about public health is great in Kent and great across Ontario, and I urge the government to respond to these very serious questions put forth by constituents through myself and here in the Legislature.
Mr Tony Silipo (Dovercourt): I'm glad to have the opportunity to join in this debate, a debate which, as I understand it, is on concurrence and supply of various ministries, including the Office of the Premier. I say that because people who may be watching this debate might wonder what exactly it is that we are debating this afternoon. Listening to the member for Essex-Kent, he chose to focus the majority of his comments in the area of transportation, although he touched on health care and some other concerns, and those are both ministries that of course are dealt with in the motion that's in front of us.
I was a bit puzzled, in listening to the member for Muskoka-Georgian Bay, who is one of the members from the government side who spoke so far on this debate, that he spent virtually all of his time talking about the economic record of the Mike Harris government. I went back and forth just to make sure I had this correct. It sounded more like a budget speech that he was engaged in, and I looked to see whether the Minister of Finance was here - no, he's not there; whether the Minister of Economic Development was here, given that he talked about jobs and the economy - no, he's not here. So the only conclusion I could come to in listening to him, because I understand the wide-ranging nature of the debate on concurrences, is that he was making the point that all of these things are linked.
I found that interesting because we on this side of the House get up from time to time and we'll talk about the link a particular bill has to the overall agenda of the Mike Harris government, and members opposite, from the government side, will harangue us and say: "What are you talking about that for? Why aren't you talking about Bill so-and-so?" I found it really interesting to listen to the member for Muskoka-Georgian Bay, particularly as he recounted today his view of the wonders that have come to this province as a result of the Mike Harris government.
Mr Silipo: No, I was quite happy and I didn't object to his doing that. I just wanted for the record to make that notation, because I'm always happy to hear government members try to defend what they're doing. In fact, the more they are willing to make the connections for us and for the people of the province between one area of policy and another, the easier it will be for people across the province to understand what the Mike Harris revolution is all about.
We have in front of us concurrences for some very important ministries which represent some very important policy directions this government has chosen to take. Look at the very first one that's in front of us: concurrence in supply for the Ministry of Health. Do we agree or do we not agree with what is happening through the Ministry of Health and what the government is doing?
Obviously we in the New Democratic Party have on more than one occasion said very clearly, "No, we don't agree with what the government is doing in the area of health care." We don't agree with simply, holus-bolus, shutting down hospital after hospital without any kind of sensible plan for what is going to replace those hospitals, without any kind of sensible plan for how you develop a whole series of services, from community-based services right through and including hospital services, before you start shutting down hospitals. We don't agree with that kind of holus-bolus approach.
It's been interesting to see the government on that issue try to come in and out of the debate at times when it suited them to say, "We're not the ones making decisions about the closing of hospitals," and then when it suited their political agenda to step right in, both feet first, and say, "Yes, we will take responsibility here or there for what is going on," especially when they were able to come in and intervene and actually change some of the decisions around what the Health Services Restructuring Commission was looking at doing or had originally recommended.
All that is to say, when we look at this whole question of health care, which obviously has to be and continues to be one of the fundamental, important issues for the people of this province, that yes, it's important that we make some changes in the way health care is provided; and yes, that very well will mean in certain parts of the province that you need to look at whether we have the right mix of hospitals and other community kinds of care available. But you do that in a planned way. You do that in a way that involves taking into account first and foremost the interests of the local communities. You don't do it by simply coming in and saying, "How many hospitals can we close today?" before you've got any sense of what the alternative plan is.
Similarly, one of the other ministries here in front of us today is the Ministry of Education and Training. How could we have a debate on concurrences without touching upon the kind of devastation we have seen so far and are likely to continue to see by the Mike Harris government in the area of education?
The whole debate we've had on Bill 160, which I know, as far as the Minister of Education is concerned, he would like very much to forget or put behind him, is going to continue. Let me say very clearly to members opposite that it is going to continue, and in spades, not because we in the New Democratic Party caucus have to stir things up but simply because we are reflecting and bringing to the floor of this Legislature the very strong feelings that we know exist. You know as well as I, Madam Speaker, that they exist right across this province, whether it's here in ridings like mine and yours in the city of Toronto or whether it's in ridings across the province, whether it's communities like Riverdale or Dovercourt or the Premier's own home base of North Bay and many, many others across the province.
What parents and citizens are saying to us is: "We are not prepared to see our education system gutted. We are not prepared to see our school system destroyed simply so that Mike Harris can find the money to maintain the one overarching promise he seems to be intent on maintaining, and that is the 30% income tax cut."
When you ask people, "Do you want to have a tax cut?" of course most people, I think, would like to have a tax cut. But when you talk to people about what that means in real terms, I am certainly finding more and more people who are saying, "The $3 or $4 a week that I get in my pocket isn't worth at the end of the day the price of destroying our school system."
That's what is going to happen. That's what we know is going to take place. We've seen it already as a result of the impact of the hundreds of millions of dollars that have been cut by this government from the budgets of school boards across the province. We will see it in spades with the cuts that are yet to come, unless the Premier reverses the position he finally had to admit to when our leader, Howard Hampton, released the draft copy of the Deputy Minister of Education's contract, which showed that part of the task, part of the direction she was being given for the next year, was to come up with a plan to take out of the system of education another $667 million.
I remember the debate on Bill 160 back at second reading stage when we would make that point and say, "The real agenda of the Mike Harris government is to cut another $1 billion out of the system," and government members would stand up and say or holler from their seats, "Where do you get that idea?" and we would point out that it was exactly on the basis of statements made by the former Minister of Education about a year and a half ago now, a year and some months ago. They would say: "No, no. That's not true. We're not going to do that."
I can only imagine the look on the faces of many of the backbench members of the Tory caucus when they saw in the evening news the Premier of the province having to admit that yes, the cutting of another $600 million or $700 million was really very much part of the government's plan. I can just imagine the looks on their faces and the sense of fear in their stomachs as they said: "My God, they didn't tell us that. My God, they didn't tell us that this was what we were going to be doing. We've been saying to people all along that we're not going to do that."
Why is that the case? It's because we have in this government, to a degree we have never seen before, an incredible concentration of power in the hands of the Premier and the Premier's office. I note with great interest that the Premier's office is one of the items before us in terms of voting concurrence. So we don't agree that the Premier's office should continue to spend more money now than was spent there in recent memory, because that's what the numbers show.
That is very much in keeping with the approach Mike Harris and the handful of people around him have taken, which is that they are going to centrally and masterfully try to control not only the public agenda but they are going to try to control the Tory caucus as they try to drive through their revolution, as they try to drive through an agenda which is based on cuts to our health care system, on gutting our school system, on not putting a real emphasis on creating jobs in this province.
I hear the members opposite talk about how things have improved. Of course, things have improved and we're happy that things have improved. But when you have the high level of unemployment we have now, around 9% of Ontarians being unemployed, when still so many people are having to depend on social assistance, and we know that many have left the rolls not because they have found jobs but because they simply don't qualify under the reduced standards this government has set, then we have to continue to point the finger to the Premier's office, to Mike Harris and the three or four people he has around him who are driving this agenda so hard and driving it very much with a view to polarizing public opinion in this province, with an objective of driving very much a Reform-minded agenda and with a view to ensuring that there is in this province a situation in which the gap between those who are rich and well off and the rest of us continues to widen; to ensuring, as they are doing, that all the things that have made Ontario a good place for us to live and work in, all the things that have gone into having this considered by groups like the United Nations as one of the best societies in the world, not only have been put at risk but are being destroyed.
The sense of community, the sense of caring, the sense of understanding, the sense of compassion, the sense of responsibility we have towards our fellow citizens is being destroyed by the actions of Mike Harris and the few people he has around him.
We will see a situation over the next few months where there will be a softening of that position. When we come back after we break at Christmastime we will see, I'm sure, at some time in the spring, whether it's through a new throne speech or however the government tries to do it, an attempt to say: "We've gone through the hard times. Now we can try to soften our image. We can even invest a little bit here and there."
But the fundamental decisions we have made particularly during this year, when we have sat as a Legislature for exorbitant periods of time - and I'm not complaining about the time we have sat. I'm simply saying that to note that what Mike Harris and the three or four people around him have done in this past year particularly has been to bring about some significant changes that I don't think even many of the Tory backbenchers, with all due respect to them as individuals, fully comprehend the implications of.
It will be over the next six months to a year that we will see the full impact of the cuts, for example, to our school system. It will be as a result of those things that maybe the light will go on among more of the Tory backbenchers, as it did among some of their colleagues. We heard from time to time people like the member for Grey-Owen Sound at least express some concerns about where the government was going. We saw finally in this House last week, for the first time, a couple of government members, particularly the member for Oakville South and the member for Wentworth North, have the courage to stand up and vote against their government on one of the important pieces of the download bill.
It's going to take much more of that; it's going to take at the end of the day the kind of understanding that I see is growing across the province every day, that the Mike Harris revolution is something the majority of Ontarians disagree with. I think it's going to be incumbent upon all of us as Ontarians to realize that at some time in the next two years we'll have the opportunity to pass judgement on the Mike Harris government.
That's a challenge to all of us and it's a challenge I put to myself as a member of one of the two opposition parties, to say that we need to embark upon a serious discussion to develop an alternative vision of the Mike Harris view of the world. I believe, from everything I've seen in many years of public life, that while people agree that change is necessary, the kind of change the Mike Harris revolution has brought about is not the kind of change that Ontarians want.
The kind of change we want has to continue to be based on a sense that we want to see a health care system worthy of the name, that we need to have an education system that puts our kids first, not just in a rhetorical sense but in a real way, and that continues to see that creating jobs, particularly for our young people, where there's the highest level of unemployment, becomes a priority in the same way as, if not to a greater extent than, is cutting the deficit a priority for the government.
Certainly we have seen in spades over this last year particularly the attack on the whole democratic notion and the whole democratic sense of how decisions are made, come about as a result of the growing concentration of power in the hands of Mike Harris and a few cronies around him. I think that is another key issue that people across the province are eager for us to address.
I want to just say in closing that I take my responsibilities as a member of the New Democratic Party very seriously in saying to people across this province that we believe we need and can put together an alternative vision to the Mike Harris view of the world. We understand our challenge over the next little while will be to do that and to engage people in a serious discussion about what that vision might look like, not in a rhetorical way but in a very practical, task-oriented way, so that when some time during the next two years we have a chance to pass judgement on the Mike Harris revolution, we will have in place the ability to go to people and say: "This is what that vision could look like. This is how that vision could be translated into real changes through the legislative process in a way that involves citizens of this province in a way that allows us to recapture that sense of community."
I hope we can bring back to the floor of this Legislature, that sense of community that Mike Harris has tried to destroy but which is still thriving and healthy out there and which it is now our task to pick up and to make sure it gets brought here at Queen's Park into the decision-making process where it belongs.
Mr Doug Galt (Northumberland): It's certainly a pleasure for me to rise and address the issues of the day and not talk about the doom and gloom that we've recently heard, but talk about some of the good news, the things that have really happened here in Ontario over the last two and a half years.
I'd first like to draw your attention to a quote from the federal industry minister, John Manley. "Ontario's economy is on fire because of the Harris government's tax cuts and renewed consumer confidence." This comes from a Liberal. Granted, it's a federal Liberal, but that's what they're saying from Ottawa that's going on in Ontario.
The article that this came from goes on to say that there's strong export activity from the province, and they add that domestic gains can also be linked to Ontario's cuts to personal income tax - another supporter of what we're doing with our income tax, and that happens to be a Liberal who is supporting that. They're also saying they have more money in their pockets, and therefore they have more money to spend. He winds up the article with a quote again from the Honourable John Manley: "Tax cuts increase domestic consumption."
In this article there's only one area that I tend to disagree with, and that's the fact that there's more money in people's pockets. I would say it's more that it has broken even, because what we have given in income tax cuts, the federal government has increased its federal payroll taxes, and the end result is more of a break-even. However, people in other provinces are experiencing real cuts in their take-home pay. At least with our cut in payroll taxes, people are breaking even. They feel like they have more money in their pockets, mainly because of all the rhetoric we hear from the opposition. I'm sure they wouldn't know they had extra dollars there if it wasn't for the Liberals giving us all that support and talk about the tax cuts, and for that I'm very appreciative.
We are into an economic boom here in Ontario; it's general across the province. As a matter of fact, last Saturday I was in the Northumberland Mall. I parked the farthest from the mall I've ever had to park. I'm sure I was in a parking spot that no car has ever been in before. The mall was absolutely jammed with people. I was in Cortesis Jewellers store, and the only problem they had in that store was their cash register couldn't take the money fast enough. People were lined up, all kinds of business going on, like they have never seen before until this year. Last year was good, but this year is just so much better. I spent most of that day wandering around the mall apologizing to my Liberal friends for the traffic jam out in front, and for so many people in the mall it was uncomfortable, but they understood.
Friday night before that, I was in Warkworth at a Santa Claus parade and I visited the BackTalk Café, appropriately named. They were telling me that evening they had never had so many in for dinner before. It was a record for them, and this year activity in the restaurant is way up. The weekend before I was in Trenton talking with Craig Desjardins about his bookstore, and sales are up some 20% in that bookstore in Trenton.
The predictions are that this is a record year for retailers. It's really good news. I know it's awfully hard for the opposition to accept that, but it's reality. Being in the Santa Claus parades in Cobourg and Port Hope and Brighton, Warkworth and Bewdley and Campbellford -
I should relate to you also that last May I was in Windsor after the budget came out, doing a little bit of a speaking tour about the budget. The biggest complaint from Windsor was a problem they were having there with traffic jams in that community, so I asked them, "Why would you be having traffic jams in Windsor?" Their answer was, because of all the new jobs that have been created in their community and people going to and from work -
Mr Galt: I was talking about being in Windsor, when I was so rudely interrupted. One of the biggest problems they were telling me about when I was in Windsor was the problem they were having there with traffic jams and I was asking them why they were having so many traffic jams. It was because of all the new jobs that had been created in Windsor. These were people going to and from work. That was why the traffic was a problem. I'm sure the member for Windsor-Sandwich would appreciate knowing that. Unfortunately she isn't here, but I'm sure she knows about all of the new jobs that have been created in Windsor.
The Leader of the Opposition, Dalton Turn-Back-the-Clock McGuinty, really wants to revert back to the Peterson days. He's against tax cuts. I can't understand for the life of me why anybody would be against tax cuts, but Dalton Turn-Back-the-Clock McGuinty is opposed to tax cuts. He doesn't understand that they will actually stimulate the economy. What he stands for is more taxes, and that's pretty hard to believe. When you go back to the Peterson days and see 30-plus tax increases, you can understand where they come from as a party.
Dalton McGuinty also stands for repealing Bill 160. I guess that's because he's opposed to quality education at the best cost. Maybe that's related to the fact that he has a wife who's a teacher; I really don't know.
They want to return to the Liberals of the past, with those 30 tax increases. Over the five years, they actually doubled the budget. They were trying in advance to outspend the NDP and they were almost successful. Where they're coming from, I really don't know, but they want to turn back the clock to the days of spend, borrow and tax.
The experts tell us that as the economy improves, more people are coming into the workforce. They are re-entering. Where are they coming from? Well, back in the early 1990s there were so many people unemployed they gave up and went on welfare, so their numbers weren't being counted. Now they know there is work out there and they are re-entering the unemployed, looking for work.
We also have those people who are returning to Ontario, those who left and gave up in the early 1990s. They recognize what's going on in the province and they are moving back to Ontario, back to their home province.
Tax cuts are good. It's good for the taxpayer, it's good for consumers, it's good for business. The proof is, we're leading in Canada in economic growth. Tax revenues are up significantly - that can't be argued - and there is no question that is due to the tax cuts.
It took a while. When I was first involved in the campaign, I had to be convinced, not by my party, not by people in my own circles, but knocking on doors I actually came across two economists who invited me in and explained the whole Laffer curve and how this would occur. There is absolutely no question that the way it was predicted by our party, the way it was predicted by these economists, has fallen in place. It really does work, and there is no question as you look at the tax revenues that are coming into this province.
Why is Ontario doing so well? There are many reasons Ontario is doing well: We have lower interest rates, we have lower payroll taxes, we have lower income tax and we're going to have in Ontario the lowest income tax across Canada when we get the full 30% rolled in. We've reduced significantly the red tape in this province, and what's even better is that we have scrapped the NDP job-killing labour legislation. That's good news for Ontario and it's good news for Northumberland.
In Northumberland we have a lot of people, a lot of investors, a lot of companies that are interested in relocating and setting up their business, their company, in the county of Northumberland. What I find rather disappointing is that we have to compete with other provinces that have literally unlimited access to federal dollars through employment insurance dollars and transfer dollars that we don't have. We're the only province that does not have an agreement with the federal government on employment insurance transfer dollars for training purposes.
It boils down to the fact that they are using dollars from Ontario, transferred to other provinces by the federal government, to attract business away from Ontario to those provinces, and it's the federal Liberals that have been doing this. The 101 of the 103 MPs, the federal members who represent Ontario, that's what they're doing to help our province. I guess that's typical of Liberals when you really look at it. There's no question Ontario is on the right track. There's no question we have the right policies for economic development and to be able to compete globally.
If you look, recently, in November, there were some 13,000 new jobs created, and 4,300 of those new jobs were for youth employment. Unemployment in the month of November actually dropped 0.1%, from 8.5% to 8.4%. In the last nine months we have created in Ontario 204,000 net new jobs in the private sector. Those represent 63% of the total new jobs that have been created in all of Canada.
I think it's interesting to note that there are jobs out there. There's no question there are many jobs out there. One of the problems we have with our unemployed workforce is they do not have the skills that are required for those jobs being advertised. Let me give you an example: In the Ottawa Valley, which is now being referred to as the Silicon Valley of the north, there are some 3,000 jobs in the computer technology sector. We do not have people with the skills to go into those jobs. It's most unfortunate that our young people have not taken the math required to go into those kinds of computer activities.
I'm told that in this province, when unemployment gets down to the 8% level, companies start looking outside of Ontario to find the right skills. I think that's unfortunate, and it may be a reflection on the kind of training we have in this province.
I'm sure that many in the opposition read the Toronto Star this past weekend and read some of the articles about the 1,000 young people who were interviewed. These young people were between the ages of 18 and 30. They listed a very large number of jobs in those articles that are unfilled. Why are they unfilled? Because of the lack of skills in our young people to be able to fill those jobs.
The second is health care, and that to me is pretty clear-cut as well, as we look at the large percentage of seniors we have in our province, and certainly it's going to be higher, particularly as the baby-boomers move into the age 65 in another 12 to 15 years or so. I thought it was interesting in an article in the Globe and Mail this past summer they were saying that of all the people in the world who have ever reached the age of 65 and over, two thirds of those people are living today. That gives you some indication of the aging of our population and the number of people our health care system is going to be responsible for and have to look after in the future.
The third area that was mentioned is that of leisure industries, and I think it's interesting to note that with the amount of free time that people now have, particularly in retirement, this would be a great area for our young people to get into, and certainly I would think it would be a very enjoyable sector to be involved in. It would be important for guidance departments to be fully aware of this and direct our students accordingly so that when they do get some training in our secondary schools, our colleges and our universities, they will have the kinds of skills being looked for by employers in Ontario.
There's no question that they're going to have to compete in the marketplace in Ontario, and certainly that marketplace, those companies, those organizations, are going to have to deal with a global economy. We can't hide behind trade barriers any longer. We must be prepared to compete globally, and when we compete globally, then there's competition within the province.
New development in any area is a great thermometer on the economy and what's happening in the economy. In Ontario we have one of the strongest new home starts that has been seen for a long time. Why is this happening here in the province and particularly in my riding? The reason is, again, interest rates are low and consumer confidence is up like it has never been before. There are all kinds of indications of confidence of the consumer. People are no longer worried about their jobs like they were a few years ago. They are feeling comfortable that there will be employment in the future. It's also up because of the rebate of the land transfer tax. People are finding it easier because of less tax when they buy a new home.
In Northumberland the construction and new development is up in new homes, up in condominiums and up in retirement complexes. In Cobourg, for example, there is the new Amherst development, some 1,600 homes, and once that is completed and up and running, that will represent to the town of Cobourg some $3.2 million annually in tax revenue. Also in Cobourg they have cleaned up the old harbourfront and with the condominiums, it's a very attractive area of that town. In Brighton there's a retirement complex that's booming along with some 800 units. In Campbellford there's another retirement complex going in for some 110 people.
In Northumberland we're no longer seeing the real estate For Sale signs sitting out there for months on end and years on end, but rather we're seeing real estate signs that say Sold. That has been quite a change in the last year or so from what was going on for the last five years, in the early 1990s.
Building permits are up. For example, in Cobourg already they have some 225 building permits. Last year at this time they had 200 and that was way up from the year before. In Hamilton township, which is the township that surrounds Cobourg to the north, their building permits have doubled this year over last year, and last year was up significantly from the year before.
The reason so much development is occurring is that more people are working. Again, as I have mentioned, consumer confidence is up. Consumers have more money to spend, and that is due to the tax cuts, and the conditions of development are certainly very favourable. We have lower interest rates, better working relationships with management and labour like we never had under the NDP government. We have reduced the red tape, we have reduced the barriers to growth, and there are incentives in the Tenant Protection Act to get people out building apartments and condominiums for people to live in. The rent control of the past did not work.
In conclusion, I'm very pleased to report that the reforms we have been carrying out over the last two and a half years are working, and they are working extremely well. This party listened before the election, and we were told very clearly that the status quo was not an option. Since the election, we have also been consulting. It has probably been the most consultative government that this province has ever seen. Never before has a government gone out with three bills in advance of the first reading and walked them around Ontario, consulting with people across this province to find out their opinions. That was before the first reading. It never happened before.
Education reform: With the bills that recently were put through, Bill 160 and the one previous, the Fewer School Boards Act, there was extensive consultation prior to those two bills being brought in.
I have personally been involved for almost two and a half years, well over two years, with environmental regulatory reform. Extensive consultation was carried out with that exercise, and it was rolled out 10 days ago and there was hardly a comment in the paper, because of the consultation that we carried out. We have it worked out with environmentalists. We have it worked out with industry. It's good news for industry and it's good news for the environmentalists, and that's why you didn't see a whole lot of negative comments about that particular rollout in the press. I guess it's pretty hard to get good press when it's good news. It's only great press when you have bad news, so obviously what we came out with was pretty good news in connection with the environmental regulatory reform.
This province has been making some very tough decisions. This government has been prepared to stand up and make those decisions. We have implemented policy changes to make Ontario a safer, a healthier and a more prosperous province, one that's better to live and work and invest in and one that's better to raise a family in.
Mr Mike Colle (Oakwood): I should mention perhaps the traffic jam in Windsor as a result of all of the ambulances trying to get to an emergency because the emergency department has been closed in Windsor and people are scrambling to find a place to take their loved ones when they're sick. That's why you have traffic jams in Windsor, because of dislocation in the health field.
Just like in my riding of Oakwood, here's a government that's closed down a modern hospital, Northwestern hospital, a state-of-the-art facility. This is the legacy of the Mike Harris government: closing down a hospital that served a community for 50 years, that the community built by raising dollars, $5 door to door. This government comes along and smashes it down, closes it. Now it's just totally empty. This is what the people in Oakwood think of this government.
One of the first things this government did is it went in there arbitrarily and shut down the construction of the Eglinton subway without consultation. They talked to nobody. They closed it down and they spent $60 million filling in the hole for the subway. If they had continued to build that subway, it would have been built by now. Talk about jobs; talk about economic opportunity. That subway would have been built today. People would have been going on the Eglinton subway to work, to the airport. That's where they would have been going. This government was so backward, was so negative, it shut down the subway and spent $60 million shutting it down. That's what the people of Oakwood think of this government.
They also know that this government shut down the only outlet of the MTO issuing licences. The LCBO was shut down by this government because this government only cares about very particular parts of the economy. Their well-to-do friends do very well; they're very happy with this government. But the vast majority of Ontarians are very upset and hurt by this government.
This is a government that is going to close 10 hospitals in Metro. They are going to shut down Women's College Hospital, one of the best women's hospitals in the world. This government is proud of that. And they claim to have listened, consulted? This government consults with a sledgehammer. They go and do their business with a sledgehammer. They're a sledgehammer government that says, "No matter what you say, we're going to do it anyway."
We've just seen this with Bill 160. Teachers and parents and students across this province said, "No, we don't want centralized control of education out of some back room at Queen's Park." They said it over and over again. The teachers risked their livelihoods going on the picket lines. The parents supported the teachers. This government says: "I don't care. We're right. Our backroom whiz kids are always right. We're going to close down education in this province and we're going to take another $667 million out of our classrooms."
This government listens? This government takes time to hear people? It doesn't. It does whatever it's told to do by the backroom whiz kids, who are accountable to no one. They do not ever come to this place. You never see them on television. They are hidden behind the walls. As that fine Liberal newspaper, the Globe and Mail, said, it's the walls of the Harris Kremlin. That's where they hide. That's where they make their decisions to close hospitals, to take money out of education. That's what this Kremlin bunch is doing. They are basically destroying. They are not consulting; they are not listening. They are on a mission of destruction. They are on a mission of total control.
These are supposed to be Conservatives. How can they sit here and pass bill after bill after bill without ever asking, why is this bigger government better? By the time they get through here, you're going to have one of the biggest governments in the free world, because they are centralizing power. They are centralizing all the decision-making into the little Kremlin that controls everything. This is one of the largest governments that will exist, and it will be controlled by regulation. This is not a government by legislation.
If you look at their bills, they're large enough: Bills 160, 164, all these bills. Then they have a mountain of regulatory powers where some backroom whiz kid can do anything he or she wants in a closed room because these bills give them unprecedented regulatory powers never seen in this province or any province in this country of ours. This is the legacy of this government that is totally arbitrary, that never listened when the people of Metropolitan Toronto said they didn't want the megacity. They did it anyway. Bill 160, they did it anyway.
Now with the casinos, 450,000 people said they don't want neighbourhood casinos in every corner of Metropolitan Toronto. What does this government do? The Premier says: "We don't care what they said in the referendums during the municipal election. We're going to give them casinos anyway because we made this sweetheart deal with our friends in Las Vegas and our backroom boys. We're going to plunk another 40-odd casinos down your throats whether you like it or not."
This is a government that listens? Some 450,000 people voted no to casinos. They don't want them. There are enough casinos. The ones in Niagara Falls and Windsor are fine. We don't want casinos in every neighbourhood sucking money from the most desperate, the most vulnerable. We know who those people will be. Who will get hurt? It will be the kids, because this government is hell-bent on extracting another $1 billion through casinos so it can pay for its crazy tax cut.
They talk about how great this economy is doing? They're riding the coattails of the lowest interest rates in recent memory. They didn't bring about the low interest rates. They're riding those coattails. Therefore, we're getting all kinds of business from the United States. We're able to export more; our economy is doing well. They're always ready to take credit and ride the coattails of what the federal government does but never give any credit. They take all the credit for this economy.
I say to you, Mr Speaker, that despite the stupidity of the tax cut, the Ontario economy has bounced back, but it hasn't bounced back for everybody. It has not bounced back for the majority of Ontarians who are still getting fired, who are still getting laid off. I just talked to a person from Maple Leaf Foods who got taken out of her job by the security people. They said, "You've got five minutes to leave." This is the legacy of this government, how people don't have any job security.
You talk about consumer confidence? It's about half a centimetre thick and a mile wide. Consumer confidence will explode at any time because they know that this government has given unbridled power to big business.
It's sort of ironic. You pick up the paper: banks, $7.2 billion in profit. That's over the other $5 billion they made the last quarter. It's not to say all banks are bad, but on the other hand, why not share the wealth a bit? Why not spread that around so the banks can hire some of our young people? Instead, you go to a bank now and all you see are these machines. You're lucky if you find two human beings working in the bank. This is the legacy of this government. It's a government by machine. It's a government by arbitrary measures that has no room for little people.
Sure the big companies - the big oil companies, the big banks - are making money by the barrelful. The stock market on Bay Street is doing fantastic. You go down on Bay Street and the speculators are happy, but if you go down and talk to someone on Main Street - go to Main Street, I say. Talk to people on Main Street. They're not doing well like the banks. They're not speculating in the stock market. They still have to pay a mortgage. They still have to pay for those Hydro bills.
As you know now, we hear that this government is going to increase rates for hot water heaters. This is what this government is going to do: increase rates by up to 40% on your hot water. That's how desperate they are to take money out of little people's pockets. But the big guys:, "Oh, Jeez, no, we don't touch the big banks. We don't touch our friends at the oil companies. We don't touch Consumers' Gas. But oh, we'll allow them to raise the hot water rate 40%." What is it going to mean to that little person who has to pay their mortgage, their property tax, their heat and light? This government doesn't care about those people. They say, "Oh, well, the economy is doing great."
I think what we're talking about here is an economy that has to include everyone. Too many people are being left out, too many people who supposedly don't have the skills. But I'll tell you what they do have: They've got the will to work. Most Ontarians are willing to work; they're desperate to work. But they're not going to work if you've got this attitude of always downsizing, laying people off, closing down subway projects. That's what this government is doing.
There would have been 12,000 people working on the Eglinton subway. Did this government care about those 12,000 people building an Eglinton subway that would have gotten rid of the traffic jams? No. They arbitrarily shut down that project and never gave a tinker's dam for the people who would have been working on that subway. They don't care, as I said, about the little working person who is trying to pay a mortgage or pay the rent.
Talking about paying the rent, they've just taken away rent control. Come the new year, people all across Ontario will not have rental protection. Talk about feeling comfortable over Christmas. Everybody is going to be worried about "How high is my rent going to be? Am I going to be evicted? Is my apartment going to be converted to a condo?" That is the fear and loathing of this government. That's the reality that people feel.
Not the big shots on Bay Street; I'm talking about the little person who lives in an apartment or a little home. They don't like you guys and they're saying: "Slow down. Think of the little people for a change and just stop protecting the big guys. They've got it good, they're taken care of. Now take care of the little people." The big fat cats are doing fine; it's the little guy who needs help.
Mr Tony Martin (Sault Ste Marie): I want to pick up a bit on some of what the previous member has just elaborated on in the House and follow up particularly on the deputy leader of our party, who led off this debate for us and spoke about the lack of democracy here in this Legislature and around Ontario today.
We're speaking this afternoon on concurrence. There are a number of ministries under review that we're going to put some thoughts on the record about, but we as a caucus have chosen to focus today on the Premier's office, which is the epitome of the autocratic nature of the government we have in Ontario today.
I think it's important for all of us at this juncture in the legislative year to take some time to reflect and to think back on what has happened over this past year and past two and a half years, particularly as this government has wielded power, and to put it in the context of how a democracy has evolved in Ontario over a large number of years through various stripes of politician and personality here in this place.
In Ontario we always prided ourselves on being exemplary when it came to the way we included people in decisions we made and tried to have the system of government that we embraced evolve, as opposed to the kind of revolution we've seen in the last two and a half years. If we focus today for a few minutes on the power that particularly this government has placed in the hands of the Premier and a few minions around him, we begin to understand why there is so much anxiety out there in the land.
We as a caucus have just recently, particularly in northern Ontario, undertaken to go out and listen to people, to hear what they have to say about what is going on in their lives, in the lives of their neighbours, in the lives of their family members and in the lives of the communities in which they live. They have lots to tell us. There's lots of energy, anxiety and concern out there. We hear the gamut of specific concerns, but overall, and most importantly and overwhelmingly, we hear from the people in places like, for example, Elliot Lake, where the member for Algoma and I were last Thursday night.
Mr John R. Baird (Nepean): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I wonder if it's against the standing orders and I seek your guidance. A quorum was called just a few moments ago and a number of Liberal members went running out of the room so they wouldn't be counted for a quorum. Is that permissible under the orders?
Mr Martin: When I was interrupted for a quorum - and I think it's important that we have people in the House when we speak on these issues, and it's the government's responsibility to make sure we have quorum here. I believe when they counted, there were five of them in the House.
Anyway, I was saying that this is a government that has developed a bad habit of not listening, of not having any respect for the democratic processes we've collectively put in place over the years as a jurisdiction, as a community of people, to make the laws that govern all of us. When governments don't listen, a number of things happen, including that they are usually not re-elected and the legislation they put in place is usually tainted, it's bad, it turns out to be not in the best interests of the people it was intended to serve.
We've seen instance after instance in this House where the government has come in and rammed through a bill only to find out later that there were major flaws in it, and then not only were they stuck with it but, more important, the people out there in the communities of this province were stuck with it and the impact it has on their lives and the lives of their neighbours. If they had only been respectful of the process, which is a process of consultation, a process of committee hearings and having people in and involving the best minds out there getting their heads around these things, putting together different scenarios, impact studies, that kind of thing wouldn't happen.
I have some respect for some of the members across the way in the government. They're good people and they want to do the right thing. But I'm afraid you won't be back again, because you belong to a government that isn't listening, that's ramming things through, that's in a big hurry. As I said a few minutes ago, I was in Elliot Lake on Thursday night last, and people are telling us that you're just not listening to them. You're not indicating to them that you're concerned or that you hear what they have to say, and so what you're doing ultimately will not be in their best interests, and they know that.
The question then that comes to my mind when we talk about a government that isn't listening is, who are they listening to? Who is it that's influencing this government? Who is it that Mike Harris puts his faith in? Who is it that got together this small group of people to put together, for example, the Common Sense Revolution? Who designed that document? Who drafted that document? Who had input into it and who ultimately, at the end of the day, had input into the evolution of that as it became law and legislation in this place?
Even some of the members of the government have been heard to say over the last couple of months that they're concerned as well that all of the power that this government wields is in the corner office down on the first floor here, or the second floor here, in the Premier's office, and that's a concern. It should be a concern. The sixth floor in the Whitney -
Mr Martin: He's got two offices, apparently, because he has consolidated so much power in his own hands and in the hands of the people who advise him that now, where before a Premier had one office, this Premier has two offices in two buildings.
Who are they listening to? Here's an example of somebody they're listening to. Just recently, Howard Hampton, the leader of the New Democratic Party in this House, raised the question of one Stewart Braddick. Does that ring a bell for you, a guy by the name of Stewart Braddick, hired to the Premier's office as director of organization, a person with, as it says here, a long and coloured employment history? He was a former staffer of Brian Mulroney. He then took the skills he learned from that government to the BC Liberals, where he was forced to resign. This is one of the guys who's advising your Premier. This is one of the people you've hired to advise you and to tell you how to do business. These are the people who are running this province right now. It causes me great concern. I don't know about you, Speaker, but I'm sure that when the people out there hear who is behind the throne in this place, behind Mr Harris and the small group of people who run the place, they will have concern too.
It says here that he was forced to resign because he was responsible for a Liberal caucus mailing that broke the rules of the Legislative Assembly in BC. The mailing went across the province and was of an overtly partisan political nature. It seems -
Mr Martin: It's always been my experience in life that when you start to tell the truth and it hurts somebody else or somebody else feels a pinch, they begin to squeal. In this place from time to time the government starts to squeal, and we know that we're probably hitting a nerve or telling a truth that is beginning to hurt. It seems in this instance, whenever you mention some of the names of the people in the back room in Mike Harris's palatial office over in the Whitney Block, they get real nervous and they start to get real anxious. Some of them are even sweating over there a little bit if you look close enough.
I was talking about Mr Braddick. As some of you will remember, it was raised in the House here. He was in charge of a $1-million abuse in the BC Liberal caucus before he came to work for Mike Harris. He organized for British Columbia a million-dollar taxpayer ripoff. That's what it was called. This is one of the people who is advising Mike Harris in his office.
Mr Martin: Yes, Tom Long. He's a 39-year-old guy who campaigned in 1976 for Ronald Reagan in his unsuccessful attempt to take the presidential nomination away from Gerald Ford and who worked in the Prime Minister's office for that master of fiscal and social responsibility, Brian Mulroney. Does anybody remember Brian Mulroney?
Mr Martin: Yes? Tom Long was "hired in 1989 by Conrad Black" - interestingly enough, Conrad Black's first noteworthy entrepreneurial act was the selling of stolen examinations at Upper Canada College - "to work for the Dominion Stores division of his empire; shortly before creating a job for Long, Black had systematically ravaged the once-dominant Dominion grocery chain by selling off its capital, laying off thousands of its workers and looting their pension fund." Tom Long worked for Conrad Black and together they cooked up that scheme.
Mr Martin: Somewhere along the line he probably was. This is a guy who is now advising, or did advise, the Premier and was part of developing the Common Sense Revolution. These are the kind of people we have.
Mr Wildman: Mr Speaker, on a new point of order: I'm sure as you listen carefully to the debate you will realize that one of the expenditures in which we are concurring is for the Premier's office. I believe the member for Sault Ste Marie is speaking about the Premier's office and its staff.
Mr Martin: The member for Algoma is absolutely right: I'm speaking about some of the people who work for Mike Harris in his office. That happens to be the Premier's office, just in case the member doesn't understand that. You should get a handle on what's going on here and who actually is in charge and running the shop.
Mr Martin: What about Leslie Noble? "Campaigned in 1978 for New York Congressman Jack Kemp" - is there a pattern developing here? Is there a bit of a trend? - "an ardent free-marketer and eventual vice-presidential candidate on the Bob Dole ticket in the 1996 American federal election; self-employed co-owner of Strategy Corp, a private public relations company located in the Ernst and Young Tower in downtown Toronto; played a major role in the drafting of the Common Sense Revolution document; co-ran Mike Harris' successful 1995 provincial election campaign; regarded as the conciliator of the Harris election team." It goes on.
What about Bill Young? "Bill Young, CEO of Consumers' Distributing, was an important contributor to the Common Sense Revolution document. A rugged individualist whose company took advantage of a government social program known as bankruptcy protection. Young high-tailed it over the border after Consumers' went belly-up; last seen working as a consultant in Cambridge, Massachusetts. As one journalist wag commented, `Apparently, there was not enough "dynamic growth in new jobs" in Harris' Ontario to keep him here.'"
What about Jamie Watt? "Jamie Watt, advertising whiz and former press liaison for Mike Harris, was in his younger days caught trying to shore up his Oakville-based clothing business with forged cheques amounting to $16,000. Fortunately" - and Mr Runciman would be interested in this - "this occurred before the establishment of boot camps; our Jamie served out his time in relative comfort and brevity; 20 nights in jail, with freedom during the days, at a minimum security penal institution."
What about Deb Hutton? There's a name that should ring a bell. Her claim to fame is around one issue that she was supposedly managing: "adviser to Mike Harris, is a central figure in events leading to the fatal shooting of...Dudley George during an Ontario Provincial Police light-brigade-style charge on unarmed aboriginal occupiers of sacred burial grounds at Ipperwash Park in 1995. According to the minutes whose existence the province at first denied, the OPP were instructed at a crucial government meeting - Hutton was present as representative of the Premier's office - to remove the natives from Ipperwash quickly and in the best way they knew how. Until legally compelled to produce the minutes, Queen's Park also denied that any OPP action regarding Ipperwash was discussed at the meeting. Despite all that, and the subsequent charging of the OPP killer of George with criminal negligence, calls for a public inquiry into the Ipperwash affair and Hutton's specific role in it - about which she has been silent - have so far been denied. Compare this to the Harris administration's haste to set up a probe into last year's much less serious clash between OPSEU picketers and the same OPP," and the haste that was taken to also bring my colleague, Peter Kormos, to court over an incident at the family support plan office.
Last but not least, let's take a look for just a second at a favourite of the member for St Catharines, the infamous Guy Giorno. Who is Guy Giorno? Who is this infamous minion in the back rooms of Premier Mike Harris's office? This is just a little brief titbit on Guy. From the people I talked to, he's a bit of a legal lackey.
"Guy Giorno is a legal and policy adviser to Mike Harris and former lawyer with Hicks, Morley, a law firm specializing in, among other things, taking management's part against labour. Hicks, Morley's halcyon days were during the Davis era, when it had a lock on the job of conducting labour negotiations for the Conservative government. When this function was put out for proper tender under the Peterson and Rae governments, the firm was left out in the cold. But soon after Mike Harris' election victory Hicks, Morley was soon securely back in its former saddle. The Harris administration, without a formal tendering process, awarded the firm a $15,000-a-month contract to head up negotiations with the Ontario Public Sector Employees Union, (OPSEU) that eventually culminated in a bitter strike. Allegations of patronage swirled around Giorno, who had been given a paid leave of absence by Hicks, Morley to work on Harris' campaign. Finally, he was the one put in charge of assembling odious omnibus Bill 26."
These are just a few of the people, and some of their activities, who advise the Premier in this province today. These are the people who are talking to the Premier about pieces of legislation that affect the lives of all of us.
Mr Martin: I'm trying to explain to my colleagues in this place and I'm trying to explain to the people out there in Ontario who it is who is behind this government, who it is who occupies the Premier's office over in the Mowat Block or the Whitney Block in this precinct, who it is who is driving this agenda and why it is that this agenda, when it begins to show its head in the streets and the avenues of the communities we represent here, is so odious -
Mr Martin: - so repulsive, so destructive to people. It's because the people who are designing it are, in the first place, themselves of questionable character and of limited understanding of the politics of this and the impact that these initiatives are going to have on the lives of ordinary people, on the lives of families, on the lives of neighbourhoods and communities in this province. That's why I'm raising this issue and that's why I'm raising the names of these people in this place, so people out there will know -
Hon David Turnbull (Minister without Portfolio): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I believe that the blackening of character without any evidence is something which is very unparliamentary. I would suggest, if the member has something to say, that he take it outside of this House, where he's not protected, and repeat what he is saying and face the full consequences of the legal process.
The Acting Speaker: In actual fact, I would agree that is quite unparliamentary and I've heard that term from behind the member for Algoma as well. If anyone has anything they would like to withdraw, then I would give them this opportunity right now. The Chair recognizes the member for Sault Ste Marie.
Mr Martin: Thank you very much, Speaker. I obviously have touched a nerve across the way and generated some reaction. I think it's about time these folks were challenged to speak for what is going on in the Premier's office. You know, when you look at who is advising them and when you take some time to look even closer at who they are and where they come from and what they are about, you begin to understand why their initiatives are having such a terribly destructive impact on the people out there, women and children, families, the school system, the health care system, social services, you name it. There isn't a program or a group of people in Ontario that hasn't been affected in a very destructive and negative way.
I'm going to wrap up my few minutes here today by suggesting that this place should come back to the democracy it has responsibility for protecting and carrying through, the process we've all participated in, in very important ways. Let's look just for a second at some of the people who have been elected to this place over a long period of time and why this government doesn't respect their view, their opinion, the input they have to the various pieces of legislation this government is bringing forward.
I have to look no farther than at my colleague from Algoma. He's been in this place for about 22 years now, has been elected in every election since 1975 because he works on behalf of the people in his constituency, he listens to what they have to say, he brings their voice and their opinion to every piece of legislation that comes through this place, he participates very aggressively and energetically in the debate, and at the end of the day a smart government listens to what he has to say and incorporates it into the legislation that's passed.
Floyd Laughren, the dean of the place - how long has he been around here, 25 years, 26 years? - elected in every election since 1971, has the full support of his constituents, the respect of his constituents because he's a man who understands what democracy is about. He listens to the people who elected him. Before he came here he was an instructor at Cambrian College, he is the father of a number of children and is a grandfather. He is the kind of person you would have faith in, who you know would understand the needs of people and would give input that would be helpful to any government. Any government that would turn its back on that kind of advice I think does us all a tremendous disservice.
Let's look at one of the members of the government, at for example Gary Carr, a member who has now been sidelined, who has now been marginalized, who has now been pushed to the frontier of the government, and for what? For telling the truth, for speaking on behalf of his constituents, for challenging the government.
Mr Martin: No, he wasn't thrown out. That's about all that wasn't done to him. He was removed as a parliamentary assistant and kicked off a committee and a number of other things simply because he had the temerity to tell the truth and say it like he saw it. He's a married man with three kids, elected in 1990 and 1995 by his constituents. He's obviously done a good job of representing their view and their opinion, but he's no longer in the loop over there. He's no longer a friend of Guy Giorno and Tom Long.
Mr Martin: Yes, an excellent member in this place. Again, a father of four children. Elected in 1987, elected in 1990, elected again in 1995. He had a very distinguished public career in business. Why wouldn't Mike Harris want to listen to him? What is it that Guy Giorno has that Gerry Phillips doesn't have, that Floyd Laughren doesn't have, that Bud Wildman doesn't have, that Gary Carr doesn't have? Why is it they don't have any influence? Why is it guys like Guy Giorno and Tom Long and Leslie Noble and all the other minions who live in the office in the Whitney Block get so much say?
Mr Marchese: Just a couple of minutes to continue with where my colleague left off and to say, talking about concurrence as it relates to the Premier's office, he spent $2 million to renovate his office.
Mr Marchese: His second office even, I'm told. Two million bucks. This is the guy who has a scorched-earth policy as it relates to everybody else, every ministry you can think of, but he's got the money to renovate his office. He's building a cathedral as he creates a desert around him, a cathedral of $2 million as he exercises a scorched-earth policy on the rest of the province.
Mr Marchese: To the people who are listening, you've got to appreciate where this man's priorities are, where this party is, that it would condone the expenditure of $2 million at a time when people are seriously being hurt by this economy.
These boys stand up and talk about this great economy that they're generating. Some of these guys yesterday were talking about these jobs that they're creating making $50,000, $60,000, $70,000, $80,000 a year. I tell you, the young people that the Star is focusing on are saying: "We're unemployed. We're stuck with a big bill because governments like this have increased our tuition fees by 30%. We can't even find a job, except the little McJobs that are left." That's all they've got, the little jobettes, and these guys are saying, "We are creating thousands of jobs making $40,000, $50,000, $60,000, $70,000 a year." Would that these young university graduates had the ability, the opening, the window to have such jobs. The doors are closed to these young people.
What we need is a government, obviously, that wants to open some doors so these young men and women have the opportunity to be proud of who they are as human beings, proud to have a job. But not under this government. They're lucky to have a job, if at all, and if they do get it, it's at minimum pay. There's nothing good that we can say about this government.
The member for Oakwood talked about bank machines and losing jobs. That's got nothing to do with the provincial government. The fat cats are really in Ottawa, not in Ontario. The palatial office is hardly the case. We brought the offices in this Legislature up to 1985 standards because of the mess that I recall was left on the carpets by the last government. But that's doom and gloom; that's food for fodder. There was so much of that, you could carry it out on a pitchfork in a wheelbarrow and use it for fertilizer.
But I want to talk about the real, positive stuff that is going on in this province. The member for Muskoka said Ontario's economy has shifted gears from job recovery mode to job growth, that jobs are a key ingredient in boosting housing demand. But combine jobs with affordable mortgage-carrying costs, strengthen home resales, moderate inventories of newly completed and unoccupied homes and they suggest that housing starts should grow further.
My friend from Northumberland talked about traffic jams. But do you know what traffic jams are an indication of, Speaker? They are an indication of the economic barometer of this province. We have created -
Mr Spina: The member for Cochrane South, by the way, knows that more asphalt has been laid in northern Ontario this year in than the past seven years, particularly more than in the five years they said they were leading government.
I want to talk about the positive economic elements of this province. I got a fax an hour ago from Dennis Cutajar, the economic development officer of the city of Brampton. Employment has risen in October 1997 by 4,805 jobs in Brampton. They're not McJobs, as the people indicated, as the member for Fort York tried to tell us.
The reality is that 3,400 of them were created at Nortel - world headquarters for Northern Telecom - in Brampton, high-quality, good-paying professional jobs. Why did Northern Telecom locate to Brampton and Ontario? Because of the economy. They had a choice. Northern Telecom could have gone to Memphis, Tennessee, where they have a big facility. They could have gone to Belleville, which would have been just as good as Brampton - not for me, but certainly it was in Ontario. They have big operations in Ottawa, but they could have gone to Alberta; they didn't. They could've gone to Tennessee; they didn't. They came to Ontario because this is where it's happening.
Let's look at the other positive numbers. The unemployment rate in the Toronto area dropped from 9.2% to 8.1%. These are important numbers to share with the people of Ontario. Total construction values in Ontario have gone up 76.7% in Brampton. It jumped from $297 million last year to $526 million this year. Residential construction jumped from $191 million to $316 million, 65.3%, in Brampton. This is the astounding figure: The industrial construction value went from $36 million to $112 million, a 205.8% increase in construction value in the industrial unit; 2,612 units of residential housing started. The number of new homes built in the past 10 months exceeded all levels in the 1990s. If that isn't positive news, I don't know what is. That's the reality of the Ontario we live in now.
The member for Cochrane North talks about "the three lost years of the Harris government." Hey, folks, let's talk about the 10 lost years. The Liberals, for starters, had the hottest economy in the history of this country. What did they do? They doubled the public service, blew the taxpayers' dollars out the door. They raised taxes 32 times. Mr Peterson did that. The hottest economy. They had the opportunity to lower the debt of this province. What did they do? They doubled the debt in the five years they were in office, from 1985 to 1990.
I was pleased to see the Premier spoke to the Construction Canada show forum at the Metro Convention Centre on December 4. The Premier's comments were, and I just take a couple of excerpts, if I may, from his speech: "We're taking the steps to guarantee the growth of opportunities in the industries like construction, industries that we depend on for new investment, for jobs and growth, because when you start any construction project, you also build the economy. We all know how construction has a multiplier effect. It creates new jobs, new opportunities, not only in the building trades but also in a host of spinoff industries, and that has a tremendous positive effect on our entire economy."
We are talking about a concurrence bill here. A concurrence bill, if I understand it correctly, really has to do with releasing the funds to be able to fund the public service. I want to say a few words about the public service. I had the good fortune of being asked to speak to the northern development and mines staff ministry meeting a couple of weeks ago, in Sault Ste Marie, I might add. We brought a little economic development to the member's riding.
I was very happy to share with the members of the public service that it's important that we work together, because a government can set policy, a government can set direction, a government can set objectives and goals that we want to achieve while we are in office, but it's important that you have the support and the work of good, qualified, enthusiastic public servants. They are the ones who help to deliver the government's message effectively.
The people who do not agree and have not agreed with our direction and with running a good, positive, professional government service are gone. I'm pleased to see that the ones who are here are the ones who are here to implement a positive government public service. It's important that we work together as a team for the maximization of services to the provincial taxpayer.
I want to compliment people in the private sector, like my friends Mario and Severio Montemarano of Melody Homes and the Hollywood Princess Banquet Hall, people who have a solid commitment to economic growth in this province. That's what this is about.
Mr Gerretsen: Let's get one thing straight. Some people are better off than they were two years ago, no question about it, and there isn't a person in this province who wouldn't like a tax cut. The problem is, we can't afford a tax cut right now. That's the bottom line, for all you business types on the government side. I've got the proof here of why we cannot afford a tax cut. I see the member for Oxford shaking his head, but let's just take a look at it.
You are still increasing the public debt of this province. According to your own budget document, we will be going from $100 billion, which is where it was when you took over, to $118 billion by the year 2000. Even this year we are adding $6 billion to the public debt. It doesn't make any sense to start giving people tax cuts when we still have an annual deficit and when we are still increasing the public debt of this province.
Let's took a look at what the interest actually costs us on a yearly basis. In the current year we anticipate paying $9.1 billion in interest payments on the public debt, which is $2 billion more than we paid two and a half years ago. How can you possibly justify, on any economic basis, that we're paying $2 billion more just on the interest on the debt and still give people a tax cut at the same time?
There are some people who are doing better than they were two years ago, than they were three years ago, but there are an awful lot of people who are not doing as well. Let's talk about some of these people who aren't doing as well. Let's talk about the most vulnerable in our society. I would like to mention again what I questioned the Minister of Health on today, and that is the closing of the Community Crisis Centre and the community activity centre for the mentally ill in my own riding of Kingston and The Islands.
Let me tell you a little bit about the agony some of these people are feeling. I'm talking about 160 people or so for whom this centre has become a home over the last 10 or 15 years and who now literally don't have a place to go, people who live, in many cases, in boarding-houses, and the only place they could get some self-esteem, get some of their good feelings back, was through the community activities in these centres.
I'll quote from a letter that was written today to my local newspaper, the Kingston Whig-Standard, by one of these people, Phyllis Sparks. I will just read some of the paragraphs, and then you make the decision whether you feel the Minister of Health did the right thing. She states as follows:
"What the provincial government has done to the Community Crisis Centre is not fair to the centre and its clients. The government should have given the centre and its clients more notice that the centre was to be closed. This would have given the centre time to talk with its clients and let them know what the Ministry of Health was doing.
"The government is in the wrong for not giving the centre and its clients any notice of the closure. It just walked in, closed the building and gave them only so many hours to get what they needed. There are people in the community who had only the centre for support. Now they don't have it any more....
"Some people could lose their lives over this closure." Think about that for a moment. "The Community Crisis Centre was there for people like us to reach out to for help. If you want a better city, stop what is being done to people's lives. The government is hurting a lot of people.
"If the people who made this decision" - and that's the Minister of Health and the ministry staff - "are concerned, they should show it by stopping what they're doing. Leave everything alone. I'm letting them know how I feel and how concerned I am because I am one of the people they are affecting. That is why I'm writing this letter.
That is just one letter. I was at a meeting last Friday where dozens of these people were present, and they were not only concerned; they were crying, they were anxious, because their home has literally been taken away from them.
"We live in barbaric times." That's how it starts. "How else to explain the sudden closing of two Kingston crisis centres and the blunt, uncaring treatment of their clients and staff by the Ontario Ministry of Health?
"Ministry personnel moved in like storm troopers last Thursday on the Kingston Clubhouse Activity Centre on Barrie Street and the Community Crisis Centre on Brock Street. At the Clubhouse, staff were dismissed with just four hours' notice, the centre was shut down, door locks were changed and security guards were posted outside.
"At a public meeting the next day, [a] ministry bureaucrat...explained the turn of events this way: `It's not a perfect thing to do. You can do it over a long period, or you can do it quickly. Whether it's easier to do it quickly, you can dispute that. It's been done.'"
"Efficiencies may have been necessary for these community agencies. That is not an issue, as long as alternatives were being made available to these clients and they had some input into future decisions. But the manner in which the closings were carried out was reprehensible and disrespectful."
That's how the community feels about it. That's your bully government and the bully tactics you're employing. That's the kind of anger, anxiety and tearfulness that you have caused in a awful lot of individuals. So don't tell me about how good some people are doing. We all agree with that. But we also agree that when governments get elected, they get elected to govern for all the people of Ontario and not just for those who support a particular government.
It's very interesting. I'm reading a book right now called Beyond Greed, A Traditional Conservative Confronts Neo-Conservative Excess, and it's written by Hugh Segal. Hugh Segal is a Kingstonian, a man I know well, a man I've worked with on a number of different campaigns etc. Let's just see what he has to say about the neo-conservative revolution with which your government is totally and absolutely rampant.
Mr Gerretsen: No, no. He is saying: "Unlimited polarity and class division lead to the easy dismissal of opposing views as somehow of lesser value or from lesser people or of causes that are of lesser merit. Neo-conservatives" - and I'm sure he's talking about your government - "are masters at this, belittling the source of any contrary opinion, rather than engaging on the substance of the argument as equals. Their opponents are morally deficient, or insufficiently Christian, or, in the new neo-con construct, intellectually somehow more narrow or shallow.
"The more traditional conservative view, which seeks not to polarize but to unite, seeks merit in opposing arguments so as to reconcile. It disdains artificial or hyped polarity, because division for its own sake serves no purpose. Conservatism embraces the enterprise-based economic model, but as only one aspect of the larger truth. It does not see polarization as a valid route to electoral victory. And it values cooperation as a sinew of hope not an admission of weakness....
"What they" - you neo-conservatives - "fail to understand - or worse do understand and don't care about - is the damage to all economic models the end of citizenship will bring. The end of citizenship is the end of stability. The end of citizenship...leads inexorably to the end of civility. The victory of the forces of polarity means the defeat of moderation and common enterprise."
From what I've seen around here from this government for the last two and a half years, you fit that model precisely. You are the neo-conservatives, and one of these days, in the next election, the people of Ontario are going to say, "There is a better way." We don't have to antagonize every group, particularly the most vulnerable in our society. We don't have to do it that way. We can govern Ontario for all the people of Ontario. The economic truth that you people seem to think is out there somehow isn't the only aspect of society. I would suggest that you read this and see if you can see yourselves in the mirror.
This comes from one of your guys, Hugh Segal, a well-known Tory, but unfortunately he certainly isn't anything like you Tories. I shouldn't say "unfortunately"; fortunately for him because I wouldn't wish that on anybody.
The point I'm simply trying to make is that the mere fact that the economy may be looking good to some people and they may actually be better off than they were a couple of years ago isn't the totality of the reality for what we call Ontario. Show a little bit of compassion. Show a little bit of understanding to the less fortunate in our society.
As we have just experienced in Kingston, the closing of these two crisis centres I think is probably the best example of your bullying tactics, your bulldozing kind of behaviour. You could say it was the officials who were doing it. We all know they acted on the leadership of the minister involved, and the minister should take responsibility for it and actually do something about it.
Mr John C. Cleary (Cornwall): I'm pleased to participate in the debate. I want to talk about health issues in my riding. I can recall that when Jim Wilson was in opposition and then he became Minister of Health later on, he was always complaining about dialysis, how his residents had to travel miles and miles for dialysis treatment. His problem is solved, but ours in Cornwall is still not solved.
Eighteen months ago the Minister of Health promised dialysis for Cornwall. Because Minister Wilson and his staff had not been thorough and efficient and selected a provider that was under investigation in the United States, the next 16 months were spent in a legal battle. In August of this year, the court proceedings finally concluded. The minister still couldn't act, saying instead that we would have to wait 30 days. The 30 days passed, another 30 days passed and another 30 days have passed. That's over three months. It's the end of the proceedings and it's been 18 months since the minister first made his announcement.
Now we have a new minister. I spoke to her on many, many occasions and I understand she is sincere and that she is trying to speed up the process to get the dialysis opened in my riding so that many of our residents from eastern Ontario will not have to do the travelling and put up with the severe weather conditions and all. People are still frustrated and they come into my office every week complaining, and some of them are almost at the stage of giving up. The situation is getting much worse because more of the residents are needing the dialysis. They come from three or four ridings in eastern Ontario. At this point the patients have to travel to Ottawa or Kingston and it's a three-hour trip. They have to do that three times a week under severe weather conditions.
The government must live up to the promise it made last April. The patients in my area need dialysis, and the reason they can't get it locally is that the government did not have its act together. I'm a firm believer that if they would put their heads together, this could happen much faster.
I don't like being a member of this Legislature and making patients the victims of inadequate service. In fact, last week a brother of one of my constituents was in the office and he said he was going to give up because he cannot afford the trip, that he cannot stand it, it's too hard on his nerves and he's putting his family at risk. I pleaded with him not to give up, not to quit, at least to give the government another month, because I know there couldn't be a better Christmas present for the residents of my riding who depend on dialysis than to have units set up where they could get dialysis treatment locally. There are many, not only from my riding but from S-D-G, Prescott-Russell and all over eastern Ontario. I know this government told all the residents there would be savings in the health care system and the dialysis would come, but we're not getting it. I'm very disappointed, as are many of the residents.
The other thing I would like to talk a little bit about is the downloading that happened with the provincial highways in eastern Ontario. A provincial highway that runs right from the Quebec border to Highway 2 has been downloaded on the county system, with only a third of the money to go along with that. I don't know where those counties are going to pick up those extra dollars, and there are millions of dollars, to upgrade those highways.
It's all right to talk about all the tax breaks and all the good things, but the poor municipal people, with the legislation that has passed, are in real trouble. Between that and the dialysis, those are big issues in my riding. If this government would get moving, the dialysis could be in Cornwall shortly and help the residents a lot.
Mr Bradley: I simply want to take the opportunity in the last couple of minutes to emphasize what the members have had to say. On many occasions the member for Cornwall has raised the issue in this House and in other places of the need for dialysis right across the province, and certainly for the people in eastern Ontario.
I've also heard him mention St Lawrence Parks and the jobs opportunities that would be available at St Lawrence Parks if the government were to reopen them and have them in full use. It would be good for tourist purposes and for jobs purposes, and I've also heard him mention, with a lot of justification, the real problem of the downloading of roads that all of us have across the province. Certainly John Cleary, the member for Cornwall, has raised this on many occasions, first of all the maintenance of the roads, where there were potholes in the potholes last year along the 401 in eastern Ontario, but also the downloading of responsibilities in his part of the province for roads which were a provincial jurisdiction and are now a local jurisdiction.
I was pleased to see him once again in this venue, as he has in so many other venues, raise the issue. I'm simply surprised that the government has not responded in a more timely and comprehensive fashion to the pleas of the member for Cornwall to have appropriate dialysis service in his area so that people don't have to go long distances and perhaps place their health and ultimately their lives in jeopardy by the lack of these adequate services.
I want to commend him for raising these important issues for the people of Cornwall and the surrounding area. They are ones which all of us can appreciate are of significance, just as you would know, Mr Speaker, in the Niagara Peninsula people are calling our constituency offices now asking why we're seeing cutbacks in the home care services that are available, because they are now kicking people out of the hospitals. As a result of the Harris policy of underfunding hospitals, they're now kicking people out of hospitals more quickly and more sickly. As a result of that, people have to re-enter the hospital on many occasions, and when they have to have services at home, I can tell you, as you would know in Etobicoke - you're probably getting calls now - people are saying, "Why would you be cutting back on those services at a time when the government is giving away a huge tax cut to the wealthiest people in our society?"
I believe the time has come for a vote on concurrences this afternoon. I wish there were much more time, but there isn't more time, so I will acquiesce to the Chair and we will have a vote on the concurrences. I'm sure it will be an interesting one.