MUNICIPAL AMENDMENT ACT (BY-LAWS RESPECTING DRESS CODES), 1997 / LOI DE 1997 MODIFIANT LA LOI SUR LES MUNICIPALITÉS EN CE QUI CONCERNE DES RÈGLEMENTS MUNICIPAUX RELATIVEMENT À DES NORMES DE TENUE VESTIMENTAIRE
Mr Gary Fox (Prince Edward-Lennox-South Hastings): I move that, in the opinion of this House, the government of Ontario should disallow the undemocratic requirement of mandatory fee checkoff by trade unions for those casual, probationary or contract employees who do not benefit from union membership but are still required to pay union dues. In addition, I move that union members be allowed to refuse to contribute to union-specific political parties or causes.
I agree that a trade union representing employees in the bargaining unit should be allowed to enter into an agreement with the employer and have regular mandatory union dues deducted from each employee in the unit who will benefit by the collective agreement. However, I do not agree that those casual, probationary or contract employees who do not benefit from the protection of a union should be required to pay mandatory union dues.
I feel that we have lost sight of the function of a union. Throughout time the role and mandate of unions has grown into the broader realm of political and social activists. Their power and position has escalated to the degree that they dictate which political parties their unions will support or protest against.
Historically, when a labour union tried to organize a plan, it would encourage as many employees as possible to become members of the union. Unions found it difficult to cover their expenses and, consequently, they exerted pressure on employers to agree to deduct union dues from an employee's pay and forward them to the union. Many employers agreed that union membership should be a matter of individual conscience and decision.
As a compromise, Ivan C. Rand, former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, drew up the Rand formula, which requires all employees covered by the collective agreement to pay dues to the union whether they are members of the union or not. This compulsory dues checkoff has allowed organized labour to collect over $1 billion a year from Canadian workers.
Talk to union leaders about the need for democratic reforms in the labour movement and you'll be told that at every level unions are the most democratic institutions in the country. Talk to the rank-and-file workers, however, and you'll get a different response. Interestingly, a survey released in the spring of 1997 reveals that a growing number of Canadians would like to see union practices become more open.
A poll conducted by the Angus Reid Group showed that 57% of Canadians approve unions, but 90% do not believe union membership should be a condition of employment. A further 80% do not agree that a worker, once hired, should be required to join the union chosen by the majority of workers. This poll also showed that 61% of respondents believe that both union membership and the payment of union dues should be voluntary.
I believe that compulsory dues should be devoted entirely to collective bargaining. Union leaders have assumed a mandate they do not have. They have encroached on the moral, social and political lives of their membership. An overwhelming majority of workers want basic freedoms introduced into the workplace. Workers want freedom to stop unions from using compulsory dues to fill the coffers of political parties and organizations they, as individuals, do not support.
Ordinary workers have very little say in what the union's head office does. Today they operate in a topdown structure, which raises concerns over how dues are handled relating to the salaries and perks enjoyed by top union officials.
Is it true that in 1992 the Canadian Auto Workers union built a $125,000 summer cottage for outgoing president, Bob White, even as thousands of its members were being laid off in plant closures? I hope not.
We must keep reminding ourselves that the role of a union is to bargain on behalf of its members. Union leadership has to start to be attentive to the real needs and desires of the rank-and-file worker rather than their own quest for money and forced union power.
A recent example of unions trying to control and dictate government agenda was in the fall 1996 Metro Days of Action, when union funds were used in an attempt to shut down Toronto, not only denying individuals their democratic right to work but denying workers the right to say where their dues were being spent.
Organized labour, angry with the Harris government Ontario Works agenda, threatened to withdraw its financial support to the United Way if their agencies participate in Ontario Works. Should unions be allowed this degree of control and power? I don't think so. Charities are important to the future of society, contributing to the needs of individuals, and should never be used as pawns by organized labour in its endeavour to oppose government policies.
In support of their strike action, private employer unions contributed over $22 million in interest-free loans to the Ontario Public Service Employees Union. Again, I would question whether top union officials discussed this expenditure with their membership or received individual approval for this allocation of funds to support another union's agenda.
It should be noted that Canada is still one of the last industrialized countries where closed shops and mandatory dues are legal. There are approximately 101 countries that have, either through legislation, court decisions or international agreements, outlawed closed shop provisions altogether.
In Quebec, Bedard is involved in a case before the Superior Court where 17 claimants are alleging that closed shop provisions and mandatory union dues violate the charter of rights, particularly freedom of association.
By opposing democracy in the workplace, labour leaders are revealing that they are afraid that if workers are given a choice, union powers will be seriously diminished. They should stop clinging to outdated and restrictive labour practices and start focusing on convincing employees of the benefits of union membership.
I am concerned that organized labour has the ability to restrict hiring to only those who belong to specific unions. The most vulnerable to layoffs are both federal and provincial public service term or contract employees. Those workers pay the same union dues as full-time public service employees but are entitled to nothing -- no job security, no payouts and no severance package.
With hiring freezes, term employees have been the only new blood coming into an aging public service. They're typically young, university-educated and predominantly female. They rank among the bureaucracy's best and brightest and are highly motivated to keep the contracts coming.
Ad mail carriers, who deliver advertising flyers to your home, are another example of employees who must pay union dues but do not get union wages, nor do they qualify for union benefits. Part-time taxi drivers find themselves in the same position, where they have to pay union dues but get no protection.
Summer students working within a union environment have unions dues deducted at source from their pay, and subcontractors who are not part of a specific union have been denied contracts which have been granted to others who support the same union.
Unions, like governments, are guaranteed financing by deductions removed directly from employees' paycheques. This special position should require guarantees of financial accountability to ensure that all bargaining unit members know and have a way of finding out how their money is being spent. It's time to put more control back into the hands of the rank-and-file employees who pay union dues.
It's not as though this is trying to tear down a law which was established by what would be considered to be a pro-labour government. It's not as though you're undoing, for instance, some of the things you complained about that the NDP may have introduced.
What you're in effect doing, if you pass this resolution and if it is brought to its conclusion, is removing something that either the Davis or the Robarts government granted to the trade union movement in Ontario, and they did it back when there was a more balanced government, a more balanced approach to labour legislation. What you often found was that governments in those days, under Bill Davis or John Robarts, when passing labour legislation would ensure that within that labour legislation there were items which would be favourable to what unions had asked for and some favourable to what management had asked for, so you developed what was called a balance in terms of labour legislation. It is always dangerous and unhealthy when labour legislation is radically skewed in favour of either one side or the other. Most people who are involved in collective bargaining expect and accept labour legislation which is indeed balanced.
What this is is another idea coming up from the United States, from the Republican Party in the United States. There are a number of states where trade unions are under attack. They are ordinarily the southern states, the less industrialized states in the United States. Unfortunately, at a time when workers are under assault from a variety of factors -- and when I say "assault," I say that in a symbolic way -- such as impending job losses, downsizing, restructuring and so on, they require the trade unions to be able to defend their interests. Without a trade union, the consequences for many of those people affected by severe downsizing or restructuring are rather tragic. That is why they form unions and that is why they join unions, because collectively they can have more influence in the bargaining process than they can individually by themselves.
What I'm looking at then is an attack on the Davis administration or the Robarts administration for conferring these particular rights on trade unions, keeping in mind that when they were conferred on the trade union movement, there were other items that would be more favourable to management. In that way, Mr Davis and Mr Robarts, former Conservative premiers, tried to bring what they felt was some balance to labour legislation in the province.
The member has dealt with a number of complaints that he has heard over the years. I can't comment on those individual complaints because I'm not familiar with the specific complaints he has heard, but they in many cases can be dealt with by members of trade unions attending union meetings and having an effect.
We have seen in recent years some very feisty contests for leadership positions and other lower-ranking executive positions within unions where if there's some dissatisfaction, there is a democratic right of some people to express that by running for public office and trying to gather support. Indeed, in some circumstances there have been some what you would call upsets, I suppose, or unpredicted results on elections. That is because union members have exercised the rights they have to attend meetings, to go out and vote, to become involved in the process. I think everybody in a healthy democracy wants all of those individuals to take part in that process and to express their views.
But what this resolution does is that it removes, for want of a better word, the Rand formula, which was established some time ago and is accepted by virtually everybody. It's hard to believe, when the member for Lincoln and now the member for Prince Edward-Lennox-South Hastings raise these issues, that we would be going back so far as to remove the Rand formula. I don't always agree with some of the legislation you have proposed in the field of labour law, but in some cases what you are doing is removing what you felt a previous NDP or perhaps Liberal government had put in place. In this case you want to remove what a Conservative government has put in place.
You have to look at the other factor that all of those who work in a workplace benefit from the collective agreement that is signed by the union. Some don't want to pay the dues, but very few of those who don't want to pay the dues are prepared to say, "I'm going to take less money" or "I don't want the benefits" or "I don't want the protection that the union has provided for me." Very few would say that; it would be a very rare case.
Many are prepared to not pay the union dues but are quite happy, thank you, to take the benefits in terms of health care benefits, pension benefits and sickness and accident benefits that have been won through the collective bargaining process where both sides sit down, where management and labour sit down, they go through some difficult negotiations sometimes, and they come to a collective agreement. Sometimes the collective agreement tends to favour management more in certain circumstances, particularly taking into account the economy, and sometimes it benefits those on the labour side.
For instance, when the economy is booming, when there's a great demand for employees and perhaps a shortage of employees available in a particular field, labour tends to do better. When the economic situation is very difficult, where there's a lot of unemployment, where there's a lot of uncertainty, management tends to come out of the collective bargaining process, by and large, better. I think what we always need in our labour legislation in this province is balance. I think this resolution, if it were adopted by this House, would not strike that balance.
A very similar bill put forward by the member for Lincoln was defeated in this House just a couple of weeks ago. Interestingly enough, it was defeated not just by the opposition but by some of the moderate Conservatives who understand that this is pretty radical, to be removing the Rand formula. This is not tinkering; this is a very fundamental aspect of labour legislation that's been in effect, and I hope members will reflect very carefully upon that as they vote later on on this resolution.
Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): It's quite breathtaking to consider all that this government has undertaken in terms of legislation they've brought in so far and the undemocratic nature of it. To all those watching today, in terms of the debate held a few weeks ago on Bill 131, which would create a right-to-work state in the country of Canada, and today's resolution, which would indeed roll back the Rand formula, this is the future. This is the future of where this government is going should they win another election. That ought to scare the hell out of anybody that cares a whit about this province.
The fact is that this government is going after the labour movement for a couple of reasons. One is that of course they can label the labour movement a special interest group, which automatically, in their eyes, demonizes them. Banks and others in society who have a lot of power and have a lot of money and have a lot of control, they're not a special interest. No, no, the banks are not a special interest. But the labour movement? Let's tag them a special interest, because then you can go after them, then they can become a legitimate target, in your mind, something that needs to be beaten down.
But the reality for people in this province is that if you care about the plight of seniors, you need a strong labour movement. If you care about health care in this province, you need a strong labour movement. If you care about the environment, if you care about women's rights, if you care about child poverty, if you care about anything to do with something other than those who already have, you have to have a strong labour movement. That's the second reason this government's going after the labour movement.
Anybody who's active in their community or watches what's happening or watches their local municipal council on TV will realize that this government has cut the legs out from any group at all that might oppose their hard, right-wing, ideological agenda.
It's my opinion that this government realizes that the only real group that can provide the kind of leadership and expertise and communication ability in our modern world, that is organized enough to mount a democratic opposition in a pluralistic society -- where did the concept of pluralism in democracy go, anyway, with this government? The labour movement is the one entity that can mount enough mass opposition to bring this government down in the next election, and this government knows it, and they're the only ones that can mount community response.
As we see all the media being bought up -- we have one of the highest concentrations of media control in all the world. That's not just some wild-eyed radical idea; the facts are there. And the concentration continues; we see it in our papers every day. This government knows that. They like it. It's their friends who own the media. This is a great idea to them.
But ultimately they've got to get after the labour movement, and that's what this is all about. So was Bill 131 and so was Bill 7, when you attacked public sector workers and took away their right to continue and have job protection when you privatize. It's the same under Bill 49, when you took away workers' rights under the Employment Standards Act. It's the same under Bill 99, where you're taking money out of the pockets of injured workers and giving it to your corporate pals; $6 billion you're giving out of the pockets of injured workers. It's the same with Bill 136, where you're ensuring there's now a mechanism to gut collective agreements, again to set up privatization.
What does all this mean at the end of the day? What it means for working people, whether you're union or non-union, and quite frankly, whether you're management, is a lower standard of living. This is very much an agenda that races to the bottom.
Four times now -- three at least, but I think it's four -- we've been chosen the greatest country in the world to live in. Ontario being the largest province, with 46% or 47% of the economy, what happens in Ontario as a society plays a large role, an incredible role, in identifying and defining why Canada is this kind of place. Every single factor you look at, in terms of our health care system and our social services system and what used to be proper and decent environmental protection and care for our seniors, all those things, if you study your history, guess what? There's the labour movement, front and centre, every time.
All the things you're undoing and attacking are those very issues that make this the greatest place in the world to live. What's so hard to believe is that they would have the audacity to continue to put this out in the public arena and think it's going to sell. I guess that's partly because they've achieved what they wanted so far. All the bills I've mentioned are either the law now or will be very shortly.
But this government believes they can do anything. When they were elected in June 1995, they believed that was the last time they had to talk to or listen to anyone and that as long as they play their politics right, as long as they can win 52 seats -- because that's all it will take next time, 52 seats to win a majority government -- as long as they can win 52 seats, everything else be damned.
You believe you can get away with this kind of agenda in the province of Ontario, and now we're at the point where we're debating the rule changes. You don't think you can implement these changes, these frightening changes, fast enough, so you want new rules so you can ram them through this place even quicker.
That's what's so frightening when we see these things being brought up in private members' time. This is foretelling the future. We knew that Bill 131, even it passed the Legislature, would not become law -- not this time. And I would hope this wouldn't carry today; there can't be that many dinosaurs over there. But if it should, I still don't believe they will put this on this mandate's agenda. But I have no doubt in my mind that if you do manage to pull off those 52 seats -- God help us if you do, and I don't think you will, but if you should -- I have no doubt that 131 and the Rand formula are on the line, first off, fresh out of the gate with their new mandate. This is exactly what they're going to do.
Mr Christopherson: I just heard one of the members in the back there holler, "Stay tuned." It's there. It's there. This is where they're heading. It may take a month, it may take a year, it might take five years, it might take 10 years. Quite frankly, if it takes 20 years, you will not defeat the labour movement and the rights inherent behind it.
These laws and protections came about for a reason. It was because we didn't have the ability, as the world changed during the Industrial Revolution, to provide for those who didn't have. We just keep seeing the growing and growing disparity.
This came out of a 1946 strike at Ford in Windsor where the people took to the streets. The army was on standby. The Premier was urging the Prime Minister at the time, if necessary, to bring in the army. The mayor in that community knew this was going to lead to a bloodbath. There were injuries and there was blood spilled, but fortunately we didn't have civil war. Instead, we had a reasoned outcome, a reasoned, thought-out, balanced, fair outcome, and that was the Rand formula. That's what this is all about: taking on that Rand formula.
Let me close my remarks, because my colleagues also want to get in on this debate, by saying to anyone who's watching or who reads these Hansards or cares at all about the things that matter in this province to the vast majority of people, this is your fight too. If you're a senior at home worrying about health care, if you're a laid-off worker or you're in the public sector or you've got a spouse who's in the public sector and their job is about to be privatized and you're not sure where you're going to be a year from now, you ought to be concerned about this. If you care about the environment, if you care about child poverty, you ought to care about this, because if they take on and defeat the labour movement, everything else is gone.
By the same token, as long as there's a strong, vibrant labour movement in Ontario and Canada, we've got a fighting chance to make this a better place to live -- God, we don't hear that much any more -- so we can go on to be the kind of society we are.
Let me end by saying that I don't care how many resolutions or how many bills you dinosaurs bring into this place, you will not stop the labour movement. You have no right to attack the labour movement, you have no right to attack working people and the poor, and you will be stopped. I assure you, you will be stopped.
Mr Joseph N. Tascona (Simcoe Centre): I'm certainly pleased to join the debate of this resolution brought forth by Mr Fox. The resolution essentially deals with a dues deduction for casual, probationary and contract employees, and also addresses specific political parties or causes being given dues deductions.
The relevant provision under the Labour Relations Act is section 47, which deals with dues deduction. I think we have to make it very clear right now that it's a permissive right; it's not an absolute right that unions have dues deducted. When you read section 47, the deduction is a permissive right on behalf of unions and it does apply to each employee in the bargaining unit, be it a full-time, part-time, casual or contract employee. The right that has been given applies to every employee in the bargaining unit and it's a permissive right.
The resolution focuses on fairness and equality to employees in the bargaining unit. This permissive right, I would submit, is not fairly applied and may be abused where the dues are not used to provide meaningful and equal representation for all employees in the unit. The government provides statutory rights to employees throughout the province, be it part-time, full-time, casual or contractual employees, through the Human Rights Code, through the Occupational Health and Safety Act, through the Employment Standards Act, through the Workers' Compensation Act, to name a few. That has to be contrasted with the rights provided through a freely negotiated collective agreement between a union and an employer.
The reality is that it's not the same for all employees in a bargaining unit. Full-time employees have greater rights with respect to seniority and the benefits that brings, with respect to layoff rights, with respect to recall, vacation, benefits and pension, in comparison to casual or part-time or contract employees. I think that's what Mr Fox is focusing on when he deals with the use of union dues deductions and the realities of the collective agreement and whether they are being used to support and provide rights for all employees in the unit. I think it's his submission that in fact they're not. What we're looking for is fairness and equality and to give them an opportunity -- because there are employee rights in this province; it's not always union rights and employer rights -- where they're not getting the same benefits of full-time employees.
That leads me to address the other issue with respect to the use of union dues deductions for political causes, political parties etc. The purpose of the Labour Relations Act, under section 2, is very clear. I'll quote just one part of it, because there are some specific purposes. The purpose under the Labour Relations Act is to facilitate collective bargaining "between employers and trade unions as the freely designated representatives of employees." The purpose, for collective bargaining purposes, is to collectively bargain and also to provide meaningful representation under the collective agreement. That's the purpose under the Labour Relations Act.
When you look at the definition of a trade union under the act, the definition of a trade union is very specific. It means "an organization of employees formed for purposes that include the regulation of relations between employees and employers." What we're dealing with there is strictly collective bargaining within the workplace. There is no place in the Labour Relations Act that specifically says that union dues or collective bargaining are to be used for political causes; no express language. It's silent, and it's obvious why it's silent: because it's not to be used for that.
When you look at regular union dues as defined under section 47, they are to be paid "in accordance with the constitution and bylaws of the trade union." I think what Mr Fox is getting at here is basically looking at amending that to make sure it's not used for political causes and it's also used to provide meaningful representation for part-time, casual and contract employees.
The premise under section 47 of the Labour Relations Act for union dues deductions is that dues will be used for collective bargaining purposes, to negotiate a collective agreement and to provide meaningful representation under the collective agreement. What we're looking for under this resolution is a balance of employee rights versus union rights, and the use of the dues for purposes within the context of the Labour Relations Act: for collective bargaining and representation.
The resolution is designed to place reasonable limits on the use of union dues within the realities of the Labour Relations Act, which is designed strictly for collective bargaining purposes; and also the workplace realities, where part-time, casual and contract employees have minimal rights under the collective agreement versus full-time employees.
Mr Fox, through his resolution, is identifying the reality of the workplace, the reality of the labour relations community in the province and the reality of the law. I think he's being fair with respect to employee rights in this context, which should be recognized under the act.
Mr Dominic Agostino (Hamilton East): As I begin, I just want to acknowledge the presence in the gallery of Jack MacDonald, former mayor of the city of Hamilton, who is visiting today, and also Candace Gingrich, the spokesperson for the American Human Rights Campaign and of course the sister of the US House Speaker, Newt Gingrich. Welcome to Toronto and welcome to Canada, Ms Gingrich.
On the bill itself, what we see here today is part of the ongoing Tory attack on the labour movement in this province. As this government continues to attack the labour movement, they continue to attack working men and women across this province. We have seen this right from the day they took office. Every single piece of labour legislation that has been brought forward has been slanted against the worker. Every single piece of health and safety legislation or reform has been slanted against the worker. The WCB bill in front of the House is also slanted against working men and women.
I don't understand -- and my colleague from Hamilton Centre outlined some of the reasoning -- why this government continues to believe it is fashionable to attack the labour movement; why this government continues to believe it's fashionable, through attacking the labour movement, to attack every single working man and woman across this province. Let me remind you that many of those people you're attacking today through this resolution, many of those people you've attacked through your legislation in the past, are folks who voted in good conscience and with the right intention for this government last time. You're not simply attacking the people you believe are opposing you, being the labour leaders; you're attacking the workers, the people they represent.
The labour movement, and the member gave some examples, has its faults, as any other organization and every government in this province has or continues to have or has had in the past. But the reality is there's a mechanism within those movements for dealing with the problems. Leaders are elected democratically by the membership, they are accountable to the membership, and they are there to represent the membership, as you were elected to represent the people of this province. But somehow you feel that you only need to represent certain groups, certain individuals who agree with your point of view, who agree with your philosophy, and to hell with everyone else.
I don't really understand why this government continues to believe that the politics of division should rule the day. You believe in the old, outdated, regressive political approach that you add by subtracting, that it's okay if we get rid of all these people here, whether it's right or wrong, because we're going to win all these people over here. The right or wrong of an issue doesn't matter any more; it's simply old style division politics that you have practised from day one.
This government is a bully government. This government has no respect for democracy. This government has no respect for anyone who dares to oppose its agenda on the people of Ontario, because you believe that on June 8, 1995, you received a blank cheque to do whatever you want to anyone in this province.
The reality is that in our democratic system it isn't that neat and simple, it doesn't quite work that way, and you don't understand that. You continue to believe you can just go across this province and attack, attack, attack: go after people, go after single moms, go after welfare recipients, go after school boards, go after teachers, go after the labour movement. It just becomes the mantra of this government: "You don't agree with us, we're going to destroy you. You don't agree with us, we're going to put you down. You don't agree with us, we're going to make sure you have no power left to speak out against us." We're seeing it in the House; we're seeing it outside the House. We see the intimidation that has occurred, or the attempts at intimidation that they've tried to pull off on people who have dared to speak against this government.
We're seeing it through the rule changes very clearly again. The government and government members, through supporting those changes, believe very much that opposition gets in the way of your agenda, that democracy gets in the way of your revolution, that your revolution is not moving fast enough so you need to curtail the opposition in order for this revolution to succeed.
You have a right to govern. You have received that mandate to govern, but it does not mean that you have the mandate to simply steamroll and run over and run roughshod over anybody or anything that dares to disagree with your agenda. In our system it doesn't work that way. It may work that way in some Third World banana republics; it doesn't work that way in a democratic society in the province of Ontario.
This resolution here today, again, is simply an attack on those who dare to oppose you, an attack on union leaders and working men and women who are not happy with your agenda, who are not happy with what you did in Bill 7, who are not happy with what you did with the health and safety changes in Ontario, who are not happy with what you're doing to injured workers and the punishment that you're further going to inflict on people who are already suffering in this province. How dare these people who are not happy speak out against you? How dare they try to take on Mike Harris and the revolution? Don't they know there's a revolution in this province, that people on June 8 wanted a revolution? This government is going to give them that revolution, and how dare anybody get in the way of that?
How dare the labour leaders speak out when their workers are being oppressed by this government? How dare the representatives of injured workers speak out on behalf of injured men and women in this province who have suffered a workplace injury and are only trying to get fair, decent and reasonable treatment at the hands of the people who have caused that injury or have been part of that injury, who run the companies, who run the government?
That is really what is driving this bill. It's not necessarily even the details, because this thing is so bizarre that, as my colleague from Hamilton Centre mentioned earlier, I don't think there are enough people on the Tory side of the House who actually believe this is a reasonable and fair way of doing it, but it's the message it sends out. It's the ongoing message it sends out: Don't you dare criticize us, don't you dare attack our agenda, because if you do, we're going to come after you with all guns blazing and we're going to use the might and the power and the stick of government to suppress any type of opposition. I think it's an ongoing disgraceful attack on the labour movement in this province, on working men and women. Remember that next time around many of those working men and women who voted for you last time with all the right intentions are going to slam you, vote against you and cause your defeat.
Mr Floyd Laughren (Nickel Belt): I am pleased to have a couple of moments to take part in this debate on the resolution from the member for Prince Edward-Lennox-South Hastings. The problem that he has with the trade union movement puzzles me somewhat because he makes inferences about "non-democratic" and about the use of union dues and so forth.
I happen to live in a community that largely has been traditionally known as a very labour-intensive community, the community of Sudbury, with strong unions: the Mine, Mill and Smelter Workers, now affiliated with the CAW, and the United Steelworkers, who represent the workers at Inco. Those workers -- not the labour leaders, the workers -- have voted democratically to support their choice of political party. They've decided that, not some boss somewhere else. They decided themselves. They have votes on whether or not to contribute to the New Democratic Party or to contribute to my campaign or anybody else's campaign. That's democratic. The shareholders at the Royal Bank don't have a say in whether or not the Royal Bank makes a contribution to the Tory party or the Reform Party. They don't have any say. But workers have a say in where their dues go. The Tories don't seem to understand that.
I must say that I've been a very strong supporter of the trade union movement ever since I saw what happened to my own father. I don't like to personalize these things too often, but my father -- and I say this directly to the member for Prince Edward-Lennox-South Hastings -- was a farm labourer, and when his back gave out on him, he was out the door with zero benefits. Out the door. I don't think that's right, and I think that's one of the things unions are for. This was a wealthy farmer. This was not a struggling family farm operation. This was a wealthy farmer, and yet there was absolutely no consideration given to him once his back started to give him trouble. That was it; he was gone. To me, that's fundamentally wrong in a society like ours, and that's one of the reasons why unions grew.
The record of safety in our mines and forests before unions appeared on the scene was outrageous and, quite frankly, disgusting. Who has done more to promote safety and health in the workplace than the trade union movement? Nobody. Nobody has done more: not governments, quite frankly, and certainly not employers. Honest employers will tell you that too, that they've been pushed hard by the trade unions when it comes to health and safety on the job, because they protect their members.
I don't have any problem with everyone who gets the benefits of a trade union's efforts and bargaining having to contribute to that cause. Why should some have the benefits and not pay for them and others have the benefits and pay for them? That's not fair. That doesn't make any sense at all.
I say to the member for Prince Edward-Lennox-South Hastings, I understand where you're coming from, but you're sending out some pretty bizarre signals. I would ask you, how many cabinet ministers do you think are going to be in here to support this resolution at 12 o'clock? I will be amazed if there's a single cabinet minister in here to support you or, quite frankly, to vote against you, because they're worried about the Reform vote in the next election. So they just won't be here. The cabinet will not be here to vote on this. They don't have the courage. They weren't here to support the member for Lincoln --
First, let me reiterate the reason for the resolution. It is about protecting the rights of those who, for whatever reason, have not attained permanent status in their job. I have no quarrel with the normal position of union dues being paid by a permanent employee under a collective bargaining agreement. When I say I have no quarrel, it basically means I recognize the requirement under law for this automatic transfer of money. Although the collection of dues is mandated, the performance and responsibilities of the union leadership on their behalf are not.
Clearly, this resolution is not an attempt to create any groundswell in opposition to the Rand formula. That automatic dues checkoff system has been accepted by the public as a reasonable and practical way to fund union activities. None the less, those who are exposed to the imposition of paying union dues while not receiving any services in return indeed have a reason to wonder about both the common sense and the legal rationale behind this forced extraction of hard-earned income from this group who receive little in return.
Let us begin with a friend who has been retired for five years from his 40-year tenure as an employee of the telephone company. In the course of his long term of duty he paid union dues for a number of years and ended up in a management position. Not willing to accept retirement with little job activity, he pursued avenues that might gain him employment, and so here we have a person approaching senior status who through diligence gains employment with the post office as a temporary worker. This is achieved at the same time as many of our healthy younger unemployed claim there is no work available, but that is another question, aside from our debate today.
In securing this work, he finds that he must pay dues to CUPW as a condition of his employment. Although he hasn't complained publicly, you can be assured there is little activity by the union leaders that would lead to any improvement for him.
This is a simple textbook analysis in support of my colleague's resolution, which can only be refuted with great difficulty. Basically, he must pay for the right, however temporary, to work alongside the permanent workers who have security, health plans and pension benefits.
Not wanting to stray too far from the resolution, I believe this little sketch points out that even with the Rand formula permanently in place, many of our citizens are both unprotected and alienated from their union leadership with no recourse for change. Only at provincial election time, in a philosophical way, can voters do anything to rectify the complaints of those who do not agree with either the program or the purpose of union activists who control the agenda.
In today's environment we increasingly see a subclass of employees -- the casual, the temporary, the contract workers -- who share the cost but not the long-term benefits of the permanent union employee.
This poses an interesting conundrum, because union executives can complain that their employer should hire only full-time people and then everyone would be equal. That would be so in a perfect world, and in that creation everyone would have a job and there would be no unemployment. Naturally, despite George Orwell and his predictions, Big Brother never did expand to the point where full employment and similar remuneration is enjoyed by all.
There is probably at the present time no solution to the imbalance between collection of dues and service rendered as they relate to the different classes of employees. Since the Rand system is so ingrained in the employer-worker culture, perhaps society should turn its attention to developing a protocol that satisfies union demands for equal fees from those involved in similar toil while providing those who fall into the not-permanent category with representation and equitable voting power at the union table.
Traditionally, we all agree and accept the axiom, "No taxation without representation." To be fair then, the casual, the temporary, the contract person should have it acknowledged that there should be no collection of dues without an equivalent say for all. That's why I'm supporting this resolution.
I have a constituent who lives in Nepean and who has worked in his workplace for a good number of years, who chose to speak out and say he didn't agree with the tactics of his union, he didn't agree with the process they were following. Not only by his actions; he spoke out through the newspaper, through writing letters to the editor. He had his membership suspended in that trade union. They said that he wouldn't be allowed to go to the union meetings and vote, that he wouldn't be allowed to fully participate in that trade union.
You can appreciate he was rather surprised when he got his next pay stub and discovered his union dues were still being deducted. It was taxation without representation. He had no choice. Despite the fact that he was paying union dues, he had no voice in terms of how decisions were made at his union, and he still doesn't. He's been having to pay for a good number of months, even years, those union dues while he was suspended, simply because he had the courage to stand up and say he disagreed with it, by his actions and by his public comments. He was suspended. There is no fairness, there is no democratic ability in that.
One thing in Canada and in Ontario is that if you disagree with the government you still have the right to vote. They can't suspend you and then require you to pay taxes, because one of the most central elements of democracy is no taxation without representation. I think this resolution seeks to address a good amount of that concern.
I can tell you as well that in Nepean there was a good amount of concern when one prominent national trade union said it would pay the wages of any worker in its union who wanted to take time off during the federal election to support a candidate. Those people discovered that when they wanted to go and take time off, they couldn't work for the Liberal Party -- they wouldn't be allowed -- they couldn't work for Reform, they couldn't work for the PCs, but if they worked for the NDP, the union would pay.
If they worked for the Bloc québécois, the party that was trying to destroy this country, their union would pay the way, and I think that's wrong. I think it's wrong for Canada and I think it's wrong for Ontario. It's wrong. It kills jobs and is just in my mind absolutely outrageous.
Mr John Hastings (Etobicoke-Rexdale): The two main components that concern me about this resolution and my support of it concentrate on the barriers that are brought up by the member for Prince Edward-Lennox-South Hastings. Where are the benefits for the dues paid, particularly for part-timers who are required to join unions? That's one key element. The second item that concerns a lot of the rank and file of organized labour unions, of which I was once a member, of one of the most powerful unions in this province, the Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation, was how they used money unaccountably.
Mr Fox: First, I'd like to thank my colleagues for the presentations they've made here this morning. Some comments made by the member for St Catharines, saying that this resolution is against the Rand formula -- the thing is, the Angus Reid poll figures show that employees are also against the Rand formula. The members for Hamilton Centre, Hamilton East: repetitious, same old story, no constructive criticism to the resolution whatsoever. The member for Nickel Belt: The resolution doesn't deal with the comments he made here in the House this morning.
In conclusion, I would like to add that in addition to our promise to repeal Bill 40, we campaigned to shift the power from labour bosses to union members, restore individual choice and democratize internal union decision-making. I feel we have an obligation to the people of Ontario to continue democratizing the workplace, even after the passage of Bill 7.
This resolution is not about the devolution of power of unions, it is not trying to usurp the authority of unions, nor is it an attempt to reverse gains made by unions such as health and safety standards for workers; rather it is an attempt to protect the rights of the most vulnerable workers, those casual, probationary and contract employees who pay union dues but do not benefit from full union protection. The pendulum has swung too far in favour of union management. It's time to balance the power between management and the ordinary worker.
You'd be surprised how many times in my own riding I have had constituents coming to my door expressing their objections to the powers that union officials yield over ordinary workers. These individuals are asking why they are being forced to join specific unions and how can a collective agreement apply to them when they are not part of this union. I can't give them an answer, but I can --
Mr Trevor Pettit (Hamilton Mountain): I move that in the opinion of this House, given that the government of Ontario has viewed municipal restructuring as a key component of delivering government services effectively and efficiently throughout this province; and
Therefore the government of Ontario should take the initiative as soon as possible before the municipal fall elections to implement a plan that reduces waste and duplication in the delivery of local government services and creates a single, unified level of representation for the roughly half million residents of the region of Hamilton-Wentworth.
Mr Pettit: I'm very pleased to have the opportunity today to speak on behalf of my resolution regarding municipal reform in Hamilton-Wentworth. I believe it is imperative that this government take the initiative as quickly as possible before the next municipal election to implement a plan to create a single, unified level of government for the region of Hamilton-Wentworth.
I'd like to spend the majority of my time this morning giving a very brief summary of some key events in municipal reform in Hamilton-Wentworth. I'd like to do this because I believe the relevant facts on this issue speak for themselves. I also believe the importance of this issue for the community of Hamilton-Wentworth demands that this debate be rational and that it be centred on what is really at stake here. What we are talking about is the broad public interest in Hamilton-Wentworth, a public interest which concerns the long-term social and economic wellbeing of our community.
The question of municipal governance has been dogging Hamilton-Wentworth for over 20 years now. In 1978, the Stewart report, which was commissioned by the then Davis government, concluded that the two-tiered regional government structure in Hamilton-Wentworth did not allow citizens to fully control regional services. Without one authority to set priorities and control total local government expenditures, the report stated that the two-tiered structure was not the most cost-efficient, was not the most effective or the most accountable governing option for Hamilton-Wentworth. It was further observed that regional council policy decisions often ran counter to the best interests of the entire region.
In regard to eliminating the region-wide decision-making body and returning to six independent municipalities, the Stewart report was absolutely clear: This was not a feasible option. Service boards and intermunicipal agreements could not substitute for an area-wide authority.
Almost two decades later, in 1996, the constituent assembly final report, an independent citizen-led review of municipal governance, concluded that a single municipal council for Hamilton-Wentworth provided the best opportunity to ensure the continued delivery of services in an equitable manner. The current governance structure, the report held, was compromising the long-term planning and priority-setting for services that affected all residents.
The constituent assembly also evaluated other models of governance, including the return to six independent municipalities with boards to administer particular services between municipalities. The assembly concluded that this option did not adequately address the challenges and meet the principles set out in its framework for reform. Moreover, this kind of fragmented governing model was calculated as the least cost-efficient model of governance for Hamilton-Wentworth. In summary, the report made the following key recommendations:
It recommended the creation of a single, unified municipal council and administration to facilitate strategic decision-making across all municipal service areas in support of sustainable development, wealth creation in the region and a simplified administrative system.
It recommended the creation of a new and innovative method of community governance in the form of community committees to make recommendations on community needs and priorities, make decisions on locally specific issues and provide for citizen participation and consultation.
It recommended the creation of community offices based on defined communities of interest for the decentralized delivery of municipal services so citizens would deal with only one administration to access municipal services and would be able to do so at a convenient location within their communities.
I'd like to say a few things about the constituent assembly report, because many within and outside the community of Hamilton-Wentworth believe that it exemplified a process of citizen participation that should be emulated.
From the start, the assembly's mandate was "to involve the community in a region-wide discussion on the role and structure of municipal government and manner of service delivery for the purpose of ensuring a high quality of life for citizens of Hamilton-Wentworth." Informing and involving the public in its work was a key purpose of the assembly. It maintained an open and inclusive process in consulting with citizens, hearing from experts, meeting with individuals and organizations, talking to municipal staff and councillors and working together to reach a consensus on recommendations.
The assembly itself was comprised of 23 citizen volunteers, who represented a broad cross-section of the population of Hamilton-Wentworth. This piece of work is a made-in-Hamilton-Wentworth solution. There are those who will argue against this resolution this morning who will probably say that they agree there should be restructuring in Hamilton-Wentworth, but there should be a local solution to municipal reform. I say to those people, "Here it is. Here's your local solution." What did the local politicians do? They dismissed it out of hand. They commissioned it, but they didn't like what it said so they took their ball and they went home.
Apparently I'm not the only one who thinks the work of the assembly represents a unique process in citizen participation in municipal decision-making. This process has received widespread recognition. Hamilton-Wentworth has lent its expertise in community consultation, participation and governance at the international level. Most recently, it was announced by the International City-County Management Association that the winner of their 1997 excellence in citizenship involvement award is the region of Hamilton-Wentworth for the constituent assembly project.
The facts do speak for themselves. They speak so much that the regional government of Hamilton-Wentworth was the subject of an editorial in the Washington Post this past Sunday. The article was entitled "Regions that Work: A Lesson from Canada." The article compares the social and economic fate of two cities, the city of Buffalo and the city of Hamilton. At one time Buffalo and Hamilton were very similar kinds of cities: both were medium-sized and both had industrially based steel-producing economies. Then came the early 1970s and both communities were plunged into economic chaos by the Arab oil embargo and international competition which threatened to annihilate their steel industries.
The Canadians, the article observes, responded with rapid restructuring, downsizing the workforce and investing huge amounts in technology and worker skills. They also did something else which was key to their success: they created a top-tier regional municipality and reduced lower governments to almost half. The region took over economic development, planning, health and social services, transit, police and major roadways. Hamilton today isn't a flashy Toronto or a Vancouver, the article goes on to say, but it's packed with mom-and-pop stores, has a new arena, arts centre, lots of cappuccino places and a health race and class mix on its streets. I don't believe I have to paint a picture of what has happened to Buffalo in contrast.
Hamilton was able to met these serious structural changes to its economy because they created a governance structure to meet these challenges. Buffalo could not make the transition because its local government remained politically fragmented. It is now, according to economists, one of the weakest, if not the weakest, regional economy in the United States.
The article ends with this piece of wisdom: "Until our regions start thinking cohesively, strategically -- about the health of downtowns, big land use choices, workforce preparedness, global positioning -- they'll be in peril. That's where the Canadian regions have a real lesson to teach us."
I say to my colleagues and especially my good friend from Wentworth North, for whom I have the utmost respect, and who we will hear from this morning, any plan that attempts to eliminate a regional government that played such a major and crucial role in ensuring the economic and social wellbeing of our community so that we didn't go the way of Buffalo is beyond ludicrous. It is absolutely irrational and runs counter to the lessons of history.
I say to my colleague from Wentworth North that he knows as well as anyone, as every report has tirelessly pointed out, that Hamilton-Wentworth is a single economic unit. All the communities that comprise Hamilton-Wentworth are interdependent. We are part of a whole. The fates of our communities are intertwined. We are for all intents and purposes one community, and our governance structure must more accurately reflect that reality.
To my friend from Wentworth North, we are on the same boat. We'll either float together or we'll sink together. Most certainly, if we pretend we're not in this together we will undoubtedly and most definitely sink.
Mr Dominic Agostino (Hamilton East): I rise to speak to this resolution. I'm not going to waste a great deal of time debating the merits of a one-tier government. I have been a one-tier supporter from my days on city council. I continue to be a one-tier supporter.
I'm here to question what this resolution is all about today, though, what the intent of this resolution is and what is behind this resolution. We are talking about an issue that this government has had the opportunity to act on. This government had a glorious opportunity last November to take decisive action when there was local consensus. The Church deal had been signed by four of the six municipalities.; the Church deal had consensus and there was widespread support on this side of the House for the Church deal.
This government, despite its assurances -- I as one member and I know others on both sides of the House gave the minister assurances that we would work with him because it was in the best interests of Hamilton-Wentworth and we'd put our political partisanship aside.
This minister failed to act. This government failed to act. There was no excuse for this totally gutless lack of leadership by the minister and by this government in November when the opportunity was there to act and move on one tier for Hamilton-Wentworth. What did we do? We just continued to put the region through months and months of hell -- bitter divisions, debate, ongoing fights -- when you had a chance to act and you didn't. That is the worst part of all this.
What motivates this today? What motivates this issue? Is it a last-minute grasp by government members, who saw that their government mishandled this and dropped the ball? Their government had an opportunity to act in the best interests of Hamilton-Wentworth and failed to do so. Is this an opportunity to be able to wave this document at election time and say: "My government failed. My government couldn't act. My government didn't have the leadership to act. But do you know what? I supported this. Look, I voted in favour of this resolution."
I'm not going to be part of that game. I tried hard to work with that minister and that government to find a resolution for Hamilton-Wentworth. That minister and that government failed and let the people of Hamilton-Wentworth down.
What is this all about today? Is it another opportunity to embarrass the member for Wentworth North, to show him that the government members are right and that he's wrong? This was a member who had the guts and courage -- I didn't agree with Mr Skarica's position on one-tier government, but I admired his courage, his determination and his gutsiness in representing the people of his riding. What did the government do to him? They punished him. They took away his PA position. They blackballed him because he dared speak out against this government. I give that member a good deal of credit for what he has done on behalf of his constituents. He has paid a political price, but there's courage in what he has done and he should be commended for that.
This bill here today is nothing more than simply a feel-good message. It's too late, folks. It's too late. This government, this minister, as late as a few days ago, have given us no assurances whatsoever that they have any interest in bringing a bill forward enacting this. We are debating a resolution on the last day of the House, which will not resume until the end of August, for an issue that would affect November's municipal election. It is bizarre to think there's going to be any action at this point. It is absolutely bizarre. That window of opportunity you had is gone. That window of opportunity was back last November.
I understand my colleague's intent, but if you listen to him, it sounds like he's not on the government side of the House. He kept talking about a local resolution, about local politicians. Well, local politicians had made the decision; local politicians had that consensus we were looking for, but somehow it wasn't good enough.
I say to my colleague that it is your responsibility as a member of this government and it is your government's responsibility to live up to and defend in Hamilton-Wentworth the failure to act when the opportunity was there. On this side of the House both political parties went beyond the call of duty and extended the olive branch and extended a hand of cooperation to this government to deal with this issue in a way that was in the best interests of Hamilton-Wentworth, and all we got was the back of a hand and a slap in the head by this government.
I cannot support this resolution today. I'm not going to be part of any effort to try to give some coverage to local members who could not get the government to change its mind or give some coverage to a minister or government that failed and let down the people of Hamilton-Wentworth when you had the opportunity. It's disgraceful. It is an embarrassment what this government has done to our region and it is an embarrassment that we're actually still sitting here today and debating this when this House is breaking this afternoon and will not come back until the end of August. I will oppose it.
Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): Let me say at the outset of my remarks that having served as a Hamilton alderman and a regional councillor from 1985 to 1990 when I was elected to this place, my position on one tier is similar to that of my colleague from Hamilton East. I have always believed that ultimately the future of our community requires a one-tier government structure.
Let's not undervalue the importance of the differences of opinion that exist in the various communities, the six communities. It has always, since it was imposed in 1974, been a focus of major controversy in our community. In fact, former mayor Vic Copps had to be dragged out of the public galleries when the law was passed originally bringing in the regional form of government we now have, the two-tier. The current thinking is that it indeed cost the seat of one of the local Tory members, who was a cabinet minister at the time, because there was so much controversy. I think that needs to be respected and listened to by other members of the House when we talk about this particular local issue.
I want to be very clear. I am very much a one-tier person and believe that's in the best interests of our community. However, I want to address two key points while I'm on my feet here today. The first is the timing of this issue. The second is the moral authority, or lack thereof, the government has in this instance.
Timing: This, as has been pointed out, is the last day of the House. We aren't coming back until at least mid-August. Mid-August would leave from August to September, October, November. You're going to give the people of Hamilton-Wentworth three months to prepare for municipal elections at a time when municipal governments and the decisions they make have never had a greater impact on the taxpayers and citizens of our community. We're going to get three months. That certainly serves candidates who are already ready or those who have a lot of money already, but for those who have to do some planning and have to talk to people, it would be nice if they knew what the structure of government was that they were running for, what the positions were. They won't really know now, at the very least, until August.
That's not just the opposition members' opinion. In today's Hamilton Spectator, Henry Jacek, who teaches political science at the McMaster University and I would say is a recognized, respected expert certainly on local politics -- and other politics too, Henry; I wasn't trying to suggest it's limited to that -- says: "It sounds pretty strange to me. The timing is totally impossible." Well, of course it is, absolutely impossible.
There are rumours floating around our community that this government is looking at delaying the elections for a year and then some other new kind of process. That's the rumour. I haven't had it substantiated. I don't know if others are aware, but that's the rumour. That is equally, in my opinion, unacceptable because you're just playing politics with our community.
My colleague from Hamilton East stated that he was prepared to endorse and vote for the November 8 agreement. I also publicly said I would support that agreement. That position was not universally popular in my caucus and I don't think it was universally popular in his, but as local citizens, local politicians, we've always prided ourselves, all of us from all parties, that we would always, when it came to the crunch, put the interests of the community first when it came to local issues.
On that basis, on that principle, even with some of my colleagues disagreeing with me, I was prepared to support the November 8 agreement. Why? In large part because of the arguments the member for Hamilton Mountain made, particularly when he talked about the constituent assembly and their final report, an excellent process, headed up by two distinguished citizens, Chester Waxman and Don Granger, and it is being used as a model in other places around the world as an example of devolving power to not just local government but to local citizens to give them a chance to actually be involved.
It was an excellent report, and that indeed was the basis of the agreement that was reached on November 8. For those who are not aware, on November 8 we had the signatures on an agreement of four of the six mayors of the six communities making up Hamilton-Wentworth, representing almost 90% of the population. That was the moment when the member for Hamilton Mountain should have been using members' statements every day and using private members' time, back then to use those hours -- not today on the last day but back then -- and all the other backbench government members. That was the moment for you to say to your government, "You have to move on this."
But what happened? The Hamilton-Wentworth file went to the bottom. Al Leach was so busy trying to put out so many other fires that our fire just wasn't big enough. I say now we paid the price of not having a minister at the cabinet table. Because I've been there, I've sat at that table, and it makes a difference when you can say, "This is a priority and it has to be dealt with and this government has no right to ignore it," and you can do that at the cabinet table. We have paid a price over and over and over because we don't have anyone at the cabinet table representing our interests.
Don't talk to me about the minister from Burlington, because that's Burlington. We needed a Hamilton cabinet minister. That was the moment that Al Leach, on November 9, should have stood up and said, "On the basis of the agreement reached yesterday, I will introduce legislation to amend the Hamilton-Wentworth Act to ensure that the historical agreement reached will now be the law."
But that didn't happen. He dropped the ball and he let it go. It sat for weeks and months. Now what's happening is that the government, particularly the backbenchers -- and maybe that's why the government is getting very nervous. They're very nervous because they're worried that this is going to come back to haunt them in the next election. And it will.
But in my opinion, as much as I support one tier and as much as I support the agreement of November 8, I don't believe this government has the moral authority to impose unilaterally a one-tier structure on our community, not after all we've been through, not so close to an election. You don't have that moral authority. Nowhere in the resolution does it say there has to be any local support -- none.
Other members may get up and say you expect support from this quarter or from that quarter, but the fact is that this resolution does not say there needs to be some local support, none; it's a unilateral action. What does the member for Hamilton Mountain point to as his rightful motivation for suggesting it doesn't need local support? He talks about the Metro model, Bill 103, and Bill 26, the most undemocratic -- for those who don't know the numbers, that was the omnibus bill, that was the bully bill, that's the one where we had to hijack the bloody Legislature just to have some semblance of decent public input. That's also the bill that created the health restructuring commission that's now looking at shutting down hospitals in Hamilton. That's what the member for Hamilton Mountain says is his authority in terms of how this can be done and why it ought to be done, and in Metro, people are beside themselves that this government steamrollered that bill through.
Let's remember, for those backbenchers over there who are rolling their eyes and shaking their heads, the fact is that a few months before you introduced that Metro bill, your own government said: "That's not an idea we'd look at. We don't like that idea. That makes no sense." That became the law a few months later. You rammed that through.
Those are the two examples the member for Hamilton Mountain says give him the right to argue that his government ought to move now and unilaterally: the Metro model and the omnibus Bill 26. Isn't that special?
Let me tell you, member for Hamilton Mountain, in your resolution, when you say "since the region of Hamilton-Wentworth has been undergoing a restructuring exercise for the past three years without success," the only reason we didn't have success was because you and your government didn't do your part. We had success on November 8. Four out of six mayors, representing 90% of the population, signed on the line. Two opposition members, who have no interest in supporting you or this government if we can possibly avoid it, which is usually not difficult -- it broke my heart that I would ever have to stand up and vote for a Tory-sponsored bill. It truly did, but the fact was that I felt there was enough legitimacy in that November 8 accord and enough need for a one-tier structure in our community that I would have done that. I said so publicly at the time, and I meant it.
You have created a different world from that, a completely different world. You've let so much time go by and there have been so many flip-flops, so many new ideas. There was even a little scheme hatched outside the doors right over there. I didn't know anything about that, but it was in the paper the next day. That was just one more little chapter in this huge volume you've written. Then the last-minute move by our member for Burlington to come in and try to structure some kind of magic bullet -- that's a joke.
I have a great deal of trouble believing this is not just you positioning yourself politically so if the government does do this -- I think you know what they're going to do; I think there's a good chance you know what the Minister of Municipal Affairs is going to do in this regard. If he is going to move you're going to try and take credit, for those who think this is a great idea, that you moved the minister. If he's not going to do it, you're covering your rear flanks by saying, "Hey, I tried."
Let me say to you in closing and to the government, you didn't try hard enough for our community. You had your chance. Unfortunately, you didn't just blow it for yourselves, you blew for all of us in the community. But that does not give you the right to bring in a resolution asking this government to impose unilaterally, without any local support, a totally new form of government three bloody months before the election. You've got no moral authority to do that at all, and I will vote against this resolution and against the politics that are behind it.
Mr Steve Gilchrist (Scarborough East): I'm pleased to rise in support of this resolution. Whatever conviction I had that it was the right thing has been further resolved by the comments of the member opposite. To think that he had endorsed a move that would effectively have resulted in exactly the same result, and now stands up today and suggests otherwise, is very typical.
To couch his comments in terms of Bill 26 in the doom and gloom that continues to be the litany of woe that comes from that side, I would remind people, as he reminded people, that was the bill they suggested would bring pestilence, famine and plague to this province, but which instead has been part of an economic turnaround that has created over 1,000 new full-time jobs a day; that has seen one company alone announce 5,000 new jobs; that has seen new home sales go up 60%; that has seen automotive sales at record levels. That's the result of Bill 26 and its companion pieces.
But let me get back to the resolution at hand here, because I don't think there is any doubt that whether it's Hamilton-Wentworth or any other municipality across this province, most reasonable municipal politicians have recognised (a) the responsibility they have to their taxpayers to find the most efficient, the most effective, the most appropriate means of delivering services, and (b) have recognized that we were serious in our campaign commitment to seek at municipal level, in addition to what we were doing ourselves at the provincial level, that those savings would come about in this term of office.
I'm pleased to report to you that as we stand here today, 71 proposals have been received by groups of municipalities across Ontario. The result so far, their voluntary efforts: 140 fewer communities coming up this fall when we go back to municipal elections and over 600 fewer municipal politicians. That's courage; that's foresight; that's respecting the needs of the taxpayers they represent.
In Hamilton-Wentworth, we've had a very different scenario. In 1974 when regional government was created, at the time it was appropriate, as it was in many parts of Ontario. It was one of 13 regional governments that were created to balance the diverse interests of rural and urban portions of the region, to provide for growth in a managed and truly controlled method. Quite frankly, it provided -- for the population base to afford the upper-tier municipality -- the revenues to be able to deliver some of the services we've all come to expect in this province. Certainly, looking back, those were wise decisions of the government of the day.
However, Hamilton and Toronto and some of those regions developed at a far faster rate than anyone could have ever anticipated when the regional governments were created. I would draw to your attention it was only four years later that the first of a number of reports was produced showing that the regional government should be moved one step further and that one government be in place, one-tier level of municipal government across the entire region.
I could stand up here and regale you with details of that Stewart report or with the report done by the regional chair in 1988, the Task Force on Sustainable Development in 1993, the Whynott report in August 1994 and many other independently produced reports by the various municipalities or by the region, all of which came to the conclusion that moving to a single-tier government in Hamilton-Wentworth made sense.
To think we sit here today, 19 years later, after the very first report, and still have a municipality that has not taken the steps forward, I think it is quite appropriate for the member to have brought this resolution forward in the hope it will steel the resolve of the municipal politicians who, I might note -- on November 8, last year, a majority of the mayors, mayors representing 88% of the population of the region -- voted in favour of the report that would have seen a single integrated administrative structure for Hamilton-Wentworth.
Within a couple of weeks, the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing did ask my colleague, the other parliamentary assistant for municipal affairs, Ernie Hardeman, to undertake a review of that report and move forward with terms of reference on how it could be turned into legislation.
But a funny thing happened on the way to the forum. They got cold feet down in Hamilton-Wentworth. In the context of all of those reports, and most damning, the final report of the constituent assembly that these same mayors had set up and had charged with the task of ascertaining what the public in Hamilton-Wentworth believed -- let me just highlight a few of the details -- was a single unified municipal council for the entire Hamilton-Wentworth community, community councils, single administration for the entire region, decentralized service delivery, benchmarking and best practices.
That's what the people of Hamilton-Wentworth said. That's what the voters that member opposite represents said. For all the damning that went on from that side about why we didn't -- exactly that process here in Toronto, Bill 103, the answer being of course that municipal politicians here had wasted the first two years of their three-year mandate. There was no time. He now turns around and damns his own constituents for the conclusion that is represented by this resolution. I believe it's only appropriate we move forward. I support this resolution wholeheartedly.
Mrs Lyn McLeod (Fort William): I rise, not as a member who comes from the Hamilton-Wentworth region, so I don't feel it's appropriate for me to enter into debate on the pros and cons of the history of the debate that's gone on in that area to attempt to reach a consensus on these very difficult issues of amalgamation and what form of governance is in the best interests of all the residents, all the citizens of a particular region.
The reason I rise to speak today is because I find it, as a parliamentarian, somewhat incredible that this resolution should be here at all, let alone that this resolution should be here on the very last day of the session of the House. I speak to it because I see this as being a classic illustration of the way this entire government does business. I want to make just a couple of points about it.
First is that typically of this government, resolutions they'd rather that nobody noticed tend to be brought in under the cover of something else or at the very last minute in the hope that nobody will recognize that once again we have a government that is going to attempt to impose its will on the people of this province.
The government members will argue that there has indeed been a long history, a lot of time taken in an attempt to reach a consensus. The bottom line is there is not a full consensus on this issue yet, as both the member for Hamilton East and the member for Hamilton Centre have said, "This still constitutes a unilateral action by government and it is still action which is intended to shut down dissent."
Typical then that this government would bring it in on the last day of the session, just as they brought original bully Bill 26 under the cover of a budget debate and wanted it passed in the two weeks before Christmas; just like they brought in the draconian rule changes that are intended to shut down dissent in this place; just as this government wants to shut down dissent in the public forum; just as they brought those draconian rule changes in under cover of other things in the hope they could quickly get them through before the end of the session when nobody would be noticing.
This resolution, and the timing and the way it's been brought forward, is illustrative of this government's method of operation in another way. It's a classic illustration of the way they have decided to start using backbenchers to do the dirty work of government. If this government wants to force an amalgamation, they certainly have examples of how to do that. They have examples of how to do that in the amalgamation in Toronto where they rammed through that amalgamation in spite of the opposition of 72% of the population.
I guess they decided that they didn't want to be seen to be forcing another amalgamation on another region. I guess they didn't want to be too quick to get the tag of being bullying on amalgamation again. They'd just done Toronto; they'd just forced through the amalgamation of school boards in the province. It's a little bit heavy a record to add another one. What do they do? They have one of their backbenchers bring in a resolution so that then they can wash their hands of it. They're being urged to take action in Hamilton-Wentworth. They're being urged by one of their own members and a member from that area to take action. They will defend this on the grounds that this is about giving backbenchers more of a voice.
I'm sure the member for Nepean who was the front man for the rules changes will argue that this is the kind of a voice backbenchers should have. If this is truly the voice of a backbencher, and if this government really doesn't want to have any part of unilaterally forcing amalgamation on another region, let them defeat the resolution, and then their member has had every chance to urge them to take unilateral action if that is what he wants and let the government defeat it. If the government defeats it, then we will rise and say: "Maybe the government is going to back away. Maybe the government has learned its lessons. Maybe it's not going to force amalgamation on another region."
But I am pessimistic because we have seen in the last weeks the way in which this government is prepared to use a backbencher to do the dirty work for them. They didn't bring forward the rule changes themselves. They had the member for Nepean bring forward the rule changes. They had the member for Nepean out there saying that this is about increasing the amount of time for debate, when in fact we know that it is about ramming more legislation through in a hurry so that people in the public don't get a chance to voice their concerns, let alone people in this Legislature. That's what the rule changes were all about.
It wasn't about more time for debate, as the member for Nepean suggested. What the government wanted was to be able to ram through their legislation, and they used the member for Nepean as a backbencher to be able to carry it forward under the flag of more time for debate. Clearly this government doesn't want to be responsible for its bullying actions, the kind of bullying actions that we see in the rule change proposals, the kinds of unilateral actions against a region that we see urged in this resolution.
One of the rule changes is very relevant to the resolution that's before us today, because one of the rule changes will prevent opposition members from blocking a private member's bill. I expect the member for Nepean will say, "That's all about giving more support to private members so that they can bring forward their bills and not run the risk of opposition from 12 members of the House." In fact, what that rule change will do is make it even more easy for the government, give the government more scope to let private members do their dirty work for them with no opposition at all.
That may be the government's intention, to wash their hands of the responsibility for the next series of bullying actions they want to take, but they simply can't duck the responsibility. It will be the government's decision as to whether or not this motion passes. They have the majority. As with all things, the government, the cabinet, will dictate what it wants and we will see whether or not the majority government passes this resolution, just as it will be a decision of the government, not the backbenchers, not the member for Nepean, to impose rule changes on this assembly that will stifle debate and dissent.
It will be the government's decision as to whether or not they act on this motion. Private members' motions don't need to be carried forward by government. The member for Hamilton Mountain may wish to urge his government to take unilateral action. His government does not have to do that. The member for Nepean may say: "Well, these weren't really the government's rule changes. I really believe in this. I'm putting it forward." The government doesn't need to bring that forward as a bill. The government doesn't need to act on that. The decisions that are made in this place when you have a government with a majority are clearly the decisions of the government.
Make no mistake about it: If this resolution is passed today, if this resolution goes forward, it is because once again we have a government that is in a great hurry to ram its agenda through. It's not content with having forced its amalgamation on the Toronto municipalities this spring. It's not content with having brought about the broadest school board amalgamations that this province has ever seen this spring. It's going to force through another amalgamation on another region.
I fully appreciate that there has been a long history here. Reaching consensus on something as difficult as amalgamation, reaching consensus on something which is as gut-wrenching, as heart-wrenching, for citizens as altering their sense of community, their sense of involvement in community, takes a very long time.
It is sort of like, dare I say, hospital restructuring. Up in my community we worked for 10 years to bring about hospital restructuring, and the hospital restructuring commission came in with its unilateral powers to impose its will on our community and destroyed 10 years of work to get consensus on that issue in my community.
Yes, it takes a long time to get consensus, to get real consensus, to have citizen participation and involvement and to have citizens buy in. This government has no patience for that, no time for that at all. They believe it's okay as government, when you've got a majority and you've got an agenda, to go ahead with that agenda and to do it as fast as possible, because they've got a political imperative here. Their political imperative is to get all the dirty work done now. You're at the two-year mark. You want the next two years for appeasement, so you've got to do all the bullying now and get it done. You can't wait any longer for Hamilton-Wentworth. You can't wait any longer for consensus.
So they will act on this motion, I suspect. They will silence the opposition in Hamilton-Wentworth, just as they will move forward on their rule changes to silence opposition in this House and as they will continue to silence dissent in this province.
Mr Gilles Bisson (Cochrane South): This private member's motion is yet again another example of how the government is utilizing the private members' hour to basically do government business. This is not the first time the government has done this, and this is certainly, by the looks of it, not going to be the last.
We have to remember what this time is for. We have two hours every week to bring forward motions by individual members that deal with issues within their own ridings or deal with issues that are important to the constituents they represent. Arguably, you can say the member is from Hamilton, but the fact is that this government moved on the megacity madness, on Bill 103, last fall much to the opposition of not only the members of the opposition but most of the people in the city of Toronto, and this government did not want to be in the position of having to themselves impose legislation on the people of the cities in and around Hamilton.
What do they do? They get the private member to introduce a motion asking for it to be done so that if they do go ahead, they can say, "Oh, it wasn't us. It was the member from Hamilton who made us do it," and they can hide behind this private member's bill.
In the 20 seconds I have left, I have to say to members of this assembly, members of the government, you have to stop utilizing private members' hour to be doing what is government business. You start doing that and it is a long, slippery slope where finally individual members of this assembly are going to start losing the rights that they have in this assembly to properly represent the constituents of their own ridings.
Mrs Lillian Ross (Hamilton West): I'm pleased to rise and join in the debate on this private member's resolution. The opposition have raised a couple of issues with respect to the motivation for the member's resolution. It's my understanding that private members' time is exactly that: private members' time. It's for us to bring forward matters that we are concerned about, issues that we're concerned about and things that we hear in our communities and that we want to see changed.
There's not much time, but I want to tell people about Hamilton. We often hear derogatory comments about Hamilton, the steel city. I'm proud of Hamilton. I'm proud of the community that makes up Hamilton-Wentworth and I'm proud of the individuals who live in that community. I'm proud of our steel industry. I'm proud of the fact that we have looked to our community to come up with what we call Vision 2020, which looks at diversifying our community and making sure we have economic prospects in our community to make it a viable community on into the future. I think we all in Hamilton-Wentworth love our community and we all work hard for our community.
Hamilton has been acknowledged, as we've heard, by the United Nations for their Vision 2020. The constituent assembly report has been honoured with this latest award for their efforts in coming to a solution with respect to municipal restructuring. We have a lot to be proud of in Hamilton-Wentworth.
With respect to restructuring, we have a lot of history that goes back numerous years, as you've heard on reports that have been submitted. Every one of them except for one states that the only way for Hamilton-Wentworth to continue to be a viable economic community for its people is to restructure into a one-tier regional government -- every report but one.
I listened to the member for Fort William, who says she is appalled that backbenchers are sent to do the dirty work of the government. I take real exception to that. Private members' resolutions do not impose anything on the government, they allow members to bring forward matters that concern them, so I take real exception to that.
The member for Hamilton Centre said that restructuring has always been a focus of controversy in Hamilton-Wentworth, and indeed it has. He also mentioned, and so have the members for Hamilton East and Fort William, that they question the timing of this. I'll say to them that private members get to put their private members' bills according to designated slots. Unfortunately, his bill came at this time. We, at the time his slot came, didn't even know we'd be sitting at this date. I think they should look at that as well.
With respect to what's going on in Hamilton-Wentworth, recently the Spectator conducted a poll on amalgamation and what people felt about amalgamation, what they were concerned about. Some 51% of the people where concerned about community. What does "community" mean? It doesn't mean a bunch of politicians sitting in a room. "Community" means people living together, neighbour to neighbour; people working together, helping each other, building families and homes. That's what community is all about; it's not about politicians in a room. So I take real exception to people saying, "I'm going to lose my local identity by this."
You know what? In Hamilton, we have numerous communities. We have Durand neighbourhood, we have Beasley, we have Westdale. Up in Hamilton West, we have Gourlay Park, Gilkison. They're all communities. They all come together in the end to form one local identity, what we keep intact, what matters to us most. I think that's what makes community. I don't think politicians make community.
Somebody talked about the flip-flops of this government on this issue. I say to them that the flip-flops have not happened here; they've happened at the local level. They've happened with politicians at the local level who didn't know where they wanted to go. We still don't have a combined effort from the regional politicians. We've got local interests saying, "We oppose this," but we don't have one combined. We've got a report that came forward that they all agreed to, but when there were amendments put forward, nobody agreed to the amendments. So what do we have? Nothing.
On April 7, what we do have from the city of Hamilton from committee of the whole is an agreement that they want an amalgamated tax base, representation by population, amalgamation of all area municipalities into the city of Hamilton. They want to eliminate the region and devolve all staff and services into the city of Hamilton. They want regional, one-tier government. I'm very much supportive of it. I can't say enough about the fact that I think it's unfortunate we didn't get a local solution. We would have all preferred a local solution. It's evident it's not happening, so I'm very much supportive of the resolution.
Mr Toni Skarica (Wentworth North): I only have three minutes. Personally, this whole amalgamation debate has been a source of considerable pain to myself and to all members of the Hamilton community. When I ran for politics, there were two principles that I believed all governments should adhere to. I think we all should adhere to them, and it doesn't matter what party you're from. They are that government should be run in an efficient manner -- run like a business is how we phrased it -- and it should be done in a democratic fashion. It has been a source of pain to me that this has not occurred in Hamilton in this debate.
The constituent assembly report was referred to. The problem with the constituent assembly report is that attached thereto is a report from a chartered accounting firm that says you could save up to $200 million but without any breakdown of any kind on how it's going to be done. If you were in a business and you said, "Let's restructure," and you asked, "How much is it going to save us?" and they said, "Well, $200 million," and you asked, "Where are the details?" and they said, "I don't have any," you wouldn't do it. So the regional council didn't do it.
Into this morass the government sent an individual named Gardner Church. It's interesting to note how he conducted himself. Bill 26 indicated that any restructuring had to be an open process, no private meetings allowed. In fact, section 55 of the Municipal Act says you can't have private meetings unless certain requirements are met, and they weren't met here. Church came in and he had private meetings right off the bat. He broke the minister's own guidelines. He broke the law. What did he do when he broke the law? What did he do in those private meetings? Mayor Wade -- who is the most respectable, experienced, decent, honest mayor you could ever get; he's been in Ancaster forever, probably was there before Mr Laughren was here in the Legislature -- said: "I had no choice but to sign it. They put a gun to my head."
This is the November 8 agreement we're talking about. Of the four out of six mayors who signed, three of them had the gun put to their head. Here we have laws broken, rules broken, guns to the head. Government like a business? Business is not a Mafia; that's what this business sounded like. There was no costing of any kind.
The key part of the November 8 agreement was that we were going to save $30 million. The question was asked, "Where did $30 million come from?" Don't forget, it was $200 million to be saved just months earlier in the constituent assembly report. All the mayors said, "We don't know." The figure was pulled out of the air. Could you imagine going to a private company and saying, "Let's restructure," and asking, "How much is it going to save?" and they say, "Well, $30 million," and you ask, "Where did you get that figure from?" and they say, "Alchemy; I pulled it out of the air." You would never restructure in the private sector on that basis.
Mr Pettit: So much to say in so little time. I'd like to thank the members for Cochrane South, Hamilton East, Hamilton Centre, Scarborough East, Hamilton West, Wentworth North and Fort William. I find the comments from the member for Fort William somewhat insulting, but we've come to get used to that from a member who obviously still can't rein in and conceal her bitterness over the results of the last provincial election.
To those who say this is political opportunism in the timing, I should remind them that I wrote to the Premier in March of this year proposing exactly what I am proposing today, and they never did tell us why they didn't.
There has been nothing said to sway me in any of the arguments that were presented. The people of Hamilton-Wentworth are all one people. We all go to the Binbrook Fair, we all go to the Ancaster Fair, we all go to Hamilton Place, we go to Stoney Creek Flag Day, we go to the cactus festival in Dundas or the Rockton Fall Fair up in Flamboro.
It's very easy for the member for Wentworth North to say there was a local solution. But he sat down all those who were opposed to the one tier in order to come up with that solution, so that's very simple right there.
In closing, I'd like to say that what divides us are artificial political boundaries and the local politicians. They don't create community identity and they don't create community spirit; the people do. I believe it's time for leadership. Leadership is not taking a position, leadership is taking action, and the time for action is now. If not now, when? If not by the provincial government, then by whom?
Mr Richard Patten (Ottawa Centre): I rise today as the Liberal Party's human rights critic to recognize Pride Week and the significant contributions made to our society by the gay and lesbian community.
In my riding of Ottawa Centre, gays and lesbians have always been a strong and vibrant force in all aspects of community life. They are an anchor in keeping a good part of our downtown safe, healthy and livable. Their battles for acceptance and equality have been hard fought and hard won, and they still have a way to go.
Ontario's laws still discriminate against same-sex couples in many areas such as employment benefits, ability to make decisions on behalf of children or loved ones who are unable to consent to treatment, mourning rites for deceased partners, and inheritance rights.
The chief Ontario Human Rights Commissioner has called on the Ontario government to revise 16 laws which violate the rights of gays and lesbians. I support his move, as I'm sure many in this House do as well.
Gay pride as we know it stems from a particularly ugly incident in 1969 in New York City where gays were viciously attacked. Regrettably, discrimination based on sexual orientation still is with us and exists, and regrettably, so does the violence that all too often accompanies it.
Pride Week is an important celebration for many gays and lesbians in many communities. Today in Toronto, Pride Week is one of the largest cultural events in North America. This year marks its 17th anniversary.
Gays and lesbians are people from all walks of life: they are our friends, our neighbours, our coworkers and our family. Please join with me in recognizing Pride Week and in working towards balancing the inequality that exists --
Mr Peter Kormos (Welland-Thorold): The St Catharines long-term-care office has served the Niagara region in an exemplary fashion. It's resolved difficult health care issues with skill and sensitivity. That office has had a strong, involved presence in Niagara Peninsula communities, which has made for good communication with service providers and consumers.
Reminiscent of this government's attack on the family support plan, 14 area offices providing long-term care in their respective areas are being abandoned, to be substituted by five regional offices serving and monitoring 1,700 long-term-care agencies. After the family support plan decentralization fiasco this government should think twice about removing valued services from the communities that need them.
This move will prove more costly at the end of the day. This move will subject those in need of the services provided by these long-term-care offices to abandonment and in fact deny them the services that are rightly theirs. It will affect the ability of long-term-care staff to effectively monitor and supervise the long-term-care providers who are available to clientele across the province.
Mr W. Leo Jordan (Lanark-Renfrew): This year, Canadian Living magazine challenged readers to write and tell them why their home town was the best in the country. Entries and nominations poured in from young and old, ranging from the best place to raise a family to the best place to retire.
Today I wish to inform all members in the House that the town of Perth in the county of Lanark was selected as the number one community for retirement in Canada. For Mrs Betty Rapkins of Perth, who sent in the winning entry, Perth is number one for many reasons. She said Perth has food and housing at a reasonable price, excellent health care, a fine hospital and doctors, and is a town where you can sing, dance, act, quilt, curl, hike, or play golf on one of Canada's oldest golf courses, Links O'Tay.
Perth is a community for all seasons and generations. There are endless types of recreation, ranging from swimming in a modern indoor pool to being able to fish or boat in over 100 lakes within a 50-mile radius. Winter activities range from travelling the hundreds of miles of snowmobile trails around the region, to the annual Festival of the Maples.
Perth is vibrant, full of life and community spirit. I would suggest to all members of the House that they take some time and visit this heritage town during the summer recess. I know you won't be disappointed.
Mr Dwight Duncan (Windsor-Walkerville): On August 26, 1996, a runaway gravel truck crossed Steeles Avenue at the exit ramp from the 404 and smashed into a town house, killing May Wong and injuring her two sons. Residents in the area have been living in fear ever since; living in fear that another truck will overshoot the same busy exit ramp, causing more damage and more deaths.
For months, the local residents have been demanding that the government build a retaining wall around this ramp to protect them. Local Meadoway resident Mary-Jane Rose has led the fight since last September to get a commitment to action from Minister of Transportation. But it's now more than eight months since the minister wrote to former Oriole MPP Elinor Caplan promising he would act quickly.
Since that time, specific promises of protective structures have been made only to be delayed and delayed. Today, almost a year after the original death, the minister's promises of quick action have become a farce. The people of the Meadoway community are still waiting and are still wondering when the next truck will overshoot the ramp.
Recently, local school trustee David Caplan has also been active on the issue, working with the Meadoway residents to get the minister to honour his commitment to plan to begin construction. David Caplan has spoken to me on behalf of the local residents asking that we remind the minister in the Legislature of his promise. How long will the people of Meadoway have to wait before this government agrees --
"You will be aware that on April 18, 1996, the Ontario Legislature passed my resolution which committed the government to phase out the emission of environmental carcinogens. This resolution came directly from a comprehensive report on cancer prevention undertaken by a former Minister of Health, Ruth Grier.
"This coming July 13-17, Kingston is hosting the World Conference on Breast Cancer. A full day of the conference has been set aside for discussing prevention/environment and I will be attending that session. I'm sure you would agree that it would be a perfect occasion to be able to announce that legislators of all three parties are working together to carry out this resolution and that we are taking some leadership in the area of cancer prevention.
Cancer claims over 20,000 lives every year in Ontario, and by now we have enough evidence to know that some of these carcinogens are causing damage to the immune, neurological and reproductive systems.
The Ontario Choral Federation, which last year celebrated its silver anniversary, has been an active participant in the global musical community. For a quarter-century, the foundation has linked Ontarians with others around the world who share a passion for choirs and choral music.
The foundation's extensive musical library and programs serve more than 14,000 people and contribute significantly to Ontario's musical legacy. Moreover, the foundation's special events do more than showcase local and international talent. They also generate economic activity for the province.
Much of the foundation's success is due to the hard work and creativity of its members and volunteers. Their time and expertise, given freely, have enriched the lives of choral music fans and practitioners far beyond the boundaries of their organization.
Our government knows that when it comes to a healthy community, a vibrant volunteer sector is just as important as the public and private sectors. The Ontario Choral Federation's many years of service are a testament to the volunteer spirit and a source of inspiration for all of us.
Mr Michael Gravelle (Port Arthur): Earlier today, Privatization Minister Rob Sampson and Culture Minister Marilyn Mushinski announced that TVOntario has been referred to the Office of Privatization for a review of the role of the provincial government in educational broadcasting.
Unfortunately, I understand that Minister Sampson has decided to insult the members of the Legislature and the people of Ontario by not also making this announcement in the Legislature today. However, on behalf of the Ontario Liberal caucus, I believe a response to this major announcement is not only in order but of grave importance.
The people of Ontario have also put their support behind TVOntario. Public opinion surveys confirm that a strong majority of Ontarians oppose the potential privatization of TVO. Thousands of people from all across the province have expressed their support for our publicly funded network by sending in petitions en masse.
However, in that the government has now decided to begin this privatization review, let me be very clear about how this process must work. I know the minister is listening. We urge the government to conduct open and honest public consultation across the province. We have seen more than one example of this government going against the public will. Therefore, all of us must be diligent to ensure that the public is heard and listened to.
I want to say to the ministers, when you launched your privatization framework you said two questions must always be asked: (1) Is there a way to improve service to the public? (2) Does it increase value to the taxpayer? These two goals don't recognize that TVO may be damaged by the process, regardless of the outcome.
TVOntario will be the guinea pig for your framework. It may also be the victim. Your government's bottom-line mentality doesn't value the intangible assets of TVO: educational, award-winning television that is violence-free and commercial-free.
The privatization process threatens TVO's essential services to northern and native communities and TFO, the French network. Will these services survive the privatization process or will they too fall victim to this government's hurried incompetence?
Today this government is one step closer to snatching TVO out of the hands of Ontarians and handing it over to the highest bidder. I urge the public to get involved. Come forward and defend TVO. Tell the commission that TVO matters. Show the commission that it is not in the public interest to sell off or commercialize TVO.
Mr Dan Newman (Scarborough Centre): It gives me great pleasure to rise in the House today as the member for Scarborough Centre in order to recognize June as Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis Awareness Month.
Since 1990, the month of June has been recognized as ALS Awareness Month. The ALS Society of Canada has been running a flower day in June for many years now to raise funds for the fight against this disease. As well, Lou Gehrig, one of baseball's all-time greatest players, retired from baseball in June and died of ALS in June 1941.
The ALS Society of Canada was incorporated in 1977 as a non-profit charitable organization devoted exclusively to people with ALS, to funding research into the causes of ALS, to develop educational materials and to promote public awareness of the disease. The ALS Society raises funds through donations for research to find a cure and to meet the needs of people with ALS and those who care for them until a cure is found.
In 1995, the flower awareness days campaign raised almost $222,000. In 1996, over $220,000 was raised. Every Ontarian's generosity will ensure that the 1997 totals are even greater. All the money raised goes directly to research and represents the single greatest source of funds for research into this deadly disease.
Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-Woodbine): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I rise to request unanimous consent. As you know, this weekend is the celebration of Gay Pride Day and there will be many events across the province. I would like to ask unanimous consent for the three caucuses to speak for a few minutes to the celebration of Gay Pride Day.
These plans review last year's accomplishments and provide a road map to direct the public service for the coming year. They demonstrate the government's commitment to provide effective and cost-efficient services. Together they constitute a very thorough report to the public.
This year we are providing plans which more clearly enable the public to gauge the value ministries are providing for tax dollars. Ministries are responsible for achieving the objectives they have set. They are accountable to the public for getting results. We want results for every tax dollar.
The government is committed to strengthening business planning across the Ontario public service. Next year it is our intention to bring greater efficiency to this process by tabling business plans as annual reports. Business plans are clearer, more precise and more informative. They commit ministries to get results.
The individual business plans are intended for anyone who wishes to examine ministry operations in detail. We are committed to fuller and more open communication with the public on ministry operations.
These business plans and this brochure show that we have made solid progress over the past year. Our plan is working. We are investing in priority services; maintaining safe and secure communities; cutting taxes to create jobs; and making government work for people. We have mapped out solid accomplishments. We have outlined targets we intend to achieve. We have stated how we intend to measure our results.
I want to emphasize that we will continue to move forward by listening to taxpayers and putting our efforts into programs that benefit the public. We will continue to share our results and our plans for the future.
Hon Al Leach (Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing): Today I am pleased to introduce legislation which deals with the administrative, technical and specific transitional matters around the move to one city of Toronto.
First, our bill would ensure that important local boards and commissions continue to exist and function just as they always have. These boards include the TTC, the Canadian National Exhibition, the zoo and the Hummingbird Centre. No changes.
Second, our bill would simply continue the services currently available to all residents of Metropolitan Toronto. In other words, the new city would be legally authorized, as its predecessors were, to provide ambulance services, operate the Toronto Islands ferry, regulate street vending, police Toronto harbour, operate homes for the aged, plan and act in emergencies and so on.
A third aspect of this bill deals with protecting pensions and benefits of municipal and local board employees and retirees. There is no question that these obligations should continue to be honoured by the new city.
Our bill would also deal with specific transitional issues. For example, it will allow official plans of former municipalities to continue until such time as a new council wishes to adopt a new plan. It would also merge existing health, library and historical boards as well as parking authorities to ensure a more cohesive service structure is in place for residents.
Last but not least, our bill would permit the new council, if it wishes, to examine the financial picture and service levels in existing municipalities and take steps to address any imbalances. For example, the new council could designate reserve funds to be used to benefit taxpayers in the area where they were raised. That seems only fair to me, as I'm sure it does to everyone else.
In conclusion, let me say that this bill is largely operational in nature, but necessary for the new city to be completely operational on January 1, 1998. It would allow residents peace of mind, knowing that their city is in control, that it has the authority to carry on routine duties, and that we're all on the way to a more efficient, effective and less costly government structure.
Hon Noble Villeneuve (Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, minister responsible for francophone affairs): I am pleased to announce to the members of this House that today the government is delivering on its promise to strengthen protection for farmers using normal farm practices.
This proposed Act to Protect Farming and Food Production is a crucial piece of legislation for farmers since it sets out to protect their ability to produce an ample supply of safe, reliable food that is enjoyed not only in Ontario, but around the world. We need to provide this protection to ensure the agrifood industry continues to be a major economic engine in this province.
The agrifood industry contributes $25 billion a year to the provincial economy. It is the second-largest employer in the province and continues to create jobs and increase wealth through growing exports. Our farmers are the producers of the raw materials that feed our population and play a key role in keeping our economy running. Farmers need assurances that they can conduct their business and produce food without nuisance lawsuits or without facing unnecessarily restrictive bylaws.
The legislation I am introducing today provides that protection. Farmers and municipal leaders have told us that the current legislation, which is almost 10 years old, no longer reflects the needs of Ontario's growing rural population or its food producers.
Par conséquent, grâce aux mesures législatives que nous déposons aujourd'hui, nous proposons un équilibre entre le droit des agriculteurs de mener leurs affaires et les droits de l'ensemble des résidents de nos collectivités rurales.
The legislation I am tabling here today is the result of an extensive, province-wide consultation process which included more than 1,000 rural residents including farmers, rural municipal leaders and other rural stakeholders.
I would like to thank my colleagues the member for Hastings-Peterborough, Harry Danford, parliamentary assistant to the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, and the former parliamentary assistant, the member for Lambton, Marcel Beaubien, who led the consultation process and worked with the Ontario Federation of Agriculture, the Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario, the Rural Ontario Municipal Association and many of the farm commodity groups.
Our guiding principle throughout the review of the act has been to strengthen the protection of farming and food production while keeping it in harmony with health, safety and the environment. It is our intention to reinforce agriculture and food production as a provincial interest while balancing the needs of the rural community.
Let me briefly outline some of the changes that are being proposed: We would provide farmers who are carrying out normal farm practices protection from municipal bylaws that restrict farm practices. Under this proposed protection, farmers would be allowed to apply to a new Normal Farm Practices Protection Board for a ruling on a specific farm practice. If the board rules that the farm practice is normal, the bylaw would not apply in that case.
Nous avons l'intention de nommer à la nouvelle commission un plus grand nombre de représentants des municipalités rurales. Ce changement aidera à assurer une approche équilibrée en ce qui touche le règlement des différends et à faire en sorte que les droits de l'ensemble de la population des régions rurales soient pris en considération.
In addition, prior to implementation, the ministry, in partnership with the OFA, the CFFO and ROMA would launch an education and awareness campaign to inform potential rural property purchasers, real estate agents, farmers and municipalities about the normal farming practices used in that area.
In summary, our proposed Act to Protect Farming and Food Production is proof of this government's serious and sincere commitment to a growing agrifood sector and to the farmers who contribute so much to the rural economy of this way of life. Let us never forget when agriculture succeeds, all of Ontario benefits.
Mr Floyd Laughren (Nickel Belt): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I wonder if I could have unanimous consent to allow the minister for privatization to make a statement on his wrongheaded attempt to review TVO for privatization.
Mr Bruce Crozier (Essex South): On behalf of the Liberal Party, to the minister, we support the principle of updated legislation because of the ever-increasing clashes between rural and urban populations. Along with the Ontario Federation of Agriculture, the Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario, the Rural Ontario Municipal Association and many of the farm commodity groups, we agree that this bill is expected to expand the farmers' ability to continue normal farming practices.
We look forward to debating the bill and certainly support it in principle. We look forward to the introduction of the bill and subsequent debate during readings. I will quote our agricultural critic, Pat Hoy, in saying, "Increasingly, the urban person is being put into the farmer's workplace," and we hope this legislation will help farmers deal with that problem.
Mr Mike Colle (Oakwood): Just to respond to the Minister of Municipal Affairs, the minister is telling everybody, "Don't worry, everything's cool, everything's under control." It's just like the minister telling the homeowner whose house has been bulldozed, "It's okay, we didn't touch your back porch and your front garden is okay." In the statement he says, "By the way, the Hummingbird Centre won't be altered in its operation and also the zoo is going to remain the same," yet he has wiped away cities like Scarborough, which is over 200 years old, with his bulldozer.
Everything isn't okay. The two and a half million people in Metro Toronto are in turmoil because of your recklessness. They don't know whether they're coming or going. For instance, in taxes, with your downloading of social services, your downloading of roads, they don't know what their taxes are going to be. With your new market value assessment system they don't know what their taxes are going to be.
With all the other measures that you're doing daily, you have created the fourth- and fifth-largest governments in Canada in the last couple of months. People don't know who to call because of all the confusion and the turmoil you're causing. New taxes, new governments, new education system -- what are the tax impacts of that going to be? There's so much fear and trepidation out there because you refuse to listen and slow down.
Why don't you finally admit that there are huge problems with trying to do this overnight to 2.5 million people. The pity was that this was cited as the most successful city in the world to live in and the minister has just bulldozed it. It's like bulldozing that house again. Just because you had a problem with the plumbing in the sink, you bulldozed the house.
Mr Monte Kwinter (Wilson Heights): I received with interest the report proposed by the government for their government business plans. I would just caution the Chairman of Management Board that when he says "better government," it doesn't necessarily mean that cheaper government gives you better government. I would hope that this minister and this government would certainly not fall to those who say, "If you only ran this government like a business, everything would be fine." We have obligations, we have responsibilities.
Today the minister for privatization talked about the possibility of privatizing TVO. There's no question, if you want to be really efficient, shut it right down, but that is not the role of government. The government has a role to play to provide essential services, cultural services, things for the people of Ontario that may not necessarily be cost-effective.
Without question, I think taxpayers have to get value for their dollars, but that doesn't necessarily mean that the dollar dictates what happens. We have crises in education and health care that are all predicated on your particular desire to give those people who least need it tax cuts without concern for what is happening as a result of that.
I would caution you again that when we talk about efficiencies and when we talk about effectiveness, we make sure that the citizens of Ontario are not being shortchanged so that they are not getting the things that make this jurisdiction the kind of a place that it is. Notwithstanding all of your efforts, it's quite interesting to note that the major credit rating agencies still do not consider the credit rating of Ontario better than it was when you railed against the previous government for their total ineptitude in managing this economy.
Is it part of the business plan, for example, in the Ministry of Attorney General to shut down the family support plan and create chaos out there for women and children across the province? Is that part of the business plan? Is it part of the business plan to turn the legal aid plan upside down and inside out, so that we have all sorts of unjust results happening in our courts across the province, people who need representation who can't get representation? Is it part of the business plan in the Ministry of Attorney General to literally turn our family courts inside out so that in case after case across this province we have women who cannot get legal representation, who are forced to go to court, to act on their own behalf, and the result is again unjust result after unjust result?
Is it part of the Ministry of Natural Resources' business plan to so reduce the number of firefighters in the province and the number of forward fire attack bases that we literally had a crisis in our forests earlier this spring? Yet at the same time the Ministry of Natural Resources is having to put some firefighters, who used to stay at forward attack bases, up in hotels at $60 and $70 a night and, in some cases, in resorts at $90 and $100 a night. Is this part of the business plan?
Is it part of the business plan to shut down the forward fire attack bases that are in the critical areas where we know from historical evidence we're likely to have forest fires, but maintain fire attack bases in the Minister of Finance's riding and in the Minister of Natural Resources' riding where history shows we never have forest fires? That must have been part of the business plan as well.
Then there is health care. Was it part of the business plan to create chaos in our hospitals across this province? Was it part of the business plan to lay off 11,000 badly needed nurses and health care workers? Was it part of the business plan to create longer lists for surgery, longer waiting lists than ever before?
Then there is Comsoc. Was it part of the business plan of this government to increase the number of children living in poverty virtually every day that this government is the government? Is it part of the business plan of this government to cut so much from children's aid society budgets that children's aid societies across this province are faced with growing waiting lists of children who need protection, children who are at risk or children who need help? Was that part of the business plan too?
Was it part of the business plan to take so much from the Ministry of Environment and Energy that the Environmental Commissioner issues a report saying that we are headed in the direction of an environmental crisis? Was that part of the business plan?
Mr Howard Hampton (Rainy River): Now I want to move to the Minister of Agriculture. I want to say to the minister, I share your goals. I agree that farmers and the work that farmers do is very valuable for this province and that work needs to be protected, but what you have really done, if you put it all together, is put the cat among the pigeons.
Your government has virtually done away with land use planning legislation. You have given an open invitation to developers to move into rural Ontario wherever they can make a buck, or a bigger buck, and try to set up shop. You have set up, by removing those land use protections, the inevitable conflict between developers who want to make money and farmers who want to farm. That conflict is going to get worse by what you've done to the farm tax rebate.
You have set up a situation where there is going to be inevitable conflict between rural residents who don't farm and farmers, because rural residents are going to become increasingly jealous of farmers, who have a slightly lower tax rate. You are setting up more and more conflicts between rural residents and farmers. This is a good attempt but if you measure this good attempt against everything else that you've tried to, it's not going to work.
Ms Annamarie Castrilli (Downsview): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I want to raise a point of privilege with you and I want to say at the outset that this is not intended to rehash what happened here yesterday nor indeed should it be construed as a challenge to your ruling, but I hope you will grant me some latitude in making my point.
Yesterday the Integrity Commissioner reported that a minister of the crown, the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, was found in violation of the Members' Integrity Act and in flagrant violation of parliamentary convention. The Members' Integrity Act, as you know, under section 34 requires the members of the assembly to consider the report and to report within 30 days. Your ruling yesterday indicated -- and by the way, we accept the ruling entirely -- that 30 days meant 30 calendar days and that what we engaged in yesterday was neither a consideration nor indeed a report to this assembly on the substantive merits of the report.
The proceedings of this House are due to adjourn this afternoon and come back on August 18. The legislation is clear: We have 30 calendar days to consider and report. Simple math will tell you that the period between now and August 18 exceeds 30 days. The point I wish to make is simply this: We have now had a minister of the crown who has broken the law. We, as members of the assembly, wish to be within the confines of the Members' Integrity Act. We do not wish, I do not wish, to break the law because of the adjournment of this House.
What I would ask you to rule on and give us some guidance on is how we as members of this assembly can fulfil our obligations under the legislation, the Members' Integrity Act, how we can avoid breaking the law in the event that this matter is not dealt with today and the House does not reconvene before August 18.
The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): I think I dealt with that part of the issue yesterday. To simply clarify, there are many avenues available for the government to live within the law that's set out. I expressed at the time that that was just day one, and today happens to be day two, so it would be premature and it would be conjecture on my part to even begin to determine how they should handle the situation since they call the order of the business for this House. So at this point in time I don't think I need add any more than that, except to tell you that I addressed it yesterday, and again, it's a decision that will be taken by the government House leader, as I expressed in my response. Beyond that, there is little more I can add at this time.
Mr Wayne Wettlaufer (Kitchener): On a point of privilege, Mr Speaker: Yesterday, you tabled the individual members' expenditures for the fiscal year 1996-97. In perusing them, I notice that all but six members of the two opposition parties overspent their allotments. The allotment that all members are given is $201,084. All but six of the opposition members spent over that $201,084. I was wondering if you would give --
Mr Wettlaufer: I was wondering if you could give the members here an undertaking that you will review why the overexpenditures were made and if you could report back to us, because this is an abuse of our privilege.
The Speaker: Order, please. I have no interest in beginning to jump in and start measuring members' expenditures, office by office. Therefore, I will not give you any undertaking that I will report back, and in fact it's not a point of privilege or a point of order.
Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-Woodbine): On a point of privilege, Mr Speaker: I believe that incorrect information was provided to the members of the Legislative Assembly which accuses a number of members of the opposition, and by virtue of his reference and the numbers he used, one could go through and see exactly who he is accusing. I believe the facts he has put forward are incorrect, and I think the privileges of all those opposition members have therefore been abridged as a result of that. I would just ask the member to withdraw it. Perhaps he would like to check his facts, and at another time, if there's an appropriate point of order, you'll entertain it. But he should check his facts.
The Speaker: Order. Member for Hamilton East, that's out of order and you're going to have to withdraw that, so you should go back to your seat and we'll deal with that right now. You've got to do it from your own seat.
The Speaker: What we have is that they are points of privilege. The member for Kitchener is the only member who can withdraw what he said or correct his record. You cannot do that for him. So it's left at that.
Mr Gerard Kennedy (York South): I have a question for the Minister of Health. You heard yesterday from the Integrity Commissioner, who was called upon by me to do a job that basically should have been done by the Minister of Health.
When the minister set up the hospital restructuring commission, known across the province as the hospital destructuring commission, which is causing fear and concern on the part of all manner of towns and cities in this province, it was presented to the public as independent. It was given authoritarian powers, and at the very same time we see now that the façade has fallen down.
We now know that this commission has been compromised. It has been compromised by the access of ministers of the crown to the commission when there should not have been. Minister, you have a damaged commission that is out there closing hospitals, subject to influence from cabinet, subject perhaps to other influences -- we don't know. Will you recognize that your commission is compromised and will you withdraw it from its mandate today?
Hon Jim Wilson (Minister of Health): I appreciate the question from the honourable member. There's no indication in the report from Mr Justice Gregory Evans that the commission has been compromised. I know the commission itself would reject any suggestion from anybody that there was political interference in their decisions. They are too professional to allow this to influence their decisions. The honourable members who did write -- and that includes members of all parties. Those letters are public. They're part of the public record and the decision-making of the commission.
I will say that one of the reasons the Attorney General is seeking clarification is -- the honourable member will note a section in the report which says the Minister of Health should be the adjudicator of these matters. I think we want to clarify that, because certainly the Minister of Health has to be at arm's length to this commission and yet the report seems to indicate that members should come to me and I should go to the commission. We'd certainly like to clarify that with the Integrity Commissioner, because it doesn't seem to be totally correct.
Mr Kennedy: What we are looking for is for the Minister of Health to be the Minister of Health. You had an opportunity before this was brought to the Integrity Commissioner. We asked you for your ruling on this and you said to this House that anyone in Ontario was welcome to go to the commission.
Minister, you've been told that not only were you wrong in your management of the commission, wrong in the way you presented yourself to this House; the Integrity Commissioner on page 7 of his report says you should have told the ministers that they could not apply directly to the commission, just like they could to any other commission in the province.
You have a commission that is affecting the lives of sick people in this province, of all of us in this province, and that commission has been compromised by the access of ministers, by the way you've conducted yourself as Minister of Health.
Will you table today all the contact, all the letters that have been made by yourself and by your ministerial colleagues to this commission and will you conduct some form of public inquiry about how this has been made to come about?
Hon Mr Wilson: Any letters to the commission are certainly accessible by the public. If the commission, because it is in a process, doesn't release those at this time -- they are the property of the commission -- they will certainly be able to do so under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act. it is part of the public record and part of their decision-making.
The honourable member points to page 7 of the report, and I'd indicate, also on page 7, that the modus operandi everyone was operating under in this province is exactly what I've said for months, and that is that the commission itself invited anyone to make representations. Mr Justice Gregory Evans points that out. That is what honourable members were operating under.
I said many times in this House that anyone is able to make submissions. We've been very honest and forthright. The honourable members clearly were under the impression that they could make submissions as MPPs. We've had a ruling from the commissioner that we stand by and we're looking for further clarification in his discussions with the Attorney General.
Mr Kennedy: The minister does not accurately represent what the Integrity Commissioner said. He points to the defence that Minister Leach offers and says this is inadequate, that this should not have been done and particularly should not have been done by the Minister of Health, that recommendation to go directly to the commission.
The integrity of your commission is now suspect, and it's suspect by your actions because you inadequately defended them. It says in the report that bungling doesn't have to lead to a penalty "unless there are extenuating circumstances." Well, Minister, there has been bungling, the bungling is on your part, and the extenuating circumstance is that hospitals are being closed by a commission that is compromised.
You should withdraw that commission from its mandate and you should encourage your colleague Minister Leach to resign so at least there can be an appearance of propriety on the part of your government. Will you do that today?
Hon Mr Wilson: To call into question the work done by the commission is truly unfair of the honourable member. It calls into question the experts, of whom we did not ask their political background. We didn't ask anything from them except to serve their province, without political interference, to make decisions that are at least 15 to 20 years overdue in this province.
The honourable member, depending on where he is in the province -- he talks about being in favour of restructuring when he's down in the southwest because it's been received very positively there; he gets to other hospitals and he's totally against restructuring and he and his leader are going to save that particular hospital. I'd like to know where the honourable member is on restructuring. I'd like to know what you said to the commission as a member. Clearly you are allowed, as health critic, to write the commission under the modus operandi we're all operating under. Sitting on the fence isn't acceptable when it's a very sensitive and challenging time in health care.
Mr Gerry Phillips (Scarborough-Agincourt): My question is to the Minister of Municipal Affairs. We all recall the debate around what was called Bill 26. That's the bill that set up the hospital restructuring commission. In this caucus we had major concerns about it. The reason was that we were told it was an independent, arm's-length agency that would make the final decision on hospital closings and that the cabinet would have no influence on it. That's what we were told and that's what I've been saying to my constituents, that Al Leach and Jim Wilson will not politically interfere in it. We were told that, and you played a big role in that bill.
We then found out that you actually wrote to the commission. We've also found out that the Integrity Commissioner has said that was wrong. He said you broke the integrity act. So it is clear: We were told that the commission would not have any political interference from the cabinet, and you did interfere. You broke the integrity act; you broke the law. My question is very simple: Knowing all of that, why did you not tender your resignation?
Hon Al Leach (Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing): I accept the commissioner's report. My actions were certainly done with the best of intentions. I think the Integrity Commissioner understood that. In his ruling he stated quite clearly that no penalty should be imposed.
I can tell you that in a television interview last night, the Integrity Commissioner, when responding to the question of whether I should resign, stated: "I would not think so. If I had thought so, I would have said so." That's the position of the Integrity Commissioner.
Mr Phillips: We wrote yesterday to the Integrity Commissioner to clarify the "no penalty" comment. The commissioner responded to us today in a communication to our leader, Mr McGuinty. Our leader yesterday said, "If the commissioner recommends that `no penalty be imposed' under section 34(a), should the Legislature and the Premier automatically infer from that recommendation that the minister in question shall remain a member of the executive council?"
Here's what the Integrity Commissioner said, and it's very clear. It's up to you and the Premier: "Whether a member of the executive council remains in cabinet is not a matter for my office. It would not be correct to draw any inference that my recommendation `that no penalty be imposed' has any relationship to a member's status as a member of the executive council."
In other words, the Integrity Commissioner said nothing about penalty. It is all about you, Minister. The Integrity Commissioner has said very clearly, "I am satisfied that the Honourable Allan Leach contravened the Members' Integrity Act." He goes on to talk of "flagrant violation."
Hon Mr Leach: I also will quote the Integrity Commissioner in his report that was tabled yesterday. He stated that I made a mistake in good faith in the mistaken belief that I was entitled to do so, and, "Accordingly, I recommend that no penalty be imposed."
I'm going to quote again what the commissioner stated when he was asked specifically whether I should resign as a result of my actions. He said: "I would not think so. If I had thought so, I would have said so." That's what the commissioner stated categorically when he was asked specifically whether the actions that I took in writing a letter on behalf of my constituents to the hospital restructuring commission asking that they extend time so they could have all the information they needed to make a decision -- that's what he stated. We accept the commissioner's report and its recommendations.
Mr Phillips: I repeat, we were told during the debate on the bill on the hospital restructuring, and this is what all the hospitals believed, that there wouldn't be political interference by the cabinet. I don't care what you say. The commissioner has concluded there was, that you acted improperly, you contravened the law.
The commissioner then goes on -- it's very clear, and the public should be aware of this: "The no penalty applies to the member only as a member, but in terms of the cabinet, that is a decision up to the Premier and yourself." I repeat, because the integrity of the government is at stake, I have told the hospitals in my area that cabinet won't interfere, and they now see you did interfere. They know you broke the law, albeit the commissioner said, "Well, perhaps he was just inexperienced," although you were 23 years in the public service and an assistant deputy minister. You're not a neophyte in this stuff. You broke the law.
Again, I repeat to you, will you try and restore some dignity and some integrity to the commission and the cabinet and will you simply say, "It is time for me to step aside on the basis of the commissioner's recommendations"?
Hon Mr Leach: I find it somewhat intriguing that when the Integrity Commissioner is non-partisan, has been set up and established by all three parties -- I find it difficult to understand why the opposition parties are not prepared to accept his recommendation. His recommendation quite clearly was that there was no penalty to be --
Hon Mr Leach: Again, I'll repeat specifically, when the Integrity Commissioner was specifically asked, "Should the minister resign?" he said, "If I had thought so, I would have said so." We are quite prepared, more than prepared, to accept responsibility for my actions and accept all the Integrity Commissioner's report and all his recommendations.
Mr Howard Hampton (Rainy River): I have a question to the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. I want your views on this: What would you do with a minister whom the Speaker found a prima facie case of contempt against, who supported his executive assistant when his executive assistant launched a campaign of intimidation against a member of the public, a minister who was found in violation of the integrity act by the Integrity Commissioner. If you were Premier, what would you do with a minister like that?
Hon Mr Leach: I guess if I was Premier, a job I certainly wouldn't like to have, I would accept the recommendations that are put on the table by the Integrity Commissioner, which is exactly what this government has done. In every instance, we've accepted the ruling of the Speaker, we've accepted the recommendation of the Integrity Commissioner. That's exactly what I would do if I was Premier and that's exactly what the Premier of this province has done.
Mr Hampton: Minister, the situation is this: You don't seem to learn. You come in here and you're cited for a prima facie case of contempt of this Legislature. Then you go out and you support your executive assistant in a campaign of intimidation against a member of the public, which also comes to the attention of the Integrity Commissioner. Then you break the law in terms of members' integrity. You don't seem to learn. You just don't seem to learn.
Minister, do you not realize that you are lowering the standards of the whole government? You are lowering the standards of the whole cabinet. Don't you think it's time you resigned so that people with integrity can do the job?
Hon Mr Leach: I'll repeat the answer that I gave to the member of the official opposition. If the Integrity Commissioner had thought that the minister should resign, he would have said so. I also want to state categorically that the Leader of the Opposition is incorrect, totally incorrect, when he states that we were found in violation of the Integrity Act with respect to the complaint by the member for Riverdale. The commissioner found that the minister did not violate the act, either personally or as a result of his executive assistant's activities, clearly found that there was no contravention of the integrity act. So the leader of the third party may want to correct that misinformation that he just provided to the House.
Again, we are quite prepared to accept the recommendations in all cases. Whether it comes from you, Mr Speaker, or from the Integrity Commissioner, we will accept those recommendations and act on them.
Mr Hampton: I understand that this particular minister either doesn't understand the rules or he doesn't believe that he needs to abide by the rules. In this case, he doesn't understand the rules. You see, Minister, under the Members' Integrity Act, the Integrity Commissioner doesn't have the capacity to take you out of cabinet. He doesn't have that capacity. Only the Premier has that capacity. When you talk about the Integrity Commissioner saying that you have to resign in cabinet or you don't have to resign in cabinet, he doesn't have that authority under the act.
The reality of whether you continue as a cabinet minister has to do with your standards of integrity. It has to do with the Premier's standards of integrity. Do you have the integrity to acknowledge that you have broken rule after rule, law after law, and that to respect the integrity of the cabinet you should resign? That's the question.
Hon Mr Leach: I, at least, am not going to have to take a lie detector test to prove any of the comments that I'm stating. And they want to talk about integrity. If there's a party anywhere on the face of the earth that lacked integrity, it was that group when they were in power.
Again, the leader of the third party is absolutely wrong. The Integrity Commissioner has the authority to remove a member from office or recommend that any member of this Legislature lose their seat. He can make a recommendation on any aspect, including up to that degree.
As to whether he could recommend, he could certainly recommend that a minister resign. He can certainly recommend that any member of this Legislature lose their seat as a result of actions against the integrity act. He did not do that. He recommended no penalty be imposed.
Minister, turn to page 40 of the act and it becomes very clear. The Integrity Commissioner does not have the authority under the act to remove you from cabinet. That's the Premier's decision and that's your decision. That's based upon your own integrity or lack thereof. That's what it boils down to. Don't try to throw this off on the Integrity Commissioner. He doesn't have the authority under the act to remove you from cabinet. You have to make that decision.
Our point is this: You were found prima facie in contempt of this Legislature, you were found to support a campaign of intimidation by your executive assistant, and you were found in breach of this act. Will you do the decent thing and resign?
Hon Mr Leach: He incorrectly advises this House that the Integrity Commissioner found me to be in violation of the act when the member for Riverdale laid a false charge to the commission. The commissioner found that the minister did not violate the act, either personally or as a result of his executive assistant's activities.
I would like to repeat that this government and our Premier and this minister are quite prepared to accept the judgements either of the Speaker or of the Integrity Commissioner. In this instance we are accepting his recommendation fully, when he says no penalty should be imposed. We're accepting the recommendation. He has the power to recommend anything to the House.
Mr Hampton: It's clear that it hasn't sunk in. It's clear that you now want to put off on the Integrity Commissioner what is in reality a question of your own integrity. The Integrity Commissioner does not, under the integrity act, have the authority to remove you from your cabinet post. That depends upon your integrity; that depends upon your honour.
All we're saying to you is this: When social activists out there repeat the phrase, "Embarrass Harris," they didn't mean that you were supposed to do that. Will you do the honourable thing for the Premier and the honourable thing for your cabinet colleagues and resign? You shouldn't hold this job any more. With all the things you have done and the number of times you've been caught in the act, you simply shouldn't be a cabinet minister any more. Do the honourable thing and resign.
Hon Mr Leach: To repeat, had he chosen to do so, anything from resigning my seat in the Legislature entirely to resigning my position as a cabinet minister are within the Integrity Commissioner's power to recommend. What did he recommend? He recommended no penalty be imposed. What did he further recommend? He stated quite categorically, "If I thought the minister" --
Hon Mr Leach: I will repeat that the Integrity Commissioner clearly stated in a media interview on CBC on June 25, 1997: "I would not think so. If I had thought so, I would have said so." "I would have said so" is what he stated.
Mr Hampton: I give up on that front. It does no good to try to convince this minister that there is a difference between being a minister of the crown and an MPP. He simply doesn't understand that. He wants to confuse the Integrity Commissioner's capacity with respect to MPPs with his role in cabinet.
"I gave an opinion dated February 3, 1997 in which I considered Mr Matheson's actions" -- your executive assistant's actions -- "with respect to a prospective legal action against Mr Leach's ministry to be inappropriate, and I had occasion to remind Mr Leach of the fourth principle in the preamble to the act which states, `Members are expected to act with integrity and impartiality that will bear the closest public scrutiny'....
"In my opinion, Mr Leach is having difficulty in adopting an attitude which is less confrontational, more consistent with his present office as a member of the executive council, and more appreciative of the parliamentary conventions...."
Mr Speaker, when you ruled on the pamphlet that was put out, we accepted that ruling and we took all the actions that were necessary to deal with it. When the Integrity Commissioner dealt with the complaint from Riverdale, he reported back that the commission found that the minister did not violate the act either personally or as a result of his executive assistant's activities. In this instance, when asked if I should resign, he said no. He recommended no penalty. We're quite prepared to accept the recommendations of the Integrity Commissioner.
Mrs Lyn McLeod (Fort William): My question is to the Minister of Health. I have here pages and pages of quotes of answers that you gave to my questions, stressing the independence of your hospital restructuring commission, saying, "The commission will ensure we take the politics out of restructuring the hospital system"; saying, "The commission will make the best decisions without political interference, and if you're suggesting political interference here, I can tell you you're dead wrong." I have letters you've written to my constituents saying that the commission operates at arm's length.
Minister, we disagreed with the law you put in place setting up this arm's-length commission. You said over and over again that this commission was independent. We said over and over again that you can't wash your hands of the government's responsibility for decisions about health care and shutting down hospitals. But you went ahead and you set up a commission and you gave it unprecedented decision-making powers.
Clearly it has not been free of political interference. It has now been clearly ruled that it was inappropriate for one of your colleagues to contact this commission. Would you now acknowledge that your law effectively silences your colleagues and your government on this issue, or are there other backroom ways that cabinet ministers get to influence health care decisions?
Hon Mr Wilson: The commission does operate at arm's length without political interference with respect to its decision-making. The only persons' opinions that matter in this whole thing are those of the commission and the chief commissioner, the chair of the commission, Dr Duncan Sinclair, and the commissioners. I invite you or anyone else to pick up the phone and ask them whether they feel there's been any political interference in any of the decisions they've made to date. I leave that to you to do the research. That is the only opinion that matters with respect to the decisions they are taking.
Mrs McLeod: When you were asked whether or not your colleague the Minister for Municipal Affairs was in error in writing to the hospital restructuring commission, you said no. In fact you said, "It is perfectly within the law and in fact it's a sign of a good MPP," and you went on and challenged all of us to do exactly the same thing. So much for saying it's free of political interference.
This is getting absolutely ridiculous. You can't silence all of us. Will you just shut down this commission, which was so poorly thought out in the first place that none of you -- you don't know how it's supposed to work, clearly the Premier doesn't, certainly your colleagues don't. Will you shut it down and stop trying to hide behind this supposedly arm's-length commission?
Hon Mr Wilson: There are people in the honourable member's own party who serve on hospital boards in this province who very much value the work of the commission. The health services system needs to be restructured, and the commission is an invaluable way to do that and a way that I think all parties, in the past, anyway, have agreed was the best way to proceed in an area that hasn't been restructured significantly for 15 to 20 years.
What's significant about the decision yesterday and why the Premier is suggesting that it would be prudent for all members to refrain from writing at this point is because of the finality, it seems, of the ruling with respect to the word "quasi-judicial."
I set the commission up. It went through this House as a fact-finding body. "Quasi-judicial" means it would have appeals, it would hear evidence and all the rules of evidence. That section is the section the Attorney General will seek clarification on, because if it is quasi-judicial, no one should have written the commission, including backbenchers, because quasi-judicial is like the disciplinary committee of the College of Physicians and Surgeons; it's like a mental health tribunal. So get it through your thick heads --
Hon Mr Wilson: The honourable members claim to have read the report, and then they don't necessarily want to hear what the sticking point is that the Attorney General is trying to clear up. I'm just trying to be helpful in providing information. I think it is prudent -- I agree with the Premier at this time -- that no one, including backbenchers, have further contact with the commission, because many of the members over there also wrote the commission.
Mr Tony Martin (Sault Ste Marie): My question is for the Minister of Health as well. In February I asked the Minister of Health in your position while you were on sabbatical about a very disturbing story of health care neglect written up in the Sault Star by one Paul Kaihla about his father's dying days at the Plummer hospital in Sault Ste Marie.
The hospital carried out an internal investigation and concluded that nothing was out of order. We have evidence to the contrary. We have Mr Kaihla's charts, which say differently; we have the autopsy report, which says differently; we have witnesses and other stories, which indicate differently.
Hon Jim Wilson (Minister of Health): We've received the reports of the hospital. It's not my purview at this point to launch an investigation into that, because if there was some suspicion of wrongdoing, the law requires the local coroner to make that decision. The coroner in this case saw no need to investigate the incident you bring forward.
Mr Martin: If you were following this story at all, you would also know that in a letter to the editor and in an interview with a local reporter the chief pathologist at the hospital has revealed information about Mr Kaihla that is clearly in conflict with the Public Hospitals Act. Will you look into this and will you discuss this with the Attorney General, with the possibility of maybe laying a charge under that act against the people involved in this very disturbing situation?
Hon Mr Wilson: If the matter is some violation of the law, you may want to take that up with the Attorney General or with the local authorities, who would lay charges. You're making some very serious accusations against the Sault hospital. The investigators to date in all the reports we've received indicate that there are two sides to the story. Local authorities, particularly the coroner, would make the decision whether an investigation is needed.
I will also mention that the hospital is undergoing the Canadian Council on Health Services Accreditation process right now and that may help identify and correct some deficiencies that may have occurred around the case in question.
At this point the honourable member is free to continue to send me information, but I would ask him to be prudent and careful about the accusations he's making about this particular hospital. In the past the honourable member has come to me for funding for this hospital and told me it was a great hospital.
Mr Terence H. Young (Halton Centre): My question is to the Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism. We've all seen how Ontario's economy is responding to this government's plan of debt reduction, business expansion and job creation. There are rapid plant expansions going on throughout Ontario at this time. Can you please tell the House the latest economic projections and rates of growth?
Hon William Saunderson (Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism): I am very pleased to respond to the question from the member for Halton Centre. There's very good news on this subject. There are unprecedented business and plant expansions going on in this province; also job growth. There's a broad range and a variety of Ontario companies and products that are undergoing rapid expansion. The Ontario economy is predicted to grow faster than the Canadian rate of 3.4%. That's for 1997. I think it will probably grow at around the 3.6% rate in 1997.
The Royal and Scotia banks project fast growth for Ontario in 1997 and 1998. Representing the private sector average prediction, the 3.6% growth rate for the province's GDP rate is very possible. Ontario's employment jumped by 40,600 jobs in the month of May, so for the last three months it's been 101,000. I think it shows that our government's policies are definitely working.
Hon Mr Saunderson: I have some good examples which I'd like to read to the members of the House. First of all, at Freightliner heavy trucks in St Thomas there's a $48.8-million expansion which will maintain 1,000 jobs and add approximately 50 more.
Mr Sean G. Conway (Renfrew North): My question is to the Minister of Health. Why should anyone pay attention and play this game with your so-called arm's-length, antiseptic hospital restructuring commission, which obviously not even Bart Simpson-Leach understands?
Why should anyone in Ontario play this so-called arm's-length, antiseptic game with your commission, when the only hospital that has been closed in this province in the last 20 years, namely the Burk's Falls Hospital, has been, in recent weeks, reopened by the exercise of raw, naked political power by the Deputy Premier of this province, the member for Parry Sound, the Honourable Ernie Eves QC?
First of all, it's not a game. The thousands of people in the health care system and the millions of patients who rely on it don't think this is a game. Secondly, that Burk's Falls Hospital was always a hospital. It was never reopened. It has been on the books as a hospital. It became a hospital without beds under the NDP. It used to have 15 beds, acute care beds. There was a task force report over the last year. When that task force report came in, it recommended six beds, which are a lower cost than the acute care beds it used to have; they're observation beds. We were simply responding to the task force report, which the honourable member is free to read.
In communities like Arnprior, Barry's Bay, Grimsby, Petrolia and Meaford they are getting very concerned, traumatized, by your government's activities and the work of this commission, which clearly people like Leach and Runciman do not understand. If your cabinet colleagues don't understand it, how are the people supposed to behave?
What are they to make of the fact that Ernie Eves reopened the hospital at Burk's Falls without any reference to the commission and little or no reference to the district health council? What are they to think when the Minister of Health himself, Jim Wilson, Esq, is wandering around Simcoe county and telling people in places like Alliston: "Don't worry. You have nothing to worry about. Your hospital, the Stevenson Memorial in Alliston, is secure. Trust me." How is it that that's arm's length and antiseptic? How is it that the commission gets to go to places like Pembroke and the Niagara Peninsula and only Ernie Eves and Jim Wilson get to go to Burk's Falls and Alliston?
Hon Mr Wilson: First of all, whether it's my riding or your riding or any other riding, I have consistently said that the Health Services Restructuring Commission has made it clear to all members that nobody is exempt from health services restructuring. It is not going to be the status quo in our rural northern hospitals. The commission has asked for a rural policy, which will be unveiled very shortly, to guide its work there.
Secondly, he should do his research better. The quote is outdated, and by the way, the Alliston Herald, where you got that quote that ended up in the Toronto Star editorial, is my local paper. I know exactly where that comes from, that story. The Herald wrote the Star and CP saying that the quote comes from my days in opposition. The date of the quote is totally wrong. I based it on 1990-95, when Simcoe county had already gone through restructuring.
The second floor of my hospital in Alliston has no beds. It's half of what it used to be. The Collingwood hospital used to have 103 beds; it has 49 today. Don't ever pretend that my hospitals haven't restructured. It's just that they got off the block --
Ms Shelley Martel (Sudbury East): I have a question to the Minister of Natural Resources. I believe that most people in Ontario were very proud that in 1990 UNESCO designated the Niagara Escarpment as a world biosphere reserve. It represents one of the world's most important ecosystems. There are only two such reserves in Ontario and only six in Canada. It's clear that the Niagara Escarpment won the designation because of the province's protection plan, which balances the environment and the pressures which are brought to bear on it by the population living in the escarpment.
The Speaker: Order. You know what? I didn't hear what he said. If any member across the floor would like to stand up and make the request, I can always hear that. I didn't hear what he said. I'm sorry. I sit very close and I didn't hear it. Right now I go to the Minister of Natural Resources for the response.
Ms Martel: If that's your position, maybe you can explain the following to me. You recently appointed Mr Howard Staff to the Niagara Escarpment Commission. Your ministry's biography of Mr Staff conveniently neglected to mention his membership with the Niagara Escarpment Land Owners' Coalition.
During the Niagara Escarpment Plan review process, this organization was vociferous in its opposition to the Niagara Escarpment Commission, its mandate and its operation. But over and above that, this coalition of which Mr Staff is a member also wrote to Mr Terrence Cook at the Canadian Commission for UNESCO and said the following, "We wish to formally request the temporary suspension of the biosphere designation for the Niagara Escarpment planning area."
Hon Mr Hodgson: I appreciate the question from the member of the third party. This government has a wider perspective in terms of accepting all points of view, and a good commission should represent all the views of the affected communities. I've already answered your question that there will be no change to the Niagara planning act or the region or the designation by the UN.
I don't believe your party has an exclusive monopoly on caring about the environment. If you look at our record, our record speaks for itself. We're accomplishing things that are concrete. Furthermore, I'd like to remind the member that she wants to circumvent the democratic process every time she stands up. A week ago she asked me to circumvent the process where members of this elected assembly get to review the appointments of the nominees. Today I understand that we agreed that we would have --
Hon Mr Hodgson: Thank you very much again, Mr Speaker. The appointments, the nominees we support. We think they bring a balance to the board. If you look at the whole board, it will be dedicated to preserving what's important to be preserved and customer service. I think that when you have a chance to review these appointments at your committee level, you'll agree.
Mr Joseph N. Tascona (Simcoe Centre): My question is for the Attorney General: I understand that the criminal case backlog blitz in Barrie has had very encouraging results. Everyone knows the importance of the blitz in preventing another occurrence of the 1990 crisis when 50,000 cases were dismissed because they were beyond the eight-month deadline to come to trial. Could you please inform the Legislature of the results to date in the Barrie court?
Hon Charles Harnick (Attorney General, minister responsible for native affairs): I thank the member for Simcoe Centre for an important question because, as I've said in this House before, reducing the court backlog is my number one priority.
We are seeing some very definite and very positive results in blitz sites, and Barrie is no exception. The blitz has been operational in Barrie for two months. We've reduced the number of charges in the inventory in that court by over 10%. Cases today are proceeding through the system more quickly than they have in many years. It's now three months to get a trial date, down from eight months when the blitz started. These are very concrete results illustrating the success of the blitz. Certainly we are working very hard to ensure that we don't have another Askov crisis.
Hon Mr Harnick: In Barrie, we have dedicated three new crown attorneys, four new courtroom staff and two judges. We've worked closely with our justice system partners to find wants to combat the backlog and our early success in Barrie is the realization of that hard work. Early disclosure of evidence at an accused's first appearance and mandatory pretrials are now resolving more cases earlier in the process.
We're working to identify viable long-term solutions that will make court blitzes, I hope, a thing of the past. As I've said, clearing the backlog will lead to more timely prosecutions and get criminals off our streets so Ontarians can feel secure in their homes and communities and victims' rights are accordingly strengthened.
Mr Dominic Agostino (Hamilton East): My question is to the Minister of Municipal Affairs. I want to go back to your interpretation of the ruling of the Integrity Commissioner. As late as 10 minutes ago, I checked with the commissioner's office regarding the powers under the act to make recommendations.
The commissioner's office stated very clearly that under the act, the commissioner does not have the authority to make any recommendations as to your status as a member of the cabinet. It does not fall within his purview or jurisdiction. Any reference the commissioner made to the recommendation, to your removal, only refers to your seat as a member for St George-St David, not as a member of the executive council.
Minister, if you can clearly understand that the commission does not have the power to recommend your removal as a member of the cabinet, that it's only yourself or the Premier who makes that decision based on the standards that you feel are appropriate for cabinet ministers, knowing that information, clearly, again -- I'm hoping by now you understand that -- will you do the honourable thing today and submit your resignation in order to restore some integrity to your cabinet?
Hon Al Leach (Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing): I'll advise the member of the Liberal Party that the Integrity Commissioner can recommend anything he wants. He can recommend that you lose your seat entirely. He has recommended in this instance that no penalty be imposed. When he was asked on CBC television last night, June 25, he said: "I would think not. If I had thought so, I would have said so." Obviously if the commissioner felt that I should resign either my seat or my cabinet position, he would have said so in his ruling.
Mr Agostino: I'm frankly surprised that the minister would not know the Members' Integrity Act, that the minister would not understand the role of the commissioner. There's a difference between a member of the Legislature and your capacity as a member of the cabinet. Let me read to you from a letter from the Integrity Commissioner sent to us today:
"Whether a member of the executive council remains in cabinet is not a matter for my office. It would not be correct to draw any inference that my recommendation `that no penalty be imposed' has any relationship to a member's status as a member of the executive council."
I'm going to table that letter with the House so you can see it. The Integrity Commissioner in the letter to us totally contradicts what you're saying. He is referring to you as a member of the Legislature, as an MPP, not as a cabinet minister. You surely must understand the difference. I do not believe what you're saying in comparison to the Integrity Commissioner; I believe the Integrity Commissioner in his letter. Will you --
Hon Mr Leach: I far prefer to accept the word of the Integrity Commissioner. It's quite clearly quoted here that if he felt there should be a resignation, he would have recommended that. He didn't. He said that the actions I took were taken in good faith -- they were an attempt to assist my constituents in the great riding of St George-St David -- and he said that no penalty should be imposed. When asked specifically if I should resign as a minister, he said, "If I felt that he should, I would have recommended that he do so." He obviously doesn't believe there should be a resignation. We're quite prepared to accept the findings of the Integrity Commissioner and we're quite prepared to accept all his recommendations.
Mr Howard Hampton (Rainy River): A question to the Minister of Transportation: Last week in the St Catharines area, I met with a number of employees of the Ministry of Transportation who work at the MTO main office in St Catharines. They expressed concern that your government is planning to lay off a number of the people who work at that main office. I also talked with other people in the Niagara region who are very concerned about that prospect as well.
After all, it was your government that sat down and reviewed the decision to move the main office to St Catharines, it was your government that made the final decision and your government that in effect moved literally hundreds of people down to St Catharines. They're very concerned now about the economic impact and about those jobs. Will you deny that your ministry and your government are planning to lay off a number of MTO people at the main office in St Catharines?
Hon Al Palladini (Minister of Transportation): As the honourable member knows, changes such as these, if they are going to be done, are always difficult. Prior to the election, and also in our business plan, we were very up front that we did want to do better with less. I can only tell the honourable member that there are going to be some layoffs affecting the Kitchener area and these people will be notified who it's going to concern.
Mr Peter Kormos (Welland-Thorold): Minister, you know that almost 700 individuals were transferred to the St Catharines MTO office. It was as a result of a decision that you and your government made. The cost per employee was approximately $28,000. These people relied on your commitment to their jobs in this new location in St Catharines, and relying on your commitment, they moved their families and they underwent major disruption. You have now plunged every one of those employees and their families into a state of chaos because of the uncertainty about their future with the Ministry of Transportation. No fairminded person could conclude that what you're doing to them now is in any way decent or appropriate conduct on the part of any employer.
Hon Mr Palladini: As I have said, I believe changes of this nature are always going to be difficult. As far as what the honourable member is asking, seven of the people who have been relocated to St Catharines are going to be affected or have been affected by the current layoffs.
All employees are going to receive a benefit package that's going to be very suitable. Each employee who receives a notice will get a specific package of options that is going to be best tailored to their needs. I also want to say that through vacancy management and bridging of people towards retirement, effects on staff who have moved specifically to the St Catharines area are very limited.
Mr Gerry Phillips (Scarborough-Agincourt): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: The Minister of Municipal Affairs incorrectly, I believe, quoted the Office of the Integrity Commissioner. I would ask him to review the Hansard and to correct the record.
Mr Monte Kwinter (Wilson Heights): Mr Speaker, on a point of order: I assume this is the last day that we'll be seeing this current class of pages. I think it would be appropriate for us to recognize their service and wish them well.
The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): That's very true. It was my fault. It should have been done at the beginning and it wasn't. I've been rather distracted today, so I apologize, but I don't want that to cast anything but good light on this cast of pages. They've done a wonderful job. I appreciate it and I'm sure the members here appreciate it. Thank you very much.
Hon David Johnson (Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet, Government House Leader): I would ask for unanimous consent that we proceed with petitions, which I guess would be the next order at this point, and that we be able to revert to motions after that so that I can discuss the possibility of dealing with the Integrity Commissioner's report with the other two parties.
"We, the undersigned, hereby petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to make a commitment to assist in support of Atlas Specialty Steels in Welland, Ontario, to ensure this important facility remains open."
"We, the undersigned residents of Ontario, declare our opposition to the expansion of casinos and the installation of electronic gambling devices. Therefore, we petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to delay the implementation of Bill 75 and request that the provincial government hold a binding referendum, in conjunction with the 1997 municipal elections, to determine the will of the people regarding the expansion of casinos and the installation of electronic gambling devices in Ontario."
«Que le premier ministre de l'Ontario apporte un projet de loi qui interdit la nudité du haut du corps des femmes dans les endroits publics et qui spécifie des lignes de conduite pour les endroits désignés privés.»
Mr Ernie Hardeman (Oxford): I have a petition signed by a great number of my constituents in Oxford county. Similar petitions presented before bring the total to almost 2,400 signatures. It's addressed to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.
"Whereas a commercial building may be considered `barrier free' when a disabled person has unobstructed access into that building and may receive all of the services and conveniences that are available within the building to a person without disability;
"Whereas this recommendation will remove emergency and inpatient services currently provided by North York Branson Hospital, which will seriously jeopardize medical care and the quality of health for the growing population which the hospital serves, many being elderly people who in numerous cases require treatment for life-threatening medical conditions;
"We petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to reject the recommendation contained within the final report of the Metropolitan Toronto District Health Council hospital restructuring committee as it pertains to North York Branson Hospital, so that it retains, at minimum, emergency and inpatient services."
"We are supportive of the work currently being done by community-based sexual assault and rape crisis centres and women's shelters. We strongly oppose any cutbacks in funding for these vital services.
"We find recommendations such as those to limit a woman's stay in a shelter to 24 to 48 hours and to eliminate community-based rape crisis and sexual assault centres to be outrageous and unacceptable."
"We, the undersigned, respectfully petition the government of Ontario to pass a bill empowering municipalities to enact bylaws governing dress code and to continue to urge the government of Canada to pass legislation to reinstate such partial nudity as an offence."
"Whereas many people in Ontario believe that the Mike Harris government is moving too quickly and recklessly, creating havoc with the provision of quality health care, quality education, and adversely affecting seniors; and
"Whereas the Mike Harris government now wishes to change the rules of the Ontario Legislature, which would allow the government to ram legislation through more quickly and have less accountability to the public and the media through exercises such as question period; and
"Whereas Mike Harris and Ernie Eves, when they were in opposition, defended the rights of the opposition and used the rules to their full advantage when they believed it was necessary to slow down the passage of controversial legislation; and
"Whereas the Mike Harris government, through its proposed rule changes, is attempting to diminish the role of elected members of the Legislative Assembly who are accountable to the people who elect them, and instead concentrate power in the Premier's office in the hands of people who are not elected officials;
"We, the undersigned, call upon Mike Harris to reject these proposed draconian rule changes and restore rules which promote rigorous debate on contentious issues and hold the government accountable to the people of Ontario."
"Whereas the prevention services that the Ministry of Labour once provided are being offloaded to the Workers' Health and Safety Centre and other safety associations, thereby increasing the demand for the prevention services provided by the centre; and
"Whereas the government has gutted the certification training standards for health and safety committee members and replaced them with minimalist performance standards which, in combination with funding cuts, has resulted in a 40% reduction in the staff of the Workers' Health and Safety Centre; and
"Whereas the Workers' Health and Safety Centre is facing further cuts of $2.3 million to finance the establishment of several new employer safety associations, thereby duplicating administrative costs and services;
"Further we, the undersigned, demand that the moneys taken from the health and safety prevention services of the Workers' Health and Safety Centre and the other safety associations be returned to them."
"Whereas the Halton regional water delivery system in the town of Milton has received the regular maintenance and standard upgrade requirements outlined by the province and is supported by a standby chlorination unit sufficient enough to prevent the spread of a serious bacterial threat; and
"Be it resolved that the Ontario government grant the people of Milton's request for a variance allowing only standby chlorination to be used in treating the pure well waters supplying Milton's water delivery system."
The government's actions fail to guarantee existing levels of funding and fail to recognize unequal ability of local communities to bear the cost of these new burdens, thus producing inequitable access to essential services; and
"We, the undersigned residents of Ontario, because we care about the quality of life in our province and the wellbeing of our children, neighbours and communities, register a vote of non-confidence in the government of the province of Ontario."
"Whereas the Minister of Labour has begun a process to fundamentally alter the Occupational Health and Safety Act and its regulations with the release of the discussion paper Review of the Occupational Health and Safety Act; and
"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to oppose the deregulation of workplace health and safety and any erosion of the protection provided workers under the Occupational Health and safety Act.
"Whereas animal rights activists have launched a campaign of misinformation and rhetoric to ban bear hunting and end our hunting heritage in Ontario, ignoring the enormous impact this would have on the people of Ontario;
Hon Noble Villeneuve (Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, minister responsible for francophone affairs): Just a short summary: This is an act to protect farming and food production. The bill is designed to protect normal farm practices to the extent that it is reasonable to do so, even though they may cause some disturbance to nearby residents.
The Farm Practices Protection Board is continued under the name Normal Farm Practices Protection Board. The current Farm Practices Protection Act is being replaced. The board would function to resolve disputes arising from disturbances that may be caused by farming.
MUNICIPAL AMENDMENT ACT (BY-LAWS RESPECTING DRESS CODES), 1997 / LOI DE 1997 MODIFIANT LA LOI SUR LES MUNICIPALITÉS EN CE QUI CONCERNE DES RÈGLEMENTS MUNICIPAUX RELATIVEMENT À DES NORMES DE TENUE VESTIMENTAIRE
Bill 147, An Act to amend the Municipal Act to allow local municipalities to pass by-laws with respect to dress codes / Projet de loi 147, Loi modifiant la Loi sur les municipalités pour permettre aux municipalités locales d'adopter des règlements municipaux en ce qui concerne des normes de tenue vestimentaire.
Bill 148, An Act to deal with matters relating to the establishment of the new City of Toronto / Projet de loi 148, Loi traitant de questions se rapportant à la constitution de la nouvelle cité de Toronto.
Hon Al Leach (Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing): I just want to say that this bill is largely operational and administrative in nature, but it's absolutely necessary for the new city to be completely operational by January 1, 1998.
Bill 149, An Act to continue the reforms begun by the Fair Municipal Finance Act, 1997 and to make other amendments respecting the financing of local governments / Projet de loi 149, Loi continuant les réformes amorcées par la Loi de 1997 sur le financement équitable des municipalités et apportant d'autres modifications relativement au financement des administrations locales.
Hon Ernie L. Eves (Deputy Premier, Minister of Finance): The Fair Municipal Finance Act, 1997 (No. 2) builds on the reforms of the Fair Municipal Finance Act to create a property system that is fair, more consistent and accountable to Ontario taxpayers. This bill ensures the fair treatment of farms, small businesses and other commercial and industrial properties. It gives municipalities more flexibility to respond effectively to local priorities. It further protects low-income seniors and the disabled. It closes tax loopholes to help stabilize the tax base for the future.
The measures in this new bill will ensure a smooth and efficient transition to a fair property tax system for all property owners in the province of Ontario. The legislation introduced today, coupled with the reforms in the Fair Municipal Finance Act, will give all Ontario taxpayers a system of property assessment and taxation that is fair, consistent, understandable and accountable.
Mr David Turnbull (York Mills): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I would seek unanimous consent that the standing committee on general government could sit so that they could hear witnesses immediately, notwithstanding the fact that the House has not started regular proceedings.
Hon David Johnson (Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet, Government House Leader): I would seek unanimous consent -- I believe I need that -- to deal with the report of the Integrity Commissioner.
Mrs Lyn McLeod (Fort William): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: The fact that the government House leader proposed a motion which did not find unanimous consent doesn't relieve the government of the need to deal with the report. I would ask that we have some indication --
The Speaker: I appreciate that and I think I dealt exactly with that particular point of order you're standing on earlier today with the member for Downsview. I was very clear and specific with respect to that. If you want, get an opportunity to re-read, or consult with the member for Downsview before I go into explanation again.
The Speaker: I'm sorry, you're right. The assembly has the obligation to deal with the report. We're only in day two. At this point in time it's completely up to the government House leader how he wants to order the business of the House.
The Speaker: It's in order to ask for unanimous consent to leave the particular issue that you've called for the orders of the day and to enter into that debate. It's not out of order. If you don't want to do that, simply by speaking a no we wouldn't do that.
The Speaker: With the greatest respect, that's debate. He's asked for unanimous consent and it's in order. The member is asking that we debate the motion from the leader of the third party. Agreed? No.
Mrs McLeod: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I fully understood your ruling of yesterday and that was why I rose on a further point of order, given the fact that it was the government's intention to respond to that report today. Clearly that motion was not accepted by the House with unanimous consent, but if I understand your ruling from yesterday, there must then be a new House calendar motion to bring the House back, in order that the requirement of the assembly dealing with this issue and reporting within 30 days can be met. Right now, as of midnight tonight, we have no motion that brings us back before August 18, which is past the 30 days. That's what I was seeking clarification on.
The Speaker: Again I say, as I said yesterday, it is out of my hands at that time. That's not a decision I would take, nor am I am compelled nor given the authority to take. I can only rule on the orders brought forward, and I don't have any authority to make that kind of decision.