Mr Mike Colle (Oakwood): Today I will be introducing a bill entitled An Act to amend the Highway Traffic Act to improve Safety at Highway Intersections by providing for the installation and use of Red Light Cameras. This bill allows municipalities to install red light cameras at intersections and to collect fines from convictions of red light runners. Furthermore, it directs municipalities to use the funds collected for the purpose of maintaining the red light cameras and improving traffic safety.
The Minister of Transportation says he is increasing the fine to $210 as his way of stopping the growing epidemic of red light runners. What the minister failed to tell us is, who is going to be there to issue the ticket? Who is going to catch the driver running through the red light? For instance, in Toronto alone there are 1,800 intersections. Who is going to catch the runners?
Red light camera technology, as provided for in my bill, has been proven to save lives and cut down on accidents. In Australia there was a 35% decrease in collisions. In New York City and San Francisco, red light violations fell by 30%.
Increasing fines, as the Minister of Transportation says he will do, is only a small part of the solution. What he has to do is use proven technology. It's time to put safety first and to act on this crucial public safety issue. Listen to the police chiefs and the mayors and the people of this province who want to have some action on red light running, and the over 80% of motorists who support red light cameras. It's time for the minister to protect public safety.
The first is the second annual Festival de Théâtre Communautaire Franco-ontarien. This event will bring over 130 actors from across Ontario to Kapuskasing. Community theatre has always played an important role in the preservation of Franco-Ontarian culture in communities throughout Ontario. The stage will be alive in Kapuskasing largely as the result of the hard work and dedication of many volunteers. In particular, Francine Garon deserves special recognition for her contribution. For all those listening out there, the number to call is le Centre de Loisirs in Kapuskasing, 705-335-8461.
The second special event is the fifth Jeux franco-ontariens, which will be taking place this weekend at the école secondaire Cité des Jeunes in Kapuskasing. Young Franco-Ontarians from throughout Ontario will be converging on Kapuskasing to participate in sporting events and games.
Join us in celebrating the vitality and richness of our Franco-Ontarian heritage this weekend. Come to Cochrane North. Hear all about the two Franco-Ontarian events taking place. I'm sure everybody is going to look forward to the beautiful weather we have up in northern Ontario at this time of year.
Mrs Julia Munro (Durham-York): It gives me great pleasure to recognize this week as Nursing Week in Ontario. Today, May 12, is observed internationally as International Nursing Day and coincides with the birthday of Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing.
During this week, Ontario's 110,000 registered nurses and 30,000 registered practical nurses will be engaged in numerous activities designed to raise the level of awareness among Ontario's citizens of the role of the nursing profession in assisting people to attain and maintain health.
"With the move to community services, it is not only important to recognize the role nurses play in the community but to let them know how much we admire and respect their ability to adapt to the dramatic changes taking place in health services, always putting the patient first and foremost."
Nurses provide services to people in public health units, in nursing homes, long-term-care and chronic care agencies, in hospitals and in their own homes. This year, for the first time, nurse practitioners will be registering with the College of Nurses under the Expanded Nursing Services for Patients Act that was proclaimed in February of this year.
I hope that all members of this House will take the time not only this week but throughout the year to recognize that nursing is key to quality health care and that nurses are a valuable resource to the people of Ontario.
Mr Alex Cullen (Ottawa West): My statement is for the Minister of Education. Parents in Ottawa-Carleton are discovering just how flawed your education funding formula is and how it is going to close their neighbourhood schools. You know that in Ottawa-Carleton we have tremendous needs for new schools in the suburban growth areas such as Stittsville and Kanata. You know all about Holy Trinity Catholic high school in Kanata, with 30 of its 70 classrooms as portables. Yet your funding formula will force the Ottawa-Carleton Catholic school board to close up to 10 of its schools in order to access the accommodation dollars your funding formula promises. Yet these are not small schools we're talking about. They are viable schools that form the heart of their community.
Why should communities with JK-to-grade-6 schools with over 250 students each be sacrificed to meet the needs of the growing communities in the suburbs? We're talking about schools such as St Anthony's in Ottawa's Centretown, Dr F.J. McDonald in Britannia, and even in Nepean's Crystal Beach area, St Thomas separate elementary school.
Minister, why are you trying to close viable neighbourhood schools? Why are you pitting one community against another? Why are you tossing out child care programs in these schools, English-as-a-second-language programs in these schools? They serve the community. They're viable. Why do you want to close them?
Mr Gilles Bisson (Cochrane South): Mr Speaker, you would know that this last weekend in Timmins, probably as in many other communities, Crime Stoppers had their Jailathon, a good opportunity for the people of the community to give money to the Crime Stoppers organization to help with making our communities safe.
As were many other members of the Assembly, I was asked to appear before the good judge on Saturday morning, at which point I was charged with excessive electioneering. They set the bail at $900, a fantastic amount in a community like mine, but with the good wishes and the hard work of the people who were walking through Timmins Square that day, they made bail - all but $20 worth. I had to come up with one other name. I thought, who else but Mike Harris, the Premier of the province of Ontario, to put up the extra $20 that is necessary for me to spring bail so that I can get back and represent the people of Cochrane South?
Here in the assembly today, I ask the Premier: Will he do the right thing and make sure that the $20 I put them down for on the form will go back to the Crime Stoppers in the community of Timmins? My question to the Premier is: Will you come up with the $20?
Mr Doug Galt (Northumberland): Last Tuesday, members of this House listened as the Minister of Finance brought down the 1998 Ontario Budget. The Minister of Finance talked about the renewal of Ontario's economy: Job growth is soaring, investment is increasing, consumer confidence is on the rise and the deficit is falling.
Ste Anne's Country Inn and Spa, located near Grafton, has seen a sharp increase in the number of people staying at the inn. So has the Cobourg Motor Inn and Convention Centre, which is presently expanding facilities to accommodate extra business.
These are just a few examples of businesses in my riding that are benefiting from a vibrant economy. Like other sectors, the tourism industry appreciates what our economic polices have done to increase consumer spending. Consumers have more money in their pockets thanks to our tax cuts. Most importantly, these companies are creating lasting full-time jobs.
Mr Rick Bartolucci (Sudbury): Today, as part of Nursing Week, the people across Ontario celebrate the birthday and many accomplishments of Florence Nightingale, who set the benchmark for all nurses to follow. Our nurses in Ontario have mirrored the example of Florence Nightingale well and have proven, through their dedication and love, the care and concern they have for the people they serve.
The nurses of Ontario deserve to have a nurses' bill of rights implemented by the Harris government immediately. This bill of rights should enshrine that nurses have the right to provide high quality care, that they have the right to be heard and consulted on health care issues, and that they have the right to be recognized and treated as equals in the health care system.
Our nurses deserve the right to work in settings that are free from harassment and discrimination and that nurture learning, diversity, personal growth, job satisfaction and mutual respect, all in working conditions that promote and foster professionalism and teamwork.
Mr Tony Martin (Sault Ste Marie): I rise today to again ask the provincial and federal governments to stop playing politics with the hepatitis C issue. Last week I read part of a letter from my constituent Charles Duguay. Today I add my name to another victim, Teresa Caughill, from Sault Ste Marie. She says: "Please consider the thousands of people across this province and the entire country who are praying for our governments to do the right thing and make a start at correcting a horrible injustice. We did not ask for this but a little compassion goes a long way."
I also add my voice to a petition that I will be presenting in the House later today, from members of my community, on the same issue. The end of that petition goes like this: "The financial and emotional burden placed on these Canadians is unthinkable. The stigma which is associated with this disease still plagues thousands across this country. Without compensation, Canadians will continue to suffer and die through no fault of their own. This tragedy must stop!"
Today I ask Mike Harris and Minister Rock and anybody else involved with this issue to please get on with it and resolve it, and to take into consideration and invite to the table those who are directly affected, so that at the end of the day you will come up with a package that answers the need of all of those folks who have unfortunately been exposed to this very difficult circumstance so they can get on with their lives.
Mr Bart Maves (Niagara Falls): I'm proud to stand in the House today and inform colleagues of the success of the Niagara Falls Canucks junior B hockey club. Last week, the Niagara Falls Canucks, in a thrilling third-period comeback, defeated the Elmira Sugar Kings 5-4 to win the Sutherland Cup junior B Ontario championship.
Under the leadership of head coach Terry Masterson, whose father founded the team in 1972, and assistant coaches Duane Smith and Doug Chipman, the Sutherland Cup victory topped off a fantastic season for the Canucks. The Canucks breezed through earlier playoff rounds undefeated and then with great tenacity tangled with Chatham and Elmira to win the cup.
While the victory took a total team effort, great leadership was provided by veterans in their final year: captain and defenceman Jason Lynch, goalie Domenic Di Giorgio, centre Matt Masterson, and defenceman Jeff Bruno.
Mr Rick Bartolucci (Sudbury): The purpose of this bill is to protect children under 18 who are involved in prostitution. The bill gives police officers the power, with a warrant, to apprehend a child involved in prostitution and return the child to his or her family or to place the child in a protective, safe house. The police officer may also apprehend a child without a warrant where the child's life or safety is seriously and imminently in danger.
The bill would allow a child, his or her parents, or a child protection worker to apply to the court for a restraining order against a person who has abused the child or who has encouraged the child or is likely to encourage the child to engage in prostitution.
Mr Allan K. McLean (Simcoe East): This bill allows a person to bring civil action against the parents of a child who deliberately took, damaged or destroyed the person's property. A parent may be held liable for up to $6,000 in damages in an action under the proposed act.
Bill 20, An Act to amend the Highway Traffic Act to improve Safety at Highway Intersections by providing for the installation and use of Red Light Cameras / Projet de loi 20, Loi modifiant le Code de la route afin d'améliorer la sécurité aux intersections de voies publiques en prévoyant l'installation et l'utilisation de dispositifs photographiques de feu rouge.
Mr Mike Colle (Oakwood): This bill would allow municipalities to install red light cameras at traffic lights and highway intersections in a municipality in order to determine whether motorists are obeying traffic light signals. The bill would allow a municipality that installs cameras to collect the fines from convictions obtained based on photographic evidence from those cameras. The fines must be used by the municipality for the purpose of installing, operating or maintaining red light cameras or for other purposes related to traffic safety.
Mr Dalton McGuinty (Leader of the Opposition): My first question today is for the Minister of Education. I want to go back to some of the documentation you put out at the time of the last election, specifically with respect to your commitment to post-secondary education and funding and the student debt load.
In your document called New Directions, Volume Two: A Blueprint for Learning in Ontario, you said the following, "Tuition fees should be allowed to rise over a four-year period to 25% of the operating costs." Prior to your deregulation of fees announced earlier this week and prior to your 60% increase, tuition fees were somewhere around the 23% mark. Today in Ontario the average is 35% of operating costs. At some universities they're actually at the 50% mark of operating costs.
Hon David Johnson (Minister of Education and Training): I'm glad that the Leader of the Opposition raised that issue, because the document that is relevant, the Common Sense Revolution, made a statement with regard to university tuitions. I'll quote exactly from the Common Sense Revolution. This is the document where we made a number of promises to the people of Ontario, promises with regard to tax cuts, promises with regard to the deficit, promises with regard to the running of the province, each and every one of them which we have pursued and executed.
The promise is, "We propose to partially deregulate tuition over a two-year period, enabling schools to charge appropriately for their services." That's exactly what we've done. The reason we've done that is to improve the opportunity for our young people and the quality in our post-secondary institutions.
Mr McGuinty: Not only did you say that tuition fees shouldn't be increased beyond the 25% portion of operating costs, but let's look at what the Common Sense Revolution said. In order to facilitate that increase in fees, you said the following, "We will implement a new income-contingent loan program similar to others being introduced around the world."
Are you going to stand up now and tell me that you've kept this promise? You said you'd increase it to 25% - it's at 35% and in some cases at 50% - and you said you would minimize the impact by introducing an income-contingent loan repayment scheme. What I want to ask you now is, where is your income-contingent loan repayment scheme that is designed to help students?
In addition, we have put out an RFP to the banking institution, and we have yet to receive any cooperation from the bank. Notwithstanding the lack of cooperation from the federal government and notwithstanding the lack of cooperation from the banking institution, it says in the Common Sense Revolution that we're going to implement an income-contingent loan repayment program and we will do it.
Mr McGuinty: It's interesting when we go back to some of the words used by this party before they became the government, and I think it's important to consider these. They were talking about the OSAP program of the day and they said it doesn't even come close to meeting the goal of helping every needy student. I want to quote the following, because I think it's important. This is what this party said:
"The result is a tragic loss of opportunity for young Ontarians, particularly those from lower-income families. As they lose their chance for higher education, they lose many of their choices for career, lifestyle and personal goals. Ultimately, society also loses as young people fall short of their potential and their dreams."
Fine words uttered in those days. What have you done since then? You have increased tuition fees by a minimum of 60%; in some cases they're going up to 100%, in cases of deregulation. You have not provided any new student assistance. What happened? Normally people are converted on the road to Damascus; you lost your soul on the road to Damascus. What happened to your interest in students?
Hon David Johnson: The member opposite knows full well we have not increased tuition fees. Tuition fees went up when the Liberals were in power. They went up by 35%, and what did we get for the 35% increase in tuition fees?
Hon David Johnson: What did we get for the 35% increase when the Liberals were in power? Nothing. What do we get in terms of the degree today that tuition goes up? For the first time, we have required that our institutions prepare a quality program to show that the quality of the program will increase.
When the Liberals were in the power, the maximum grant, direct assistance to students, was just barely over $200 million. Today it's in excess of that by over $300 million. We have more than doubled the direct assistance to students - over $530 million. On top of that, the participation rate in our universities and colleges is higher today than it was during the term of the NDP or during the term of the Liberals.
Mr McGuinty: My question is for the Minister of the Environment, but I can say in passing to the Minister of Education that those words are cold comfort to the students and parents who are going to lose their dream as a result of your chucking them out of university.
Mr Dalton McGuinty (Leader of the Opposition): To the Minister of the Environment: Today a very important report was released by the Ontario Medical Association. I'm sure you're familiar with the contents of that report. In essence, Ontario's doctors are telling us that our air in this province is making us sick. They're telling us that our air is even killing us: 1,800 people in this province are dying each year from polluted air, and even more are filling our hospitals and emergency rooms with heart problems and respiratory problems. In the words of Dr John Gray, president of the OMA, "Air pollution is a public health crisis."
Now, you and I both know that summer is coming and air quality is at its worst during the summer, and we both know that there is a means by which we can clean up the air, at least to some extent; it's efficient, it's effective and it doesn't cost too much. It's automobile emissions testing. Will you now assure us that your program will be up and running for this summer?
Hon Norman W. Sterling (Minister of the Environment, Government House Leader): I want to assure all members of the Legislature that this government is committed to protecting our air quality in this province. Last year we announced that we were going to implement a vehicle emissions testing program. We did this, after previous governments rejected the idea as being too much of an intrusion into people's lives. This government has taken a very courageous stand with regard to bringing forward perhaps the most comprehensive vehicle emissions program in all of North America. We intend to implement that in a reasonable, competent fashion, and we will do so as soon as it's practicable to do so.
Mr McGuinty: Let me tell you about the courage of this minister when it comes to the protection of our environment. He cut his budget in half. He let go one third of his staff. That's the kind of courage displayed by this minister in the face of environmental difficulties.
Ontario's doctors are telling us that our air is making our people sick. You have the responsibility, and nobody else more so than you over there, to address that issue. You can. Get that vehicle emissions testing program up and running in time for this summer. You haven't listened to the environmentalists. You haven't listened to the people on this side of the House. I want to know if you're going to Ontario's doctors. Will you get your program up and running for this summer?
Hon Mr Sterling: This ministry has done more to deal with air quality in this province than has been done in the last 10 years. We have lowered the gasoline volatility regulation 271, which requires gasoline refiners and blenders to reduce the smog-causing fumes from summer-grade gasoline. This will eliminate 18,000 tonnes of gasoline emissions. Previous governments neglected to do this. We have an aggressive plan for environmental standards focusing on air. This is the first time in more than 20 years that these 70 standards will be dealt with and updated. We have introduced a new interim air quality standard for particulates, the first time a particulates standard has been introduced in this province ever. We have upgraded the provincial air quality monitoring network, making it among the most modern and best-equipped in North America. We are committed to improving the quality of air in the province and we are doing it.
Mr McGuinty: We shouldn't lose sight of the important facts in this, Minister. Number one, you cut half your budget and you laid off one third of your staff; they're the people who inspect, monitor and prosecute our air polluters. The second important fact is that air quality in Ontario is getting worse on your watch. There is no doubt about that.
I want to come back to a very, very simple question: the vehicle emissions testing program. Our air quality is going to get dramatically worse during the summer days. Will we have your vehicle emissions testing program up and running before the summer begins?
Hon Mr Sterling: When I announced the vehicle emissions testing program last August I did indicate that there would be some voluntary testing this summer. I indicated that the program would be in place hopefully in the late part of the fall. I'm still living to those deadlines.
Mr Tony Silipo (Dovercourt): My question is to the Solicitor General. Yesterday morning another innocent person lost his life during a police chase on a residential street here in Toronto. This gentleman was 73 years old. He was riding his bicycle on the sidewalk because he was afraid of the traffic. He was taking his daily ride to the park to walk his dogs.
Anyone who heard the story has to wonder what was so important that the police would carry out a chase like this in a residential area. We know the policy is that if an officer is in pursuit, it's supposed to be closely monitored by a road sergeant, so I think it's fair to wonder why the police wouldn't have called off the pursuit when it was clearly a residential area and therefore when lives would be in danger. The answer we get is that police were chasing four teenagers, 14- and 15-year-olds who were suspected of shoplifting.
Minister, our concern is the link between this activity and the attitude and tone that your government has set in this area. I want to ask you, is it your policy to support and encourage this kind of over-the-top action in order to catch four teenage shoplifters?
Hon Jim Flaherty (Minister of Labour, Solicitor General and Minister of Correctional Services): It would be inappropriate to comment on any specific case, because this matter, as you know, is being investigated by the SIU. I can say that generally speaking there is a police pursuit directive issued by the Ministry of the Solicitor General that is available to the police services in Ontario. It lists various criteria that the police services are to consider and police officers are to consider when engaged in pursuit.
We acknowledge that this is a difficult balance that police officers are faced with in emergency situations, the balance between public safety and their obligation to apprehend persons who are fleeing after committing, or possibly committing, a criminal offence. This is a difficult subject that our police officers face, acknowledging that this is Police Week and acknowledging the challenges our police officers face on the streets of Ontario.
Mr Silipo: We understand that the SIU is investigating this particular instance and we will leave the investigation to deal with that. What I want to raise with you again, Minister, and I ask you to focus your comments on this, if you would, is the broader issue. That has to do with the attitude and the policies that your government is setting, which we believe are shifting that balance.
What you're doing through your so-called crime control commissioners, for example, is you're cracking down on things like shoplifting, squeegee kids, panhandling because you believe that's what is going to lead to serious crimes. What you're doing with your policies and with your directives and with your actions is that you're pushing our police officers to go after, as happened yesterday, kids who are getting away from a potential shoplifting situation in a van and putting in danger, as happened in this case, the lives of innocent people. At the end of the day these are relatively minor crimes. We are all in favour of doing what has to be done to deal with crime, but don't you believe that your actions are shifting the balance completely inappropriately and forcing our police officers to take these -
Hon Mr Flaherty: The directive to which I refer was created by the Ministry of the Solicitor General in 1989. It's been with us for some years and deals with factors which police officers need to take into consideration during police chases. We support the policing community in this province. In the budget, the Minister of Finance announced funding for an additional 1,000 uniformed front-line police officers in Ontario. We are funding the anti-biker gang squad, which I announced yesterday in London, and 115 cadets so that we can get more Ontario Provincial Police officers, uniformed officers, on the front line in Ontario. All this is for the security of our communities, the security of our families in Ontario.
There's a 73-year-old man from my community who is dead. He was a grandfather, he was a father, he was a husband, he was a neighbour. Your crime control commission talks about your get-tough-on-kids policy of broken windows, like it's all about broken windows, but don't talk to his family and friends about broken windows today. It's the balance, it's the tone, it's the way in which you're pushing police to go after kids in relatively non-serious situations that could lead to what happened yesterday. There's a very timely column in the Toronto Star today written by Jim Coyle. It's incredible, actually. He says:
"But sadly, if crime has been exaggerated, so too has the commission. The crime control commission is just three obscure Conservative backbenchers, whose perverse task it is not to control crime but to incite fear of it.
Hon Mr Flaherty: I appreciate the tragedy that occurred yesterday in Toronto. It's always a concern when persons lose their lives or are seriously injured in the course of what was apparently a police pursuit. I understand the honourable member's concern.
The guidelines are there. Public safety is the paramount consideration. The criteria to be taken into account in a very difficult situation by police officers are listed in the policy directive. The Toronto police service also has its own directive to its officers.
Ms Shelley Martel (Sudbury East): I have a question to the Attorney General. It has been 16 months now since all members in this Legislature unanimously passed Bill 82, the Family Responsibility and Support Arrears Enforcement Act, and it's been a whole year since you proclaimed this bill. Since then, you have failed to do anything about half of the new enforcement tools that you promised to implement to crack down on defaulting parents. Can you explain to women and children right across this province why you failed to keep your promise?
Hon Charles Harnick (Attorney General, minister responsible for native affairs): As you're aware, we have brought in tools to deal with collections within family support that have never existed and that were in fact opposed by the previous government.
We have now reported 73,000 defaulting payors to credit bureaus. There have been 1,500 notices regarding driver's licence suspensions and 350 licences have been suspended. We are doing a number of things by way of court actions to enforce orders to pay. We have other issues that will be proclaimed shortly dealing with joint bank accounts and partnership accounts which will again provide much greater access to forcing people who are self-employed to pay.
Let me raise a case with you with respect to joint bank accounts. Let me tell you the story of Micheline Labelle, who is a recipient with two teenage children. The payor in this case owes arrears of $5,122.66 because you have failed to take any action on payors who shelter income and assets with third parties. The Family Responsibility Office cannot garnish a joint bank account.
You promised to close this loophole 16 months ago and you have failed to take any action in this regard. Can you explain to Micheline and her children and thousands of other families like hers why you've done nothing in this regard?
Hon Mr Harnick: The measures that were set out in Bill 82 were measures that were rejected out of hand by the previous government. When we took over and recreated the Family Responsibility Office we had to deal with 90,000 backlogged items, which we have now dealt with. We're distributing more money today, and answering the phone calls that come in today, that was never able to be done in the past. We are methodically implementing all the items in Bill 82 that will permit us better enforcement tools. We will very shortly be dealing with those issues. I invite the member to provide me with the details so that we can take a look and see if we can help her constituent.
Ms Martel: Minister, you must be the only person in this place who believes that "very shortly" means 16 months. It's been 16 whole months since this Legislature passed a bill to give you the power to put into place the new enforcement tools, and in that 16 months you have only managed to implement half of the new enforcement tools that everyone in this place agreed with.
Let me give you another detail about the case of Micheline Labelle. Sixteen months ago you promised you would give the Ontario Lottery Corp the authority to deduct support arrears from payors winning $1,000 or more in a lottery. You should know that in her case the payor has recently won several millions of dollars in a major lottery. Because you have failed to take any action on lottery winning, the Family Responsibility Office cannot get the $5,000 in arrears that is owed to Micheline that the payor just won.
Minister, you've had 16 months to do something, to put these enforcement tools into effect. You haven't done so because you're incompetent. How do you justify your lack of action on these important measures?
Hon Mr Harnick: We have rebuilt the Family Responsibility Office so that in this past month we've collected $41.8 million. This is a 33.5% increase from April 1995 when they were the government. We have been implementing the enforcement tools that never existed in the Family Responsibility Office before we passed Bill 82.
Clyde Barnaby was riding his bicycle on the sidewalk yesterday morning because, being a 73-year-old senior citizen, he was afraid to ride his bike on the street. He thought he would be safer on the sidewalk. But yesterday, as we all know, he was tragically killed as a direct result of a police high-speed chase.
Minister, I know you've only been on the job for a few weeks, and I'm sure you are upset about this, as I am, but this is not the first time a citizen in Ontario has lost his or her life due to a high-speed police chase. We know that police forces in other jurisdictions have developed the technology to provide the alternatives to high-speed police chases in residential neighbourhoods. Would you tell us today what the ministry has done for the last three years to prevent these tragedies from happening?
Hon Jim Flaherty (Minister of Labour, Solicitor General and Minister of Correctional Services): There have been a number of steps taken by the ministry, particularly with respect to intensive training in all aspects of the provincial pursuit directive at the Ontario Police College. The pursuit directive was also reviewed in 1994 and some content changes made at that time. In addition, the ministry recently provided funding for the acquisition of tire deflation devices to assist in police pursuits in order to enhance public safety. Those are some of the steps the ministry has taken with respect to the issue you've raised.
Mr Ramsay: We all understand that it's the duty of our police officers in Ontario to enforce the law, and we know also that they are very tightly regulated as to when they can commence and continue a high-speed pursuit. But there are other tools - you've mentioned a few of them but there are many more - that we should be equipping our police forces right across this province with. We need to give them those tools so they can carry out their duty with their safety and the safety of the public in mind. With all the alternative measures that are available today for police to capture offenders, some would say we should be reviewing the necessity of high-speed police chases in residential neighbourhoods at all.
Minister, would you give us your commitment today that you will not only review the high-speed chase guidelines in Ontario, but that you will immediately allocate the funding for advanced technology in order to prevent another tragedy like this from happening again?
Hon Mr Flaherty: In response to the member for Timiskaming, as I indicated in my first response, the ministry has provided the funding for the acquisition of tire deflation devices, which may be of some assistance in the situations you raise in your question. Public safety is the paramount consideration, and if the member has some suggestions that might be of some use as this adequacy standard is reviewed, then I'd certainly be pleased to consider them.
The member should know that the guideline is under review as part of the review of adequacy standards generally by the Ministry of the Solicitor General dealing with police services. The public safety aspect, of course, is the first consideration always.
Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-Woodbine): My question is to the finance minister. In the budget speech you claimed, "We are responding by providing children's aid societies with an additional $170 million over the next three years." It is our understanding, after having checked with the Ministry of Community and Social Services, that the new money going to children's aid societies' base budgets consists of $20 million this year, an additional $40 million next year and an additional $30 million the following year, so that at the end of three years there is in fact $90 million in new base budget funding. What the minister has done in his speech is add up cumulative totals in each year to have an inflated number of $170 million.
Hon Ernie L. Eves (Deputy Premier, Minister of Finance): I have said all along that the total amount of dollars is $170 million. The member is quite correct that it's $20 million this year. It is $60 million next year and it is $90 million added to the base budget in the third year out. The Ontario Association of Children's Aid Societies quite understands that. I talked to them about it shortly after the budget, as a matter of fact. Mary McConville was quite appreciative.
Ms Lankin: What they understand is that according to your numbers the increased base budget funding is $90 million, not the $170 million that you trumpeted, not the $170 million that the media and the public and everyone else understood you to be saying, like in so many other areas.
Ms Lankin: Minister, I have a very serious question about that $90 million in new base funding. Yesterday the Minister of Community and Social Services said, "One of the challenges, of course, is that the old funding formula, which has existed for many years and under previous governments, has this sort of emergency funding at the end of the year," and she goes on to say that this makes it difficult for calculations.
One of the things we agree with your government about is the need for increased base funding. But we also believe there is a need for exceptional circumstances emergency money at the end of the year to deal with incredible fluctuations in caseloads due to a number of circumstances. We can get into the details of why that happens.
But what I really need to know, Minister, is, will you guarantee that that ECR or contingency fund available to the children's aid societies will not be rolled into that $90 million in base funding and that this contingency fund will continue to exist? Because, without that, your announcement is a sham.
Hon Mr Eves: The Minister of Community and Social Services will deal with those matters as any other minister in the government deals with their particular budget for their particular ministry. But I want to address the comment that the honourable member for Beaches-Woodbine made at the beginning of her remarks, and that is, nobody ever left the impression or intended to leave the impression - indeed the Ontario Association of Children's Aid Societies knew full well if she did not - that the increase to the base budget was $170 million.
Mr Bob Wood (London South): My question is for the Attorney General. He is aware of the widespread public dissatisfaction with the Young Offenders Act in its current form and the people's strong desire for a change for the better now.
Mr Bob Wood: We hear that the federal government will announce discussions about YOA changes today, but that there will be no specifics. Surely the time for talk is ended and the time for action is now. Is the Attorney General prepared to ask the federal government to produce a draft YOA bill now?
Hon Charles Harnick (Attorney General, minister responsible for native affairs): We have been pressing the federal government for almost three years now to deal with the Young Offenders Act because every person in Ontario knows that the Young Offenders Act is a joke. The Young Offenders Act has not worked properly, it has not kept communities safe, and we have asked the federal government repeatedly to create an act that redefines young offenders so that youths 16 and older can be prosecuted as adults.
We've advised that if the maximum age is not changed, then to legislate the mandatory transfer to adult court of 16- and 17-year-olds. We've asked for the provision for the prosecution of youths under the age of 12 for serious violent offences. We've asked to restrict access to free legal counsel to ensure that parents who meet provincial legal aid eligibility requirements pay for the representation of a young person. We've asked for youths to be transferred to adult court to have the same parole eligibility requirements as adult offenders.
Mr Bob Wood: I'm pleased to see that the minister takes this seriously. I think there are some in the opposition who don't think the public is concerned about this, and they are. What date would the minister see as an appropriate and reasonable goal for these YOA changes to be effective?
Hon Mr Harnick: We have been pressing the federal government to make meaningful changes to the act. It's very important that these changes be made. We have consistently taken the position that the Young Offenders Act does not work and we have asked the federal government to deal with creating an act that will listen to the representations that have been made by people all over this country.
We've appeared before parliamentary committees. We've written a 15-point proposal to the Minister of Justice. We hope that she's going to listen. We hope that the Liberal Party of Ontario will get on the bandwagon and support these changes because they're long overdue. They know, as does the third party, that the Young Offenders Act has not worked. It's a failed experiment. It's looked upon as a joke by the people of Ontario who cannot feel safe in their communities as long as this act exists.
Mrs Lyn McLeod (Fort William): My question is for the Minister of Education. It's becoming clear that the community school is going to be one of the casualties of your funding formula for education. School boards are anguished over what schools they're going to have to close because you're not providing enough money to heat and to light and to clean their schools.
In Niagara they're looking at the closure of as many as 35 schools. Toronto is facing the closure of as many as 120 of its schools. In Hamilton-Wentworth your colleague Tony Skarica wants the board to close schools in inner-city Hamilton so kids in Waterdown won't have to be bused out of their community, and that's what you've done. You've put the welfare of students in one community up against the welfare of students in another community. The Hamilton-Wentworth board would have to close 12 schools in inner-city Hamilton just to build one school in Waterdown to get the kids out of the portables.
Minister, don't try to tell us that this is a local board decision. Will you acknowledge that you are forcing a massive shutdown of schools and that you'll be loading kids on buses and shipping them out of communities right across this province?
Mr Sean G. Conway (Renfrew North): Alan Eagleson is acting up at boot camp and you Tories are not doing anything about it. What are you going to do about Alan Eagleson? I want these Tory miscreants dealt with in jail. Alan Eagleson is thumbing his nose at you in jail and he is your past party president.
The reality is that we have a basic difference of opinion with the opposition. We think more money should go into the classroom. That's exactly where the moneys are headed. We think school boards should be efficient and effective. We have allowed school boards more than enough money to look after their schools, more than enough money to accommodate the students' needs, and then we think that the money should be focused on the classroom, focused towards the teachers, the textbooks, the supplies going into the classroom, for a better education for our young people.
What is happening in Ottawa-Carleton is that they're looking at having to close 20 schools. What makes it even worse is that they have to close them, according to your rules, by September 1. That's when you cut off the funding for the heat and the light and the cleaning of what you now call surplus space. The problem is, there are students in those spaces and there are parents who want their children to stay in their neighbourhood school and who are going to be very upset when you insist that their kids are going to have to be bused somewhere else so you can save money on what you call your non-classroom expenditures.
Minister, the Carleton board says they can't close these schools overnight. Every other board is saying the same thing. Will you suspend your totally unrealistic deadlines and provide enough money to keep these schools open for at least a year so reasonable plans for kids can be made?
Hon David Johnson: I've had the opportunity to talk to many, many representatives of schools - staff, trustees, other representatives - and I can say that in terms of the amount of time that schools will have to come to grips with various solutions, we're looking at that and I'm going to be more than cooperative in terms of assisting them to make the kinds of decisions they need to make.
I wonder if the member for Fort William remembers a gentleman by the name of John Sweeney. John Sweeney was the former cabinet minister who worked with the member for Fort William. John Sweeney was hired by the NDP to do a study of our school system, and John Sweeney, colleague of the member for Fort William, came to the conclusion that indeed we needed to spend more money in the classroom. Too much money was being spent on administration and non-classroom activities.
M. Gilles Bisson (Cochrane-Sud) : Ma question est au procureur général. Vous savez que présentement, un francophone accusé d'une infraction provinciale a le droit à un procès en français. Suite aux pressions du NPD, vous avez proposé un amendement à votre Loi 108 visant à répondre à nos préoccupations. Nous croyons que même avec votre amendement, les francophones vont perdre ce droit.
Ma question est celle-ci : Est-ce que vous êtes capable de nous garantir aujourd'hui qu'avec votre amendement, les francophones auront exactement les mêmes droits qui leur sont présentement accordés ?
"Failure to provide a bilingual prosecutor in accordance with an agreement might not invalidate a proceeding in every case, but it would invalidate a proceeding if the failure resulted in prejudice to the defendant's right to a fair hearing.
"This issue of whether the right to a fair hearing was prejudiced would depend on the particular circumstance of the case. It might be relevant, for example, whether a French-speaking defendant was also fluently English."
C'est clair. L'opinion qu'on m'a donnée dit que vous n'êtes pas en train de garantir les droits des francophones tels qu'ils existent présentement. Êtes-vous préparé à accepter notre amendement qu'on a mis déjà ou à écrire un amendement du gouvernement qui protégerait clairement les droits des francophones ?
Hon Mr Harnick: Certainly the proposal that we have made is a proposal that both AFMO and AJEFO have worked on developing with us. They are quite satisfied that it provides the protection they need to be assured that the existing level of services will be guaranteed when municipalities take over the prosecution of provincial offences.
The other aspect is that if one takes a look at the memorandum of understanding that would be referenced in the act, certainly we've enumerated all of those issues of due process, and provision in the French language is specifically one of those issues of due process, therefore guaranteeing the existing level of service.
Mr Allan K. McLean (Simcoe East): My question today is for the Minister of Agriculture. Recently, I spoke with various farm operators in my riding of Simcoe East. In the group were several fellow dairy farmers. I learned that they have lost 3% of their milk quota due to imported dairy byproducts coming in from the United States. Are you aware of how the importation of butter oil-sugar blends into Ontario is hurting the milk quota of our dairy farmers?
Hon Noble Villeneuve (Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, minister responsible for francophone affairs): I recognize the importance of the butter oil-sugar blends, that it is of great interest to our dairy producers and indeed to our ice cream manufacturers.
The federal government, through the Canadian International Trade Tribunal, has established a process, and all the issues are expected to be addressed. I am pleased to see that the Dairy Farmers of Ontario have agreed to participate in that process. It is of great importance to the dairy industry. I've had the opportunity of discussing this with my federal colleague and I appreciate the fact that he now has a committee at the CITT looking into it.
Mr McLean: This product, containing 49% butter oil and 51% sugar, is used in the manufacture of ice cream in Ontario. It is obviously a butter substitute, as the Dairy Farmers of Canada have been arguing, and should be required to pay the proper import tariff. If allowed to continue, the dairy farmers I spoke with estimate an additional loss of milk quota. You know how serious this could be for Ontario's respected dairy industry.
Hon Mr Villeneuve: The Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs has made a submission to the CITT and has asked to examine all the options very closely. I am pleased that the Dairy Farmers of Canada are also participating in this committee to air all the possible solutions. I certainly encourage the tribunal to continue to consider all the options and take into account the needs of everyone involved, including the dairy farmers, the processors and certainly the consumers. We're looking for a resolution that takes into consideration the interests of the entire industry, and this committee will have its findings published at the beginning of July.
Mr Tony Ruprecht (Parkdale): My question is to the Minister of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation. You're aware that your door is shut to hundreds of new Canadian immigrants with professional degrees ready to make a contribution to Ontario, but the only jobs they can find are as taxi drivers, cleaners and pizza delivery people.
Your Premier made a commitment and a promise in 1995 to take strict action to deal with access to professions and trades. To this day, we see your actions in terms of equal opportunity. What are they? You destroyed employment equity legislation. You cut the Cabinet Round Table on Anti-Racism, then you killed the Employment Equity Commission and then you cancelled the Ontario Advisory Council on Disability Issues.
Minister, I have in my hand recommendations by an organization called Skills for Change, which outline what you could do so that the doors of opportunity will not be shut to those who have professional qualifications. Will you accept these recommendations from Skills for Change?
Hon Isabel Bassett (Minister of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation): First of all, I want to say that this government believes strongly in the contributions that immigrants can make to our society. I'm glad you asked the question, because I believe we as a society have not gone far enough yet to accommodate people who come here seeking to use the skills they used and developed in other countries.
That said, we are working, and I am pushing up our attempts to work even faster so we can make sure that citizens who have been trained elsewhere in the world have their skills recognized here. Right now, the system, according to the report that came out, has not been adequate, and we are studying that. York University and the University of Toronto have had it set up within the system to judge various skills -
Mr Ruprecht: I find this answer really very inadequate. You are saying, if I hear you correctly, that you are studying this. Look, your Premier made a commitment and a promise in 1995, and you know the Minister of Finance's mantra when he read the budget speech: "A promise made, a promise kept."
We know that the Premier clearly made the commitment in 1995 and said, "We're going to act on this very swiftly." You are today telling me, three years later, that you are still studying this matter while your door is being hammered on by hundreds of people trying to get into the system. You say you are studying it.
Hon Ms Bassett: We do keep our promises. The ministry commissioned a study by Price Waterhouse; in fact, the final report was just submitted April 6, 1998. It concludes that the existing services do not have credibility and wide acceptance among employers. Now that we have taken the first step to determine what the services had to offer and where they fell short, we are now looking at in-house assessments conducted by regulatory bodies and educational institutions and we are seeing what they have to offer. As I said before, they do not use a standard and consistent methodology. Now that we have the results from the report, we are starting to act on it.
Mr Tony Silipo (Dovercourt): My question is to the Minister of Finance. Last week you tabled Bill 16, which tries to fix the disastrous mess you've made of the whole property tax reassessment scheme. Your first try at this brought thousands of small businesses in Toronto to the brink of bankruptcy, and now, as I said, you're trying to fix this problem through Bill 16.
But we see one problem your bill creates: In capping business tax increases at 2.5%, you've moved the cost of the download of your services on to homeowners. Because, as we understand it from the legislation, the cap applies to all increases, not just to those caused by the assessment, you will be making homeowners pay the cost of the download all by themselves. Some owners, we know, are going to be getting increases as high as 100%.
Hon Ernie L. Eves (Deputy Premier, Minister of Finance): If the honourable member is talking about the city of Toronto, which I presume he is, he will certainly be knowledgeable of the fact that the city of Toronto has come out with a no-increase budget for this year with respect to taxpayers in the city of Toronto. They've also said that they don't see any reason why they'll have to raise taxes for the next three years, and neither do we.
Mr Silipo: The issue is not so much the budget of the city; the issue is the tax assessment and the reassessment and the changes within that. This is where the problem is, which you created. We all support the tax relief for small businesses. We in fact were among the ones who were telling you to do more than what you've done, so we're not arguing with you on that.
But the reality is that your changes are leaving homeowners out in the cold. Because businesses will get a 2.5% cap not only on assessment-based increases but on other increases as well, it leaves the municipalities no room but to shift on to homeowners the cost of the download. That's going to apply here in Toronto and it's going to apply in other municipalities. In community after community, whether it's in Sarnia, in Windsor, in Sudbury, in Niagara, Bruce county, Kitchener, and we could go on, we're going to see municipality after municipality having to choose to protect their businesses through capping, and if they choose to do that, then homeowners will not get the protection.
Hon Mr Eves: First of all, the honourable member said it's the assessment base increase that he's worried about. Then he talks about the Who Does What exercise in the preamble to both his first and second question. If you're talking about the Who Does What exercise, the city of Toronto has said they will not increase taxes this year or for the next three years. The overwhelming majority of municipalities in Ontario are already on a market value/fair value assessment base system: some 1992, some 1988, some 1984, but the overwhelming majority, about 90% of Ontario municipalities, are already there.
We recognized that there is a problem with respect to municipalities that haven't had a reassessment for a long time, like the city of Toronto since 1940, and therefore we introduced the 2.5% cap, especially for small business owners and small business people in the municipal option. Those municipalities that don't choose that option, and the overwhelming majority will be those, obviously have dealt with this in the past.
Mr O'Toole: Thank you, Mr Speaker. On our highways, like the 401 and Highway 12 through my riding, I've noticed the new tourism signs, and they are well received. All the constituents of mine, like Ocala Wines and Cullen Gardens, have really responded well. However, since they started this program, I've also had owners of food, fuel and accommodation businesses approach me wondering what you're going to do to allow them to be included in this signage in Ontario.
Hon Tony Clement (Minister of Transportation): I thank the honourable member for Durham East for his question, and indeed I was very pleased to be present at the Ontario Hotel and Motel Association conference on May 3 when the Premier of Ontario announced the implementation of the logo signage system for the province. After a wait of perhaps 20 years, they finally got what they were asking for and what the public is demanding. The logo signage system will replace generic icons used to indicate accommodations, food and fuel outlets with signs showing the corporate logo.
We recognize as a government that accommodation, food and fuel employers are providing an important service to the travelling public, and motorists need to be aware of these services. As well, these employers are providing jobs, opportunities and growth to our province. Consequently, we are pleased to announce this program. In the words of Rod Seiling, president of the Ontario Hotel and Motel Association, "Logo signage is a win-win initiative as it provides an essential service to the travelling public by giving them information on services they have long said is important." We are pleased to announce that accommodation.
"Whereas competent health care workers and students in various health care disciplines in Ontario have been denied training, employment, continued employment and advancement in their intended fields and suffered other forms of unjust discrimination because of the dictates of their consciences; and
"We, the undersigned, urge the government of Ontario to enact legislation explicitly recognizing the freedom of conscience of health care workers, prohibiting coercion of and unjust discrimination against health care workers because of their refusal to participate in matters contrary to the dictates of their consciences and establishing penalties for such coercion and unjust discrimination."
"Whereas the diabetes education services at the Lake of the Woods District Hospital in Kenora, Ontario is an essential component of health care, we, the undersigned, petition the Minister of Health of Ontario as follows:
Mrs Brenda Elliott (Guelph): In the interest of brevity and allowing other members to present petitions, the petition that I wish to submit on behalf of over 100 of my constituents is identical to that just submitted by the member for Carleton East. On their behalf, I present this for consideration in the House.
"Whereas two recent reports commissioned by the Ministry of Health called for increased OHIP funding to improve patient access to chiropractic services on the grounds of safety, effectiveness and cost-effectiveness; and
"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislature of Ontario to recognize the contribution made by chiropractors to the good health of the people of Ontario, to recognize the taxpayer dollars saved by the use of low-cost preventive care such as that provided by chiropractors and to recognize that to restrict funding for chiropractic health care only serves to limit access to a needed health care service."
"I, the undersigned, am in support of a compensation package jointly funded by the federal and provincial governments for all victims of the hepatitis C tainted blood tragedy. Further, the compensating committee should have as part of its members a fair representation of hepatitis C victims.
In Canada, today, Saskatchewan is the only province to offer medical assistance to hepatitis C patients. This disease can remain dormant for approximately 20 years, but can become chronic, requiring costly medical assistance, potentially leading to loss of employment and causing severe emotional stress.
The financial and emotional burden placed on these Canadians is unthinkable! The stigma which is associated with this disease still plagues thousands across this country. Without compensation, Canadians will continue to suffer and die through no fault of their own. This tragedy must stop!"
"That public funding of abortion should cease, that the injunction against pro-life witnessing should be dropped and that the conscientious rights of health care workers be given new, explicit protection in the law."
"Whereas the discharging of acute care patients from active treatment hospitals results in medical staff at homes for the aged being required to provide more extensive and intensive care to patients who are discharged from hospitals; and
"Whereas Linhaven and other homes for the aged have among the residents more individuals afflicted with Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease and other medical conditions which require an appropriate complement of staff and necessary equipment to meet their medical needs;
"Therefore, be it resolved that the government of Ontario increase funding to Linhaven Home for the Aged in St Catharines so that the medical requirements of Linhaven residents may be properly addressed and seniors may live in dignity in our community."
Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): I have petitions signed and forwarded to me by members of CEP Local 32 in Smooth Rock Falls. This is to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario and it reads as follows:
"Whereas the Workers' Health and Safety Centre now faces an additional 25% cut to its 1998 budget, which will be used to augment new funding for employer safety associations in the health, education and services sector; and
"Whereas the WCB's 1998 planned baseline budget cuts for safety associations and the Workers' Health and Safety Centre will be disproportionately against the workers' centre and reduce its 1998 budget allocation to less than 15% of the WCB prevention funding;
"Therefore we, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to stop the WCB's proposed cuts and direct the WCB to increase the Workers' Health and Safety Centre's funding to at least 50% of the WCB's legislated prevention funding; and
"Further we, the undersigned, call upon the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to direct the WCB to significantly increase its legislated prevention funding in order to eliminate workplace illness, injury and death."
"Whereas a report has been submitted by the Health Services Restructuring Commission recommending the closure of the Institute of Psychotherapy, established over 30 years ago" in Kingston, Ontario, "an 18-bed cost-effective hospital which provides voluntary treatment to patients with resistant depression disorders to learn to cope with their problems" at a cost of $130 per day of "provincial funding, an average of 25% of the cost of other psychiatric treatment centres; and
"Whereas the Institute of Psychotherapy supplies efficient and effective short-term care to residents of Kingston and the surrounding area, it also provides their service to patients from Ottawa, Cornwall" and other communities. This hospital also provides anonymity to health care professionals who would/could otherwise face receiving treatment at their place of employment with colleagues or, the worst scenario, not seek the lifesaving treatment they require;
"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to stop the September 1998 closure of the Institute of Psychotherapy...and that they review the cost-efficient and effective short-term care provided to patients who would not/could not seek treatment for this life-threatening illness. As a result of their work, this hospital provides a much-needed service to the community and an inexpensive operation to the province of Ontario as a whole."
"We, the undersigned, petition the Ontario Legislature not to grant an aggregate licence to James Dick Construction Ltd that would allow mining of the Rockford property at Olde Base Line and Winston Churchill Boulevard in the town of Caledon for the following reasons:
"Current monitoring technology is unable to guarantee the water table would not be compromised; haul routes would force gravel trucks to travel the same routes as 29 school buses; the unique character of our community would change dramatically; and aggregate extraction would jeopardize the day tourist traffic currently visiting to the town of Caledon."
The Acting Speaker (Ms Frances Lankin): Pursuant to standing order 37(a), the member for Cochrane South has given notice of his dissatisfaction with the answer to his question given by the Attorney General concerning Bill 108. This matter will be debated today at 6 pm.
Mr John Gerretsen (Kingston and The Islands): A budget debate is always a very interesting one. I would like to do something today at the outset which relates to another matter that I raised on Thursday, in which I apparently misstated a situation. I want to correct the record. It doesn't happen too often in this House, but I thought I would just correct the record.
I stated in my statement on tourism last Thursday that the chair of the Greater Kingston Chamber of Commerce, Mrs Elaine Viner, "slammed her fist on the desk when Attorney General Harnick visited yesterday." That is apparently not so. She slammed her fist on the desk before he came in. Knowing Mrs Viner the way I do, I know she would never do that while a minister of the crown is present. I just wanted to correct that error.
On the other hand, it does show how important tourism dollars are in our various communities, and that was the main purpose of the statement then, as it is now. I would once again urge the Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism to make most of the tourist money available to the individual communities, whether it's through the chambers of commerce, the visitors and convention bureaus or whatever it may be, because I think those organisations know best how to spend that money.
The real concern was that the Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism said that before he would allocate any of these funds, he was going to take a Yours to Discover Ontario tour within a week or so. I would say that probably the minister has seen Ontario from top to bottom in his various capacities over the last three years. It is very important to get that money out as quickly as possible. Tourist promotion should happen now. It shouldn't happen some time in July or August when people have already made their holiday plans. If you're going to do it, do it now. That's the first point I want to make.
The $262,000 that has been brought into the system for tourist promotion of course is very helpful in eastern Ontario, but you've got to remember that was ice storm money and the federal government contributed substantially to that fund as well.
The other issue I want to raise is this piece of propaganda that has gone to every household in Ontario. I know that last week we were under the impression it only went to certain people, but it looks now as if it went to every household in the province. I know the Speaker has ruled on this and the Integrity Commissioner is currently looking at it.
Just in case there's any misunderstanding that the people of Ontario may have out there as to whether or not this is sort of like a government householder, people should understand that all of us have within our budgets the possibility of sending householders to people within our own ridings. People may get confused. They may think, "Does the government now send out householders?" This is just blatant political propaganda and the people of Ontario should know that taxpayers' dollars are used to distribute this Reform government's information and self-congratulatory comments on what's happening in Ontario.
I don't think it's a fair way to handle the situation at all. If the government feels it needs propaganda in order to talk about its policies or whatever it wants to do, let it use its own party funding that it has available to it. We all know they're raising millions of dollars from their fund-raisers. Use some of that money. I don't think government money should be used for this kind of propaganda.
If you want to send out a brochure that strictly sets out the facts of a particular program that you've initiated, that's one thing, but when you make all sorts of editorial comments about how wonderful some of the programs are that you've introduced, then that becomes just blatant political propaganda and it's totally unacceptable to use government money to send that to each person in Ontario. As my friend from St Catharines indicated, look what the Ottawa Citizen said in its editorial yesterday:
"Take the slick pamphlet pictured at the left," which is this pamphlet right here. "It's full of puffery about how great tax cuts are, how much we'll love the rural jobs strategy (for which, read `small-town slush fund'), and how things in general are just swell with the Tories in charge.
It's not appropriate. You can laugh about it, but it is simply not appropriate to use government money to send out this kind of propaganda. Of course we know that David Lindsay, the former principal secretary in the Premier's office, is now the head of this organization, which I guess is to promote the Ontario government in some fashion. Anyway, it's totally inappropriate and I hope the people of Ontario will take issue with the government on that.
I see that time is moving on. As you all know, under the rules nowadays the opposition has been muffled and muzzled, because we cannot speak as long as we want to on such an intricate document as the budget. We've been limited to 20 minutes for personal debate on an issue like this, which is totally shocking. But there is one other thing I want to draw your attention to. It happened last week and was truly an extraordinary event for about 2,000 Ontarians who live in island communities.
You may recall that I and others have been saying in this House for the last two years, ever since this government brought in the notion that the island communities should look after their own ferry fee funding, that there is no way those local smaller municipalities have the financial wherewithal to fund the ferry systems that operate back and forth to these islands. As a matter of fact, the money that's realized in property taxes on the islands is somewhere in the neighbourhood of $300,000 to $400,000, and to fund these ferry systems you need about $2 million, so they would have to raise taxes four- or five- or sixfold.
The Minister of Transportation, both the present minister and the former minister, have been stonewalling this. They've been saying: "We're cutting you off as of December 31. As of then you are no longer part of Ontario. We are no longer going to pay for your ferry system." December 31 came along and they said, "Well, okay, we're going to do it on March 31." In the meantime, these people have been living in great anxiety and great fear because their livelihood, their whole way of life, is at stake. We're talking about people whose ancestors have lived and worked and farmed on these islands for something like seven or eight generations.
Lo and behold, what happened last Thursday on CBC Ottawa, on the noonhour show? The Minister of Finance was interviewed by a reporter, questioned by somebody who phoned in from the island, and the minister said, "I believe the province should take over the responsibility for the ferry service because municipalities do not have the wherewithal to handle the cost." That is what Ernie Eves said last Thursday on the noonhour show.
Mr Gerretsen: What's wrong with that? That's what I'd like to know, because Ernie Eves is right: They no not have the financial capacity to pay for these services. All I would suggest, once again, is that the Minister of Finance, who I always thought had an awful lot of power within cabinet, to get together with the Minister of Transportation and straighten this matter out so we can bring some sense of certainty to the people who live in these island communities and not say to 2,000 people in this province, "I'm sorry, we can no longer afford you." I agree with the Minister of Finance on that. The local municipalities do not have the financial wherewithal to afford it, so I hope he wins his battle with the Minister of Transportation.
Now let's take a look at the budget. The first thing I always look at is what has happened to the public debt in this province. This is probably one of the greatest inconsistencies in the present government's position. They like to give the image that they are a business party and that they want to run the province in a businesslike fashion. For the life of me, I cannot understand how a government that wants to run the province in a businesslike fashion can possibly give people tax cuts when you're still running a deficit every year. The annual deficit, you see, gets added to the public debt on an annual basis.
What has happened in the province of Ontario between 1995 and currently? The public debt of this province has increased from $89 billion to $105 billion, an increase of $16 billion per year. Let's just take a look at what the interest is on the public debt. What's the interest on the public debt? Amazing. It has gone up from $7.8 billion paid in 1995 to a projected $9.2 billion that will be paid in the current year, an increase of $1.4 billion just in the interest payments.
What's fascinating about this and what I think the people of Ontario should really reflect upon is that we pay more on the interest on the public debt than we do for social services in this province. It's $9.2 billion that's projected to be paid on the interest on the public debt and the community and social services budget is $7.8 billion. I find it totally incongruous that a party that prides itself on doing things in a businesslike fashion could possibly do that sort of thing.
The other thing that is very interesting to note is that they always like to blame the federal government. That's another good one. I want to address this. Some of my colleagues said, "Don't talk about it," but I want to talk about it. It is true that the transfer payments from the federal government have been reduced by about $2 billion over the last four to five years. But it's a little reminiscent of that famous television debate that took place between Brian Mulroney and John Turner - you may recall; I think it was in 1984 - when there were certain patronage appointments, which I won't get into right now, and Mr Mulroney said: "But, sir, you had a choice. You could have done something about it." It's exactly the same thing here.
You've got to remember that transfer payments are no longer in particular envelopes. We no longer have an envelope for health care or an envelope for social services. The provinces now can do whatever they want with those transfer payments. What did this government do? They're complaining about the fact there's $2 billion less, but what did they do? They gave a tax cut anyway. They had a choice either to give the money away in a tax cut or they could have said, "We're getting less from the federal government; therefore, we cannot afford a tax cut because we really care about good, quality health care and quality education services."
Premier, finance minister, you had a choice. Let's not hear any more about the fact that the feds reduced the transfer payments. They're also totally unconditional. You can do with that money what you want. You had a choice. You did not want to use that money for health care and social services. You decided to give that money back to the people of Ontario by way of a tax cut. It's very interesting that the amount of the tax cut is equal to the amount of the transfer payment from the feds to the province.
Mr Gerretsen: I must congratulate the members for being so wide awake and listening to this speech. It obviously hit a bit of a nerve or a sore point with them, because they seem to be very agitated about these things. Both the government members and the members of the third party are agitated about it.
Mr Gerretsen: I always like to speak directly to the Chair. I never try to provoke the members in the House, other than through good, stimulating debate and a good discussion of the issues that are before us.
The other thing that I find very interesting is, the government likes to pride itself on the fact that last year they projected a deficit of something like $5.6 billion and they came in at $4.2 billion. They say: "Isn't this wonderful? We're $1.4 billion better off than we thought we'd be." Of course, it's the age-old trick where the Minister of Finance always underestimates certain items, or overestimates the cost of certain items, so that at the end of the year he looks good. All finance ministers do it. They probably do it at the federal House as well. I don't doubt that for a moment.
It's very interesting that out of this $1.4 billion in which we're better off on the deficit side than what was anticipated, some $700 million is made up of two categories. One, in the category of capital, $339 million worth of capital that was included in last year's budget, was money that was never spent. That's very easy to recover; you haven't spent it. That's an easy one. The other one was $462 million where they expected to pay even more in interest costs than they actually did. That is another one. They probably expected high interest rates or something like that when they estimated the amount they would have to pay last year.
In any event, when the finance minister gets up and says, "Well, isn't it wonderful, what a wonderful job I've done," I would just ask the people of Ontario, take a good close look at the figures and you will see that really there was $700 million out of that $1.4 billion that had nothing to do with things other than just plain bookkeeping entries.
There is one other issue that I very briefly want to address - as you well know, there's always so much to say and so little time to say it, particularly, with the House rules the way they are now - it deals with the notion that this government has kept its promises. I know there's a certain public perception out there. I think the people of Ontario -
Mr Gerretsen: Perception in politics sometimes is everything, I agree. But the people of Ontario ought to be made aware of some of the promises that were made that were not kept. The best one that I can think of and that almost everybody in Ontario can relate to is health care costs.
Let's remind the people of Ontario once again that on May 3, 1995, Mr Harris said, "We will not cut one cent from health care," and that he said in that famous television debate, "No, Robert, I do not have a plan to cut hospitals."
Let's look at the reality of the situation. Right now, currently in Ontario, the health care system is in chaos in a lot of communities, driven that way by the government. In community after community, petitions are taken up not to have certain hospitals closed etc, as has been recommended by the Health Services Restructuring Commission. Some $800 million has already been cut out of health care.
You've already taken out $1.4 billion since you took over health care, and the interesting thing is that the government somehow figures that their $1-billion promise last week in the budget, where in effect they're saying, "We're going to spend $1 billion in long-term-care beds" - what people seem to forget very quickly is that's over eight years. It's kind of like saying, "I'm going to take $10 from you today and I'm going to give $10 back to you, but I'm going to give that to you over the next 10 years." I don't think that's quite the same way -
Of course we could talk about user fees. "Under this plan," the Premier said, "there will be no new user fees." What happened? Just ask the senior citizens in this province and they will tell you that the user fees that have been imposed through the drug benefit plan are certainly hurting them, and they are directly contrary to the promise that the Premier made. So to the tune of some $225 million - I see my time is up, Madam Speaker. I wish I could go on, because there's so much to say about this budget and really such little time to say it in.
Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): I appreciate the opportunity to respond to the comments of the member for Kingston and The Islands. I always enjoy his spirited remarks in this place. Many times, given the fact that we both have a municipal background, I find myself agreeing with him.
When he talks about the government's budget and what it's really about, I don't disagree at all with the vast majority of his analysis. However, I do want to point out that while he was speaking, he inadvertently used the word "muffled" when referring to the kinds of speeches and public comments that they're now allowed to make, all of us in opposition, because the government changed the rules of this place and severely limited our ability to offer up alternative thinking to the government of the day. He of course meant to say "muzzled" rather than "muffled," but I did think in some ways it was somewhat apropos because muffling and sliding are a part of where the Libs are on this thing.
I'm not surprised that they're really angry at you for this budget, and for many of the same reasons as us in the NDP, but for one key political reason, and that is that you really cut the legs out from under them when they played the little game of saying, "Just don't implement the last part of the tax cut," and somehow that left them on progressive territory. Now that you've moved that up, they don't have that, and the question has to be asked: Are you going to repeal that last tax cut, let alone the rest of it?
Of course there's a difference between our party and theirs on that issue, but on that last piece - they were so strong about it - it begs the very direct question: Since you opposed it before the budget, do you, the Liberal caucus, believe that last tax cut ought to be repealed? Answer that so we can see where you're going to get the money for all the money you want to spend.
Mr Doug Galt (Northumberland): I was really quite entertained by the member for Kingston and The Islands, but particularly by the member for Hamilton Centre, who just responded, saying he totally agrees with the Liberals. You know, birds of a kind flock together. I can just see the two working together in another coalition coming up.
The member for Kingston and The Islands talked about the government operating as a business. I'm really pleased that he's recognizing that and how we are developing business plans with each of the ministries. In fact, it's working very well.
He talked a lot about the tax cuts, and I'm rather pleased that he did, recognizing things like the income tax cut that will be completed by July 1. He talked about some of the payroll taxes, such as the employer health tax, which will be completed by July 1; also the provincial sales tax on building materials for farmers - that's going to be continued for another year - and made reference to the new home registry costs for new home buyers. Certainly that is stimulating home sales and construction. There are all kinds of jobs coming there, a tremendous amount of investment by farmers. You may have noticed with the employer health tax being reduced how many jobs have been created, some 350,000 jobs since this party came into government.
Mr Galt: It's not the number of tax increases, but the number for tax freedom day. It moved from May 25 to June 21, the most in the history of this country, while you were in government. That tax-and-spend government that you have a reputation for - when it came to the NDP they didn't have the intestinal fortitude to put up the taxes. They just borrowed the money, so they're really the spend-and-borrow party. So tax and spend joins spend and borrow, and look what we ended up with after 10 years.
I would like to underline his point about the new, supposedly - I don't know what this is - Jobs and the Economy. I don't know whether this is a council or whether this is a commission. It looks like a brochure, and I've seen brochures from Tory members that are less biased and less partisan than what's in this. This is something that every single household, apparently, has received in this province to the tune of $750,000. So $750,000 from taxpayers' money to do something that the Progressive Conservative Party should be doing on its own. I find that abhorrent.
We're going to dig into this. We're not leaving this issue. We're going to find out what the terms of reference are. We're going to find out who the people are who were appointed to this and what was their basis and who heads it up. You might be interested to know that the former principal secretary and the former campaign manager of the Conservative Party - five years as principal secretary of the leader of the Progressive Conservative Party. Prior to that Mr Lindsay was director of research and communications for the PC caucus at Queen's Park.
You say to me that this ain't so. I have never seen such partisan stuff in this House from any commission. No commission would ever say this. The taxpayers of this province are paying for that. You should be ashamed of yourselves, and I'm sure some of you are. Anybody with any ethics would stand up and bring this to the Premier's attention. This is some of the worst abuse of political power I've ever seen in this country.
Mr Wildman: I listened carefully to my friend from Kingston and The Islands, who put forward his views on the budget, and he said at one point that he didn't want to hear any more about the cuts in transfer payments by the federal government because provinces, he said, and he's correct on this, have been given flexibility and leeway in how they spend the transfers. But that doesn't get away from the fact that the total amount has been cut substantially by the federal government for the province of Ontario.
But since he doesn't want to hear any more about that, I would like to follow through with the question I raised as an interjection, and then my friend from Hamilton Centre raised, and that is, what is any Liberal government, or any Liberal Party hoping to be in government, what is a Liberal government, if it is in power, going to do about this tax cut that the member for Kingston and The Islands is so concerned about?
We've said that individuals with incomes of over $80,000 should reinvest in education and health care in this province, and if we are successful in the next election, we will help those people to reinvest in health care and in education. That is how we would fund the amount, because 6% of the taxpayers in the tax scheme of the Conservative government are receiving 25% of the tax break. That's $1.5 billion that could be reinvested in health care and education, and we're prepared to make it clear that's what we would do. What would the Liberal Party do?
Mr Gerretsen: Thank you very much. There must be something in the air when the ultra-right-wing Reform government and the left-wing socialists join together to attack the reasonable alternative that's in the centre, that aspires to the values that the people of Ontario aspire to. Obviously both sides are getting somewhat worried about what has really happened.
Mr Gerretsen: I'll tell you, member for Algoma, we are certainly not going to raise taxes. That's number one. Because we know that you are in favour of raising taxes. We are not going to raise taxes, I can tell you that much.
We will also make sure that everyone in this province will have access to health care, will have equal access to education and that the children of this province will not be forgotten. We have decided to make children our top priority in the next election because they are our future.
I think that if there's one sense the people of Ontario have always had, it's a sense of compassion, it's a sense of working together through our problems, but not by trying to balance your budget at the same time as you give people tax cuts, the way the government has been doing. As I've always said, this government has created more havoc and chaos in this province than any other government that has preceded it.
Mr Bert Johnson (Perth): On a point of order, Madam Speaker: The two members from the Liberal caucus have outlined a very nice-looking brochure, and I would ask unanimous consent to have them read it word for word. I'd like to hear what's in it.
I want to continue this debate a little bit because this is interesting. One of my friends in the Liberal Party asked rhetorically: "Why are you guys doing this? Are you guys afraid of us?" My response was, "Well, yeah." Look, we read the polls the same as anybody else. I think it would be extraordinarily stupid on the part of the government and the third party not to recognize the poll numbers as they are.
Having said that, I think that very much legitimizes the question, "How are you going to pay for all the things the Liberal Party says they would do if they were granted the honour and opportunity to govern in the province of Ontario?" It's a fair question to ask. The government has set a path that has cut serious, important social programs such as health and education, and at the same time they've provided tax cuts where the very, very wealthy have benefited the most. This budget that we're dealing with today is no different. It's a continuation of that and, as the government pointed out, they accelerate some aspects of the tax expenditures. The Liberals, on the other hand, are saying they decry what you're doing as much as we in the NDP do and that they want to spend the money to put back in but won't tell us where it's going to come from.
As my House leader has said, we believe - and it's a very different direction than the government has gone in and certainly different from where the Libs are. We have said very clearly that we would, at the very least, generate $1.5 billion per year to use to reinvest back in health care and back in education because we believe those priorities are so important that it calls on those in our society, the mere 6% of the population that earns more than $80,000 and that gets 25% of the benefits of the tax cut - we think that's reasonable. We're prepared to put that to the people of Ontario in the next election. But I think it's fair to say that the Liberals are looking to have it both ways. They condemn the tax cut in the manner we have, they have said they're going to put money back into health and education the way we have, but they're not prepared to say where the money is going to come from. They want to stay on the supportive side of the tax cut agenda of the existing Tory government. We think that's wrong and we think it's misleading, and we think that in modern-day politics, people are looking for clarity, they're looking for honesty and they're looking for a party to say, "Here's what we'll do and here's how we'll pay for it."
The problem, of course, is that the government has set down a course that has done so much damage to our communities that the argument that money needs to be put back into education and health care we believe will be very appealing for a whole host of reasons, the biggest of which is, go into any of our communities and ask if they believe the education system is better since Mike Harris took over, if the health care system is better since Mike Harris took over, and I can tell you the answer is no.
I believe that people are also entitled to hear, whether or not they fully want to, where that money is going to come from. That is a fair position, and then if the people decide they want to stay with the course the government has put forward, they will be re-elected. If they want a change, then they're going to look for a party that's going to identify what it's going to do and how it's going to pay for it. I think we are on the road to providing that alternative and that the smoke-and-mirrors games of the official Liberal opposition is way out of its time, way out of its league and people will reject it out of hand.
Let me move to some of the specifics of the budget itself. I want to begin by talking about the impact on my community, my home town of Hamilton. Like most other communities right now, we're wrestling with local budgets at the regional and at the city level. It's this government's agenda, your fiscal agenda, your insistence on taking that $5 billion to $6 billion a year out of our revenue stream to give your wealthy friends a huge tax cut, that has put all this pressure on our councils.
Your Minister of Municipal Affairs stood up when he announced it and said: "This is going to be revenue-neutral. Don't worry, this is just a change of responsibilities and services and nobody is going to lose. This is going to be a fair deal." The fact of the matter is that in Hamilton, at the regional level, we're looking at a $26-million shortfall from the downloading of this government on to my municipal government's area of responsibility directly. I quote from the May 6 editorial in the Hamilton Spectator, which reads in part:
"A $26-million downloading shortfall in Hamilton-Wentworth is helping to drive a 4.9% regional property tax increase this year. What difference will some of the tax reductions from Queen's Park make if they're taken away by higher municipal property taxes?"
What we have said from the beginning is that the average, middle-class working family doesn't benefit from your fiscal agenda. You can say, "We're cutting taxes here, and we've done this with the deficit, and we've done that with the budget," and try to tell people they're better off, but when they go in and pay user fees that were never there before or that have doubled or tripled in cost, when they are paying increases of over $100 a year directly attributable to your downloading scheme, and when we see hospitals on the chopping block - and in Hamilton it's still not resolved. We still have St Peter's, Chedoke-McMaster or the Chedoke facility, the psychiatric hospital, on the block. We could still lose them all.
In terms of schools, what's happening in Hamilton? Toni Skarica, the member for Wentworth North, legitimately, and I say this quite sincerely, is pushing the issue of new schools needed in his riding because there are so many portables. That's a legitimate issue and I obviously not only support his right, but philosophically that's what one is elected to do here in large part, to reflect those needs. But because of this government's funding formula and the way you set things up according to the way you want the world to operate, the only way Toni Skarica can say he needs more money in his part of our region, which is one of the newer, expanding areas of our region, is if inner-city schools in Hamilton, many of which I represent because they're in the downtown area, ought to be closed.
It's pretty sad when one of six MPPs in one area, one single community - we are one regional municipality - is bound so badly by this government's financial straitjacket that he publicly says, "You've got to close those schools in inner Hamilton because it's the only way my education minister and finance minister will free up the money I need to have new schools built in my riding to replace all these portables." That's the kind of price the average working middle-class family is facing as a result of what you've done with taxes.
At the same time, of course, we know this government loves to take credit for all the economic activity that's happening. The American economy, in the minds of this Mike Harris-Ernie Eves Tory government, has nothing to do with this; it's all the actions of this government. The fact that there are historically low interest rates has nothing to do with that economy; it's what Mike Harris is doing here. The exchange rate, which is a major determinant of economic activity in our nation, happens to be, at least from a trading point of view, a huge advantage to us. That doesn't come into it. Oh no, everything that's happening is because Mike Harris is shutting down hospitals and schools and jacking up property taxes and giving a tax cut back to the wealthy. That somehow, in their mind, is creating all this economic stimulation. That's why in the ramp-up to the next election you believe that ordinary people, who have been devastated by your agenda, ought to come back to you.
No matter how much you try to push diversionary tactics like your stuff on crime, trying to make like you're the only one who cares about it and you're going to make that a big enough issue to divert attention away from what you've done to our communities - and if I might, we saw today in the House questions from my colleagues on the results of that kind of misplaced emphasis, which is what that is, when we see a senior 73 years old, an innocent senior, killed as a result of a police chase that may, it's alleged, have involved nothing more than shoplifting. That sort of policy, and that was the point of our question today, is something your crime commissioners like. They make that argument, that if you go after these areas and hit them hard enough, you'll take care of everything else.
Boy, it's interesting, while I'm mentioning crime, what's not in this budget. Remember the emphasis that was going to be there on new Canadians, and how that leaked out a few days before and blew up big time? It didn't find itself in here, the way you were originally planning to do it.
I don't think this government is going to be able to provide those kinds of diversionary tactics this time around. They worked the last time. Remember they ran the two ads the last time? The one talked about the so-called quota laws, where they played to the concerns people had about the future of their children's opportunity for jobs. You played that so viciously - successfully, but viciously none the less - and we lost some of the most progressive legislation this province ever had, temporarily.
The other thing you did was your workfare scam, where again you tried to find a group of people that could be blamed. We've seen this before in history, where you blame certain folks and say to the general public, "You know, if it weren't for them, if we could just fix them, we wouldn't have all these problems."
Mr Christopherson: "Scapegoating," my colleague the House leader says - absolutely true - and you're hoping to do it again. But I say to you, as I've said from the day I first had an opportunity to speak after the last election, this kind of agenda cannot lead to any kind of prosperity for the vast majority of the citizens of our province, and at the end of the day, when you're knocking on doors, you will be held accountable for what happened in your community, not what happened when you travelled the cocktail circuit to your very well-to-do friends who pat you on the back and say: "Way to go. You're the only ones that had the courage to do the right thing." We know what you're hearing.
Most of you are somehow prepared to set aside what you're being told in your own community, but you're quite prepared to listen to such a very small chunk of the population, who of course love what you're doing. They love what you're doing because they're benefiting from it. Those folks don't need to worry about those inner-city schools closing in downtown Hamilton, because they've got enough money and they're lucky - it's not criminal, but they are lucky - to have enough money to send their kids to private school. What happens to those families in downtown Hamilton and the older parts of the city, where we face a lot of social challenges if you shut down what in many cases is the only source of recreation, social activity, extracurricular activity at those schools? If they're gone, they even lose the neighbourhood park, because the school was the best they had, the closest thing to - and let me tell you, these aren't Taj Mahal schools.
You've said that's fair. You sit there and you vote for these budget measures time after time, and you say, "Yes, this is the way the world ought to operate." Well, no, it's not the way the world in Ontario ought to operate. We won the distinction here in Canada - I believe three out of four times; it may be even better than that, but at least three out of four times - of being voted the best place in the world to live. That wasn't because we shut down hospitals, that wasn't because we shut down schools, and it certainly wasn't because we jacked up property taxes, cut services to the disabled and the poor and cut the income of the poorest of the poor by 20%. That's not why it happened. It happened because people looked and compared around the world and said, "You know, they've got a really decent health care system in that country and they've got a really decent education system in that country."
We all know that Ontario is the province that drives the economy of this nation. Certainly New Democrats are very proud that it was the NDP that brought in medicare, the first ever; in Saskatchewan, an NDP government, Tommy Douglas. We take a lot of pride in that, yes, we do.
But those are the things that built the kind of society - and yes, it was the economy that allowed us to do that, but it was an economy that recognized that giving all the benefit of a good economy to those that already have, let alone taking away from the rest, is not the way to do it. The rich are going to get richer. People are still going to have opportunities. But when you build a nation to be proud of, you take a look at the total income, the total revenue that's available and you say, "How can we make this a better place for everyone in a way that's fair and doesn't stifle individuals?" We did that for a long time. Heck, it was former Progressive Conservative parties that managed that balance for so long in terms of being able to stay in power. You've done none of that. You've gone in the opposite direction.
When we want to look at where we're heading under your policies, we look at standards of living for the majority of people that are well below what we would ever accept in this province. Before you took over, we would have looked at the way they ran those societies and said: "There's nothing there for us. There's nothing there for us to learn." There may be a couple of details of how they run this program or that. You can always learn that from a fellow democratic government, but in terms of where they put their priorities and the kind of society it builds, there was nothing there for us. We didn't want that.
That's why historically we took so much pride in leadership in Ontario, because there weren't always jurisdictions that had been where we wanted to go. We used our creativity and our skills and our education and, yes, our entrepreneurs, and we put those all together and said, "How do we take this next step in building a society we can be so proud of?" That's the history of how we got to where we were, and that's why the United Nations said what they said about us. It's the opposite of what you offer in these documents and in your throne speech and in your previous budgets and previous throne speech.
I believe sincerely that, regardless of the outcome of the next election, every single Tory backbencher will rue the day they said blindly, "I will support everything this government does and I don't care what happens to my community." You will regret that.
Mr Steve Gilchrist (Scarborough East): It is indeed enlightening to have the member opposite make the comments he has because we have a concept of cabinet secrecy in parliamentary democracies, but I guess we now understand exactly why the Bob Rae government went down the road they did. Members like the one opposite as a cabinet minister obviously were pushing for more spending and more waste and more duplication. Don't find the savings first to make new investments. Don't find efficiencies to be able to incorporate new technology, to be able to find new and innovative ways of delivering service. Just spend, spend, spend to the point where we were overspending by $11 billion a year.
You want to talk about shame, member, you should be ashamed that you were part of a government that drove the debt of this once great province all the way up to $100 billion. We're the ones who have turned that around, we and the hundreds and thousands of working Ontarians who now have a new sense of optimism, a new enthusiasm, a new spirit of excitement. The investments they're making, both in their time and their money, buying cars, buying homes - 341,000 new jobs a result of that; 70,000 housing starts in the month of March. Imagine, 70,000 new homes in one month. That's more than exist in all of Pickering and Ajax put together, for example, and that was just one month's new construction. That's what's really happening.
I understand the member opposite's frustration, that he wouldn't like to see the kind of contrast that's shown in the document that was mailed out to all Ontario citizens, the same citizens who tune in and watch the parliamentary channel because they don't want to hear the news, don't want to hear democracy filtered through the media, want to get the straight goods.
You don't want them to see the right news. You don't want them to see the good news of what's happening all across Ontario to support what they themselves and their families are seeing. Ontario is back again. We're pulling the rest of Canada. We're leading the world. That's a testament to what's happening in Ontario today. That's why I'll vote for the budget.
Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): I want to know from the member for Hamilton Centre whether he believes that the Ontario Jobs and Investment Board was established for something other than purveying propaganda for the Conservative Party. As he may know, the chief executive officer of the Ontario Jobs and Investment Board is Mr David Lindsay, who was the principal secretary to Mike Harris, who has long been associated with the Progressive Conservative caucus and had to make the transition to a public service job and has not been able to.
We have had, at the taxpayers' expense - if this were at the Conservative Party's expense, I would have no objection - from this Ontario Jobs and Investment Board a pamphlet mailed out to every household at a cost of at least three quarters of a million dollars. You may think people will appreciate this when they get it and somehow be influenced by it. I think they'll be offended by the fact that it is not the Conservative Party but the taxpayers of Ontario who have had to pay for this.
This is the misuse of an agency that I think had some promise. I thought when this agency was established there was a good reason for it and it could produce results. Instead, it's quite obvious that its only use is to try to get the government re-elected using taxpayers' dollars.
Second, I would ask the member if he is aware of the fact that 35 hospitals in this province have been closed or merged despite the fact that the Premier said on television in May 1995 during an election campaign, "Certainly, Robert," he said to Robert Fisher, "I can guarantee you it is not my plan to close hospitals." Is the member aware of that? Does he believe Mike Harris has lived up to that particular promise?
Mr Wildman: I want to congratulate my friend from Hamilton Centre for his presentation. I want to highlight a couple of things. He pointed out the contradiction in the Liberal position, but he concentrated most of his discussion on the Conservative budget which is essentially designed over a period of time to finance a transfer of wealth from the poorest to the wealthiest. That's basically what the government's whole agenda is about.
We all know that despite the fact that the member for Scarborough East said, "You make the savings first and then you do these things," the government is borrowing about $5 billion a year each year of its mandate to finance that transfer of wealth to the wealthy. The government is borrowing this money to finance a tax break to very wealthy people.
What is it producing? It is producing a social deficit, the kind of deficit that my friend from Hamilton Centre discussed when he talked about what's happening in the education system in his community. He understands that suburban areas that are growing in population need to expand their educational facilities, so he understands the member for Wentworth North demanding more schools for his area, but he opposes, as we all do, the funding formula that has been produced for education, for school boards in this province, which basically means that you have to make cuts to inner-city schools, ignoring the fact that there are children in those classrooms. This government says they're going to put money into classrooms; in fact they're closing classrooms.
Mr Peter L. Preston (Brant-Haldimand): On a point of order, Madam Speaker: The member for Hamilton Centre voiced a concern that the government was agreeing with him. I don't think he has to dwell on that concern very much longer.
Mr Baird: I want to congratulate the member for Hamilton Centre. He got off to a great start with his speech. Unfortunately, about five minutes in it crashed and burned. I only hoped he could have continued with the remarks he started at the outset of his remarks.
I disagree with the member for Hamilton Centre on just about everything, and on most issues I passionately disagree with him, but on this issue of taxes and the deficit, I can respect his position, that at least he has the guts and the political courage to be honest and straightforward with the people of Ontario. They don't like the tax cut. They disagree with the tax cut. They think this government's economic agenda is going in the wrong direction and his party proposes to take it in another direction.
I agreed with him when he pointed to our colleagues in the official opposition who want to be able to say that Ontario can have everything, that the tax cut is somehow terribly wrong when you look at all the numbers of jobs it's created, but they're going to keep it. It's so bad they're going to keep it. That's going to be the foundation of their economic policy. Mr McGuinty's policies are like a chocolate fudge brownie diet: Eat all the chocolate fudge brownies you want and you'll somehow lose weight. I simply can't understand that type of economic philosophy.
He also talked about the member for Wentworth North, with respect to schools in suburban Ontario. The member for Wentworth North visited my constituency, Nepean, in his capacity as parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Education and he saw at first hand the problem in Barrhaven in my constituency, where the schools are bursting at the seams, and you have schools in other parts of the region that are three quarters empty. There's one school in the suburbs of Ottawa with 30 portables.
I'll tell you, like the member for Wentworth North, I make no apologies for fighting for the interests of suburban children who have been put out in portables for far too long while schools in other parts of the region are 60% or 70% empty. That is an important intervention on behalf of suburban children in the province.
The member for St Catharines raised an important part of the government's propaganda and the fact that the Ontario Jobs and Investment Board that put out this document is headed up by David Lindsay, who of course just came fresh from the Premier's office. You talk about unfiltered access to what's going on without the media and others. I think anybody watching this today who hears those statements of fact will draw their own conclusions and know what it means and who's trying to influence whom.
I appreciate very much my colleague from Algoma's expanding on the issue of me recognizing - and I did try to lay that out as best I could, to be fair - the right that Toni Skarica, the member for Wentworth North, has in raising those concerns about portables. My concern was that he was taking a position based on the government's funding formula that necessitated shutting down schools in my community in order to take the money from poorer kids, in some cases, but even if you didn't have that, to take money from one set of kids and give it to another set of kids so they can have a decent school. That's no way to build a proper education system.
To my friend from Nepean, let me just say that when he talked about the member for Wentworth North visiting him as the parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Education, he got fired from that job because there's a guy who stood up on some local issues and said: "No, I'm not going to march in lockstep down the road for Mike Harris. I don't think that's right for my community." He paid the ultimate price for that. Let me tell you, on a tour of some of the schools in inner Hamilton, he has revised his position and is acknowledging that we can't afford to lose those facilities.
Mrs Julia Munro (Durham-York): It gives me great pleasure to rise in the House today and speak on the budget. As we move to create the best jurisdiction in which to live, work and raise a family, it becomes clear that acting decisively and with courage in a number of areas is necessary.
Mrs Munro: In recognition of the need to invest in jobs for the future, there have been several strategic investments made. The principles underlying these strategic investments are clear: equity and accessibility and the preservation of community lifestyles.
Mrs Munro: I'm going to concentrate on two of these particular initiatives. The first one is the telecommunications access partnership, sometimes referred to as TAP. This program is investing $30 million over the next three years to further encourage innovative ways to make use of the information highway.
In my riding of Durham York, the Durham Community Network, a broad-based consortium of public and private sector partners, recognized the need for equal, universal and cost-effective access to the information highway. Through TAP and Network 2000, they are developing an integrated community network in Durham region which will improve communications access, particularly for residents, businesses and public sector organizations in the northern rural areas of the region.
Because the Ontario government recognizes the importance of technology and the need for accessible information at your fingertips, especially in small communities, we are pleased to be a partner in this program which to date has committed over $4.5 million.
The Network 2000 program is a provincial strategy to create widespread public access to Ontario's library resources, the Internet, multimedia resources and government information services, by the year 2000.
This program partnership has an implementation and working committee structure that includes public libraries, Ministry of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation, Ministry of Energy, Science and Technology, Ministry of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism, Ontario Library Service and private sector representation.
At the end of March I was in Uxbridge participating in the Ontario government's announcement of a $1.5-million telecommunications access partnership program grant being awarded to the Durham Community Network. This network is expected to provide high-speed data communications, voice, videoconferencing and Internet access. Again, these programs are expected to be launched in stages.
Undertaking a program of this magnitude requires long hours and a great deal of dedication by individuals and groups. It is evident that the committee and partners working in Durham region for over a year on this project have excelled in that cooperative role.
Barbara Oram, who is the partnership coordinator for the Durham Board of Education, and Ron Compton of Compton Communications are just two individuals I spoke to who should be commended for their hard work in making this program a reality.
"Why is it so important to have a digital pipeline spanning the country and landing at the doorsteps in Scugog, Brock and Uxbridge? It is the immediate availability of information, it is knowledge, it is opportunity, it is wealth and it is power.
"I am impressed by the Ontario government's recognition of the importance of the communications network. They demonstrate this through the TAP grant program. The TAP program shows that our government understands what is happening in world markets. It all ends up at the community level."
Brock Township Public Library and Uxbridge Public Library are part of the Durham Community Network. They have been presented with funds to help them implement Network 2000, a separate project within the TAP program which allows them to share resources with three libraries in Uxbridge, Scugog and Brock as well as involved libraries in south Pickering and Whitby.
This project will make a difference, and I commend all of the partners for their leadership and innovation. This network is a tremendous opportunity for our children, our businesses, our hospitals, agriculture and all people in our community. Whether in Uxbridge, Beaverton or Toronto, residents need access to advanced information highway applications and services to promote economic development, enhance access to education and enrich the resources of our local libraries.
The information highway is transforming the ways in which people live and work in Ontario and around the world. By extending the existing southern infrastructure to the northern part of Durham region, we are helping to create new opportunities for private enterprise, governments and community organizations to provide value added services.
This telecommunications link for the region will boost north Durham's capacity to overcome barriers of distance and become fully integrated into the provincial and emerging global economy. The expanded access provided by the Durham Community Network is the beginning of many opportunities and doors which will open for north Durham residents.
I would like to close by simply identifying the important role that these programs illustrate: the fact that we must move in order to be able to maintain the principles of access, of equity, and certainly of the opportunity that every Ontarian deserves.
Mr John C. Cleary (Cornwall): I just want to make a few comments on the member for Durham-York. She praised the Harris government, but I have to say all the wrongs that the Harris government has got and the way it's affected the residents of our area and of Ontario; for example, the bungling of the dialysis that was promised some two years ago to the residents of my community. If anyone knew what these residents went through in the ice storm, travelling to Ottawa or Kingston three times a week so that they would be able to continue to live - I'm having lots of trouble with the minister now, the former minister, trying to get answers on whether a licence has been issued or not. It's a very serious situation and I'm very disappointed that it's taken so long to get an answer.
One thing that we must not forget is that in the 1998 budget they take all the credit for everything that's happened in Ontario. They forget the economic growth in the United States and other external global forces that should have some of the credit too.
In our part of Ontario, if they would put a little bit of effort into leasing out the provincial parks, it sure could help a lot in our community. That would be found money. There have been proposals, but anyway they don't seem to be very interested in opening them.
Mr Gilles Pouliot (Lake Nipigon): It's not often, by virtue of numbers, that we have the opportunity and the distinct pleasure to listen to the member for Durham-York, one Mme Julia Munro, former classroom contributor and teacher. I take my hat off, because the member opposite speaks with sincerity.
Somehow that's part of the problématique that we have to come to terms with. If only it was tactical and strategic. If only the schemes and the philosophy spelled out in the budget were for mere political purpose. But what is more disturbing than the shell game that is being presented to Ontarians is that people like Julia Munro, former classroom teacher and contributor, really believe in it. That's the drama. That's a tragedy in itself. It's not even comic relief. They really believe in the dogmatic position.
Ironically, they claim that we have a recovery of unprecedented proportions. Walk around Queen's Park. Ironically, you have never been faced with such poverty, with so many poor - children, people in bus shelters, homeless people - and yet this is the recovery? At what price the tax break?
The Deputy Speaker: Before we proceed, I don't like to interrupt people during their two-minute comments, but I'd like to remind all members that they should refer to other members by their riding and not by name. I'd appreciate it if people would remember that.
Mr Baird: I'd like to congratulate my colleague the member for Durham-York on her remarks. The member for Durham-York is a very passionate defender of education policies in this government and a very stalwart representative for the constituents of Durham-York.
She mentioned in her remarks some of the contents of the budget. I too share her enthusiasm for the telecommunications access partnerships, the TAP program that she made remarks about, in addition to support for libraries in terms of telecommunication. Like for her, that's a big issue in my riding. Telecommunications research and development is the biggest single employer in that industry in my community and they too welcomed the announcement in those access partnerships.
They also welcomed the announcement with respect to high-skills training to ensure that we can train the workforce here in Ontario to be able to take those jobs, because there are literally thousands of jobs going unfilled in Ontario in those areas. We saw in the pre-budget hearings the Canadian Advanced Technology Association come forward before the standing committee on finance and economic affairs requesting greater resources and greater priority for that area, and this government responded in a significant way, even perhaps more significant than the technology community expected, in the budget.
I know the member for Durham-York would share my enthusiasm for those initiatives, because of course telecommunications and research and development isn't a big job growth area just in eastern Ontario and Ottawa-Carleton, but in the greater Toronto area and York region and in the Golden Triangle between Cambridge, Kitchener-Waterloo and that part of the province. So I share her enthusiasm for those initiatives as well.
I know we talk a lot about economic recovery in this House, and the government tries to take a lot of credit for that and for the number of jobs that have been created. Of course, you wonder. We all know it isn't just this government that caused that. Was it the federal policies of Paul Martin? What about the economy in the United States? What about low interest rates? There are so many factors that go into it. It always amazes me how a government, any government, tries to stand up on these issues and take credit for it all. We all know that isn't so.
Let me just tell you one other thing very quickly, and that is simply this: There may be an economic recovery in most of Ontario, maybe right here in Metro Toronto or the Golden Horseshoe area; I can tell you that there is not an economic recovery going on in eastern Ontario.
Mr Gerretsen: The fact is that I know in my community and in many communities around my riding the people don't know anything about an economic recovery. They certainly have not seen an increase in construction. The minister there doesn't believe it. I can tell you that in my community there has been a withdrawal of about $100 million in money that used to come in from the federal government, the provincial government and through local governments. As a result of downsizing and everything else that's related thereto, there have been jobs lost that simply have not been replaced, and as a result of the job loss, there simply has not been as much spent in consumer dollars - you can go on and on. The recovery has certainly not been consistent throughout Ontario, and I think note ought to be taken of that.
Mrs Munro: I certainly welcome the comments that have been made by the members for Cornwall, Lake Nipigon, Nepean and Kingston and The Islands. I would just like to comment, first of all, when the member for Cornwall refers to some of the problems that still remain within the community, that within his own community the local newspaper identified this budget as one that provided both tax cuts and the fact that kids were at the top of the budget.
The member from Nipigon referred to my background as a secondary school teacher. I thought it was rather interesting, the comment made by the president of the Ontario Public School Teachers' Federation, who said regarding the budget: "They have listened that our classes need textbooks. We need technology to move it forward. They've listened that some boards are in very difficult, dire straits in this new amalgamated system and they're helping them out." So I think we do have some clear indication of the kinds of things that our program has responded to.
It's interesting, when it's suggested that perhaps the job opportunities and the economic growth are restricted in parts of the province, that we have something from Owen Sound where it is suggested that the budget is good news for all. In fact, when we do a quick scan around the province, there are those who recognize the kinds of implications that this budget has for all of us.
Mr Dwight Duncan (Windsor-Walkerville): I'm pleased to join in the debate around this very important issue, the government's most recent budget. Indeed, because the budget is so seminal to a government's program, it merits the kind of attention that it gets. I'm happy to follow along the lines that my leader, Dalton McGuinty, the leader of our party, spoke about several days ago.
Today I want to spend a few minutes addressing first of all the overall state of our economy and the overall state of western economies in general. Like my leader, Dalton McGuinty, I want to talk too about the kinds of choices governments have - choices between tax cuts and cuts to hospitals, choices between tax cuts and cuts to classroom education, choices between the types of taxes we pay. Governments have decisions to make along those lines: What is the appropriate mix of taxes? My leader, Dalton McGuinty, spoke about those issues, and I'd like to take it a little bit further.
We all know today that western economies by and large are benefiting from unprecedented growth in productivity and investment. Government revenues, whether it be in the United States, whether it be our federal government or whether it be the governments of other provinces, are growing in a remarkable fashion, and Ontario has been no different.
Ontario has benefited from low interest rates at the international level. Ontario has benefited from labour productivity increases. I'd like to see the government for one moment quit patting itself on the back and take a moment to applaud our workers, whose productivity rates have improved dramatically in the last 10 years. Let's congratulate those Canadians who are saving at record rates and investing at record rates for helping to drive and fuel an enviable improvement in our overall economy.
The government has made a series of choices. We on this side of the House acknowledge that there are difficult choices. We on this side of the House acknowledge that no matter who had been in government, these types of choices would have had to be made. But we differ in a number of respects with the approach this government has taken and, yes, it will be incumbent upon us to say how we will do things differently and what we would do differently.
Frankly, I no more want to talk about things that went on 10 years ago than I'm sure this government wants to talk about its members' support for Brian Mulroney a mere five years ago. We ought to be talking about today. In fact, Dalton McGuinty has said, and I agree, that the next election is going to be about who you trust. There is a fiscal dividend that will be significant, that will require tough but enviable choices, choices I don't think many of us would have envisioned even five years ago, prior to the change in tone and tenor that was set by Paul Martin and the federal Liberals in Ottawa beginning in 1993.
Yes, whoever forms the next government, whoever campaigns in the next election, will have to talk about trust and will have to define what they want to do with the so-called fiscal dividend. There will be choices - choices between taxation, fiscal policy and debt reduction - and it will be the mix of those three policies and the trust which any one of our parties in this Legislature brings to the table that ultimately will decide the fate.
I would be remiss if I didn't begin by saying I think all of us in this House would agree that the unemployment rate remains stubbornly high in this province and in Canada in general. There are other jurisdictions where they've achieved better results. I suspect that all three parties in the next general election will be offering ideas and possible solutions to a problem I think we all acknowledge to be very serious.
My leader, Dalton McGuinty, has said that unemployment continues to trouble all of us, that it ought to be at the top of our list. It certainly ought to come in ahead of tax cuts. Yes, lots of jobs have been created here in Ontario and in Canada and in the United States, but here our unemployment rate remains extremely high relative to some other jurisdictions. How do we deal with that and how do we address it without the usual rhetoric and patting on the back that we see from the government? Not one word about the unemployment rate, and I believe most of the government members are concerned about that. I don't believe their solutions are necessarily the right ones. I don't believe we should have had the kind of massive tax cut that we've seen until such time as the budget was balanced.
Mr Duncan: Yes, I do like the jobs that have been created, to respond to the member; there's no question. I guess I ask myself, in looking forward, could there have been more created and are we doing as well as other jurisdictions? If we look at this government and its track record, I would suspect they're not looking at that.
This is a government, frankly, that could have done more. Imagine, had you held off your tax cut until today. Your budget would be balanced; Ontario's credit rating would have been lifted; the amount of interest we're paying would be lower; and the debt wouldn't have grown as rapidly as it has under your government.
This government wants to talk about its record of achievement, and like my leader, Dalton McGuinty, I want to talk about areas where you said you'd do something and you haven't done it. I want to talk about trust. We don't believe you can be trusted with the fiscal dividend, nor should you be.
This is a government that said it wouldn't close a single hospital. That's what your leader said. To date it's 35. In my own community in Windsor, we are still plagued by long waiting lines in both of our emergency rooms, at Hotel-Dieu Grace and Windsor Regional. This is a government that said it would not cut funding from hospitals.
This is a government that said it wouldn't cut funding from our classrooms, yet in Windsor, Tecumseh, St Clair Beach, what's happening? Teachers are being laid off. Principals and vice-principals are being laid off. Social workers are being laid off. Custodial workers are being laid off. When you try to blame school boards, you won't get away with it, because people understand.
This is a government that chose a tax cut over maintaining air quality monitoring stations in Windsor, a city that historically has a high rate of air quality related disease and problems. You closed not one of them, not two; you closed all of them. You don't do it any more.
This is a government that has cut millions from child care. You cut nutritional allowances for pregnant welfare mothers. This is a government that cuts services to developmentally disabled children, and just to put it in a very personal context, 21 families in my riding have adult autistic children who have had all of their relief and support cut. We have met with them. We have heard their concerns. They have written to the minister; the minister has not responded. They have asked for a meeting with the minister; the minister won't respond. These are cuts that rest directly there. It's about priorities the government sets, it's about the hand the government has dealt, so when a government in Ontario makes choices between a tax cut and services for autistic children, they very clearly define what they're about.
Let's talk for a few minutes about this hit-and-run type of approach. We're seeing a kinder, gentler government now, at least that's going to be the impression they try to create. There is no doubt that this budget, in my view, really is hit and run, as my leader, Dalton McGuinty, said. He has talked about moving and shuffling moneys around, and they're trying to forget what has happened over the last three years.
Let's take a moment and talk about our health care system. According to the government's own documents, $870 million from hospital budgets. What does that mean? That means that when our friends and relatives require care, whether it be in an emergency room or in a ward room or semiprivate room, chances are there won't be enough nursing staff available to provide the kind of care people ought to be receiving, and yet the government saw fit, despite those long waits, to cut taxes. Ten thousand nurses and front-line care providers have been let go: fired, got rid of, told, "You're not important to the system." You can run, but you won't be able to hide.
These things happen, and I think the government members opposite, at least those who are listening carefully to their constituents, will acknowledge that there are serious problems in those hospitals and that in fact this government has done nothing to help; not only that, this government has, in our view, contributed to the problem. I would argue that the government has been negligent in not responding more quickly to the acute nature of problems that are confronted by patients in hospitals on a daily basis.
The Tories delisted $170 million in OHIP services. I think that's second only to the NDP. You may have exceeded them now, based on your most recent analysis. Like the previous NDP government, you have chosen to delist more and more services. In January 1998, 17,901 patients were on waiting lists for long-term-care beds in Ontario, up from 15,683 in February 1997. These are the government's numbers, and they give us some loose promise about spending $1.2 billion over the next eight or 10 years.
The incidence of emergency room overcrowding has skyrocketed, evidenced by the frequency with which hospitals are turning away ambulances. Let's look at some of the numbers. In Metro and surrounding areas, hospitals were on redirect status an average of 162 hours. What that means to the people listening out there is that when you go to an emergency room, the chances of getting in there are way down as a result of this government's policies and you might be redirected. As those in the health care business have told us, the time for that redirection could be life and death.
The government then again talks about its most recent announcements. Let's look at some of their past announcements and what's happened. The 1996, 1997 and 1998 budgets identified a total of $1.8 billion in restructuring dollars, of which only $154 million has actually been spent. You made this big dollar announcement and then you didn't put the money into the program. In our community, that has meant longer waiting lists at both our remaining hospitals. That has meant that the MRI machine we desperately needed, instead of being operational in 1996, is only now coming on stream.
I say to those other communities that are only beginning this process, don't trust this government. They have said it repeatedly, repeatedly: They'd rather give tax cuts than reinvest in health care. In the 1996-97 budget, there was $170 million more identified for long-term care. At the end of that budget year, they'd actually spent $5 million less than the year before.
This budget carries on that noble shell game that they've been playing. That's why those members opposite know that in community after community the reason they're vulnerable on health care is because they've done nothing. They have been negligent in dealing with the problems.
Education: The NDP cut half a billion from education. This government's followed up on that by cutting another $533 million out of the education budget. These are numbers that come from the government's own documents. We forced them into saying they'd have to cut another $670 million. This comes down to an issue of trust.
They said they wouldn't touch classrooms; they've hit classrooms. "Hit and run," as my leader Dalton McGuinty has said. They cut $145 million from junior kindergarten, they cut $150 million from adult education, shortsighted policies that, on the one end of the spectrum with our youngest people, will make it more difficult to achieve a good education; on the other end, make it more difficult for people to get off of welfare and get into meaningful, paying jobs.
The funding formula: They claimed $470 million cut from non-classroom spending, as if principals, vice-principals, teacher prep time and adult education aren't part of a classroom; $95 million cut from an early learning funding formula; $300 million in provincial funding cuts for capital spending each year. Next week, I'm attending the retirement dinner of John Staley, the principal at St Anne high school in Tecumseh, a high school that still has close to 50 portable classrooms.
At a time when virtually every other major jurisdiction is investing in education, you're cutting, whether it be at the elementary, secondary or post-secondary level - 60% increases in tuition that make university more expensive and less accessible. As Dalton McGuinty says, "This election will be about trust and about vision in the future." And yes, absolutely, all of us have to spell out how we'll do it differently.
When it comes down to trust, I've heard members of the third party direct barbs at our party about what we will or won't do. Remember, whenever they tell you anything, that prior to the last election this was the party of organized labour that systematically stripped collective agreements. This was the party of public auto insurance. I'm sure the member for Welland can tell you how much they were committed to public auto insurance. What did they do? They didn't proceed.
This is a party that said it would cut tuition at the post-secondary level. What did they do? They raised it by 50% and made it less accessible. Now their former members are helping this government implement - I remember Dave Cooke. He was a fine member of provincial Parliament from my part of the province. He made a great contribution to our city and arguably was one of your more competent members and ministers. He's over there now, recently joined by Floyd Laughren.
Mr Duncan: This is a party that closed dozens of hospital beds in my community and is trying to absolve itself of that memory. It's trying to pretend that it didn't cut $500 million from health care; it's trying to pretend that all that didn't happen. When was the last time you heard them talk about those five years? And they were all there. They all voted for those budgets; they all voted for the record deficit and the record debt.
I say, yes, it's incumbent upon all of us to deal with the issues that will confront us, enviable issues, I think we all agree, in the future. Dalton McGuinty, the leader of our party, will be presenting an alternative that will be much more palatable to simple tax cuts. It will be an alternative that deals with quality of health care, an issue that you have ignored. It will be an alternative that invests in our children, as we've already clearly outlined and documented in our First Steps document.
Mr Duncan: It will deal with education in a way that this government simply won't understand. It will look to the future and not the past. It won't ignore what you've ignored, the needs of our health care system and our education system. It certainly will deliver Dalton McGuinty's vision, which is much better than any vision you could ever hope to provide.
Mr Pouliot: I always enjoy the comments from the member for Windsor-Walkerville: such passion and such energy. Unfortunately, the downfall is such missed opportunity. The need to be a name-dropper: "Dalton McGuinty" this, and "Dalton McGuinty, please, you know I love you." I love you too: the unknown, uncharted waters. One columnist once referred to him as "Dilbert Who?" McGuinty. But now it's the cult of the leader, because we must promote our leader.
He started the salvo by saying, "I will talk about international markets. I will talk about world economic conditions," so I rushed out. I said, "I'd better brush up, because I've been mandated to respond in a mere two minutes." So I got the Globe and Mail. I had about 20 minutes to get somewhat familiar to talk about international currency, about the Eurodollar which is pending, about the Asian crisis, about the banking system in Japan, and to open the television and follow about the European markets, to be followed by both the North American and South American markets.
I wasted my time, because he did not address one of those crucial, catalytic issues, the make-or-break issues. What he did is he played politics. Yet the document that was unveiled by one Ernie Eves: no name mentioned. The cohort, one Mike Harris: not the name mentioned. Dalton McGuinty: Now you see him, now you don't. How are you, Dalton? «Comme ci, comme ça.»
The member for Windsor-Walkerville, as usual, gave a very interesting set of remarks. It's far from the fire that we used to see from him in his previous incarnation as critic for labour, where, like the member for Hamilton Centre, he would take a pin out of his head and blow up on cue and the Richter scale would go off the chart.
I do find the Liberal Party's policy on economics, as enunciated by my colleague from Windsor-Walkerville, rather interesting, because I remember that in my part of the province, and I suspect in Algoma and in Lac-Nipigon, Liberal candidates around the province went around promising to cut taxes by $2 billion a year.
Mr Baird: The Liberal candidate in Ottawa West in the last provincial election promised to lay off 13,000 or 14,000 public servants; in fact more than the Ontario government. I suspect there were people who voted for this party because they didn't want to see the public service reductions that the Liberal Party promised.
It's a bit strange as well: He talked about labour policies of the previous government. I too remember the Liberal Party in the last provincial election promising to repeal Bill 40, promising to scrap Bill 40, against the labour movement.
Mr Baird: The member for Algoma says, "Really?" Then they came into government and changed their mind. They were going to scrap the Workplace Health and Safety Agency, and then after the election they changed their mind. They promised a whole host of things and they changed their mind. They changed their mind so often, it's hard to know which is their policy, which is their real policy, which will be the next policy. I guess it's the wait-and-see policy.
Mr Frank Miclash (Kenora): It's always great to follow on the heels of the member for Windsor-Walkerville. As he has indicated, there will be a lot of people taking a very close look at our leader, Dalton McGuinty, over the next couple of years, at least over the next 18 months or so.
The nice thing about going home and listening to people who watch us on a regular basis, and I know we have a great number of people out there, is that they often refer to the fact that our leader, Dalton McGuinty, tells the folks out there how he will be different, how he will be different than Mike Harris. We see that often, and it's quite rewarding to know that he will bring vision into the future; as well, he will bring trust to the table.
The member for Windsor-Walkerville also spoke of unemployment. As a member from northern Ontario, a good number of folks out there and a lot of members often forget the fact that unemployment is going up in northern Ontario. When this government pats itself on the back, I have a very difficult time when I know that people back home are certainly facing unemployment figures much higher than what our southern members, people from the Golden Horseshoe area, would want to see in terms of an unemployment figure in their region. Again, I bring that back to the table, as the member has indicated a number of times.
When we take a look at the government patting itself on the back, they often talk about their tax cuts, but what they forget to talk about is how that's affecting our health care system. I indicated to the minister only a few days ago about psychiatric patients being locked up in jail. The response was, "Really?" That's what's happening in northwestern Ontario. That's because the money is not going to the health care services of northern Ontario. Again, a great number of facts were brought to the table by the member.
Mr Wildman: I want to say with the greatest of respect, very sincerely, that we are all partisan in this House; we should be. That's what we are elected here for, partly: to put forward the positions of our parties, to put forward differences of view on the issues of the day and various policies and approaches to resolving those issues, and then to allow the electorate the opportunity to make choices. That's what our democratic system is about.
In that regard, I accept the presentation of the member for Windsor-Walkerville. His partisanship in that context is understood, and I accept that. But I do take serious exception to the last few comments in his speech, where he attempted, I think - I hope I misunderstood him - to besmirch the record and the reputation of two former members of this House, members of this caucus.
For instance, he tried to give the impression that the former member for Nickel Belt was somehow helping this government implement its agenda, when in fact he knows full well that that member, who served in this House for 25 years with great distinction on behalf of his own constituents and the people of Ontario, both in opposition and as the Treasurer of Ontario, is now the chair of an arm's-length regulatory body, appointed by this government to a regulatory body that has nothing to do with implementing the program of a particular government but is charged with making decisions with regard to the regulations on energy policy and energy companies in this province, and I demand that the member apologize to the former member for Nickel Belt.
Mr Duncan: I want, first of all, to address my colleague from Ottawa who referenced something I said about labour policy in my statement. I didn't address labour policy; I addressed health care and education. Those are the issues that people are going to want to talk about in this election.
Dalton McGuinty and the Liberal Party are addressing those issues in a way that you couldn't. We've said we will put the improvement of our health care system ahead of tax cuts. We will put it ahead of the other changes you have wrought in your government. We will put health care first, we will put our children's education first and we won't try to wrap it up with empty rhetoric and broken promises about not cutting classroom spending. In fact you've cut classroom spending, you've caused an emergency in emergency rooms and you've failed to address long-term-care issues in a meaningful and substantial way.
The members of the third party have raised a number of issues. If it was taken that I was being insulting to the former member for Nickel Belt, that wasn't my intention at all. My intention was to point out that every one of you was there for the five years from 1990 to 1995 and you can't run from that record.
You said prior to the last election that you would never strip a collective agreement and you stripped collective agreements. You said you wouldn't cut health care and you cut health care. You said you would never raise tuition. In fact, I remember quite clearly you said the province should bear a greater percentage of those costs. And what did you do? You raised tuition by more than 50%, by almost as much as these guys. Your record won't be forgotten by anyone.
I was very careful to point out the outstanding contributions of MM. Cooke and Laughren to this House and this province. The problem is that party won't even acknowledge its own past. When was the last time you heard Bob Rae's name?
Mr Wildman: I want to take the opportunity in my intervention on the budget debate to deal with some serious concerns that I think all of us in northern Ontario, whatever our political party, share. I hope members will receive my comments in that vein and recognize that I'm raising some very serious concerns for my region and the people of my region because I don't believe, honestly, that many members in this House, of whatever political party, understand the seriousness of the economic situation we're facing right now in northern Ontario.
Mr Wildman: Thank you, except my problem then is that I won't know how much time I have left. I hope to also make some remarks with regard to education policy and the effects of the budget on education. I hope I will have time to do that.
In northern Ontario right now, as you know, we are in the hinterland of the province. We always have been. We are a resource-based economy, an economy that is largely dependent upon forestry and mining, with a significant amount of tourism as well. All of those are resource-based economies, all of them resource-based industries. We also have some other industries that are not as important for the overall economic health of the north. We have some manufacturing, we have some service industries of course and we also have some agriculture, but the main part of our economy is resource-based, whether it's forestry, mining or tourism.
We have always contributed a great deal towards the overall wealth of the province because of those primary industries. Historically, far more wealth has been generated by those primary industries than has returned to the north in terms of private or public investment.
We have also had a small population, scattered over a very large territory, that has historically been about 10% of the total population of the province, covering about 80% of the land mass. Most people in southern Ontario, even if they hear this from time to time, don't understand, partly because they're used to looking at the roadmaps, which somebody historically decided should be divided in half, with southern Ontario put on one side and northern Ontario put on the back, at different scales. People look at them and they don't understand that southern Ontario is a very small area compared to the north. It's about 20% of the total land mass of the province, as opposed to 80% in northern Ontario.
We have serious difficulties with transportation, with communications, and of course we have a climate which is not as conducive to habitation in many areas, or to agriculture or other types of activity. This has always been the case, so the challenges of economic development in northern Ontario have always been greater, despite the fact that the primary industries of the north contribute a great deal to the overall wealth of the province.
What's the situation now? I don't know if members of the House are aware that in the last two years we have seen significant increases in unemployment in northern Ontario. I recognize that members of the House will say that the economy has picked up, that we've moved a long way from the recession of the early 1990s in the province as a whole, but the recession has not ended in northern Ontario; it has gotten worse.
That 10% of the population that we've had historically in northern Ontario has dropped. It used to be about one million people in northern Ontario; we're down to about 800,000. There's a very simple reason: There are not the opportunities for young people to find employment in many parts of northern Ontario. Young people have left. There's been an out-migration historically in northern Ontario and it has been accelerated in the last two years.
The average age in the city of Sault Ste Marie in the early 1970s was 26; it is now 38. That is evidence of the kind of out-migration of young people that I've described. It's a very serious problem for the future of communities like Sault Ste Marie and all the other communities in northern Ontario. We have to find opportunities for young people so they don't have to move to southern Ontario or other parts of Canada or the United States or elsewhere to find employment.
The economic base in the primary and manufacturing sectors of our part of the province is eroding. Young people have fewer and fewer opportunities and have had to leave the region. As the population declines, government services have also been reduced, further damaging the region's economic base and employment base.
This government has accelerated the situation by making enormous cuts to the public sector. Initially, these enormous cuts in the Ministry of Natural Resources - in many small communities of northern Ontario it in fact was and historically has been the government as far as those communities were concerned. The Ministry of Natural Resources has been cut by 45%. Those were some of the best jobs.
The Ministry of Transportation has been cut. Ontario Hydro has been cut. The Ministry of the Environment has been cut. Because of the other cuts that this government has made in the broader public sector, jobs in the education sector - teachers and support staff - and jobs in health care, in hospitals and in community health have been lost. Those public sector jobs in many of those communities were the best-paying jobs. Some of the most well-educated people and leaders of the community were employed in those sectors. The spinoff effect of the loss of those jobs has been dramatic for the local retail sector. The economy has gone into a downturn and the private sector has not taken up the slack.
At the same time we've seen the globalization of world markets. World trade has increasingly focused on high value added products such as new technology rather than the raw materials that the north's economy has been based upon. Mineral consumption has slowed globally as we recycle more, develop more efficient technologies and invent substitute materials such as ceramics, plastics, new alloys and composites. The development of fibre optics has greatly reduced the need for copper, for example.
Also, at the same time, previously underdeveloped countries of the former Soviet Union, countries in South America, are acquiring the knowledge and infrastructure to produce and export sophisticated goods in the resource field, at less cost in some cases, partly because they have lax environmental standards in many cases and also lower labour costs.
Up to now, governments, whether it's the Liberal government, the NDP government and Conservative governments before that, saw government employment as a way of stabilizing the economy of the north as the resource-based industries were downsized. This government has said goodbye to that and has made the cuts I mentioned. The effects of the public service cuts by this government are far more evident in the resource-based, one-industry towns of northern Ontario than they are in southern Ontario, and there have been devastating impacts.
We have advantages in the north, despite the fact that are long distances, great distances. In the North American market 100 million people live within a day's drive of northern Ontario; 40% of the US population lives within a day's haul by truck. We also have a very good quality of life. The lifestyle combines urban comforts in some of the cities of the north with almost instant access to the great outdoors.
The telecommunications revolution has reduced some of the barriers previously imposed on northern Ontario by its remoteness. Sophisticated telecommunications networks with instantaneous cost-effective transmission of voice and data through satellite or fibre optic networks will allow companies to locate in the north without problems posed by distance.
We've seen efforts in New Brunswick. Our government also made some efforts to emphasize some of this technology in developing call centres in our part of the province, and they're in New Brunswick, the kind of operations that can be located anywhere with the new communications technologies. But it's important that the role of government be recognized if we're going to take advantage of these opportunities, as well as meeting the challenges of the downsizing in the primary industries and the public sector.
We can't have a government that does not believe in government initiative to help to stabilize and expand the economy of the north and to meet these opportunities. It is essential for government to support the economic restructuring of northern Ontario. Areas of growth potential need to be identified and supported by government. The Ministry of Northern Development and Mines obviously has a role to play in this area, but we can't do it if we have a government whose ideology is that government shouldn't be involved, that it should be left simply to the market and the marketplace, to the private sector. Because of the distances involved, because of the low population, because of the large expansive territory, the so-called invisible hand of the marketplace will almost inevitably decide that there should be more and more concentration where the population is located, where labour is located and where the market is located in southern Ontario.
We need government action to counter those "natural" pressures of the marketplace. The Ministry of Northern Development and Mines needs to invest in developing technology infrastructure in the north. In my view, it's the least the government can do, considering the destructive agenda of this government in its downsizing and downloading on the people of northern Ontario.
The government should act as a coordinator of change. As I said, the government should develop a general strategy for the region that gets all government ministries working together. Existing government programs and initiatives are not sufficiently coordinated and are not part of any general strategy for the region. I suspect that's because, again, we have a government that doesn't believe in the role of government to counter the exigencies of the market.
I call on the members, I urge the members to put aside their ideological blinders and to say that we must respond to the concerns I'm raising here. We must respond to the restructuring and downsizing in northern Ontario. We must counter the out-migration of our young people. We must provide opportunities for young people to work and to live and raise their families in the communities of northern Ontario. We can't just put our backs to the north and have our feet placed squarely in North Bay and look only at southern Ontario. That has been the stance of this government.
Mr Wildman: I call on the members to urge the Minister of Northern Development and Mines and all the members of the government bench to analyse seriously the problems we face in northern Ontario and to develop a strategy bringing together municipal leaders, private sector leaders, members of the government and the senior level of government, the federal government, to respond to the concerns of our hinterland of northern Ontario. I think it can be done. It's a challenge. But it certainly won't be done if we simply leave it to the private sector.
Obviously, in this kind of situation education is central to ensuring that we can help to meet these challenges. Yet, we have a government at this time that is determined to cut education and to downsize education to make it less important in terms of investment by the government.
In the budget the government talked about $130 million for Internet networking in schools. No one knows how much of this is actually going to be government money and how much of it is private sector money. The government talks about partnerships. We don't know whether the government has really made a commitment in terms of a significant amount of money to invest in this area. This, of course, is very important in northern Ontario because of the communications challenges we face. But we can't just leave it to the private sector. Partnerships are fine. We want to know what the actual commitment is of this government.
The government also said in the budget that they will be setting aside $1 billion total in a special fund for special education. We've done some work on this and have come to the conclusion that all the government did was add up all the money that has been spent in the past by school boards and by the provincial government and put it in a fund. There is no new money there. That is already what was spent. So while the government tries to tout this as some new initiative to assist children with special needs, there isn't anything new there. We already know that in northern Ontario there has been less investment in those students with special needs than we've had in other parts of the province historically.
The government also says they want to spend $50 million for textbooks for the classroom and $12.5 million for labs at the secondary school level. They want to spend $1 million for tutoring, $1.5 million for testing and $69 million for school board debt. When you look at this in relation to everything else they promised, this comes close to $200 million, which coincidentally is the amount the Treasurer expects to save from the agreement the government has made with the Ontario Teachers' Federation for the early retirement package.
In slow-growth areas like ours, the government is actually, under its funding formula, forcing the closure of schools. Because of the distances in northern Ontario, some of the schools will survive simply because it's too far to bus kids in some parts of the north.
This is a government that promised to invest more in education, to put more money into classrooms; in fact, the government is closing classrooms. They're closing schools because they set an arbitrary figure from the maintenance costs and the square-footage costs of school boards, and if the board doesn't fit that average, despite the fact that there are kids being taught in those schools, there isn't any funding for them. Those schools will be closed or downsized in the cities, and in the small communities there won't be adequate funding for them even if they continue to operate because it's too far to bus them.
This is a government that hasn't made a commitment to education, that's trying to dress up their promises in the budget as new money when in fact whatever they have promised in expenditures is already there, and we have already seen almost $1-billion cut.
I intervene in this budget debate sincerely concerned about the future of my region of this province, concerned about the fact that we need investment in public services like education, that we need a strategy developed that involves government activity to counter the pressures of the market, to respond to the serious problems we have in northern Ontario, to try and avoid the continuation of the downsizing of our population, the outmigration of our young people, to provide opportunities for development, for growth, to look at new technologies and to counter what has been accelerating in terms of the loss of jobs, the increase of unemployment in northern Ontario, since this government came into power.
Mr Baird: I congratulate my colleague the member for Algoma for his well-reasoned remarks. While I may not share the consequence of them, he certainly has brought up a number of points that cause us all concern.
As he is concerned, we on this side of the House are concerned about youth unemployment and about employment opportunities right across the province. It would be wrong to say that my part of the province is anything like his, but my part of the province in Ottawa-Carleton did suffer 20,000 or 25,000 cuts, people who lost their jobs in the public sector, so we have some experience with some pretty dramatic declines in public expenditures by the federal, provincial and local governments. It's a significant challenge, and I certainly acknowledge that.
He did mention some very valid points, and I give him credit for mentioning those: the decline in demand for natural resource commodities, the decline in prices and the new competition in eastern Europe. To be fair, he did acknowledge that. I guess he sees a bigger role for the government stabilizing the economy. That was the same policy he took in southern Ontario, and with the greatest of respect, I don't think that served the province well over his five years in government. He makes a well-reasoned argument for the expansion of the role of government. It's one that I don't think we on this side of the House accept.
I would like to comment, though. The member for Lac-Nipigon interjected and said, "They don't care." I don't think, even in the worst, darkest days of the recession, even with the disastrous policies brought in by the former government, that anyone on this side of the House would say you didn't care or question motive in that way. I don't think you serve your case very well.
Obviously, there are some significant investments in transportation infrastructure, and whatever those investments are, I can appreciate they are never enough. Exploring new communications technologies in health care and education and reinstating the heritage fund are some of the initiatives taken to try to improve the economy of northern Ontario.
One argument I would like to underline that I think he makes and that I totally agree with is that when you cut around the province in some fundamental areas, it has greater significance in northern Ontario, and perhaps in parts of eastern Ontario and some other parts as well, than in the metropolitan, big, urban areas of Ontario. That goes without saying in terms of education, health and municipalities in all the cuts we've seen.
He touched on something that I think is significant and important, and I haven't seen too much of a demonstration of this kind of sensitivity. I wouldn't say it's not necessarily a caring issue, but it does show sensitivity. The issue is the sharing of the infrastructure of the Ontario public service, its services and all the things that it does. Do we share the infrastructure of the government of Ontario equally? I would say no, we don't.
I recall back in 1989 when I was Minister of Government Services and was asked to head up a northern relocation program that built five new buildings in northern Ontario and brought well over 600 jobs to northern Ontario. There were campaigns to invite people from Toronto and other parts of the "south" to come to northern Ontario and see what a beautiful part of the province it is, with a beautiful way of life, less costly etc. To place a more significant point on it, the member referred to jobs and to the diversification of the economy of northern Ontario in many instances. Fifteen jobs in a small town is a lot of jobs; 25 jobs over here etc. We were talking hundreds of jobs.
Mr Pouliot: Who else but the dean of the House - more than 23 years of service, politics being local - uses the opportunity of his budget response to say: "What about the forgotten? What about the special people? Fewer than 10% of the population covering well over 80% of the land mass." Different indeed; not unique, but different.
Where else but at tide in the province of Ontario? Hudson Bay, beluga whales, polar bears, caribou, permafrost. Need I say more? Resource base indeed we are. We choose to live there to extract the resources: trees that we send down south; pulp and paper; precious minerals; other stones.
We need help. We need reciprocity. That's what the member for Algoma reminded us of. We need a helping hand so we don't end up post grade 12 and 13 education exporting our dollars. And what about us? As a grand finale, we too have to leave the north. There has to be a different legacy.
The member for Nepean, who's new around here - hopefully for his sake and the sake of his family he will not be an overnighter - has the audacity and the gall to say: "Oh, don't tell us that we don't care. Look at what we've done with the heritage fund." It's true they put money in the heritage fund, but they left it there. They didn't spend it.
Mr Pouliot: Collective guilt has overtaken the hordes on the government side. It's a sad scene. All they have to do it give us a budget that represents all Ontarians, not only a select few down south.
He talked a lot about the reduction in staff that the various ministries have had to carry out. The member for Algoma should be aware that when we came to government we were in a crisis. It was a genuine crisis in Ontario, a crisis that had been created by the previous government, while the NDP was in government. The debt doubled. They did not have the intestinal fortitude that the Liberals had to increase taxes. They only moved the tax freedom day from June 21 to June 26, but they did double the debt. That's the interest we're now paying: $9 billion in interest, just a terrible sum to put in the backs of our children and future generations. It's half of the health budget. It would be a major portion of the education budget. At the most -
The member for Algoma talked an awful lot about developing a strategy for the north, which may not be a bad idea, but I'm wondering what their party was doing for five years in government, 1990 to 1995. I'd have thought they would have come in with a good strategy when they had so many representatives here from northern Ontario.
Just one example of the many things that we're doing for northern Ontario is the new funding formula that is going to recognize equalization for a lot of the schools in the north. They were getting funding like $4,500, $4,800 per student. Now it's going to be averaged, equalized across the province, and that's the kind of recognition that we're making of the north.
Mr Wildman: I want to thank the members for their interventions, their comments. I'll try to deal with them briefly and quickly. I know the member for Nepean is correct in saying that we have a difference of opinion about the role of the government in stabilizing the economy of the north and developing a strategy. I would point out that the government hadn't spent any of the money in the northern heritage fund because it doesn't have a strategy.
We do have a difference of opinion. I heard from members on the opposite side what they disagreed with in my presentation. I appreciate that they listened to me and were attentive, but they didn't give me any idea of what their alternative is. What are we going to do to meet this enormous challenge in northern Ontario? It was asked what we did. I can tell you what we did.
In the depths of the recession we met the challenge of restructuring in Kapuskasing, at Spruce Falls, and preserved jobs there. We met the challenge of restructuring in Thunder Bay. We met the challenge of restructuring in Sault Ste Marie with Algoma Steel; not just Algoma Steel but also St Mary's Paper and the Algoma Central Railway. We preserved jobs in those areas.
I know that Mr Long, an adviser to the Premier of the province now, said quite clearly that if the Conservatives had been in power in 1992, there would have been no restructuring program for Algoma Steel and 5,000 people would have been out of work because this government doesn't believe in the role of government to try to preserve jobs and develop a strategy for expansion of the economy.
What else did we do? As the member for Ottawa Centre said, we transferred government jobs to northern Ontario. We had the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines, the Ministry of Natural Resources. The lottery corporation was expanded in northern Ontario. This government is taking those jobs away and concentrating them in southern Ontario.
Mr R. Gary Stewart (Peterborough): I'd like to share my time with the member for Etobicoke-Rexdale if possible, please. Today it's rather a unique and pleasant thing for me to be part of this budget debate. I'm going to talk a bit about it, not only from my -
The Acting Speaker: Order. I'm sorry, I wasn't listening when you first introduced your remarks. You wanted to share your time, except that we're ending at 5:45. We'll vote at 5:45. Do you want to split your time in whatever time is left?
I want to talk about the budget from the perspective of being a member of this Parliament, but also from the business perspective, from the job creator sector, because all of you know that jobs are created by people, not governments. One of the things that really got me extremely excited, when I looked at this budget, as I have been for two and a half years, was when it said at various times during that budget, "Promises made, promises kept."
Isn't that about one of the most refreshing things that we've heard in a long time? I've been involved with governments for a good number of years, some a little too long, and I've worked under various governments. But I have never been involved and seen a government that said they would do something and indeed did it. That, to me, is one of the most refreshing things that could have happened. We did it.
For many of us in this House, certainly on the government side, who went out and told people prior to the election, "If we are elected we will do things, we will stimulate the economy, we will reduce taxes, we will increase jobs," many of us who have had a reputation for being trustworthy believed that, and we have indeed done just that and I am extremely proud of that fact.
This is a people's budget. It's an incentive budget. It is a growth agenda, a growth budget. It's a budget filled with strategic investments for the future. That is one of the problems: that many governments, certainly in the last 10 years, forgot to look at the future.
All you have to do is look at the health care system, where we don't have enough long-term beds. We have to change the way we deliver health care, because nobody pre-planned. For those of you who are in business, I can assure you, if you don't pre-plan you will not survive.
I happened to listen to the member for Algoma, who said they invested a great deal of money in the north to save jobs. Ladies and gentlemen, I can tell you one thing: Buying jobs does not make jobs last. It absolutely does not.
I mentioned that this is a people's budget. It's a budget that addresses those from all walks of life. It addresses the business community, not only the corporate tax reduction over a period of eight years but also the income tax reduction. It addresses those who require and are on social services, including day care access. It addresses the needed long-term care: 20,000 beds in this province, when many communities have been waiting since 1988 to get some additional beds that nobody, no other government, wanted to create.
Those needing medical treatment: We have made some changes. It used to be that to get medical treatment you walked into a square building with bricks and mortar that said "Hospital" on the top. That is not the way of the future. There is not a person in this House who doesn't know that if we don't change the way we're delivering some services, those services are not going to survive.
It's interesting in my own community. For the last year and a half I have listened to the folks from that community on what they wanted to see in health care. They wanted more critical care beds. They wanted more operating rooms. They wanted more mental health beds. They wanted more money invested. If you want that, you have to make some changes. If you don't want that, fine, we'll stay the way we are. But staying the way we are will not create the type of quality health care that we need in this province.
Children's aid society: an injection of $170 million. For those of you who were in municipal politics, you know that for the last many years, children's aid societies, which the municipalities funded, were crying for more and more money because the need was greater. We have addressed that situation.
I mentioned that the final one is safe communities. When I read the paper, whether it be the Peterborough paper or a Toronto paper, and see the things that have been going on in the streets - crime in our communities, death for our youth, death for our seniors - we have to look at creating safe communities, communities that are working together to make sure that crime does not run rampant, and this government is addressing that. Crime can be down, but until crime is alleviated - that's what we've got to look at. Don't just look at the little parts of it; you've got to look at the entire picture.
This budget was created by people - and I'm very proud of this fact - who went to various meetings, through consultation. In my own community I had one with 20 to 30 people at it. They represented all sectors of society - the workers, the business community, health care workers, youth, folks involved with social services; it was the public sector and the private sector. Those were the people who were at my round table. Those were the people who were involved when the Premier went out into places like Oshawa and Barrie and many other places in the immediate area to talk to the people and said to them, "You tell me what you believe you want to see, how this province should move forward." They told him, and that is what created many of the things addressed in this budget.
I know the opposition won't agree with that. The opposition still believes, for some unknown reason, that the way you conduct government is to raise taxes and spend like crazy. You cannot do that. You know it and I know it. You don't do it in business; you don't do it in your homes. Then why in the name of goodness would you do it in government?
Jobs up, taxes down: Isn't that what it's all about? Do you know that in the county of Peterborough, including the city, when the final stage of the 30% tax reduction is in place there will be an injection of $40 million that will be able to be spent in that community? I suggest to you that this will make the cash registers ring for the business community, for those people who are creating those jobs.
I listen to the opposition say things like, "They're McDonald's jobs." Well, I'm sorry, but if you've sat at home or have tried to get a job for two or three years and all of a sudden somebody phones you and says, "You've got that job," it doesn't matter whether it's a McDonald's job or a high-tech job or a medium-sized job; it's a job. I can tell you, from folks I talk to who finally have the opportunity to become part of the working community, it is probably one of the greatest experiences and feelings you can have. Wouldn't it be wonderful to run home and say to your kids, "Kids, I got a job"?
A balanced budget - isn't that absolutely unique in government? It hasn't happened in years in this province. The folks laugh about it, but they didn't do it. You balance your budget at home. Why wouldn't you do it here? You balance your budget in business. Why wouldn't you do it here? That's why we have to continue on the road to make sure that the budget will be balanced. This budget says that; this government will do it.
As I mentioned before, I feel very proud to stand and make comments on this budget, a budget that will continue to make sure we have a direction for the future, a budget that will make sure all of us have those jobs - our children, our grandchildren.
Mr Wildman: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I rise to ask for unanimous consent to have the late show that the member for Cochrane South gave notice about on Thursday after the end of the day rather than this evening, since the representatives aren't available this evening.
On Wednesday, May 6, 1998, Mr McGuinty moved that the motion moved by the Minister of Finance on May 5, "That this House approves in general the budgetary policy of the government," be amended by deleting the words following the words "That this House" and adding thereto the following:
"That Mike Harris broke his promise that there would be no new user fees in Ontario when he forced seniors and the poor to pay an additional $225 million in new user fees for prescription medication; and
"That Mike Harris has cut $50.4 million to services for developmentally disabled children and adults, $8 million to children's mental health services and reduced access to dental services for children; and
"That Mike Harris has proved that he simply cannot be trusted to protect our health care, to improve our education or to take the steps necessary to make sure our children get off to the best start in life;
Hon Norman W. Sterling (Minister of the Environment, Government House Leader): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I believe we have unanimous consent to put all of the questions immediately without bells after there is a division.