October 1, 2000
On Monday, Sept. 25, 2000, when the Ontario Legislature resumed,
Premier Harris gave a "mini-Throne Speech" setting out his
Government's agenda and priorities for the upcoming sitting of the
Legislature. There was absolutely no mention of the Ontarians
with Disabilities Act. Yet there were repeated references to the
Premier and his Government keeping their promises.
You are all encouraged to add this important and stark fact to our
ongoing "Call Mike" campaign. If you have not called the Premier's
office yet, its a good time to do so. Even if you have called the
Premier's office already at 416 325-1941, it is worth calling him
again. Ask for Mike Harris. Ask why his Government's priorities
for this fall do not include the Ontarians with Disabilities Act.
Let him know how you feel about this glaring omission from his
statement of his agenda. Get others to do the same.
For those who wish to read through the Premier's Sept. 25, 2000
priorities statement, here it is:
Hon Michael D. Harris (Premier): Mr Speaker, more to do to keep
Ontario strong: that was the basis of the agenda we laid before the
people of this province during the 1999 election, and that we
presented to this Legislature during last year's throne speech. It
is an agenda based on continued progress, not complacency; on
sustained growth, not the status quo. For even though Ontario was
back on track and our economy was strong, we realized we could not
take success for granted.
This afternoon I want to report on what has been accomplished
already and, more importantly, on what lies ahead. If I were to sum
up our plan in one paragraph, it would be this: we are keeping our
promises, we are honouring our commitments, we are doing what we
said we would do and we will continue to do so.
The provincial budget has been balanced, just as we said. Taxes
have been cut, just as we promised. More than 725,000 new jobs were
created in less than five years, just as the Common Sense
Revolution predicted. Teacher testing is being introduced. Work for
welfare has been implemented. Health funding has increased, exactly
as we promised.
To speak of these accomplishments as the achievements of government
is to miss, though, their impact on people. These really are the
successes of individual Ontarians. We are back on track toward our
campaign Blueprint's target of an additional 825,000 net new jobs.
Last month another 6,635 men, women and children broke free from
welfare dependency. That's the 31st straight month in which welfare
rolls have declined and reflects more than 535,000 personal
victories off the welfare rolls since 1995.
Each and every one of these success stories reminds us of our
fight, in the face of great opposition, to restore the principle of
work for welfare, an extension of the great Canadian work ethic
that built this great country.
The strides Ontario has made over the past five years have in fact
been inspiring, but we can't confuse progress with victory. While
much has been accomplished, there is still much to do.
When we took office in 1995, Ontario's deficit approached $11
billion. In response, we made dramatic changes, putting our fiscal
house in order, identifying savings, doing better with less. We did
this at the same time as we cut taxes--cut taxes to create jobs, to
keep the economy strong and to return to taxpayers more of their
hard-earned money. We stuck by our plan and the people of Ontario
stood with us. This past May we announced the first back-to-back
balanced budgets in more than 50 years. We are now enjoying a
surplus and we are now paying down debt.
Our priority remains to increase take-home pay and to make families
better off. Starting October 6, taxpayers will receive dividend
cheques returning their share of last year's excess surplus, a
surplus that belongs to hard-working taxpayers.
This fall we will introduce legislation to establish a made-for-
Ontario tax system, one that allows us to cut taxes without federal
interference. We will continue to eliminate job-killing
regulations. We will introduce red tape legislation, expanding on
the 12 bills that have already been passed.
The job of fixing government, of making it more effective, has only
just begun. We will take further action to ensure taxpayers' money
is spent wisely.
All levels of government must deliver services as efficiently as
possible. We believe all municipal councils should be free to
contract out the delivery of services, providing they honour their
collective agreements. This fall the province will introduce
legislation to transfer full responsibility for the administration
of social housing to municipalities, giving them the say for pay
and the ability to make local decisions on housing needs.
The Speaker (Hon Gary Carr): Order.
Hon Mr Harris: Consistent with our Blueprint commitment, we will
introduce legislation that would allow hard-working union members
to learn how much of their dues are spent on the salaries and
benefits of top union officials. Proposed legislation would also
strengthen the right of individual workers to decide if they want
to be represented by a union.
Following consultations on whether and how the Employment Standards
Act might be updated, the Minister of Labour will introduce
legislation to reflect the realities of the 21st century workplace.
Not only must government perform its job effectively; it must also
The Speaker: Order. Premier, take his seat.
We're going to start off on the first day and set the rules very
clearly. If I cannot hear the minister during the ministers'
statements, I'm going to have to interrupt them. It seems as if
we're going to have to be quick off the mark. I would ask for
everybody's indulgence. We might not even get to question period
before we name people, but we're not going to continue on shouting
across like this. It's as simple as that.
I've said on numerous occasions that the people of this province
expect us to come here--there is going to be some lively debate,
but shouting across where no one can hear him is not what the
people of this province want, and it's not going to happen in here.
I don't want to start off even before question period with a
blanket warning to everybody, so we're going to ease into it, but
I would say to all members that I cannot hear the Premier speaking,
and we are not going to continue as long as I cannot hear the
Premier speaking. I'm close enough that I should be able to hear
him, and all members--it seems in rotation--on the opposition side
are yelling. We're not going to put up with this in this session.
I say this to all the members.
I apologize for the interruption, Premier.
Hon Mr Harris: Thank you, Mr Speaker.
Not only must government perform its job effectively; it must also
know when something is not its job. The cabinet committee on
privatization and SuperBuild will continue to actively review and
evaluate everything that government owns and all services that we
provide. Following examples like the Bruce nuclear plant and the
new Penetanguishene correctional facility, we will continue, where
safety and high standards are met, to outsource, to contract out
and to privatize. This is the only way to eliminate public sector
monopolies that cost taxpayers hard-earned dollars.
Through the SuperBuild Corp, we are also--
The Speaker: Order. Would the Premier take his seat.
I would ask the member to withdraw that. I heard exactly what he
said. I would ask the member to withdraw that. It is not
appropriate to yell those things across the House, especially on
the first day as we are getting into it. Confrontational words like
that are not acceptable any time, especially at the beginning.
Mr Dave Levac (Brant): Speaker, would you hear my point, please.
Mr Levac: Speaker, what was the word?
The Speaker: The word was "liar."
Mr Levac: I did not say "liar."
The Speaker: I thought he said--would the member take his seat.
Order. That's what happens when people get shouting back and forth.
It's very difficult to hear people.
Premier, continue. I apologize for the interruption.
Hon Mr Harris: Thank you, Mr Speaker.
Through the SuperBuild Corp, we are also investing in Ontario's
future through projects which, when completed, will improve our
quality of life, increase competitiveness and create even more
A strong economic plan combined with a vision for a prosperous
Ontario allows our government to proceed with long-overdue
investments in our province's capital infrastructure. In the
budget, we invested more than $1 billion for health care capital,
committed $1 billion to expand and improve Ontario's highways, and
provided $1 billion for colleges and universities, to help create
more than 73,000 new spaces for Ontario students. We are preparing
for significant growth in this new economy, and we are determined
to give our young people the skills they need for the hundreds of
thousands of new jobs we will help to create in the years to come.
As a result of all these investments, this fall we will move
forward with construction projects on a scope not seen in decades.
Keeping our streets safe is among our most important priorities.
Families have the right not just to be safe, but to feel safe.
We can and we must do more to protect those who live in the shadow
of domestic violence. Later this week, the Attorney General will
introduce legislation that would lead to tougher consequences for
abusers and provide better protection for victims.
We will introduce legislation that would protect the public and
police from the misuse of imitation firearms.
With the failure of the federal Liberal government to improve the
Criminal Code to combat organized crime, we will introduce our own
legislation to fight this growing problem.
Today we introduced legislation that would formally establish the
Office for Victims of Crime and give victims a greater voice in the
criminal justice process.
We will further reform our prison, parole and probation system,
introducing legislation that would impose tougher supervision for
all offenders, respond strictly when probationers, parolees and
prisoners use illegal drugs, and crack down on violent inmates.
Serving time for breaking the law should be a form of punishment,
not a free ride. We are introducing changes to teach criminals that
their actions have consequences.
Ontario is blessed with forests and valleys and lakes and rivers,
but we must be responsible stewards of this living legacy. That's
why we will dramatically increase the number of parks and protected
lands through our Living Legacy program. In addition, we will take
steps to encourage revitalization of abandoned industrial areas
that could become green spaces and integral parts of our
Events in Walkerton serve as a wake-up call. Ontario families have
every right to expect that the water coming out of their taps is
drinkable and that it is safe. That didn't happen in Walkerton,
where we still don't know exactly what went wrong or why. We need
to ensure this doesn't happen again. That's why we appointed
Justice Dennis O'Connor to conduct an independent inquiry.
While we await the judge's findings, we are already making changes
designed to help prevent problems like this in future. Last month
we strengthened water protection rules. Last week the Minister of
the Environment reported on the many other steps we are taking.
This fall we intend to set clear rules for small waterworks, ensure
responsible agricultural practices and increase penalties for those
who pollute the environment. In June we appointed a management
expert to review the operation of the Ministry of the Environment
and make recommendations for improvement.
We have also offered compensation to the victims of the Walkerton
tragedy. The plan is no-fault, meaning victims need not prove
liability, as they would have to do in court. Our offer is intended
to provide a fair and fast out-of-court option to get money in the
hands of those who need it as soon as possible.
Parents, government, communities, businesses--indeed, everyone in
society--have a responsibility to ensure that all children get the
best possible start in life. Already we have taken a leadership
role in early child development. But this is only the beginning of
our efforts to help children succeed.
We also understand the importance of a quality education for our
children's future. This fall, however, our students are yet again
threatened with teachers' strikes. We have been fair and we have
been reasonable. We want to ensure that classrooms are not
First, while establishing clear standards regarding the time
teachers spend in the classroom, we have provided flexibility on
how these standards can be met.
Then we accepted the union leaders' good faith that they would not
withdraw co-instructional activities. We have not proclaimed
sections of the Education Accountability Act which would have made
it mandatory that teachers perform these duties. Teachers' unions
may disagree with our government and our education reforms, but
they should not be using students as pawns. They can oppose us, as
they did in the last election, without punishing students.
We are determined to continue to improve education standards. This
fall we will move forward with the implementation of comprehensive
province-wide teacher testing. Our code of conduct sets clear rules
of behaviour, and now we will start implementing new strict-
discipline schooling programs for those who choose to seriously
disrupt our classrooms. We will introduce legislation to promote
excellence throughout the post-secondary system by giving students
and parents the opportunity to choose privately funded
Ensuring access to quality health care still remains our most
pressing concern. We inherited a system on the road to bankruptcy
and disarray, so we launched an aggressive reform plan to meet
Ontario's changing health care needs. We've increased provincial
health spending dramatically. But as a son and as a parent, I know
that we must do better. Our plan is working, but the health care
system must be strengthened to meet the needs of an aging and of a
We'll continue to expand our hospitals and emergency rooms. We'll
build new cancer and cardiac centres. We'll strengthen our
internationally recognized mental health services. We're working to
create 20,000 new long-term-care beds, the first since 1988.
Inspired by recent news that Ontario's rate of organ donation has
increased by 40% from last year, we'll act to continue to improve
our organ donation system. Working with physicians and nurses,
we'll continue primary care reform. Our goal is 24-hour, seven-day
access to primary health care for everyone in Ontario.
For five years our innovative health reforms have led the nation,
despite billions of dollars of federal cuts. I'm here today to tell
you that without Ontario's leadership, the federal Liberals would
never have reversed their cuts, never have restored the money; the
recent agreement between Ottawa and the provinces would not have
been reached. That's why we make absolutely no apologies for
standing up to the federal government--
The Speaker: Order. Would the Premier take his seat. Stop the
clock, please. Order.
Sorry for the interruption. Premier?
Hon Mr Harris: Thank you, Mr Speaker. That's why, as I said, we
make no apologies for standing up to the federal government for
better health care. Even now, Ottawa will still fund less of health
care than it did seven years ago.
The Speaker: Would the Premier take his seat. This is an official
warning, the member for Windsor-St Clair, his last warning.
Hon Mr Harris: As I said, even now Ottawa will still fund less of
health care than it did seven years ago when it had a massive
We will continue to lead the way in getting Ottawa to pay its fair
share of health care funding. As always, we will continue to keep
our promises. We will do what we said we would do, not just to be
able to say that we kept our promises but because, once kept, these
promises will build a stronger Ontario.
Our revolutionary spirit endures, but not as an end in itself.
Instead, it reflects our determination to fight for what's
important to Ontario families: more efficient government, lower
taxes, more jobs, safer streets, better environmental protection,
higher education standards and better health care. That's what
Ontario families have told us matters to them. That is, then, what
matters to us, and that's what we will deliver.
The opposition and the special interests want to take Ontario
backward, but we are moving forward to build a province that
attracts investment and provides a better quality of life for hard-
working middle-class families. This session, this fall, the Common
Sense Revolution continues. The work of fixing government, the work
of reforming government and of improving government, goes on,
because even after five years there is still so much more to do.
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