LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY OF MANITOBA

Monday, March 1, 1993

 

The House met at 1:30 p.m.

 

PRAYERS

 

ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS

 

READING AND RECEIVING PETITIONS

 

Mr. Speaker: Pursuant to the authorities and practices of theHouse, I now report that I have examined the petition and findthat the petitioners have not complied with the set authoritiesand practices in the following respects.

According to our Rule 81.(8): "No petition shall be receivedif it prays for expenditure, grant or charge on the publicrevenue, whether payable out of the Consolidated Fund or out ofmoneys to be provided by the Assembly."

Therefore, I regret to advise the honourable member for SwanRiver (Ms. Wowchuk) that her petition is out of order and cannotbe received.

 

TABLING OF REPORTS

 

Hon. Leonard Derkach (Minister of Rural Development): Mr.Speaker, first of all I would like to table the Annual Report1991‑1992 for the Canada‑Manitoba Partnership Agreement onMunicipal Water Infrastructure for Rural Economic Diversification(PAMWI).

I would like to table the Annual Report 1991‑92 for theManitoba Water Services Board.

Hon. Clayton Manness (Minister of Finance): Mr. Speaker, I wouldlike to table, firstly, Volume 3, Public Accounts 1991‑92,Summary Financial Statements and, secondly, the ManitobaHydro‑Electric Board Quarterly Report for the nine months endedDecember 31, 1992, and the Report of the Provincial Auditor tothe Legislative Assembly for the fiscal year ended March 31, 1992.

 

House Business

Hon. Clayton Manness (Government House Leader): Mr. Speaker, the government, at this time, would like to waive the two‑day noticeof motion, with the permission of the House, and introduce fourbills at this time.

Mr. Steve Ashton (Opposition House Leader): Mr. Speaker, Iunderstand the government House leader is asking for leave. Ithink we already have a significant amount of business.

We would like to know when the second reading committeehearings will be held on the Sunday shopping bill. After thegovernment has decided when they are going to do that, we mightget down to the rest of the business‑‑

Mr. Speaker: Order, please. Is there leave to allow thehonourable government House leader to introduce said bills?

Some Honourable Members: No.

Mr. Speaker: No. Leave is denied.

Hon. James McCrae (Minister of Justice and Attorney General):Mr. Speaker, I would request leave of the House to introduce Bill14, The Personal Property Security Act and ConsequentialAmendments, for first reading.

Mr. Speaker: Does the honourable Attorney General have leave?

Some Honourable Members: No.

Mr. Speaker: No. Leave is denied.

 

* (1335)

 

Ms. Judy Wasylycia-Leis (St. Johns): May I have leave tointroduce a bill for first reading?

Mr. Speaker: Is there leave to revert to Introduction of Bills?Leave? [agreed]

 

INTRODUCTION OF BILLS

 

Bill 210The Plain Language Act

 

Ms. Judy Wasylycia-Leis (St. Johns): Mr. Speaker, I move,seconded by the member for Concordia (Mr. Doer), that Bill 210,The Plain Language Act; Loi sur la langue courante, be introducedand that the same be now received and read a first time.

 

Motion presented.

 

Ms. Wasylycia-Leis: Mr. Speaker, Bill 210, The Plain LanguageAct, would see all consumer contracts and all governmentstatutes, regulations and publications written in plainlanguage. This legislation arises out of the growing concernthat many contracts, laws and regulations are often unreadable,packed with legalese and written in language that is hard tounderstand.

The absence of plain language, Mr. Speaker, contributes to afear of the system and deters many from pursuing their rights.This bill would make laws and legal documents understandable. Itwill help ensure people can comply with their legal obligationsand obtain the benefits to which they are entitled. It will helpManitobans to clearly understand the full intention of governmentactions without the help of a dozen lawyers, and finally, it willhelp ensure fairness and equal access to the law for all of ourcitizens.

 

Motion agreed to.

 

Introduction of Guests

 

Mr. Speaker: Prior to Oral Questions, may I direct the attentionof honourable members to the gallery, where we have with us thisafternoon forty Grade 9 students from the Chief Peguis JuniorHigh school. They are under the direction of Mr. Barmeier. Thisschool is located in the constituency of the honourable Ministerof Culture, Heritage and Citizenship (Mrs. Mitchelson).

On behalf of all honourable members, I would like to welcomeyou here this afternoon.

 

ORAL QUESTION PERIOD

 

Budget

Child Anti-Poverty Programs

 

Mr. Gary Doer (Leader of the Opposition): Mr. Speaker, we haveraised the issue of child poverty and its alarming rate ofincrease in the province of Manitoba with the government before.In fact, on December 13, 1991, the Premier, in answer to aquestion we raised in the Chamber, said: We will workco‑operatively with all levels of government to work on anyprograms, whether they be education, whether they be socialprograms, whether they be health care programs, any programsdesigned to eradicate poverty with respect to children of ourprovince.

Mr. Speaker, we have seen a series of budget decisions fromthis Premier's (Mr. Filmon) government dealing with all thosethree areas affecting the poor in Manitoba. There have beenreductions in the welfare payments for families with children ofover $200 a month for a family with three children. There havebeen reductions in the funding to the public education system,inconsistent with the comments made by the Premier foreradicating poverty.

Further, Mr. Speaker, there was a reduction in the socialwelfare benefits and health benefits last week of some $3 millionout of a $20‑million fund that will affect again children livingin poverty, particularly those with teeth that need care thatwill not get it with the cutbacks of this provincial government.

I would like to know how these budget decisions that havebeen announced by this Premier's government will eradicatepoverty for children in our province.

Hon. Harold Gilleshammer (Minister of Family Services): Mr.Speaker, over the last three years, we have announced a number ofinitiatives that have enhanced the social allowance system inManitoba. We have annually increased the social allowance rates;we have created a new program called Income Assistance for theDisabled; we have introduced the Supplementary Benefit; exempt tochildren's trust funds; we have given assistance for schoolsupplies; we have passed on the goods and services tax. Thereare many, many other areas.

We did make an announcement last week that we felt we had tomake some adjustments to the benefits for social allowancerecipients. We still have left these benefits in place that arecomparable to what other provinces have. The adjustments arenecessary because of the tremendous increase in the SocialAllowances line, some 65 percent over the last three years.

 

Program Reduction Criteria

 

Mr. Gary Doer (Leader of the Opposition): Mr. Speaker, I wouldlike to again ask the Premier (Mr. Filmon), whose comments werethat we will do these three things, education, health care andsocial programs, to help eradicate child poverty, everything hehas done in the last two months in terms of the budget decisionshave been kicking the poorest in the teeth, have been kicking thepoorest children in the teeth and those are the Tory prioritiesin this province.

I would like to ask the Premier how he, in his tough budgetdecisions, can square the choices that his government is making.On the one hand they are increasing their revenues by tens ofmillions of dollars with the undebated expansion of video lotteryterminals in the city of Winnipeg. On the other hand they arecutting back on social benefits for food for children living infamilies on municipal assistance.

How does the Premier square the value system that comes intoplay in terms of making those kinds of budget decisions on thepeople of Manitoba?

 

* (1340)

 

Hon. Harold Gilleshammer (Minister of Family Services): Mr.Speaker, the member referenced the fact that governments have tomake choices. Governments across this land are making choices.Every government in this country is making those tough choices atthis time.

The member is making some reference to Bill 70 which wasenabling legislation that was brought about through therecommendations of the SARC committee. This government consultedwith members from the City of Winnipeg, from the ruralmunicipalities, from the urban municipalities, who recommendedthat we bring in legislation to provide equity across the systemso that the provincial government is responsible for paying thesame amount on social allowances in all jurisdictions. We didallow jurisdictions to exceed that amount if they so wished.

Mr. Doer: Mr. Speaker, this is absolutely indefensible,indefensible to have the children in poverty in this province interms of the Province of Manitoba's action, be the ones whosuffer the most from the government cutbacks from the Toriesopposite.

 

 

BudgetProgram Reduction Criteria

 

Mr. Gary Doer (Leader of the Opposition): I would like to askthe Premier, in terms of his commitment in this Chamber a yearago in eradicating poverty, how he can defend having millions ofdollars going in grants in lieu of taxes for training to placeslike Keystone Ford, $10,000; Kingswood Golf and Country Club,$9,000; Linnett Graphics, $7,000; Wardrop Engineering, $10,000;lots of grants, Mr. Speaker, millions of dollars in grants goingto corporations. At the same time, they are cutting the benefitsto children living in poverty. How does he defend this in theHouse?

Hon. Gary Filmon (Premier): Mr. Speaker, as the Minister ofFamily Services (Mr. Gilleshammer) has indicated, there have notbeen cuts throughout the years that we have been in government,and we have been in government for almost five years. Duringthat period of time, the Department of Family Services, andparticularly those lines that pertain to Child and FamilyServices, daycare, to foster parents and so on, have beenreceiving over that period on an annualized basis increases thathave averaged in the range of 9 percent, over that period of timeof five years.

So we have not been reducing those areas, that is No. 1.Number 2, Mr. Speaker, the grants that he talks about are fortraining people for jobs. That is a very key priority. That isabsolutely for training. Not a nickel can flow without thatmoney going to pay for training. So when he talks about it, heis absolutely misleading the public. [interjection] Yes,absolutely. This is, of course, the problem that you have withNew Democrats, is that they are dishonest when they talk aboutthese things. They will not tell people the truth‑‑

Mr. Speaker: Order, please.

 

Point of Order

 

Mr. Steve Ashton (Opposition House Leader): Mr. Speaker, this isour first day back after he recess, and I would have thoughtthat perhaps the Premier of all people might have taken the timewhen we were in recess to assess the way we behave in this House,and in particular not talk about dishonesty. I mean, coming fromthis government, its actions, it is horrid for members of theopposition to take comments like that, and I would like to askyou to have him withdraw that comment unequivocally.

Mr. Speaker: The honourable member does not have a point oforder. The honourable Premier did not refer to any specificmember.

The honourable First Minister, to finish his response.

 

* * *

Mr. Filmon: Mr. Speaker, it is that lack of honesty that, ofcourse, has left the New Democrats in the position they are, withno credibility. Every nickel of payroll tax deduction is basedon the dollars that are spent on training of their employees forjobs and that is exactly what we need in this province, is tohave well‑trained, capable employees for the jobs that are therein our society.

The New Democrats speak out of both sides of their mouths.On the one hand they say, spend more money on training; they say,encourage the private sector to spend more money on training, andwhen it happens they criticize it. Mr. Speaker, they cannot haveit both ways and the public knows why they have a lack ofcredibility in this province, and that is why they are where theyare.

 

* (1345)

 

Throne Speech

Education System

 

Mr. John Plohman (Dauphin): Mr. Speaker, the public knows thatthere is total neglect of children in this province by thisgovernment. That is what they know, and nowhere has it beenexemplified better than by the cuts by the Minister of Education(Mrs. Vodrey) of 2 percent, not the 2 percent she announced, butthree, four, five, six and higher cuts to divisions across thisprovince. All this, when in November in the throne speech, thegovernment said, my government realizes that education andtraining are the keys that unlock a world of opportunity and afuture of economic growth and prosperity.

Mr. Speaker, I ask the Minister of Education, what hashappened to this world of opportunity and economic growth andprosperity, and will the minister now admit that her governmenthas failed only two months later to live up even to the wordsthat she included in the throne speech?

Hon. Rosemary Vodrey (Minister of Education and Training): Mr.Speaker, I reject entirely what the member has said. Let me tellyou that this government maintains its commitment to educationand its commitment to students, and we are making sure throughwhat we have put forward and have offered to school divisions interms of options that students and their programs will beprotected.

Mr. Plohman: Mr. Speaker, how can this minister reconcile hercallous actions now with her position of December 2, '92, whenshe said: I am very pleased with what this government has putforward in relation to education in this throne speech,especially when the Antler River School Division states, in thearea‑‑

Mr. Speaker: Does the honourable member have a question?

The honourable member for Dauphin, kindly put your questionnow, please.

Mr. Plohman: I say, the failure at the school levels‑‑we seeincreased violence and I have to ask this Minister of Education,how can she stand in her place in this House when there are cutsbeing made right across this province, the many divisions in theprovince, how can she reconcile the position she took in thethrone speech only two months ago?

Mrs. Vodrey: Mr. Speaker, first of all, I would remind themember that there is a fiscal issue relating to all Canadiansthat this province is not immune to the fiscal position and thatthis province has had to make some very difficult decisions.Those are only the decisions that we are now asking school boardsto make, and we expect that they will make them in good faith.

I would also like to remind the member what I heard theLeader of the Opposition (Mr. Doer) say in the Budget Debate of1988, when he said if you are not willing to make the toughdecisions today, you will not have the money to deliver theservices tomorrow.

Some Honourable Members: Oh, oh.

Mr. Speaker: Order, please. Some things never change. Order,please. The honourable member for Dauphin has the floor.

 

* (1350)

 

Mr. Plohman: Mr. Speaker, she just admitted they are notdelivering the services.

I ask, how can this minister stand in her place and defendthe economic mismanagement of this Minister of Finance (Mr.Manness), total economic chaos which is the result of the cuts ineducation? How can the minister justify the position in light ofthis economic minister, this Minister of Finance, who has failedtotally in regard to management of the economy in Manitoba?

Mrs. Vodrey: Mr. Speaker, again, I will remind the member of thefiscal position of this country and this province and to say thatthis government has made every attempt to make very fairdecisions, very fair decisions across government. We recognizethe importance of education, and in doing so, we have maderecommendations to school divisions so that the integrity ofprograms and the programming for children will be protected.

 

School Divisions

Budget Reduction Alternatives

 

Ms. Avis Gray (Crescentwood): Mr. Speaker, I have a question forthe Minister of Education.

While performing major surgery to our educational system,this government continues to pay lip service to the importance ofeducation as we have seen in this House today. Not only have weseen the minister take a cut at public school funding, but wehave seen her come up with unrealistic ideas and suggestions toschool boards.

Can this minister enlighten the House today as to whatoptions she has suggested to the school divisions that have tocome to grips with these awful cuts?

Hon. Rosemary Vodrey (Minister of Education and Training): Mr.Speaker, I did outline several options which were put forward toschool divisions. One was an option similar to the option thatwe in government have put forward to our own employees. We didsuggest that school divisions might look at work week reduction.In addition to that, we have asked them to look at administrativecosts in the same way that we in government have and to make surethat we protect the interests of children in the classroom andcurrent programs.

 

Department of Education and Training

Administration Budget

 

Ms. Avis Gray (Crescentwood): Mr. Speaker, can the minister tellus if she will in fact be cutting her own administrative budget20 percent as she has asked the school divisions to cut?

Hon. Rosemary Vodrey (Minister of Education and Training): Mr.Speaker, that nformation will come forward with the budget.

 

Education System ReformReport

Tabling Request

 

Ms. Avis Gray (Crescentwood): Mr. Speaker, a final supplementaryfor the Minister of Education.

Can the minister tell us and is the minister prepared totable a framework to deal with educational reform? The MTS andschool trustees are waiting for this. She indicated to us beforethat in fact the process had been underway, but it was news tomost of the educational officials and organizations.

Is she prepared to table that today, or is her reform simplycut and slash?

Hon. Rosemary Vodrey (Minister of Education and Training): Theprocess of educational reform has been very important to us, andit is proceeding, Mr. Speaker, in a very organized way. In thatorganized way we have had focus groups, we have had discussionswith all of the representative groups in education. We havespoken with the teachers, the trustees, business, industry andthe MFL. We have made sure that in beginning to design ourprocess of reform we have included all of the partners, includingthe public.

St. Boniface Hospital

Pediatric Bed Closures

 

Mr. Dave Chomiak (Kildonan): My question is to the Minister ofHealth (Mr. Orchard). On February 18, the head of the minister'sown hand‑picked reform team, Bernard Blais stated, and I quote:All bed closure decisions are made by the deputy minister and theminister.

Now that this minister has completely closed the children'sward at St. Boniface Hospital, which changed from his originalannouncement that some beds would stay open and some day surgerywould remain open, can the minister advise this House when andwhy he made the decision to completely close the children's wardat St. Boniface Hospital?

Hon. Donald Orchard (Minister of Health): I am very pleased towelcome my honourable friend to the important position of criticin the ministry of Health, and I hope that my honourable friendbrings to his responsibility on behalf of the New DemocraticParty, some of the policy they might bring forward in terms ofhealth reform. Possibly they might want to share with us theprogressive initiatives in other provinces that they may or maynot be familiar with.

I know that my honourable friend the member for Kildonan (Mr.Chomiak) will approach his new responsibility with the kind ofenthusiasm that he has shown in the past, and I hope, Sir, thathe does not fall victim immediately to what I describe fondly asthe Leader's disease, although he has fallen victim to thatalready, Mr. Speaker.

To qualify, so there is no confusion, not my Leader'sdisease, the Leader of the Opposition's disease.

Point of Order

 

Mr. Steve Ashton (Opposition House Leader): Mr. Speaker,Beauchesne is very clear that answers to questions should bebrief and relate directly to the matter raised.

If the minister wants to debate health care policy in thisprovince we are more than willing anytime, anyplace, but heshould not waste the time in Question Period and should answerthe question raised by our new Health critic.

Mr. Speaker: I would remind the honourable minister, thehonourable opposition House leader does have a point of order,and I would ask the honourable minister to deal with the matterthat is raised.

 

* * *

Mr. Orchard: Indeed, and I certainly look forward to the NewDemocrats debating health policy. It will be a refreshing changein the five years I have been here.

Mr. Speaker, my honourable friend asked the question when andwhy and what was the process around decision making in terms ofconsolidation of all inpatient services for children in Winnipegto the Children's Hospital. That decision was made and wasannounced following recommendations from a number of studygroups, including the Urban Hospital Council.

I want to indicate to my honourable friend that the latestrecommendation which arrived on my desk approximately the end ofNovember indicated that when government was consolidatingservices the Urban Hospital Council recommended completeconsolidation of pediatric bed services to the Children'sHospital.

* (1355)

 

Mr. Chomiak: My supplementary to the same minister: Will theminister at least consider keeping these beds open for a periodof 18 months to two years to allow for a time period to find outwhether the consolidation which would result in only onechildren's hospital being available to 600,000 people?‑‑becauselast year on at least two occasions, Health Sciences Centre wasovercrowded and St. Boniface was alerted as a backup. We willhave no more backup, Mr. Speaker.

Will the minister, at least in the interim period, allow an18‑month to two‑year period to see if a backup is in factnecessary?

Mr. Orchard: Mr. Speaker, I know my honourable friend does notalways have all the information before him, and certainly theopportunity to receive full and complete information is notavailable, but I want to indicate to my honourable friend thatone of the pieces of incorrect information that he may have beenpredicating some of his observation on, the consolidation ofinpatient services to Children's, is the fact that this was theplan as envisioned by governments in planning the Children'sHospital since 1975. Now that is a long time to achieve a goalof consolidation of pediatrics into one hospital, but it was theplan in 1975 and will be expedited.

Mr. Speaker, I want to tell my honourable friend that sincethe Children's Hospital opened to accept children for inpatientservices in approximately 1982, a number of beds have never beenopened at Children's Hospital. With the complete confidence ofthe professionals, Dr. Aggie Bishop as head of pediatrics, we areassured that we can provide the inpatient needs of children inManitoba at Children's Hospital, utilizing only a portion of theyet unopened beds at Children's Hospital. It is with thatintegrity that we have approached this decision.

Mr. Chomiak: Mr. Speaker, with all due respect to the minister,I just do not listen to focus groups. We have been listening tothe patients; we have been listening to the parents and thenurses.

 

Health Care System

Francophone Community Services

 

Mr. Dave Chomiak (Kildonan): My final supplementary to theminister: Will the minister at least attend the public forumbeing sponsored tonight by the Societe Franco‑Manitobaine andexplain why his government is ignoring the community, is ignoringthe safety needs of children and is ignoring the Francophonecommunity?

Hon. Donald Orchard (Minister of Health): Mr. Speaker, it isregretful with the first series of questions my honourable friendhas put out that he has not told the exact truth. Now that againis a problem my honourable friend had‑‑[interjection] Well, Ihope he tells the truth‑‑

Mr. Speaker: Order, please.

 

Point of Order

 

Mr. Chomiak: Mr. Speaker, I believe that the Minister of Healthindicated that I am not speaking the truth. I object to that,and I am rising on a matter of privilege.

Mr. Speaker: For clarification, the honourable member did say heis up on a matter of privilege?

Mr. Chomiak: Mr. Speaker, I am asking that the ministerapologize for indicating that my comments were dishonest.

Mr. Speaker: The honourable member does not have a point oforder, but I would caution the honourable Minister of Health topick and choose your words very, very carefully.

 

* * *

Mr. Orchard: Mr. Speaker, I accept your caution. Sir, that isthe caution that I am giving to the member for Kildonan, becausein his preamble to the last question, he did not have his factsstraight. We have not ignored the Francophone community. Wehave not ignored the concerns of children and families inManitoba, contrary to the information put on the public record bythe member for Kildonan wherein he said that the St. BonifaceHospital will close completely to children. That is a falsepiece of information. Little wonder that families are concernedwhen the critic for the NDP is putting falsehoods on the publicairwaves.

 

CN Rail

Employee Layoffs

 

Mr. Daryl Reid (Transcona): Mr. Speaker, today we learned thatCN Rail has announced that it will reduce its workforce by 10,000people over three years in Canada. Of that, 3,000 jobs will belost this year, 1993. Manitoba stands to lose 351 of those jobsand possibly another 350 plus more.

My question is for the Minister of Highways andTransportation. Considering the historical significance ofrailway jobs to the province of Manitoba and to my community ofTranscona, what action is this Minister of Transportation takingto protect these jobs for these employees and for their families?

Hon. Albert Driedger (Minister of Highways and Transportation):Mr. Speaker, last year CN announced the potential layoffs of10,000 positions. Presently, they have 32,000 employees inCanada. Unfortunately, today, the announcement was made thatthere would be 3,000 employees laid off this year and 3,500 inthe year '94 and 3,500 in the year '95.

I got in touch with the senior people from CN this morning.Just to clarify, based on the news release they had‑‑I was notsure exactly what the impact would be‑‑and regretfully have toconfirm the fact that there will be 350 actual layoffs at CN,plus there will be 184 positions affected by a four‑day workweek. There will be another 62 that will be affected byattrition reduction and cutback on summer hiring. Mr. Speaker,also, they have indicated a further 323 positions that are goingto be laid off in western Canada during the course of the year.

What bothers me most is the fact that Manitoba is getting abigger proportion of the layoffs than the other provinces. Oursis over 7 percent. I have raised it with the officials of CN.Our position has always been that it should be fair and equitableacross the provinces if there are going to be reductions. Thishas not happened.

It is my intention to later today meet with the president ofCN as well as the CEO to discuss the fairness aspect of it, thatin the future, if there are going to be further reductions takingplace, that we get dealt with in a fair way.

 

* (1400)

 

Mr. Reid: Mr. Speaker, I thank the minister for making my pointfor me.

 

CN Rail

Retraining Programs

 

Mr. Daryl Reid (Transcona): Will the Minister of Labour explain,since two years ago I asked him and his department to intercedein this process of retraining for these employees who are facinglayoff and for those who are now finding themselves laid off,what his department, the Department of Labour, is doing toprovide skills upgrading for the employees who are laid off andthose who are now facing layoff and an uncertain future, Mr.Speaker? What actions is his department taking to provide these‑‑

Mr. Speaker: Order, please. The question has been put.

Hon. Darren Praznik (Minister of Labour): Mr. Speaker, first ofall, I indicate to the member for Transcona that the railwaysfall within the jurisdiction of Labour Canada.

Having said that, there was a particular concern that themember brought with respect to the trade certificates of thosepeople working at the railroad in that they were not transferableto other areas. At that time we put him together with ourdirector of the Apprenticeship & Training branch and I believeseveral of the officials from the unions who were involved todevelop a plan that could be used to upgrade those skills. Iunderstand there were some complications and difficulties in thatparticular process.

I indicate very clearly to him, within the budgets and theavailable resources that I have in our department, we are alwaysprepared to work with those groups to overcome thosedifficulties, but again one of the major problems of course wasit being in federal jurisdiction.

Mr. Reid: Mr. Speaker, these employees are still waiting forthis minister to act.

 

CN Rail

Retraining Programs

 

Mr. Daryl Reid (Transcona): My final supplementary is to theMinister of Education.

Since the Department of Education has anticipated thatManitoba will lose 1,700 railway jobs this decade, what action orplans does this Minister of Education have, or any member of hergovernment for that matter, to retrain the laid‑off employeesfrom the railway and to restore some sense of security for theirfamilies?

What adjustment strategy does this Minister of Educationhave, Mr. Speaker, to deal with this serious situation?

Hon. Albert Driedger (Minister of Highways and Transportation):Mr. Speaker, I think the members in the House probably are wellaware that the severance packages that the unions have negotiatedwith CN and CP are second to none in this country. My biggestregret is that these jobs are going to be lost because thepeople, by and large, who will be laid off or terminated‑‑thereare tremendous severance packages that they have worked out.

In fact, my understanding is that anybody working eight yearsor longer will receive over 80 percent of their wages until age65. They also have severance packages. My understanding fromCN‑‑and I am not defending CN's position. I am just saying thatthe employees who are affected, by and large, are not the oneswho are raising the biggest concern, because the unions havelooked after their employees well in that regard.

CN has also assured us that they are trying to look forplacement with these people. A lot of the positions that arebeing lost are basically through attrition. Mr. Speaker, I thinkCN itself was looking to see whether they can place many of thesepeople aside from what training they can get.

 

UniversitiesFunding

Reduction Impact

 

Mr. Reg Alcock (Osborne): Mr. Speaker, since this governmentcame to office they have worked steadily to transfer the costs ofeducation off the government and onto the debt loads of studentsattending our universities and colleges, and the trendcontinues. They clawed back $2 million from the universities, a2 percent cut in the support coming this year. They haveincreased the fees to international students by more than 75percent.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the Minister of Education avery simple question. What will be the impact of all of thesedecisions on students currently in programs at our universities?

Hon. Rosemary Vodrey (Minister of Education and Training): Mr.Speaker, let me start with the failure to flow the anticipatedfunds, and let me assure the House that was covered by theuniversities with their surplus. In fact, the universities stillretain a surplus therefore there was no effect on students inthat regard.

Universities were only required to share what otherManitobans have also had to share when anticipated funds did notcome into Manitoba.

In terms of visa students, Mr. Speaker, I can tell you thataction was taken to bring Manitoba in line with every otherprovince across Canada.

 

Student Financial Assistance

 

Mr. Reg Alcock (Osborne): Perhaps this minister should do somefocus group with students. Can the minister assure this Housethat we will not be moving to a loans only program in student aidthis year?

Hon. Rosemary Vodrey (Minister of Education and Training): I can certainly tell the member I spend a great deal of time withstudents and making sure that I speak to them and that theirinterests are represented in the planning of this government. Ibelieve that is evident when we acted on behalf of students andwe capped tuition at 5 percent this year.

Mr. Alcock: Mr. Speaker, the question is a serious one. Canstudents expect the same level of grant support this year as theyhave received in the past?

Mrs. Vodrey: The issues of student support are serious ones. Ihave spoken with the honourable member several times in terms ofthe Canada Student Loan Program because that is the first loanthat students are required to take when they need assistance. Inaddition, the provincial support will be considered in thecontext of our budget.

 

Universities

Quality of Education

 

Ms. Jean Friesen (Wolseley): Students in every survey and inevery interview indicate that they are very concerned about thequality of the education that they are receiving in Manitoba.

I want to ask the Minister of Education, who has assuredManitobans that the quality of education in our universities willnot suffer under the cuts she has proposed, could she tell theHouse whether she measures quality in class size, in libraryservice, in lab times and assistance, in counselling and guidanceservices, in the number of assignments and evaluations, or doesshe have some definition of quality that includes none of these,perhaps a focus group definition of quality? Will she tell ushow she intends to monitor the quality of education in Manitoba'suniversities?

* (1410)

 

Hon. Rosemary Vodrey (Minister of Education and Training):Again, the quality of education is the most important thing thatwe are dealing with in terms of students on our K‑12 side,students on our post‑secondary side, whether they are in ourcolleges or our universities or our training programs.Therefore, when the announcement was made to the universities, wealso made recommendations to the universities so that we couldpreserve programming for students. We have asked universities,in the same way we have asked ourselves in government, to look ata version of the work‑week reduction so that any reductions willnot affect students and student programming.

Budget Consultations

 

Ms. Jean Friesen (Wolseley): Mr. Speaker, the minister thinksthat reduction in hours of the staff on services is not going toaffect students. I have no idea where she gets these ideasfrom. I want to ask the minister in fact where she does getthese ideas from. Did she talk to students, faculty, parents,boards of governors or the UGC? Who advised her that hermillion‑dollar clawback and the reductions to universities nextyear will not affect the quality of education, and will she tablethose opinions?

Hon. Rosemary Vodrey (Minister of Education and Training): Mr.Speaker, let me remind the member again. When the decision wasmade to not flow the funds to universities, it was because therewas an understanding that those universities did have surplusesand the shortfall was covered by surpluses with surplusremaining. In addition to that, in this announcement, as I havetold the member already, we have asked the universities toexamine ways to not affect students and to not affectprogramming. I would wonder what the member is getting at. Isshe asking us to continually increase on the backs of students sothat others can continue to get increases while other Manitobanscontinue to take reductions?

Capital Budgets

 

Ms. Jean Friesen (Wolseley): Mr. Speaker, will the ministerconfirm that, in addition to the clawback, in addition to thecuts to next year's budget, she intends to dramatically cut thecapital and renovations grants to the universities as well?

Hon. Rosemary Vodrey (Minister of Education and Training): Mr.Speaker, I informed the universities when I met with them lastweek that the capital budget will be announced when the budget isannounced in this House.

 

Social Assistance

Child Tax Benefit

Mr. Doug Martindale (Burrows): Mr. Speaker, last year thefederal minister of health and welfare met with his provincialcounterparts in Charlottetown to discuss the new federal childtax benefit. After a public protest on the steps of the ManitobaLegislature, the Minister of Family Services finally announcedthat there would be no clawing back of this new benefit to peopleon social assistance.

Can the Minister of Family Services tell the House if heagreed in Charlottetown that Manitoba would not claw back the newchild tax benefit, especially the new $500 benefit for familieswho are working but with children?

Hon. Harold Gilleshammer (Minister of Family Services): Mr.Speaker, I can tell the member that there was a recognitionamongst the social services ministers across this country that wehave to look at all of the programs that we have in place acrossthis country. I indicated in a previous answer that we have seena 65 percent increase in the Social Allowances line over the lastthree budgets. Other provinces, including Ontario, have seen agreater increase. We have to look at the manner in whichgovernment relates to social allowances recipients and make somedifficult choices.

I would say to you that over the last numbers of budgets inManitoba, Family Services has seen consistent increases and thatthe recipients that this department is responsible for are awareof the many reforms and changes we have made to their benefit.

Mr. Martindale: Mr. Speaker, unfortunately the minister misses avery simple point, and that is, when the federal governmentimproves a program, is the provincial government going topenalize people and cut it back?

Will the minister assure working parents with children in thedaycare system that the new $500 child benefit will be excludedas income so that children, and not his government, actually dobenefit from this initiative and will not once again be penalizedby this government's actions.

Mr. Gilleshammer: Mr. Speaker, I can say that if the memberwishes to discuss daycare, this is an area of our budget that hasdoubled over the last five years, and there is a tremendousamount of provincial resources that flows into the daycaresystem. The daycare system has been well served by the changesthat have taken place.

Mr. Martindale: Once again, Mr. Speaker, the minister will notanswer the question.

Does he agree with the Premier (Mr. Filmon), who said onDecember 13, 1991, that his government would work co‑operativelywith the federal government on any program designed to eradicatepoverty with respect to children? If so, will he promise not topenalize children and allow working parents to keep the child taxbenefit and not claw it back through decreased child caresubsidies?

Mr. Gilleshammer: Mr. Speaker, in fact we have workedco‑operatively with the constituents who access this department.

I say to the member that if you want to understand therealities that are out there, I would suggest that you lookcarefully at what Premier Bob Rae is saying these days about thetreatment of social allowance recipients and the structuralchanges that we are going to have to make in this country becauseof the tremendous increases in volume. I also would have himreference new‑President Bill Clinton and the statements that hehas made on this.

I could tell you that the mood across the country, with theministers of the social allowances department, recognizes thatthere have to be fundamental changes in the system.

 

Manitoba Public Insurance Corp.

Chairman's Salary Increase

 

Mr. Leonard Evans (Brandon East): Mr. Speaker, Manitobans are inthe process of paying exorbitant increases in their Autopacpremiums even though they were misled by the Conservative Partyback in 1987 and 1988 that a Conservative government somehowmagically would roll back the rates or at least freeze them.Manitobans have had a rude awakening and are now particularlyoffended by this government's decision to increase the salary ofthe new chairman from $20,000 to $35,000 a year, a 75 percentincrease.

Will this government reverse this decision, thisunconscionable increase, today?

Hon. Glen Cummings (Minister charged with the administration of The Manitoba Public Insurance Corporation Act): Mr. Speaker, we are expecting of the new chairman a considerable increasedworkload, which he has committed to.

Under the NDP, of course, there was a minister who was thechairman of the board, the very thing that caused the downfall ofthe NDP management of Crown corporations, the continual politicalinterference.

Mr. Speaker, if the member opposite wants to reference costsof chairmen in similar positions, I suggest he should look atICBC. It seems to me that the chairman there receives somethingthree times the rate of what the Manitoba chair does.

Mr. Leonard Evans: Mr. Speaker, how can this 75 percent increasebe justified in light of the massive cutbacks to schools, tohospitals, to people on welfare, to universities, plus all of thepeople who are being laid off? How, in all fairness, can thisincrease be justified?

Mr. Cummings: Mr. Speaker, at the very time when we are lookingto put some very serious changes in the MPIC program‑‑Autopac2000 is coming forward‑‑the member should look at his colleaguesto the west, where they increased Mr. DeVito from not $10,000, to$90,000.

Some Honourable Members: Oh, oh.

Mr. Speaker: Order, please. The honourable minister, to finishthe response.

Mr. Cummings: Mr. Speaker, let not the member be toosanctimonious. We are looking for leadership and expertise atthe corporation. The retiring chair indicated that the workloadwas exceeding the amount of time commitment that had beenexpected. We are expecting an increasing time commitment fromthe new chair, and we believe we are getting good value for thedollar.

 

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Manitoba Public Insurance Corp.

Chairman's Salary Increase

 

Mr. Leonard Evans (Brandon East): Mr. Speaker, I want to ask thePremier, does the Premier approve of this unconscionableincrease, because I noticed this Order‑in‑Council is bothrecommended by the Minister of MPIC and then he signs it twice?He approves of it.

Mr. Speaker, will this Premier now repeal this unacceptableincrease that is occurring while others are being asked to take acut?

Hon. Gary Filmon (Premier): Mr. Speaker, I will repeat so thatthe member for Brandon East can understand that the new chair hasbeen asked to increase the time spent in the position to betweenthree and four times what the former chair was spending there.The new chair is a former corporate secretary of a majorinsurance company so has extensive background, a corporate legalcounsel, a corporate secretary.

Under other circumstances in British Columbia, the NewDemocratic government has increased the salary for their newappointment to chair from $10,000 to $90,000 a year with anindividual who does not have half the qualifications of thischairman of the board, so let not the hypocrisy of the NewDemocrats lead us into misinformation, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker: The time for Oral Questions has expired.

 

Speaker's Ruling

 

Mr. Speaker: I have a ruling for the House prior to recognizingthe honourable member for Crescentwood (Ms. Gray).

During Question Period on December 16, 1992, the House leaderfor the official opposition party the honourable member forThompson (Mr. Ashton) rose on a point of order regarding theuttering by the honourable Minister of Culture, Heritage andCitizenship (Mrs. Mitchelson) of the words "those are racistcomments." The words in question were used in reference to thehonourable member for Radisson (Ms. Cerilli). I took the matterunder advisement.

On November 1, 1990, I ruled in a similar matter that thephrase "potentially racist attitude" was unparliamentary. Inoted in that ruling that in our own House the phrases "smackingof racist" and "it is almost a racist assumption" had beenvoluntarily withdrawn by the member who spoke them. Further, ina very similar situation in January 1987, Speaker Fraser of theHouse of Commons ruled that a member withdraw the words "racistcomments."

I am, therefore, ruling that the honourable member forThompson did have a point of order, and I am calling on thehonourable Minister of Culture, Heritage and Citizenship to riseand withdraw the unparliamentary language, without qualification.

Hon. Bonnie Mitchelson (Minister of Culture, Heritage andCitizenship): Mr. Speaker, in the spirit of co‑operation as westart a new year in this House and according to your ruling, Iwill withdraw those statements.

Mr. Speaker: I would like to thank the honourable Madam minister.

 

MATTER OF URGENT PUBLIC IMPORTANCE

Ms. Avis Gray (Crescentwood): Mr. Speaker, I have a matter ofurgent public importance.

I move, seconded by the member for River Heights (Mrs.Carstairs), that under Rule 27 the ordinary business of the Housebe set aside to discuss a matter of urgent public importance,namely, the crisis in education funding in Manitoba.

Mr. Speaker: Before determining whether the motion meets therequirements of our Rule 27, the honourable member forCrescentwood will have five minutes to state her case for theurgency of debating this matter today. A spokesperson for thegovernment and the other opposition party will also have fiveminutes to address the position of their party.

Ms. Gray: Mr. Speaker, I rise today on this matter of urgentpublic importance to indicate to you that in fact this is thefirst opportunity that we have to raise the issue on the crisisin education funding.

We heard announcements from the minister last week and theweek preceding talking about the severe cuts that are coming toeducation in this province for this year, and given that this isthe first day that we are now resuming sitting in this House, itis very, very important that all members of the Legislature havean opportunity to discuss the issues here.

Mr. Speaker, there is no other opportunity to discuss thismatter since we do not have a budget before us and we do not knowwhen that budget will be here. We have had no Estimatesscheduled. There are no committees, or there are no otheroccasions to explore this very serious matter of educationfunding.

I believe this is a very urgent matter because school boards,as you are aware, require to submit their budgets to the city byMarch 15, and to municipalities. Therefore they are required tomake very significant decisions which will affect their studentsand the parents in the divisions in which they work. Further,the minister has arbitrarily slashed out a percentage of schooldivision budgets based on the bottom line. This is not truereform.

We definitely have a crisis here in education funding. Ithink it is very important to each of the members of theLegislature, particularly those in rural Manitoba, because thisis not a crisis which is only peculiar to Winnipeg. In fact, itwill probably affect some of the rural school divisions moresignificantly than even some of the school divisions inWinnipeg. It is very important that each member has anopportunity to discuss this crisis in education funding. Thankyou, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. John Plohman (Dauphin): Mr. Speaker, I rise in support ofthis motion here this afternoon. I am sure that not only mycaucus colleagues and the Liberal opposition who has moved thismotion, but also children, parents, students, trustees,superintendents, everyone involved with education across theprovince has been shocked by the move of the government at thepresent time, this minister and this government as a whole whohave taken the unprecedented step of cutting the funding forpublic education in this province in an unprecedented way.

We do not have another opportunity in the debate with thebills before us in this House to discuss this issue and raise theurgency that is being felt by people across this province inrural Manitoba as well as in the city of Winnipeg and the city ofBrandon, the kinds of cuts that have been taking place by thisgovernment, Mr. Speaker.

We see that the quality of education, contrary to what theminister says, is being impacted on in a dramatic way by the cutsthat she has announced. She has entrenched the inequities thathave existed throughout the system from division to division byher actions and the government's efforts to introduce a billlater on in the session that will come before this House,entrenched inequities in the system, across the system. She hasensured, contrary to what she said, that there will be massivecutbacks in services to children.

I was attempting, Mr. Speaker, during Question Period torelay the message from the Antler River School Division, a smallschool division in rural Manitoba, when they said to me, at theschool level we are seeing increased violence, problems withalcoholism, an increase in abuse and problems in family and peerrelationships. In one school we have had two student suicides insix years‑‑a Grade 6 student and a Grade 8 student‑‑both from thesame class.

This is the kind of impact that we are seeing in our schoolsas a result of the inability of the education system to cope withthe problems being thrust upon the system. This government istaking no actions in the area of reform, Mr. Speaker, to reducethose demands on the system. Instead, they are choosing to ignore them, to increase the class size, to cut the number ofprograms and teachers and let them go their own way, and if they survive, they survive, and if they do not, they do not.

This is a callous attitude toward the public educationsystem. It is an issue of the utmost importance in thisprovince, one that concerns us deeply in the opposition, and allManitobans. I believe that they would want us to raise thisissue and speak to this issue and debate this issue in the Houseon an urgent basis here today. I urge all members, thegovernment, to listen to what the opposition has to say, tolisten to what people are telling us about their draconian cuts,their deep cuts unprecedented in the public education system, Mr.Speaker.

I ask you to rule in favour of this urgent debate at thistime so that we can get on with bringing forward these concernsto the government.

Hon. Clayton Manness (Government House Leader): Mr. Speaker, the members opposite have called for the set‑aside of the ordinarybusiness of the House.

Mr. Speaker, certainly their arguments around urgency, evenwith an attempt with all the bombast associated with their calls,still have not been able to build a case for urgency.

Education funding is an important issue; all of usacknowledge that. But, Mr. Speaker, decisions have been made andrendered by the Minister of Education (Mrs. Vodrey), schoolboards are budgeting, and will be expected to do so, within therealm of those decisions. There is not a crisis. This isreality.

The member just opposite said that it is unprecedented. Heshould know that a year ago Saskatchewan announced that therewould be a 2 percent reduction. That was announced a year ago insupport of '93 funding. So the member, when he says it isunprecedented, is wrong. He is wrong in every element of hiscontribution, so I would say to you, the rules interpreted in anyrespect would not allow for a debate. Other opportunitiesinclude Estimates, coming up, budget, Interim Supply, which allflow once the budget is presented, so there will be plenty oftime to debate the issue.

However, Mr. Speaker, the schedule today probably could allowfor some debate. We say that because, although there are acertain number of bills before us that we could debate, giventhat we are coming into a period of time when one day couldpossibly be directed towards debate on important issues, I wouldsay that the government is prepared to engage in debate.

I want it fully understood that this is not to be precedentsetting, that certainly no interpretations of the rules wouldallow for a debate on this issue, given the fact that theopposition has failed to establish urgency, but given that thisis not to be taken as a precedent case, the government isprepared to debate this important issue.

Mr. Speaker: I would like to thank the honourable members fortheir advice as to whether the motion proposed by the honourablemember for Crescentwood (Ms. Gray) should be debated today. Thenotice required under our subrule 27.(1) was received.

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Pursuant to our Rule 27 and Beauchesne's Citations 389 and390, there are two conditions required for a matter of urgentimportance to proceed. First, the subject matter must be sopressing that the ordinary opportunities for debate will notallow it to be brought on early enough. Second, it must be shownthat the public interest will suffer if the matter is not givenimmediate attention.

In reviewing the Order Paper, I do not see any otheropportunities in the near future for debate on this subjectmatter. However, while I am aware that some members view thematter to be a pressing one, I am not persuaded that the issue isso pressing that the public interest will suffer if it is notconsidered today.

I understand that changes to the education funding formulawill not be implemented before the start of the upcoming fiscalyear, therefore, I am ruling against the motion.

However, despite the procedural shortcomings, which I havepointed out to the House, I note that there appears to be desireof members to debate this matter today. Beauchesne's Citation387 as well as past rulings of Manitoba Speakers take this intoaccount. I will then put the question to the House.

Shall the debate proceed? [agreed]

Ms. Gray: Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to be able to speak onthis issue. It is actually a day of sadness that we must standin this House and debate a crisis in education, because in factif this government had been managing the Department of Educationsince they came into power in 1988 we would not be in this crisistoday.

The Minister of Education (Mrs. Vodrey) spoke about the factthat tough decisions had to be made. Well, if the then Ministerof Education and the government had in fact started making somereasonable decisions in 1988 and 1989, we would not be in thisdifficult situation we are today. This government has promisedus education reform. We have yet to see any document, any shredof information, any shred of evidence that would show us that infact there is a reform process that is underway.

What should have happened in 1988 and '89 is that thisgovernment should have decided to go into partnership with theeducation officials, with the school division trustees, with theManitoba Teachers' Society, parents, parent councils,universities and decided on what is the strategy of education inthis province of Manitoba. Let us look toward a five‑year plan.Let us look toward a 10‑year plan. They failed to do that in '88or '89 and so today they are faced with a huge deficit, and theiranswer to education reform is to cut and slash. That is totallyunacceptable to Manitobans, Mr. Speaker.

Since Thursday, all of my colleagues in the caucus have beenbombarded by phone calls from people from across Manitoba,teachers, parents, school officials, people who are very, veryconcerned about what is going to happen to our education systemin Manitoba.

We have seen from this government no idea of a framework foreducation reform. The minister spoke in the fall about howreform was underway, yet when we speak to the very officials whomshe supposedly met with, they in fact said it was a nonmeeting,and they were embarrassed for senior bureaucrats because it wasobvious that the senior bureaucrats knew nothing about what thiseducation reform was supposed to be.

The minister today has spoken to us about the many optionsthat she has given school boards. Well, Mr. Speaker, the twooptions that she has talked about are, decrease youradministrative budgets by 20 percent. We have some schooldivisions where they are so small that in fact we have very fewstaff. There may be two or three staff in that school division.How does one cut that administrative budget 20 percent?

We asked the minister today in the House: Is she prepared tocut her own administrative budget 20 percent? It was veryobvious by the rote answers that she was giving us today that infact she probably is not prepared to do that. How does sheexpect school divisions to cut their administrative budgets 20percent?

I will look forward to the minister's comments today on thisparticular issue. I would like the minister to be able to tellthis House and to be able to tell all Manitobans what otheroptions she has for the school divisions to deal with the salarycuts. Some of these cuts are not 2 percent. Some of the schooldivisions will be faced with a 5.9 percent cut. [interjection]

Now, I hear the minister say, salaries. Now, Mr. Speaker,one of the things and one of the difficulties in the educationsystem today is when school divisions are forced to make cuts onsalaries or are forced to lay off teachers. What happens, andthe principals will tell you this and the superintendents willtell you this, is that seniority does count.

They will tell you, in a school division, it is good to havea mixture of teachers, teachers with years of experience and newteachers, teachers with new ideas, with fresh blood, new ideasbrought into the division. What happens when we are forced intolayoffs is in fact many of those new teachers are laid off. Youare left with experienced teachers only, and you do not get thesame quality of education that you might have if you were allowedas a school division to make those best decisions as to having amix of teachers.

Mr. Speaker, when we are talking about the crisis ineducation funding, we cannot forget the funding to post‑secondaryeducation at the university level. Now this government and thisminister have an unusual way of dealing with issues toorganizations and agencies, and they did the very same thing withChild and Family Services. They have done the same thing withhospitals.

What they have said is we are going to cut your funding. Youmake all the decisions. You have to deliver the service, but youcannot do a, b, c and d. So they have taken away their autonomyto make decisions. They have taken away the authority that theyhave. This minister has said, you cannot cut programs, youcannot lay off university professors, you cannot raise yourtuition fees more than 5 percent, but you must grapple with thesefunding shortfalls, and it is your responsibility to make surethat you have a quality education delivered.

They have said the very same things to school boards and thevery same things to school teachers. They have said, you do nothave the tools, you do not have the resources. It is liketelling a carpenter to build a house, and you have to make sureyou have the essential features in the house, but we are notgoing to give you any hammer and nails to do the job. It doesnot work that way. It cannot work that way. This minister andthis government should have been in partnership with theseuniversities, with the school divisions, with the school trusteesyears ago to say, how are we going to deal with education here inManitoba? Where do we want to be in five years? Where we arenow in 1993 is, we have no education reform, we have no strategy,we have no plan. We have an idea in the throne speech abouteducation reform, and now we hear the minister today talk aboutfocus groups and consultation. If, in fact, her government isout there doing that, then it is unbeknownst to all of theindividuals who work in the education system.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask that the government reconsider theirposition on education funding, that they sit down again with theManitoba Association of School Trustees, the school divisions,that they go out and talk to these trustees, that they talk toparents, and that they find out what people want to see ineducation, because unfortunately the real tragedy of these cutswill not be seen this year. They will not be seen next year orthe year after, but the real tragedy of these cuts will actuallybe realized in five and 10 years when it is far too late.

We are talking about a generation of children here who arenot going to see the type of education that we here on this sideof the House feel that these children should get, so we are notgoing to see the worst results this year or the next, but it isgoing to be down the road.

I would also like to say, in response to the education crisisthat we have here in Manitoba, that there are major problems outin rural Manitoba. We have school divisions that are calling inand saying they do not know how they are going to deal with thecuts to funding: Antler River, Pine Creek, a number of schooldivisions. And what of the members of the Legislative Assemblywho represent those areas? What is their response to thoseschool divisions? What suggestions and options do they have forthose school divisions?

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Twice this afternoon, Mr. Speaker, I have heard the word"reality" used, and "reality based," and the Minister of Finance(Mr. Manness) talks about, this is reality. The Minister ofFamily Services (Mr. Gilleshammer) says they base reality on whathappens in Ontario and Bob Rae. Well, I feel very, very sorryfor Manitobans and the education system if, in fact, the realityof this government is based on what happens in Ontario.

We are our own province, and we have to make our owndecisions. I would ask that the cabinet and the Minister ofEducation (Mrs. Vodrey) reconsider their shortsightedness inregard to education funding, reconsider the draconian cuts,reconsider the regressiveness of their policies in regard toeducation and that they look towards other options.

If they feel that dollars are short and that we have to bemore efficient, nobody is going to disagree with that, but youhave to plan and decide over a period of time as to how you aregoing to ensure that those reforms do occur.

So I would ask this government to reconsider, Mr. Speaker,and I look forward to the comments of the members of this House,particularly those who represent rural areas. Thank you.

(Mr. Marcel Laurendeau, Acting Speaker, in the Chair)

Mr. Plohman: This is an extremely grave situation with regard topublic education in this province. We have seen, over the lastnumber of years, a reduction in the commitment to the publiceducation system, and we have seen instead an increasing prioritybeing placed on private, elite schools in this province.

One of the reasons why this government now is short of moneyfor the public education system is because they have beenproviding increasing amounts to elite schools in this province atthe same time that they are decreasing their commitment to thepublic education system.

It has happened continuously over the last number of yearswith the elite schools receiving sometimes as much as 10 timesthe increases of the public education system under the formermember for Roblin‑Russell when he was Minister of Education andcarrying on to this minister at the present time.

It is an insidious attack on the public education system, andit has resulted in many inequities developing throughout theprovince, particularly in many of the smaller rural schooldivisions who are not able to offer the same quality of educationthat they can in some of the larger divisions, because a greaterand greater burden is being borne by local taxpayers. So if aschool division is poor in terms of their ability to raise taxesfrom property, they are not going to be offering the same qualityof education, the same variety of courses available andexperiences for the students in their area. That is theregrettable part of this whole lack of commitment to the publiceducation system.

I guess we can say we should not be surprised by thegovernment actions here this year, because they have shown us,over the last number of years, that they do not place a highpriority on education, regardless of what they said in the thronespeech, regardless of what they said in speeches, regardless ofwhat this minister said in speeches and this First Minister, thisPremier (Mr. Filmon), because in fact their actions speak louderthan words. This year that is extremely evident in everythingthat has been done so far, Mr. Acting Speaker‑‑smoke and mirrorsannouncement designed to leave the impression that the cuts werenot as deep as they were.

In fact, we have seen many divisions having cuts in the 6percent range, not 2 percent, as the minister said. Many willsuffer even greater reductions because of the fact that they havegone through a collective bargaining process with their staff andhave agreed to reasonable settlements very close to inflation,and they will have to pay those as well.

This government seems to have no regard for negotiation orconsultation or collective bargaining process that has been inplace historically in this province. They want to rule bydecree. This Minister of Finance (Mr. Manness) is known forthat. He has done it before with the civil servants. It is justa matter of who he has decided the scapegoats will be for hiseconomic mismanagement and his failure in this province. Whowill the next scapegoats be? It was the civil servants, thenurses. Now it is the teachers they determined who are the fatcats in society and shall be singled out for huge discriminatorypersonal tax increases.

Who are they trying to kid, Mr. Acting Speaker? They saythey do not increase personal taxes. Of course, we know theyhave offloaded the taxes onto the property owners, offloadedtheir responsibilities and tried to save face on their electionpromise, but have they kept their promise insofar as the personalincome taxes of individuals and groups in society? No, they havenot.

Their scapegoat that they identify is never big business.No, they will give tax decreases, tax breaks to big business, butnever will it be to the average working person in this province,and whether it be in the public sector or in the private sector,but particularly in the public sector, where they have singledout what they call fat cats for discriminatory tax increases,huge tax increases by this Minister of Finance and supported inan apologetic way by this Minister of Education.

She is, I think, not carrying out her responsibility asMinister of Education at all. It is the Minister of Financemaking the decisions for her. I think that is regrettable,because the public education system in this province needs aminister to stand up and say we cannot do this to the children inManitoba, we cannot cut back the education quality that they arereceiving.

The demands are being increased year by year by society onteachers and students in the classroom. Students are lining upto see their teachers for special help that they require becausethere are too many of them in classrooms. They cannot meet theneeds physically of all the kids in their classrooms. Thisminister stands back and allows the Minister of Finance to makethese kinds of callous deep cuts that bite deep into the qualityof education for our children. We have to put our children'sfuture first.

I found it rather ironic that the First Minister would talkabout that, and the government, in the throne speech this pastyear when they talked about the need for priority to be placed oneducation. In fact, there has been no priority placed oneducation.

When they said in the throne speech, my government realizesthat education and training are the keys that unlock a world ofopportunity and future of economic growth and prosperity; whenthe minister said she is pleased with what was in the thronespeech; when the Premier on December 10, 1992, just a few shortmonths ago, said we have been hailed for bringing forward notonly a fair and reasonable, but a sensible, way of funding forthe public schools in Manitoba; what has happened to thissensible funding model that they talked about?

It was not sensible in the first place. It wasinactionable. The school divisions have told us that, and Irefer to the Antler River School Division. The Deputy Premier(Mr. Downey) should know if he would meet with his constituentsthere, Mr. Acting Speaker, exactly what this has done to a smalldivision in southwestern Manitoba. They cannot offer near thesame course choice that the larger school divisions can offer.They are finding that program choice may mean two or threeprograms offered in the same room at the same time by the sameteacher, two or three programs going on at the same time. Inorder to ensure large enough numbers for courses‑‑they offer themto Grades 11 and 12 students together, chemistry, physics,math‑‑they are only offered every second year.

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The minister says it is not affecting the quality ofeducation. The minister said the quality of education will notbe sacrificed. She said it again today in Question Period inresponse to a question that quality of education will not besacrificed. We will protect programs. That is not true, Mr.Acting Speaker, because they are not doing it, and we seeevidence of this right across the province that the children inschools are suffering in terms of the education quality andopportunities because of this government's cut.

Let them talk about Saskatchewan. Saskatchewan has overdouble the declining enrollment rate that Manitoba has. They didnot mention that when the Minister of Finance (Mr. Manness) stoodup in his statement and said, oh, well, look at Saskatchewan,they have done it, unprecedented. We are talking aboutManitoba. We are talking about Manitoba's situation. We are nottalking about the unprecedented cuts in Saskatchewan. We aretalking about unprecedented cuts in Manitoba. These are thecustodians here. These are the decision makers. These are theactions that we are concerned about here in the province ofManitoba.

Sure, Roy Romanow inherited a massive mismanagement similarto what this Minister of Finance is in the middle of in Manitobaat the present time. There is no difference with this look‑alikeDevine that we have here in Manitoba. He is doing the samething. He is following in the same path. Even with thesedrastic cuts that he is putting in place for education, he isstill heading down that trail of doom as Devine did in hisprovince. That is why Roy Romanow was faced with the situation,but we cannot juxtapose that situation in Saskatchewan onManitoba here.

Let us deal with the situation in Manitoba. We do not havethose cuts in enrollment that they have had in other provinces.We see this government moving in a callous way towards thedestruction of the public education system. I would assert andmy colleagues would assert that the public education system is atrisk with this Conservative government. It is clear. Theevidence is clear over the last number of years. Many smallschool divisions have received less and less from the province,while the local taxpayers have tried to hike it up. Now they didnot like the message they were getting for that, and they havedecided that they are going to now move into the area of localdecision making. They are going to tell trustees what to do.They are going to make the decisions for them. Even though theywere elected on a platform of education policy and administrationin their communities, this big brother government is going tomove in and tell them what is good for their communities and whatis not. That is unprecedented, Mr. Acting Speaker, in Manitoba,as well as an infringement of local decision making.

Mr. Acting Speaker, this is an urgent matter; this is of deepconcern. The government must change its position on this fundingof education and ensure funding of inflation which their Premier(Mr. Filmon) said they would do; they promised.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Laurendeau): The honourable member'stime has expired.

Hon. Clayton Manness (Minister of Finance): Mr. Acting Speaker,it is a pleasure to rise on this very important issue. Myfriend, my colleague the member for Dauphin (Mr. Plohman), ofcourse, has just provided us one of his typical speeches. Whatis the old saying: heap big wind, but no rain; or lots of smoke,no fire?

An Honourable Member: Full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

Mr. Manness: Lots of fury, but there certainly was not muchprovided in substance to that particular presentation.

Mr. Acting Speaker, I too was disappointed with the memberfor Crescentwood (Ms. Gray) in her lead‑off presentation on thisissue.

I listened very closely to both presentations, and what isobvious is that nothing has really changed. Both carp on andon. They say that reform has been promised by this government inthe whole area of education, and they try to paint the picturethat nothing substantive is changing within that area.

Let me say what they do not say. What they do not seem tosay or acknowledge is that reform from their viewpoint cannothappen with a lesser amount of money. That says to me that, to aLiberal and to a New Democratic Party member, reform can onlyhappen if there is more money to spend. That seems to be thepresentation as I hear coming from the opposition benches.

Mr. Acting Speaker, if that is their view, then obviouslythere is not going to be a common sharing of the view as to howreform should occur. For 30 years now, governments throughoutthe land and in the western world, reform always meant moreresources being spent, but the reality is today we do not havemore resources to spend in support of reform, or even insupporting some of those good areas of public service in thepublic sense that require the same level of support.

Why not? Well, reform today is happening in many householdsand many businesses because the reality of the times is pushingreform and that reform is going to have to occur within finitebudgets. I say to you that education is no different. It cannotbe looked at in isolation. Our Minister of Education (Mrs.Vodrey) understands that. Every member of this Treasury bench,every member of this caucus understands that, and a growingnumber of Canadians and Manitobans today are understanding that,but not the dinosaurs over across the hall here.

An Honourable Member: Old‑think.

Mr. Manness: Old‑think. Old small "c" conservative‑think. Whatthat means is spend, spend and spend some more. Keep pushingback the wall. Mr. Acting Speaker, I heard a new term, and I amgoing to label‑‑every time I hear the members opposite speak, Iam going to use it on them. We hear, and it is tragic, and I amprobably going to be chastised for using it, but today there istremendous sensitivity around the term "child abuse" and thereshould be, but do you know what the members across the way arepractising? It is fiscal child abuse; in every one of theirrequests, it is that the government of the day spend more,disregard what is happening with respect to these deficits andthis growing accumulated debt. What they are saying to thechildren of today is, tomorrow we are going to steal the fruitsof your labour, and we are going to steal all of the energies youput into earning those fruits.

I say to the members opposite shame, because it is old‑think,it is out of step with the realities of today.

Mr. Acting Speaker, I hear the dinosaur from Dauphin talkingand talking and yipping and yapping, and all of the taunts arenot going to be able to change the reality of our bottom line andare not going to be able to help one dollar in dealing with theinterest on the $4 billion that the members across the wayaccumulated in such a period of time.

Mr. Acting Speaker, what I find interesting is, in ourbudgets between '90 and '93 we devoted on a yearly basis anadditional 5.5‑6 percent every year, $22 million every year, toEducation‑‑6 percent a year, more or less, in the last fourbudgets, year over year over year over year. By the way, theLiberals voted against every one of those budgets and so did theNDP.

How did we do this? Well, this is how we did it. We hadsome decent success on the provincial debt side. We changed someborrowing around. We had some favourable interest rates. Withthose savings, where did they go? Did they go into theDepartment of Natural Resources? No. Did they go intoHighways? No. Did they go into the Department of NorthernAffairs? No. Did they go into Urban Affairs? No. Where didthey go? They went into Health. They went into Education. Theywent into Family Services, Mr. Acting Speaker. That is wherethose savings went‑‑$100 million a year increase into Health, $20million a year increase into Education. The member says that iswrong. Well, I guess it must have been, because they votedagainst it‑‑voted against it.

So the issue today is not that we have not put enough moneyin, because we have put every dollar in that we could. The issuetoday is sharing.

Who should escape? Now the member for Dauphin said thatteachers should escape. He is saying to Peter Olfert, no, youtake it on the chin, and the civil servants, you take it on thechin, but the teachers should escape.

How real is the problem? Well, I look around in the businesscommunity today and I know two things. I know that the corporatetax when we inherited government was $200 million. Today, thebusiness community is contributing in corporate tax around $100million. So who is paying the tax? I know also that there areindividuals working for private business today who arevoluntarily rolling back their wages. Why? Because they want tomake a contribution to the bottom line, not like the‑‑oh, Icannot say this term, Mr. Acting Speaker‑‑not like my honourablefriend the member for Dauphin.

Mr. Acting Speaker, had we wished to attack school divisionsand had we wished to attack the teaching community, we could havedone so in Bill 70, because the powers were there. The powerswere built right into the legislation. We chose not to because,in fairness, we said to the education community, particularly thepublic school system, you have these powers, you are autonomouswith respect to your ability to tax and so we chose not to. No,we certainly did have the legislation built into Bill 70, I sayto the member for Kildonan (Mr. Chomiak).

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Mr. Acting Speaker, we will attack nobody but, in fairness toMr. Olfert and the Manitoba Government Employees' Union, we willask everybody to share. As far as we can push our model, we willpush it. We will push it into the public school system to theextent that we can, in fairness to everybody who is carrying sucha portion of the load.

Now, Mr. Acting Speaker‑‑and I only have a minute left‑‑Iknow what is happening in Saskatchewan and I give them credit. Iunderstand the situation they inherited, and I throw no criticismat the Romanow government for announcing a year ago that theywould be reducing support to public schools by 2 percent‑‑nocriticism meant. My involvement in reaching the decision and theNDP portrayal that I am the bad guy is OK with me. I have thickskin, I can take it, but I think it is terribly unfair to theMinister of Education, our minister, who in all respects has beenreaching out to the education community, who is so sincere in herattempts to have everybody work towards the common good.

So I welcome this debate, Mr. Acting Speaker, and I hope Ihave an opportunity over the course of many other speeches to layout for members opposite the reality of the situation today ineducation and, indeed, in the fiscal standing of the province asa whole.

Thank you.

Mr. Reg Alcock (Osborne): I would like to start maybe bythanking the Minister of Finance for one thing, and that isencouraging this debate, because I think it is a very importantdebate.

I think, Mr. Acting Speaker, I would like to start by tryingto frame this one in a slightly different way. These are toughtimes. Nobody denies that. Nobody denies that a government hasto make tough choices but, when you make those tough choices, youdo it by looking carefully at your resources and preserving thosepriorities that are of paramount concern to your government ifyou believe that.

Now, Mr. Acting Speaker, in throne speech and budget speechover and over and over again, this government has talked aboutthe priority of education. They have used words about qualityand accessibility, equity, flexibility, responsiveness. In thebudget speeches, this same Minister of Finance has talked aboutthat it is one of the government's primary priorities to preservehigh standards of education. Yet they have failed their own test.

Mr. Acting Speaker, I attended, along with other members ofthe House, a workshop by the technology council, the new flagshipof the economic program of this government. What was thediscussion there over and over and over again? It was tostrengthen education. It was to build a base so that we could becompetitive internationally in knowledge‑based industries. Thatis what this government was proposing in those workshops as wellas in this House and that was the position that this governmenthad chosen to place education in.

So what are their activities? Since they have come tooffice, they have worked steadily to transfer the costs ofuniversities onto the debt loads of students. They have allowedtuition fees increases that have totalled more than 80 percentsince they came into office. They have reduced the supportavailable through grant programs to students so that students, ifthey are going to be able to go, have no choice but to assume ahigher debt load.

They have held their support for universities to the 2‑2.5percent range despite what the Minister of Finance said in thisHouse. The facts are very clear, Mr. Acting Speaker. As aresult, students are picking up more and more and more of theburden, and we all know what that does. It means that fewerstudents go and only certain types of students can go. Onlystudents who have the financial capability to withstand thosetremendous increases can go to university.

That is unfortunate, because we all hurt. We all lose whenwe fail to look to the future. The Minister of Finance made lotsof brave statements about the future and our children's future.Our children's future is predicated upon a strong and creativeeducational process in this province, and that is the very thingthat they are attacking and have been attacking in post‑secondaryeducation for five years. This is not a new thing. This ismore. It is a little harder, it is a little deeper, but this hasbeen going on since this government came into office.

Mr. Acting Speaker, they took back at year‑end over $2million from the universities. Now how does a university makethat up in the final quarter of its year? That means a very hugecut in its ability to provide services, in its repair andrenovations programs.

In the University of Manitoba there are buildings fallingdown around the students' heads. There is a basement dropped outof the architecture building there, and rats and mice are cominginto the library steadily. This government knows about it, butit has refused to provide the support to do the capital repairsnecessary.

Also, this government this year‑‑it will be very interestingto see what they do with capital because the belief is that therewill be no capital this year, zero. Where are the universitiesgoing to find that $3 million? Are they going to continue totake it out of the mythical surpluses that this Minister ofFinance keeps identifying? Are they going to continue to find itby reducing the fat? There is no fat in these universitiesanymore. That fat left a long, long time ago.

I would invite the minister or any member of the governmentto go in, as I have done, and sit down with the students thereand talk to them. Sit with the students in the Tache residenceas I did the other night. In fact, a great many of thosestudents are from rural Manitoba. They come from the communitiesthat these ministers used to represent and now have chosen toignore. And what do they say about it? They talk about sittingin lecture halls that they are so crowded into because of theneed to cut back on classes, because of the cuts that have takenplace, that they are sitting two and three at a desk. They aresitting in the aisleways, they are sitting on the stairways.

They talk about an increase in machine marking of papersbecause there are no longer the teaching assistants to help out.They talk of complete absence of seminars or any kind ofdiscourse among students because there simply are not theresources available to do it.

They talk about it taking an increasingly long period of timeto get feedback from their professors, feedback that is sodesperately needed if they are going to improve, because theprofessors simply do not have the time to give individualizedfeedback. They do not have the teaching assistants to do it, andit is all they can do to keep up with teaching a class when classsizes are moving to the 200, 300, 400 level.

It is absolutely disgraceful that a government that putsforward as a major plank in strengthening this province, putsforward education, puts forward knowledge creation, and then notonly does not do anything to support it, but in fact undercutsit, in fact plays cheap political games over and over again.

This Minister of Education (Mrs. Vodrey) is more interestedin the response to her focus group and public opinion and herpolitical management than she is in the educational management inthis province, than she is for the development and support forour universities.

I want to talk about something else that I just found soincredibly appalling in the discussions or in the announcementsin the last little while. This government has played the game ofhiding behind the Universities Grants Commission for some time,but it came out from behind that cloak when it said, and you willraise the fees for international students 75 percent.

It cast aside any pretence that there was an independentarbiter making these decisions and ordered the universities to dosomething. Between the 5‑percent cap that it is allowing onstudent fee increases and the 75 percent it is ordering forinternational students, they will face an 80 percent increase.

I would like you just to stop and consider that for a minutefrom a couple of perspectives. Major universities in this worldwork hard to get a mixed student body. They work extremely hardbecause they know that part of the educational experience takesplace in the classroom, and part of it takes place in thediscussion groups among students outside of the classroom. Thosediscussions and those experiences and that learning is enhancedif you have a range of opinions and a mix of experiences, and ifyou can get an international mix, so much the better.

Harvard University, one of the best universities in theworld, works very hard to ensure that in all of its programsthere are students from all over the world represented, becauseit believes that is the way you give a very high‑class, a veryworld‑class education.

What are we doing? We are attacking the very people who dothat. We are launching an attack on those students who not onlydo not take jobs away from Manitobans because they cannot workwhen they come to this country as a condition of their visa, whobring in large sums of money to pay for the fees and their livingexpenses and everything else, they bring cash into this province,who provide us with linkages back into their home countries andwe talk about it, at least we give lip service to the fact thatwe want to be international exporters and we want to developstrong links and play in the global economy. What are we doingnow? We are rejecting 1,400 people who have the ability to dothat. This is the most shortsighted, stupid decision I have seenthis government make since it came to office, and they have madea lot of them.

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I am in a sense sort of at a loss as to how to deal with it,because when you listen to the language that comes out and thestatements that are made about how you produce strength withinyour community‑‑and sometimes this government likes to deal withsome more folksy analogies. I mean, if you think back to how theWest was settled, one of the first things people did once theygot their communities built was build a school to educate for thefuture, because they knew that it was by giving people aneducation and giving them skills to be competitive and givingthem skills to grow with that we built a stronger community.

This government, instead of prioritizing, instead of saying,look, we have to make some hard choices and here is an area thatwe are going to protect because it is so important to our future,has chosen to attack it. That has to be an unacceptable decisionin this province. We simply cannot allow a government to act inthat fashion if we are to remain strong as a province and if weare to grow and become competitive internationally in the waythat this government says it wants to be. They ought to readtheir own throne speeches, their own budget and act in accordancewith them instead of spending all their time in their focusgroups listening to the opinions of those people and only thosepeople who they believe will vote for them. I do not believe anyManitoban will support this decision.

Hon. Glen Cummings (Minister of Environment): Mr. ActingSpeaker, I appreciate the opportunity to rise to enter into thisdebate on education finance as the opposition has chosen to raisethe issue.

Frankly, this is one of those issues that grips governmentprobably more closely than any other. We all have children, weall recognize the value of education and the importance ofmaintaining that quality education in this province and acrossthe country. Mr. Acting Speaker, to hear the kind of criticismand debate that we are getting from across the way does nothingmore than indicate that they are totally bereft of ideas. Theyhave been able to criticize because they think there are dollarsthat should have been spent in a different way in differentareas, but not once have they raised the issue of where thosedollars would come from or why there may not be enough dollarsavailable to expand in the way that we would probably want tospend.

Mr. Acting Speaker, I have spent a number of years as atrustee in a school division, and if there is one thing that isvery near and dear to various communities across this province,all the communities across this province but particularly in therural areas where we have seen a drop in population, where wehave been faced with difficult decisions as have some divisionsin the city where they have actually had to contract their numberof schools, they have invariably found that in dealingforthrightly and fairly with the problem that faces them thatthey are able to bring forward a plan that indeed probablystrengthens the educational opportunities within their divisionsafter they have taken a look at their priorities and reorganizedtheir affairs. When one asks the question, what are the optionsthat are available to the school divisions today, what are theopportunities that they can use to strengthen and underpin thequality of education which we believe is an expected standardacross this province, it really comes down to the recognition bythis government that local authority and that close local inputof the trustees is what makes the difference in terms of decisionmaking around educational opportunities within the variousdivisions. We cannot continue to turn a blind eye to theproblems that have been associated with educational finance as wesee a shrinking revenue base and as we see long‑term results ofpassing on educational costs to property.

Mr. Acting Speaker, the local municipalities for years havetalked about the accountability of school divisions. They raisedthat issue with me a number of times when I was responsible formaking these decisions at the local level. They said, how manytimes do you as a trustee get a call about the education taxes?They asked, how often do you really feel that you have been heldaccountable for the decisions that you have made? You know, aslong as those decisions were being made without regard to wherethe dollars were going to come from and without regard to thereality of some of the costs that we are being faced with, astrustees, we did not receive a great deal of criticism, but assoon as we were faced with the reality of having to contract someof the services because the students were no longer there, wewere faced with some very severe questions and some difficultoptions.

We did not always have the support of the government inproviding options in how we might deal with those situations,because in the minds of the opposition and in the mindset overthe last 20 years, Mr. Acting Speaker, the only problem withdecision making around educational finance has been whether ornot each level of government has been putting forward enoughdollars to cover what the expected costs are. We have to makesure, as we deal with the educational program in this province,that we remember that we are protecting the future of ourleaders, protecting the futures of our thinkers, our workers, ourmanagers. The young people and the minds in this province areour most important resource, but they have to have a future tolook forward to.

When we look at the impacts of continuing to pass on fundsbeyond our ability to bring in revenue, we know that we cannotcontinue to add the equivalent of a half a billion dollars worthof debt annually without recognizing what the real cost, just ofthe interest, will be to those people who are presently in theschool system. We are robbing from our children, and we cannotcontinue to do that.

When we look at the alternatives, we know that we have somevery resourceful and very capable administrators out there in theschool divisions. We have already seen the reaction from anumber of them that they believe they can deal with the fundingthat has been presented them, that they know within their ownorganization that they have options. They know that they havethe support of this minister and this government when they goforward to decide what are the best and most viable optionswithin their division.

When they look at the options that are available, Mr. ActingSpeaker, it does not mean that this government has given them atemplate. What it means is that we have given them the choicethat they may choose which direction to place their emphasis,which are the most important aspects in their school divisionthat they are prepared to support and make adjustments.

While it varies from division to division, there has been anumber of divisions that have indicated that they do have somesurplus. I know personally of one school division that has asurplus left from their transportation budget. Mr. ActingSpeaker, that goes back to decisions, albeit efficient decisionsthat they have made, but decisions that they have made to suittheir community and properly serve the students of that community.

I think that is the emphasis I want to put on my comments.The relative ability of school divisions may vary somewhat fromdivision to division to respond, but there have been adjustmentsmade in the formula that recognize those nuances betweendivisions. I have had a number of school divisions that havesaid to me, it is about time that somebody recognized thosedifferences and included them in the formula, because now, evengiven the restrictions that we now are being faced with in thisprovince, we have a better ability to react, and we are beingrecognized for some of the specific situations that arise betweenschool divisions. That indicates there is a willingness andthere is an understanding and there is an ability out there onthe part of the school division leadership to be able to workwith us in dealing with this public funding issue.

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Mr. Acting Speaker, it comes down to the simple questionsthat the public ask from time to time as they look at the schoolsystem. Each area has its nuances, as I said, but when we lookat some of our rural divisions and we see that 30‑passenger busesare empty, virtually empty until they arrive within a mile or twoof their destination and they start to pick up some of the ruralsubdivision students, when we look at situations where we haveclassroom sizes that have to be offset by the realization thattremendous distances are involved in travel, school divisionswill be wrestling with these demons the same today as they havedone before.

Mr. Acting Speaker, the decisions that have been made and thefunding proposals that have gone forward are made with an eye tomaking sure that we have a supportable system in the future,because we cannot look at our children and tell them that theywill have to pick up the cost of our excess. We have to makesure they have the underpinning that is required for theireducational opportunities. We have accomplished that.

I believe that when this year has finished this governmentand this Minister of Education (Mrs. Vodrey) will be givenconsiderable credit for the fact that they have been able to, invery tough economic times, establish a funding regime and asupport mechanism that means that our children will get the verybest education within our ability to raise funds to deal with it.

Mr. Acting Speaker, let not the opposition say that this is asituation where you have to fund more, because the opportunitiesare now reduced, and the taxpayers, who are expected to pick upmore, are no longer able to produce those dollars. Thank you.

House Business

Mr. Manness: Mr. Acting Speaker, I wonder if I might have leavejust to make a House business announcement. It will take 20seconds.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Laurendeau): Does the honourableMinister of Finance have leave to make a House announcement?[agreed]

Mr. Manness: Mr. Acting Speaker, I would like to formallyannounce that the Standing Committee on Public Utilities andNatural Resources will meet on Tuesday, March 2, 1993, at 7:30p.m., to consider the 1992 Annual Report of the Manitoba EnergyAuthority and the 1992 Annual Report of the ManitobaHydro‑Electric Board.

Also, the Standing Committee on Public Accounts will meet onThursday, March 4, 1993, at 10 a.m., to consider Volume 3 ofPublic Accounts '91, Volumes 1, 2 and 3 of Public Accounts '92and the Report of the Provincial Auditor for the fiscal yearended March 31, 1992.

Mr. Acting Speaker, I would also like to announce thatinformally I had indicated that the Standing Committee onEconomic Development would meet on Thursday, March 4, at 10 a.m.,to consider the '92 Annual Report of the Communities EconomicDevelopment Fund. Unfortunately, I have to postpone thatmeeting, and I will try and arrange a date for next week forCEDF. Thank you.

Committee Changes

Mr. George Hickes (Point Douglas): May I have leave to make acommittee change?

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Laurendeau): Does the honourable member have leave for committee changes? [agreed]

Mr. Hickes: I move, seconded by the member for Wellington (Ms.Barrett), that the composition of the Standing Committee onPublic Utilities and Natural Resources be amended as follows:Flin Flon (Mr. Storie) for Transcona (Mr. Reid) for Tuesday,March 2, 1993, for 7:30 p.m.

I move, seconded by the member for Wellington (Ms. Barrett),that the composition of the Standing Committee on Public Accountsbe amended as follows: Concordia (Mr. Doer) for Elmwood (Mr.Maloway) for Thursday, March 4, 1993, for 10 a.m.

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Mr. Jerry Storie (Flin Flon): Mr. Acting Speaker, I stand insupport of this resolution, and I intend in my few minutes that Iam allocated to explain why very clearly to this Assembly.

The government of course is wont to use rhetoric in supportof whatever action it might take, but the government needs to bereminded from time to time about the commitment it made on manyoccasions to the people of Manitoba. Earlier today in QuestionPeriod my Leader read back into the record the comments of theFirst Minister (Mr. Filmon) when it came to the government'scommitment to education, to health, to services that were goingto protect the children of this province.

Mr. Acting Speaker, although we all recognize that thegovernment is facing some uncertain financial times, there aremany of us and many Manitobans who believe that thosecircumstances are in the main of their own making, that they arenot hapless victims in this circumstance, that they have to takesome responsibility‑‑I am not saying all responsibility‑‑theyhave to take some responsibility for the circumstances we face inthis province. They have to take responsibility not only fortheir own fiscal mismanagement of the affairs of the province ofManitoba, they have to take responsibility for theirphilosophical approach to government, to economic development andthe delivery of services.

Mr. Acting Speaker, we have heard time and time again membersof the front bench and the First Minister talk about standingaside, talking about letting the private sector be the engine ofgrowth. We know that they have supported philosophically andpractically on many occasions initiatives of the federalConservative governments, governments who are philosophically thesame as this government, whether it is deregulation‑‑I see theMinister of Highways and Transportation (Mr. Driedger) smiling.Of course, the Minister of Highways and Transportation knowsbetter than most in this Chamber how damaging, how destructivefederal transportation policy has been for the province ofManitoba and this country, whether it is deregulation of theairlines, deregulation in the transportation sector, whether itis the abandonment of our national transportation institutions.We have lost thousands and thousands and thousands of jobs.

What is the connection? What is the connection between thedestruction of the industrial base of our country and theproblems the Minister of Finance (Mr. Manness) and his governmentand that group are having financing education and health care andthe social services Manitobans have come to rely on? What is theconnection? The connection, Mr. Acting Speaker, is the fact thatif Manitobans are not here working, if they are leaving thisprovince, if they are fleeing this province, if our populationcontinues to decline, if Manitobans are not working, if they arenot contributing through the tax system to revenue to thegovernment of Manitoba, the province goes broke.

Mr. Acting Speaker, that is the problem that the Minister ofFinance and his government have. That is the problem thatconservative, right‑wing governments have had for the last decadeand more in the industrialized world, the simplistic fixation onreducing spending as a means of solving the deficit problem orcreating new economic activity.

I have just spent the last two, three months meeting peoplein Chambers of Commerce, economic development groups,small‑business people all over the province. I have been inBrandon and Russell and Dauphin and Gimli and Steinbach andEmerson and Carman and other places‑‑[interjection] Not inEmerson. I am sorry. I meant Carman, not Emerson. I willclarify that‑‑in Lac du Bonnet as well. I was in Portage laPrairie not more than a couple of weeks ago meeting withrepresentatives of the R.M. and the town. The turnout in Portagela Prairie was thin, Mr. Acting Speaker, but I want to say thatthe turnout in Lac du Bonnet and the turnout in Carman wasexceptional.

What I want to say is that this government is not a haplessvictim. It has been for the last five budgets the master of itsown destiny. The problem is that no conservative government inthe world has ever reduced the deficit by cutting spending as itssole means if that is all it did. It did not work for MaggieThatcher. It did not work for Ronald Reagan. It did not workfor George Bush. It did not work for Brian Mulroney, and it hasnot worked for Gary Filmon. Gary Filmon inherited a surplus andnow has the highest deficit. If the Minister of Finance wants toget up and contend that the Provincial Auditor is lying ormisleading the House, this government inherited a surplus. Thatis what they inherited, a surplus. The Provincial Auditor of theProvince of Manitoba will confirm that to any member who doubtsthat‑‑any member.

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An Honourable Member: We chopped $150 million out of yourspending, out of that budget.

Mr. Storie: Mr. Acting Speaker, there is the only thing theMinister of Finance fixates on: We cut another $150 million.

I have just told you, show me a government where cuttingspending alone solved the deficit problem. There is no suchthing.

Brian Mulroney's Conservative government in Ottawa came intogovernment promising to control the deficit. They controlled thedeficit by cutting spending. I ask you the question, is thedeficit in Canada lower today than it was in 1984? Just like inthe province of Manitoba, deficits continue to escalate, debtcontinues to escalate.

I ask you to refer to the Minister of Finance's Third QuarterReport. This province is a billion dollars deeper in debt ongeneral government programs today than it was nine months ago.March 31, 1992, the general debt of the Province of Manitoba wasapproximately $5.2 billion. As of December 31, 1992, theprovincial direct debt was approximately $6.1 billion.

Mr. Acting Speaker, this fixation is not working. It is notworking in the economy. The more difficult, the more alarmingcircumstance around this is the impact it is having on oureducation system, on our health care system, on our daycaresystem, on the unemployed, on the people on welfare lines acrossthe province. Those institutions and those groups are feelingthe impact of this particular government's policies and itscomplicity when it comes to federal government policies which areunfortunately in the same vein.

Mr. Acting Speaker, I want to relate the education cuts to myown constituents. When the previous Minister of Educationannounced the new formula and the sort of transition grants, Igot calls from divisions all across northern Manitoba. Thecommunity of Leaf Rapids is perhaps the best example, but I referthe Minister of Northern Affairs to his own constituency, theAntler River School Division, where they noted that they werelosing some $800,000 out of a $4.5‑million budget as a result ofthis government's new education finance program. What galledthem more than anything was the fact that during the same periodthis government has been in office, private school funding hasincreased 150 percent.

Mr. Acting Speaker, it is not fair. It is not honest and itis not honourable for anybody on that side to suggest that thereis not money available to support the public school system. AsBrian Mulroney said to Pierre Trudeau in the debate in 1984, you,sir, had a choice. This Minister of Finance (Mr. Manness), thisMinister of Education (Mrs. Vodrey), this government had achoice, and they chose to support private schools as opposed tothe 195,000 students who attend public schools. Mr. ActingSpeaker, what is going to be the damage? The damage is to thechildren of Manitoba, and that is the problem.

Hon. Jim Ernst (Minister of Urban Affairs): I am pleased to beable to participate in this very important debate.

I listened to the member for Flin Flon's (Mr. Storie) normaldiatribe, patterned very closely after the member for Dauphin(Mr. Plohman), who spoke earlier in this debate. Mr. ActingSpeaker, neither one of them are in the real world. Both of themhave had their heads stuck in the sand, I think, for the pastfive years. They do not understand what is going on around them,and they have not paid any attention to it. They still thinkthat simply throwing money at something is the way to solve theproblem. They think that simply putting more money against aneducation system is going to solve the education problems of thisprovince, and it is not.

For the edification of both of those members, I would like topoint out that things have been changing in the world aroundthem. They may not have noticed, Mr. Acting Speaker, but therehas been not just a recession but a global restructuring ofeconomic activity in every country throughout the world. Theymay not have noticed, but there have been major plant closingsand layoffs. They may not have noticed that, but the fact of thematter is, major restructuring has been going on in the worldwithin the private business sector of every economy. Certainlywithin the free world at least and even within the Eastern Bloccountries, major changes have been occurring.

The fact of the matter is that we have had employee groupscome forward and say to their employers, look, we understand thatthere is global restructuring going on. They have recognized it,and they have said, how can we get involved in this process so wecan preserve our jobs? Simply saying, no, we are going to liveup to the letter of our collective agreement‑‑they have comeforward and said, look, let us participate, let us help you; letus help the business survive so that we can survive, so that wecan have those jobs that we want so desperately.

Mr. Acting Speaker, we have seen employee groups come forwardand do that. It is happening today in the province of Alberta,where the employees of Safeway recognize that Safeway is in amajor competitive war with the Superstore, and they have comeforward and said, we want to preserve our jobs, so let usparticipate in this process.

Mr. Acting Speaker, the private household has also gone onthat same track. The private household today has to look at howit can restructure itself because of the taxation load that itfaces, reduced incomes that it faces. We had during the '70s14‑15 percent growth rates in income. In the '80s that droppedby half to about 7 percent. In the '90s it is down around 2percent. We have to recognize those days of simply spend, spend,spend, spend, spend are no longer with us and that we have to tryand make due with either more innovative ways of spending themoney that we have or trying to find other ways around the factthat we are not going to have the kind of level of growth, thelevel of incomes that we experienced in the '70s and the '80s.

Unfortunately, the public sector cannot escape the fact thatrestructuring is required. Restructuring in the public sectorhas lagged considerably behind what has been going on in theprivate sector both on a personal basis and on a business basisover the past five years or so. The public sector has torecognize also that restructuring is required if we are going tosurvive, if we are going to provide the basic services that arerequired by the people of this province in some reasonablemeasure.

Even the Leader of the national NDP party has recognizedthat, Mr. Acting Speaker. Interestingly enough, the membersopposite have not yet, but their national Leader at least has nowcome to recognize that simply ignoring the deficit, ignoring thehuge legacy of debt that is being loaded upon the rest of thepeople in this country, has recognized now that cannot be simplyignored, has recognized now that we have to deal with the deficitand you cannot spend your way out of this particular problem andthat artificial stimuli in the economy simply increase the debt.Even the national Leader of the NDP has recognized that. So I amhoping that eventually the members opposite here will also cometo their senses and understand what has gone on.

Mr. Acting Speaker, as indicated by the Minister of Finance(Mr. Manness), there has been more money spent on education overthe past 10 years, year by year by year, than ever before. Yet,go out and talk to the public and see if they say they have abetter standard of education today than they had five years agoor 10 years ago or 15 years ago. Ask them if their kids canspell better. Ask them if they really think they have a betterquality of education today, and I suspect that a great many ofthose people would say no. I certainly get lots of complaintsabout the level and the quality of education that their childrenare receiving. That is in spite of all the money that has beenthrown against it, in spite of the hundreds of millions ofdollars that have been spent on education in this province.

If throwing hundreds of millions of dollars at it has notsolved the problem, then maybe there is something else we need tobe doing, not necessarily throwing money at the problem, which isthe answer of the members opposite in this House. The fact ofthe matter is, we have to look at different ways of doing it,different, more innovative ways of dealing with it. Dealing withthose innovative ways within the context of what we haveavailable leads us to the current problem we have today, but wehave to deal in fairness. We cannot simply say to one particularsector, you should bear all the brunt of the fact that revenueshave declined, that the entire world is restructuring in terms ofits economy and so on.

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We should not say simply if Education is to go and receivemore money, do we cut the grants then to the City of Winnipeg inhalf? Do we close up our provincial parks system? Do we abandonour highways infrastructure? Do we go and say, lay off 500 or1,000 public servants? I do not think those are the answers. Ithink we need to deal with the question of fairness, and thatquestion of fairness is, how do you deal overall governmentexpenditures?

I have sat now through six budget processes for theprovincial government since we came into office in 1980. I sitevery week in Treasury Board dealing with the spending programsof the government. I have not seen one program that has comeacross my desk at Treasury Board that does not have redeemingvalue, that is not of some benefit to somebody somewhere. Butthe fact of the matter is we do not have the luxury of being ableto do that anymore. The fact of the matter is that we havesignificantly reduced revenues.

We had just an announcement last week from the federalgovernment that says, we have already paid you $139 million toomuch, and we want it back‑‑spread over a period of time, Iunderstand, and thank goodness for that. But the fact of thematter is that significant sums are also required to be returnedto the federal government throughout the system, so that simplycompounds the problem that we are facing here with our budgetaryprocess.

(Mr. Speaker in the Chair)

So if education is to receive more, who is going to receiveless? Who is going to lose their job because of that? Who isgoing to be unemployed and be able to go home and tell theirfamily that they no longer have a job because the government didnot deal with it in a fair way?

Our government has said we want to deal with it in a fairway, and we want to deal with it with provincial civil servants,but, Mr. Speaker, those provincial civil servants represent asmall portion of the people who are employed through theexpenditures of the provincial government. Eighty‑five percentof the Education dollar goes towards salaries. Throughout ourmedicare system, hundreds of thousands of people are employed inthat system through municipalities that receive benefits inpayments and grants from the provincial government.

There are all kinds of other organizations that exist ongovernment grants of one form or another that ultimately go topay wages and salaries.

So we said‑‑and I commend the Minister of Finance for leadingthis initiative‑‑we want to try and spread that problem, thatpain, if you will, amongst all of the people benefiting fromprovincial government expenditures, not just one group, buteveryone. So we try and carry that forward on a fair andreasonable basis, and that is exactly what we are in the processof doing.

The members opposite, Mr. Speaker, get excited over the factthat Education has been reduced in terms of the totalexpenditures related to its budget line. It is a nominalreduction overall, and when that nominal reduction overall iscarried throughout the system it spreads the impact reasonablyand fairly. Thank you.

Mrs. Sharon Carstairs (Leader of the Second Opposition): Mr.Speaker, I join in the debate because I really do believe thateducation is in a crisis in the province of Manitoba. I want toaddress very specifically some comments that have been made bymembers of the government today, and I want to begin with theMinister of Finance.

He talked about a phrase, and he called it fiscal childabuse. I think that is an inappropriate use of words, because Ido not think one uses child abuse with respect to the fiscalconstraints upon any government, but if we are talking aboutchildren and the problems that they will inherit, then obviouslyone must consider that they will inherit a deficit and a debt forthe province, but I would suggest to the Minister of Finance (Mr.Manness) that the only way that they will be able to deal withthat as young people, because they are going to inherit some ofit anyway, will be if they have the ability to find employment.

Statistic after statistic, study after study shows us veryclearly that the only ones that will be capable of findingemployment in the 21st Century are those who have a qualityeducation, and the higher their level of education, the greaterthe opportunity there will be for them to find employment.School dropouts will find themselves almost unable to findemployment and will live on social assistance for most of theirlife unless we find a way to provide them with upgrading. Highschool graduates will also find it not easy to find employment inthe 21st Century. Those in post‑secondary educationinstitutions, including our universities, will have a bettertime, but it will not be free for them either.

One only has to look at recent statistics in Canada, to lookat professionals and find out for example that in the lawprofession at the present time 8 percent of the lawyers in thiscountry are unemployed‑‑8 percent. So the educationqualifications in and of themselves will not be sufficient, butif they do not have those educational qualifications then theiropportunities will almost be nonexistent. So we have to ensurethat we have a first‑class education system that givesopportunities for young people to maximize their potential withinour society.

The Minister of Housing (Mr. Ernst) said, we cannot just keepthrowing money at it. Well, I would suggest that there are waysin which we can in fact bring about fiscal control of education.One way to do that would be to do what this government promisedto do in 1990, which is to undertake a fundamental restructuringof school division boundaries in the province of Manitoba, butthey decided to back out of that last year. The reality is thatwe have far too many school divisions in the province ofManitoba. We have far too many school trustees, all of whom getpaid money, and when we can eliminate those unnecessary positionswe will indeed save money. We will save money on trustees. Wewill save money on school division superintendents.

You know, it is interesting that the minister seems to wantto debate this issue on education from her perspective of havingformerly been a school trustee. I wonder what she thinks of thatposition now, looking at the cuts which are being made to herformer school division, which are going to make it impossible forthe level of education in that school division to be maintained.The reality is that unfortunately the school divisions cannotspeak for themselves in this Chamber, and it is up to those of uswho have been duly elected to speak for them as we did in meetingwith Winnipeg School Division last week as they outlined forthose of us who are representatives in their area the very greatdifficulties that they are going to have in meeting theexpectations of children.

The Minister of Environment (Mr. Cummings) and the Ministerof Housing (Mr. Ernst) also went on to talk about some of thedifficulties that they saw within the school system as it ispresently structured. I found it fascinating that one of theissues that was addressed by the Minister of Environment was theissue of transportation. It may come as a shock to the Ministerof Environment that that is the fastest growing line in anyschool division's budget. It outpaces Instructional Resources byabout seven times. Transportation. It is the movement ofchildren from one program to another program or from home toschool. It is an extremely costly venture, but I would suggestto you, Mr. Speaker, that the Department of Education mandatesthose very transportation costs.

It is the Department of Education that will not allow for thereview of school divisions that will allow some of thosetransportation difficulties to be alleviated. It is theDepartment of Education that says when a child needs to betransported and when a child does not need to be transported, sodo not blame the school divisions because their transportationline in their budgets is going up. Look to your own Departmentof Education that mandates that particular line of the budget forthe school divisions, and that is the fiscal reality of thesituation.

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We also know that what is happening in terms of the schoolsis that they are being asked to deliver services which really arenot directly related to education, and again, it is theDepartment of Education that has mandated that. It is theDepartment of Education that has talked about the integration ofall special needs children into the school system. It does notfund those children. It looks to the local school division tofund those children because, in terms of the cost of thosechildren, less than 50 percent and in some divisions as low as 34percent.

It is interesting that the Minister of Education (Mrs.Vodrey) says you are wrong, but those are the statistics that shetabled in the Education Estimates last year, and EducationEstimates clearly show that less than 50 percent of special needsfunding is picked up by the province. The rest of the funding ispicked up by local school divisions. That is the reality.

In 1993, in the Winnipeg School Division budget, because Igot those figures last week, 34 percent of the special needsbudget will be picked up by the Department of Education, and yetthey mandate the service. They say the service must beconducted, so when the Department of Education then turns aroundand says, not only will you get 2 percent funding less from theprovince, but in addition we are going to restrict your abilityto collect new taxes, what they are in fact saying is, either violate our mandate or squeeze the educational opportunities available to youngsters in this province. That is what is goingto happen.

 

(Mr. Marcel Laurendeau, Acting Speaker, in the Chair)

 

If we want to find a means by which we can offer qualityeducation, we have to do a fundamental restructuring ofeducation. That, unfortunately, the minister is avoiding, andshe is avoiding it because to re‑evaluate school divisionboundaries I would suggest, Mr. Acting Speaker, is a politicalhot potato and they do not want to deal with it. And they do notwant to deal with it at exactly that opportunity when the reviewof school division boundaries and the next provincial electionwill find that their timing is almost identical. Yet I would sayto the Minister of Finance that the only way that you are goingto bring about some reason to the education policy is to bring about that fundamental restructuring of the way in which we offereducation in the province of Manitoba.

We have to set some fundamental goals as to what it is wewant our education system to be. Do we want it to be a bodywhich teaches computation? Is it a body which teachescommunication? Is it a body which teaches calculation? Is it totake the three Rs of the past and move into the 21st Century,which is much more realistically the three Cs, and to ensure thatthose young people have those skills that they are going torequire?

This does not mean necessarily the lavish expenditure of newdollars or even new dollars at all. We have to find ways withinthe present structure to reorganize. But you know‑‑

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Laurendeau): Order, please. Thehonourable member's time has expired.

Mr. Jack Penner (Emerson): This is certainly not one of theissues that I think any one of us relishes debating in this Housetoday. Fiscal reality and fiscal responsibility are words thatwe use relatively loosely to describe where we are todayfinancially. This province over the last number of years, if yougo back to 1983, has experienced administrations that I believein all sincerity have attempted to provide education to thechildren of this province. I believe the department has done avery significant job in trying to find ways and means to ensurethat our young people will in fact be equipped to face therealities of the 20th Century. That is really what we aredebating here today, the realities of the 20th Century.

I remember, and I believe it was back in 1983 or thereabouts,when the Pawley administration promised the people of Manitobathat the province would fund 90 percent of the education budget.School divisions and school trustees, yes, taxpayers all acrossthis province were looking forward to a greater degree ofassistance to provide that base education for our small children.

I know the member for Dauphin (Mr. Plohman) does not want tohear some of this because it reflects on some of the things thatthey promised during an election campaign and during a term ofoffice that they held for some eight years whereby educationfunding decreased substantially, I believe, from a point of about74 percent in 1983 to 66 percent in 1986. Those were the fiscalrealities of the day.

Not only were their incomes increasing, but the Minister ofEducation at the time, Mr. Storie, said, we have other prioritiesthat we must address and therefore the decrease in educationfunding. Well, I say to the honourable members opposite that notonly is this government having to face fiscal reality inrecognizing that our revenues are down very dramatically over thepast year, and we can stand here as a government and defend thecommitment that we have made to education in the increasedfunding that we have provided over the last four years. In 1988we provided a 5 percent increase in educational funding, in 1989a 5.5 percent increase in education funding, and in 1991 a 7.8percent increase in funding. I dare say that record standsrather well comparatively when you want to compare that with therecord of the 1983 to the 1987 Pawley administration. But thatis not the debate that I believe we should be into today. Thatis the rhetoric I hear on both sides here today. I hear theopposition now complaining about a decrease in funding.

What we should be discussing is how do we better reform oureducational system, our process, to ensure that the needs of ourchildren will be met in the future. Have we reached the timethat we reorganize the whole administrative process ineducation? Have we reached the time when we said, yes, maybe wehave created too much of a Cadillac in some of the areas, thatsome of the chrome, some of the frills that we have added intoour educational system need to be rethought? Should we thinkabout the basics of education and how we ensure that those littlechildren that we put into the system in fact receive those basics?

You know, there are too many times when I look around our owncommunity and many other parts of our province when I meetgraduates or people that have just graduated that cannot read andthat cannot write. We have to ask ourselves, what have we doneover the past 15‑20 years to ensure that those basic elements ofthe education system were not ignored?

 

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So I want to stand here today and congratulate the Ministerof Education (Mrs. Vodrey) for taking a very difficult, verytough stand on education finance and how we reorganize some ofour thinking into providing the basic elements of education tothe future. Should we say that one of the fundamentals isensuring that our graduates out of the elementary classes can atleast read and write and that they know the basics of ourmathematics system? Are those some of the things that we shouldbe paying attention to? Can we then in fact reorganize some ofthe thinking around our fiscal responsibility as the Leader ofthe Liberal opposition indicated?

I believe that the model that the Minister of Education isworking towards, and I believe that what some of the schoolboards and school trustees are saying to us very clearly, arethings that we should give a great deal of heed to. Number one,the taxpayers of this province have said time and time again, wecannot afford to pay any more taxes. What do you set asidethen? Do you set aside the social services to increase fundingin education? Do you set aside the health care system toincrease funding in education? Do we ignore our basicinfrastructure in this province, just ignore it, set it aside,let it decay to increase education funding? Or do we challengethe decision makers to change the way that they have approachededucation over the last couple of decades into rethinking how weadminister and how we provide, and whether it is economicallyfeasible to do some of the things that we have done andreorganize this system?

I believe that all Manitobans, all with the exception of afew who are the ones who want to challenge and ask for more allthe time, but the basic members of society today are far moreinterested in providing quality instead of quantity. That isreally what this is all about, to ensure that you get value foryour money.

I am sincerely convinced that under the leadership anddirection of our Minister of Education and with the support andco‑operation of our schools boards and of people across thisprovince that we can sit down and dialogue and come to a resolveon how to provide in a more economical way a better system ofeducation for our children.

Thank you, Mr. Acting Speaker.

Ms. Jean Friesen (Wolseley): Mr. Acting Speaker, I think, whenevery generation of Manitobans has looked at education, they haveknown that what they are looking at is the future of thisprovince. How we deal with education and how we look at it andwhether it is the Manitoba school question or whether it is thecreation of the University of Manitoba or whether it is thereforms of the 1960s, every generation has looked at education inManitoba and tried to leave in place an educational system whichwould meet the needs of their children and of the next generation.

How we look at education is an indication, a very clearindication, of the kind of future that we see for our province.A number of speakers on the other side have emphasized thechanges that we are facing around the globe, the economicchanges, the shifts in education, the increasing needs for avariety of new types of information and new kinds of educationand that is true. I was glad to hear their references to that.

When communities and societies have to face those dramaticchanges that we are facing around the globe, the very fasttransfers in money, the new kind of global economy that many ofthese Conservative administrations have created with so littledisregard for their own communities, we are indeed facing newtimes and in those new times the role of universities becomescrucial. Universities are the creators of new knowledge. Theyare the leaders of education upon which all other forms ofeducation in some way depend. They are the flagships which giveus the teachers, which provide us the nurses, which provide usthe health care professionals, with the lawyers, with thebusiness people, with the scientists.

Wherever you look in our society, the kind of people who aregoing to lead us, who are going help us adapt to this new andbrutal world that the Conservatives have created, must find theirsource of new ideas, new knowledge, ability to be flexible andability to adapt, in the universities. So, particularly in thesenew times, the universities are crucial.

I would say, thirdly, Mr. Acting Speaker, that universitiesin every age, whether it is from classical times to our own 20thand 2lst Centuries, have been the instruments, the focus, for thecreation of public debate, and it is one of the institutions,only one of the institutions which help to form the kind ofcitizens that we look for in Manitoba and for the nature of thecontinuing debate over what is citizenship and how we each haveto play our part in the creation of economic policy, publicpolicy, and in the kind of future that we want to see for ourprovince.

In particular, universities are responsible for the trainingof teachers, and if we look at the entire educational system inManitoba, nothing could be more crucial than the preparation andcreation of teachers who are able and well educated and who, infact, are able to lead us in the kind of new training culturethat we hear so much about from these new‑market Tories. Thetraining of teachers, the kind of education that they get atuniversity, the kind of attitudes that they imbibe there, thekind of understanding of research, of education, of childhooddevelopment, of citizenship, of the future of Manitoba, all ofthose things which are so crucial to every Manitoban, must beimbibed by students at university primarily, not only university,but certainly one of the major institutions in the shaping ofteachers.

To reduce the support to education faculties, to teachertraining, seems to me, Mr. Acting Speaker, to be very, veryshortsighted, indicates a lack of understanding of the way inwhich the educational system works, and then lack ofunderstanding of the way in which public policy and publicchanges are to come to this province.

Teachers at the heart are the very basis of our transmissionof our culture, of what we want to transmit to the nextgeneration. To reduce their opportunities for learning, forunderstanding, for practice in the schools, and for continuousupgrading as they must do, seems to me, again, a veryshortsighted, an unbelievably shortsighted form of approach toour new economic situation.

 

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Manitoba in particular faces some specific difficulties thatare perhaps not faced to the same extent by others. We have amuch lower percentage of our post‑secondary age group inpost‑secondary education. Our universities, perhaps, in terms oftheir intake in numbers, are more comparable to other provinces,but in the colleges we fall very, very far behind places likeBritish Columbia, Quebec, though Quebec has a different way ofcalculating, but even so we are much behind those provinces. Weare far behind Alberta, and if we look at the two provinces inCanada which do have an economy which is managing to face the neweconomic conditions, it is British Columbia and Alberta withtheir very high proportion of students in post‑secondaryeducation, and it is no coincidence, Mr. Acting Speaker. Thosetwo things go hand in hand. They are not the only condition, butthey are one of the major considerations for any business whichis going to relocate, for any community which is going to developpartnerships with other provinces. The level of post‑secondaryeducation and training, the level of commitment of support ofthose governments to post‑secondary education becomes one of thefactors that every business and government will be looking at.

Second of all, Manitoba faces a particular difficulty in thenumber of aboriginal peoples who need access to post‑secondaryeducation. We have a very low percentage of aboriginal studentsat the moment who have access to post‑secondary institutions. Inpart this reflects the nature of the secondary schools which havebeen available in the past to these students. But every economicindicator in Manitoba, whether we are looking at, for example,the Winnipeg 2000 report which was done a couple of years ago andwhich, in some instances, was a reasonable survey of some of theconditions that Manitoba was going to have to face; that, Mr.Acting Speaker, is a particular condition that Manitoba has toface, and it seems to me that to reduce accessibility touniversities, to reduce the ability of universities to reach outto aboriginal communities and to aboriginal students is not thekind of way that we should be going in our approach to education.

We face, as I am sure many of the rural members know, aparticular geographical disparity in our ability to have accessto education, and it affects not just aboriginal students but, ofcourse, rural students as well. Nobody who has been to ruralManitoba in the past year will have missed hearing the voices ofrural Manitoba which are saying how difficult, how increasinglydifficult it is becoming to send their students to anyuniversity, not just to universities in the city but touniversities anywhere. That disparity must be addressed, and,Mr. Acting Speaker, the cost of $10,000 per student to send themfrom rural Manitoba to university is something which is cripplingnot just to those individuals, not just to those families, but toanybody I think who has a perspective on the future of thisprovince. You have to recognize that that is going to affect thefuture of those communities when there are no university‑trainedstudents who are going to be living in those communities andgoing back to them, becoming teachers in those communities andbecoming the doctors who will serve those communities. It isgoing to affect all of us.

I want to indicate one of the contexts of the difficultiesthat we are facing. Perhaps the Minister of Education (Mrs.Vodrey) will also be addressing this. But it is important tonotice, since we are discussing Tory policy in education, to lookat the threats that have come from the federal government. Thereduction of EPF payments has affected education in mostprovinces of Canada, and it has affected us. Of course, as apoor province we are affected, I think, more dramatically and ingreater proportion. The federal government, not just contentwith reducing the ability of provinces to meet their educationalneeds, has also reduced areas of research in the Social Sciencesand Humanities Research Council, in medical research, inengineering research.

In its recent cultural cuts, Mr. Acting Speaker, it has alsoreduced areas of support that it had offered to libraries for theprice of books and for postage in many areas. A federalConservative government with its high interest rates and itsdisregard of the educational future of this country, I think, haschosen to put the burden of education onto provinces and ontoCanadian and Manitoba families.

Hon. Harry Enns (Minister of Natural Resources): Mr. ActingSpeaker, I am delighted to take part in this debate because ofits importance, its seriousness and its timeliness. Althoughthere is a little premature element to the debate taking place atthis time, as I really do believe had we all been listening,particularly members opposite, a little harder to what in anunprecedented way our Minister of Finance (Mr. Manness), indeedthe entire government, has been telling Manitobans and thatcertainly includes all members of the opposition, there ought tosurely by now be an understanding that all governmental fundinghas to be looked at in its total context.

I do not know what honourable members opposite are going tosay when the budget is brought down as to governmental impacts offunding with respect to other services that I know are of equalconcern to all members in this House as well as to allManitobans. How does it appear when you take out of theeducational funding that we are talking about now compared in thecontext with fundings provided for the other important socialservices, namely health and family services?

Mr. Acting Speaker, one is tempted to get into the debatewith respect to the level of educational funding not just in thisprovince but in Canada as a whole. One is tempted to talk aboutthe kind of attention that has been focused on educationalfunding and its result, whether it is in recent publications byCanada's one and only national magazine, like Maclean's magazine,which not so long ago seriously addressed the question as towhether or not Canada and, more importantly, our youth, ourchildren were getting full value for the dollars expended oneducation in this country; whether or not we look to othercountries such as New Zealand where other difficult decisionshave been made which recently have been publicly examined by ourmedia and have made Manitobans and Canadians aware of what othercountries and other societies are doing with respect to thisimportant issue, but I would, quite frankly, presume too much. Istand before this Chamber as Minister of Natural Resources. Ileave the more complex issues of educational funding and/or itsprioritization in the very capable hands of my colleague theMinister of Education (Mrs. Vodrey).

Mr. Acting Speaker, and to honourable members opposite, I dowish to bring a perspective to this debate that sometimes I fearis lost, and it comes from the experience that the people ofManitoba have privileged in providing me with. I want to referto the impact that the priorities of funding, not just of thisgovernment but the governments of the past that have spanned some20‑30 years of my experience, have placed, which, by and large,have had the bipartisan support of all members. There is noargument about the importance of health; there is no argumentabout the importance of education; there is no argument about thefact that governments and we as a society have a specialresponsibility for the complex society that we have to cope with,that my colleague the Minister of Family Services (Mr.Gilleshammer) has to deal with: changing lifestyles, thefailures of our system, the failures of our families in all toomany instances, in particular problems that that poses for us asa society, how to deal with children who are often neglected,children who are not being looked after, children who need thesupervision, who need the care, who need the compassion of thisor any other government. That is not at argument.

 

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Mr. Acting Speaker, I wish to speak with some knowledge aboutthe impact that this prioritization has had on the totality ofgovernment services. You see, the Department of NaturalResources today in 1993 is still expected to look after ourparks, is still expected to look after our forests, is stillexpected to better police and better manage our wildlifepopulation, is still expected to make sure our waters are left inan unpolluted state for children and future generations to come.Members opposite will be the first ones to not only remind thatif it was important yesterday, it is even more important today.

Mr. Acting Speaker, I want to impart this little bit oftrivial knowledge for honourable members to indicate to you thatwhen I first had the privilege of being the Minister of NaturalResources for this province, this Legislature decided that to dothose very same things‑‑and the mandate has not changed‑‑that theDepartment of Natural Resources deserved 7 percent of the totalrevenues of this province. Seven percent. That was the budgetallocated in the division of departmental responsibilities in theyears '68‑69.

Today, Mr. Acting Speaker, it is less than 1 percent, and Ican show you poll after poll, not polls this party took or anyother, but national polls that have indicated that the publicconcern, the public awareness, the public demand for mydepartment to address those issues that my department islegislatively mandated for is much higher today than it was 25years ago when this department had the respect of 7 percent ofthe revenues.

Now, Mr. Acting Speaker, I complain. I complain openly. Icomplain around the Treasury Board; I complain around my cabinettable; I complain on the hustings and publicly when I can, but Iaccept the prioritization of the government that I serve that sawthis decline take place‑‑and it did not decline over the periodof this government. That decline took place since the years thatI have experience with in 1968‑69, over 15 years of NDPadministration, over an equivalent number of years, or close toit, of Conservative administrations.

It is a simple fact of life that we have placed as a societythat higher priority on what we call broadly our socialservices. Mr. Acting Speaker, I challenge honourable membersopposite, surely all of this has to have some overall fairnessand be kept in context. I know that different times during thiscoming session honourable members will be going after mycolleague the Minister of Environment (Mr. Cummings), why is he not doing a better policing job, a better regulatory job? Why is his department not being staffed with more and more expert peopleto ensure that the environmental orders that he is charged withby legislation to put on various activities across this land, whyis he not doing a better job of it? Why am I not doing a betterjob ensuring that elk not be harvested out of season, that lesspoaching is being done, that big Duke the bear is not being shotin Riding National Park? That is what I am being charged with.

Honourable members, even though they switched portfolios inthe critic's role, will continue to come and remind me of that.I am simply saying, Mr. Acting Speaker, you can say that aboutHighways, you can say that about the Department of Environment.Are there not urgent depressing housing needs in our housingprograms for seniors?

What I am saying to honourable members opposite, before theyrush off on a tangent on one specific issue of the day, thatdemands, in my judgment, to be lifted out of this context oftotal government service and provided with unlimited funding,that in today's real world we will be judged as a government asto how fairly, how compassionately we have used those resourcesthat we have.

I am satisfied, Mr. Acting Speaker. I am satisfied because Iknow that the task facing the Minister of Education (Mrs.Vodrey), the tasks facing the Minister of Health (Mr. Orchard),the tasks facing the Minister of Family Services (Mr.Gilleshammer) are tremendous, but I say to you and I say to mycolleagues opposite, as I say to the general public, that thisgovernment has attempted and I believe succeeded in bringingabout a real recognition of total government services for whichwe are responsible to the people of Manitoba, and to providingthem and to challenging our own bureaucracy to maintain thequality of service, indeed to enhance it where possible, and tolook for different ways of using those resources that we have andthat you will be in due order providing the legislative approvalfor in this very Chamber. Because, in the final analysis we arenot hearing alternative methods, and alternative methods meansalternative methods of raising revenue. That is what we have tohear from honourable members in this debate, and we are nothearing it.

Mr. Kevin Lamoureux (Inkster): Mr. Acting Speaker, I find thatwhat the government has done over the past three, four and a halfyears since it has been in office has been somewhat of adisservice to education and to the young people in the provinceof Manitoba. Personally, I have always felt that we have to relyon education and the quality of education that is being deliveredthrough our institutions, that we have to be able to count onthat to carrying Manitoba into the next century. Thisgovernment, much like the previous government to a certainextent, has not put a priority on education, and I would suggestto you that education is in fact in a crisis in the province ofManitoba.

What has this government done, Mr. Acting Speaker, in thisupcoming budget? A 2 percent cut in education. Now they aretelling the school divisions that they cannot increase taxes.Well, they‑‑they being the school division‑‑have been restricted,or this government has restricted the ability of the schoolboards to seek the taxes that they feel are necessary in order toprovide the quality or the educational services that they believeare necessary. After all, these school trustees, whether youagree or disagree with the individual trustees, do have a mandatewhich they have to fulfill, and this government and particularlythis minister is not allowing those school boards that were dulyelected, as we were, to provide the services in education thatthey feel are absolutely essential and living up to what theybelieve are the standards that the communities that theyrepresent in fact want.

Mr. Acting Speaker, the Leader of the Liberal Party madereference to, on the one hand, we are saying to the schooldivisions that they cannot increase taxes, that it is beyond themat this point, where she pointed out‑‑and I want because I toomet with Winnipeg School Division No. 1, and they talked aboutthe increase to transportation at 7.53 percent. I do not thinkthat we can emphasize strong enough that this is a line in whichthe Minister of Education (Mrs. Vodrey) has mandated the schoolboard to fulfill, that they do not have any choice, and this is a7.53 percent increase in Winnipeg School Division No. 1 initself. In the same budget, proposed draft budget, regularinstruction is actually receiving a decrease of .65 percent.

Well, Mr. Acting Speaker, if the government was sincere inits efforts, in its thoughts, to be able to better prepare ourchildren to succeed into the future, how can we allow somethingof this nature to occur? This is in fact the area in which theteachers and the students are best able to make positive changesto whatever it might be: the curriculum, number of hours,professional development, and so forth.

Mr. Acting Speaker, I am convinced, like other MLAs no doubt,that the No. 1 concern that I hear about education is, in fact,the quality of education. I have a working group that deals witheducation within my own riding, and in that group, in themeetings that we have had, the discussions I have had withconstituents of mine, the quality of education in the form ofcurriculum, dropouts, literacy, the number of school divisions,the whole question of family values, student discipline, the roleof parent councils, what roles should the schools be playing,those are the issues that we have been dealing with at a verylocal level within my own riding.

In essence, what we end up talking about at every meeting, invirtually every discussion I have, is the quality of education.I had a survey that went out to my riding. I am going to readthe question, and I will be sure to give the Premier a copy ofthe results because I know he has quoted from my surveys in thepast.

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The question I asked was, are you satisfied with what isbeing taught to our children at our schools? Twenty‑threepercent said yes, 55 percent said no, 22 percent had no opinion.Mr. Acting Speaker, the quality of education, and you do not needto hear from a survey, you can ask the constituents which yourepresent, I am sure will be treated in such a fashion thatpeople will be disappointed. They do not feel that thisgovernment has been addressing the whole issue of quality ofeducation. The government did take some stands. We have seenthat in terms of destreaming of the Grade 10 English and socialstudies. They had indicated that they had received research infavour of doing that destreaming. Well, I have discussed withprincipals, with parents, teachers, had some informationdiscussions with respect to other research documents. In fact, Iunderstand that the Province of Ontario had a number of documentsand research papers that dealt with destreaming.

Mr. Acting Speaker, I am not convinced that is in fact theway to go. I would ask the minister to demonstrate to thoseindividuals that are interested in why she believes we need todestream. She makes reference to one, she may even makereference to more than one, I could not tell you right offhand,but from what I do understand, at least with the groups that Ihave met with, is that she has not been straightforward with whyit is that she feels that destreaming is the way to go.

This is something that is not coming from one or two peoplelocated in one little area. This is coming from individualsoutside the city of Winnipeg and within the city of Winnipeg,and, Mr. Acting Speaker, I am disappointed in the sense that youhave a minister at the same time who wants to cancel theprofessional in‑service days through this budget. She issuggesting‑‑[interjection] Well, to the Deputy Premier (Mr.Downey), the Minister of Finance set up a model and said 10working days. I would suggest, what does the Minister ofEducation (Mrs. Vodrey) want? Where are those 10 days going tocome from? Maybe she should stand up and suggest where those 10days should be coming from.

Mr. Acting Speaker, I do have only two minutes left to speak,and I wanted to very quickly make reference to what has been thebiggest disappointment from my perspective of this particularminister. On March 17, she announced that the province will notproceed with the review of the school division boundaries. Ifind that absolutely irresponsible for a minister to ignore thatparticular issue while at the same time telling the schooldivisions that they cannot do this, they cannot do that, that weare cutting back at this end. The students inside the classroomhave been suffering at the hands of this particular minister, andit is actions such as the school division boundary review andputting it onto the back burner.

The city of Winnipeg does not need more than two schooldivisions, and I would suggest to you that there is no need inthe province of Manitoba to have in excess of 350 schooltrustees. Mr. Acting Speaker, until this government decides totake action on addressing the real issues of education andeducational reform, whether it is curriculum development, whetherit is the revision of the school divisions, this governmentshould be ashamed of itself. It would be doing a service toManitobans if in fact it started acting on some essentialreforms. I would make reference to a couple of themspecifically: the school divisions and the curriculum. Thankyou very much.

Hon. Rosemary Vodrey (Minister of Education and Training): Mr.Acting Speaker, I am pleased to have an opportunity today tospeak about education in Manitoba. I would like to begin bysaying again, education is very important to this government, andeducation in its broadest sense. We are interested in educationon our kindergarten to Grade 12 side; we are interested in ourpost‑secondary education at our colleges, at our universities andin our training programs; and we have acted to support educationand the quality of education. We continue our commitment to thequality of education.

One way that we have done it is by promoting a province‑widetest or examination in each year so that we can look atassessment and we can be sure that the curriculum is beingfollowed and that students from one part of Manitoba arereceiving the same quality and the same type of curriculumteaching from one place to another so that there is not aquestion that students may be deprived if they come from anotherpart of Manitoba.

I would refer to the member from Flin Flon in 1986 when thediscussion of standardized provincial exams was discussed, and hecalled them of questionable validity. In his mind, there wasreally not the same need to ensure that students from across thisprovince receive the same quality of education. Mr. ActingSpeaker, we stand by that. We believe that it is important.

We have also spoken today about the restructuring that isrequired‑‑[interjection]

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Laurendeau): Order, please. Thehonourable minister has the floor, and I would appreciate it if Icould hear. If the honourable members want to have a discussion,have it in the loge.

Mrs. Vodrey: Thank you, Mr. Acting Speaker.

We have spoken this afternoon about the worldwiderestructuring that is occurring and the need around the world torestructure and to bring a new type of thinking, a new type ofproblem solving to our realities. We have also spoken about therestructuring need within Canada and to bring that new thinking.We bring that same need for restructuring here to Manitoba. Thatrestructuring does require new ways of thinking and it requiresco‑operative ways of thinking.

Through that restructuring, we want to ensure that ourchildren and our students in Manitoba‑‑and they are not all youngpeople who are students. Some of them are adults who arereturning to education and to training programs‑‑that Manitobansreceive the very best education possible.

On the K‑to‑12 side, we have introduced a new fundingformula. This is now going into its second year of application.Through that new funding formula, we have attempted to directsome dollars to some very important areas that have beenidentified, areas like library services, areas like counsellingservices, and that new funding formula is a responsive formula.In the most recent announcement, Mr. Acting Speaker, we did addsix priority areas that were recommended by the educationadvisory committee on education funding to make that formula muchmore responsive.

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We cannot measure, however, our commitment to education bydollars alone. We do need to examine what is the job ofeducation, what it is that education should be doing. In theprocess of asking those questions, I have had the opportunity tomeet with a number of Manitobans, with representative groups ofManitobans from the Manitoba Association of School Trustees, theManitoba Teachers' Society and the Manitoba Federation of Labourto discuss with those Manitobans what is the job of education.

However, Mr. Acting Speaker, when we do look at the dollarstargeted for education, we can tell you that 80 percent of thosedollars on average go to salaries and to benefits. We cannotcontinue to support increases. We need to protect programs. Weneed to protect our students. We need to leave the futuregeneration with the best quality education system and not with anoverwhelming debt.

Mr. Acting Speaker, we have made some suggestions with thateducational announcement to ask divisions to examine ways inwhich they can use their dollars in the most effective way whileprotecting programs and while protecting students. We did notchoose the way that in 1986 the member for Flin Flon chose whenhe urged that teachers' salaries be frozen. At that time, in1986, he said that the cost of maintaining our education systemis accelerating more rapidly than our ability to fund it. Hesaid at that time, it is not heresy to ask teachers to look athaving no increase.

What we have done is to present some possible options toschool divisions. We have asked them to look at theiradministration first. We have asked them to look foradministrative reductions in the first place. We have also askedthem to look at our version of the work week reduction, but thisas a tool.

It is very important, Mr. Acting Speaker, that we do not turnfirst to the taxes on people, those people who are alreadyexperiencing some reductions, so that a very small group willcontinue to get increases. So we have asked school divisions tolook at all of their options.

Mr. Acting Speaker, I can tell you as well that the NDP partyin 1986 made the election promise that they would like to achievea 90 percent funding in education. However, they found that in1987 the member for Flin Flon (Mr. Storie) again had to say, wewould like to achieve that 90 percent, but there are otherpriorities as well, he said. We also found that the then Premiersaid the word that they used during the campaign was that they"hoped" to achieve, that they did not use the word "commitment"to achieve.

So I think it is very important that we look at what thisgovernment is doing in terms of its commitment to education andwhat this government has spoken to school divisions to in apartnership way look at protecting students and programs forManitobans.

We do have a goal for quality. We have a goal for a qualitycurriculum, and we do have a goal to support students who are atrisk. Further to that goal, we did develop the Student Supportbranch last year. That branch does work with individual schoolsas well as school divisions to develop programs for students atrisk and to develop the supports that are going to be of thegreatest assistance in each area of Manitoba.

As I have said, we have also brought forward the neweducational funding formula, and we are making every attempt tomake sure that that formula is as responsive to the needs ofManitobans as possible.

Mr. Acting Speaker, let me spend a moment now on the issue ofeducational reform, because the issue of reform is also veryimportant to this government. I have met with Manitobans whorepresent the interests in education. I have named some of thosegroups: Association of School Trustees, Manitoba Teachers'Society, parents home and schools, Manitoba Federation of Labour.

The purpose of these meetings was to focus on the issue ofreform and what those groups would see so that they could puttheir minds to the issues of how they saw educational reform andtheir role in it. That was the job of those meetings.

We have also visited schools and made sure to speak at eachopportunity with parents, with teachers and with trustees. Thesegroups spoke of issues such as standards. They spoke ofaccountability. They spoke of partnership, and they spoke of thelearning environment.

The member for Crescentwood (Ms. Gray) just called a pressconference last Thursday to say that that party now thought itmight be a good idea to start speaking to Manitobans, that theywould start holding public hearings in areas such as Portage laPrairie and Dauphin. Well, we have been doing that for quite along time and we continue to do it.

Finally, I would just like to speak of our commitment touniversities and our commitment to colleges. We continue ourcommitment to those areas.

We have the Roblin commission on university educationoperating. We look for that commission to bring forward the roleand the mandate of universities for the year 2000. We want tomake sure that our universities are in the best position toprovide the best and most competitive education, but in thatprocess, we have made sure that we have protected students in ourfunding announcement. We have capped student tuition at 5percent to make sure that again students were not the first placethat universities went to in this particular fiscal situation.

Yes, the universities were required, as many others, to takea reduction. These are difficult times, but I know that theuniversities will work with some of the options available to themto ensure that students and programs are not affected.

Mr. Acting Speaker, we continue to be strongly committed toeducation and very strongly committed to working with Manitobansto make sure we meet their vision of education in Manitoba.

Mr. Dave Chomiak (Kildonan): Mr. Acting Speaker, I listened witha good deal of attention to the Minister of Education's commentswith respect to the fiasco that is occurring in our educationsystem today. I listened to her read her speech in this Chamber.

You know, I have in front of me a speech that could almost beidentical word for word. If I had time I would repeat it. It isalmost word for word the same thing that we heard from thisminister, but do you know what? This speech was deliveredJanuary 22, 1991, by the then minister Mr. Len Derkach. Do youknow what? He says the same thing, but there is one otherthing. There is one thing in this speech made by the formerminister that is not contained in the present speech by theminister. In the former minister's speech it says, and I quote:Through a co‑operative effort all of us will be benefactors twoyears down the road.

 

(Mr. Bob Rose, Acting Speaker, in the Chair)

 

Well, two years has come. It is two years since the ministerLen Derkach delivered his fiat to school boards and people in theeducation community, and in fact the co‑operative effortexhibited has not occurred two years down the road. I will senda copy of it. I am sure that the former minister has it.Perhaps the present minister can use it again in reference,because it is almost word for word everything she said to ustoday, the same dry rhetoric, the same reliance on failedConservative fiscal policies.

Mr. Acting Speaker, what is wrong with the education systemtoday is not something that can be cleared up by the presentminister. It is far too late in this government's mandate. Theyhave had six budgets. They are going into their sixth budget,and I can tell you it is too late. The ship of state is far outin the ocean and listing about. It is too late for this ministereven if she had the capacity in cabinet to change it. I believeshe is sincere. I believe that this minister would like tochange the education system for the better, but I do not believeshe has the clout or the direction in cabinet, Mr. ActingSpeaker, and that is unfortunate.

We know that the real clout and direction in cabinet isdetermined by the Minister of Finance (Mr. Manness) whodetermines all in cabinet. We know the Minister of Finance cameinto cabinet and dictated what would happen in the educationfunding formula. So even if this minister had a plan, I do notthink it could be implemented. Mr. Acting Speaker, it is far toolate in this government's mandate to implement any kind ofmeaningful reform in the education system.

The minister and the government, the members opposite, are sofond of tests and examinations. Let us look at some of theinitiatives initiated by this government in the last few years interms of education. Let us talk about the High School Reviewinitiated. It is still in chaos. It is still administrativelychaotic out there. School divisions do not know, and even theperson brought in at the late hour to try to implement has beenunable to do it, so the government gets an F on that, Mr. ActingSpeaker.

Let us talk about legislation, Mr. Acting Speaker. Thisgovernment has promised a reform to The Public Schools Act sincethey came to office. Where is it? The minister had her ownreport. I memorized the dates. April 29, 1992, was when thereport was to be given from her advisory committee to theminister. Where is that report? We are almost a year latersince the time the minister had the report and still we seenothing, still we hear we are going to have more publichearings. We are perhaps going to have a white paper. We arestill into the sixth year now of this government's regime andstill no legislation reform. I dare say, I suspect that it willbe a promise in the next provincial campaign that they are goingto somehow reform the education act.

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The funding formula was a sore point with members of thisside of the House for some time. We predicted when the ministerbrought it in‑‑and, by the way, Mr. Acting Speaker, I might addthe minister still to this day has not released the backgroundpapers and documentation and the report which initially promptedthis funding formula. It still has not been released publicly,and we predicted there would be real difficulties with thefunding formula, and do you know what, the former minister cameon and attacked us, et cetera, which is the usual response. Youknow what, they have revised it at least three times.

They have committees all across the province trying to comeup with rejigging the funding formula because it is a disaster.On top of that disaster, on top of that creaky structure, theyhave now brought in a clawback‑‑clawback is not the appropriateword‑‑they have brought in a 2 percent cut on an alreadyinequitable and unfair formula.

What members never fail to mention on that side, Mr. ActingSpeaker, and it is a concern of mine, is equity. They do nottalk about fairness. They do not talk about access to programs.They do not talk about children having access no matter where youlive in this province with some flexibility. They do not talkabout that. They talk about fiscal management, and there is noconcern given to the equitable and the nature in which theallocations are redistributed around the province.

Mr. Acting Speaker, comments from members opposite are sorife with errors that I could probably talk for the rest of theday in this Chamber about errors that I have heard in theircomments, but time does not permit.

I want to talk about something that has been a sore pointwith members on this side of the House for some time, Mr. ActingSpeaker. Members opposite, part of their new rhetorical responseto anything we say now is, you offer alternatives. For two yearsI have been speaking in this Chamber about better co‑ordinationof services between government departments and the approach theytake. For a year and a half, the Minister of Education and theMinister of Health (Mr. Orchard) have had on their desks reportsfrom MASBO, MAST, Manitoba Association of School Trustees, andManitoba Teachers' Society, a report calling for the betterco‑ordination of services in education to children. Has thereeven been a letter of response from this government? Has therebeen an action plan? Has there been any response from thisgovernment?

If there is one area that would perhaps help, that wouldperhaps deal with some of the concerns and problems in education,there would be a better co‑ordinated approach to it, but we haveheard nary a word. There is not even a plan for members on theopposite side of the House, and every time we raise concerns onthis side of the House, we get rhetorical verbiage from membersopposite, and then we get the constant claim that we never offerany alternatives, which again is part of their rhetoricalresponse.

(Mr. Marcel Laurendeau, Acting Speaker, in the Chair)

 

Mr. Acting Speaker, they have not done it, and you know, wewould welcome some initiatives from this government, but I daresay that it is too late in the mandate, it is too late in thegame for that bunch. Although I would welcome a paper, I wouldwelcome something from members opposite talking about aco‑ordinated approach and an action plan to deal with, but youknow what, it is lacking.

Mr. Acting Speaker, we held a press conference in the fall totalk about this, something the government hated to talk about,and that was the GFT, the Gary Filmon tax, pardon me, thegovernment's offload of taxes onto the municipalities. It isfunny to hear the minister talk about governments promising to goto 80 percent. I believe that one member for Tuxedo in 1988promised to take provincial funding to 80 percent. I alsoremember that very same member‑‑we have tabled itbefore‑‑promising that education grants would be at inflation orbetter under his government, inflation or better under hisgovernment, another promise broken, another broken promise bymembers opposite, another broken promise, and it continues.

The Minister of Education (Mrs. Vodrey) I think is treadingon very dangerous ground, Mr. Acting Speaker, when she criticizesmembers, when she criticizes us in terms of their funding of theeducation system. They have offloaded from provincial revenues,and one of the reasons they have done it is because of thecorporate tax breaks that they have given to their friends whichhave not been recovered, which we have not seen in terms ofincreases to the revenue base. As a result, we have lost revenueand we are faced with the difficult fiscal situation that we arein. Thank you.

Hon. James Downey (Minister of Northern Affairs): Thank you, Mr. Acting Speaker and members of the Legislature.

I am pleased to rise to debate the issue which the LiberalParty presented to the House today. The government would morethan welcome the opportunity to lay before this House and thepeople of Manitoba the facts as to what we are doing and to howwe feel about the importance of education, the funding question.

I want to open my comments, Mr. Acting Speaker, to say that Ibelieve very strongly this Minister of Education has put beforethis government, has put before the people of Manitoba and thisLegislature, a program of funding that does in fact maintain theintegrity of the system and in fact maintains the futureopportunities for our children in the education system; but Iwill try to deal with the issues that I feel the oppositionmembers are trying to deal with and point it out as I see it.

One has to fully appreciate that over some 15 years ago now,in fact it was 1981 when the Lyon government was defeated, thatit was presented to the people of Manitoba the cause, the needfor dealing with expenditures of government in relationship tothe income of government. Mr. Acting Speaker, we were rejectedfrom the governing of the province at that time. I guess one ofthe things that we did not do very well was communicate thereason for it.

Today, Mr. Acting Speaker, what are we hearing that is comingfrom not only just this government, but we are hearing it fromall political stripes throughout Canada. We are hearing itthrough all leadership throughout the entire world, and we arehearing it of course from our neighbour, the president of theUnited States saying that they in fact, the United States, haveto deal very, very quickly and effectively with their deficit.

They have one luxury that we do not have. I should not callit a luxury. They have one capability that we do not have. Theyhave the capability of putting greater taxes on the people of theUnited States which we do not have in this province or in thiscountry. We have already taxed the people of this country,Canada and our provinces, to the maximum. Those of you, and I donot always do this, if you happen to read the article today inthe Free Press by Don Campbell, I think there is a realization ofthe media that they in fact are putting that message out.

I think the other media comment that was a front pageheadline today, when you see in fact that what our policies aredoing for the average worker in this province are working, so Ithink there is generally an acceptance of the problem by ourgovernment and by the responsible leaders throughout the entireworld. For some reason there is a group in this Assembly, Mr.Acting Speaker, that have not come to that realization. It isold‑think for political opportunism. Quite frankly, it is notselling out there.

 

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I will deal now with the specific issue of education andeducation funding. Mr. Acting Speaker, we saw the employees ofgovernment and everyone in this House last year under Bill 70take less. We have seen the private sector out there, because ofthe restructuring that is going on, take less. I do not say thiswith any malice. I do not say this with any disrespect, butquite frankly, up until this point we have not seen the educationsystem deal with the difficulties as other people have had todeal with until we point out that 80 percent of the costs ofeducation fall within the whole area of salaries and you have toput a mechanism in place for the decision makers to deal withthat component. If you do not, then you in fact continue to seethe snowballing effect.

We have put, not by force, not by edict, but we have put inplace a guideline, a system of policies that we believe areacceptable by the public. In fact, the communications that I amgetting, that they are very acceptable and we believe that theycan be carried out without causing a loss to the students of thisprovince.

There seems to be a philosophy from the members opposite ineducation, in health care, in family services, in any problemthat arises, that the solution is you throw more money at it.That is not correct, because as I said, 80 percent of theeducation funding goes to salaries, so if you increase educationfunding to those people who are working in the system, it doesnot necessarily give you a better education. That is somethingthat just does not happen automatically.

I do not begrudge people more money, Mr. Acting Speaker, butwhen everybody else is having to size down and hold the line, Iwould expect it should happen in education as well as it shouldhappen in all segments of our society. The issue is one ofapplication of fairness. I, last year, met with some of theschool boards and school divisions and you know what wasupsetting to some of the people who were on those boards? Someof those people were civil servants and they said we are notunhappy to take a freeze in our wages, but we think it is unfairthat the educators in our society do not have to deal with thesame subject matter. That is where the question becomes a matterof fairness. The issue is if you are going to deal with aproblem, you have to deal with the size and the magnitude of theproblem where you spend the most money.

Mr. Acting Speaker, I do not want to, as I said, try tobelittle or say anything that would cause anybody any hardship,but again when you are in the kind of times that we are in, weall have to share to try and resolve the problem jointly. I findthis interesting, the only criticism that came from the LiberalParty, the proposed leadership candidate, is he only has oneconcern with our education policies. Here we have the LiberalParty today who sponsored this emergency debate and here is thenext Liberal leader to be, or would like to be, saying hisproblem is that we have not realigned the boundaries. Nothing todo with the quality of education, nothing to do with the fundingfor the system, but his problem is, we have not realigned theboundaries.

An Honourable Member: Two school divisions in Winnipeg.

Mr. Downey: Two school divisions in Winnipeg.

Well, at least he is on the record of coming clean, but I donot think, Mr. Acting Speaker, he has really got to the bottom ofthe problem. I think he is trying to skip over this and not makeany commitment to do anything in a meaningful way that might gethim into problems with the greater Liberal caucus that is outthere that may support him.

So I guess I am quite pleased that in general then hesupports our minister, he supports our education policies, butwhat he does not support‑‑it is on the record‑‑that we have notmoved on the boundary issue in Winnipeg. Well, not bad. I thinkwe can withstand that criticism, and we have justified why wehave not moved on it, so I thank him for coming open and clean inhis support.

There has been mention of a school division of which Irepresent. That is Antler River and I should make a quickreference to it. I have made the case to the Minister ofEducation (Mrs. Vodrey) as it relates to Antler River. I havemade the case, and I have met with a large group of constituentswho showed their concerns and spoke.

Yes, the New Democratic Party had a representative there.Again, they seem to show up when they think they can make somepolitical hay, but I never saw them in the constituency all thetime he was the Minister of Education, or I never saw himcommunicating directly. In fact, that was the forgottenhinterland as far as the New Democrats were concerned when theywere in government, but all at once there is a newfound need toget into some of these constituencies that they do not hold. Iwonder why. Is it because they are really sincere about theproblem, or are they still trying to harvest political support inareas that they now do not have? Well, be it as it is, he wasthere. One of the things‑‑gosh, I have got a flashing light herealready, Mr. Acting Speaker, time goes by quickly when you are having fun, does it not?

Let me just conclude by saying, at that time I said to thelocal community that we would do what we could on sparsepopulation, and there have been some improvements made for thatconstituency and for that school division. I said that therewould have to be some increase in the local funding because infact the special levy was considerably lower than the provincialpercentage. I said, the most important thing is we have toconsider some of the reduced funding, or some look at how we arespending the money, because there have to be ways in which we cansave some of the taxpayers' money as it relates to thatconstituency.

I do not support anything that is unfair to Antler River, toFort la Bosse or to any constituency. This has to be anapplication of fair and open policy. That is what I haveattempted to do, and that is what I will continue to do. It is a matter of applying a formula fairly so that in fact people canlive with it. We all have to be very fair and open at thisparticular time. We are in difficulties, but let us deal with the real issues. Let us deal with the fact that we cannotcontinue to spend more money than we take in, and everyone has toin fact deal with it in a responsible manner, whether you are ateacher, whether you are a school board member, whether you are auniversity student.

I believe, in my conclusion, Mr. Acting Speaker, that we havedone the responsible thing. We are reforming the system. We areprotecting the students, and we are, in fact, dealing fairly withthose school divisions in Manitoba. Thank you, Mr. ActingSpeaker.

Ms. Marianne Cerilli (Radisson): Mr. Acting Speaker, like somany people have said, we have such a short time today to debateeducation and the crisis in education, it is tough to know whereto start.

This government's attack on public education in this provinceis inexcusable, and we should be very clear that that crisis iscreated by this government's foolhardy and shortsighted economicpolicy. It is very clear what is happening, and the Minister forAgriculture (Mr. Findlay) will pay close attention because he wasat the same meeting I was this morning, finally, over at theTranscona‑Springfield School Division.

An Honourable Member: His colleague was not there, though.

Ms. Cerilli: No, his colleague was not there, and I know thatshe was not at other meetings that the board of theTranscona‑Springfield School Division has tried to have them cometo so that this government will have some accountability for theill‑advised decisions that they are making.

What they are doing to public education in this province isinexcusable, and it is interesting to hear the Minister forNorthern Affairs (Mr. Downey) go on about how we have to cut fromeverywhere, we have to be fair. There is this attitude thatsomehow they really think that the world is fair and equal rightnow‑‑oh, the world is fair.

As the Minister of Agriculture (Mr. Findlay) heard thismorning, you cannot have people who have no belt to tightentighten their belt. What this policy is doing is having thepoorest school divisions pay the most. I have the informationhere from Transcona School Division, which is one of the mostefficient school divisions. They have the most costs fortransportation; they have the least ability to raise funds fromthe local area from taxes, and they are being taxed the mostunder this new system.

Then we will talk about the quality of education. Qualityfor whom, I would ask. Is this government going to providequality of education for residents and people of Transcona, forthe children of people in Transcona? No. This program for taxreform and education is on the backs of people in areas likenortheast Winnipeg.

It is very clear to see what is happening to qualityeducation. I would ask the Minister of Education (Mrs. Vodrey)if she thinks that having 30 kids in a classroom is qualityeducation and how many kids are in the classrooms where herchildren are, in a private school. She lives in Fort GarrySchool Division, where there was an administrator wholives‑‑we'll say that in a classroom in Grade 6 in Fort GarrySchool Division, you could go into a school and find that thereare 18 children in a class. You go into Transcona‑Springfield,there will be 26 students in a class in Grade 6. In Grade 9there will be 30 or more children in a class inTranscona‑Springfield, and if you go to Fort Garry, there are 22.

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Now, to me, you do not have to be very clever to realize thatis not fair or just no matter how you define it. This governmentseems to think that the world is fair and that the world is equaland that equality is simply doling out money the same toeverybody. They have changed the policy of equalizationpayments. Equalization means that when a child who comes from apoor family in a poor region of the city you should have asubsidy going to that area so that they can have some equality ofaccess and opportunity. Access is the key when you are talkingabout these kinds of issues in education. Access to education issupposed to be in a democracy the great equalizer, and that isnot happening in this province at all anymore.

I get a little excited about this. Yes, my training is as ateacher. I am supposed to be a health educator. That is mybackground, and I cannot believe‑‑[interjection]. That is mytraining. That is supposed to be what I am trained to do, butyou know what? I listen to the rhetoric coming from the otherside of the House, and they talk about this back‑to‑basics stuff.

Point of Order

 

Mr. Penner: I am wondering whether the honourable member wouldclarify a statement that she was trained as a teacher.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Laurendeau): The honourable member does not have a point of order.

 

* * *

Ms. Cerilli: Yes, Mr. Acting Speaker, my education is from theUniversity of Manitoba. I have two degrees in Education, and mybackground is in health education, and I worked in a school fortwo years before being elected. Before that I ran a number ofyouth programs, the kinds of programs that they have cut, thekinds of programs that the federal Tories have cut.

If we want to talk about education, let us talk abouteducation that trains young people to know how to stand up fortheir rights, because what is happening to young people right nowis they are working over 70 or 90 hours a week and they aregetting no overtime. They are being ripped off left, right andcentre, because young people are the most vulnerable to exploitin the labour market.

There are young people who are not even getting near tominimum wage. They are too afraid to report it or even tellanybody, because they know that they are going to get firedbecause they are expendable. There are a lot of young people outthere looking for work. So it is very easy to exploit youngpeople who do not know their rights. They do not know where togo to find out about their rights. They are not unionized, andthey already earn less than adults because they are youth. Thatto me is not democracy. That is not any sense of what thisgovernment says is fairness.

The issue of taking the clawback at universities to me isabsolutely reprehensible. It is the same kind of tactic thatthey will try to take with the public schools when they go afterthe professional development days of the teachers, when they goafter teachers' salaries. Teachers have signed collectiveagreements. They have signed on to be paid at a certain increasein salary that has tried to keep up with the cost of living.

Why is it that they are willing to claw back salaries fromprofessionals in the public school system when they give a 37percent increase to the Deputy Minister of Education? Why do youhave to pay these guys so much? Why do you have to pay thepeople of the Department of Education who advise this minister somuch‑‑$100,000 that person is getting? You could pay a lot ofteachers with that $100,000. Yes, I get a little excited and Iget a little mad, but I think that this is what it is going totake to get through to this government to make them realize thepeople of Manitoba have had enough.

I would hope that the Minister of Agriculture (Mr. Findlay)paid attention this morning at that meeting to understand thatjustice is not giving the same to everybody when everyone doesnot start off equally. That is a very basic concept that youngpeople learn in about Grade 5. They can understand it in Grade 5.

The other thing that I think is really important is to lookat the excuse of the deficit. This government cannot understandthat investing in the future means investing in the education ofyoung people. The member for Wolseley (Ms. Friesen) has said it,the member for Kildonan (Mr. Chomiak) has said it. A number ofpeople have said it on this side of the House, the member forFlin Flon (Mr. Storie), the former Minister of Education. Wecannot expect that we are going to have any kind of an economy ifyoung people are not trained to think, trained to understand howto get information, how to work together.

When I was interrupted by the member for Emerson (Mr. Penner)I was going to make the point that there is all this talk nowabout back to basics. I would like for the members opposite todefine basics for us, because basics today in this high‑tech,competitive, as they would say, world are very different from thebasics when they were in school. The basics are no longer justlearning to read and write and do arithmetic. Basics are abouthow to use computers. That is a basic now. Basics are aboutlearning how to interact and get along with people in a verystressful environment so we can do something about the kind ofviolence and the kind of abuse that goes on in our society.Those are the kinds of issues when I was a teacher and wasworking in the public school system that I was dealing with. Iwas dealing with poverty. I was dealing with child abuse. I wasdealing with a number of kids who were taking drugs and alcohol.That is what is going on in schools. I would implore the membersopposite to open your eyes, talk to some real people living reallives and not your appointed Tory friends who come to your focusgroups.

The other thing is this Tory rhetoric about finding jobs.Young people have to go to school so that they can find jobs.Well, Mr. Acting Speaker, I do not know if you have tried lookingfor work lately, but there are no jobs. We help them makeresumes. We give them little courses, but they go out there andthey have three degrees, two degrees, high school education, andthere are no jobs. So I think we have to start teaching youngpeople how to create jobs. We have to teach them how to worktogether, how to be entrepreneurs, how to‑‑[interjection] Yes,entrepreneurship. I believe in it very strongly. My familycomes from a long line of entrepreneurs.

Just to sum up then, this education policy is not onlyincredibly unfair, especially to areas like Springfield andTranscona, which, as the member for Springfield (Mr. Findlay)should know, is one‑third of a rural school division and it isnot getting recognized in this policy as a rural schooldivision. The Brandon School Division has more urban centreresidents in it, and it is being recognized as a rural schooldivision and Transcona‑Springfield is not. That is completelyunfair. It is completely unjust, and if this government does notchange and make the necessary changes in this policy, they are infor a big surprise. Thank you.

Hon. Leonard Derkach (Minister of Rural Development): Mr. Acting Speaker, I guess I am somewhat pleased to enter into this debatebecause of what I have heard from the opposite side of theHouse. Some of the concerns that have been raised abouteducation funding have, indeed, sort of repeated old ground thatwe have heard time and time again from the members opposite. Itis not a new debate when you listen to the rhetoric that comesfrom the other side.

Most discouraging were the comments that we just heard fromthe member for Radisson, because obviously by her comments it isvery clear that she perfectly misunderstands what is out there inthe real world with regard to funding of education in thisprovince, especially when she talks about the fact thatTranscona‑Springfield School Division is the poorest schooldivision in the province. She needs to travel a bit. She needsto broaden her horizons, and then she may have a betterunderstanding of where we are at‑‑

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Laurendeau): Order, please.

 

Point of Order

 

Ms. Cerilli: Mr. Acting Speaker, on a point of order. I willinform the members opposite that I was in Brandon last week, andI have travelled across the province.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Laurendeau): Order, please. Thehonourable member does not have a point of order.

* * *

Mr. Derkach: Mr. Acting Speaker, I congratulate the member forRadisson for discovering part of rural Manitoba.

We should take the debate this afternoon quite seriously,because indeed it is an important debate and one which focuses onprobably the most important facet of our society and that is theeducation of our children. Mr. Acting Speaker, many members inthis House have a deep concern about what is happening ineducation, and this is the correct forum to be debating theseissues.

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We have heard a call from the NDP across the way to throwmore money into the education system. That is their onlysolution to the problem that faces us. I heard some commentsfrom the members from the Liberal Party this afternoon, and Ihave to say that some of the comments that I heard from theLeader of the Liberal Party were indeed on track, especially whenshe said that it is not just money that is required in order toreform our education system; as a matter of fact, we have to finddifferent ways of doing things to reform the education system inour province.

Mr. Acting Speaker, that is so true. That is the way toreform the education system, that is, to look at what theproblems in the education system are and then address thoseproblems. We have heard the public cry out about the need toprovide some standards in our education system, to provide someability for students to meet a standard so that they can be moresuccessful when they leave our education system, whether it is atthe elementary level, the intermediate level, the secondary levelor the post-secondary level.

Something that the member for Wellington said today alsosparked my attention, and that was that she talked about theopportunities of rural students to access the universityeducation system. Mr. Acting Speaker, I have to say that in thatregard it was this government that‑‑[interjection] Oh, pardonme‑‑Wolseley. I am sorry, I made an error. I said Wellington;it should have been Wolseley (Ms. Friesen). I am sorry. Icorrect that error. She said that perhaps there was a disparitybetween the opportunity that rural students had to access ouruniversity education system. In that light, it was thisgovernment that moved to have a first‑year university educationsystem through the distance education mode.

Mr. Acting Speaker, that provided the opportunity for ruralstudents to at least access the first year of university in theirhome communities, where they did not have to expend dollars forroom and board and for travel in a community that was a distanceto them. It would have been ideal to be able to provide that ineach and every one of our remote communities, but that to thispoint in time has not been possible. Indeed, there arecommunities in rural communities that have seen the success ofthis project and have indeed requested that their communities beincorporated into this method of delivery of education to ourstudents in this province.

Mr. Acting Speaker, when we talk about education reform, weneed to focus on what the challenges before the education systemare today. I have to congratulate the Minister of Education andTraining (Mrs. Vodrey) for her vision in terms of addressing thereal problems that are before us in education and talking aboutreform in terms of what our education system needs to be reformedto and how we need to address the challenges that are out therebefore us. It is not one person who can do it. It is not justthis Chamber, this group of ministers who can do it. It has tobe with the participation and involvement of the entire educationcommunity, the parents of the children of this province andindeed all of the people who are inhabitants of this province whohave something to say about our education system.

We have been criticized for underfunding education in thisprovince, yet when you compare the record of this government interms of the funding that has been allocated to education withthe record of the former administration, we stand head andshoulders above the way they supported education. Mr. ActingSpeaker, we do not have to take any lessons from them, becauseindeed when the inflation rate was running‑‑and I will give yousome examples. When the average CPI in Winnipeg in 1986 wasrunning at about 6.7 percent, the funding to education by thethen government was 2.7 percent.

Mr. Acting Speaker, those are the kinds of examples that wecan turn to when we hear the criticism from the NDP about thefact that we underfund education. Their only solution is that wethrow more money at the education system.

I listened on my way into Winnipeg this morning to the Leaderof the Opposition (Mr. Doer). He was asked by the radio reporterabout what some of his alternatives were to the situation that isbefore us in this province. I did not hear one, not a singlealternative that he could present to the reporter and to thepeople of Manitoba. So they are defunct of ideas. They do nothave any ideas. It is all old‑think. No matter what area youaddress, it is the same with the NDP.

I have to say that at least we have heard some ideas comingfrom the Liberal caucus. One was to redo the boundaries. Well,yes indeed that may be a part of the solution, but should we havetwo divisions in this city? That is going pretty far out on alimb as far as I am concerned at this point in time, especiallywhen you really have not consulted with the people in this city.At least he does have an idea and he has put it forward. I haveto congratulate him for at least that, because we have not heardanything of that nature from the members opposite in the NDPparty.

The member for Kildonan (Mr. Chomiak), who was the formercritic for Education, talks a lot about the problems he sees ineducation. Even after he has spent several years as the criticof Education and now has moved to a different critic portfolio,he does not have any vision of where this province should begoing in education, does not offer it, does not provide thealternative. The only alternative they have is to dump moremoney into the education system.

Mr. Acting Speaker, there are some fiscal realities beforeus, some that we cannot hide from and we have to face them headon. Our intent is not to jeopardize the quality of education inthis province. Rather, it is to seek different solutions to thechallenges that are before us and to address them in such a waythat the quality of education for the children in our schoolsystem, whether it is in the elementary, the secondary or thepost‑secondary system, is going to be maintained and enhanced.

Indeed, the Minister of Education and Training (Mrs. Vodrey)for this province is working very diligently with her staff toensure that the children of this province are going to have anopportunity that is equal to or better than you can find anywhereelse in this country. That is her goal. That is the goal ofthis government, and we are proceeding on that agenda.

I am very pleased to have entered into this discussion thisafternoon and to add my comments to the comments of those whohave already stood in this debate. Thank you very much.

Mr. Daryl Reid (Transcona): It is my pleasure to rise to takepart in this debate here today on something that is very, veryimportant to all of us, and that is education in the province ofManitoba. I must admit though that my experiences dealing witheducation in other parts of the province of Manitoba are verylimited in nature. I have only listened to the discussions thathave taken place in this Chamber and, of course, in our owncaucus with respect to education in other parts of Manitoba.

I listened with interest to the comments that were made bythe honourable member for Arthur‑Virden (Mr. Downey) when he wasadding his comments to the debate here today. I am familiar withthe problems that he has encountered in his own school division,the Antler River School Division, where the parents expressedtheir concern at a public meeting not long ago for which theMinister of Northern Affairs (Mr. Downey) was a little bit takenaback by the attitude and, I guess, the strong and forceful waythat the residents of his constituency put forward their positionwith respect to education. Of course, he was at a loss to haveany answers for his own constituents at that time. I hope tothis point, Mr. Acting Speaker, that he has at least come forwardwith some solutions to the problems for his constituents. Heindicated that the key principle that he wants to see isfairness, fairness in the funding to all of the school divisionswithin the province.

A lot of my comments here today will revolve around the issueof fairness, because my colleague the MLA for Radisson (Ms.Cerilli), the Minister of Agriculture (Mr. Findlay), myself, andthe M.P. for Winnipeg‑Transcona had the opportunity today to meetwith the school division trustees for the Transcona‑SpringfieldSchool Division No. 12. In that meeting that we had earlier thispast week, on Tuesday to be precise last week, we met with thetrustees at that time as well, and one of the key features thatstood out at those meetings was the issue of unfairness in thefunding formula that is currently being used by this governmentwith respect to funding education in the province of Manitoba.That was the key single feature, Mr. Acting Speaker, that stoodout in the process.

 

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While politics usually does not enter the discussion on theschool trustee level, one would think that there would be membersof all political stripe being represented on that school board,and yet it seemed almost‑‑in fact, it was unanimous‑‑all of thetrustees of the Transcona‑Springfield School Division No. 12 wereunanimous in their position and their statement that the fundingformula currently used is unfair.

The Minister of Agriculture (Mr. Findlay) can sit there inhis seat, and I hope that he has listened to those trustees todayand he has taken back their comments and put them to the Ministerof Education (Mrs. Vodrey) and explained the position because heis supposed to represent the community of Springfield, which isrepresented in part by those trustees.

The comments that were made by the Minister of NorthernAffairs (Mr. Downey), the MLA for Arthur-Virden, indicated thatthe Liberals wanted to go to one or two school divisions withinthe city of Winnipeg. Now that is obviously their positionbecause they have stated that but what‑‑[interjection] Maybe weare not quite sure what their position is here now. On the onehand, it is one or two school divisions, and on the other handthey are not sure what they want now. It is two positions onthis, Mr. Acting Speaker. I guess it depends on whom you talk towithin their caucus what the position is. I suppose once theyhave their leadership review we will find out more about whattheir true policy position is, I hope.

The member for Arthur-Virden indicated that he will notsupport anything that is unfair by way of funding through theDepartment of Education to the school divisions in the provinceof Manitoba. I am going to quote that back to the member forArthur‑Virden. I took very keen interest in that and noted thatbecause I am going to give you some figures and some informationthat was put out by School Division No. 12 trustees this pastweek. It talks about unfairness in the system, and the Ministerof Agriculture (Mr. Findlay) heard it today.

The Minister of Education (Mrs. Vodrey) in her announcementon February 15 indicated that there was going to be a 2 percentreduction in funding to education. In my school division inTranscona they are at nearly a 3 percent reduction in funding, soI do not know where the Minister of Education gets the 2 percentfigure from, but she is way off base. My colleague the memberfor Interlake (Mr. Clif Evans) is significantly hit harder thanthe 2 percent that the minister indicated. It is quite a bithigher than that, two or three times higher. So I do not knowwhere the Minister of Education (Mrs. Vodrey) gets the 2 percentfigure that she uses.

For the Transcona‑Springfield School Division, the nearly 3percent reduction will mean a loss of nearly a million dollars ona $32 million budget in the coming school year, something thatthey can ill afford to do. Last budget they were forced to cutpositions and cut programs in the community already. On top ofthat, the Minister of Education has taken and capped theirabilities to adjust the local levy within the community at a 2percent level.

Now what the trustees are saying, and the Minister ofAgriculture (Mr. Findlay) heard it today, for the first time in ahundred years, Mr. Acting Speaker, the school divisions areasked‑‑

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Laurendeau): Order, please.

 

Point of Order

 

Mr. Downey: Mr. Acting Speaker, on a point of order, I was notsure if I heard correctly. I do not want to impute motives oranything like that, but I think I heard the individual fromBroadway, who is a university professor when he is not in theHouse, suggest that the alternative was for higher taxes for thetaxpayer‑‑

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Laurendeau): Order, please. Thehonourable minister does not have a point of order.[interjection] Order, please. The honourable member forTranscona has the floor. I would appreciate hearing his speech.

* * *

Mr. Reid: Mr. Acting Speaker, just to correct and refute whatthe member for Arthur‑Virden (Mr. Downey) has said, it has neverbeen a position of this party on this side of the House, theofficial opposition, to call for increased taxes, as the memberhas indicated that he has allegedly heard in this House heretoday.

We know that the people in the province of Manitoba are taxedand they are taxed heavily. We know that. The problem we have,Mr. Acting Speaker, is the unfairness with which the monies areallocated to the different school divisions in the province ofManitoba. That is our concern, and that is what we wantrectified.

To continue with my remarks, Mr. Acting Speaker, revenue fromthe province to the Transcona‑Springfield School Division hasdecreased by 3 percent, and it means a loss of nearly a milliondollars in the next upcoming budget year. On top of that, theyhave between a million and a million and a half dollars ofuncontrollable expenditures that they are faced with in theupcoming budget year. So they have a significant increase inproblems for them, because they have received a million dollarsless plus they have problems with uncontrollables out of theircontrol, utility bills, salary adjustments, other things that arebeyond their control. This government has failed to recognizethat. On top of that, this government has asked them to makemore cuts to the programs. They have already lost 17 teachers inlast year's budget. They have had to cut programs. Ourenrollment is increasing. For a while it was decreasing, but nowit is increasing again in the school division.Transcona‑Springfield School Division has the lowest expenditureper pupil and the lowest assessment per pupil in the city ofWinnipeg, in metro Winnipeg.

We have, as part of our school division‑‑one‑third of it ismade up of a rural component. Yet the Minister of Education(Mrs. Vodrey) refuses to accept that explanation when the schooldivision trustees go forward and request assistance. She evengoes so far in a letter dated June 15, 1992, to tell the trustees that‑‑thanking them for the letter that was sent when the schooldivision asked her to have a consideration for the urban‑ruralsplit that we have there and to give some consideration by way offunding. Instead she totally ignored the question that was putto her and went on to say, we are thankful that you accepted thenew funding model that was put in place. That was not even partof the letter that was sent to them, Mr. Acting Speaker, so theMinister of Education refused to address the question that wasput to her legitimately by the trustees representing the childrenand the families of the community of Transcona‑Springfield.

I hope that the Minister of Agriculture (Mr. Findlay)‑‑and Isee my light is flashing‑‑puts those concerns to the Minister ofEducation to restore some fairness into the education fundingmodel in the province of Manitoba, because for theTranscona‑Springfield School Division No. 12 now that fairnessdoes not exist. I hope that the Minister of Education willlisten to those comments and call a meeting with the trustees ofthat division so that they can present face to face theirconcerns to her and that she will address those concerns in anearnest way.

Mr. Bob Rose (Turtle Mountain): It is certainly a pleasure thisafternoon to have the opportunity to take part in the debate aswe resume the fourth session of the 35th Legislature of thisprovince. I make that point because I would be surprised if, atany time before, in the history of the debates that have takenplace in this Chamber, there has been one that covers the subjectwhich we are covering today, and that is the overall approach toeducation but with the specific approach this year of a reductionin support to public schools and post‑secondary education.

I would suspect, Mr. Acting Speaker, if we were able to goback to the first Legislature of this province, into the firstsession, if anyone had dared to estimate that by this time in1993 we would be spending in Manitoba approximately $1 billion oneducation, I would suspect that those people in the firstLegislature in the first session would have been totallyastonished and unbelieving at that kind of a figure. That is not$1 million we are talking about, not $10 million we are talkingabout, not $100 million we are talking about, but $1000 millionthat we are spending in Manitoba on education.

 

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It seems a little strange to me that we should be sospiritedly debating the accusation that this government, thegovernment of the day, the members on this side of the House, arenot supporting education in Manitoba when the expenditure ofeducation in Manitoba will be somewhere in the neighbourhood of$1 billion. Clearly, if we could back up to square one and sayto our society, here is a government that is prepared through theprovincial tax coffers as well as the local tax coffers to spend$1 billion on an education system, surely everyone would bedelighted with that opportunity to have that kind of spendingpower available to educate our children.

All of us realize very simply that the total loss of theprimary, secondary and post‑secondary education system in oursociety, if that were totally lost, within one generation thesociety as we know it would come to a halt. We would be backalmost to the caveman days, because education, as has beenpointed out many times this afternoon in the debates, is ofprimary importance in our society. In fact, it is thecornerstone of our society. In fact, it is the cornerstone onwhich we build.

At the same time, the automatic spending in education doesnot mean that the quality of that education will increase. Arewe suggesting that if we spend $2 billion in education, it wouldbe twice as good? Are we suggesting, if we spent $500 million ineducation, it would be half as good? Certainly, the actualnumber of dollars that is spent on education is not in itself ayardstick of the quality of education that is available.

It is certainly obvious to anyone who has done any kind ofstudy of government spending at any level of government thatdecisions are primarily made on the money that is available. Itseems that almost all, if not all, levels of government tend tospend, or the spending expands, to fill the amount of money thatis available.

The problem that we are encountering now has come aboutbecause senior levels of government at the federal and provinciallevel have had a habit of spending beyond what money isavailable. This trend has been going on in our country and ourprovince for almost a quarter of a century now, almost 25 years.I guess the time of reckoning has come, because the people onthis side of the House at least recognize that you cannot foreverspend more than you take in, that sooner or later there has to bea day of reckoning. Now it has taken us 25 years to reach thatpoint of recognition, I suppose, and as previous speakers havesuggested from the government side of the House, there stillappear to be some that have not reached that point of recognitionas yet, but most of society has.

It is interesting to look across the country to the variousprovincial governments who are made up of various politicalparties of various political philosophies, and once they are inpower they all have to deal with reality. They have to deal withthe reality of 25 years of spending beyond what we are earning,what we are taking in. It has reached a point where we mustrecognize that and move to address that particular problem.

The Minister of Finance (Mr. Manness) coined a phrase thisafternoon, or at least quoted a phrase, fiscal child abuse, whichraised some eyebrows across the way and some immediate response.I do not think it was the minister's intent to cheapen the veryreal concerns we all have with physical and mental child abusethat everyone in society regardless of political belief aretrying to deal with. The fact remains that fiscal child abuse isan expression that can very well apply to the kind of financingthat we have been doing in our country for the last quarter of acentury, because it is not me that will pay back this money thatwe are borrowing beyond what we are bringing in. It is notnecessarily my children who will pay that. It is the children inthe education system who when they grow up must enter into theeconomy and who must earn enough money to pay back the principalthat we are now borrowing to finance our standard of living. Payback with interest, by the way.

So fiscal child abuse, as we say, is not an attempt tocheapen the term but is, in my mind, a very real description ofwhat we continue to do with deficit financing.

If I have one criticism of our side of the House, of thegovernment side of the House, in this whole question of educationfinance, the current question of education finance, it is thetiming of the announcement. By that I mean the very difficultproblems that the school boards have in budgeting, the fact thatthey have to have their budgets completed by the middle of March,and the fact that they do not know what the level of provincialsupport will be until a very short period of time before theyhave to make those decisions.

I think the overall message that we are trying to get acrosshere is an excellent message. I think it is very timely, and Ithink perhaps it is the kind of message that needs to beemphasized that it is not necessarily just a one‑year thing, itis not necessarily a one‑time thing, it is not necessarily aone‑time adjustment. It is an attempt by everyone to face thereality of the fact that we have been spending beyond our means,and that the problems facing our society in the future are goingto be much greater if we do not face that fact right now andattempt to deal with it.

I think I have to make the point, Mr. Acting Speaker, beforemy time is up, that, as I have mentioned before, it has taken us25 years to get into this particular problem, and it may verywell take us 25 years to get out of it. The move to get out willbe just as slow and gradual as the gradual buildup of thedeficits and the debt that faces all levels of governments inthis country.

I think the point we really need to emphasize is that it isnot a question of political philosophy, that it is not a questionof political party, that it is a question of all our citizenscoming to grips with the fact that we must learn to live withinour means.

I cannot believe that our education system will not stillcontinue to produce fine graduates, very capable graduates andgraduates who understand the reality of economics when we arespending $1 billion a year on education. Thank you.

Ms. Judy Wasylycia-Leis (St. Johns): Education is the key thatunlocks the door to opportunity. Fine words, Mr. Acting Speaker,fine words by the Premier (Mr. Filmon) of this Conservativegovernment back in 1991. I certainly believe those words. We inthe New Democratic Party believe those words. We only wish thatthe Premier and his colleagues actually believe those words. Ifthey had believed those words, they would have been finding waysto turn the key to unlock the door to opportunity. Instead, thisgovernment has chosen to throw the key away.

Never before, in the history of this province, has oureducation system taken such a hit. The two percent and more cuts to base budgets of school boards, directed, dictated by thisgovernment is unprecedented, unparalleled and unquestionablyunacceptable.

This action is so shortsighted and will cost so dearly downthe road that it raises for many the question of the veryrationality and sensibility of this government, and many areasking as a result of this drastic cut to our public educationsystem, has this government entirely lost its senses?

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Why is it forsaking one of its foremost obligations, theprovision of a quality education to each and every Manitoban?Why can it not see what damage it is doing to our public schoolswhich are central, which are pivotal, which are fundamental tothe goal of providing quality education to each and every one ofour citizens.

This government needs to be reminded just why Manitobans needquality public school education. That need is based on theprinciple that the social well‑being of our province‑widecommunity requires that every student be educated appropriatelyin order to attain a fulfilling and productive lifestyle. Aswell, it is based on the principle that the economic prosperityof our province depends on the population becoming more highlyeducated, more competent, more creative and that the futureviability of the Manitoba economy will be determined in largepart by the educational attainment of all of its citizens.

Mr. Acting Speaker, this essential importance of publiceducation to the future social and economic well‑being ofManitoba demands that this government show leadership, showforesight and skill. It must have coherent plans and financialcommitment to ensure the provision of quality education to allstudents throughout the province and it must be able to addressthe obstacles to equal educational opportunity.

It is being said, Mr. Acting Speaker, by many that the publiceducation system is the last remaining institution for creatingequality of opportunity and equality of condition, for creating alevel playing field, for reducing systemic inequalities, forbeing an equalizer in our society. Now this, too, is being takenaway.

This Conservative government's education policy, like itseconomic policy, is really based on the old philosophy, thesurvival of the fittest. This government's drastic educationcutbacks will hit the poorest neighbourhoods in our communities,the most vulnerable members of our society, the poorest amongus. It will mean larger classrooms, higher student‑to‑teacherratios, fewer aides, less personalized approaches, less time andenergy to identify problems like child abuse, less time andability to recognize signs of suicide, less time and energy tocurb and detect violence and detect learning disabilities andproblems facing the students of today.

Mr. Acting Speaker, if the members opposite do not hear ourwords today then maybe they will hear the words of a teacherworking in an inner city school as quoted in the January 1991edition of the Social Planning Council of Winnipeg newsletter. Iquote from an article written by Suzanne Adkins, a teacher atDavid Livingstone School.

What do my students expect of their day at school?Certainly, I hope most of them share my hopes, but for others thetime spent at school is time spent away from serious homeproblems. School can be a break from the bleak environment ofpoverty. Breakfast in the nutrition room fills an empty stomachand the clothing depots cover cold hands, but these are justphysical needs and problems.

As an elementary school teacher, I am part of an equationwhere compensation, motivation and co‑operation equal education.It is a challenge to make learning relevant when the child hashad very limited experiences of the kind that children of moreaffluent families enjoy. Through in‑services and research intonew programs and methods, teachers endeavour to better assess andaddress their students' needs. Co‑operative teaching withspecialists like resource teachers and teacher librarians affordsnew insights into meeting students' needs, but this requires timeto consult and plan together. A successful learning environmentis nonthreatening where students are motivated to take chanceswith reading and writing and where positive experiences andfeedback encourage a child to try again and try harder.Individualized early intervention programs for at‑risk childrenare designed to prevent students from falling between thecracks. The article goes on, Mr. Acting Speaker.

Clearly, the point has been made very well by this teacher onthe front line in an inner‑city neighbourhood. Without adequatefunding, early intervention programs that are so vital to futuregenerations will be lost. Cuts to quality education at a time ofhigh unemployment economic insecurity are absolutely a recipe fordisaster. Schools can and ought to help counter the harshrealities of unemployment and economic uncertainty. They can tryto make up for what is wrong and missing in their students'lives: parents who are overwhelmed and cannot find jobs, parentswho move around in search of affordable housing, parents who arenot together or not around because of alienation and isolationand dependency.

Mr. Acting Speaker, without a doubt, the cuts of thisgovernment will be disproportionately felt by the neediest in oursociety. Many kids will move from crowded classrooms to crowdedhomes and now may not even be able to find quiet study time incommunity libraries because of actions being contemplated by thecity.

In conclusion, let me just ask the question, can we affordthis government's cutbacks to education? Absolutely not. In thename of decency, human dignity, and just plain old goodeconomics, we ask this government to change its mind, rescind itseducation cuts, and put the key of knowledge back into the doorof opportunity. Thank you.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Laurendeau): Is it the will of the Houseto call it six o'clock? No? OK? Six o'clock. The hour being 6p.m., in accordance with the rules, I am leaving the Chair andwill return at 8 p.m.

 

ERRATUM

 

On Wednesday, December 16, 1992, Hansard No. 15, thefollowing comments should have been included in the Hansard onpage 615 under the heading of Nonpolitical Statements immediatelyfollowing Ms. Judy Wasylycia‑Leis:

Mr. Speaker: Does the honourable member for The Maples haveleave to make a nonpolitical statement? [agreed]

Mr. Gulzar Cheema (The Maples): Mr. Speaker, we would also liketo join with the Premier (Mr. Filmon) and the members of thisHouse in wishing all Manitobans the best of the holiday season.

As the Premier has said, we have many cultures, many ethnicbackgrounds in this province, but the basic thing is that everyculture has the basic ingredient of good morals, good ethics andgood family values, and I think we can all celebrate, and we canall contribute.

Most importantly, I think we should remember those peoplearound the world who are not that fortunate, who are having arough time, either politically or otherwise, so we should wishthem all the best and we hope that 1993 will be a better year forall of us in this world. Thank you.

Mr. Speaker: Does the honourable member for Radisson have leaveto make a nonpolitical statement? [agreed]

Ms. Marianne Cerilli (Radisson): Mr. Speaker, I want to make anonpolitical statement today regarding the significant eventhappening in Winnipeg, namely the human rights tribunal of theCanadian Human Rights Commission.

I have had the chance to attend some of the hearings, and Ido believe that this is a significant event, partially because ofthe charges that were laid regarding the violations of the humanrights legislation.

I want to talk a little bit about the importance of thisevent. I want to talk a little bit about the importance of allmembers of the House, of the media, of all members of thecommunity recognizing the significance of this human rightstribunal, because I truly believe that, as we learn better andbetter to stand up for our own human rights, we are learning totake responsibility for ourselves; and, as we learn to do thatindividually, we can learn to do that as a society. As we takeresponsibility for standing up for the human rights of others, weare becoming indeed a more responsible society.

I would just urge all of us to take very seriously and to payclose attention to the efforts of the tribunal happening inWinnipeg. Thank you.