The House met at 2:02 p.m.
STATEMENTS BY THE MINISTRY
SALES TAX EXEMPTION
Hon. Mr. Maeck: Mr. Speaker, the honourable members are aware of the government’s commitment to deregulation and the simplification of taxing procedures. In this respect, I intend to simplify the procedures under which an Indian may purchase goods exempt from retail sales tax.
This has been an ongoing problem. It has been frequently suggested to me by the members of the Legislature, including you, Mr. Speaker, that Indians are not able to obtain the full benefit of the retail sales tax exemption because of the requirement that any purchase of goods off the reserve must be delivered to the reserve by the vendor in order to obtain the exemption. Many purchased goods reach the reserve by transportation other than that of a vendor, in which case there is no exemption.
My ministry has been studying this issue, and I am pleased to inform the honourable members that, effective September 1, 1980, an Indian may make exempt purchases off the reserve, provided the purchases are to be used on the reserve, without the requirement of delivery to the reserve by the vendor.
Mr. T. P. Reid: It’s about time. Does the minister remember when I raised this with him?
Hon. Mr. Maeck: Yes, the member for Rainy River among many others.
My officials are establishing a simple administrative procedure which will, in effect, make it clear that the responsibility for delivery to reserves may be assumed by the Indian purchasing the goods. These details are being worked out, as well as arrangements to communicate these procedures to all vendors and registered Indians in the province.
In closing, the honourable members should note that these forthcoming changes are one more indication of the government’s desire to simplify tax procedures and provide all possible benefits to the native community of Ontario.
HILL REPORT ON GROUPS, SECTS AND CULTS
Hon. Mr. McMurtry: Mr. Speaker, I am today tabling the report of the study of mind development groups, sects and cults in Ontario. The report was produced in this form within my ministry for security reasons and in order that the members receive it before the Legislature recesses.
A limited number of copies of the report, which is almost 800 pages in length, are available to the Legislature, the press and the organizations involved in the study. Additional copies will be available at the government bookstore in a few days when commercial printing of it is completed.
Members will recall that on October 24, 1978, I announced this study, to be conducted by Dr. Daniel G. Hill, the distinguished former director and chairman of the Ontario Human Rights Commission. This followed expressions of concern to the government and to many members about the activities of such organizations.
Dr. Hill’s terms of reference were spelled out in my letter to him, dated December 27, 1978, a copy of which is included in the report. I indicated our concern for the preservation of civil and religious liberties and instructed that the study was not to make adverse findings of fact in relation to any identifiable individuals or groups. Dr. Hill was asked to advise the government about issues raised during the study; whether it would be in the public interest to establish a public inquiry into these matters; and to recommend any other steps the government might take to fulfil its responsibilities in this area.
Dr. Hill examined the activities of 14 groups as well as the actions of deprogrammers.
With regard to allegations that groups use brainwashing and hypnosis to recruit and hold their followers, Dr. Hill states: “There is no doubt ... that most of the groups under examination do employ emotionally and psychologically taxing techniques in the conversion of recruits. Many of their practices clearly are intended to make recruits doubt relationships and activities of their past and press them to accept new, radically different beliefs and lifestyles. It is also readily apparent that the movements employing such techniques are highly effective; people do change radically and certainly not always to their own benefit.”
In the final analysis, however, the study could not confirm that such practices actually constitute brainwashing and hypnosis. In all the medical opinion canvassed, there was no agreement on what constituted brainwashing or hypnosis in this context or the real results of them.
With regard to concerns about the effect that participation in some groups has had on the mental health of some followers, the report states: “In the study’s view, it seems highly likely that the experiences several former members reportedly underwent in various movements did contribute to health problems they suffered.” The study also found that many group members expressed the positive emotional benefits of their involvement.
In relation to one mind development group, Dr. Hill found there was “a strong enough circumstantial link between its practices and reported casualties” to warrant the consideration of legislative controls. But he concluded: “However, whether in the case of this group or any other, the study doubted that there was any workable way to prohibit a particular group from employing any of its allegedly destructive techniques.”
In dealing with concerns that some cults pose a threat to society and have a potential for violence, Dr. Hill notes that he was appointed a few weeks prior to the horror of Jonestown. He adds: “In the study’s view, there is no doubt that mass madness and group paranoia are a possibility wherever certain factors -- charismatic leadership, fanatical adherence to a cause, a real or imagined threat from outside -- come together. And it is clear that society is at risk when groups with such factors have mass followings or any significant measure of social or political influence.”
But this is only a hypothetical threat in view of the study, and Dr. Hill states: “A democratic society does not penalize its members for what they are capable of doing. Moreover, existing laws governing matters such as the possession of weapons, infliction of harm, counselling violence, threatening or harassing seem sufficient at this time to cope with the challenge if a potential were to become actual.”
As members know, one of the most wrenching concerns raised has been the effect of involvement in some groups on the followers’ families, and Dr. Hill states: “It is clear that some movements purposely isolate members from their families, preach against family loyalties as evil, or actively encourage hostility toward parents and other relatives.”
The study notes, with some moving case histories to illustrate, that this alienation “can strike a family as a full-scale tragedy.” However, Dr. Hill concludes that, despite the impact on specific families, the effect of such activities is not at present of such a magnitude in Ontario that it jeopardizes the family as an institution.
Dr. Hill adds: “It must also be acknowledged that the children whom various groups have been accused of luring away from their families almost all have been adults, legally responsible for their own actions. Their choices may constitute tragic errors; they may cause immeasurable pain to those who love them; and they may be acting on the basis of distorted and bizarre interpretations placed on their family relationships by their group leaders. Yet, in so far as public authority is concerned, their decisions are in the realm of emotional relationships, an area in which state intervention is inappropriate and perhaps unenforceable.”
Dr. Hill also concludes that many groups engage in hard-sell methods, unconscionable contracts, loan frauds, tax law manipulations and falsified bookkeeping. In fact, he concludes: “In these movements deception and fraud are endemic and carried out on a substantial scale. All energy is devoted to the pursuit of more members and, through them, more money to enrich the leader and his lieutenants. It appears to be why these groups exist at all.”
Dr. Hill notes that existing consumer protection legislation and the criminal law may not have been vigorously enforced in regard to such practices. But he stresses that the various law enforcement agencies acted out of their own deep concern about our religious and other civil rights which are often invoked by some groups to shield their activities.
Dr. Hill properly observes: “As noted earlier, a religious orientation does not shield groups or individuals from the responsibility to act in accordance with law, from investigation where there is sufficient reason to believe they have broken the law or from prosecution where evidence exists.”
With regard to concerns about forced deprogramming, the study indicates that this activity was of a very limited nature in Ontario and is at present virtually nonexistent, probably because it is no longer profitable for “professional” practitioners. But the study warns that it could well recur, complete with acts such as kidnapping, abduction, involuntary confinement and assault. Dr. Hill states: “For all the sympathy and understanding parents in this situation may evoke, the study cannot condone forced deprogramming as a way of returning anyone to his family.”
As part of his general conclusions, Dr. Hill states that no new legislation is either required or desirable to deal with these issues, nor does he recommend the establishment of a public inquiry. Dr. Hill concludes: “In light of the evidence at hand, there seems to be no area in which the people of Ontario would be served by the government implementing new legislative measures to control or otherwise affect the activities of cults, sects, mind development groups, new religions or deprogrammers. To the extent that the movements and deprogrammers foster problems that are susceptible to legal resolution, the criminal and civil law appear already to afford sufficient avenues of punishment and redress.”
While Dr. Hill rejects legislative action, he candidly acknowledges that a number of vexing problems remain: “The study still is disturbed by questions surrounding the concepts of cultic brainwashing, mind control, mental coercion and hypnosis. It remains disquieted by the wanton use of confrontation techniques by some groups. It is convinced that some movements are, as their detractors say, corrupt, even pernicious. It has no doubt that some leaders are false prophets who lure bewildered people through a maze of absurdities, waste talents and abuse intellects for the sake of some self-gratification. All that and other unresolved problems leave the study feeling somewhat uneasy.”
As I indicated, Dr. Hill recommends that no public inquiry he held regarding the issues arising out of the activities of such organizations and individuals. In coming to this conclusion, he poses a number of questions, and I quote:
“Can the perceived problem be addressed in a less unusual way -- through existing legislation or normal investigatory channels open to police or other agents of the law? Is the problem so pressing that it warrants giving a specially constituted body the extraordinary powers of a formal public inquiry, including the power to search, to require the presentation of documents or to compel witnesses to testify? Is the resulting interference with civil rights warranted? Can the subject of inquiry be defined precisely enough to make it manageable and prevent the process from turning into an examination of the universe or, worse, a witchhunt? Is it worth the cost to the public purse?”
The report states: “In the study’s view, none of these questions could be answered in the affirmative in this case. To conduct a public inquiry now would duplicate work the study already has done and likely would not produce any other substantive recommendations.”
A major proposal of the study is for an educational campaign by government and other agencies to acquaint the public with these matters. I should add that many of the 300 recommendations made to Dr. Hill included the need for education, and I believe that Dr. Hill’s report itself will be of enormous assistance in public understanding of these issues and the need for balance in consideration of them.
In the time available, I have been able to highlight only a few points and conclusions in Dr. Hill’s study. I believe that members and the public who take the time to read the report will come to see that this entire area is what Dr. Hill refers to as a public policy minefield which must be crossed with great care.
During the course of the study I met informally with Dr. Hill on a number of occasions and it was apparent to me that he was taking a most comprehensive and balanced approach to these complex issues involving fundamental rights. I want to pay tribute to Dr. Hill, who is here today, and to his staff for their dedicated work under what were often very trying and emotional circumstances.
While my cabinet colleagues and I have not yet had the opportunity to study the report in detail, I want to assure the members and the public that the government will assess this report with the same balance and thoughtfulness that Dr. Hill and his staff put into it. We will make our intentions known as soon as possible.
ALGONQUIN PARK MASTER PLAN REVIEW
Hon. Mr. Auld: Mr. Speaker, as I indicated on Friday, June 6, 1980, in response to a question by the member for Renfrew North (Mr. Conway), the Ontario Provincial Parks Council recommendations on the Algonquin Provincial Park master plan first five-year review and my response were released to the public on June 12, 1980.
As honourable members may remember, the Algonquin Provincial Park master plan was approved in 1974 following several years of public involvement, including the report of a citizens’ advisory committee under the chairmanship of the late Honourable Leslie M. Frost.
At the time of the Algonquin Park master plan approval, in 1974, the provincial parks council was established to monitor and to make recommendations on the implementation of the Algonquin Park master plan together with other responsibilities as specified in the parks council’s terms of reference.
For the past four years, the parks council’s annual report has included recommendations on Algonquin Park based on information received at public meetings and on the council’s own deliberations.
Last year, I asked the council to carry out a comprehensive review of the Algonquin Park master plan. The practice is to carry out a review of all approved provincial park master plans at regular intervals to ensure that they reflect changing conditions.
Included in the report released on June 12 are the provincial parks council’s 102 recommendations and my responses. From March until September last year, the council held seven public meetings attended by more than 1,100 people. The council also received 167 briefs from individuals and groups. Several of the briefs were from outside Canada, reflecting Algonquin Park’s international stature. The parks council chairman, Dr. George Priddle, has informed me that the recommendations were shaped to a considerable extent by the public input.
Major topics covered by the parks council recommendations include acid rain, zoning, historical resources, forest management, motorboats, enforcement of regulations, management plans, tin can and bottle ban, impact of the master plan on neighbouring communities, leases and winter recreation. I want to commend the parks council for the effective manner in which the master plan review was carried out.
Major results of the five-year review of the plan, as indicated by my responses to the recommendations, are as follows: The effects of acid rain on Algonquin Park will be given increased attention. Wilderness zone expansion is being considered. More emphasis will be placed on the management of historical resources in the park. The existing motorboat policy will remain in effect for the 1980 operating season. Beginning in 1982, motorboats on lakes with cottage leases will be restricted to 10 horsepower. Portage aids called wheels, will continue to be permitted. The council’s rejection of the Renfrew Hydro proposal to dam Robitaille Lake is accepted.
The former aircraft landing strip at the Lake of Two Rivers will remain closed. Canoe rangers in the park interior will be increased to assist park users. The park museum and interpretive services will be expanded. Fisheries and wildlife management plans for the park will be prepared. The can and bottle ban will continue. Access point quotas and the interior campsite reservation system will be improved.
The period for reduced fees for youth groups will be extended to include July and August. Canoe safety will be given increased attention. A major parks and tourism initiative by my ministry is expected to increase the economic benefits to neighbouring communities. The existing cottage lease policy will remain in effect. New lease agreements with the lodges will be negotiated, allowing them to remain in the park beyond 1996. The townships of Clyde and Bruton will remain in the park. Increased emphasis will be placed on winter recreation.
As a further response to the question last week by the member for Renfrew North, may I say that no additional public meetings related to the master plan itself will be held until the next review period. However, the forest management plan for the park, being prepared by the Algonquin Forestry Authority, will be available for review by the public and the details will be announced in the near future.
I would like to take this opportunity to add that, since the establishment of the Algonquin Forestry Authority, a number of significant improvements have taken place in relation to forest management and the reduction of resource utilization and recreation activity conflicts in the parks. The Algonquin Forestry Authority can be justly proud of its achievements.
In conclusion, the changes to the Algonquin master plan as a result of the first five-year review, although important, might better be described as fine-tuning rather than a major overall. The results of the review are welcome as indicating substantial public support for the Algonquin master plan policy. My responses to the parks council’s recommendations will guide ministry staff in the ongoing implementation of the master plan. Parks council review and the public input have served a very worthwhile purpose in ensuring that Algonquin Provincial Park remains the special place it is.
Copies of the report, which have been mailed to all those who submitted briefs, are also available from our offices here, in Huntsville, in the park and the parks council office in Waterloo.
Mr. S. Smith: I have a question for the Minister of Health, Mr. Speaker, concerning the decision of the Court of Appeal in the case of Morton Shulman versus the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario. As the minister no doubt knows, the court last week dismissed Dr. Shulman’s appeal against the finding of professional misconduct by the college’s discipline committee because he disclosed in a newspaper column that a patient at Toronto East General Hospital, given the wrong blood following surgery, subsequently died.
Would the minister agree that Dr. Shulman had no medical association with the patient, that he received and published the information as a journalist, not as a doctor, and the fact he happens to be a doctor is totally irrelevant to this case? Since the Court of Appeal simply ignored this all-important argument in its decision, will the minister consider an amendment to the Health Disciplines Act to ensure that the disciplinary power of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario is limited to the practice of medicine and does not extend to freedom of press and speech?
Hon. Mr. Timbrell: Mr. Speaker, I have not had a chance to see the written decision of the court. I have only seen the press reports. Going back to the origins of the case, if I remember the details correctly, the patient did not die as a result of the mismatch in question.
Where it got into being a matter of professional misconduct, with charges being laid by fellow physicians and the matter being considered by the college, had to do with the lack of consent on the part of the lady in question to have her name used at all.
I think we are well served by journalists who identify specific cases and, where they have the consent of patients involved, use their names and where they do not leave the names out. I welcome it as part of the checks and balances of the system. So I do not think an amendment to the Health Disciplines Act is necessary. In fact, one of the press accounts I saw indicated that the gentleman in question as much as admitted the next time he will get the patient’s consent or not use the name.
Mr. S. Smith: There was no complaint from the survivors that the lady’s name was used. Since the patient was not Dr. Shulman’s patient, and the information did not come to him in his capacity as a doctor, any other journalist getting the same information could easily have used the lady’s name with impunity. Surely then, the question comes to why this journalist, because he is also a doctor, should have to suffer certain consequences and be impeded from writing as convincing and as authentic a story as any other journalist?
Does the minister understand the potential threat to freedom of speech or the press which is involved in a person who happens to be a physician but is primarily at this time a journalist?
While the minister is on his feet, so that I do not have to ask another question, will the minister say whether Dr. Shulman is correct in his column of last Thursday where he reported that nothing has been done by the college about the doctor who administered the wrong blood to the patient?
Hon. Mr. Timbrell: First of all, yes, I acknowledge that this individual was not a patient of Dr. Shulman’s. But he is in quite a different situation from that of any other journalist in that he took an oath, which all physicians have taken, which involves protecting confidentiality. As part of that oath and part of the ethics of the profession he has sworn to protect the confidentiality of patients and medical information about those patients, in the absence of any consent from them to use their names and/or the details of their cases.
That kind of oath is not binding, nor does it apply in the regular practice of journalism. However, I would expect that any other journalist writing about an individual ease would respect rights to confidentiality about their condition and about their treatment. If he wants to print details and include names, I would hope he would get their permission.
Regarding the question of the blood-matching operation, I am not sure whether it was a physician who was involved -- if I remember the details, it may have been a technologist who was involved -- but steps were taken by the hospital at the time to correct the problem.
Mr. Breaugh: Mr. Speaker, I have not heard the minister say in the course of this conversation that he is undertaking an inquiry on his own. Is he looking at the various aspects of this case, and might we anticipate, if not a legal intervention, then some intervention from the minister himself?
Hon. Mr. Timbrell: At the time, we did follow up to make sure that corrective action had been taken at the hospital in question. As I say, I do not believe -- I have not got my notes with me, and it goes back quite a while -- a physician was involved. Further, I do not recall any complaint made to the college in that regard about a particular physician, by the survivors or anyone else. I think it involved a technician, and steps were taken to correct the situation in that facility. We did look into it at the time.
Mr. Breaugh: The minister seems to be negating the question of poor Morty. Is he going to look in any way, shape or form at what appears to be, at the outset anyway, an injustice to Dr. Shulman?
Hon. Mr. Timbrell: I think the member means rich Morty. Based on all the material I have seen to date, and I have not seen the actual court decision, in this particular case the individual serves two roles: one as a practising physician and the other as a practising journalist. He has an extra encumbrance on him that does not apply to others, namely, the oath he took as a physician. There have been many cases in the past where allegations have been made by that particular journalist-physician without the involvement of patients’ names.
All this essentially means, as far as I can determine, is that if he wants to use the person’s name, he should get consent. I would hope that would apply to any journalist, whether or not he has taken the Hippocratic oath.
Mr. S. Smith: Mr. Speaker, if I may have your indulgence for a moment, the Hippocratic oath says: “Whatsoever comes into my knowledge in my duties as a physician, I shall forswear.” It is not a question of whether this person is also a journalist. I do not think they had that problem in Hippocrates’ time, but I do think there is a serious question.
Mr. S. Smith: If I am incorrect, will the Minister of Education please correct me?
Hon. Miss Stephenson: Yes, I shall.
Mr. S. Smith: She will do so? That is correct.
Mr. Nixon: As soon as she looks it up.
Mr. S. Smith: She will look it up and try to recall it.
TOWNSEND SITE DEVELOPMENT
Mr. S. Smith: Mr. Speaker, I have a question far the Minister of Housing. Can the minister tell the House of any expectation he has of further development in the Nanticoke area in the near future? Does he have any particular expectation of additional developments beyond those we already know about? And can he describe them to the House?
Hon. Mr. Bennett: Mr. Speaker, I take it that the Leader of the Opposition is referring to further industrial growth in the Nanticoke area and the Townsend area. I have already covered with members of his own party in the past the development as far as residential is concerned at the present time in relationship to the economics. We have a continuing relationship with Stelco Inc., which owns probably the largest tract of industrial land for development in that area, and we will have services sufficient to accommodate the type of industry anticipated. In that relationship, the Minister of Industry and Tourism (Mr. Grossman) is working with Stelco to try to find some companies, and I am told there are some. At the same time, there are a couple of discussions taking place with the Ontario Land Corporation and its board of directors and management and some firms that are looking for an opportunity of doing some relocations or additions to their plant expansion in Canada.
Mr. S. Smith: With great respect, given the utter vagueness of those suggestions and the downright improbability of some of them, can the minister explain why enormous investments are being made in the Townsend area to prepare for this great influx of people when the existing industrial developments already have, largely speaking, their full complement of employees, and the population projections upon which Townsend was based have simply been proven to be false? If anything, I think the population in the area has actually gone down in recent times.
Given the fact that, in the communities around Nanticoke, there are now some 1,500 serviced lots sitting idle and lots of empty stores, what conceivable reason is there for the government to pour more millions of dollars and vast, advertising into Townsend to try to persuade people to buy lots there? In March, the ministry sold a grand total of 11 lots, as I recall. Is the minister going to continue pouring millions into Townsend when the existing communities can easily take up the population that is there, given that the population projections have proven wrong?
Hon. Mr. Bennett: Obviously the leader of the Liberal Party does not read any of the responses tabled in this House and sent to the member for the particular area. He says the industry has already established its entire contingency in that area. Let me assure him it has not.
Stelco will be coming on stream for a great number of months yet and will eventually have total employment of something between 2,300 and 3,000 people when that mill is fully in production.
During the course of the development of Townsend -- and it has been under debate on more than one occasion in this House, as well as in consideration of the estimates of the Ministry of Housing on several occasions -- we have indicated very clearly we will keep a very close watch on the economics of its development.
There are a number of things that will change the complex of Townsend and the whole overall establishment of it. One is economics, and I have mentioned that two or three times. The cost of petroleum will have a very large impact on the success of Townsend in relationship to the steelworkers who will come to work at Stelco. We know very well in our discussions with the union, with the people at Stelco and with others what the period of time will be.
We will have all these lots coming on stream. I indicated clearly that over a period of time it will be tailored to accommodate the market as we see it. The Leader of the Opposition claims about 1,500 lots are available within a very large area in the Townsend community. Some of those lots are available; I will agree with that. Some of them are without servicing to accommodate the type of development, and some of them are far higher-priced than will be available to those who wish to move into the area and work at Stelco.
We have reviewed this with the union to try to be assured of what market conditions are and the price range we should be looking at as far as accommodation is concerned. We have tried to put the Ontario Land Corporation in the development of Townsend on the same footing as a private industry going in there keeping in mind that the government did have some very substantial front-end moneys expended to accommodate Stelco, to extend services to Jarvis, Hagersville and Port Dover. All those communities will gain substantially from the establishment of Townsend and of sewer and water services and so on.
While it is easy to criticize, this government will be prepared to meet the influx of new workers who will come into that community. Stelco is going to have 2,300; I can tell the member that right now. There will be a number of them coming. There are a number of inquiries.
As for the number of lots that were sold, I indicated in my response to the member for Haldimand-Norfolk (Mr. G.I. Miller) exactly what was happening. The lots have been put on, and we have 154 lots under option at the moment. Fourteen have been sold; there are 20 model homes --
Mr. S. Smith: Fourteen? Terrific!
Hon. Mr. Bennett: It’s easy to be very comical in this House.
Fourteen have been sold. Twenty model homes are being developed by the private sector. Let me assure the Leader of the Opposition that Liberal members from that area have been proud and pleased to be associated with the minister when turning the sod to make this new community viable in their area.
Mr. Makarchuk: Mr. Speaker, the opposition to Townsend comes from two sources, one source being developers who believe in private enterprise but cannot stand competition, and the other source being local residents who are concerned about the possibility they may be saddled with the cost of the community in the future. Can the minister give assurance to the taxpayers in the Nanticoke area that they will not be liable for the cost of that community through their taxes some time down the road?
Hon. Mr. Bennett: Through the Ministry of Housing and the Ontario Land Corporation, I have entered into agreements with the regional government, signed and sealed by the chairman of that region and myself as the minister, that indicate very clearly the cost-sharing program. If for some reason or other the capacity of the services is not absorbed as quickly as has been projected, both by that region and this government, then there will be some absorption of costs by the provincial government.
Mr. C. I. Miller: Mr. Speaker, I have a request from the Common Sense Coalition which has the support of the chambers of commerce of Simcoe, Port Dover, Jarvis, Hagersville and Caledonia, and they would like to meet with the minister. Would he be willing to come down and discuss development in the area, particularly in Townsend, with this group?
Hon. Mr. Bennett: Over the past number of months I have had the opportunity of meeting --
Some hon. members: Yes or no?
Hon. Mr. Bennett: That is about as simple as the members opposite think the answer should always be.
Over the past number of months I have had the opportunity of meeting with people from chambers of commerce, from the Housing and Urban Development Association of Canada and from the development corporation in that area. I have not received the letter the member indicates. I will look at it to see what subject they would like to discuss. If it is within reason, we will certainly accommodate it.
Mr. Nixon: Will the minister explain to the House why he can continue with the very high promotional cost, as well as the very high development cost, when up to this point he has sold only 14 lots? Will the minister not agree that some of the serviced lots in the community around are available at as low a price, just as there will be higher-priced lots in Townsend, if the minister’s plans are carried to fruition at this time?
Hon. Mr. Bennett: There is no doubt that in any development there will always be lots on the periphery of the development owned by the private sector which will come on stream at higher and lower prices. Most of the lots owned by the private sector in the area of Townsend are considerably higher priced than they would be if they were placed in the Townsend project.
Frankly, I would hope that those would come in. We have indicated clearly to the private sector that it is not the intention in the development of Townsend by the Ontario Land Corporation that we should try in any way, shape or form to capitalize or capture the entire market. We are serving a very specific market for the Stelco people. There will be, I admit, some higher-priced lots in the Townsend development. That is to provide variety and choice for the individual who is purchasing. But the bulk of the lots will be in the medium price range to accommodate the market which, we believe, is the one that is available to us from the Stelco development.
Frankly, I think we have priced it correctly. The advancement of the promotion is part of the capitalization of the project, as I said here in the House on Thursday of last week, and I think it is well invested. Townsend will be a reality, is a reality, and it will be a viable entity in the honourable member’s political area.
Mr. Nixon: Mr. Speaker, I have a point of privilege to correct the record: The minister indicated that I attended the sod turning, as if that were in some way in support of the program that he put forward. Surely he will remember my statements at that time, indicating that I had been opposed to the buying of this property by Treasurer John White when he bought two townsites, not one, within about 10 miles of each other. I indicated clearly at that time that the surrounding communities had the servicing for an expansion of the local population that would surely accommodate that expansion for 20 years.
Hon. Mr. Bennett: Mr. Speaker, I have to say to the member that I do not recall him being quite that elaborate, but I do recall him being very complimentary about the fact that Townsend was under development and he wished us the best of luck in the future.
SMALL CAR PRODUCTION
Mr. Cassidy: Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Premier about jobs and specifically about the prospects for a turnaround in the automobile industry, since the Premier told us last week that when the automobile industry turns around, that will turn the Ontario economy around as well.
Since the Premier referred to vehicles and the North American producers that will have consumer acceptance, can the Premier explain how Ontario stands to benefit when we have no major car producer with a small engine being produced in the province and when three of our four producers do not make and have no plans to make small cars in Ontario?
How can he expect the automobile industry to turn around and create jobs for Ontario workers when we are being saddled with the white elephants of the North American automobile industry?
Hon. Mr. Davis: Mr. Speaker, speaking of white elephants --
Mr. Makarchuk: The elephants over there are blue.
Hon. Mr. Davis: We see pink elephants when we look across there, and some days we see irrelevant elephants when we look over there.
Mr. Makarchuk: An elephant is never irrelevant.
Hon. Mr. Davis: Oh, an elephant is never irrelevant. Never having been that involved with elephants, I wouldn’t know.
Mr. Speaker, I will try to recall exactly what I said. I do not think I said that when the automotive industry turned around, all would be solved. I did point out that the automotive industry, by its very nature, was a very basic ingredient of the Ontario economy as it relates to parts. I went through the whole bit. I do not think I said the whole thing would be solved with the automotive industry.
I expressed some concern about the types of vehicles that had been produced in the past by the industry. I recall going on to point out one of the Big Four which happens to be, geographically, in the great city of Brampton and which has made a very genuine effort as it relates to more consumer acceptance. I think one is the Eagle four-door station wagon, which I would recommend to anybody in this House.
Mr. Martel: Do you drive one?
Hon. Mr. Davis: My family has diminished to the extent that I no longer need that sort of vehicle. But I did point out that that company was accommodating the change in production in Brampton to what has been their best-selling model. I do not think one can ask any more than that.
I think it fair to state that under the auto pact the companies must achieve a reasonable degree of balance. I cannot tell the member that Ford is going to produce vehicles A, B, C, and D. I know that traditionally at Talbotville -- I think I am right in this -- they have produced the smaller-sized vehicles.
The expert I saw on television last night on the show of the gentleman we were discussing earlier, but who is absent today, had some observations to make in another capacity, as a journalist.
I think it is also fair to state that General Motors has had some of its smaller model production here although the K cars, the X cars, or whatever they are called have not been made here.
But I am also relatively optimistic that those manufacturers will adjust their production to accommodate the need for this province to have its fair share of whatever new models or more consumer-acceptable goods are produced by the automotive companies. I see no reason that will not happen.
Mr. Cassidy: Mr. Speaker, apparently the Premier is not aware of the fact that CM has no small-car production in Canada and does not intend to have any small-car production in Canada; that Chrysler Corporation has no small-car production in Canada and does not intend to have any small cars produced in Canada; that American Motors Corporation classes the Eagle as an intermediate car and has no small-car production in Canada; and that the only small car destined to be produced in Ontario is the model of the Escort and the Lynx, to be built by Ford at Talbotville, a model which while it might be very good has yet to be proven as a winner in the market.
Is the Ontario government not keeping itself aware of what the automobile producers are producing? Why is the government not insisting that we get a fair share, not just of the automobile industry in general, but also of the four-cylinder engines and of the small cars, which clearly are going to be the winners in the gas-short automobile economy of the 1980s?
Hon. Mr. Davis: The honourable member does not drive a Volkswagen, does he?
Mr. Nixon: He drives a Peugeot
Hon. Mr. Davis: Peugeot. He doesn’t drive a Peugeot. A Peugeot?
Mr. Cassidy: Yes.
Hon. Mr. Davis: He’s not serious? Mr. Speaker, I am tempted to go into what I think is one of the basic problems of the automotive industry, that problem being that Ontarians, Canadians and North Americans are not buying all they should of North American-produced vehicles. That is one of the basic reasons we have difficulty.
However, I will not say that today. I will not repeat what I have said. I will only say to the leader of the New Democratic Party that he should not get up and ask me questions about assisting the city of Windsor and its problems, and bringing to the attention of our citizens what cars their neighbours are building. I do not know any neighbours of mine who are building Peugeots; at least I do not know of any. Maybe they are; I will look. I don’t think so.
I do not pretend to know exactly what models the various companies intend to manufacture in Ontario over the next two years. I am relatively content that over the past 10 years, say, when it comes to the modal mix, the companies have, by and large, adjusted to the demands of the public.
Hon. Mr. Davis: It’s true. I’ll give the member chapter and verse. The company is not too healthy today. But there was a period -- and the member for Windsor-Walkerville (Mr. B. Newman), and any other member from Essex or Windsor will recall -- when Chrysler was not selling much else other than the Cordoba but the Cordoba was selling extremely well. Where was it being assembled? In Windsor, to the benefit of the workers in Windsor when, in fact, Chrysler generally was not selling the cars produced in the United States. That happens to be factually correct.
All I am saying to the honourable member is that we are mentioning this with great enthusiasm, aggressively, et cetera. It was part of the deliberations with Chrysler in terms of the assistance. We know that the more energy-efficient vehicle is the kind of vehicle that the consumers, by and large, are going to buy.
While we cannot do it without the intervention of the government of Canada, we as a government will be making every effort to see that we get our fair share of whatever production the companies determine.
Mr. Di Santo: Mr. Speaker, I will ask the Premier a serious question, since he does not seem to know what the situation is in the automobile industry and he likes to be facetious about the cars that members are driving, when we have a very serious crisis in Ontario. We have 29,000 workers laid off which is a more serious matter than the cars we are driving. Does the Premier not think it is his responsibility to ascertain what kind of cars the Big Four companies are going to build in Ontario since all that Chrysler is going to build is the small car in 1983?
Does the Premier not think it is his responsibility to ascertain what investments they are going to make in Ontario, in view of the fact that for the mid-1980s Ford is going to make 3.4 per cent of the total investment in North America; General Motors, 6.2 per cent; and Chrysler 7.2 per cent? Where is there a fair share for our automobile industry?
Hon. Mr. Davis: I think several questions were asked by the honourable member with perhaps one piece of editorial comment where he suggested I was being facetious about the kinds of cars that people drive. I just want to clear up that point. I am not being facetious. I say it in some jest, but I wish he would pay attention to some of the questions his own members ask. His own colleague asked me if this government would be allocating funds to the city of Windsor to help in its campaign to promote the purchase of North American-produced vehicles.
One of the basic problems of the automotive industry is --
Mr. Martel: They’re building the wrong type of cars.
Hon. Mr. Davis: I have to tell the member it is not totally that. People have bought more imported vehicles in terms of the percentage of the marketplace.
Mr. Martel: Because they are smaller.
Hon. Mr. Davis: I can take the member to a Chrysler dealer tomorrow, and I will make a small wager that he can get nearly as much efficiency out of an Omni or a Horizon as he can out of a Peugeot or a Toyota.
Mr. Warner: They are imported.
Hon. Mr. Davis: With great respect, the Omni is not an imported ear; neither is the Horizon. The engines traditionally have been purchased from Volkswagen.
Mr. Warner: They are being imported. They are foreign cars.
Hon. Mr. Davis: I know a little bit more about the industry than my friend does.
I would also say to the honourable member that we are aware of the potential percentage figures of investment. As a government, we have been making our best efforts to see that we get our share of that investment. In the figures the member mentioned was the capital commitment of Ford to the plant in Windsor which was part of the $50 billion that we had been talking about two years ago. This government made an effort, and was successful, in getting that $500-million capital facility located in Windsor.
Mr. Di Santo: Yes, 3.4 per cent in Canada.
Hon. Mr. Davis: I have to tell the member it was a $500-million investment that his party opposed. Let him never forget it, because we are not going to let his party forget it when we eventually meet on the hustings down in that part of the province. We are going to remind the people down there that we were instrumental in getting it, and that all the New Democratic members who wish to be elected to represent their best interests were unalterably opposed to the fact that there is a $500-million investment in that great part of Ontario.
Mr. Cassidy: On a point of privilege, Mr. Speaker: May I say that the Premier has referred --
Mr. Speaker: Have the member’s privileges been abrogated in any way?
Mr. Cassidy: They have, as a matter of fact, because the Premier might have referred to the car which I was instrumental in buying from Oshawa, a Pontiac Parisienne, which is a help to the people of Ontario.
Mr. Speaker: I want to assure you it is none of our business which car you buy. A new question.
FRUIT AND VEGETABLE PROCESSING
Mr. Cassidy: I have a new question which is directed to the Ministry of Industry and Tourism, Mr. Speaker, which is also about jobs. Will the minister say what action the government intends to take to ensure that Ontario farmers and food processors get a better share of the frozen fruit and vegetable market here in Ontario, in view of the fact that his ministry’s own figures indicate that between 1973 and 1977 the trade deficit of Ontario in frozen fruits and vegetables rose from about $4 million to about $35 million with a consequent loss in the jobs we could have had in the province?
Hon. Mr. Grossman: Mr. Speaker, at the conclusion of a very effective and well-thought-out task force set up by this ministry, it was agreed between the Ministry of Agriculture and Food and ourselves that action on that report would best be taken by that ministry. The member ought to be referring that question to the minister now responsible.
Mr. Cassidy: There is no minister for me to redirect it to. Perhaps the Minister of Industry and Tourism will say what action his ministry intends to take over the fact that more than 500 fruit and vegetable and food processing plants have closed down in Ontario over the course of the 1970s. As those food processing plants have shut down, jobs have been lost in that industry and farm land in southern Ontario has been going out of production. How long will that spiral go on before the government comes in with a policy to turn it around and starts to create jobs both for farmers and for workers in food processing?
Hon. Mr. Grossman: We can debate forever whether the government ought to be doing what the leader of the third party would have us do. That is simply to avoid the discussion of whether government money should be put to support winners or losers -- industries that have a natural market and long-term strength or not.
To analyse those kinds of things, we organized the task force reports. I think it is interesting to note that we have only done two or three, and we have selected that particular sector for the second report we did. This indicates the emphasis we put on that industry and our concern with that industry.
I can only say to the member, I know he is frustrated that the Minister of Agriculture and Food (Mr. Henderson) is not here today, but it is his responsibility to deal with the recommendations of that report and act upon them. We will simply have to wait until he returns.
Mr. Cassidy: Is the minister saying that the farming industry is a loser or a winner in Ontario? If it is a winner, will the minister explain why it is that more than half the fruit land production in the Niagara Peninsula, with all of the jobs in processing that are entailed as well, has disappeared from this province over the course of the last 30 years under a Conservative government? How much more farm land are we going to lose and how many more farm jobs and farm-related jobs are we going to lose before we get a policy that includes not just the Minister of Agriculture and Food, but also the Treasurer (Mr. F. S. Miller) and the Minister of Industry and Tourism? We need those jobs, we want those jobs and we cannot afford to lose those jobs.
Hon. Mr. Grossman: I understand the good politics of the leader of the third party standing up and accusing this government of being responsible for the loss of those jobs in that sector. The Premier and the Treasurer, quite properly and regularly, point out the monumental dimensions of creating, what is it, 166,000 new jobs last year in this province? But when they do, we are very careful not to take full credit for all of those jobs.
I am willing to make the leader of the third party a deal: We will accept the blame for all those losses if he will give us full credit for the 166,000 jobs last year.
GRANT TO RACING CAR DRIVER
Mr. Breithaupt: Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Minister of Industry and Tourism. Following the weekend press comments on his ministry’s grant of $15,000 to the Carter team at Le Mans, and the controversy as to whether the funds are recoverable, will the minister table the agreement or letters in this matter which led him to believe that these funds are recoverable, so that he does not prove the old adage, “He who laps last, laps best”?
Hon. Mr. Davis: The problem was he didn’t lap anybody.
Hon. Mr. Grossman: He lapped me.
Yes, whatever we have got will be made available. I hope to have the cheque back in our hands shortly after the team returns, which I understand is tonight or tomorrow morning.
Mr. Breithaupt: They will probably be late.
Mr. S. Smith: Mr. Speaker, is the minister aware that certain people associated with the eminent Mr. Carter have stated they feel no obligation at all to give back this money? However, if there is a legal basis the minister has for expecting that he will receive it back, we would be grateful if he would share that basis with the House.
Hon. Mr. Grossman: Sure. As --
Mr. Speaker: That really was not a question.
Hon. Mr. Grossman: That’s okay. There really won’t be an answer either.
I am sorry, Mr. Speaker. I will be consulting the federal government, because I am sure the federal government will be anxious to get their commitment to give $5,000 --
Mr. Nixon: They didn’t give them any.
Hon. Mr. Grossman: Okay; they cancelled it. They stopped payment on the cheque, did they? That is different. At least we know it was not a partisan arrangement. At least we have established that. In any case, I am aware of those comments. The member invited me to explain and, based upon what the member has said, it is very simple: The clear, unequivocal understanding upon which we were approached was that we were buying advertising space, as it were, for Ontario on a starting vehicle. It is in writing. It says that: “sixty-five cars are invited, only 50 start and we” -- that is, the team -- “have one of the 50 guaranteed starting spots.” That is what it says. It was on that basis we bought that.
Mr. S. Smith: A Conservative candidate wouldn’t tell the truth to the minister?
Hon. Mr. Grossman: I suggest to the Leader of the Opposition that the other three members of the racing team are very reputable people and he might be careful, some of them may live in his riding. In any case, if the federal government is willing to accept their word for it, then based upon that, I felt a little bit safe. I do not usually trust their judgement. We will have the money back.
Mr. M. N. Davison: Mr. Speaker, I am not particularly amused by the fact that the minister finds this an occasion for levity. I wonder if he would care to tell us why he did not have the courtesy to make this announcement of his newfound aggressiveness against Mr. Carter in the Legislature rather than doing it in the press? The assembly is where he should properly have made it.
The second part of my supplementary is this: Before the minister wastes any more money by suing Mr. Carter, who I am sure can also afford an expensive battery of lawyers, will he table some legal opinion which he may or may not have and, if he does not have one, will he get it?
On the weekend, the minister did not know who the alleged letter was from. Does he now know who the letter guaranteeing a spot is from, and will he tell us the name of the person whose signature appears at the bottom of that letter?
Hon. Mr. Grossman: I will have all that for the member. It is from the racing team; I forget the name of the company, but there is a company which owns the car, and the racing team races for the company that owns the car, which happens to be a company in Concord, Ontario. That is who sent us the letter and had all the conversations with my ministry. I note the member’s request for the fancy legal opinions, and I am so sure we will get the $15,000 back; that if we do not, maybe I will take the case myself; we will see.
SOCIAL ASSISTANCE REVIEW BOARD APPEALS
Mr. R. F. Johnston: Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Minister of Community and Social Services, because the appeals process for the Social Assistance Review Board, as it deals with disabled children, is not working.
Given that the Mekler decision seems to have rendered the Social Assistance Review Board incapable of making decisions on special education appeals brought before it, and given that many applicants -- like Geoffry Watters, a 15-year-old Niagara Falls youth -- after waiting 15 weeks for a decision are now in danger of losing approved placements for this fall because of delays, what action is the minister willing to take to ensure that their futures are not jeopardized by the ministry’s inability to quickly untie the board’s hands?
Hon. Mr. Norton: Mr. Speaker, I have explained to the honourable members opposite on a number of occasions what my response was to the Mekler decision by way of making a policy decision in the ministry to make it very clear to both the staff of my ministry and the Social Assistance Review Board that, as a matter of policy, we would view educational goals on the part of children as prevocational goals under the vocational and rehabilitation legislation.
I am not aware of the specific case the member raised. Certainly I have met with the chairman of the board on one occasion with legal staff to explain my policy decision. I had no indication from the member, prior to his raising it in the House, that he was aware that any problems had developed. I realize it may be to his advantage to raise them here rather than to use the usual course of communication and speak to me or send me a letter. If the member has information on particular cases where there are difficulties, I would be pleased to have that information and do whatever I can to attempt to expedite the situation.
Mr. R. F. Johnston: I have been dealing with the chairman of the board on the matter. It seems to me the ministry does not agree that the present appeal system is not working and that his ministry often obstructs parents’ applications.
I would like him to explain to me, if he does not agree with that, how it is that the Watterses have been requesting assistance for two years now and that the ministry has sent legal counsel to argue against the Watters’ case, even though an expert such as Dr. Griffith Morgan of the University of Guelph was willing to testify that Geoffry needed the special help requested, and a school in the United States has already accepted the child as disabled.
Why is the minister not bending over backwards to give these families assistance instead of adding to their burdens by obstructing the process? Why does he not speed things up?
Hon. Mr. Norton: I would like to make it clear to the honourable member that simply because in a given case there may be some differences of opinion with respect to facts -- and in many cases there are differences of opinion among the professionals in terms of the assessment -- that does not mean the staff of my ministry is being obstructionist in dealing with these cases. The staff has a responsibility to carry out its mandate under the law of this province. It does not deal as arbitrarily as the member might wish to see it deal with the matters. It does live within the law, as the rest of us in this province do.
I think it is very unfair of the member to stand here in this House and suggest the staff of my ministry is obstructing the procedures that would lead to meeting the needs of learning disabled children in this province. I think that is a rather irresponsible position for him to take. If he has any concrete information he wishes to offer me, Mr. Speaker, would he offer it to me and I will pursue it. I ask the member not to stand up here in the House and make idle, loose-mouthed allegations against the staff of my ministry.
Mr. Sweeney: Mr. Speaker, can the minister respond at this time to a question I raised with him about three to four weeks ago that applications were deliberately being held up until July when it would be too late for these students to qualify for some of the other schools? At that time the minister clearly said he would investigate it and report back. That is a good three weeks ago, if not a little longer.
Hon. Mr. Norton: I do not have a formal reply for the member at this point. I do not believe that is the case, that there is any deliberate attempt to delay these applications. I explained to him at the time what kinds of factors caused these delays. Often it is the difficulty in collecting all the necessary information from the parties with whom the family has had contact. In the specific case he gave me, I have asked the staff for a full report on that and I have not yet received it.
Mr. McClellan: Mr. Speaker, can I ask a supplementary?
Mr. Speaker: No. A new question.
Mr. Cunningham: Mr. Speaker, I have a question of the Attorney General relating to a series of bombings that have occurred in the last year or so in the Hamilton-Wentworth area. Does the Attorney General have any report to make to the Legislature on these bombings? Does he have any reason to believe that organized crime is involved?
Hon. Mr. McMurtry: Again, Mr. Speaker, it depends on whose definition one is employing in relation to organized crime. We know the motorcycle gangs in that area have been causing us considerable concern and we believe some of the bombings are related to their activities. I would regard them as organized crime, yes. It is a matter that is of great concern to the local police force, but I can say there are other police forces assisting the Hamilton-Wentworth Regional Police in this area.
Mr. Cunningham: While I was not aware of any relationship between motorcycle gangs and the bombings to which I referred, I would like to ask the minister if he has been informed by the Hamilton-Wentworth Regional Police of extortion attempts. There have been specifically four occasions, I am reasonably advised. Is he aware there have been a number of incidents, and as late as yesterday a case of beer was mined with a bomb in Dundas?
Hon. Mr. McMurtry: I am not aware of these specific cases at the moment.
STEAM ENGINE PROJECT
Mr. Di Santo: Mr. Speaker, I have a question of the Minister of Industry and Tourism. Does the minister remember being in Kapuskasing on February 15 and receiving a presentation from the Kapuskasing-Hearst committee, which asked for a grant from the Ministry of Industry and Tourism for a steam engine, for a project that has been worked out by that community? The minister promised to give an answer in 90 days. As that is more than four months ago, is the minister ready to answer that request? Is he willing to give the grant to the committee?
Hon. Mr. Grossman: Mr. Speaker, I presume that is the Smokey Line project. I think the member left that out. Yes, my colleague the Provincial Secretary for Resources Development (Mr. Brunelle), who has been co-ordinating our efforts in that regard and arranged for that presentation up there, and I and two or three others of my colleagues have been discussing this matter. I would hope to have an answer for the people very shortly.
Mr. Di Santo: Can the minister say whether he is considering giving them a capital grant or an operational grant? Can the minister confirm that a similar grant for $180,000 has been given recently to Steam City, which is a similar operation?
Hon. Mr. Grossman: Steam City? I thought that was a rock group or something. I don’t know about anything called Steam City. The only thing I can relate it to is some support we gave to the Ontario Rail Foundation in the Collingwood area, I think, where we, together with the Ministry of Culture and Recreation, arranged for some $50,000 worth of funding to protect, in essence, some old steam engines from disappearing out of the province. That is the only other funding I can think of that is similar.
In any event, there has been some other assistance given to viable tourism projects related to steam engines. If, at the conclusion of our analysis, this looks to be a viable one, I will be delighted to provide that kind of assistance both on an operating and capital grant basis.
Mr. Di Santo: When?
Hon. Mr. Grossman: When we are finished looking at the thing very carefully. And I can assure the member that, with the Provincial Secretary for Resources Development sitting to my right, we have an opportunity to discuss it all the time, not just when the member’s tourism task force, or whatever it is, drops into Kapuskasing for its first visit.
Mr. Stong: Mr. Speaker, I have a question of the Minister of Community and Social Services. Is the minister aware of the increasing need for speech therapists for preschoolers and school children in the region of York and that it will take more than a year for even the 118 people on the present waiting list to be able to avail themselves of the existing services in the York Central Hospital?
Will he comply with the recommendation of the district working group of the York County Association for the Mentally Retarded that two more full-time speech pathologists be hired by his ministry, one to be added to the services provided at York Central Hospital in Richmond Hill and the other to be added to those at the York County Hospital at Newmarket?
Hon. Mr. Norton: Mr. Speaker, I am aware there is some concern about the availability of the services of speech therapists not keeping abreast of the demand. I have not yet seen the recommendations from the district working group, but if the district working group has fulfilled its function in terms of establishing its priorities with respect to the available resources, I will certainly take the advice very seriously and attempt to assist them.
HILL REPORT ON GROUPS, SECTS AND CULTS
Mr. Warner: Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Attorney General, following the statement he made today regarding Dr. Hill’s study. On page six, it is noted that Dr. Hill concluded “that many groups engaged in hard-sell methods, unconscionable contracts, loan frauds, tax law manipulations and falsified bookkeeping.” Is it the minister’s intention to use the information collected by Dr. Hill in his study to lay the appropriate charges against those persons who were involved in the items that are listed on page six?
Hon. Mr. McMurtry: Mr. Speaker, for a number of reasons, including security reasons but also related to the matters the member for Scarborough-Ellesmere just raised, a law officer from the ministry was working closely with Dr. Hill during the course of the study. A senior Ontario Provincial Police officer assisted in a number of matters. All of this information has been made available to them on an ongoing basis. It is currently being reviewed by law officers of the crown. Where there is evidence that would warrant the laying of charges, charges will be laid.
Mr. Sweeney: Mr. Speaker, in the light of what the minister just said, and in the light of the previous experience when the OPP was involved in an investigation and gained the necessary information to take action but had to come back and say the legislation simply does not exist for them to take the kind of action they think they wanted, how are the minister and his cabinet colleagues going to deal with the main recommendation which says there should be no legislative change because the legislation already there is sufficient?
Hon. Mr. McMurtry: I would seriously recommend that the honourable member read Dr. Hill’s report. After reading his report, he will appreciate the inherent difficulty related to the introduction of any legislation. Because of the member’s obvious interest in the matter, I would be very happy to hear his further comments when he has had an opportunity to peruse the report.
Mr. Swart: I have a question of the Minister of Community and Social Services. The minister will recall that many months ago I asked him to permit Workmen’s Compensation Board partial-permanent disability payments to be placed in the same category as employment income in computing family benefits. That is that the first $50 or $100 of that Workmen’s Compensation Board income not be deducted from family benefits when he is paying family benefits. I think the minister said at that time he would keep it under active consideration. Can he tell us at this time whether he is now prepared to do it?
Hon. Mr. Norton: It is still under consideration, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Swart: Can I ask the minister whether he realizes that income is in lieu of work? Does he realize those people on family benefits who have a partial-permanent disability payment often do not have work solely because of that injury? Why can he not make that reasonable provision now?
Hon. Mr. Norton: I can assure the honourable member I am aware of both the purpose and operation of the Workmen’s Compensation Board.
NATURAL GAS SERVICE
Mr. J. Reed: I have a question for the Minister of Energy, Mr. Speaker. Has the minister been made aware recently of any instances where gas companies are withholding new installations on streets unless the installation can be made in every house? Will he insist that gas companies install without making that insistence?
Hon. Mr. Welch: Mr. Speaker, that has not been drawn to my attention. I would be glad to get some further information before I respond to the second part.
Mr. Peterson: The minister never responds when he says that.
Mr. J. Reed: As I supply the minister with the details of this case --
Mr. Peterson: He never responds when I bring things to his attention. He owes me about four. He is part of the problem. He is the problem.
Mr. J. Reed: I would like to bring my people to order, and then I will carry on.
Mr. Speaker: Will the member for London Centre stop interrupting his colleague? You really don’t have the floor.
Mr. J. Reed: Mr. Speaker, I would like to have the minister’s undivided attention on this matter. As I bring the details of this particular case to him, will the minister investigate as to whether there is any monopolistic policy being practised over the larger area? In other words, is it widespread, and if so, will he bring in some kind of regulation to make sure that gas companies do not take undue advantage of the expansion situation in which they find themselves?
Hon. Mr. Welch: I assure the member that I will make it my business to find out the extent of the difficulty, if there is one; after we have that information, I will be in a much better position to see what may be necessary to correct it.
Mr. Peterson: Mr. Speaker, how can the minister expect my colleague to take his response at face value when he gives similar responses to other members of the House and he never responds when he takes a question under advisement and he never responds to letters written to him by members? How can he expect him to believe what he just said?
Hon. Mr. Welch: Could the honourable member draw my attention to any letter for which he has not had an answer from me? It seems to me I am writing a letter to him almost every other day, to tell the truth. A “Dear David” crosses my desk practically every other day.
AUTO INDUSTRY LAYOFFS
Mr. Cassidy: Mr. Speaker, I have another question for the Premier about what is happening in the automobile industry in view of the confidence that he expressed in it just a few minutes ago. Is the Premier aware that the workers at Bendix in Windsor have been made aware of a feasibility study being carried out by the American parent company, which they fear will lead to a closure of that plant with a loss of further 750 jobs in Windsor?
How many more shutdowns by multinationals in the automobile industry is this government going to tolerate before the government of Ontario says to the multinationals that enough is enough and we have to have a fair share here in Ontario?
Hon. Mr. Davis: Mr. Speaker, I think I recall there is a meeting scheduled with Bendix and one or two others in the next month or so. I personally am not aware of a study. I know these companies, multinationals and nonmultinationals, are doing studies seven days of the week.
I would only say to the honourable member, if he looks back at what has been said in the past two weeks, and the past two years, this government has been making a very urgent request to the government of Canada, before they even thought of it, to make sure that Ontario has its fair share of the automotive industry.
In fact, that was one reason that led us to the participation in some of the programs of this government which have been moderately successful in terms of securing some of the parts manufacturers, Ford, or you name it. The people opposite -- and I do not like to keep harping on it, but they really are just a bit --
Hon. Mr. Davis: They are a bit contradictory. I am going to be very conciliatory, but it really is contradictory to come in here and say to us, why don’t we do more, when for every effort we make in the automotive field, those people sit back and say we should not do it. They cannot have it both ways. They either agree with the incentive programs that we have introduced and are applying in the automotive industry or they do not. If they do not, then do not come and talk to us about jobs.
Mr. Cassidy: Could the Premier explain why it is that when he talks about a fair-share concept, it is only because he is pushed to do so by members of the New Democratic Party? Can the Premier say why it is that, unlike the situation in the oil industry with western oil, we do not have the government of Ontario using every resource at its disposal to insist that Herb Gray take a tough stand with the American government when he holds discussions and consultations over the auto pact on June 27? What has the government said to the federal government about the June 27 meeting? Why have we not yet heard what Ontario’s position is with the federal government going into those talks?
Hon. Mr. Davis: The Minister of Industry and Tourism has made it very clear. If the member wants me to get some further material or to refresh his memory as to what he has said, I would be delighted to do it, but it is there. It is very clear, it is quite understandable, and I think he will find it very easy to assimilate.
Mr. Epp: Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Premier. Given the fact that the Minister of Housing and the Premier took the opportunity last week, when speaking to the Ontario Renews conference, to rap the knuckles of the municipalities in Ontario with respect to holding up needed zoning changes to attract additional development in Ontario; and given the fact that the Ontario Municipal Board, which is under the jurisdiction of the Ontario government and this Legislature, on many occasions takes up to six months to establish a date for a hearing, then another three or four months actually to have the hearing, plus another month or two sometimes, to bring in a decision, so that the delay is up to a year; what steps has the Premier taken to streamline the Ontario Municipal Board so that decisions can be made within three or four months of an application actually coming before them?
Hon. Mr. Davis: Mr. Speaker, I do not think it is fair to state that the Minister of Housing and I were rapping any knuckles at that great conference, where the ministry was one of the partial hosts.
Mr. Epp: Just pointing an accusing finger?
Hon. Mr. Davis: No, I did not even point an accusing finger. In fact, I did not point anything. I was very conciliatory, as I am on all occasions in this House.
I did point out that part of the problem with respect to development was not the attitude but the approach taken by some municipalities and other levels of government. I did not single out the municipalities. I even said that, on occasion, provincial and federal governments had been known to delay certain projects just because of, shall we say, the existing legislation or regulations.
The honourable member and others have raised the question of the OMB. He might be more specific as it relates to certain hearings before the board. My impression, from both the municipalities and the development industry, is that in the past two years things have improved quite substantially. The length of time he referred to is not the norm. In those cases which members do bring to my attention from both sides of the House, I find out on many occasions the fault is not really at the doorstep of the OMB.
I think the honourable member has had some municipal experience. If he checks with the board, checks the record, he may find there is the odd lawyer who has a little bit too much on his plate and seeks an adjournment. He may find the odd municipality whose lawyer is not yet quite ready and seeks an adjournment. He may even find certain planners or consultants who are not yet quite ready and seek an adjournment. In fact, he may find a lot of people are responsible for the delays before the board other than themselves. I say that with some modest knowledge, because it happens to be true in many cases.
THE TIN DRUM
Mr. M. N. Davison: Mr. Speaker, I wish to present a 2,272-name petition of Toronto filmgoers collected at the International Cinema and at Cineplex. The petitioners oppose the rigid and discriminatory policies set by the government of Ontario and the Ontario Board of Censors. They want to be free to choose whether they wish to see The Tin Drum as it was originally created without further delay.
ORDER OF BUSINESS
Hon. Mr. Wells: Mr. Speaker, I move that, notwithstanding any standing order of the House, business be considered from the Social Development policy field tomorrow afternoon, in both the House and the standing committee on social development.
Motion agreed to.
INTRODUCTION OF BILL
PUBLIC VEHICLES AMENDMENT ACT
Hon. Mr. Brunelle, on behalf of Hon. Mr. Snow, moved first reading of Bill 129, An Act to amend the Public Vehicles Act.
Motion agreed to.
ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS ON NOTICE PAPER
Hon. Mr. Wells: Mr. Speaker, I would like to table the answers to questions 169, 183 to 205, 208, 226, 229 and 230 standing on the Notice Paper and the return to question 76 on the Notice Paper. (See appendix, page 2884.)
ORDERS OF THE DAY
ONTARIO PENSIONERS PROPERTY TAX ASSISTANCE ACT (CONCLUDED)
Resuming consideration of the adjourned debate for second reading of Bill 48, An Act to provide Property Tax Assistance for Pensioners in Ontario.
Mr. Di Santo: Mr. Speaker, Bill 48 is supported by our party with some reluctance. It tries to remedy a situation that is quite clearly unjust and unfair to senior citizens, but doesn’t remove the real reason why that situation exists.
In Bill 48 the government is introducing a flat grant for homeowners who are pensioners, who are recipients of old age security, of up to $500, and up to $400 for tenants. As you remember, Mr. Speaker, when the budget was introduced in March I raised the very serious question that the decision of the government brought up, namely, that many senior citizens who are not recipients of old age security are excluded from the tax credit grant. When we started discussing the whole matter and saw the bill, we realized that there are other groups of senior citizens who before the budget had some benefits that are now removed from them. That is the $110 all pensioners were receiving. Pensioners who live in homes for the aged or in chronic care homes will not receive this any longer. In effect, this is the removal of a benefit that some senior citizens were receiving. They do not receive it any longer under the legislation we are discussing.
If the intent of this bill is to bring more fairness to the tax system, this bill fails to do that. In fact, this party is convinced that a fair tax system should be based on the ability of the physical person or legal entity to pay. Through property tax we are faced with a situation where a person is paying not because of an income he is receiving but because of the possession of a building, the home where he lives.
I think that is profoundly unfair. A home doesn’t become a source of revenue until it is sold. Until that moment, it is the place where a person lives and which he should enjoy. For us, it is a social right that every person should have in our society. Until the moment a home is sold, that home should not be taxed. Instead, what should be taxed is the income of the person who lives in the house or the revenues or the incomes of corporations, companies, and commercial and industrial enterprises.
With this bill we do not remove the basic inequity in the property tax system. Since that basic inequity is not removed, we are faced also with a situation where people who are totally disabled because of industrial accidents or otherwise and who do have any income whatsoever do not benefit from Bill 48. I cannot understand why a pensioner who is a recipient of old age security should receive a $500 tax credit, but a pensioner of the Workmen’s Compensation Board who is receiving the same amount, and only that amount of income, should not benefit from the $500.
There are other aspects that are not reassuring at all. For instance, there is the problem of the widows and widowers. Under the federal legislation they are allowed to receive spouse’s allowance when they reach the age of 60 and the spouse is 65 and therefore qualifies for old age security. These people are not eligible for this grant. I think a group of people on fixed incomes, people who have very low incomes, are being deprived of a right they should have.
It was the federal Tory government that changed the federal legislation because there was a basic injustice -- the spouse of a pensioner who was 60 or older would get the spouse’s allowance but if the spouse died the spouse’s allowance was removed. I think it was the federal Tory government’s only piece of social legislation. It changed that rule to say that when a person qualifies for spouse’s allowance he or she would get the allowance even after he or she became a widower or a widow.
There is no provision in this bill for that group of people although it is not a very large group. In most cases they are non-working people because they cannot work. They are older than 60 and therefore should be considered pensioners and senior citizens.
I also think the residence requirement should be removed from the bill. I hope the minister will bring in a broad amendment that will solve all the problems that I have been enunciating. As I said at the beginning, we will reluctantly support the bill as it is now. It solves some problems but does not solve the basic problem. Above all, it leaves out groups of people who should be protected.
Ms. Bryden: Mr. Speaker, the sad plight of our senior citizens has been well documented in recent years by many studies. We know many of them live below the poverty line. They are the first victims of inflation. Many are finding it extremely difficult to carry on in their own homes because of rising property taxes. If they have to become institutionalized because of their inability to carry that burden on their fixed incomes, it will cost the taxpayers of this province much more.
More than two thirds of single women over 65 live below the Statistics Canada poverty line, which is the lowest of the various yardsticks that are used to measure whether people are living in decency or in poverty. These women live in tiny rooms on inadequate diets. As a result, they are more prone to illnesses and to depression.
A great many other pensioners are also living on incomes that are considered inadequate by the Canadian Council on Social Development and the social planning councils. They have poverty lines that are slightly more generous than the Statistics Canada line, but are still only at what they consider is a bare minimum for a decent existence.
I find it shocking that this is the first legislation before this House to improve senior citizens’ payments since the 1977 election. Perhaps the fact that we have an election looming this year or next year has something to do with the fact that at last the government has decided to bring in some legislation in this field.
This legislation comes after three years of broken promises to our senior citizens. Let me remind the government of its record. In the middle of the 1977 provincial election, the Premier (Mr. Davis) unveiled a charter for Ontario which came to be known as the Brampton charter. It contained many promises that have not been kept, such as the promise to plant two trees for every one cut.
Among the promises was the following relating to senior citizens: “Reducing the municipal tax burden on senior citizens and to work towards the ultimate elimination of this particular tax for the majority of Ontario’s senior citizens.” This legislation does not fulfil that promise; despite the government’s boast that it does.
In the first budget after the 1977 election, the government did bring in a promise to enrich the property tax credit and to raise the basic credit from $290 to $510. The pensioners thought they were getting the first step in implementing the Brampton charter. Nowhere in the 1978 budget did the Treasurer at that time, Mr. McKeough, mention that this promise would not be implemented until overall property tax reform was brought in. We have been waiting for that tax reform for about 10 years and we are still waiting.
That promise in the budget was never implemented. The delay in implementation was announced in budget paper B -- if anybody went that far beyond the minister’s budget statement. There, he or she could find the crossing of fingers by the government, literally, saying, “We will not carry this out until overall property tax reform is brought in.” The same budget paper managed to come up with the astounding conclusion that “pensioners enjoy a comfortable standard of living during their retirement years.” Perhaps that is why the government felt it did not have to implement either the Brampton charter or its promise in the 1978 budget.
As I say, the reports keep coming in telling us pensioners are far from enjoying a comfortable standard of living. If it was not true in 1978 when that statement was written, it is even less true today, because in three years of unfulfilled promises, pensioners have slipped further behind. One cannot live on promises.
Because of this record, pensioners may be suspicious as to whether this legislation really will benefit them; and so they should be. When the new pension grant program was announced in the 1980 budget this spring, I am afraid many pensioners got the impression the government was providing them with a substantial increase of up to $500 a year. Many thought it was on top of their present tax credits. Many thought it was a major step, as the government boasted, towards fulfilling the promise in the Brampton charter. In actual fact, the total amount of new money going to the assistance to pensioners is only $75 million, or an average of less than $100 for each pensioner in Ontario. The biggest increases will go to the better-off pensioners. Some pensioners will get less than they got under the old system.
The government has justified this on the grounds that the program is a property tax relief program and not a program to ensure that our senior citizens have a decent income that would enable them to have adequate food, shelter and clothing. But it is high time we guaranteed to our pensioners the right to have adequate food, shelter and clothing. They have contributed many years to building this province and have raised families to carry on the work of this province. They deserve an opportunity to live their retirement years in dignity, not in squalor. They should not be condemned to inadequate diets and inadequate housing because their income is too low.
When the new legislation came in, it also contained a very large exemption that said this new program would not apply at all to people who had not qualified for old age security. As my colleagues have mentioned, fortunately we have persuaded the government that it should bring in an amendment to remove this discrimination against people who have not been in this country long enough to qualify for the old age security pension, but who have equal rights to have adequate food, clothing and shelter and to this kind of property tax relief. I am expecting this amendment will come forward, as the government has indicated it intends to bring it forward.
The member for Downsview should be congratulated particularly for raising this point and indicating that a great many newcomers to the country who have been here many years would not qualify unless that discrimination was removed.
I think we should still be looking at a guaranteed annual income for all pensioners. That is what this province could afford if it wanted to afford it. In the long run, it would pay because the pensioners would have purchasing power they could put into the economy and their general state of health would be improved. It would keep many of them out of institutions. It would be a preventive measure and it would also allow them to live in dignity. We owe that to them.
As my colleagues have indicated and I also indicate, we will support this bill because we do not want to deny to pensioners any increase. But I think this increase is much too small and is not addressing itself to the real problems of our senior citizens. I hope it will be only a first step and that we will go forward with adequate legislation as soon as possible.
Mr. Haggerty: Mr. Speaker, I want to address myself to Bill 48, An Act to provide Property Tax Assistance for Pensioners in Ontario. I was interested in some of the comments of the previous speakers on the inequity in our system relating to pension plans or income protection.
I believe there was a white paper a few years ago on social income as related to a guaranteed income put out by the federal government. It was a study at that time by a former federal Minister of National Health and Welfare, Marc Lalonde. There were some interesting suggestions and recommendations in that report. I find that some of them are not in the amendments to this piece of legislation this afternoon.
I can relate one of the problems to those persons who have lost the breadwinner in the family and the surviving spouse is left perhaps with a large debt, a mortgage on the home and is a person who is incapable of being permanently employed. There are a number of such persons in Ontario who are below the age of 65. In that white paper study related to guaranteed income, one of the major improvements was that for any spouse who was in receipt of the old age pension, the other spouse would receive additional income support if he or she was below the age of 65. I think that was a step in the right direction.
But there are many individuals in Ontario below the age of 65 who are permanently unemployed because of some disability or handicap and who are not receiving a sufficient amount of income to maintain a decent standard of living. I am sure even the Minister of Revenue is aware of that problem. I had thought perhaps we would have seen something in this particular piece of legislation this afternoon that would open up the door, that there would have been some additional provisions for persons in this category, because it is a serious problem in Ontario.
I have had a number of people come to my constituency office and bring this to my attention. They perhaps receive general welfare but they have a hard time getting even that. They are not eligible for a disability pension in Ontario, but medical reports indicate that through some handicap or disability they are permanently unemployed. It is a struggle for those persons to maintain a home, even to pay rent. In a number of cases I have had them inform me that they were told by their social worker to sell their home, live off that income and then they would be eligible for general welfare, providing sufficient funds thereafter from welfare to pay for decent rent and decent accommodations. This is one area this government has failed to look at with respect to pensions in Ontario. As I said before, I had hoped they would be looking for a comprehensive pension scheme that would include these persons in dire need.
There is nothing in this bill. There is nothing in the following bill the Minister of Revenue will be debating this afternoon, Bill 55. I suggest this is an area that the minister has overlooked. I agree with the principle in the section which, I think, is in both bills, Bill 55 and Bill 48, that persons who are in a home for the aged or a nursing home would not be eligible for this tax assistance program that is now available. I think this is a right choice. But I must say, when that was in force, that money should have gone directly to the regional municipality of Niagara, for example, so that they could carry out a better program for those persons who are under their care and in their regional homes. I suggest there is an additional cost. I know it has been put on to almost every taxpayer in the region and that it may have been $300 a year ago. If it had been applied to the administration of these homes in the area, they could have even built additions in that area which are needed and required.
There is a waiting list for elderly persons to get into these homes, and again this government has not moved in that area because of government restraints and cutbacks. There is a waiting list in the region of Niagara of persons wanting to get into homes for the aged. There is a waiting list for persons wanting to get into private nursing homes. There are a large number of persons waiting to get into this special care program.
I can’t recall the figures for the Niagara region but thousands of dollars are going into a trust fund that even they couldn’t use; I suppose after the person passed on it would go back to the estate and they would be gaining this additional source of income which, personally, I don’t think they are entitled to.
There is a great need now to give additional funding to these institutions within the Niagara region and perhaps all across Ontario. These are the areas where there should be tax changes that would relieve some of the heavy burden of taxes on a number of people in any community. They can’t afford increased municipal taxes, and one area that should be given additional funding is the homes for the aged in many of the regions.
I suggest the government has made some progress here, but there is still an area that may cause some inequity in the system. Here it says some persons are going to be included who do not require a rebate. It is not saying those who were under the scheme a year ago will receive more. Perhaps they will receive less. That is the area of Bill 48 we on this side are concerned about. I suggest the Treasurer should be looking to ensure this doesn’t happen. I can see where it could open the door to some discrepancy in the bill that could cause further inequity.
This is the intent of my colleague’s amendment which he intends to move sometime this afternoon; so I guess we can support it in principle.
Mr. R. F. Johnston: Mr. Speaker, I rise to support this bill on second reading. As someone who has been working with the elderly for the past eight years before being elected, I am very pleased that finally some action has been taken on the matter of property tax and making it a more universal program than it was before.
I think it is unfortunate, however, that the measure of the property tax grant was brought in as part of the same package as the guaranteed annual income system addition. It confuses people about the two programs; one is essentially a very specific program having to do with assistance and with property owners and tenants, and the other has to do with income stability in the province and the needs of older people -- the dollars they should have on hand to be able to live in dignity in this province above the poverty line. I think it was confusing to people that it was brought in that way. It has been quite confusing to a lot of the elderly people I have known over the years, who have been phoning me in the last few weeks.
A number of areas of confusion have come up that I would like to bring to the Treasurer’s attention so that whatever releases are published following this bill’s passage, in one form or another, will get the proper facts out to the people. There are a number of people who believe the sum of $500 will be available to everyone. Some also believe it will be available on top of the present tax credit they are getting under the old system. I believe we should get that idea of a windfall out of people’s minds as quickly as possible, or they are going to be very disappointed by the time the cheques are actually sent out.
Another group of people believe they are not going to be eligible for it. I refer specifically to the old age security provision in the initial bill. A number of people I have met in the Italian community and the Portuguese community over the last number of years have been calling me, concerned that they would not be covered because of the OAS provision. This is the case even though there may or may not be an agreement between their country and Canada in accepting our OAS. It is very important that after this amendment is agreed upon by the House -- we hope -- we will see this matter cleared up very quickly.
One thing that I think is important is the notion of universality. I think that is vital. That was why it was crucial to have the old age security provision erased from it, because that was bringing in exemptions. Somebody is always raising the notion of somebody like E. P. Taylor getting an extra $500 that he does not need. But essentially if we want to make sure the vast majority of people are protected, it is better to have a universal system rather than one that has a number of significant exemptions to it and tries to include people piecemeal until finally a vast number are included. So I welcome the universality.
It would also be very important for the Treasurer to get across the idea that this grant is not going to be a taxable portion of somebody’s income. If one were to look at the $500 maximum amount someone might receive in terms of its being taxable, the increase over last year’s property tax credit approach would not be that significant I think it would be important to get that through.
A number of members have spoken very well to the matter of the disabled not being protected. People of that sort on fixed incomes have as much need to property tax assistance as do pensioners because of age. The other major group I can see who need assistance and should be covered under this kind of program would be widows; specifically, as has been mentioned by other members, widows of people who have been retired and have been receiving benefits under the Canada Pension Plan or old age security or GIS. I believe widows over a specific age -- perhaps 60 -- should also be included, because they are the group with the largest single difficulty in terms of financing of any group I have met.
I would like to draw to the Treasurer’s attention that although this program is a universal one and has benefits for most seniors, the urban dweller does less well by this if one looks at it in terms of picking up the actual property tax costs than does someone from a rural district who might have a lower tax base. I would point out by recently reviewing the average property taxes of people in North York or Scarborough we find they average somewhere between $800 and $1,200 a year. That means those individual older people would all be eligible for the full $500 back, but in some cases that would represent only 50 per cent, in some cases 60 per cent of their overall tax and in some cases less than 50 per cent of their property tax, whereas an individual in a farming community, like that of my parents’ pays approximately $425, I believe, in tax. They would have the full $425 picked up.
We in this party have argued for years that the education portion of taxes should be taken away from elderly people who have paid their dues in that area. It seems to me within the farm communities and the lower property tax areas that is being done quite nicely under this bill in that all their taxes are being picked up, whereas in a place like North York if one had a property tax of $1,100 one would not be picking up the total portion of even the education tax under this system. However, it is a basic improvement over what we have had in the past.
One of our aldermen, Mike Foster from North York, was quick to point out to me that under the old property tax credit system in 1976 a senior in North York would have had the same basic saving to his income as he now does under the grant credit. That was around $500 when it was worked all through in 1976, but it has decreased since then over the last number of years. In some senses, even for those urban dwellers, we are only dropping back to 1976 levels of benefits for them.
I have also done some studies of apartment rents in Toronto. I am pleased to see that most individuals within Metropolitan Toronto I know of would be receiving as much back under this system with their grants as they would have under the old tax credit system. There are some individuals who will not, but if one accepts the principle that 20 per cent of a person’s rent is the equivalent of the property tax owing, then those people will be receiving back 100 per cent of their property tax. That seems to me to be a very positive thing.
I might make one note in more of a humorous fashion. I am not sure what we would do if we were government, but I know in Saskatchewan they send out cheques rather than having it on the tax form. It is an advantage of incumbency, I presume, to be able to issue cheques and to have them go out with the minister’s name on them with all the glory of the logos of the province of Ontario on them, and all of that benefits the government.
Let me say that there may be a cost, and it has been raised by a number of Liberal members in that area, but I accept that as one of the droits de seigneur, you might say, or the rights of government. I would not see us changing that approach when we become government, although I have not checked it out with all my colleagues today.
Mr. Warner: That’s fine.
Mr. R. F. Johnston: Good. The member for Scarborough-Ellesmere is in agreement, and I think the rest of the caucus will fall in line.
I would like to point out that because this bill was brought in with the budget, very much linked to the raise in payments under the guaranteed annual income system, often there would be mention that somebody who is not doing as well through this system as one might like is also getting the Gains. I would like to point out that we should not have been comparing apples and oranges in this matter. This is a very specific kind of assistance for a very specific tax. It is a good thing that it has happened, but I do regret very much the level of the Gains increase that has been brought forward and I believe it is totally inadequate.
One of the major concerns I have with it is that the province continues to accept the fact that older people should live below the poverty line as established by Statistics Canada. I have now mislaid it, as I am wont to do, but as of May 1980, Statistics Canada says that in a city of over 500,000 population, the poverty line for a single pensioner would be $5,776.
Given the recent increases federally, in old age security and guaranteed income supplement payments, and given the amount of Gains that is now being added in terms of income stability within the province, my estimate is that the single pensioner in Ontario will be receiving only $4,668 under this system. That is substantially below the poverty line. My estimate would be that it is 23.7 per cent below the poverty line as established by Statistics Canada, let alone other poverty lines which are slightly more generous and have been developed by people like the Social Planning Council of Metropolitan Toronto.
I would agree that under the new system, a married couple who are older pensioners would have the ability of finally getting over the poverty line. My estimate would be that they are approximately 8.7 per cent above the poverty line. I welcome that but I really do not like to see the distinction between the single older person and the married older couple in terms of the right to receive what is established as the minimum amount to get by on in Ontario today in a city of 500,000 plus.
This is the greatest failure of this particular government, if I might say so, which has not looked seriously at pensions. Perhaps we are looking too much to the royal commission some day finally coming down with its long-awaited, almost Rip Van Winkle style report. I think that has been a major mistake and that this government should have been looking very seriously at basic incomes for the elderly in Ontario long before now, instead of doing what I consider a piecemeal raise in the Gains portion of the income for older people in Ontario.
I do not understand why it has not been raised at least to the poverty level, or why major lobbying has not been done with the federal government to make sure that the combination of federal and provincial money does not come at least to the poverty level. I do not understand why the principle of tying that to the cost of living has not been accepted and why we do not have for Gains, as we have for the federal pensions, a quarterly raise in the amount of money available to people so that the cost of living, as it affects them in day-to-day life, is also reflected in their income.
I cannot understand why it is that we instead had this small raise added into a package of property tax assistance and a slight increase in the sales tax. I think it is a kind of con game which is very unfair and which confuses older people in the province by making them think the whole package somehow is income stability when it is not. They are very separate items and should be dealt with clearly in that fashion.
It is my view that we should be trying to keep older people in our communities as long as possible. That has become a truism that seems to be accepted by all people. Having worked in the field and actually having practically administered programs that have tried to do that, it is my opinion that the largest single preventive action that this government or any provincial government could take to help older people stay in their community has nothing to do with organizing volunteers like I did or with providing essential community supports in terms of nursing care, Meals on Wheels and other items like that.
The fundamental, first preventive step that should be taken is one of making sure older people have an adequate income to live at a standard at which we could expect them to be able to look after their own health and to live truly independently in that fashion.
The cost of maintaining older people in the community without providing them with an adequate basic income, I believe, will be enormous by the years 2000 and 2010 when that population has increased. Far better that we review our whole pension system; far better that we get it as quickly as possible to the position where it is covering an adequate proportion of a person’s preretirement income; and far better that we, as a province, ensure that the Gains amount moves with the times, accepts the fact that we are going to have inflationary spirals and provides these people with a sufficient income.
To conclude, I accept the bill for what it is worth. It is my view that, for a lot of pensioners in this province, it will be worth a lot. It will mean a great deal to them to have that $500. When they get that cheque this fall, although glory will fall on the Tory party for it, I accept that. I accept the fact that many older people in this province are going to do better by it.
Mr. Riddell: Mr. Speaker, I want to speak briefly on Bill 48. I say briefly, because I assume my colleague the member for London Centre (Mr. Peterson) commented on some of the points I wish to raise this afternoon.
I want to outline the effect of the proposed grant scheme on three groups of pensioners -- the Gains recipients, the non-Gains recipients whose incomes are slightly higher than the Gains level, and the institutionalized senior citizens. In each instance I have documented an actual case resulting from inquiries I have received from pensioners. I will be pleased to place in the hands of the minister a copy of this documentation, because it is awfully hard to talk figures when you are speaking in the House.
Dealing first with the Gains recipients, any senior citizens who receive Gains payments from the province are compensated for the loss of the pensioner tax credit by an increased Gains payment. They are no further ahead, however, because what the government is giving them in one hand, it is taking away in the other. They are losing the $110 pensioner tax credit but gaining $10 per month, or $120 annually, from the increased Gains payment. The fact remains they are no further ahead, save $5 or $10, and the government is spending $3 million to bring in this new proposal.
One pensioner, as an example -- and here again it is hard to work the figures in -- will receive $96.89 less under the new grant system. However, the province has increased Gains payments by $10 per month. Therefore, this pensioner will net $120 less the $96.89, or $23.11 more per year by the new system. While she will net $23.11 more, a very wealthy senior citizen who pays property tax of $500 or more will receive $550 under the new system. That does not seem too equitable.
I want to deal with the non-Gains recipients. The real losers here are those pensioners whose incomes are just above the Gains level. They will lose the $110 pensioner tax credit without being compensated by an increase in the Gains payment. These are pensioners who would pay little rent or property tax.
Anyone paying rent of approximately $131 or less per month will get less by this new system than he or she would have under the old system. This also applies to a pensioner who was fortunate enough to be living with his or her children and therefore pays no property tax but, rather, a small amount of rent.
The case I want to mention here is a pensioner who resides in an apartment in Toronto. Because he has other income from a company pension, which amounts to $76.20 per month, he is eligible for only a $2.50 Gains payment monthly. Because his rent was $76 per month for the first five months of 1980 and $80 per month for the remaining seven months, he will lose $113.90 under the new grant system. I have documented this, and the minister can have a closer look at it when I send it across to him.
I want to talk about the institutionalized pensioners. Perhaps the group hardest hit by this new system is the residents of municipal and charitable homes for the aged. There are some 28,000 residents in 182 municipal and charitable homes. Of these, 92 are municipal and 90 are charitable. The budget clearly states that residents of these homes will not be eligible for the new relief as the homes are not subject to property taxes.
As well, residents of private nursing homes under the extended care program will not be eligible. Nursing homes, however, care for citizens of all ages. I am not sure what percentage of their 28,300 residents are seniors. It appears that residents of municipal and charitable homes for the aged are of all income levels, ranging from Gains recipients to fairly wealthy pensioners. There is no percentage breakdown of the 28,000 residents by income groups.
The case I want to mention is one that comes from my own constituency, a resident of Huronview, the county home for the aged in Clinton, Ontario. A percentage of his daily rate of $19 was considered as rent. Therefore, 20 per cent of that amount was allowed to be deducted as his property tax credit. This procedure was verified by the district taxation office. The percentage of his daily rate considered as rent was approximately 67 per cent.
This pensioner moved into Huronview in October 1979. His tax credit for 1979 -- this is property tax -- was a mixture of 10 months’ property tax and two months’ rent. Because under the new legislation he will not be eligible for the property tax grant, he will lose both the pensioner tax credit and the property tax grant. While he received $371.51 in Ontario tax credits for 1979, he will be eligible for only $50 in 1980.
I bring these cases to the minister’s attention and I hope he will respond in each case because the pensioner is looking for an answer. Pensioners are concerned and they have brought their concerns to our attention. We are then expressing those concerns in this House.
We know there are some political overtones to the government’s proposal. There is no question about that. A nice cheque will go out from the province. In all probability there is going to be an election some time this year, and it is going to look pretty good.
I hope that members will not be able to take these cheques and turn them into nice, crisp $50 bills, which is something that did happen a little while back with a Conservative member when there was a certain bonus given to senior citizens. That person was able to take that cheque, turn it into a nice, crisp $50 bill and personally deliver it to the pensioner. Surely we won’t expect this kind of thing with this kind of proposal.
The minister is shaking his head to indicate no. I’m pleased to hear that I will be looking for a reply from the minister. If he is interested I will be pleased to send this documentation over to him.
Mr. Warner: Mr. Speaker, I did not detect any movement in the Treasurer’s head. His colleagues were clearly upset about that allegation.
Mr. Eaton: It is an awful allegation to make that somebody could cash a cheque.
Mr. Laughren: That is exactly what happened.
Mr. Warner: I know the Treasurer. Although he is a used car salesman of sterling character, he would not start handing out $50 hills, crisp or otherwise. A picture of the Treasurer on the cheque with his autograph is a different matter. I can imagine seeing that.
Many who have spoken before me have certainly covered the area of how we appreciate seeing just about any bill that will be of some assistance to pensioners, including this bill, but it is really a poor apology for this government’s track record. It is not sufficient as an apology for all that it has not done over the years. There is no substitute for having a guaranteed income for senior citizens. Certainly those who are interested may agonize over the procedure or the best method to make sure that senior citizens can live a life of dignity that is not possible today for thousands of seniors right here in this city. Within walking distance of this building, we will find seniors huddled in one-room units with a hot plate, not eating an adequate diet and certainly not having the kind of life that they should have. We know that. There is not a member in this House who does not know that
How do we approach the problem? I listened very carefully to what my good colleague from Nickel Belt (Mr. Laughren) had to say on Friday. I agree with him. A part of the problem is this overlay of programs. We just add one program after another.
Quite a few senior citizens live in my riding, as I suspect they do in most member’s ridings and one of the things that has been brought to me time and time again by seniors is that they are not particularly interested in having a half-price ticket to the movie theatre, a half-price ride on the bus, or half price to whatever it is. They want cash so they can pay their own way. That is one of the messages that comes through to me quite often from the seniors in my area. They just want the money so they can pay their own way.
There is one exception to that which has come across loud and clear, and that is with respect to the education taxes. Few seniors, if any, see the rationale in them paying education tax when they are so far removed from the educational system. They see no justification for that whatsoever. I agree with them. It seems to me that what government should be doing is setting two goals. One is to eliminate education tax for seniors, and the second is eventually to eliminate property tax for everything other than municipal services; to take the social service component out of it and have it paid from here at Queen’s Park. Those are the two goals I think the government should set and work towards. I certainly do not see evidence of them doing that. Instead, they are more content to have ad hockery. This is another little bit of ad hockery that they have thrown in.
As has been mentioned, not all seniors are going to get the $500. The more property tax they pay, the better off they are going to be. I suspect that in order to make sure they get the $500 --
Hon. F. S. Miller: That is an extrapolation of the reality.
Mr. Warner: Okay. E. P. Taylor will get the $500.
Hon. F. S. Miller: That is not what the member said. He said the more property tax they pay, the better off they are.
Mr. Warner: Yes, towards making sure they get the $500. E. P. Taylor will get the $500, right?
Hon. F. S. Miller: Sure.
Mr. Warner: The pensioner who is already living in poor circumstances is not going to get the $500.
Hon. F. S. Miller: E. P. Taylor will get it assuming he lives in Canada. I don’t think he lives in Ontario any more.
Mr. Laughren: That is another problem.
Mr. Warner: He leaves the country and leaves his trail of destruction behind. I realize the Treasurer, as well as I, is very embarrassed about the destruction that man has wreaked upon this province and this country. Sure, he has left now, and the Treasurer heaves a sigh of relief about that. But whoever is managing his nefarious affairs here will get the $500. That is, provided he has not been able to evade paying the property tax entirely, which, knowing the minions of lawyers that he has employed, he probably has been able to do. But, presuming he has to pay at least $500 worth of property tax, he will get the $500 from this government -- with a nice picture of the Treasurer on it.
There will be seniors in my riding who will not get the $500, and they are seniors who are far more deserving of some financial assistance than E. P. Taylor, one heck of a lot more, yet we will do nothing about that.
Mention has been made of waiting for the famous report from the royal commission on pensions. I hope it will be as good as our expectations but, if it follows the trail of anything else that has been done in this country, other than the introduction of the old age pension, we are going to be disappointed. It is just a hunch; I sure hope I am wrong.
We have done very little in this country and certainly far less, as the Treasurer knows, than has been done in many Scandinavian countries or European countries towards helping to ensure that seniors can live a life of dignity in their pension years. We have got a long way to go. I guess if one thinks back to not all that long ago, there wasn’t even an old age pension. There would not have been one if it hadn’t been for the CCF; members opposite know that as well as I do.
The forefathers of the party of which I am so proud to be a part fought hard for the old age pension and managed to get it through. There were some pretty strange comments made at the time by the so-called learned men in Parliament about how it would ruin the moral fibre of our nation if we had an old age pension. It was incredible. That was the starting point for this country, and we have not reached what I think is the proper goal.
The proper goal, it seems to me -- and this government has an opportunity to be speaking up about it, making presentations to the federal government -- is to ensure there is one pension, totally portable and totally accessible, for all Canadians.
For my part, I think the place to begin is the Canada Pension Plan. The Canada Pension Plan should be complete, it should be total and it should be the only plan. There is no reason to have more than one pension plan in this country; I don’t see any reason for that. Whether it is a taxi driver in Halifax or a person working on the docks in Victoria, he should have access to that pension plan. If the taxi driver from Halifax moves to Victoria to work on the docks, his pension plan should go with him. Pension credits would be accumulated based on income, and it would become a total program. By the time one is a senior, it would be hoped there would be an adequate amount of money, because the pension would have been pegged to the cost of living, so that when one retires, one would have a proper pension. We would not then have to worry about fighting on behalf of people because of their particular circumstances and their being denied the kind of income they require.
There are certain vulnerable people in our society. I suppose the most vulnerable people I have come across are the women between the ages of 55 and 60 who are widowed and who are struggling desperately to have enough money to survive. I do not know how they do it. They are not employable in a practical sense; they are not old enough for the old age pension and there is almost literally nothing available.
I do not know how these people survive. It is a very sad situation. They struggle very hard. A lot of those women will try to get jobs. They have been out of the job market for 25 years but they will attempt to be retrained and go back into that job situation. But when there are a million unemployed in this country, why should an employer hire a woman who is 56 years of age, and who has been out of the work force for 20 years, ahead of some young man who is 18 or 19 and just out of school? There is no incentive for an employer to do that. So the woman will not get a job and she will be faced with mounting property taxes, including an education tax and a lot of other things, and she will find it very difficult to make ends meet.
The minister’s Band-Aid today will help a little. It will stop some of the bleeding, but the patient will be in serious trouble unless he does more than this -- a lot more.
One thing I would like the Treasurer to answer for me when he has the opportunity -- I know he has been noting a lot of things and he is going to be responding to different remarks -- concerns what the government intends to do when the royal commission on pensions brings in its report. What precise plans does the Treasurer have in mind?
I learned that the Treasurer made sure that he had a suit jacket with two pockets because he had a budget in either pocket. Depending on what happened in that critical stage when he was drafting the budget, and the political climate, he could pull out the right budget. What kind of plans has he got sitting on the burner awaiting the royal commission on pensions report? I assume he has something in mind as to where one goes from here.
This bill today results from the Bramalea charter thee years ago. What is next? He knows that the pension report is coming down soon. What does he have in mind so that eventually this province can do something worthwhile to make sure that all the senior citizens in our province can live a life of dignity? That is what I want to know from the Treasurer.
Hon. F. S. Miller: Mr. Speaker, I will be brief. The official critic for the Liberals, the member for London Centre, talked about the administrative costs of the program. It is true that administrative costs are estimated to be $2.5 million to $3 million. He asked why we would spend that kind of money.
I think what was missed is that there should always be a benefit for a cost. One of the benefits that comes to my mind at once is that almost $300 million will be flowed to pensioners about six months earlier than usual every year. In fact, in the years that follow, half of that amount of money will flow nine months earlier, almost a year earlier, than it would have.
I would estimate that, even with interest rates dropping, the benefit to the pensioners of that kind of advance of the money is in the range of $20 million a year, in terms of the value of having that money six to nine months earlier than usual.
Mr. Peterson: That is your motive, is it?
Hon. F. S. Miller: No, that is not my motive at all. I am just answering that question. The member had brought up the cost of it. We have never denied our motives. Our motives were simple. All who have spoken have assumed some political motive. I am a politician; I never deny any political motives. Let us put those to one side.
The very fact that the member kept on saying I have political motives tells me he is worried that perhaps it was seen in the eyes of the recipients as a good thing. And the very fact that he has to stand up and lecture speaker after speaker on that point tells me it was more effective than I would have dreamed it was. Just a note.
The fact is, we took a program that was relatively simple to administer through the federal tax system. We tried in the last couple of years to get improvements in that and the Ontario property tax credit for people under 65, only to discover that the federal government is getting more and more nervous about provincial property tax credits or tax credit schemes being administered by them. In fact, they were not able to meet some of our requirements that we get some credit for the fact we are laying out $5 million.
We got a few notices this year, I think -- the cheques said, “This credit is from the province of Ontario” -- but nothing very consequential. The member’s friends in Ottawa would never have done that. They would not have laid out $5 million without making darned sure they got some credit. That is part of the process. People should be aware of which level of government is doing something.
We then looked at the program and decided it was not targeted to do things it was trying to do as well as it should. It did not assist the person who was over 65 with a relatively high tax bill, because only 10 per cent of the increase was added to the basic credit. It did not start all people out with the same guaranteed net minimum income after their property tax was paid. If one person’s property taxes were $400 versus someone else at $200, that person only got $20 more credit. So if one happened to be one of those people who received GIS or Gains, one was $180 worse off for the essentials of life when one was under the minimum salary. So we said: “Let’s break it into other components. Let’s have the income supplement stand by itself with Gains. Let’s have the property tax part stand by itself. Let’s have the sales tax credit stand by itself. Then let’s take account of the fact that the federal government has the $35-a-month increase per family unit coming through, either for two people or one, depending upon the way they paid it.”
When one takes the whole program, I think even those members who criticize me, as they must, will start to admit we cut the number of losers down -- not the 105,000 or 135,000 figures used, but a figure much closer to 20,000. Those people are all people whose incomes are above the basic minimum we have agreed the sum total of OAS, GIS and Gains must meet. So those people now have that OAS, GIS and Gains money available for food and clothing, and they do not have to worry about their taxes. I think that is a lot fairer. There was no reason for the property tax to eat into the OAS, GIS and Gains component.
Then we openly admitted there are people in subsidized institutions who were not intended in the beginning to be assisted by a property tax program. Therefore, we took them out of it, paying them $6,300 a year, on average, through the tax system for support in a nursing home. We think that contribution is quite properly made by the state, but we should not also be giving them the reward or assistance given to people staying in their homes. I am glad to hear the member for Erie (Mr. Haggerty) agrees with me on that point, that we were not being unfair by taking away that component and using it within the tax base of Ontario for better things.
One thing I do not think has been clearly said is that the $10 Gains increase does pass through to the people in those institutions. It does get added to the comfort allowance. So in many of the calculations thrown forward, they forgot the $120 passed through to the people in the institutions. The $110 pensioner credit was more than compensated for by the $120 Gains payment.
Mr. Haggerty: What is the total?
Hon. F. S. Miller: Oh, it is in millions. All the administrators will say very few people use it. But for the ones who do, the $10 was passed through. The balance, we admit, will end up in some beneficiary’s estate some time in the future.
We have tailored a program to specific needs of individuals: a basic income support program enhanced by our $10 a month and the federal government’s $35 a month. Those figures are significant on a yearly basis; $35 times 12 is $420, $120 more from us -- $540 more guaranteed income, which is quite important to the people at the minimum end -- and the payment of all taxes up to $500, plus $50 for sales tax.
I am proud of the program. I have had chances to talk to quite a few audiences around this province who are heavily oriented towards senior citizens, and I get sound rounds of applause when I describe this program. The people in Ontario will appreciate this program because they understand it. That understanding by the great bulk of the electorate undoubtedly has made some of my colleagues opposite a bit sad.
Motion agreed to.
Ordered for committee of the whole House.
House in committee of the whole.
ONTARIO PENSIONERS PROPERTY TAX ASSISTANCE ACT
Consideration of Bill 48, An Act to provide Property Tax Assistance for Pensioners in Ontario.
On section 1:
Mr. Chairman: Hon. F. S. Miller moves that clause c of section 1 of the bill be struck out and the following substituted therefor:
“(c) ‘eligible person’ means an individual who is ordinarily resident in Ontario and either (1) is eligible to receive a pension under part I of the Old Age Security Act (Canada) or (2) is a Canadian citizen or a person who has been lawfully admitted to Canada for permanent residence, and has attained the age of 65 years on or before December 31 in the year in respect of which a grant is applied for under subsection 1 of section 2, and who incurs, or whose spouse incurs, occupancy costs.”
Hon. F. S. Miller: Mr. Chairman, I have to read this to you. “I beg to inform the committee that the required message from Her Honour the Lieutenant Governor with respect to this proposed amendment and the proposed amendment to section 7 has been received.”
Mr. Laughren: What does that mean?
Hon. F. S. Miller: That makes it legal.
Mr. Peterson: What does that mean, what you just said?
Hon. F. S. Miller: According to the rules of the House, if I read the rules correctly, a change in a money bill can be introduced only with the message of the Lieutenant Governor, and I have the message. The next clause says, “and that message must be introduced by a minister of the crown.”
Mr. Warner: This is a fine example of minority government at its best, I take it. The Treasurer has kindly consented, and as I am sure you will recall, Mr. Chairman, he took the matter very seriously which my colleague, the member for Downsview (Mr. Di Santo) had raised in the assembly on a couple of occasions. I simply want the Treasurer to know that we appreciate his taking the matter seriously. He went away to see how it could be properly drafted and has come back with the appropriate amendment. I am sure there will be a number of seniors in the province who will be the better for the hard work that the member for Downsview has done. We appreciate it, and thank him for the credit.
Mr. Laughren: Mr. Chairman, I would like to add, to the words of my colleague the member for Scarborough-Ellesmere, my appreciation to the member for Downsview, who was so persuasive with the minister in dealing with this part of the bill.
Mr. Van Horne: It sounds like a mutual admiration society.
Mr. Laughren: Between me and the member for Downsview, there is a mutual admiration society -- and between me and the member for Scarborough-Ellesmere.
I only wish that the minister had added a section 3 to this bill which would have included anyone who is in receipt of a Canada Pension Plan disability pension. I know, as I said in my remarks on second reading, that the chairman would frown very vigorously at me and declare that it was a moneyed amendment and that, without the Lieutenant Governor’s permission, I would not be allowed to introduce such as amendment. I did want to say how much this particular amendment will help a large number of citizens in the province, and we are pleased to support it.
Motion agreed to.
Section 1, as amended, agreed to.
On section 2:
Mr. Chairman: Mr. Peterson moves that section 2 be amended by adding thereto the following subsection:
“(4) Notwithstanding anything in this act, the total of the grant paid to an eligible person under this act shall be at least equal to the grant that the person would have received under the Ontario tax credit program in force in 1979 if that program had continued in force in 1980 and subsequent years.”
This seems somewhat questionable; however, I will listen to the honourable member.
Hon. Mr. Wells: Mr. Chairman, we are going to submit that this amendment is out of order. I would ask that you rule on that before we have a discussion on it. I believe it is not in order for this amendment to be moved. I would be willing to so state the case on a point of order now.
Mr. Peterson: I would like to respond here to a point of order. Would the honourable minister like to go ahead?
Hon. Mr. Wells: Yes. I think the member for London Centre (Mr. Peterson) will realize that the byplay which just went on about the message from Her Honour perhaps would give an indication of the point of order I am making. Standing order 15 of this House says:
“Any bill, resolution, motion or address, the passage of which would impose a tax or specifically direct the allocation of public funds, shall not be passed by the House unless recommended by a message from the Lieutenant Governor, and shall be proposed only by a minister of the crown.”
I would emphasize, Mr. Chairman, the standing order focuses on passage of an amending motion, such as we have before us right now. That is, such a motion is out of order if the effect of it, and I emphasize that, is to impose tax or specifically direct expenditure. I think the Chairman will know, from his own experience in the chair on tax bills, that rulings on an amendment’s being in order must focus on the effect that motion has, rather than merely on the words. The effect of this motion, I would say, is to cause the spending of public funds.
Mr. Stong: It preserves the status quo.
Hon. Mr. Wells: No, it is specifically a motion that suggests public funds be expended. The Treasurer advises me that the effect of the passage of this amendment would be a substantial redirection or allocation of expenditure not contemplated or set out in the bill at the time it received the Lieutenant Governor’s recommendation. Indeed, our legal advisers have advised us that, were the Treasurer himself to move this amendment, he would have to signify, as he just did, the Lieutenant Governor’s recommendation for it. In other words, he would have to signify that Her Honour had sent her message, as he just did for the other amendment which he has just put forward. He would have to have the same message from Her Honour if he himself were to make an amendment such as this.
Mr. Bolan: Whom does she get it from?
Hon. Mr. Wells: She does not get it from you.
Mr. Bolan: She gets it from you?
Hon. Mr. Wells: She gets it from the British North America Act through the Legislative Assembly Act, through the rules and proceedings of this House which state that a message from the Lieutenant Governor can be delivered to this House only by a minister of the crown.
Hon. F. S. Miller: It comes with winning elections.
Hon. Mr. Wells: It comes from sitting on this side of the House.
What I am saying, Mr. Chairman, is that if the Treasurer himself were to move the motion that has now been put to you, it would have to be accompanied by a message from Her Honour. That message is not accompanying this amendment, and the mover of the amendment under the standing rules of this House does not have the power to bring to this House the message from Her Honour.
The effect of the amendment that has been put, I submit to you, Mr. Chairman, would clearly be to direct the expenditure of more public funds by giving pensioners the opportunity to claim either a grant under this bill or a tax credit under the Income Tax Act, whichever were the greater. I might add that both the wording and the effect of the amendment are to direct mandatory payment, irrespective of the effect of any other clauses in this bill which otherwise might have limited the impact of this amendment. This amendment specifically directs the allocation of public funds and, I would submit to you, Mr. Chairman, is clearly out of order on that account.
I would invite you to put emphasis, Mr. Chairman, in your ruling and in your interpretation on the very narrowest meaning of the words found in the standing order, which say specifically “direct the allocation of public funds” because that is what this amendment does.
Let me further add that while I have already argued that this amendment, if passed, would direct additional expenditure and would thus be out of order, that is not the ultimate meaning and importance of the standing order. The ultimate meaning is that no public funds can be specifically directed for allocation without signification of the Lieutenant Governor’s message. In other words, that message must also accompany any resolution that directs the spending of public funds and, as the order so states, that message can be delivered to this House only by a member of the cabinet.
What I am saying is that an amendment need not have the effect of directing increased expenditures. We must remember that it need not just direct increased expenditures to be out of order; it need only direct an expenditure to be out of order. By that narrow but correct interpretation of the standing order, I would submit to you that this amendment is out of order, Mr. Chairman. Finally, I would remind you of section 56 of the Legislative Assembly Act, which is also almost identical to section 54 of the British North America Act. That act, which we in this House have no power to supersede by any motion here, provides that the assembly shall not pass a vote or resolution for the appropriation of any part of the consolidated revenue fund unless it has been first recommended by a message of the Lieutenant Governor to the assembly.
The amendment before us has no such recommendation; so I would submit to you that the amendment that has been made is clearly beyond the scope or the ability of the member who has made it to put it forward. I would, therefore, ask you to rule that it is out of order.
Mr. Peterson: Mr. Chairman, I will not at this time speak to the merits of the particular amendment, but I am quite aware of section 15 in the standing orders which says: “Any bill, resolution, motion or address, the passage of which would impose a tax or specifically direct the allocation of public funds, shall not be passed” et cetera.
I think it is very arguable that this will not specifically direct the allocation of public funds. In fact, it is just protecting a status quo situation as of this point in time. It is just protecting those people who, admittedly, are going to suffer under the imposition of this new bill that the Treasurer has brought to us.
I remind you, Mr. Chairman, that a question was put on the Notice Paper on May 12, 1980, asking if the Treasurer would table the following information with regard to Ontario’s 1980 budget proposals for assistance to pensioners: “How much will the government of Ontario save annually as a consequence of the fact that some pensioners will receive less under the new program than under the program in place prior to the budget?” The response to that was that the government of Ontario is not saving any money under the new program of property tax grants, pensioner grants and enriched Gains payments.
If you extrapolate that logic there is no new net expenditure under the terms of the amendment as our party has proposed it today. If there is an allocation problem, that is the government’s problem.
The Treasurer and the House leader have admitted there is a large number of people who are going to receive less under this program. How the government allocates that and how they look at their global budget to solve that is their problem. But I respectfully submit that it does not in itself direct the allocation of any new money. For that reason, it is clearly in order and should be part of the amendments to this bill.
Hon. F. S. Miller: Mr. Chairman, I would have to argue that my friend is not correct. This would specifically direct spending. Not only that, it would increase spending, since the bill before us is quite specific in terms of the moneys that would be allocated under the program and the ways they would be allocated. Therefore, this amendment would require a further payment estimated to be at least $20 million to people to whom he has alluded.
Mr. J. A. Taylor: Mr. Chairman, I have listened with interest to the arguments and I noted that you were especially absorbed in what was being said.
If this amendment means anything, surely it is a guarantee that no person will receive less under the new program. If that has any meaning, there has to be a commitment of public funds. So I cannot see how the member can argue that it does not commit public funds when he specifically agrees that manifest in the amendment is a commitment of public funds. It is clearly out of order, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Peterson: I’ll try one more time in this procedural debate, Mr. Chairman. It is established that the government -- and I go back to its response to the question on the Notice Paper -- is paying an additional $75 million in 1980-81 to such pensioners. I am not asking for any money above and beyond that $75 million; I am just talking about its allocation. The figure just given to us by the Treasurer -- some $20 million -- would go only to those people who are going to receive less under his plan than before.
What we are talking about is the allocation. I respectfully submit, in the interest of equity and fairness, that this is very much in order and I would ask you to consider it in this light, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Stong: Mr. Chairman, I would like to support my colleague from London Centre with respect to this amendment. For all the reasons he indicated, all we are really doing here is preserving the status quo. The three reasons given from the other side of the House with respect to why this amendment ought not be accepted surely suggest the introduction of a new aspect into an existing law, whether that amendment be offered to an existing law as brought forward initially from this side of the House, or by any other member.
Clearly that is not what is at stake. We have a status quo and a law in existence right now. There is a hill before the House which is not yet law. Surely maintaining the status quo, as has been agreed upon by the members opposite -- this amendment that we offered -- is not advocating or proposing the spending of money. It is simply preserving the law, which is already in order. The reasons given by the learned minister for not accepting this amendment do not follow the spirit of the law and suggest that we are introducing something new when we are not.
For those reasons, the amendment ought to be accepted.
Hon. Mr. Wells: Mr. Chairman, forgetting about the merits or whatever the subject matter of this is, taken on its own, I think you cannot fail to see that this amendment specifically directs the allocation of public funds.
Mr. Peterson: It does not.
Hon. Mr. Wells: It does. It does not matter whether it preserves the status quo, whether it asks for a greater expenditure or a lesser; it specifically directs the allocation of public funds. The standing order of this House is very clear in that regard. Any amendment or resolution that specifically directs the allocation of public funds must be accompanied by a message from Her Honour, which can only be moved by a cabinet minister in this House. Therefore, Mr. Chairman, I submit to you that you have no other choice but to rule this amendment out of order.
Mr. Chairman: I have listened very carefully to the point of order and the discussion on the point of order. When looking at the amendment carefully, it says “the total of the grant paid to an eligible person under this act shall be at least equal to the grant that the person would have received under the Ontario tax credit.” It certainly means that it would specifically direct the allocation of public funds. Therefore, I must rule that this amendment is out of order.
Mr. Peterson: Mr. Chairman, I read to you into the record today --
Mr. Chairman: Are you challenging the ruling?
Mr. Peterson: Regretfully, I think I have to, Mr. Chairman. In the circumstances I think I am obliged to challenge it.
Mr. Chairman: The honourable member has challenged the Chairman’s ruling.
Mr. Peterson: Regretfully, I am obliged to challenge it.
Mr. Chairman: That’s not debatable. The question is, “Shall the Chairman’s ruling be sustained?”
All those in favour of the Chairman’s ruling will say “aye.”
All those opposed will say “nay.”
In my opinion the ayes have it.
Section 2 agreed to.
On section 3:
Mr. Warner: Mr. Chairman, I would like to know the specific plans the government has when the royal commission on pensions brings in its report.
Hon. F. S. Miller: I don’t quite see that as the kind of debate that takes place in clause-by-clause consideration.
Mr. Warner: Mr. Chairman, I don’t understand why the Treasurer is ducking the question. I asked this on second reading, and he didn’t answer. I will try each section as we go through the bill, attempting to wrestle a response. I simply want to know the Treasurer’s plans.
Hon. F. S. Miller: I don’t know until I get the report.
Mr. Warner: Has the Treasurer no contingency plans whatsoever to follow on this bill?
Sections 3 to 6, inclusive, agreed to.
On section 7:
Mr. Chairman: Hon. F. S. Miller moves that section 7 of the bill be struck out and the following substituted therefor:
“(7) In addition to any grant paid under section 2, the minister may in respect of each year pay a grant of $50 to every individual who is ordinarily resident in Ontario and either (1) is eligible to receive a pension under part I of the Old Age Security Act, (Canada) or (2) is a Canadian citizen or a person who has been lawfully admitted to Canada for permanent residence and has attained the age of 65 years on or before December 31 in the year in respect of which a grant may be paid under this section.”
Mr. Laughren: Mr. Chairman, in a way it is too bad you ruled the Liberal amendment out of order, because then I could have moved my amendment to section 7 which would have brought disabled pensioners into the act too. Nevertheless, you ruled as you saw fit.
Motion agreed to.
Section 7, as amended, agreed to.
Sections 8 to 21, inclusive, agreed to.
Bill 48, as amended, reported.
On motion by Hon. F. S. Miller, the committee of the whole House reported one bill with certain amendments.
INCOME TAX AMENDMENT ACT
Hon. Mr. Maeck moved second reading of Bill 55, An Act to amend the Income Tax Act.
Hon. Mr. Maeck: Mr. Speaker, this bill, An Act to amend the Income Tax Act, includes important changes arising out of the 1980 Ontario budget.
First, of interest to all taxpayers is the 1980 rate of personal income tax which will remain at 44 per cent of the basic federal tax. Ontario’s rate is unchanged since 1977, when it was originally set. The 44 per cent rate applies from January 1, 1980.
Second, of interest to senior citizens living in Ontario are a number of changes relating to the Ontario tax credit system. These changes are consequential on the introduction of the Ontario Pensioners’ Property Tax Assistance Act, which we just dealt with. Individuals aged 65 years and older will no longer be eligible for Ontario tax credits. Those not receiving assistance from Ontario, if they are paying in excess of $1,500 rent per year or in excess of $300 in property taxes on the home they own, will be eligible for more generous grants under the new pensioners’ assistance program.
The Income Tax Act is being amended to bring its criteria for property tax relief into line with those of the pensioners’ assistance program to make individuals who are entitled to grants under the pensioners’ assistance program ineligible for Ontario tax credits and to repeal the pensioners’ tax credits. All these changes will come into effect on July 1, 1980, the same date the new pensioners’ assistance program comes into effect and, except for those having taxation years ending prior to this date, will be applicable for the whole of 1980.
Mr. Haggerty: Mr. Speaker, I want to address myself to Bill 55. As the minister has indicated, it is a companion bill to Bill 48, An Act to provide Property Tax Assistance for Pensioners in Ontario.
I noted in the explanatory note the bill continues for the 1980 taxation year the income tax rate of 44 per cent payable by individuals in Ontario. If we are fortunate, it is going to remain at 44 per cent. In a more serious mood, since Ontario is now facing high unemployment -- perhaps the highest of all time -- through the cutback in major industries in the province, I thought we could be looking forward to some tax cuts, particularly in income tax.
If I recall correctly, in the Income Tax Act in 1978 there was a joint federal-provincial economic stimulation program where the retail sales tax amendment reduced the rate of retail sales tax by three percentage points. I thought, if the government were seriously concerned about high unemployment in Ontario, we would be moving in this direction. But apparently it is not.
If one looks at the statistics in the 1980 Ontario budget, it is interesting to note that personal income tax in 1976 and 1977 was 20.6 per cent of the total revenues; in 1980-81 it is predicted to be 22.5 per cent, which is two percentage points higher.
When you look back over the past decade, the increase in tax revenue has been threefold, I suppose in all areas of taxation, from about $5.5 billion to the neighbourhood of almost $15 billion, and that is a substantial increase in tax revenues.
Ontario will be facing a very difficult period this year, and perhaps even next year, because many of the predictions are based upon the economy in the United States. Everybody knows the operations of the government over there, as it prepares its budgets and appropriations, and they are always about one year ahead. This year they will be dealing with the 1981 budget, and there has been nothing in their budget for the last two years to prime the economy. That is an area we are going to feel perhaps six months from now. We are going to be in a much deeper recession because this government has not done anything to prime the economy.
If one looks at the revenue that has been generated over the years, now is the time this government should be moving in this area to get some returns, to get people buying some of the products that are manufactured in Ontario.
I was interested in talking to a chap at Fleet Industries the other day. They are now attempting to bring persons in from offshore, from England, to fill jobs in the manufacture of aircraft parts at Fleet Industries in Fort Erie. They have already made application, as I understand it, to bring in more tradesmen from offshore, creating further unemployment here. This is the area that the government should be locking at. If we are talking about amendments to the Income Tax Act, I suggest it is going to cause us serious problems here if we do not do this.
We talk about Ontario saying, “Shop Canadian.” I think if the Premier would get out into some of these industries and find out what equipment they are purchasing now to tool up in this aircraft industry, he would find that much of it is purchased offshore. I am talking about Asia and places like that. But perhaps it could even be bought from our neighbours to the south, because we do have a larger common market with them than with almost any other country. If something affects them there and creates employment, we will get some of the spinoff here. In the area of the automobile industry of Ontario and the spinoff in relation to its allied industries, we are going to see more persons unemployed. If we are looking for some amendments to the income tax, I suggest that this is one area the minister should be looking at. He could reduce the personal income tax or even the sales tax to put some new vitality in the economy, because when the Premier goes to an election, perhaps this fall, this is going to be one of the issues. The Premier is nodding his head.
Hon. Mr. Davis: No, I am not nodding my head; you are the ones who want an election.
Mr. Haggerty: No, no. I can read between the lines over there with what is going on.
Hon. Mr. Davis: You are one of the doves.
Mr. Haggerty: You can have doves and hawks, but I am not a chicken.
Hon. Mr. Davis: I don’t know where the chickens are.
Mr. Haggerty: Oh, you know where the chickens are, do you?
Hon. Mr. Davis: No. I said I don’t know.
Mr. Haggerty: I think you know where they are, and I think one of these days they are going to come to roost.
Hon. Mr. Davis: I have always sensed you are a dove.
Mr. Haggerty: You do, eh? It may surprise you one of these days. Very shortly.
Hon. Mr. Davis: I don’t say that critically.
Mr. Haggerty: I am aware the Premier would not do anything like that, but I suggest to the government, if it really wants to do something good and amend the income tax, to move in this area.
We accept the principles of this bill; it is a companion bill to the one that was debated previously, and on that basis we support it. But I think the government had better take a look at the economy, the income tax and even the sales tax.
Mr. Charlton: Mr. Speaker, we too are going to support Bill 55, although somewhat reluctantly, as has already been mentioned by a number of my colleagues in this debate over the new tax grant for seniors.
I say reluctantly, because one of the things that bothers me about this bill is not the new dollars that most seniors will receive under the new program, but that in order to give those seniors those new dollars the government had to take them out of the Ontario tax credit program, and segregate them from the rest of the society in this province to avoid giving an increase in the property tax credit and the other credits under this act to all of those other people in Ontario who are in just as serious financial difficulty as many of our seniors are.
We are eliminating the seniors from this bill to avoid an increase to all of those people -- the people of whom my colleague the member for Nickel Belt (Mr. Laughren) spoke, the people who are on disability pensions and in no better position than our seniors financially and those people who are on other kinds of fixed incomes across this province who are paying rent and property taxes.
This bill is specifically designed to avoid allowing an increase in the benefits that they receive under the Ontario property tax credit program. This bill is specifically designed to avoid increases that this government knows full well would cost it considerably more than the $75 million we are looking at in the new seniors’ property tax grant program. That is why I say I am reluctant. I am reluctant to see four or five or six different games being played, which is what we are going to end up with, depending on which category in society one happens to fall into.
We would much rather have stayed with the universal program applicable to everybody that we had under the Ontario tax credit program up until this time. We would have much preferred to see amendments to the Ontario tax credit scheme, especially the property tax credit portion, in order that the additional assistance that seniors will be receiving could be given to all of those other people in this province whose financial circumstances are just as difficult and perhaps even more difficult if there happened to be other family members involved, such as children, which most seniors do not have still in their care.
We are forced into a position of having to support the government’s approach to senior citizens in order to get the senior citizens the additional assistance, but it does not make us very happy because of those people who are being avoided -- people who sincerely need the assistance just as badly as the seniors do.
I will end by saying as clearly as I can that we will continue in this House to raise the issue of increases in the property tax credit under the Income Tax Act on behalf of all those people that this government is intentionally and repeatedly avoiding.
Mr. Bolan: Mr. Speaker, I would like to say a few words with respect to this bill. I, for one, am very pleased to see the government come out with any type of measure which will alleviate the condition of senior citizens in this province.
As this legislation unfolds, a very sad story presents itself. It demonstrates more than anything else, as far as I am concerned, that the government is totally insensitive to the needs of the people who are at the lower income level in our community -- not only the pensioners but also those people who are on workmen’s compensation or who are receiving other types of pension.
I suspect the government is using this as it has done many times in the past to play its little political games. They say this to the senior citizens, in a year when an election is coming up -- if not this year, early in the year 1981 -- and they present to them a nice, neat little package. This is fine for them; I agree with that, and there should perhaps be more of it. But they choose the right time as to when they are going to give their largess to certain segments of the people of Ontario.
I can assure the government that, for every senior citizen who needs this kind of legislation to help him make ends meet, there are two other citizens who are also deserving of the same type of equity. That is what it boils down to, is it not? It boils down to equity, and in many respects this government is not being equitable in its treatment of people.
What I would like to see is legislation introduced -- not around election time -- with a bona fide intention of helping those people in the province who are in the low-income bracket and who are on some kind of fixed pension and not just old age pensioners. I know of some provincial jurisdictions in this country where no sales tax is imposed on an individual item under a certain price. Quebec, for example, has retail sales tax legislation; if an item is under a certain value -- and I believe the figure is $500 -- there is no retail sales tax paid on that item. That is sensible. I say it is sensible because the person who pays $500 or more for an item probably can afford it more than the individual who buys items costing less than $500.
It is just an example, and I noticed the minister was shaking his head when I was mentioning that. But I was there last March; I was in the grocery stores and in the merchandise stores, and that is the way they run the shop there. They are giving a better break to the little guy. They are giving a better break to the guy who is on a fixed pension other than the old age pensioner.
This again shows, as far as I am concerned, the crass attitude of this government towards the people of Ontario who are on low pensions and who are in the bottom income bracket. I hope the day will come when this government opens its eyes and realizes that all of the people of Ontario who are receiving fixed incomes at a low level are entitled to the same break as well.
Mr. Laughren: Mr. Speaker, it is fascinating to hear a debate going on between the Liberals, who have done so little for the low-income people in the country, and the Tories who if they had remained in power in Ottawa would have made it even worse.
This bill is very strange; I think it should have been two bills. The first part of the bill gets lost, as does the second one if one is addressing one part of the bill, because the maintenance of the 44 per cent of federal tax payable as provincial income tax is maintained for yet another year.
That 44 per cent figure is downright deceptive if not dishonest. If one looks at that as a percentage of the tax payable in Ontario compared to other provinces, it looks pretty good. In British Columbia it is 44 per cent, in Alberta it is 32.5 per cent, in Saskatchewan it is 31.5 per cent, in Manitoba it is 54 per cent, and in Ontario it is the 44 per cent that is maintained in this bill. In Quebec it is 78 per cent -- I can just hear people shaking their heads; some people one can hear when they shake their heads -- in New Brunswick 52.4 per cent, in Nova Scotia 52.5 per cent, in Prince Edward Island 50 per cent and in Newfoundland 58 per cent.
The Treasurer is always bragging about the very low rate of federal income tax payable by the people of Ontario. We did some work in our fine research department, and we put together a number of things we call a tax load on a family. This is the tax load on a typical family in each province, for someone earning a total of $15,000 a year, with a spouse and two children.
One column is the provincial tax payable, which I just read to the minister; the second one is the amount payable after deducting any credits and rebates and taking into consideration premiums; for example, and specifically, OHIP premiums.
When we cut through all the nonsense about percentages the Treasurer and the Minister of Revenue like to give us, here is what we find out. The effective tax rate for Ontario is not 44 per cent, because by the time we have taken off the credits and added in the OHIP premiums, we find an effective tax rate of 68.5 per cent, the highest in the entire country. Yet the minister has the audacity to stand and pretend we have a good tax rate in Ontario. It is the worst in the country.
Hon. Mr. Maeck: I never said a word about it.
Mr. Laughren: Oh, the minister and the Treasurer are forever beating their breasts about the tax system in Ontario.
Hon. Mr. Maeck: I have not talked about it.
Mr. Laughren: If the minister has not, he is not doing his job.
Mr. Kerrio: If the minister wants to learn about taxes, he should go to Sweden.
Mr. Laughren: Yes. As a matter of fact, if he wants to learn how to deal with senior citizens, he should go to Sweden, to Germany, and to other European countries, where they do make a commitment to senior citizens. They do not require a property tax credit to raise senior citizens above the level of poverty, or even up close to it, as is the situation in this province.
When we look at the tax rates, taking into consideration credits, property tax credits included, and OHIP premiums, these are the effective rates: Ontario, not 44 per cent, but 68.5 per cent; British Columbia, 31.5 per cent; Alberta, 32.2 per cent; Saskatchewan -- are you ready for this, Mr. Speaker? -- 6.9 per cent; Manitoba, 20.1 per cent; Quebec, 62.8 per cent; New Brunswick, 43.7 per cent; Nova Scotia, 52.5 per cent; Prince Edward Island, 50 per cent; and Newfoundland, 58 per cent. There is Ontario at 68.5 per cent, the highest taxation rate in the country.
When the minister stands up and introduces this bill and includes in it the companion portion to the pensioners’ property tax credit, he does this chamber a disservice. In effect, he is saying we have to get this bill through for the pensioners, and taking away attention from the part of the bill that deals with maintenance of the effective tax rate.
Hon. Mr. Maeck: Not at all.
Mr. Laughren: He does. I have decided he does.
If one were to do an analysis of the psyche and the mentality of all New Democrats -- there is a challenge -- I suspect one would find the underlying common thread running through all of us is the feeling that there needs to be more equity in our system. That is what ties us together in the New Democratic Party; not just the elected members, but the membership all across the province and in other provinces as well.
Whether it has to do with social legislation or with the ownership of the nonrenewable resources of this province, our policies are determined and motivated by our commitment to a more equitable society. We do not think it is right, we think it is fundamentally wrong, to allow to continue what has been built up in this country.
I will give an example -- and this 44 per cent is part of the whole scheme. Since the end of the Second World War, there has been no redistribution of income in this country, and Ontario is no different. We have all sorts of patches we put on the system, but basically we have not changed the distribution of income a whit. As a matter of fact, in the last figures I saw, the bottom 20 per cent was slightly worse off.
If we look at the figures I have for 1978, the share of income for the lowest 20 per cent of income earners is 4.1 per cent and for the top 20 per cent, it is 42.7 per cent. Isn’t that nice? I am sure the Minister of Revenue just rubs his hands with glee when he thinks of the bottom 20 per cent receiving roughly four per cent of the national income and the top 20 per cent receiving 42.7 per cent.
That is a terribly inequitable system. This government has done absolutely nothing to alleviate that. As a matter of fact, putting on the highest OHIP premiums in the country exacerbates the problem. That is a very serious tax to impose on the people of Ontario. I know the minister doesn’t believe that, but it is a very serious and inequitable tax he has put on the people of the province.
Mr. Rotenberg: No, it is not.
Mr. Laughren: No one should have to pay an OHIP premium.
Mr. Rotenberg: Why not, if they have the money?
Mr. Laughren: Because we have a medical system which should be available to people on the basis of need without any deterrent. It is fine to sit over there in comfortable pews and say there is assistance for people at the bottom of the scale. But to try to live in that marginal level just above an income where you receive no premium assistance at all and add on to that the kind of tax rate we have in this province is a burden on those people. It is a burden that is not necessary for them to be carrying. We have the kind of province that can afford to eliminate that kind of inequity.
When we talk in this party about rebuilding the Ontario economy, it is not just to put more money in the hands of the investors and more money in the hands of the upper- income groups. We know if we have a healthy economy we can then deliver the kinds of services we think people have a right to in this province. That is why we want to rebuild the economy. When we talk about it, it is not simply to make the business community fatter, but we do understand that without a healthy economy we cannot provide the services we think people should have. That is largely what motivates us when we start talking about problems in the economy.
When my leader talks about the decline in the food processing industry -- that is a serious problem -- when we talk about the lack of a mining machinery industry in this province, those things, if they were here, could add new wealth. They don’t absorb wealth, they create wealth, and yet nothing is being done about it. The government would rather sit there in an uninterventionist way and say, “Let the invisible hand of the marketplace look after it.” Well, it is not looking after it.
I did want to say that every time the members over there pretend or make the assumption that we do have an equitable system, something comes across my desk to contradict it. Just a couple of weeks ago, on May 18, in the Toronto Star there was a little story. I know the member for Wilson Heights (Mr. Rotenberg), who obtained his seat through unusual means, would be interested in this.
Mr. Rotenberg: Mr. Speaker, on a point of privilege: I think that remark was uncalled for and not in accordance with the rules of this House, and I would ask the member to withdraw. I obtained my seat in the most usual means. I ran in a very fair election and I won. That is the only way I want it, and I would ask the member to withdraw his remark.
Mr. Laughren: May I continue?
The Acting Speaker (Mr. MacBeth): I really don’t believe the member obtained it through unusual means; he obtained it by the same means all the rest of us did. But I don’t see anything unparliamentary in the remark.
Mr. Laughren: What I was really referring to was the vigour with which he ran his campaign, but never mind.
This is a quote from the Toronto Star:
“Toronto matrimonial lawyer Charles C. Mark, who according to a judge pays no income tax on his $100,000 a year earnings, has been ordered to increase by $8,220 his annual support payments to his former wife and their three children, to $3,760 annually.” It goes through the proceedings and so forth. In the last paragraph of the short article, it says: “Cromarty noted” --
An hon. member: Who is Cromarty? Mr. Laughren: He is the judge. It says: “Judge Cromarty noted that Mark now earns in excess of $100,000 a year. Because of the way in which he has arranged his affairs and the fact that his maintenance payments are deductible for tax purposes and in spite of an income in excess of $100,000 a year, the judge said, he paid no income tax in 1979 and will pay none in 1980.”
The government should congratulate itself on the elitist tax system it has built over there.
Hon. Miss Stephenson: We didn’t do that.
Mr. Laughren: Don’t be silly. When this government has an opportunity to do something about it in this chamber, it does nothing. All it does is support the status quo. It has every power.
Hon. Miss Stephenson: The Income Tax Act happens to be a federal act.
Mr. Laughren: What does the minister mean? There is an amendment to the Income Tax Act that says what percentage this government takes. The Minister of Education knows not of what she interjects, because this bill itself affects the income tax.
Hon. Mr. Maeck: It doesn’t affect the income tax.
Mr. Laughren: This government is talking 44 per cent of the federal tax payable. It affects the amount that the province takes.
Hon. Mr. Maeck: It is the same as last year.
Mr. Laughren: Is the Minister of Revenue implying that Ontario has no opportunity to increase its take, that the provincial income tax cannot be altered?
Hon. Mr. Maeck: Not in individual cases.
Mr. Laughren: The government can build an equitable tax system in Ontario, and it has not done that.
Hon. Mr. Maeck: We have one.
Mr. Laughren: The minister can make all the noise he wants. The fact remains that he and the Treasurer preside over a very inequitable tax system, and one of which he should not be proud.
Mr. Rotenberg: That is just your opinion.
Mr. Laughren: The facts are there. Tell me these figures are wrong. The member for Wilson Heights is prattling on again, but where are his figures? Let him show me that there has been any kind of redistribution of income in this country since the Second World War. I tell him there has been none, and it remains as inequitable as it ever was.
Mr. Rotenberg: Everybody is making more money.
Mr. Laughren: I understand the system over there, and I understand that the Tories are in power to maintain the status quo. And so it will be as long as they are in power.
Mr. Rotenberg: Which will be a long time.
Mr. Laughren: Whether we are talking about the tax system, whether we are talking about the educational system, whether we are talking about the resources or, if I dare say it, whether we are talking about the compensation system in Ontario, this government is there to maintain the existing class structure that is now in Ontario.
Mr. Warner: Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to participate in the second reading of this bill, particularly because my friend the member for Armourdale (Mr. McCaffrey) is here. I hope I did not disturb him or wake him up. He will recall when we were together on the select committee looking at health-care costs that the tax system of the province came under question.
We had a very interesting and serious discussion about whether to alter the present structure, the 44 per cent rate, because we were looking at the costs involved and what it would cost if we were to remove the premium in stages, how much it would cost if we removed part of the premium, by how much would we have to increase the income tax level and whether there should be any alternation.
Hon. Mr. Maeck: What has this got to do with this bill?
Hon. Miss Stephenson: Not a thing.
Mr. Warner: I may end up voting against the bill, in which case I should have a good argument.
Hon. Mr. Maeck: We are not debating OHIP premiums.
Mr. Warner: It would help to have a good argument if I am going to vote against the bill. Would you agree with that?
Hon. Mr. Drea: You want to get your picture in the paper.
Mr. Warner: Okay. As we looked at it, what is interesting and, I suppose, a little disappointing is it became clear to us as we went through our discussions that we could not deal with the tax rate in isolation. It was necessary to take a look at the corporate tax level at the same time and to look at the level of premium assistance, at how many people were qualified and how many were receiving assistance.
We discovered that just a very small fraction of those who qualified were actually getting the benefit through whatever inefficiency existed in the Ministry of Health. However, the Treasury people were able to identify for us how many people qualified for the premium assistance.
One of the things that became evident was, first of all, that in terms of corporate tax, this is quite a haven in Ontario in comparison with the rest of Canada; we could certainly increase taxes. We looked at how many points needed to be increased on the personal income tax level to offset the premiums. It was possible to have some increase in the personal level, along with the corporate tax level, to offset the premiums.
That was the focus of our debate and it was a very good one. Unfortunately -- or fortunately, however one views it -- we came to a parting of the ways as to what should happen. We certainly favoured abolishing the premium, as they have done in most of the other provinces, recognizing there would have to be an increase in both the corporate tax level and the personal income tax level.
The government rejected that notion and it is unfortunate in my view. We are looking at a bill today which, I suppose it is fair to say, most if not all the members will end up supporting, to continue the present rate of income tax. At the same time, the government does not appear to have any alternative suggestions as to how to eliminate the premiums. Yet almost all the other provinces in Canada have eliminated those health premiums except Ontario, which persists in having the premium system.
Not only that, it has made the problem even worse by allowing extra billing to occur, allowing certain doctors to have a field day with those who cannot afford it. So health care now becomes the preserve of those who can afford it. If they cannot pay, no health care for them.
That is the truth, and I know it hurts. Boy, it hurts the Minister of Education (Miss Stephenson), the opted-out minister. It hurts, but it is the truth. The medical bills mount and mount, and more and more people every day say: “I’m not going to the doctor, because he will charge me amounts I cannot afford.” The minister knows that.
I understand the fat cats of the Family Compact can sit there smugly and support the status quo. Well, it is not good enough for me; it really is not.
The odd part about it is there is a darned good chance this income tax rate could be lowered. A cut would be a good stimulus, but we cannot do it as we deindustrialize. That is the problem. We are losing our revenue base. The branch plants are closing up shop. We now have more than double the rate of unemployment they have in Saskatchewan. As more people are tossed out of work, as more branch plants close up and move back to the United States and we lose our revenue base, we cannot decrease the income tax rate. Yet decreasing it might be a stimulus -- it often is a stimulus -- and might be a very good way to fight inflation.
What annoys me is that, while we have the twin enemies of unemployment and inflation, the government has answers to neither. Yet a personal income tax cut might be a very good stimulus to hedge against inflation by stimulating consumer demands and purchase of products. But we are not about to do it at a time when our branch-plant economy is closing up shop.
My colleague the member for Nickel Belt is right: Over the years, there has been no redistribution of income. In fact, the gap widens. The people at the top get off scot-free.
Mr. Conway: What kind of car does the member for Scarborough-Ellesmere drive?
Mr. Warner: Does the member want to know what kind of car I have? I have a foreign car. An imported car. It’s a Chrysler Omni. These are the cars the government wants us to buy. They tell us to buy those Chrysler products. They’re imported; they’re foreign cars. We won’t be making small cars here in Ontario because we’ve lost out.
The government is quite content to hand over all that money to Ford Motor Company and to Chrysler Corporation, and to anybody else who wants it, with no guarantees. We are left building the dinosaurs of the future, the cars no one is going to buy: the big gas-guzzlers.
Mr. Conway: I’ll take the member at his word.
Mr. Warner: You liked that one, eh? The member broke my train of thought.
The Acting Speaker: If the member would stick to the principle of the bill, he wouldn’t have trouble with members breaking his train of thought.
Mr. Warner: I will. Mr. Speaker, as you were listening so intently to the anecdote that my colleague from Nickel Belt brought to your attention about the man who was paid -- I wouldn’t so loosely use the word “earned” -- $100,000 in a year and didn’t pay a penny of tax, but had trouble keeping up his support payments, I will recall a little anecdote too. It is about someone who is near and dear to the hearts of some Tories sitting over there, a guy by the name of Carter. It is not the infamous one from Hamilton, but another infamous one from Sudbury. He wanted a raise in his pension. He asked for a pension of $130,000 a year which is not a bad pension, you must admit.
At the same meeting when he got the shareholders to approve a pension of $130,000 a year, he was asked by one of the workers what he or the company intended to do for the widowers of the miners who had died in his mine. He responded that they would then have a moment’s silence. That is what he could do for the widows.
They had the moment’s silence. Then the worker suggested, and he moved a motion, that they increase the pension for the widows by the huge sum of $25 a month. The man who received the $130,000-a-year pension, Mr. Carter, ruled the worker’s motion out of order.
You want to talk about inequity in the system. That is what it is all about. That leech at the top gets off with $130,000-a-year pension, and the widow of the guy who died in the mine cannot get an extra penny and cannot get a decent pension. That is inequity.
That is what my colleague the member for Nickel Belt talks about. The inequity is built into the government’s system, including the tax system. The poor struggle at the bottom, with no hope of getting up to the top, and the rich get richer.
Hon. Mr. Maeck: What have pensions to do with this bill?
Mr. Warner: Of course, the member does not like hearing it --
Hon. Mr. Maeck: Sure, I like to hear it Mr. Warner: -- just as the opted-out minister does not like to hear about people who are suffering in this province because of the extra billing by doctors.
Hon. Miss Stephenson: Show me who is suffering.
Mr. Warner: I will bring the Minister of Education a whole list of them; they are constituents of mine.
Hon. Miss Stephenson: By all means do that, and I will be happy to take them to the Ontario Medical Association.
Mr. Warner: They are constituents of mine, including pensioners and senior citizens who do not go to the doctor any more because of the extra billing. They cannot afford it. The government has no intention of ending that, and it could.
The irony of it all is that this government could be bringing in a bill that would reduce the level of personal tax in this province and supply greater services at the same time. There is a missing link in here, and the government knows it as well as I do, if it would just admit it. That is the tax base.
The tax base for Ontario is its resources. There is one thing we have and that is natural resources. The government has chosen to allow those resources to be exploited by foreigners. They have allowed the control of the resource industry to go outside of our borders instead of having it belong to the people of Ontario. What is the result of that? Poor services; a lack of social services; not sufficient programs --
Hon. Mr. Maeck: Mr. Speaker, we are debating a bill on income tax here, not one on resources.
Mr. Deputy Speaker: I am sure the honourable member’s comments are coming around to the bill.
Mr. Warner: They certainly are. As I pointed out to the last Speaker who, unhappily, was in the chair, I may be voting against this bill. In that case I think I deserve the opportunity to put forward an argument in setting out reasons for voting against this bill.
I submit that the bill maintains the tax rate at the 44 per cent level. There is a compelling argument for the tax rate to be lowered. The reason it is being kept at the same rate and not being lowered is that this government has lost control over the economy. The major part of the economy is in the resources.
The government has chosen not to have any control over its resources. It has chosen not to have those resources under the public ownership of the people in this province and so is now paying the price. Part of the price is that it cannot bring in a bill lowering the tax rate. It should be. The government would have a darn good chance to. It really could if it had control over the resources. From there we could be developing our own secondary industries and there would be no argument regarding the iron ore.
Why are the steel companies in Ontario not using Ontario iron ore? It is because the government has no control over the resources in this province; that is why.
I appreciate that the member for Parry Sound is uncomfortable. Of course he is uncomfortable. He should be embarrassed by the failure of his government to control its resources. Of course he is embarrassed that it has to bring in a bill that retains the 44 per cent level.
Hon. Mr. Maeck: Oh, it is terrible. I know it.
Mr. Warner: Under proper management, the government should be able to bring in a bill that lowers the tax rate and at the same time supplies the services that people deserve and need, such as OHIP without premiums and free dental care for children in this province. It can do that when it has control over the economy, and it has lost control of the economy.
I realize that other members wish to participate in the debate. I will sit down and I will let the minister sit there and stew a while about how I am going to cast my ballot on this bill.
Hon. Mr. Maeck: I am not concerned about it.
Mr. Deputy Speaker: Does any other member wish to participate in this debate? If not, the honourable minister.
Mr. Warner: He is still stewing.
Hon. Mr. Maeck: Mr. Speaker, I am going to be very brief because none of the speakers posed any questions whatsoever. It was a matter of political philosophy, I suppose, and we went right from one end of the spectrum to the other.
Hon. Mr. Drea: With a butterfly net.
Hon. Mr. Maeck: There are a couple of things that I do want to mention. The member for Nipissing (Mr. Bolan) was talking about sales tax in Quebec. What that has to do with the Income Tax Act I do not know, but he was talking about a $500 exemption. I am not aware of any $500 exemption in Quebec. According to my staff, this is not a program that is in effect at all; so, as usual, I guess he is doing a little daydreaming.
There really was nothing that required a reply from the minister, because it has been a philosophical debate rather than a technical one.
Motion agreed to.
Ordered for third reading.
House in committee of the whole.
MUNICIPAL ELECTIONS AMENDMENT ACT
Consideration of Bill 71, An Act to amend the Municipal Elections Act, 1977.
Section 1 agreed to.
On section 2:
Mr. Deputy Chairman: Mr. Epp moves that the bill be amended by adding thereto the following section:
“(2a) Subsection 1 of section 9 of the said act is amended by striking out ‘two’ in the fourth line and substituting in lieu thereof ‘three’.”
Mr. Rotenberg: Mr. Chairman, I would submit to you that the amendment is out of order. The amendment deals with section 2a, which has no relevance at all to section 2. But even more important, section 2a refers to subsection 1 of section 9 of the said act. I would indicate to you, Mr. Chairman, that nowhere in this bill is there any reference whatsoever to section 9 or any of its subsections.
I would submit that the amendment is in no way relevant to the subject matter of the bill as required by the standing orders of this Legislature. This is bringing in new matters which were not in any way discussed in the bill. Therefore, I would ask, Mr. Chairman, that you rule this section out of order.
Mr. Deputy Chairman: On the point of order raised by the parliamentary assistant, I will hear the member for Waterloo North.
Mr. Epp: Mr. Chairman, it is my feeling, after seeking advice on this matter, that this particular amendment should be entertained by the chair simply because it does deal with this section. We are dealing with section 2 which has been opened up by the government for amendment. An integral part of this bill is the elective office. We are dealing here with changing the term from two years to three, something I would think that the government and the opposition parties would support despite some of the statements they made to the contrary.
As you know, Mr. Chairman, there is a great deal of support for this particular amendment. I would hope the chair would entertain this amendment. The simple reason is that section 2 is opened up, and this is an amendment to section 2.
Mr. Isaacs: Mr. Chairman, on the point of order: It is of very great concern to me and to many of my colleagues that the government consistently uses the rules of this House to prevent debate on the very things that are of great importance to our municipal colleagues and to the public at large. The matter which has been placed before us by the member for Waterloo North is a very important issue which I believe is worthy of debate. Of course, I will accept your ruling as to whether it is in order in this particular instance.
Mr. Deputy Chairman: The matter is of some import. It is almost six of the clock.
Some reference has been made to chicken, earlier today. I think I will consult with one or two of the roosters of my colleagues who will return at eight of the clock and give a ruling on this important matter.
The House recessed at 6 o’clock.