L014 - Thu 21 May 1987 / Jeu 21 mai 1987
The House met at 10 a.m.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
PRIVATE MEMBERS' PUBLIC BUSINESS
ONTARIO HYDRO RATES IN NORTHERN ONTARIO
Mr. Gordon moved resolution 11:
That in the opinion of this House, recognizing:
That Ontario Hydro, as a crown corporation, is to be used as a public policy tool in the service of the economic development of Ontario;
That northern Ontario has not enjoyed the economic boom currently being experienced in southern Ontario and has developed fundamental economic structural problems that must be addressed with imaginative and resourceful policymaking;
That longer winters in northern Ontario mean that northerners must consume more electricity and this, in turn, contributes substantially to the higher costs of living and doing business in northern Ontario;
That the Rosehart report on resource-dependent communities in northern Ontario identified higher energy costs resulting from harsher weather conditions as one of the key factors in the higher cost of doing business in the north;
That the challenge of economic renewal in the north must be addressed on all fronts because of its far-reaching social and economic benefits;
That lower hydro rates will help established northern resource industries to compete on a worldwide basis;
That lowering hydro rates in northern Ontario will stimulate the development of new industry and jobs for northerners;
That lowering hydro rates will return money to the pockets of ordinary northerners who pay more for energy;
Therefore, we call on the government of Ontario to develop a policy that uses Ontario Hydro as an instrument for the economic and social transformation of northern Ontario through the lowering of hydro rates in northern Ontario, thereby ameliorating the high costs of living and conducting business in the north.
The Deputy Speaker: The honourable member has up to 20 minutes for his presentation and may reserve any portion of it for his windup.
Mr. Gordon: I want to make it clear this morning that this resolution represents another attempt at finding home-grown solutions to the economic problems that exist in northern Ontario.
Northerners have known for years that high energy costs not only play a major role in taking money out of the pockets of ordinary northerners but also, over the years, have dissuaded some industries, manufacturers, etc., from locating in the north. As a matter of fact, manufacturers have faced energy costs as high as 10 per cent and 20 per cent more than they would have expected to pay in the south. When they find this out, they decide that instead of locating somewhere in northern Ontario they are going to locate in an area such as Toronto.
In my view, we have for years -- and this government is as guilty of it as any -- approached the symptoms of the economic problems in the north rather than looked at the strategic, structural problems that exist there. It is my view that the time has come to come up with a clear policy, a clear way in which this government can help the north to attain the same type of economic stability and opportunity that we see here in southern Ontario.
To date, there have been a few in the north who from time to time have pointed out that one of the ways in which the north can be helped is through the lowering of hydro rates, but it was not until just last week that the regional chairman for Sudbury, Tom Davies, started a campaign, and quite rightfully so, to see that hydro rates were lowered in northern Ontario. To their credit, the regional chairman and his council have initiated a campaign that is now spreading throughout northern Ontario. This Legislature and this government can expect to hear much more about this particular issue over the coming months.
As I indicated at the beginning, one of the fundamental problems is those of us who live and work in the north know that the high cost of energy has a direct effect on job opportunities for our people. The solution that would make northern Ontario competitive with southern Ontario would be the lowering of hydro rates. That is not an earth-shattering idea, is it? I can see the Minister of Education (Mr. Conway) over there smiling benignly. Of course we do not want him to give us a benign look -- at least not of benign neglect. What we want is his intervention at the cabinet table to see that this idea, which is approaching the problem of structural unemployment in the north with an innovative solution, such as lowering of hydro rates, is something that should be discussed at that table and should be given every consideration. Of course I know he is going to push for it to go through.
Nevertheless, we in the north are tired of being ripped off. We are tired of seeing our people without jobs. We are calling upon the government today to recognize that for too long there have been two Ontarios. For those members who are not aware of the two Ontarios, I might point out that there is the prosperous south where at the present time unemployment is only 4.7 per cent, where every few months we see automobile plants or parts plants being established, and where in the past 18 months alone 75,000 new jobs have been created in the finance sector.
Then there is the other Ontario, which the Premier (Mr. Peterson) wants to drag into the space age by making us high-tech hewers of wood and water; the other Ontario, which is still struggling through a recession, which has an unemployment rate of 13 per cent and which has lost 20,000 jobs in the past two years. That is the other Ontario. There can be no mistake about it: northern Ontario is quite unlike the south.
If the government is still not convinced, let me draw another mental picture of what is going on in the north, and it is not a pretty picture. I see a few of the government members have taken this opportunity to step out of the legislative room. Perhaps it is a picture they do not want to be reminded of, but we pay a price in the north for this underdevelopment in terms of family violence, family breakdown and mental stress. It is no more appealing to us than it is to the government.
Northern Ontario makes up 87 per cent of the territory of this great province. It contains nine per cent of the population and eight per cent of the labour force; but also 11 per cent of all Ontario's unemployed, 73 per cent of all mining unemployed and 70 per cent of all forestry unemployed. In the past six years, we have lost 26 per cent of our mining jobs. The number of unemployed in northern Ontario is nearly equal to that of Newfoundland and is actually greater than the number of unemployed in Saskatchewan.
Our climate is harsher, requiring greater energy consumption, both residentially and industrially. There are longer distances between population centres, which of course results in isolation and high transportation costs, a subject we tried to address just a week ago. The majority of communities are dependent upon single-resource industries. The municipal tax base is much narrower than those of southern Ontario communities. As a result of that narrow industrial base, the participation rate of women in the work force is much lower than anywhere else in Ontario. In actual fact, secondary manufacturing throughout northern Ontario is almost negligible. The northern share of the provincial population has been declining over the past 30 years and the unemployment situation has been growing steadily worse. All the negative population, labour force and other economic and social trends are directly attributable to the north's dependence upon resource industries.
Diminishing economic opportunity in labour force growth rates have seen northern Ontario's labour force grow by only 49 per cent since 1961. This compares poorly to the 91 per cent labour force growth rate for southern Ontario, 65 per cent for Prince Edward Island, 72 per cent for Quebec and 87 per cent for Canada as a whole.
In my view, and in the view of many people who live in the north, the key to ending northern Ontario's dependence upon the extractive industries and to freeing the people from the vicious boom-bust cycles we have experienced over the past years would be the lowering of hydro rates in northern Ontario. This is one way in which we can work to diversify northern Ontario.
This is not to say we should ignore the traditional resource-based industries. In fact, their competitive position needs to be improved in order to protect existing jobs in this area as well as to create new jobs.
The lowering of hydro rates for northern Ontario would be a catalyst to economic development for the entire north. It would mean that for the first time we would be doing something concrete to ensure that more manufacturing jobs moved into the north. That is the key to the future economic development of northern Ontario.
Let us take an example of that. Northern Quebec has been experiencing quite a boom of new industries moving into northern Quebec. One of the chief reasons for that has been that the Quebec government has been following a policy of providing better hydro rates for those firms that locate in the northern part of Quebec. This is a policy, and this is the kind of policy this government here in Toronto, in Queen's Park, should be putting into place, and this is a policy that was sadly lacking in the throne speech. This is a policy that showed no evidence of being anywhere in that budget that was brought down yesterday.
In northern Quebec at the present time, there are 53 -- count them; 53 -- new industries because the provincial government has instituted a policy of lower hydro rates in northern Quebec. These are high-tech industries. These are industries that provide jobs, labour-intensive jobs, for many Quebeckers. I can see no reason why this government could not take similar policy steps.
To ask that Ontario Hydro's rates be lowered as a means to ameliorate some of the most outrageous inequalities between northern and southern Ontario and as a means of spurring the economic development of the north is not a new or radical idea in itself. I want to stress that; it is not a new or radical idea in itself.
Let us go back to November 3. I am sure the government members on the other side can remember November 3, 1986, at, I believe, the Holiday Inn in Sault Ste. Marie. There was a conference on northern competitiveness. At that conference, the Premier said, "We have to look at Ontario Hydro as a development tool." He further said, "I invite you to use your creativity in that regard, because Ontario Hydro's instructions are to work with local people, work with entrepreneurs and work with the north to build a stronger economic base here."
That is exactly what this motion does, so I am sure the government members on the other side will heed the Premier's words today and will be voting for this motion unanimously.
I would also like to quote a well-known columnist in the Toronto area, and that is Rosemary Speirs. In one of her insightful columns, she wrote, "Northern and eastern Ontario are not sharing in that prosperity today, and that raises the question of whether cheaper hydro rates or Hydro projects should be used to promote regional economic development." Yes, Rosemary, we are asking that question today here in the Legislature.
The connection between cheap energy and economic prosperity is well established. There is a high correlation between energy consumption and employment opportunities. That is a well-known fact in Ontario, and we have to go no further than the current chairman of Ontario Hydro to be reminded of it. Tom Campbell, chairman of Ontario Hydro, told the Legislature's select committee on energy only two years ago, and again I would like to quote the eminent Mr. Campbell:
"Electricity has always been a building block of our economy and it plays an even more significant role today. It has helped businesses convert to lower-cost and more efficient processes, to remain competitive and to preserve jobs." Then he added, and I think this is particularly significant for the government, "Its reliability and reasonable rates have been a factor in industries choosing to locate in Ontario."
I sat on that select committee on energy, and every time the Hydro people appeared before us the one point they kept making about Ontario Hydro and its effect on attracting industry or keeping industry in Ontario was the fact that it was so competitive and its rates were so good. Why cannot we in the north have some of those good rates? What is wrong with us? Why do we have to put up with a further 20,000 people being unemployed over the past two years? Why can we not share in some of the prosperity?
Why does this government walk out on the streets and say: "We located 280 new government jobs in Sudbury. Look what a great thing we have done." My goodness, does the government not know that only a few short years ago the federal government put 2,500 jobs into Sudbury? The government gives us 280 civil service jobs that blue-collar people cannot do; blue-collar people do not work in civil service jobs.
That is it in a nutshell: Tom Campbell saying, "Its reliability and reasonable rates have been a factor in industries choosing to locate in Ontario." I think the members of this Legislature should note that Inco Ltd. has begun a $25-million project at its Crean Hill mine. It is all electrically run, and that is the wave of the future for mining. If we want to help the resource industries as well as attract manufacturing into the north, then the time has come to ensure that hydro rates are lowered in the north.
We are not asking for handouts. We are tired of being turned into a banana republic in the north. We see we are being turned into a third world; there is the other Ontario and it is us. There is no reason for it. Lower the hydro rates. Give us a chance to compete on an equal footing with the rest of Ontario and the rest of the world, and give our people something to hold on to.
The Deputy Speaker: The member wishes to reserve five minutes and 50 seconds for his windup, I believe.
Mr. Foulds: I rise to support the resolution, although I have some mixed feelings. It is the classic case where one has to divest oneself of one's sort of argumentum ad hominem; that is, the argument against the person. I really do think that in 42 years, when the Tories had power, they could have brought some control over Ontario Hydro to make sure Ontario Hydro was an instrument for regional development, particularly in the north, and they failed to do so. However, there is nothing like a good healthy dose of opposition to make a former government party realize how important hydro development is in economic development.
In developing nations, one of the first cries, for example, when India got its independence from the British Empire, the two main planks in the platform were electrification and education. Those symbolized both the hardware and the software, the social services and the hardware services that were necessary to bring that nation into the 20th century.
I do not say that the north is not in the 20th century. It certainly is. It is into the 1980s good and properly, partly because the former Tory government failed to deal with the structural problems in the economy of the north. While I support this resolution and think it will go a small way to helping the economic development in the north, much more is needed.
Let me talk first about Hydro in northern Ontario. For years, northern Ontario business could not get the preferred commercial rate from Ontario Hydro for economic development. For years and years under the Tories that was true, and I say that has a lot to do with the underdevelopment of our industry in northern Ontario. It is something that must come.
Second, I want to say that this government failed with Ontario Hydro when it refused to negotiate a contract with Manitoba Hydro for an assured power supply in northwestern Ontario. They could have got an assured power supply for centuries by upgrading transmission lines. I have on record a letter from the Manitoba Minister of Energy in the mid-1970s indicating that he was anxious for that assured power supply, which would have been hydro power and cheaper, and would have given us an assured economic development or helped to give us an assured economic development.
The government may say -- and the Tories of the past always said -- that Hydro was governed by the Power Corporation Act and therefore could not be used in the way we want it to be used because it had to deliver power at cost. It depends on how you figure out that cost and it depends on how you figure out the customers and so on. A lot can be done with accounting to fiddle around with that, to put it very mildly.
Let me give credit to the former Tory government in one respect. They have used Ontario Hydro as an economic development tool in one case. My friend the member for Rainy River (Mr. Pierce) will know where that happened, and that is in the town of Atikokan, where they made a deliberate decision to place a thermal generating plant which was needed. It was not a gift, it was not something new, it was needed in the area and in the system. They decided to place it in Atikokan because Atikokan at that time was suffering an economic downturn. How much better it would have been if that plant had been planned for Atikokan in the first place, as we knew that the mine was running out.
I think a second part of the Hydro development in northern Ontario has to be the development of small power stations, mini stations. Hydro has to be condemned for assuming that all Ontario had to be part of this magnificent province-wide grid. I suggest that when it comes to the electrification of small villages like Armstrong, north of Lake Nipigon, it makes much more sense not to deliver, as it does now, very expensive diesel power, but to throw a small generator into a small stream near that village and simply draw the electric line from that generator to that village, instead of trying to plug it into the whole system.
We could do that in many small, remote villages in northern Ontario and do it quite effectively and inexpensively. That too would help the economic development of tourism in those areas. They would have cheaper hydro rates because it would be hydraulic power and not expensive diesel power and it would mean they could have more than mere residential electricity, which is all they have now at the very best. They are not able to have enough in their system to have either highly developed commercial activities or highly developed industrial activities.
The one part of Hydro's plan for economic development in the north that we want no part of is putting the nuclear waste into northern Ontario. That ain't, if I may say so, economic development. They are simply absolving themselves from the responsibility for the huge problem that is being created. The nuclear industry never knew how to get rid of nuclear waste; it still does not and it is trying to bamboozle the public on that point. If the storage of nuclear waste is safe, then it should be stored near where the producing plants are. If it is safe, then it is safe near an established population as well as in a remote area of the province.
I just want to conclude with a couple of points. First of all, I note that it is very interesting that my good friend the member for Cochrane North (Mr. Fontaine) is here to participate in the debate. I am sure he will participate with the usual vigour, emotion and heartfelt commitment that he has for the north.
But I regret very much that the new member of the Liberal Party from the north, the member for Timiskaming (Mr. Ramsay), who appeared to be so happy over the shafting the north took in the budget yesterday, is not here for this debate. I would have thought that, of any debate, the member for Timiskaming should be here participating in a debate that has to do with the economic development of northern Ontario and Ontario Hydro.
There are three or four other points that I would like to make without being too provocative. First, we need not merely the narrow kind of economic development that this resolution brings forward, but we need to develop a genuine heritage fund and not the kind of wishy-washy underfunded program that the Treasurer (Mr. Nixon) announced yesterday that will be at the pleasure of the government and at the pleasure of Queen's Park bureaucrats with the advice of Liberal-dominated economic advisory committees.
The member for Cochrane North should note that it is only advice; that is the thing. Those economic committees have no power, and I have to say to him that it is going to be the minister, his bureaucrats and his southern-Ontario-dominated cabinet that are going to make those final decisions. We need the kind of economic heritage fund that will be managed by northerners. It has to have the substance so that they can devise the tools to create their own solutions.
Second, we need the diversification of industry in many areas. If the member for Sudbury (Mr. Gordon) were as sincere as he believes about energy prices, he would talk not only about bringing Ontario Hydro under control and giving better rates for northern Ontario but also about taking the private sector under public control, if not ownership, because natural gas and the distribution of natural gas in northern Ontario are a scandal.
What we should have for cheap power for heating and other purposes is a much better distribution system of natural gas throughout northern Ontario, particularly to many of the one-industry towns. That would help not only industrial development but also with the bills northerners face because of the heating of their homes in remote communities with electricity, which is very expensive over a long period.
Finally, I want to say that I find it ironic that this motion is brought forward by a member of the Progressive Conservative Party, who was a member of government and who, if I may say so, did absolutely nothing when Premier Davis killed the select committee on Ontario Hydro after the Conservatives got their majority back in 1981. They tried to cover up the inadequacy of Hydro in terms of economic development and in terms of its nuclear imperialism.
M. Fontaine: C'était avec grande surprise ce matin que j'écoutais mon ami le député de Sudbury parler sur l'économie du nord de l'Ontario -- l'économie qu'il dit vient d'arriver dans le nord de l'Ontario depuis deux ans. Je veux rappeler à mon ami de Sudbury que le nord de l'Ontario existe depuis au moins 100 ans et, si on est dans une situation économique très grave, c'est l'héritage du Parti conservateur.
C'est l'héritage dans le sens que, après la guerre, il n'y avait pas de division ou de décentralisation du sud de l'Ontario. Il n'y avait pas de décision d'amener au moins quelque partie de l'industrie de l'automobile, non plus de décision d'amener l'industrie de pièces d'automobile. Plutôt, on a pris l'argent de l'industrie du nord de l'Ontario. Les ressources donnaient presque $15 milliards-$14.9 milliards d'argent -- mais dans le tour, ça ne vaudrait rien.
Aujourd'hui, le député de Sudbury vient de nous parler d'une nouvelle vision du nord de l'Ontario. Mais, elle est tard, sa vision. La vision a dû être là après la guerre.
After the war, the division of northern Ontario from the rest of the province should have taken place. It is not my fault and it is not the fault of the Liberals that there was no decentralization of power and no decentralization of industry after the war. That was the previous government's fault. It did not even bring one industry, the automobile industry, to the north. It did not even bring one little part-industry to the north. Now that the Conservatives are in opposition, they say, "What is happening in the north?" It is happening because that is the heritage of that party to us in the north, to my children and my grandchildren. It has nothing to do with Hydro at this point.
They had their chance with Hydro in 1977. They had their chance all their lives with Hydro and they did nothing for us. We suffered in the north. We in my little town were given hydro in 1956. Mr. Kelly came to us, and like a little baby we had to beg him, and he said, "I will give you a little hydro;" and after 50 years we had hydro in Hearst.
That was the real test of that party. We were blinded by all the promises: a little school over here, a little airport over there and a little road over there; and that is it. If their vision of the north had been to bring other industry, then today we would not be in this economic situation. The situation did not happen in two years. It has happened over 42 years of history, not two years.
Mr. Gordon: You have done nothing, absolutely nothing.
Mr. Fontaine: The member said we did nothing about Hydro since I arrived over here. I had many meetings with Hydro. I will tell the member something. We recognize the economic problems experienced in the north.
Mr. Gordon: You have done absolutely nothing. All we have seen is --
M. Fontaine: Je dis au membre de laisser faire et lui dis de fermer sa gueule. Je veux lui parler. Il m'emporte, lui.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Morin): Order. Voulez-vous, s'il vous plaît, retirer la remarque que vous avez faite vis-à-vis le député.
M. Fontaine: Quelle remarque?
Le président suppléant: De fermer sa gueule.
M. Fontaine: Je la retire.
For a few months we have been working on exploring, in connection with the other ministries, ways in which Ontario Hydro can be used as an instrument for promoting economic development in northern Ontario. Two weeks ago, the Minister of Energy (Mr. Kerrio) announced an advisory committee to study the matter we are talking about here today.
Mr. Gordon: Anything from that is two years down the road.
Mr. Fontaine: It will not take that long. There are people from the member's mining community; there is a woman, a native, on it. Last year, we formed another committee to study the Hydro grid on the Hudson Bay coast.
Another thing we are doing right now is we are working in conjunction with the pulp and paper industry to try to find out a way of cogeneration to produce 180 megawatts. At the same time, we are working with sawmills. We will be in the north, in Cochrane, on June 5, about a cogeneration plant there; and there will be another one. We are looking at Longlac for cogeneration. Another thing we are doing is we are working to try to keep our plants economical in northern Ontario. We are working with pulp and paper to find ways and means to give them a chance to build thermomechanical pulp or chemithermomechanical pulp. That is what we have been doing for a year.
At the same time we opened up the process to give a chance to the private entrepreneurs to be part of the hydro in northern Ontario, to use our rivers and build some smaller dams. They will not only produce hydro, but they are going to sell to Hydro. The Ministry of Energy has upped its rates to give a chance to the entrepreneur to survive. We tried that in Hearst in 1976 but Hydro killed us.
We spent over $500,000 of government money. When it came to the end, Hydro told us in Hearst that the rate would not grow by more than 4.2 per cent. It is funny, after this project was crushed and the plant was shelved, the hydro went up nine per cent, 10 per cent, 8.2 per cent, until about two years ago when it went down four per cent. But they told us 4.2 per cent because they did not want us to build in Hearst.
We have spent $500,000 of the government's money, plus another $100,000 to $200,000 from the industry and another $1,000 from the town of Hearst. We spent close to $800,000 on that project. It was a viable project. The report is still there in the files of the government. It is called the Hearst Hydro Project. The same project was used later in Chapleau, and now in Cochrane and maybe Longlac: but Hearst, no; Hydro did not want it.
We opened up the process for that kind of little industry; we opened up the process to the entrepreneur, the small guy, to build those hydros to give us more power and to try to give us a better rate there.
I agree with my friend the member for Port Arthur (Mr. Foulds) that we should change the act one of these days. I want to remind the member for Sudbury that the Conservatives had 42 years to change the act and they did not.
Mr. Gordon: This Liberal government has done nothing -- all words, words.
Mr. Fontaine: We are not Quebec. Quebec has a different way with hydro. The member can ask his friends in the industry. Quebec is different. They negotiate rates, and I wish that Ontario would do the same thing. Maybe we will see it in a year, maybe we will see it in two years, but it is going to be a long process and it is going to be up to us here in the House to do it. We must change the act. The act does not change like that; it is a law. I think we will have to work towards this.
I want to remind my honourable friend that northern Ontario was not born only two years ago. It is on account of his party's policy, when the Conservatives were in government, that we are stuck as we are right now. If they had had a vision about northern Ontario they should have given us hydro in 1940 or in 1935, and not, in my area, in 1956.
It has been the same thing with roads. They came to pave the roads in 1968 and after that they came back in 1982; that is all. Every 10 years they come back to give us a little thing. After that, they come here and tell me in the House that after two years it is our fault. It is going to take us more than two years to put northern Ontario on the right track. It is going to take 10 to 15 years.
Mr. Foulds: What?
Mr. Fontaine: I said 10 to 15 years.
Mr. Gordon: But the member will not be part of the government for 10 or 15 years.
Mr. Fontaine: The member knows that because he studied that. You cannot repair damage that fast. One thing we have to do is to work in a way that will enhance industry. I agree that Hydro is part of it. In my first speech in northern Ontario I said there were three things that should happen, using Hydro as a development tool. This speech by the member for Sudbury came from my first speech in northern Ontario. I discussed Hydro in Sault Ste. Marie, in Thunder Bay and in Kenora.
On my first trip using my $100,000, I did not use the money to go on a fishing holiday as some ministers used to do, taking the government plane to go fishing on the lakes or go to the big town of Sutton River. I used that money to go to every little village in northern Ontario to listen to them and what they told me.
I told them that Hydro should be used as an economic tool and that our transportation system should used as an economic tool. The government, with the help of my friends across from here, with the help of New Democratic Party ideas -- I agree they gave me a few good ideas -- is going to use that to give northern Ontario a better way. I support the resolution in principle.
Mr. Pierce: I do not know whether I can be quite as energetic as the member for Cochrane North, but I will certainly do my best to prepare myself for the debate and speak on behalf of the resolution moved by the member for Sudbury.
First, we have to clear away the myth that all the people in northern Ontario have hydro. What we are doing is arguing about the cost of hydro once it is provided. Since I was elected in 1985, I have had a fairly large file of people in northern Ontario who are without hydro. On a recent trip to Taiwan, travelling through some of the remotest, roughest and hilliest country any of us had ever experienced, you could look off in any direction and see lights that were servicing small individual homes in the mountains. That is not the case in northern Ontario.
Let me give just a small sampling of what it means to try to get hydro in northern Ontario. A single-parent mother has asked for service in her residence. She lives one mile away from the last hydro line. Ontario Hydro has responded to her request by saying: "There is no problem in servicing your property. It will require from you $25,224.21. If you are having trouble, Ontario Hydro has an arrangement with the Royal Bank on bank-approved loans where up to $10,000 can be loaned at an interest rate of 7.0 per cent." I am sure this is very comforting to this single-parent mother with two children who depends on nobody for anything but asks that she be given hydro service. This is part of the cost of hydro in northern Ontario.
I have another request for hydro service for 27 customers who border along a lake and who at present are not serviced by hydro. Hydro calculations to these 27 customers are that if they require hydro and they agree to enter into a signed agreement with Ontario Hydro, it will cost them individually $19,684.
When we talk about hydro rates, we also have to talk about inaccessibility to hydro. Previous speakers have talked about areas that do not have hydro and what it represents in the development of northern Ontario. Sawmill operators who are running off diesel generating plants at extremely high costs are not competitive with those who are sitting where hydro is available, they have to cut costs in other areas in order to make up the difference in the lack of hydro.
I will give members another example. A couple living in the northern part of my riding asked that Bell Canada provide telephone service on existing hydro lines. Bell Canada is not prepared to use the existing hydro lines because they are not tall enough and has asked the customers to install a new line at their own cost.
Another couple whose hydro line had deteriorated went to Ontario Hydro because they wanted to upgrade the service from 100-amp service to 200-amp service. Ontario Hydro's response was: "No problem. We will change the 30-foot poles to 40-foot poles. It will cost you $294 plus provincial sales tax of $20.64, for a total of $315.45 for each pole replaced."
We are now in receipt of correspondence from Ontario Hydro in northern Ontario looking for line extension and an east-west tie line to bring eastern Ontario power to northern Ontario.
One of the earlier speakers, my colleague the member for Port Arthur, said Ontario Hydro had made one positive move in assisting economic development when it constructed the thermal generating plant in Atikokan. Ontario Hydro could make a second good economic move by increasing the size of the power generating plant in Atikokan.
He also talked briefly about the supply of power from Manitoba. Certainly, there is a supply of power. When I was at the mine in Atikokan as electrician we did not have assured power from Manitoba. I could bring out the old logbooks from the pelletizing plant and show members on record the power failures we experienced because we were dependent on hydro lines that went over some fairly rough terrain and were subject to a lot of damage in heavy storms.
Mr. Foulds: And they were inadequate.
Mr. Pierce: That is right. The lines were inadequate, the service was not assured service and there was a reluctance on the part of Ontario Hydro to upgrade the lines because of the nonassurance of the power being supplied by Manitoba.
Certainly, during the drought in northern Ontario, when the hydraulic plants were not producing power, all the coal-fired plants were up to maximum capacity and we suffered load rejection, which meant that the industry in northern Ontario was shut down because there was not enough power available. When we talk about moving industries into northern Ontario, it is not long before their experts look back into the records and find out what the guarantee of service is if you move out of the main core of Ontario.
When my colleague the member for Sudbury talks about two Ontarios, there is no question in the minds of the people of northern Ontario that we have two Ontarios. In talking to an editor of a local newspaper yesterday after the budget, he said to me, "Jack, the budget means one thing and one thing alone: if you have not already moved east it is time to move now." That is an editor of a local newspaper making that kind of comment. That is indicative of what is happening in this province today.
We talk about low unemployment rates and again we have to talk about industrial development. Low unemployment rates exist in eastern Ontario. High unemployment rates exist in northern Ontario because there is not a commitment on the part of the government to make sure industrial development takes place in northern Ontario.
In order to encourage industrial development, we have to assure those industries that they will get the necessary services to make their industries work. Whether we do it by lower hydro rates, whether we do it by lower transportation costs, whether we do it by tax incentives or however we do it, it has to be done and it can only be done by government. Private industry is prepared to put up its money but it has to have a commitment on the part of the government.
I will be voting in favour of the resolution by the member. I applaud him for bringing this resolution forward. It is another step in identifying the problems that exist in northern Ontario today. They existed yesterday and they will be there tomorrow unless somebody has the political will to stand up in the cabinet and in Management Board of Cabinet and say: "Yes, gentlemen, we are going to do something about the problems in northern Ontario, and we are going to deal with them in this way: we are going to deal with them in a way that will encourage that industrial growth in northern Ontario."
Mr. Wildman: I rise to support the resolution. As a former member of the Advisory Committee on Resource Dependent Communities in Northern Ontario, as was the member for Rainy River and yourself, Mr. Speaker, I am very concerned about the need to see Ontario Hydro as an economic tool that could be used to stimulate growth in the north.
Members from southern Ontario must get a little bit tired of hearing northern members get up to talk about the serious problems we are experiencing in the north. I suppose they might sometimes be forgiven for thinking we are just a bunch of people who carp all the time and do not have positive suggestions to make.
This is one. This is a positive proposal for government action that could be taken to try to deal with the very serious economic problems we face.
The Rosehart committee did identify this as a serious problem, not just hydro rates but energy rates in general. Because of the harsher weather conditions and the greater distances in the north, we have much higher costs. The committee made a number of suggestions for ways in which those costs could be lowered to help stimulate economic growth in our part of the province.
I participate in this debate with a feeling of disappointment, more in sadness than in anger, about the lack of commitment on the part of the government to northern Ontario.
In a sense, after listening to the budget of the Treasurer yesterday, we have a feeling that we have been left by this government to freeze in the dark in northern Ontario; either that or we pay a great deal more in an economic and social situation which is much worse than it is in southern Ontario where we have the economic boom.
There was no mention at all yesterday -- not one mention -- about energy costs in northern Ontario. There was no mention of hydroelectricity costs and there certainly was no mention of gasoline costs and the higher prices of gasoline we pay in northern Ontario, which has been a subject of debate from time to time in this House.
I anticipated that this government was at least going to say that because we have higher energy costs and higher gasoline prices in the north it would make an equivalent commitment for highway construction. Instead, it committed $26 million for highway construction -- about 40 miles of highway -- in northern Ontario, which is less than half the extra amount we pay for gasoline because of higher prices.
In dealing with hydro costs, I agree with the member for Rainy River that we must deal with the question of service, not just rates, in northern Ontario. Many communities have hydro service, but it is inadequate. I think of the community of Hornepayne in my riding where, in the winter, people experience many outages of long duration and the hospital and other facilities in the community have to switch to Delco generators because they cannot get adequate service from the hydro that is supplied from Kapuskasing to Hornepayne.
Also, I think of a very small community in my riding, Aubrey Falls south of Chapleau, which is close to one of the largest Ontario Hydro hydraulic generating stations but does not have service. In order to obtain service across seven miles of territory from that generating station, Ontario Hydro says: "We would be quite happy to put in the line at your expense. We estimate it would cost about $125,000 to put in the line." This government has no solution for that. The previous government had no solution either. So that community is dependent on diesel-fuel generators for electricity at rates that are enormously high.
We also have to deal with the question of rural rates. Members will recall that the previous government, after a lot of debate, said it was going to give a subsidy to Ontario Hydro so that it could lower the differential between what people in rural Ontario pay for electricity and what people in the towns and cities pay for electricity. They brought down the differential by about a half. Now that Ontario Hydro is applying for an increase, it is talking about a greater increase for rural customers than for urban customers.
The Liberal Party, when in opposition, argued against the differential. It has done nothing. There was no mention in the budget yesterday. There has been no mention from the Minister of Energy about at least equalizing electricity rates between rural Ontario and urban Ontario, much less dealing with the rates in northern Ontario by lowering them so that we can stimulate the economy of the north.
Listening to the budget yesterday, in my view it was a Conservative budget, a budget that could have been introduced by any former Tory Treasurer such as Darcy McKeough, the member for York Mills (Miss Stephenson), or even the member for St. Andrew-St. Patrick (Mr. Grossman). It is a stand-pat budget. It does not do anything for northern Ontario. It purports to answer the problems of northern Ontario by establishing a heritage fund at such a low amount that one might as well forget about it. It is much less than half of what anyone would have expected.
I appreciate the comments made earlier by the member for Cochrane North, for whom I have a great deal of respect and affection. I consider him a friend. Since his removal from the cabinet I feel there obviously is a lack of a voice for northern Ontario in the government.
Since the Premier is the Minister of Northern Development and Mines, one might have expected there would have been a great deal of commitment by the government, at a time when it has so much more revenue because of the economic boom in southern Ontario, to actually deal with the problems of northern Ontario; but this government, in its budget, has failed completely. It is an indication that the northern voice on that side of the House is so weak that it is not listened to and not heard by this government.
As an opposition member, one might think, since we are perhaps going into an election campaign, I would be happy this government has failed to respond to the north. I am not happy. I am disappointed because I thought we had a chance to respond to the serious economic problems of that other Ontario. This government has failed. Perhaps they decided there are not enough seats in the north and they do not have to worry about it. It means that northerners are going to continue to experience serious economic problems. If they would act on this resolution, at least it would be a step in the right direction.
Mr. Gordon: I guess what I find particularly disturbing about the government side is that the Premier of this province went into northern Ontario and said: "Look, I am here to listen to what you people have to say. What I am interested in are home-grown solutions to the problems you have. We think you are the people who should be telling us what you need in the north."
Do members know what happened? This is not fair, but do members know what they did? First of all, they heard from all the municipalities in northern Ontario, from the chambers of commerce, from ordinary people writing in, that the people of northern Ontario believed that the price of gas was too high, that we should have equality of gas prices between north and south. That is what the Premier was told.
Do members know what the Liberals did in their budget? They turned around and said: "We know you do not like high gas prices, but we, the government, believe after listening to you that we know better what is good for you. So you know what we are going to do? We are going to spend an additional $26 million on roads in northern Ontario."
I heard the New Democratic Party member a few minutes ago saying he thought it was 40 miles. The average two-lane highway in northern Ontario right now runs between $1.5 million and $2 million a mile to build. So for $26 million we are looking at 18 to 25 miles at most.
Not counting the rural roads in northern Ontario, we are talking about the main roads, we have probably 20,000 miles of major roads in northern Ontario. The Liberals are going to add 22 miles and people are going to have to continue to go around paying higher gas prices every time they go to the pumps. This is money that comes directly out of their pockets and they are not going to be able to spend it on the things they want to spend it on.
The Liberals say they are listening to the people in the north. They are not listening. They are not listening at all and it is not fair; it is not fair at all.
Let us take it one step further. Using Ontario Hydro as an instrument of economic and social policy makes good sense in this province. We have done that ever since we started Ontario Hydro in this province. We have used Ontario Hydro to create industry, to create more jobs for people. We see that here in southern Ontario. Yet when we ask for that here in this Legislature, we have to listen to the former minister, the member for Cochrane North, come out with a lot of drivel. He says: "We are looking into that. We are holding meetings; we are doing this; we are doing that."
Two years have gone by and nothing; there was not one word in the throne speech about doing anything about hydro rates in the north, not one single word. There was not one single word in the budget about doing something about hydro rates for northern people.
It is time this government quit putting Band-Aids on the north. It is time this government took a look at one of the root causes of the loss of jobs in the north. One of the root causes is the fact that our industries there are finding it more and more difficult to be competitive with the rest of Ontario, if not the rest of the world. It is time for the government to say: "Look, we are not going to put any more Band-Aids on the north. What we are going to do is attack those root causes. We are going to do something positive in our policy. We are going to equalize -- we are going to do more than equalize we are going to lower hydro rates in northern Ontario."
This will attract manufacturing jobs into the north. We have seen it happen in Quebec already. We have seen 58 new firms move into Quebec; high-tech firms, firms that are creating employment, firms that are taking people off welfare, firms that are providing employment for people. Why should we have anything less?
Sometimes people say, "You northern members, all you do is cry; you want more; you are always asking." Look, we are always asking because there is a difference between north and south. There is a difference in prosperity. There is a difference in the standard of living. In northern Ontario people have a lower per capita income.
If we really want to help the north, we are going to take care of hydro rates. We are not going to put measures in budgets like the Liberals just did, where they say: "No, we cannot do anything about gas prices. That would put something back in the pockets of every northern Ontario citizen; we cannot do that. Instead, we are going to give you about 20 more miles of road and you should be happy."
Just think about this. The Minister of Northern Development and Mines, the Premier, tells us in the north that tourism is going to be the big plus for northern Ontario. First, they are service jobs so they are low-paying jobs, but we are supposed to accept that. Second, he tells us the way to do that is by building more roads, so he gives us 20 more miles of highway and leaves gasoline prices the way they are.
Are the Liberals saying they have an economic plan for northern Ontario? They do not have an economic plan. It is time they started listening to some of their northern members. I am surprised the Premier has not already but that is what happens. We get all these people elected from other parts of Ontario and all these other voices drown out the voices from the north. It is time to lower those hydro rates in the north.
Mr. Harris moved resolution 8:
That in the opinion of this House, recognizing the historic agreement in principle reached at Meech Lake with respect to Canada's Constitution and recognizing that the details of the agreement have not yet been determined or finalized, the government of Ontario should not ratify the agreement until such time as a committee of this House conducts open, public hearings on this important issue and its impact on transfer payments, immigration programs and the change in federal-provincial relations.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Morin): The honourable member has up to 20 minutes for his presentation and may reserve any portion of it for the windup.
Mr. Harris: I am pleased to have the opportunity to introduce this resolution today and also to speak to it.
While we appreciate the importance of parliamentary debate in contributing to the constitutional process, our party maintains it is essential that the voices of experts, of interest groups which may be greatly affected by this accord, and of individual Ontarians be heard and that they be placed on official record through the process of public hearings.
I suggest this is similar to what is going on right now on this very same issue in Manitoba and similar to what is going on right now on this issue in Quebec. I find it inconceivable that the government of Ontario would not consider this to be of sufficient importance to allow some public input here in Ontario.
We are not suggesting these public hearings have to go on for three years or two years or one year. We are suggesting there are key groups and key individuals who should be given an opportunity to come before this Legislature and give their opinion.
The purpose of this resolution, then, is to call upon the government of Ontario to hold public hearings on an initiative we feel, in the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party, will have great implications for this province.
First, I would like to make it very clear that we are not against the Meech Lake accord in principle, and we have stated that. Rather, we are in fact pleased that an agreement has taken place and we welcome the spirit of national unity in which this accord was fostered.
However, we are concerned about certain aspects of the accord, ones which we anticipate will alter the way Ontario's affairs are planned and implemented with respect to not only provincial policies but also those of national significance. Ontarians have concerns, not only as to how ratification of the Meech Lake accord will affect our province but also as to how it will affect Canada as a nation.
Because of the challenges which lie ahead, we feel public input is necessary before the final agreement is signed in the upcoming weeks. Simply put, we in the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario want the public to have the opportunity to come in, to hear the deal, to study the draft wording and to comment upon it.
Considering the concerns aired by various interests in recent days, both federally and provincially, we feel public input would be helpful to the process, would allow all of us to better understand the agreement and would allow a lot of groups that might have some comments on it to participate in the process in a free and democratic way.
We know now that specific concerns have been raised regarding the recognition of Quebec as a distinct society, immigration policy, Supreme Court appointments, spending powers and Senate reform.
Let us look at Quebec as a distinct society. Section 1(b) of the accord recognizes "that Quebec constitutes within Canada a distinct society." This phrase can be subject to different interpretations by individuals, courts and governments, and the people of Ontario really should have an opportunity to make their position known.
For example, does the constitutionally enshrined phrase "distinct society" afford Quebec quasi-national status because the majority of its residents are French-speaking? If so, what does this mean for national broadcasting? What does it mean for minority language rights in Quebec and the rights of non-English-speaking and non-French-speaking Canadians in Quebec?
If the Constitution of Canada is to be interpreted in a manner consistent with the existence of Quebec as a distinct society, what influence could this have on the interpretation of the other sections of the Constitution? What constraints could this impose on the ability of the Parliament of Canada to serve and legislate for all Canadians? Could the preservation and promotion of Quebec's distinct society come in conflict with freedom-of-expression guarantees in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms? These are some of the questions the public is asking.
On immigration: Ontarians want to express their views on the subject of immigration outlined in the Meech Lake accord. Will the provisions on immigration provide for different immigration rules for each province? Will freedom of movement within Canada for new arrivals be diminished? This is a very important consideration. Will people be arbitrarily forced to one province or will a unification of families be frustrated by that provision based on individual provinces setting their own immigration policies? Would Ontario ever adopt measures similar to the Cullen-Couture agreement on Quebec on the selection of independent immigrants, visitors for medical treatment, students and temporary workers? We need to hear about this from the Premier (Mr. Peterson), and the public surely has a right to comment.
Supreme Court appointments: Ontarians also want to be heard with respect to the changes in the selection process for judges of the Supreme Court of Canada, which will give the provinces the right to select the candidates for those appointments.
Spending power: The Meech Lake accord states, "Canada must provide reasonable compensation to any province that does not participate in a future national shared-cost program in an area of exclusive provincial jurisdiction if that province undertakes its own initiative or programs compatible with national objectives."
Naturally, as the public in Quebec and as the public across this country have questions, we have several questions here. We would like specific definitions regarding this provision.
Would programs such as post-secondary education, health care, pensions, child care and language rights be part of this provision? Will Parliament be compelled to provide money for provincial plans that do not meet national standards -- that is the way it is now -- but which the courts decide are compatible with national objectives? That is the wording that is being looked at.
As well, we perceive some contradictions between Ontario and Quebec on this proposal. On the one hand, the Premier of Ontario has stated, "Ottawa's ability to set up new social programs will in some ways be strengthened." Premier Bourassa of Quebec has stated, "The country will be much more decentralized regarding these matters." Surely both are very contradictory statements by the two Premiers of the two largest provinces of this country.
Quebec's Minister responsible for Canadian Intergovernmental Affairs, Gil Rémillard, was quoted recently in the media as stating, "Quebec wants a clause written into the Constitution outlining its right to stay out of future national cost-shared programs and be compensated, even if it does not set up its own program in precisely the same field" -- not even "meeting the national objectives in a field," but not even "in precisely the same field."
Consequently, these apparent differences imply future national policies may not be national at all in terms of uniformity. We feel public concerns in this area ought to be heard by this government.
On Senate reform, the accord transfers the nomination of senators to provincial governments pending Senate reform. This provision cannot be changed without the consent of all provinces.
Let me pose a question. Why would Ontario or Quebec, each presently with 24 senators, desire Senate reform? Specifically, we are concerned about the western goal of a triple-E Senate where all provinces would enjoy equal representation. Prince Edward Island, with fewer people than many of our ridings, would have equal representation as Ontario. In our view, this would go against the principle of representation by population, so key in our democratic system of government in the western world and surely here in Canada.
Therefore, we would like to hear the government's response to this proposal. We would like to hear how Ontario intends to make its case known and what policies, if any, the present government has in regard to the idea of Senate reform.
I would like to conclude my remarks at this point and reserve some time. These are just some of the concerns that have been raised recently on the Meech Lake accord. I believe these concerns are legitimate. They are not solely held by this party but also by many individuals in Ontario and in Canada. Given the potential changes implied by the accord, we feel it is only fitting that the public be allowed some time to give its input to this historic agreement.
The Deputy Speaker: The member has reserved eight minutes and 30 seconds for his windup.
Mr. R. F. Johnston: The member for Nipissing has moved an important resolution for the consideration of this House, and I rise to support the resolution. I want to do it in the context of my own involvement in the constitutional process here in the Ontario Legislature and from my experience recently in Nicaragua on the question of how one develops a constitution.
I sat on the select committee on constitutional reform that was established back in 1980. We had meetings at the Legislature and met with legislators around the country during that time. I was just reviewing some of the speeches that were made in the House in November 1980 in conclusion of that discussion as the first part of the patriation of our Constitution took place.
One thing that struck me in looking over those remarks at that time, my own included, was the absence of public input from the average person on the street into the whole question of the patriation. It was really a matter of the will of the Prime Minister at that time, Mr. Trudeau, and his desire to push ahead with this. It was under the control of 11 people essentially, the Premiers and the Prime Minister, in terms of how it should be undertaken.
Even at the legislative level here in Ontario, we got to play a bit part in the process and held our own travelling show, travelling around the country as I said, but there was no real participation by the people in the determination of whether that patriation should take place, what should be involved in it at that time and what should be part of the accord.
This speaks to a major problem that we have in politics in Canada; that is, a real separation of the people from the political process.
Mr. D. R. Cooke: Are you not the representative of the people?
Mr. R. F. Johnston: The member for Kitchener is making a very interesting point, because we do rely almost entirely in our process upon representatives for decision-making; and the representative notion of our democracy, which is so important to its orderly functioning, often gets in the way of the direct participation of the people in important processes.
All of us have a great fear of the notion of referenda in terms of their abuse, but in some ways it also is a fear that is brought about by our own desire to protect the representative control that we have as members for four years, usually, between elections.
Then at the provincial level, we put on a 37-day campaign in which the people are bombarded with messages in as simplified a fashion as possible and asked to choose which of us is going to hurt them the least. They make their decision on that basis and then they go back to relying again on representation as the means of dealing with political matters.
If we think about that in terms of the Constitution and allowing a very small group of people at the top of the representative pyramid -- that is, the Premiers and the Prime Minister -- to make decisions that will be fundamental to the evolution of our country, members can see there are some real problems with that.
For the member for Nipissing to be raising this issue at the moment is almost like trying to close the barn door after the horse has gone many miles away, because the people have never been involved in the constitutional process in our country. But surely some limited hearings here at the Legislature, to have an airing of views of the various issues that are involved in the Constitution, would be a breath of fresh air in terms of the notion of who has the right to speak about the Constitution.
In my speech in 1980, I talked about having entered the select committee process feeling that the Constitution was a very dry and musty kind of thing, something which only lawyers or other people could understand and therefore perhaps should not be, as a layperson representative here in the Legislature, even part of my responsibility or my capacity to deal with.
I soon learned that the Constitution is anything but, or should be seen as anything but, a dry document. It is the rock, the foundation and the concepts upon which our country is based. It is interesting that the only attachment to our Constitution as it exists at present that I can see out there is the Charter of Rights and the notion of the individual rights protections.
There has always been a major debate, of course, around section 133 of the old British North America Act and the whole question of the preservation of language rights; whether Ontario should participate in making French an official language. That was a huge concentration of our considerations back in 1980. On the whole, people do not think about how that document sets the tone for how our country should operate.
I look at things that are happening now in this society in terms of the free trade decisions that are going to be made by a huge majority in Ottawa soon without any major public input in terms of that process. If we look at our Constitution, there is little in it about economic rights, whether they are individual rights or our notion of what our sovereignty is in economic terms. The failure to put that into our Constitution has left us very vulnerable now at a time when the free trade notion is being postulated around the country by a large majority at the federal Parliament level who can fundamentally affect our ability to be a sovereign nation. We are seeing that at present with the increased demands that are being made by the United States in that debate.
I remember the Dennis Lee poem, Civil Elegies, talking about ourselves as being an outposted empire. I think there is a real point to that in economic terms and it looks as if we may even be able to incorporate ourselves more within the empire of the United States soon by virtue of those economic changes, with no protection in our present Constitution for it.
If we had thought more about that back in the 1980s and had not allowed this to be some esoteric move by the Prime Minister of the country to somehow repatriate an old document but rather a way to talk about what kind of country we want in Canada at the end of this century and moving into the next, we might have come up with a very different kind of document.
I agree with the member for Nipissing when he says the issues that are involved in Meech Lake are important and need to be debated, and not just by us.
The kind of balancing between the centrist notion of having all social programs done just through the federal government with all provinces complying, versus the notion that any province can opt out and receive assistance from the federal government to choose and operate its own programs, is a very interesting and important balance as you look at the evolution of social policy in the country. I do not think the kind of debate that is required took place before this Meech Lake accord went through. Do we want to maintain the present drift that we are in or do we want some changes in that? Should the public not be involved in those decisions?
The immigration question in Quebec is another one which I think needs to be aired. I do not have the same concerns that I know rest with other people around that issue, but it is one that needs to be talked about. The whole question of the recognition of Quebec as a distinct community is another thing which needs to be talked about, not just among politicians but among the people in general, to gain a better understanding of the real nature and guts of what Canada is all about.
From my point of view, as an abolitionist, I think the notion of the Senate reform move that is being talked about here is incredibly dangerous. I am very nervous about any kind of notion of a move in that direction. I think people need to talk about it. It is not something that needs to be suppressed.
I stand as somebody who has, as Lee put it, a "bloody-minded reverence" for my country. I believe it is shared by the people of the country, and the debate about the most crucial element of our country, our Constitution, the foundation of the country, should be open to the people. If it can only be done in a gesture of limited hearing here in the Legislature, then so be it. Let us at least do that for the present time.
Mr. D. R. Cooke: I expect this will not be the last time that I or other members of this House have an opportunity to address the historic Meech Lake accord. I certainly feel we are entering into a new era, but for most of our lives Canadians have wrestled with the ignominy of not having had our own patriated Constitution. The debate really has evolved through the lives of the member for Scarborough West (Mr. R. F. Johnston) and others. I think we have all been aware of it.
From my earliest childhood, I have recollections of this debate going on through the 1950s, including Bruce Hutchison's book, The Unknown Country, through the debate through the 1960s, through the Fulton-Favreau formula that was debated so thoroughly in the 1960s, through the meetings that John Robarts formulated and negotiated in the late 1960s, through the Victoria conference of 1971. Surely we learned something from the failure that actually occurred in the Victoria conference of 1971 when we thought we had a formula for success, when we thought we achieved success only to find that in the days and weeks that followed, one province -- Quebec as it turned out, under Premier Bourassa -- was unable to deliver what he felt at Victoria he was able to promise.
Are we going to go through all this yet again, this time to have the Ontario Legislature doing the nitpicking which results in what fabric of agreement is there being dissipated?
After Victoria, the patriation of our Constitution had to wait a full decade in which the Prime Minister of this country, Pierre Trudeau, never ceased to work towards this accord. We had various proposals throughout the 1970s: Senate reform, for instance, in 1978; the federation of the provinces concept, which was debated; and then in 1981, finally, the matter was settled, not with a massive Athenian democracy of 25 million people getting together to decide exactly what they should say in their Constitution, not with public input from every street corner, not even really with debate in every one of the 11 provincial Houses and two federal legislative bodies, let alone hearings in committees.
We are the elected representatives -- the member for Nipissing, the member for Scarborough West; we are each elected representatives of our people. We speak for our constituents. We are here to make decisions on their behalf.
In actual fact, when the Constitution was formulated in 1981, it really came down, as mythology tells us, to three people, as I understand it, Jean Chrétien, Roy McMurtry and Roy Romanow, in a kitchen, putting together the concept which finally resulted on April 17, 1982, in the signing of a Constitution with a Charter of Rights and Freedoms that protects the individual. It was representatives who negotiated that charter to protect individual rights.
That is not a perfect document. It is a document which is still being honed and fashioned by the courts, as it should be. I happen to have been the first lawyer in Waterloo region to challenge a law within the courts within a couple of days of that charter being signed. That is the purpose of the courts in interpreting a Constitution.
While a Constitution of necessity needs to be honed and fashioned by the courts, this Constitution had one major flaw. Quebec was not represented in the kitchen on that fateful night, and as a result, nearly one third of all Canadians are opted out of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and are not yet full members of the Constitution process. Quebec has been an orphan of Confederation.
I hope and expect that Meech Lake will rectify that, but as always, when lawyers try to put an understanding into writing, there is pulling and pushing as to words, as to terminology, and we are right now at that very fragile point. Compromises on innuendo and wordings are taking place right now. In fact, meetings occurred as recently as yesterday. The first ministers will be agreeing on this final resolution within a few weeks at most, and then they can, and indeed must, put this resolution before the nation's legislatures, including this one.
The ship is still on course, but let us keep it on course. After the resolution is prepared -- and as I say, this will occur within a few weeks at most -- we will have ample opportunity to have a full debate. In fact, according to the Constitution Act, we have three years to have a full debate. The Premier has promised us we will have a full debate on that resolution. Even if there is some attempt by the government not to keep that promise, the rules of this House apply amply for a full debate.
I feel strongly that while a debate is warranted, it is warranted not before the final agreement is available for us but afterwards. It is presumptuous and indeed threatening to do otherwise, but it is fortunate that the member for Nipissing has so crafted his resolution as for it to be, in fact, a mere opinion. In view of the usual ganging-up and obstruction tactics that are occurring in the opposition on this resolution, it should be very clear on the record that this is, in fact, a mere opinion. As I understand it, this is a mere sentiment which does not in any way bind this House in the future. If the parties of Sir John A. Macdonald and Tommy Douglas want to play politics with the nation's leaders attempting to forge a historic agreement, the final building blocks of this nation from sea to sea, I say there should be a sense of shame for their so doing.
The constitutional process has to go through and reach its proper conclusion within the next few weeks. Debate is warranted, but how can we debate a resolution which we do not yet have in front of us? When we do have it in front of us, let us take as much time as we need -- three years, if necessary -- to debate it to its proper conclusion.
Mr. Guindon: It is a great privilege to have the opportunity to speak in support of the motion of my friend and colleague the member for Nipissing. On May 1, the Prime Minister and the 10 Premiers came to the historic agreement to bring Quebec into the Constitution. I applaud the efforts of all those involved in reaching this agreement. I do not see the Meech Lake accord as a mere political victory for the negotiators; it is a victory for all Canadians. When the Premier of Quebec signs the Constitution, Canada will once again be a whole country.
While the accord does signal that all parts of Canada can work in harmony to achieve a common goal, it is important to allow those most affected by such an agreement to have some input. That is why my party has been pushing for open, public debate on the formal agreement prior to a vote in this House. Setting aside one or two weeks of time so that interested members of the public will have the opportunity to express their views is a democratic way to proceed. Ontario, in itself, has many diverse areas. The people of each of these areas will, no doubt, have varying opinions on the content of the agreement.
When we look at the spending powers of the federal government and the opt-out clause, there seems to be a considerable amount of confusion and contradiction. The Premier and the Attorney General (Mr. Scott) are of the opinion that this section of the Meech Lake accord will strengthen the federal government's position by allowing it to get more involved with provincial social programs.
Premier Bourassa has been quoted as saying this clause will help to decentralize the federal government. Obviously, there is a significant difference of opinion as to what this section means and says. Did the Premier know what he was agreeing to? This clause has proven to be one of the most fruitful in demonstrating the difference of opinion between Ontario and Quebec. If only to clarify this one issue, public hearings would be most beneficial.
Looking at Quebec as a distinct society for a few minutes, I have several questions of the government over this clause of the agreement. What will happen if Parliament or a provincial legislature fails, in the opinion of a linguistic minority, to live up to its commitment? Could the minority appeal to the courts? These too are questions to which the people of Ontario deserve answers.
I agree that Quebec is a distinctive area within Canada. Everyone should realize that his French culture does not end abruptly at the Ontario-Quebec border. All along the Quebec border there is a strong French population living in Ontario. These people have the same cultural background as their distant cousins in Quebec. However, they do not receive the same cultural benefits that the Quebec residents enjoy. The reverse is also true; the English people of Quebec have long been struggling to maintain their own cultural identity.
Rather than allowing the two cultures to live in relative harmony, the accord may actually perpetuate the centuries-old feud between the English and the French. This could push the two-nations theory into reality, thereby forcing Canada apart rather than bringing it together. These are important issues to most Ontarians. Why is the Premier so insistent on not allowing the public some input?
The Meech Lake agreement also allows provinces to submit lists of names to fill vacancies on the Supreme Court of Canada. The president of the Canadian Bar Association would like to know: What if the federal government does not agree with the province's list and the province refuses to submit a second list? Does the seat remain vacant?
In 1985, the bar association offered a report that suggested appointments be made by a panel removed from the political process. This would have been a viable alternative to what was agreed. Was it put forward for discussion or totally ignored? With the agreed scenario, a deadlock could occur should a provincial government not favoured by the federal side try to plant political judges.
The Premier also agreed to Senate reform that would likely result in all provinces having equal representation. While some reform is needed, I do not see why Ontario or Quebec would want to lose their strong representation in the Senate. Again, the people of Ontario should be consulted before any steps are taken towards Senate reform.
I would also like to touch briefly on immigration. The accord would seem to give Quebec the power to bring forward its own immigration policy. Will Quebec be allowed to select immigrants? Will the accord restrict the movement of immigrants trying to find work or be with families? These again are questions that must be answered and the people of Ontario have the right to put them to their legislators.
My party's leader has requested several times in this House that there be open, public hearings on this formal agreement. Each time, the Premier has said the debate that will be held is sufficient. I disagree. The people of this province deserve to be heard. In defence of having public hearings in Quebec, Quebec's Minister responsible for Canadian Intergovernmental Affairs, Gil Rémillard, said: "The hearings were just to have the point of view of experts and the public. It is the democratic way to have these reactions."
Does the Premier not believe in democracy? The people of Ontario deserve the same right as the people of any other province in Canada. Overall, I am extremely happy that we have been able to come to a mutually agreeable solution to bring Quebec into the Constitution, but I am concerned that the Meech Lake accord may diminish the powers of the federal government. I would be hard pressed to support any constitutional agreement that would turn the federal government into a cheque-signing and tax collection agency.
We owe the people of Ontario a chance to give their input on this very important matter. I disagree with the Premier's opinion that there would not be enough interested people to hold public hearings. If he truly believes this, I must inform him that he is sadly underestimating the people of this province. Ontarians deserve better. They have the right to be heard. I encourage the government to allow a committee of this House a week or two of time to hold public hearings on the federal agreement prior to a vote in this House.
Mr. Breaugh: I am pleased to join in the debate this morning. I am going to support the resolution before the House. I have a little reluctance and I want to put that on the record for a start. It is my view that a rather impractical notion has been put in this resolution, but the principle is one that I would adhere to. I do not want to have three years of hearings before a committee or to put the government of Ontario in a position where it cannot ratify anything until this long, unending hearing process is completed. To me, that is widely impractical and is not the way we should go.
However, I would argue that, as has been done in Quebec, it would be very appropriate for a committee of this assembly to hold out a vehicle to the public in Ontario. It would be appropriate to say to one of our committees, "For a two-week or three-week period, or whatever, you are commissioned to sit and receive opinions from the people of Ontario." I suspect there are a number of them who have thought a lot about constitutional matters, who will bring to us different perspectives from law and the professions, from labour and from special-interest groups and who want to get on the record their opinion of the Meech Lake accord. I think we could do that.
This resolution does not quite do that. Unfortunately, we cannot amend members' resolutions as they are brought before us, but I am supporting the principle, however woolly-eyed the resolution itself might be. It is important for us to note that there are practical problems in carrying through with it all this way, but the principle of a committee of the assembly being available so that the public can record its opinion on this very important matter should be the overriding principle.
Second, I have heard some rather distressing news from the government side this morning, a government member saying he did not want politics to enter this. I have a respect for the political process in this country which he obviously does not share. I believe in this political process. It is a process that has made this country what it is, warts and all. It is the best we have. The absence of it is some kind of tyranny. I have some concerns that a constitutional agreement of this calibre that does not get a lot of public scrutiny is one which is going to be in trouble.
I am told this morning that the government House leader, for example, is going to try to get a debate on the Meech Lake accord in the assembly next Tuesday afternoon, and that is before even the rough draft has been circulated to the members, let alone a polished and final form is available. So next Tuesday afternoon, we will be debating, I am told, something that most of us as members have never even seen. Somebody should put the brakes on this process. There is a time in the political process to call a halt to things and to have sober second thought, so to speak, to rationally analyse what is being proposed. It is not happening here.
I want to move very quickly into some of the substance of this Meech Lake accord, which other members have touched on, some of which, I am going to say out front, is a little strange to me. I do not understand why in western Canada there is a great move on to reform the Canadian Senate, but there is. Though I do not understand it, as a Canadian I am bound to at least listen to what they have to say. If I am so discourteous as to dismiss it out of hand, I run the risk of alienating many people in western Canada in exactly the same way as we have alienated people in Quebec for a long time. We do not have to agree with them; all we have to do is listen to them.
Although I am not really a great fan of the Canadian Senate and would probably say that under current circumstances the most kind and humane thing to do would simply be to do away with that chamber, there may well be those who have an argument contrary to that. My only obligation is to listen to their argument and to see whether we can accommodate one another.
I have some great concerns about the nature of the country if this accord is put into the Canadian Constitution. At the very least, we will have to say that the country called Canada will operate in a rather different manner if the Meech Lake accord is fully implemented. Because of the rather dramatic consequences that could happen from that accord, we need to analyse this thing rather carefully. That is the reason I am advocating some limited form of public hearings as being desirable.
Maybe I am wrong, but I thought I heard a government member say this morning that it does not matter what this assembly says here today, that it makes no difference to the government whether the majority of members in this assembly are in favour of public hearings or not; the government will do whatever it wants. That is not a great way to start a discussion on constitutional matters. That is precisely what got this nation into some considerable difficulty: one group of people in Canada saying, "We do not care what the rest of you say; we will do what we want."
This nation is a tenuous one. If you were trying to put together a country, it would not look much like Canada. It would not have all these blank spaces with no people. It probably would not be quite as big as this in geographic terms. This country has evolved under rather difficult circumstances. It has to face some unfortunate facts, and they are simply put.
In the Maritimes, for example, there is an economy which is totally different from what you see in southern Ontario, and there is not much connecting the two except the federal government. In the northern part of this province, there is an economy that is not much like the economy of the southern part of Ontario, and there is not much holding those two together except the provincial government. The west is totally different from the east. All of these different groups of people, all of these different types of geography, all of these different needs, make up Canada. To try to get it into a functional nation is not easy.
I have long been one who says that one of the biggest problems Canada has is that we are not proud enough of the things we do, of the accomplishments we achieve.
My daughter goes to the University of Texas, and I have been there on a couple of occasions now. I am really awed by what the Americans do about themselves, how proud they are. Some of us, as Canadians, will take exception to this; we do not like the way the Americans brag about their achievements. But I have to say it works. At the end of the process, they are incredibly proud of their accomplishments, right or wrong. We do none of that in Canada. Perhaps we should do more. Perhaps we should exhibit more of a nationalist feeling. Perhaps we should try to accommodate these people in a different way. Perhaps the Meech Lake accord is the route to go.
I would say this: As members of the assembly, we will have an opportunity to debate some kind of motion approving the Meech Lake agreement, and that is fine. That is our role in the political system. I have a considerable respect for that.
There are also many others who deserve a chance to be heard and deserve to be heard in a formal way before a committee of this assembly. That is essentially, warts and all, what this resolution calls for. I support that. I believe this government would be incredibly well served if it were to slow things down just a bit and open up an occasion when people who want to speak to us about this constitutional agreement get an opportunity to do that in a formal, acknowledged way before a legislative committee. I do not think that would do anybody any harm.
I know there is a rush to create a Premier who is a nation-builder; there is an urge to create an image here. I am not saying that is a bad thing either; I am simply saying it should not preclude a hearing process for everybody else. That is all the motion asks for.
If the government begins this process of ratifying the Meech Lake accord by saying it does not matter what the assembly itself says that the assembly this morning can support the idea of public hearings and the government will choose to ignore it -- it will be starting off on the wrong foot.
Mr. D. R. Cooke: It is the way it is drafted. It is an opinion.
Mr. Breaugh: In much the same way, the member for Kitchener is so busy interjecting right now that he has no time even to listen to an opposition member. All we are asking the government to do is shut up and listen to people for a change. It should not be that hard.
The Acting Speaker: Would the member please retract the words he used, "shut up"?
Mr. Breaugh: It is not unparliamentary, but if it offends, I will retract it. Everybody is very sensitive.
The pertinent point is that the government does not have all the knowledge in the world. It would do well to listen to the people of Ontario who want to appear before a legislative committee. It would serve our purposes as members to have the opportunity, in a formal way, to let these people appear before a legislative committee. Then we would be well equipped to debate the Meech Lake accord.
Mr. D. R. Cooke: But they are not prepared to talk to you. They talked to me.
Mr. Breaugh: If the Speaker is going to say to me that I cannot tell the member to shut up, he has an obligation to see the member does not interject. It is as simple as that.
The Acting Speaker: Would the member again please retract those words?
Mr. Breaugh: I will retract the words "shut up" if the Speaker will make sure they do not interject while I am speaking. Is it a deal? I am happy to retract it.
The Acting Speaker: Your time has expired.
Ms. Caplan: In the few minutes remaining, I would like to participate. I know the opposition benches will be most attentive while I speak, so we can conduct this debate in perhaps a more normal tone than we have found in the last few minutes. I find it rather distressing, especially when there are students in the gallery and people watching us on television, that we get into that kind of bickering. I hope during question period we will not have that kind of interjection from the opposition as well
Mr. Wildman: We are all in favour of open government.
Ms. Caplan: Open government.
As we enter this kind of constitutional debate and constitutional amendment process, it is very important that we remember what that process is and how it was established some five years ago -- and that is one of consultation and ongoing debate throughout this country -- as we reach that kind of accord and decision. The timing of the debate, the actual structure, is left to the individual provinces to determine how and when they want to respond. There is a three-year time period in order to formalize, under the amending formula, an agreement to an accord.
I think we are at a point in time right now which is very delicate. A few years back, not only would we have reacted favourably, but also I can remember many of us venturing into Quebec during the time of its referendum. I think it is significant to remember what we would have offered at that time to have had the kind of accord and the proposals we have today, and how much we in this country wanted to make sure that Canada was unified coast to coast and that all our provinces were partners in our Constitution.
The proposals that have come forward from Meech Lake will require the kind of discussion and scrutiny, coast to coast, that will be appropriate. I think the democratic process allows for members to speak in this House, in their communities and during election time -- and who knows when we might have that opportunity in the not-too-distant future -- so that on something as important as the Constitution, we, as the democratic representatives, use this opportunity and this forum in this House to speak on what I think is the most important issue of our decade.
Mr. Wildman: After public hearings.
Ms. Caplan: How you involve the public across this country is part of what is discussed in this House. I think it is premature at this time, until we see what the accord is, until we have the written document, to make that --
Mr. Laughren: It is too late.
Ms. Caplan: No. I do not believe it is too late. I believe it is the responsibility of the government to bring that back into this House, to have that kind of debate and to use the three years for full public participation.
Mr. Harris: I want to thank the member for Scarborough West, the member for Cornwall (Mr. Guindon) and the member for Oshawa (Mr. Breaugh) for supporting this resolution.
I note the concerns of the member for Oshawa that the resolution is full of warts, as he says, or wart ed, as it is. One of the difficulties in presenting this resolution is that I do not know what are the time constraints. I do not know whether we have three years or three days for public hearings. I have left it as flexible as I can to say that I think those hearings should take place. Surely, if the intent of this resolution carries, we can then work out when they should take place and at what stage of the process.
Mr. Wildman: They are having hearings in Quebec City, are they not?
Mr. Harris: Yes, starting next week.
I want to say also that I thought the member for Scarborough West hit upon a fairly important point. He indicated that while we are the legislators and will ultimately make a decision and have an opportunity to speak and to vote, we are lay members in most of the fields we end up voting on, and he asked, "Does it make sense that we do not want to hear from the public, from the experts, from the people who can give us their advice, before we have to make up our minds?"
In chatting with the member before this resolution, he pointed out to me -- and members know his interest in Nicaragua and the time he spent down there -- that there a country striven with civil war took the time to take a draft constitution to every village in that country, even as many of them were under siege, and got input from the public. They got input from the people on every street corner and adjusted their constitution accordingly. But for some reason or other, the chief spokesman for the Liberal Party does not feel that is appropriate here in Ontario.
I was particularly disappointed in the remarks from the member for Kitchener and those from the member for Oriole (Ms. Caplan), because she seemed to be supporting this. But I guess the chief government spokesman was the member for Kitchener, who made several very ludicrous statements. One of them was: "The failure of the Victoria charter was the result of public input." That is why it failed: Somebody consulted the public and it failed. What a silly statement to make. It failed because Quebec changed its mind.
To imply that to hear from the public is going to cause this accord to fail does not show a lot of faith in this accord that the Premier is so proud of, that he went down there and supported. If it fails because of public input, it should fail. If it cannot stand up to the scrutiny of what Ontarians want, then it does not deserve to go forward.
The spokesman from the Liberal Party said something -- I do not have the exact quote, but I will paraphrase it. He fears public input from people on every street corner. We cannot have people from every street corner speak to this. Is that not what we are elected for: to listen to people on the street corners, to listen to people throughout all parts of this province? Is that not why we are elected? That is why I was elected and it is the way I operate in everything. The indication was that we cannot hear from people on every street corner. I think we are here to listen to our constituents.
Mr. D. R. Cooke: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker: I did not use the word "fear" and I am not being correctly quoted.
The Acting Speaker: This is not a point of order.
Mr. Harris: He said we cannot have it. I interpret that to mean that he is afraid of it. If he is not afraid of it, let him vote for the resolution and he will be able to correct the record right here in this House. If he does not fear it, let him go ahead with it.
I want to get something else on the record. I am a little concerned with the timing of this process. Three weeks ago, we heard that the final wording would be out to us in a couple of days; then it was to be in a week, then in two weeks, and then in three weeks. This morning the government House leader said, "My Premier wants this debated next Tuesday." We still do not have the wording.
The question from the leader of the New Democratic Party was, "Mr. House Leader, will we have the resolution?" "I do not know." "Will a debate proceed without the final wording?" "Yes. That is what my Premier wants." Earlier, the member for Kitchener said, "We cannot have hearings without the final wording." Now we hear the Premier wants this debated without even the final wording.
I am concerned about the time frames. I also heard that the Premiers were going to get back together around the middle of June. Today I heard they are trying to bump it up to June 2. Maybe we will get the final wording by June 1, and then the Premiers will all get together to ratify it on June 2. After that, we will have three years to debate what has already been settled.
To me, that is backwards. I think that is a prescription for failure; I do. Once that wording comes back, they will ask the federal House and the legislatures of the 10 provinces to say yes or no. They will not ask to change one word, because if one word is changed, it will be no. That is what we will be told. They will come back to us and say: "This is it. Yes or no?"
My prescription would suggest that maybe there should be just a little bit more time than one or two days to talk about what it is. Our Premier should go back there to work out wording that has some consensus and some agreement beforehand. Then the debate will not take three years. If it stands up to public scrutiny, if it is everything that the government says it is, if that interpretation is there -- and surely we will know that once we get it and we get some public input -- it will not take three years of debate to say yes or no. This whole process is backwards.
I cannot, for the life of me, understand -- I guess the member for Kitchener talked about politics. It was alluded to by my friend the member for Oshawa. Can members give me any rational reason why a government would not want to hear from the public?
Mr. Gillies: Yes, because they are afraid.
Mr. Harris: But they are not afraid. I heard him say that he is not afraid, so he is going to vote in favour of it now, I guess. We will see whether he is afraid. We will see very shortly.
The only reason I can think of is the one alluded to by the member for Oshawa; this is a political agenda. We want to go to the people of Ontario with some illusion that our Premier is Joe Canada on the national scene. Then if it fails one, two or three years from now, who will remember? We will have an election and nobody will remember that. This is the backwards process. I have left the resolution vague enough to provide this government with any opportunity.
Mr. D. R. Cooke: It is vague enough that it is not possible.
Mr. Harris: Anything is possible. One day of hearings is possible under this resolution. I suggest it might be more like two or three weeks as the member for Oshawa has suggested, but nothing is impossible under this resolution, and I urge all members not to fear public input but to vote for it.
The Acting Speaker: Mr. Gordon has moved resolution 11.
Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.
Mr. Harris: Was that unanimous?
The Acting Speaker: It was carried.
Mr. Harris: Mr. Speaker, I asked whether it was unanimous. We heard some nays and we have not been asked to vote on it.
The Acting Speaker: This is a voice vote. It has been carried.
Mr. Harris: With respect, Mr. Speaker, can I then have your determination that contrary to the yelling out that it was unanimous -- you said it was unanimous. If one person is not in agreement, surely you ask for the ayes and the nays. That is a voice vote. You said, "Shall it carry?" I heard some people say "nay."
The Acting Speaker: I did not hear any nays.
Mr. McClellan: Mr. Speaker, it was very clear that a number of members on the government side voted "nay" with their voices. In that case, you are required under the standing orders to proceed to the next stage of the vote.
The Acting Speaker: I did not hear any nays.
Mr. Gillies: Mr. Speaker, can I suggest that you put the question again?
ONTARIO HYDRO RATES IN NORTHERN ONTARIO
The Acting Speaker: I did not hear the nays, but for the pleasure of the House, for the pleasure of everyone, I will ask the same question again.
Mr. Gordon has moved resolution 11.
All those in favour will please say "aye."
All those opposed will please say "nay."
In my opinion the ayes have it.
The House divided on Mr. Gordon's motion, which was agreed to on the following vote:
Allen, Barlow, Bernier, Bossy, Breaugh, Bryden, Callahan, Caplan, Charlton, Cooke, D. R., Cooke, D. S., Cordiano, Dean, Eves, Foulds, Gillies, Gordon, Grande, Gregory, Guindon, Harris, Hart, Henderson, Jackson, Johnson, J. M., Knight, Laughren, Mackenzie, Mancini, McClellan, McFadden, McGuigan, McLean, Miller, G. I., Morin-Strom, Newman, Offer, Pierce, Pollock, Ramsay, Reville, Reycraft, Rowe, Sargent, Shymko, Sterling, Treleaven, Turner, Villeneuve, Warner, Wildman.
Ayes 51; nays 0.
The House divided on Mr. Harris's motion, which was agreed to on the following vote:
Allen, Barlow, Bernier, Breaugh, Bryden, Charlton, Cooke, D. S., Dean, Eves, Foulds, Gigantes, Gillies, Gordon, Grande, Gregory, Guindon, Harris, Jackson, Johnson, J. M., Laughren, Mackenzie, McClellan, McFadden, Morin-Strom, Pierce, Pollock, Reville, Rowe, Shymko, Sterling, Stevenson, K. R., Treleaven, Turner, Villeneuve, Warner, Wildman.
Callahan, Caplan, Cooke, D. R., Henderson, Knight, McGuigan, Newman, Offer, Ramsay, Reycraft, Sargent, Smith, E. J.
Ayes 36; nays 12.
The House recessed at 12:21 p.m.
The House resumed at 1:30 p.m.
Mr. Shymko: I rise to condemn this government for its shabby and insulting treatment, by yesterday's Liberal budget, of 40 per cent of Ontario's population, representing the nonofficial-language ethnic minorities.
The allocation of $4 million of extra funding for multiculturalism out of almost $35 billion of Liberal government spending has fueled the indignation not only of my honourable colleagues from the opposition but of all Ontarians. This funding represents 0.01 per cent of the total budget. This is shameful for a government that pretends to be sensitive to ethnic minorities and multiculturalism. It adds insult to injury by a Liberal government that has planned to eliminate the Ontario Advisory Council on Multiculturalism and Citizenship, wanted to slash its budget by $100,000 and to this day has not announced its multiculturalism policy, due to be announced in February of this year.
When it comes to putting its money where its mouth is, in the eyes of this Liberal government ethnic minorities are worth 0.01 per cent. This is shameful and unacceptable. This is the bottom line when it comes to the sanctimonious platitudes we constantly hear about sensitivity to ethnics and to minorities. It is a shame, and we as Ontarians and as the opposition condemn this government for this treatment.
Mr. Foulds: The Liberal government raised incredibly high expectations, especially in northern Ontario. Last November, the Premier (Mr. Peterson) said in Sault Ste. Marie that the provincial government had a responsibility to provide infrastructure to stabilize the economic base and to provide a social structure fair to the people of the north.
Yesterday's budget was a grave disappointment.
No action was taken on the ripoff that is northern Ontario gasoline prices. No action was taken to protect the northern Ontario energy consumer.
The extra $26 million for northern highways sounds good, but it will build a mere 13 to 26 miles of new two-lane highway. Some northern development.
With the necessity to twin the Trans-Canada Highway, at least between Nipigon and Shabaqua, Sudbury and Sault Ste. Marie and Sudbury and Highway 400, this is totally inadequate. The money is less than half the extra amount northerners pay for gas.
Finally, the northern Ontario heritage fund is a cruel hoax. Thirty million dollars sounds like a lot, but stack it up against $30 million the province is giving to one construction project in Metro Toronto, the SkyDome, the $35 million and $15 million in grants and low-interest loans to Toyota in Cambridge and the $58 million for two hospitals in Guelph and we can see the inadequacy. This is not northern Ontario development; this is not a northern Ontario heritage fund; this is patronizing: Tory patronage economics in a red tie.
Mr. McGuigan: I rise to thank the Treasurer (Mr. Nixon) for a move that has been long awaited in southwestern Ontario -- it was long awaited through the years of the opposition's era of power -- and that is the rebate system that was announced for wetlands.
Under the old program of rebating 60 per cent of the taxes to farm land and none of the taxes for wetlands, even though wetlands were taxed at a lower rate, the net figure was that wetlands paid a greater per acreage tax than did farm lands. The people of southwestern Ontario, particularly around Lake St. Clair, Rondeau Bay and Lake Erie have been lobbying and working for this, as I did when I was in opposition. I am very pleased now that the minister has acknowledged that and is taking steps to bring relief to a very important problem.
As members know, wetlands are important to recreation and to regulating flooding situations. The wetlands are a breeding ground for all sorts of wildlife and fauna and for filtering out and purifying our waters, so we receive this in very great spirit.
Mr. Brandt: Since June 1986, several taxes have been increased by the Treasurer of Ontario (Mr Nixon). He has increased personal income tax by four per cent and imposed an additional surtax. He has increased the alcohol beverage markup levy. He has increased fees for drivers' licences and motor vehicle registration. He has increased the corporate tax rate. He has increased the land transfer tax. He has increased the amount of gasoline tax paid by Ontario citizens. He has increased the number of products affected by the retail sales tax. He has increased the tobacco tax. He took an additional $900 million from Ontario taxpayers last year alone.
The headlines from yesterday's budget should be that the Treasurer cut taxes, not that we did not suffer any more increases. Our party says: "Give it back to the people of this province who have created the prosperity and wealth the Treasurer is enjoying. Let the people decide how they want some of their money spent."
There is no doubt in my mind they can do a better job than the current government. Get the money back into the hands of the people so that they can plan for the economic bust the present policies of the current government will create.
Mr. Mackenzie: Four years ago, the Consolidated Bathurst plant was shut down in the city of Hamilton and 180 workers lost their jobs. The treatment of the workers was so bad that even a previous Tory minister, Gordon Walker, was compelled to say in this House that Consolidated Bathurst was not the best corporate citizen.
These workers went to the Ontario Labour Relations Board on the basis of the company bargaining in bad faith, on the basis that they had negotiated a contract and only six months later the company closed the plant, knowing it was going to be closing it when it negotiated the previous contract. These workers went to the labour relations board and won a $310,000 judgement, based on bargaining in bad faith.
It is a tragedy that this was appealed to the Supreme Court of Ontario by the company. The court upheld the workers on a three-to-nothing decision.
Yesterday the workers found out that now the company has been given leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada. Four years later, those workers have not seen a cent of that $310,000. They are not getting any of it. There have been workers deceased and suicides in that plant since that time, and there is a perception in Ontario by those older workers who were involved in a plant shutdown that justice simply does not exist in this province today.
It is long past time that this government took a look at what happens to older workers in these kinds of situations and at why they should wait four years with still no decision on money they have won.
Mr. Callahan: I have been in this House for only two years and a little bit, but over that period of time it is obvious I have gained popularity with the opposition.
I want to address something that really bothers me, which is the fact that we all know northern Ontario has a problem. It is not a problem that arose during the two years we have been in office. It arose during the 47 or 46 or 42 years the Tories were in power. They did nothing about it whatsoever. Their contribution was to build or buy Minaki Lodge. That was all they did.
I would think it would be an important enough issue among all members of this House that we would deal with it on a nonpartisan basis and try to come up with solutions. The Premier (Mr. Peterson) has begged the opposition parties to give him ideas. Thus far, we have seen none. The people of northern Ontario know this government is taking steps to try to deal with the problem, probably for the first time in the history of this Legislature.
ASSISTANCE TO FARMERS
Mr. Stevenson: Yesterday's budget did not address the income side for farmers. Farmers who have cash can get $2,500 for badly needed repairs. For most, it means borrowing even more money to take advantage of a government program. There was no financial support for crop insurance, as recommended.
Maybe the biggest problem with yesterday's budget is the problem of the property tax rebate. The 100 per cent rebate on farm land and buildings was a concept conceived when farm land was selling for thousands of dollars per acre. Today, farms sell for a few thousand dollars more than a house in an adjacent town. It is very clear that if the assessors are not given clear direction, farmers are going to be getting 100 per cent of nothing back and paying through the nose for the value of high-priced homes.
STATEMENTS BY THE MINISTRY
Hon. Mr. Sorbara: It is good to be back. I am pleased to announce today that this government is making another major investment in the future of the next generation, one that will help guarantee in bricks and mortar the principle of universal accessibility to our post-secondary institutions.
As the Treasurer (Mr. Nixon) reported to the House yesterday in his budget, we are spending $100 million in 1987-88 towards the construction of new facilities and renovation of existing buildings at universities and community colleges. This cash flow in 1987-88 will support and enable some $200 million in total for new buildings and renovations at the institutions across Ontario.
As the record will show, this year's allocation represents more than double the capital spending on post-secondary institutions from just two years ago when this government took office. While that is a singular accomplishment and a measure of the substance of our ongoing commitment, it should also be acknowledged that much of what we are doing is made possible by a buoyant Ontario economy. It carries forward the promise of the throne speech to use the current fiscal dividend to invest in Ontario's future.
Je me réjouis du fait que nous soyons maintenant en mesure de poursuivre ce que nous avons commencé l'an dernier, c'est-à-dire, répondre sérieusement aux besoins de revitalisation physique des collèges et universités. La gravité de ces besoins a été abondamment documentée par des conseillers externes, le ministère et les établissements eux-mêmes. Cette situation a d'ailleurs été rapportée à plusieurs reprises par les médias de la province.
It is very important to understand that the very significant capital requirements that our colleges and universities now are confronting are the result of several factors. These reflect the age of the buildings as well as the past restraints on government funding. The most significant need for capital enhancement comes from both enrolments, which have continued to grow through the 1980s, and the requirement to renew our post-secondary facilities to meet modern high standards in teaching and research.
We will be providing a total of $66 million for capital projects in the universities in the 1987-88 fiscal year and a total of $34 million for community colleges. This will include a $20-million renovation fund for universities that will be distributed on a formula basis. There is in addition a $10-million renovation allocation for community colleges, also distributed on a formula basis. These tied funds, which must be allotted to renovation-type projects, will thus enable the institutions to determine their own priorities for renovation expenditures in accordance with their defined needs and planning priorities.
In accordance with this announcement, I will be travelling to a number of universities and community colleges across the province to provide them with the details of major new projects that we now are enabled to support at these institutions. I invite members of the opposition to go on those journeys with me. Indeed, this morning I had the pleasure of making a very important announcement at Ryerson about a new project we will be funding there.
As is already well known in the postsecondary community, these capital initiatives are consistent with and complement the very significant progress we have made in expanding operating support in the current fiscal year. Together, these measures will help guarantee accessibility to high-quality post-secondary institutions in an era when education has become the most critical component in our long-term economic viability.
PRESERVING ONTARIO'S ARCHITECTURE
Non. Ms. Munro: I am very pleased to report to the House today a new program that will protect and preserve the province's rich architectural legacy. As the members know, the five-year-old building rehabilitation and improvement campaign, BRIC, recently drew to a close. Our new program, Preserving Ontario's Architecture, has been designed to build on the success of BRIC. This $2.2 million initiative will provide both a financial component, making grants and loans available for architectural conservation and restoration, and a component of education and technical support for communities involved in architectural conservation.
By providing financial support and giving practical know-how to people within the community, the quality of architectural conservation projects will be raised. This will be achieved through seminars, technical literature and support and advisory services.
Financial support consists of four grant and loan components. Three of these components -- designated property grants, revolving heritage funds and conservation district funds -- will be administered by municipalities. The fourth component, commercial rehabilitation grants, will be available directly from my ministry.
Preserving Ontario's Architecture reinforces the commitment of this government to our heritage resources. Let me stress the importance of the educational component of this program. It will enable those interested and directly involved in heritage conservation activity to gain more knowledge and technical information. It will increase community awareness and expertise, creating a new appreciation of heritage buildings and architecture.
The Preserving Ontario's Architecture program will help to ensure that our heritage resources are cultivated and enhanced.
Hon. Mr. Kwinter: Later today, I will be introducing the Prepaid Services Act. The purpose of this proposed legislation is to provide increased protection for Ontario consumers entering into prepaid service contracts with clubs associated with health, fitness, modelling, diet, talent, martial arts, sports and dance activities.
The large number of failures of such clubs and their current practice of demanding full, upfront payment of membership and initiation fees has meant considerable financial loss to many consumers. The Prepaid Services Act will reduce the losses a consumer faces when a club fails by imposing restrictions on the terms and length of his contract with the club.
The restrictions contained in the Prepaid Services Act will include a five-day cooling-off period during which time all membership fees must remain in a trust account; the length of the contract must be limited to one year; instalment plans must be made available for payment of all moneys collected and a month-to-month payment option must be offered; sequential or concurrent contracts are prohibited; renewals will be permitted only with prior notification of members, reminding them of their right to refuse renewal; pre-selling memberships is permitted but all moneys received must be placed in a trust fund until five days after the club actually opens for active membership; initiation fees cannot be greater than twice the annual membership fee; and clubs should continue to honour their existing multi-year and lifetime contracts.
I am sure all members of this House are aware of situations where people have paid considerable sums of money for multi-year membership in a club only to find that a short time later the facility is closed and the membership is terminated.
In many of these instances, high-pressure sales tactics have contributed to consumers purchasing long-term, expensive contracts that they do not use and cannot cancel.
The Prepaid Services Act will ensure that all consumers have reasonable payment options available, substantially limit the amount of money they might lose and allow them the opportunity to cancel the contract within five days of signing if they wish.
I encourage all members to support this new consumer protection legislation.
Mr. Grossman: I wish to speak to the statement made by the Minister of Colleges and Universities (Mr. Sorbara) today in following up, as he attempted to do, on the failure of his government to capitalize on what was clearly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to change directions in this province.
The government announced yesterday in the budget, and it was confirmed today in the statement of the minister, $100 million towards the construction of new facilities for colleges and universities. I should like to address just what kind of commitment this government has to these facilities. First is the framework. The government has had $8 billion in new dollars to play with since it came into office. Yesterday, the Treasurer (Mr. Nixon) introduced a budget spending $35 billion. What was the minister able to get from him? He was able to get $100 million towards colleges and universities.
How does that break out? It breaks out in this way. For the colleges across this province he is going to provide $34 million. There are 22 community colleges across this province, and with $8 billion available after two years this minister was able to get for the 22 community colleges -- count it -- $1.5 million of capital for each of them.
He was able to get $66 million for 15 universities or $4 million for each university; unless, of course, the University of Toronto, Western and McMaster get a large chunk of that money. In that case, all the other universities can look to another dribble of $1 million coming off the lap of the formerly parsimonious Treasurer sitting on $35 billion. There is $8 billion in additional revenue and what does he have for the colleges and universities? He has about $1 million or $2 million an institution.
I ask the minister, where did the money go? I want to tell the minister where the money did not go. It did not go to his Futures program because in the first budget, the Futures program was announced at 230,000 positions and yesterday the Treasurer stood up and said that 50,000 people, not 230,000 young people, were helped by the Futures program. It was not spent in the Futures program. Where was it spent? It was not spent on the commitment we have heard about for a northern high school of science. It sure has not been spent on the tourism hospitality school the people in eastern Ontario are waiting for.
The people in eastern Ontario are not waiting for a dribble of $5 million out of $35 billion, and an office, let us not forget, in Pembroke and self-help centres. They are waiting for the tourism hospitality school. The government does not have money for that, but it has money for hamburgers and it has money for 5,000 new civil servants, 5,000 more bureaucrats; $200 million for bureaucrats, $1 million for colleges and $ 1.5 million for universities.
Let us not hear about this alleged commitment that was heralded in the speech from the throne. When it comes time to produce, this minister produces not 230,000 Futures jobs but 50,000. This minister has produced maybe $50 million more than the previous government. When the Treasurer had $8 billion more than the previous government, he gave the minister $50 million.
I have one other comment. When the minister stands up and boasts about the capital, we want him to give us an assurance that the Treasurer's in-year constraint of $75 million off the capital announcements is not going to come from colleges and universities. Can he give us that commitment today? Or is the Treasurer going to whip him into submission again and say: "Sorry, Greg; now that we have made the announcement we do not really have to do it. It is like the Futures program."
Yesterday the Treasurer announced $2.7 billion worth of capital and then said, "By the way, folks, $75 million I do not mean." Where is it? Is the minister prepared this afternoon to say that he has an absolute guarantee from the Treasurer that $75 million will not come off the budget he announced today? Because if any portion of it does, the minister's bold statement today falls as flat as the Futures program, where he produced about one fifth, 20 per cent, of what he promised.
When out of $8 billion additional dollars this minister can produce $1 million or $1.5 million for institutions, which his Premier (Mr. Peterson) likes to whine about across the province as being underfunded and inadequate for modern-day facilities, this minister joins this Treasurer and this Premier in saying, "Yes, a world-class flop; a disgraceful effort yesterday." The government missed an opportunity to change direction.
Mr. Allen: Methinks the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Grossman) doth protest a little too much. I recall 15 years ago when the capital funding of Ontario universities was ended in the early 1970s. That ended all renovations money and for 15 years we heard nothing from the Progressive Conservative Party as far as capital expenditures were concerned.
I can understand why the minister would be setting out his itinerary already. He should do that with a little bit of guarded style, because if he is going to be travelling about the universities and doling out $1.5 million for colleges and $4 million for universities, that may not impress either some colleges or some universities. On the other hand, he will have to select his sites in such a way as not to give the impression that he is giving too much to some and not enough to others. I can see his staff is going to have some trouble establishing this itinerary and working it out to his satisfaction.
May I say that what is missing from this announcement, essentially, is not that there is $100 million there -- obviously that is going to do some good -- but that the province really has no way of knowing exactly what this accomplishes in real terms. The minister still has failed to provide capital funding on a formula basis, as recommended by the Bovey commission, whereby the money regularly goes in allocated proportions with regard to square footage of university space. Businesses do that. Why cannot this ministry keep up its funding on that basis? There is no reason that minister should not be announcing a formula for capital development and capital renovation. He has not done that, so none of us can sit down and say exactly how useful this amount is.
As to whether it will help guarantee accessibility and high quality one may ask another question, because after two years in government we still are not above the average per-student funding of this system. Second, there is going to be a seven per cent increase in the registrations from the new Ontario Schools, Intermediate and Senior Divisions students next year, and the amounts that are allocated to operating funds are going to have to be stretched even further. In all likelihood, universities are going to be more hard-pressed than ever in their operations.
Mr. Swart: I would like to say to the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations (Mr. Kwinter) that I am happy to see him introduce this bill to provide some protection for prepaid services. I will be much happier when it is passed in this pre-election period. We do not know whether they really mean it or whether it is posturing. In fact, the Conservatives never even postured to do anything like this in all the years they were in power, so I have to give the minister a little credit.
I have two reservations. I am concerned about permitting the initiation fees to be at least twice as high as the annual membership fees; and it will have to be adequately policed. One thing that government has shown, whether on health and safety or whatever, is that it has not been strong on policing; but I will give the government points for bringing it in at this time.
PRESERVING ONTARIO'S ARCHITECTURE
Mr. Rae: I want to say to the Minister of Citizenship and Culture (Ms. Munro) that it requires quite an extraordinary amount of arrogance or something bizarre on her part to be making an announcement with respect to a new program when her ministry's budget has in fact been cut by $21 million when one combines capital and operating expenditures. It is a remarkable statement on her part not to have even mentioned that, not to have even stood in her place and said, "This is what has happened."
I want to say to the member for High Park-Swansea (Mr. Shymko) that the significance of the cut is even greater in dollar terms than he indicated in his earlier statement. The one ministry that has been chopped dramatically by the Treasurer (Mr. Nixon) is the minister's own. For her to announce a new program strikes me as a little bizarre. One can only ask, where it is coming from?
ASSISTANCE FOR THE DISABLED
Mr. Grossman: I have a question for the Premier. I wonder whether the Premier can explain to this House why he allowed his Treasurer (Mr. Nixon) in yesterday's budget to take from the disabled people of this province $2 of the $3 sent to them by the federal government? The federal government sent $3 to the disabled in this province. The Treasurer stole $2 and the disabled got $1. How does the Premier explain that?
Hon. Mr. Peterson: I will refer that to the Treasurer.
Hon. Mr. Nixon: I do not like the use of the verb "stole." It is inappropriate in here. I felt I should register my views in that connection before answering the question, which is otherwise a reasonable one.
The honourable member will know that the Canada pension plan pass-through for the disabled would have affected, if it had passed through, 13,000 of our disabled. Instead of using that approximately $12 million to enrich the 13,000 disabled, we are taking $54 million to increase the payments to all the disabled, amounting to 87,000 people, by approximately $50 a month. The honourable member, being alert to what happens in this House, will realize that last January 1 we gave an additional increase of $22. So within these few months, the disabled -- not just a small group of 13,000 but all the disabled, 87,000 -- are receiving an additional $72 a month. The member is talking about stealing $12 million, if the member wants to use the words; we are changing that into $54 million and distributing it across the needs of all the disabled.
Mr. Grossman: If the Treasurer expects me or the disabled to say that when $150 a month has been sent by the federal minister, telling him the money is meant for the disabled and not for him, he has not stolen that money, he should not wait for the retraction. It is not coming from me and it is not coming from the disabled.
Mr. Speaker: Order. Do you have a supplementary?
Mr. Grossman: My supplementary question is, will the Treasurer not agree that the federal government sent $150 a month to the disabled under the Canada pension plan? Will he not agree that 13,000 of them will end up with only $50, not $150; and will he not agree that the guaranteed annual income system cheques for those 13,000 are reduced by $100 in that process? Will he not agree that is exactly what happened?
Hon. Mr. Nixon: I do not agree with that and I also do not agree with the contention put forward by the honourable member that we should have two classes of disabled citizens. It is the responsibility of the government of this province to treat these unfortunate people with fairness and equity, and in taking the money from the federal jurisdiction we have changed that money into a $54-million program that is distributed with fairness and equity for the benefit of all.
Mr. Grossman: For this Treasurer to say he did not have enough money to pass it through, with respect, will not ring proper.
Let me ask the Treasurer this question. He alleges this afternoon and in the budget yesterday that he is spending $54 million on this program. His Treasury staff disagreed with that yesterday. They admitted that half of the money -- it is a shared-cost program -- comes from the federal government and that for the 13,000 he does reduce their cheques, the government's liability, by $100 a month each. Therefore, by our discussions with the Treasurer's officials this morning, the actual cost comes down not to the $54 million he gave them, but to $15.3 million because of the shared cost and his stealing of $2 out of every $3 from the 13,000.
Mr. Speaker: Order. Will the honourable member take his seat. The honourable member accused the Treasurer of stealing. Will you withdraw that word?
Mr. Grossman: I withdraw that word.
My question to the Treasurer is this. Will the Treasurer not agree that since he took $2 of the $3 sent to 13,000 disabled by the federal government, the actual net cost of the provincial contribution is not the $54 million reported in his budget, but the $15 million reported by his staff to us in the lockup yesterday and confirmed this morning in conversations?
Hon. Mr. Nixon: If the honourable Leader of the Opposition is under the impression that the members of this House do not understand how the Canada assistance plan works, he is very naïve. The money that goes into the budget is paid out to the disabled and the increase is as I have predicted and projected, and the number the honourable member is using should be $54 million for that purpose. The fact that the government of Canada reimburses the consolidated revenue fund on a basis of 50-50, as with all other programs, is well known and is the way we have budgeted not just in the two years that we have had the responsibility, but in the 42 years that the honourable member or his party was associated with it. As a matter of fact, that shared cost was an initiative brought in by the government of Canada, very appropriately.
Mr. Speaker: I might suggest to all members that it would be most helpful if one could speak at one time.
Mr. Grossman: My second question is also to the Premier. I hope he will address some of the budget questions. The Premier has made a number of speeches about the importance of elementary and secondary school education. What we find out in the budget document is in fact that total transfers to local school boards will decrease this year. I wonder how he can explain the fact that local transfers to school boards will decline in the fiscal year reported yesterday in the budget offered by the Treasurer.
Hon. Mr. Peterson: I will refer it to the Treasurer.
Hon. Mr. Nixon: I think the Leader of the Opposition and the members of the House would like to know that just for operating expenses alone, the Ministry of Education has had available to its treasury and for passing on to all the school boards an amount that is approximately 25.37 per cent larger than the budget we took over when we assumed office less than two years ago.
The honourable member will also be aware that in the statements having to do with capital support for this particular year we are making available double the amount available in the last budget of the Conservative Party and for the pre-commitment for next year it is actually triple the amount.
Mr. Grossman: The Treasurer recites a 25 per cent increase in spending; the tax load and revenues are up 31 per cent. Funding for education, to the school boards, is net down from where he took it over, and this year as a percentage of the provincial budget it is down.
Hidden away on page 64 of the budget, table C6, we discover that in 1986-87 the total conditional transfers to the school boards will be $3,787,000,000. The budget plan for the current year, 1987-88, is down to $3,579,000,000, a reduction of over $200 million in the transfers to the school boards.
After all the emphasis the public and the Premier have placed on education, how can the Treasurer possibly find an excuse to reduce the transfers to the school boards this year by $200 million, the same amount the government is using to pay the extra bureaucrats it has hired since it came to office?
Hon. Mr. Nixon: I am amazed that the Leader of the Opposition, a former Treasurer himself, would not have the ability to examine the budget carefully and listen to the statements that have been made by myself and the minister. If he had done that, he would know that before the beginning of the provincial fiscal year and early in the fiscal year of the school boards we transferred an additional $330 million up front to enable them to pay their bills. That $330 million is the kind of initiative we have needed in that regard.
Mr. Grossman: That is exactly what it says on the chart we have, but what the Treasurer is indicating, therefore, is that he does not intend to free-flow the amounts this fiscal year that he free-flowed last year. He cannot have it both ways. Either he counts that figure last year or he does not.
Is the Treasurer going to tolerate a $200-million net decrease in the cash flows this year or is he going to cash-flow $330 million again -- in which case the deficit goes up and all of the rhetoric goes down the drain and he has to find from his colleagues $700 million, not $350 million, to give any truth to his deficit projections? Is it down $200 million or is he going to free-flow?
Hon. Mr. Nixon: I am glad that in the histrionic outpourings of the Leader of the Opposition, if one listens to him carefully, there is a recognition that the $330 million, payable before the beginning of our fiscal year, is in the fiscal year of the school boards and that their payments are maintained.
Mr. Grossman: Are you going to do it this year?
Hon. Mr. Nixon: What we are going to do next year is a budgetary position of great importance and we are not letting the school boards down.
Mr. Speaker: Order. The Leader of the Opposition has already asked two questions plus supplementaries. Please allow others to ask questions.
Mr. Laughren: I have a question for the Minister of Northern Development and Mines, in view of a statement he made about six months ago in Sault Ste. Marie. I would like to remind him of what he said. He said, "We have a responsibility in providing the infrastructure, providing mechanisms to stabilize the economic base, providing a social structure that is fair to people in northern Ontario and assisting the private sector in wealth and in job creation."
In view of the fact that yesterday's budget makes a mockery of that statement, can the minister explain something to us today? How can he justify the $30 million that has been allocated to the northern Ontario heritage fund, which after all is to look after those very infrastructures and social problems we have in northern Ontario, compared to $30 million of public money for one project in Metropolitan Toronto -- namely, the SkyDome -- or for the $35 million he has promised Toyota for an assembly plant, plus another $15 million for training grants, as I understand it? How in the name of heaven does the minister justify that kind of double standard?
Hon. Mr. Peterson: I must say I find my honourable friend's question a little bit bizarre. I guess he would ask me to draw comparisons between various parts of the province. He may want to exacerbate tensions between parts of the province by saying, "This part got this; the other part got this." I think my honourable friend would want to look very carefully at the total package of initiatives in northern Ontario.
When he looks at the addition to transportation, when he looks at the northern Ontario heritage fund, when he looks at the northern development fund, I am sure my honourable friend will be the first to acknowledge there has been substantial activity in northern Ontario when he looks at the broad range of programs.
I guess my honourable friend has now said he is against the dome. Even though various other members opposite are in favour of it, he does not think we should have done that. He thinks we should have spent it somewhere else. There is not a penny spent anywhere by this government that someone could not say he would rather have had it somewhere else. By any objective standard one wants to use -- and I am not suggesting for a moment that my honourable friend is objective on these matters -- I believe objective observers, looking at the initiatives in northern Ontario, see a sensitivity from this government heretofore unseen in this province.
Mr. Laughren: I must say I am disappointed in both the tone and the quality of the minister's response. I wonder whether the minister can set aside the imputing of motives for the moment and give me a response on the whole question of the allocation of money to northern highways as well.
He is the minister who is responsible for the allocation of those dollars once they are assigned to northern highways. I wonder whether the minister could tell us, given the fact that $26 million has been set aside as new money for highways in northern Ontario -- and while he may not like the comparison, it is being made all across northern Ontario today -- comparing the $26 million for highways all across northern Ontario and $130 million for Metro highways alone, does he think that is fair?
Finally, given the fact that the municipal engineers of northern Ontario tell us that it costs up to $2 million a mile to build new highways in northern Ontario, could he please tell us where those 13 miles of new highway are going to go in northern Ontario?
Hon. Mr. Peterson: I know the honourable member would like to make some of the comparisons that, frankly, disappoint me in the tone and tenor of his questions in that regard, which show a kind of provincialism. However, let me respond to my honourable friend.
That brings the total transportation budget for northern Ontario to $106 million. That was in addition to what was previously there. I say to my honourable friend that I do not detect the same degree of pessimism in northern Ontario that he does. People I have talked to in the last 24 hours are saying it is a wonderful new initiative. They are very happy to see the commitment in northern Ontario. I am sorry my honourable friend is alone in his criticism.
Mr. Speaker: Order. We will just wait.
Mr. Wildman: Will the Premier admit that this budget and what has been allocated to the north is an indication that this government has given up any commitment it may have had at any time to deal with the serious economic problems we face in northern Ontario, in that in terms of new money it works out to approximately 15 cents per northerner this year? How on earth is that amount of money going to do anything about the serious economic problems, the downturn, the unemployment we are facing in communities such as Sault Ste. Marie? Is the minister not aware that the layoff at Algoma Steel alone in Sault Ste. Marie is going to take $45 million per annum out of that one economy and he is giving a total of $30 million in his northern Ontario fund? It is a pittance.
Mr. Speaker: Order. The question has been asked several times.
Mr. Wildman: Why is he giving up on the north?
Hon. Mr. Peterson: I do not see it quite that way. The member will notice that the budget for the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines is up some 16 per cent. That speaks at least in some measure to the influence the minister has with the Treasurer (Mr. Nixon) in that particular regard.
If the member looks at what has happened in transportation, with the northern development funds, with the heritage fund and with a variety of other initiatives, I do not agree with my honourable friend that his great pessimism is shared. When one adds on the initiatives we have taken with respect to moving jobs there, this is a budget of which I am extremely proud and which I am extremely proud to defend. I say further to my honourable friend that if he and his colleagues are really as exercised as they think, bring in a vote of confidence and we will go to the people on it.
Mr. Speaker: Order. I remind members that we are still in question period. Anything else can come later.
Mr. Rae: Before I address a quick question to the Treasurer, let me say that if the Premier is having trouble making up his mind, he should not look to this place to make up his mind. He should go on and make up his own mind. He should decide what to do. That is where the dithering is and the cuteness is; let the dithering and the cuteness stop. He wants to stop it; he can stop it. It is up to him.
Mr. Speaker: Now the question.
Mr. Rae: Go ahead. He should make up his mind and let us know what it is, and we are ready -- whatever he decides. He should decide. I know the difficulty he has in making up his mind. He should make up his mind. We are ready.
Mr. Speaker: Order.
Mr. Rae: I seem to have aroused some kind of reaction on the other side.
Mr. Rae: Until the master of indecision does make up his mind, I want to ask a question of the Treasurer, because we are dealing with the budget which he has put forward.
I want to come back to this question of education. I want to come back to page 64 and the question of just how much money the Treasurer is transferring and just what is being done, because I think we are seeing, as we do on many budgetary occasions -- and I have had some experience with these at both levels -- the hand can sometimes be quicker than the eye. I just want to make sure and get clear in my mind what the Treasurer is saying.
Is he saying the $330 million which is listed under general legislative grant flow improvement is a one-shot deal and will not be done again? If he is saying it is a one-shot deal and will not be done again, is he in fact not agreeing with the fundamental proposition that however you cut it, he is in fact in real dollar terms transferring less to local school boards next year than he was this last year?
Hon. Mr. Nixon: I am sure the honourable member is aware that over the years school boards have had substantial difficulties in early fiscal year financing for the school boards, which begins January 1. Because of this, the former cushion of payment, which had begun some years ago at about seven per cent, had been reduced as a budgetary measure by our predecessors to something like two to three per cent. We have twice strengthened that cushion, first to seven per cent and then to 12 per cent.
This particular amount of money gives them the flexibility
Mr. Davis: Are you going to do it again?
Hon. Mr. Nixon: Of course, we are going to maintain that position of flexibility so that the school boards will be able to pay their bills without going to the bank, without borrowing to the extreme position that was necessary in the past. We feel it is appreciated by them and a step in the right direction.
Mr. Rae: I want to ask the Treasurer a very simple question.
Mr. Rowe: Speak slowly.
Mr. Rae: I will try to speak slowly. I thank the member for Simcoe Centre. It is a defect I have had since a child, trying to speak too quickly. I will try to speak more slowly.
Hon. Mr. Elston: Slow down.
Mr. Rae: I am doing my best. I will try to do it in pictures for the member later on.
I say to the Treasurer, if he is going to do it again, as he said in response to some very friendly assistance from the other side, if he said, "Of course, I am going to do it again," and I heard him say that, I do not see that in these numbers, unless I have misread the final green figures -- not in red, in green -- in budget plan 1987-88, unless I have misread them.
If in fact he is going to be spending more, why does he not tell us now? When is he going to announce it: during the next election campaign or at some other point? Can the Treasurer tell us why those figures are not in the budget if that is what he is going to do?
Hon. Mr. Nixon: I think members are aware of the fact that the commitments to the funding of education have been growing over the years.
There is no way that the financing of education is going to be withdrawn. As far as we are concerned, the schools are going to be adequately and properly supported. We have a wide variety of programs that are going to be aimed at funding education. We are not going back on that.
Mr. Speaker: Final supplementary?
Mr. Rae: I do have a final supplementary. First of all, I want to congratulate the Treasurer on a nice try. I did not hear any sort of an answer to that particular question.
One would simply like, perhaps by way of final supplementary, to ask the Treasurer, if in fact it is true that his commitment to education is the greatest, why has he cut the funds for the one ministry that is involved with literacy? He has transferred literacy from the Ministry of Education to the Ministry of Citizenship and Culture. They have been cut by $21 million.
The percentage of the provincial budget spent on education is down to 19.3 per cent, which is less than the member for York Mills (Miss Stephenson) was spending when she was the minister -- quite an achievement -- and the share of provincial spending is down from 48 to 46 per cent. If the Treasurer is so hot, why do none of the figures show it?
Hon. Mr. Nixon: Since the honourable member has asked about the literacy program, he can be sure is not being cut. It is being properly and adequately financed, and there is no doubt about that.
I think the honourable member should also be aware that the percentage changes year over year for Citizenship and Culture are based on substantial additional payments that were made available, or money available to the ministry for funding of a variety of programs that were available and requested during the last six weeks of the fiscal year. The expenditure was substantially ahead of what the budgetary amount was last May.
Mr. Gillies: I have a question for the Premier about the fastest-growing industry in Ontario, which is the size of his own bloated government. I would like to ask the Premier why it is that when he took office some two short years ago, there were just over 80,000 civil service people in the employ of this government, and there are now over 84,500, an increase in two years of about 4,645 people. We want to know why this administration has completely undone any efforts by the previous administration to contain the size of the civil service and why he is allowing the fastest-growing industry in Ontario to be the size of his own wretched government.
Hon. Mr. Peterson: I will refer that to the Treasurer.
Hon. Mr. Nixon: I think the best way to answer the honourable member's question is to read from the budget -- something he might have done for himself-on page 51, as follows, and I quote:
"The average number of provincial public servants increased by 1,945 during 1986-87, primarily as a result of the implementation of the Young Offenders Act and a number of other programs, including enhancement of occupational health and safety, skills development and psychiatric services programs. Included in the increase is the impact of the conversion of 700 part-time employees to the classified staff" -- I might add, in parentheses, something the former government was always unwilling to do - "as a result of the adoption of a new policy on the appointment of regular part-time employees." That is the answer.
Mr. Gillies: The Treasurer has completely failed to address the question. After a decade of efforts to contain the size of government in this province, the government has opened the gate; it has 4,600 more civil servants at an estimated cost of some $200 million. When high schools are bulging at the seams and communities are going begging for health care services, we want to know how the government can allow its size to become bloated and to suck up that kind of money.
Hon. Mr. Nixon: The histrionic excitement seems to be contagious.
Mr. Speaker: Do you wish to make any response?
Hon. Mr. Nixon: I simply point out to the honourable member who has asked the question that it is difficult to determine where he and his party stand when we talk about these increased numbers of public servants required for the purposes I described. Does he feel we should not live up to our commitments under the federal Young Offenders Act? Does he believe -- and this is something he was up on yesterday in question period -- we should not have inspectors under the Occupational Health and Safety Act? Does he believe we should not have a properly staffed skills development program or perhaps we should reduce psychiatric services? The honourable member's position is totally illogical and irresponsible.
PROVINCIAL INCOME TAX
Mr. Laughren: I have a question for the Treasurer on the rather staggering increase in personal income taxes that have come into the provincial Treasury in the last two years, an increase of $2.7 billion. I remind the Treasurer he said in his budget yesterday that the current tax system is failing the test of fairness and that he was bringing forward measures to ease the tax burden of low-income Ontarians.
Can the Treasurer explain to us how he thinks it is so fair, when only $10 million out of all those new revenues from income taxes are going to ease the problem of the low-income earners? In particular, yesterday morning in the lockup, when we asked the Treasury officials about a family of four with an income of $15,500 -- which is, by the way, about $7,000 below the poverty line -- they admitted to us that family would still be paying about $450 in provincial income taxes. Does the Treasurer think that is a fair test of fairness?
Hon. Mr. Nixon: I think the honourable member will know that the Ontario tax reduction program is a subject I have addressed in all three of the budgets for which I have had responsibility. We have increased that tax reduction program for the third time, and this will relieve approximately 100,000 tax filers of the necessity of paying income tax at the provincial level.
These people pay up to approximately $270 individually, or as a family, in income taxes at the federal level, where the tax reduction program was phased out by the new government. This is a difference in philosophy; and frankly, I am surprised that the honourable member would not be rather enthusiastic, at least about the philosophy of tax reduction at the low-income level .
I would agree with everyone here that we would like to have made that a larger reduction, but this is simply the judgement on the allocation of these funds that we were able to make under these circumstances.
Mr. Laughren: I appreciate the civility of the Treasurer's reply, if not his policies.
In his statement yesterday, the Treasurer indicated there was $85 million in new money in the form of tax credits. The Treasurer will remember that when this government came to power, the value of those tax credits was $292 million. In absolute dollars, he is now $12 million below the level of when he came to government. If the inflation factor is built in, he is about $40 million behind the value of tax credits when he took power. Would the Treasurer table the test that he used to determine fairness?
Hon. Mr. Nixon: It is a matter of judgement. Once again we wish we could have made that richer, but in fact the allocation of those funds does not keep step with inflation. That is correct. It has remained unchanged for many years. The honourable member, among others, suggested rather strongly in previous speeches last year that we should take action on this. Using our judgement and with the support of the honourable member and others, we have made that correction, at least to the extent that we thought was possible. It is substantial; I believe it is 27 per cent, and it is not to be sneezed at. I am not expecting gratitude. I am not expecting support. Those are the facts. We think they are fair and equitable and what we can fund at this time.
Ms. Caplan: My question is to the Minister of Transportation and Communications. In yesterday's budget announcement, there was a statement that Highway 407 construction would begin. There was no mention of funding for the Sheppard subway line, which is phase one of Network 2011. Can the minister assure the residents of North York and Metropolitan Toronto that the announcement of Highway 407 does not preclude the Sheppard subway construction?
Hon. Mr. Fulton: Because of the unruly conduct of members opposite, I heard only part of the question.
Hon. Mr. Fulton: They are at it again, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Speaker: Order. Did you catch enough of it to answer part of it?
Mr. Speaker: Order. Minister.
Hon. Mr. Fulton: I can assure my colleague the member for Oriole that the consideration of the Sheppard line and other projects in the Network 2011 proposal will be under review, as I indicated in my release a week ago Wednesday, my statement here in the House.
The committee we have formed to review will be in place. We have demonstrated before that this is not just another committee that will go on into Never Never Land. We get results from those reviews. The provincial perspective has to be addressed in terms of the expansion of transit in and around Metro and the regions.
Mr. Speaker: Order. I feel like asking a question. Supplementary; the member for Oriole.
Ms. Caplan: The people of North York and Metropolitan Toronto are pleased to hear that one does not preclude the other. We would like to know, however, whether the process that is now in place will allow for a role for the municipalities, the Toronto Transit Commission, to participate with the ministry to ensure this receives adequate and rapid consideration.
Mr. Grossman: They switched their pieces of paper, and you gave her the wrong piece of paper.
Hon. Mr. Fulton: With respect, the juvenile outburst of the Leader of the Opposition precludes me hearing the question.
Mr. Grossman: That's a Carnac act. She gave the answer to the question.
Mr. Speaker: Order. I suppose we could waste another five minutes of the members' time, if they wish.
Mr. Speaker: Order. Did the minister hear it or not?
Hon. Mr. Fulton: No. The Leader of the Opposition continues to treat question period like Tiny Talent Time. I was not able to hear the question.
Mr. Speaker: Order.
Mr. Eves: I have a question to the Premier about the commitment of his government to northern Ontario through the northern Ontario heritage fund. I want to put this commitment in perspective.
The government last year had a surplus of over $1 billion. He has not delivered on 1985 campaign promises of northern tax credits. He has done nothing about gasoline prices in northern Ontario. He has deprived northern Ontarians of their softwood lumber rebate to the tune of $30 million. He has not delivered on some $35.9 million promised through the northern development fund, small business development corporations and the community economic transformation agreement. He is extracting from northerners in excess of $150 million a year in gasoline taxes, which he is keeping high in northern Ontario
Mr. Speaker: And the question is?
Mr. Eves: He is taking all this money out of northern Ontario, and his government's answer, his commitment, is to put $30 million back in.
Hon. Mr. Peterson: I appreciate the question from my honourable friend from close to northern Ontario. It is very similar to the questions that were asked by the member for Nickel Belt (Mr. Laughren) and the member for Algoma (Mr. Wildman), and I am very happy to give my honourable friend, in case he did not hear, the very same answer.
As members know, I think he is looking at this thing in a rather limited way. I think one has to look at the wide variety of programs that exist with respect to northern Ontario, and I am surprised my honourable friend would be so negative about it.
I think we have moved substantially to address the problems, and certainly as the Minister of Northern Development and Mines, as one who travels widely in the north and hopes he is close to the concerns of the people there, I would say the reaction has been extremely positive. I guess my old friend's question was just based on nerves.
Mr. Pierce: I am up. I am waiting. He knows I am here.
Mr. Speaker: We will wait until everybody is finished.
Mr. Pierce: My question is also to the Premier, who is spending $8 billion more this year than he spent since 1985. I ask the Premier, based on the $8 billion more that he is prepared to spend this year, does he not think that northerners are worth at least one eighth of that amount of money? He should be prepared to put $1 billion into the heritage fund to show the people of northern Ontario he is committed to them and to show them he is prepared to give them more than crumbs. He should do something today.
Hon. Mr. Peterson: I appreciate my honourable friend's suggestion with respect to the quantum of the northern heritage fund. With the grasp of economics he has, he could stage another coup and become the Treasury critic.
I have the very highest regard for the people in northern Ontario. The member will see that we have responded in a variety of different ways. The budget of the ministry is up 16 per cent. In addition, there is the transportation budget and the northern heritage fund. I think my friend will have a different view when he goes back home and talks to his constituents this weekend.
Ms. Gigantes: My question is to the Minister of Community and Social Services. On page 14 of the budget introduced yesterday, the Treasurer (Mr. Nixon) mentioned an allocation of $26 million for child care initiatives this year. On page 15, it says the government is committed to $33 million in capital funding over the next three years for child care. Can the minister confirm for us that the $26 million for 1987-88 initiatives already includes $11 million of that $33 million in capital funding over a three-year period?
Hon. Mr. Sweeney: The answer is no.
Ms. Gigantes: Would we be closer if we asked the minister whether it included $9 million on the remaining fiscal year allocations for capital funding? If the minister takes the remaining moneys out of the $26 million announced by the Treasurer, that leaves him with $17 million for direct grants that would help lower fees, for the subsidizing of new subsidized spaces or the subsidizing of existing spaces and for capital investments. If he applied all that $17 million to attempt to lower fees, he would be able to lower fees for nonprofit spaces for families at a rate of about $1.88 a day.
Hon. Mr. Sweeney: The $26 million is new money. The $33 million is new money for capital only. The budget statement clearly says this is money the province is going to allocate ahead of any federal-provincial agreement. Once that federal-provincial agreement is satisfied, we will make an announcement as to what further expansion of the system is going to be made.
Mr. Andrewes: My question is to the Treasurer. Yesterday in his budget, he projected a spending deficit of $980 million in the next fiscal year. In that same budget, he intends to spend $1.33 billion more than the revenues he expects to receive. How does he anticipate reducing his deficit by $350 million?
Hon. Mr. Nixon: I am glad to receive a question from the gentleman who I believe was the Treasury critic for 36 hours. His question is an important one because as far as we are concerned, the cash requirement this year will be below $1 billion, about $980 million. As far as that is concerned, it also reflects a balance or close to a balance in our operating fund, which I think will be in deficit by about $28 million. The funding is clear there. There is about a $1-billion difference between our revenue and our expenditure, just a bit less than that.
Mr. Andrewes: I say to the Treasurer that is not an accurate reflection of what his budget paper gives us. It is not good enough. Why does he not come clean? Which of the highways is he not going to build? Which of the hospitals is he not going to build? Which of the university buildings is he not going to build? He should stop pulling the wool over our eyes and tell us how he is going to achieve that deficit reduction.
Hon. Mr. Nixon: The commitments made in the budget have the dollars allocated and we intend to fulfil those commitments. Interjections.
Mr. Speaker: Order.
Mr. Reville: I have a question about housing supply for the Minister of Housing. Since the government took power, the waiting list for housing in this province has increased by 12,000 families. One such family is a woman with a two-year-old son. She is currently paying so much of her income for rent that she has $34.34 a week left for everything else. Will the minister indicate to the House when this mother and her son can expect to be housed?
Hon. Mr. Curling: The honourable member knows that when we took office the situation of supplies of affordable housing was really dismal. In the aggressive program that the government has taken on in supplying affordable housing, I am happy to report that I have committed and approved over 25,000 affordable housing units. As to the individual the honourable member mentioned, I would say there is much more hope there now than there was in 1985.
Mr. Reville: I would offer for the minister's perusal page 55 of the budget which indicates that since his government took power, the proceeds of speculation have increased so that the land transfer tax is now realizing some $245 million more than it was in 1985. Will the minister put that money into housing for working people and their families in this province and double his allocations today?
Hon. Mr. Curling: I am always hesitant when members of the New Democratic Party throw figures at me. Either they are speculating or -- so I will again emphasize that the program we have put in place and the program that will come forward will address many of the affordability problems that we have at the moment.
RETAIL SALES TAX
Mr. Callahan: I have a question for the Treasurer. I have received equal criticism and admiration for the increase from $2 to $4 on the price of prepared foods on which there will be elimination of the retail sales tax. In the light of the fact that I have received equal criticism and admiration, I would like to inquire of the Treasurer just what amount of money that increase from $2 to $4 constitutes in terms of lost revenue to the government.
Mr. Bernier: It is in the budget.
Mr. Rae: It is in the book.
Mr. Martel: You can't expect a lawyer to read that.
Mr. Speaker: Order.
Mr. Gillies: It is out of order.
Mr. Speaker: I will thank the member for Brantford (Mr. Gillies) for his assistance; however, I will not take it.
Hon. Mr. Nixon: I just want to disagree with one of the positions put in the useful question that was put before us. I have received no criticism of that action whatsoever, but naturally I would be guided by the views of the honourable member. We expect the additional $2 exemption to cost in the area of approximately $50 million.
Mr. Rowe: I have a question for the Minister of Health. Can he explain to the residents of the city of Barrie how his government could increase its civil service by some 5,000 people yet not provide funding for a new hospital in Barrie?
Hon. Mr. Elston: The honourable gentleman, I think, was here, although I know he was not awake, when the explanation was given with respect to where all the additional people had been added for the provision of new, very useful and very much needed services for the people of the province. Those people work for all the people of the province. Expenditures made to promote skills development and to deal with better service in psychiatric hospitals -- in all those areas -- work for all the people right across the entire province.
The member understands quite well that the lack of planning that preceded the announcements on five separate occasions by Tories, during or just before elections, did not provide us with the basis on which we could proceed in an expeditious manner to announce any development in the Barrie hospital realm.
What we are doing is examining this particular project very carefully. The planning is progressing and we are doing what has to be done before announcements are made. I can tell the honourable gentleman that he, as much as any other person in this province, will understand how little planning he did before he announced it just prior to May 1985.
I will not make an announcement without adequate and substantial planning being done, for whatever project it is and for whatever area of the province it may be located in. We will do what has to be done to plan for an orderly redevelopment of the capital facilities in the health care field of this province before any announcements are made.
Mr. Rowe: I say to the Minister of Health that when we announced the hospital, it was ready to go and by now we would have started. Interjections.
Mr. Rowe: Yes, we would have.
Mr. Speaker: Could the member control himself when asking a supplementary?
Mr. Rowe: It is rather difficult with this minister.
I say to the minister that planning can go no further. Planning can go no further until he approves a start date. How many people have to die in a hall with their families looking on while he sits on this thing without a decision? Why does he not have the decency? He has the money. When is he going to make the announcement?
Mr. Speaker: Order.
Hon. Mr. Elston: Over the past several decades throughout Ontario there have been several projects, in terms of planning, in various areas of this province that progressed not one iota under the member's previous administration.
There was an unwillingness to take a very planned and a very progressive look at what had to be done to ensure that the capital facilities were in place to provide good quality health care. On several visits to communities around the province, I have indicated that I understand their desire to move expeditiously with their plans and with their projections for providing better care. I sympathized with those people who were practically starved to death by that government that ate up and consumed the capital structure of a very necessary and a very much required service in this province.
Mr. Gillies: Just announce it. Get on with it.
Hon. Mr. Elston: Mr. Speaker, before you ask me to answer the rest of the question --
Mr. Harris: You haven't answered any of it yet. Why don't you sit down?
Hon. Mr. Elston: I do not want to sit down yet. I know that you will want me to answer the rest of the question, Mr. Speaker, which basically asks me to say when I will make an announcement. I said in my opening reply to the member's question that announcements are not made by this minister until the planning has progressed to a stage where something can be done.
We are not moved in a manner like that gentleman was just prior to May 2, 1985 --
Mr. Speaker: Thank you. Order.
Hon. Mr. Elston: We will make the announcements when the planning is done.
Mr. Rowe: There is no planning. Political planning is all you are doing now; straight political planning. You are sitting on it.
Hon. Mr. Elston: No.
Mr. Speaker: Order. The member for Scarborough West.
Mr. R. F. Johnston: My question is for the Treasurer.
Mr. Gillies: Just announce it.
Hon. Mr. Elston: Your party announced it and had no money. You made the announcement without any planning or thought.
Mr. R. F. Johnston: The Minister of Health has had his question.
ASSISTANCE FOR THE DISABLED
Mr. R. F. Johnston: Tomorrow Rick Hansen arrives at his final destination after his world tour. He left this province with only a township being named after him. I want to ask the Treasurer why there was no centrepiece to his budget yesterday. When he had the largest amount of money to distribute that any Treasurer could imagine, why did he not take that occasion to give equal status and full citizenship to our disabled people in Ontario?
As the Treasurer knows, he only narrowed the gap between them and the elderly by the end of this year by $20. They are still not eligible for property tax grants under his budget. Eighty per cent of them are unemployed and there was no announcement of a job program for them. Disabled adults still living with their families do not get a full pension. That is deducted from them and their families are expected to pay. Why did the Treasurer not take this occasion to do something meaningful instead of just spending $1 a day on the disabled?
Hon. Mr. Nixon: In response to the honourable member, I feel that the budget did have a centrepiece, that in fact it was an orderly and equitable accounting of the business of Ontario, that it was a projection of our attempts to make up for chronic underfunding during the last decade. We did this without raising any taxes, we did this with a reduction of the deficit and, I submit, we did it with fairness and equity, given the money available to us, for all citizens, including the disabled.
Mr. Speaker: Brief supplementary.
Mr. R. F. Johnston: Is the Treasurer saying that accountancy has triumphed over justice in the province?
Hon. Mr. Nixon: I am attempting to convey to the honourable member, whose views I appreciate and respect in this regard, that since January 1 we have raised the money available for the disabled by $72 per individual. I wish it had been more, but that is a significant amount.
Mr. Brandt: On a point of privilege, Mr. Speaker: I would like the members of the Legislature to recognize the attendance in our gallery of the mayor of Sarnia and the members of the Sarnia city council.
Mr. Speaker: As I have said on similar occasions, we are always happy to have any visitor here in the Legislature. However, there is an appropriate time for such matters, and that is during members' statements.
Ms. Fish: I have a petition.
"To the Honourable the Lieutenant Governor and the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:
"We, the undersigned members of the University of Toronto community, beg leave to petition the parliament of Ontario as follows:
"(1) That the provincial sales tax be reduced to six per cent, and
"(2) That the provincial share of personal income tax be reduced."
Mr. Rowe: I have a petition.
"To the Honourable the Lieutenant Governor and the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:
"We, the undersigned, beg leave to petition the parliament of Ontario as follows:
"Whereas it is the responsibility of the provincial government to provide all citizens of the province with adequate health care facilities:
"We petition the Ontario Legislature to enact the recommendations of the Simcoe District Health Council in April 1986 calling for the construction of a new hospital in the city of Barrie, Ontario."
It is signed by some 3,500 residents of Simcoe Centre and is the first of many to come.
Ms. Hart: I have a petition to the Honourable the Lieutenant Governor signed by 277 residents of York East.
"We, the undersigned, beg leave to petition the parliament of Ontario as follows:
"Whereas the federal government is considering legislation to change and extend the patent life of prescription drugs, which action surely will increase the cost of medication in Ontario, we appeal through our elected government of Ontario to press for changes in the proposed legislation to keep the price of drugs down."
Ms. Hart: I have a petition for the Honourable the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario from the Ontario Association of Visiting Homemaker Services in respect of declaring the week of October 18 to 24, 1987, as Homemakers Week in recognition of the services provided to the community by homemakers in Ontario.
REPORT BY COMMITTEE
SELECT COMMITTEE ON RETAIL STORE HOURS
Mr. O'Connor from the select committee on retail store hours presented the second report and moved adoption of its recommendations.
Mr. O'Connor: I am pleased to present today the report of the select committee on retail store hours which, pursuant to the order of the House on January 27, 1987, reports on Sunday shopping and retail store hours.
The primary recommendation of the committee, unanimously supported by all members, is to support the principle of a common pause day. The committee held public hearings over 13 days across Ontario and considered over 500 written and oral submissions.
The committee unanimously rejects the notion of wide-open Sunday shopping in Ontario as being inappropriate to the enhancement of family life and recreational pursuits. None the less, the committee accepts and recognizes that in our modern society there is a widespread approval of some degree of retail activity on Sundays and holidays for convenience, essential services, cultural, recreational and educational activities and tourism.
While desiring to act in support of a common pause day and using the framework of the current Retail Business Holidays Act as a guide, the committee makes 17 specific recommendations, the major themes of which are:
1. Provide a greater planning and administrative involvement for the province.
2. Allow small bookstores, record and video stores, photographic studios and retail art galleries the right to open on Sundays and holidays.
3. Firmly restrict openings under the legislation for small stores, that is, those of 2,400 square feet or less, to self-contained small stores under one roof and make the practice of roping off by larger stores on Sundays illegal.
4. Firmly restrict and control the variety of nonpharmaceutical goods large drug marts can sell on Sundays and holidays.
5. Make proposals for the more systematic planning and designation of exempt retail tourist areas.
The committee firmly believes its recommendations will serve as a valuable guide to the updating of the Retail Business Holidays Act.
On motion by Mr. O'Connor, the debate was adjourned.
PRIVATE MEMBERS' PUBLIC BUSINESS
Hon. Mr. Nixon moved that Mr. McCaffrey and Mrs. Marland exchange places in the order of precedence for private members' public business.
Motion agreed to.
Hon. Mr. Nixon moved that Mr. Bernier and Mr. Guindon exchange places in the order of precedence for private members' public business and that the requirement for notice be waived with respect to ballot item 10.
Motion agreed to.
Hon. Mr. Nixon moved that the standing committee on the Ombudsman be authorized to meet following routine proceedings on Tuesday, May 26, 1987.
Motion agreed to.
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS
PREPAID SERVICES ACT
Hon. Mr. Kwinter moved first reading of Bill 65, An Act to regulate Prepaid Services.
Motion agreed to.
Hon. Mr. Kwinter: Today I am pleased to introduce the Prepaid Services Act. This proposed legislation will provide increased protection for Ontario consumers entering into prepaid services contracts with clubs associated with health, fitness, modelling, diet, talent, martial arts, sports and dance activities.
The financial losses a consumer might suffer will be minimized by imposing restrictions on the terms and length of contracts. I encourage all members to support this legislation.
PUBLIC HOSPITALS AMENDMENT ACT
Ms. Fish moved first reading of Bill 66, An Act to amend the Public Hospitals Act.
Motion agreed to.
Ms. Fish: This bill brings into parallel form amendments to the Mental Hospitals Act that make it clear that any patient may designate a patient's representative to act on that patient's behalf. In effect, it would extend the notion of power of attorney to patients in hospital that would overtake the normal provisions of next of kin.
FARM MACHINERY AND EQUIPMENT ACT
Mr. Wildman moved first reading of Bill 67, An Act respecting the Sale of Farm Machinery and Equipment in Ontario.
Motion agreed to.
Mr. Wildman: The purpose of the bill is to regulate the sale of farm machinery and equipment in Ontario. The bill establishes the Ontario Farm Machinery Board to carry out several tasks respecting the sale of farm machinery and equipment. The board is given the authority to investigate complaints and mediate disputes arising from the sale of farm machinery and equipment and may establish inventory guidelines for vendors and dealers of farm machinery and equipment. The board may also make recommendations to the minister concerning the safety requirements and parts standardization for farm machinery and equipment.
th the deficit. The Treasurer succeeded in his attempt to convince the media and the public that he had cut the deficit. I want to refer to his own document once again. I want to get the right page, because it is not in the front end of the document where the Treasurer argues his case. It is in the back, of course, where the facts pop out. I think in this copy, he removed my --
Mr. Davis: It has been edited.
Mr. Grossman: Yes, he edited this one. Here we have it.
In the budget, he recites the total spending by ministry. The total is not $34.846 billion, as he reports in the budget. It is instead $35.196 billion. The Treasurer will agree that when you simply do straight addition of the amounts given to each ministry in this budget, it does not total $34.846 billion, but $35.196 billion. That level of expenditure taken against the revenue forecast leaves him with a budgetary deficit of approximately $1.33 billion, higher than last year.
What happens is that the Treasurer then says: "I will allow all these ministers to go out and announce $35.1 billion worth of programs. I will allow them to make those announcements. We will write all the election speeches saying all these ministries have more money, and then after the election or somewhere down the fiscal year, I will take away $350 million." My simple point to the Treasurer is that he should not say today he has increased all these ministries and decreased the deficit. He cannot do both.
If he decides later in the year to reduce these ministries, then he can stand up and say to the House, the media and the world that the Treasurer or the government has decided to replace increased funding for the ministries with a lower deficit, but he cannot have both today. If he makes that decision later on in the year, fine, but he cannot make the decision today that he is going to announce both the spending increases and a lower deficit. The Treasurer knows that.
Further -- we discussed this earlier -- if he decides to preflow the money to the school boards so that they get as much money as they got last year, then the deficit increases, because he has to find another $330 million. If he gives the doctors anything over the inflation rate in the negotiations, he will have to find another $50 million. The facade that on this revenue projection he is going to have a decreased deficit is, with respect, a total charade.
On the numbers offered in his budget, he has a deficit increase. To have a deficit increase in the midst of this prosperity, when he has collected 60 per cent more in income tax than the previous government, $8 billion more in revenue than the previous government, to come in with a deficit that, let us be clear, is one third of $1 billion lower than what he found, is patently dangerous. It is not worrisome; it is dangerous. It is precisely the kind of economics we saw in Ottawa from 1968 to 1984 and it is patently not the tradition in this province. A $300-million deficit reduction last year and a deficit increase this year; those are the budget figures.
I was reflecting upon last year's budget. The Treasurer said, "I am not hiding money in a sock at home." He called it voodoo economics when this party predicted last year that the government, in last year's budget, was hiding $800 million. Lo and behold, the Treasurer reported yesterday that in fact the government was hiding $1.2 billion. We underestimated the degree to which the Treasurer was, shall we say, underestimating the flow of money into government so he could sneak it out in mid-year without having to account for it in his budget.
I thought to myself, he has $1.2 billion extra and he sends up the Minister of Community and Social Services to say they did not have enough money to pass on to the disabled. They did not have enough money. They had $1.2 billion more than last year's budget said they needed, and what did they do? They said to the disabled, "We will take $100 a month from you." They had $1.2 billion extra last year and they could not help the disabled.
I was thinking about that too when I read the budget and found they had underspent $98 million in the high-technology fund. Surely there were things to do with that money. If they could not spend it on high technology -- one wonders why in a province like Ontario in 1987 they cannot find more than $2-million worth of investments in high technology -- could this government not have taken the $98 million from the high-technology fund that it did not spend and have given it to the disabled? When the Treasurer allocates $100 million to high technology, spends $2 million and has $98 million left over, is it unfair for us to ask that instead of squandering it, he move it from the unspent high-technology fund and send $100 a month to the disabled? Is it unrealistic to take the $98 million out of the high-technology fund that he did not spend and provide some low-cost housing units, which his minister has not done? Is that an unreal expectation?
The people of Ontario are entitled to ask: "You had $98 million unspent in the high-technology fund. Why did you not just move it over to known technology in the schools and put a computer in every classroom in the land?" We would have applauded that. We would have said that was a valuable high-technology investment, computers for our children. For $98 million, that program could have been dramatically accelerated. But no, the government did not do it.
This budget, on day care -- let me get the amount. The members should think of this: On child care, this government boasted yesterday that it provided an additional $26 million. That is one quarter of the unspent money in the high-technology fund. The Treasurer should not come to this House and tell us he did not have the money. On the high-technology fund alone, he promised to spend $100 million, spent $2 million and had $98 million left over. Why was the Minister of Community and Social Services not in the door to the Treasurer saying: "Treasurer, you are not able to spend $98 million on high technology. Give me one quarter of it and we will double what you propose to give us for an increase in child care this year."?
Let us look at the total. The total commitment to child care by this province is $185 million. The high-technology fund left unspent almost $100 million. Is it unfair of the people of this province to ask, "Why did you not move the high-tech fund over to provide almost a 50 per cent increase in child care spaces?" Is that an unfair request? Is it unfair for the people who are living on the streets in downtown Toronto to say, "The $100 million unspent on high technology could have bought a bed and shelter for every person living on the streets in downtown Toronto"? Is it unfair for the families needing child care to say, "You could have had a 50 per cent increase, four times greater than the increase given this year, if you just moved that money over to child care"?
Mrs. Marland: Maybe we could have had a hospital in Barrie.
Mr. Grossman: My colleague the very sensitive and sensible member for Mississauga South (Mrs. Marland) asks about the hospital in Barrie, the Royal Victoria Hospital. The Treasurer knows you do not flow the funds the year you announce it; that is why he is going to announce it. Surely with $100 million unspent, they could have given it to Allan Dyer's puppet over here to send him to Barrie, not to send a letter that says: "Sorry. I am going to announce it later or when it is more politically convenient for me." He could actually have gone up and announced the hospital would proceed today.
I want to predict for the Minister of Health, or should I call him the Deputy Minister of Health, who has joined us that he will announce it when the political agenda requires. The minister will announce it when another person dies in the hallway at Royal Victoria Hospital in Barrie. The minister used to be the witness for the defence. With that letter, he became the witness for the prosecution. There is no question about it. He undressed himself to all of central Ontario. He and his staff undressed themselves.
Let us not cry poverty. The minister could have doubled his annual capital program for hospitals if he had had any clout with the Treasurer and had gone over to him and said: "Give me the high-tech fund that you are not going to spend. I can spend it more valuably on hospitals than on more civil servants." But the Minister of Health opted, let us be clear, for more civil servants instead of more hospital beds. He had his choice. He flopped. He gave it up. He abandoned it.
Hon. Mr. Elston: You do not even know what you are saying and you do not believe it. You obviously do not believe it.
Mr. Grossman: Yes. I want to say this to the Minister of Health: If he can find the health groups across Ontario, I will be happy to engage him in any debate, discussion, speech, test of principles, test of fortitude or test of delivery in front of any health care group in Ontario, between that Minister of Health and this minister during 1982-83. I would be happy to meet him on any ground. When he has established any record in mental health, the minister should give us a call. When he has established any record in community health centres, he should give us a call. When he has established any record in consultation and action with groups, he should give us a call. He would have nothing on the record.
The one accomplishment he has had is that he is the single minister ever to have been held up by the Ontario Medical Association as lacking in power, clout, credibility or authority in the government. That is why this Premier is waiting for the day he can move the minister to Education and move the Minister of Education (Mr. Conway), heaven help us, into health care. I say to the minister not to lecture me on health care policy in Ontario. That young man has not earned his spurs and has not come close to trying to earn his spurs.
He should go and ask the mental health groups, any health groups he wants, whether he has come anywhere close to living up to his speeches or his early commitments. Where are the reforms? Where are they? Where is it in the budget? Let us see. The Minister of Health has joined us. He seemingly wants to engage in a discussion on health care. While we sit here, I presume he and his officials are out meeting with the OMA to negotiate money that he has not been given by the Treasurer in the budget tabled yesterday.
Let us see what it says about health care. A $35 billion budget and here is what it says, "We are also aware of the greatest challenge in managing Ontario's health care system: to maintain quality in the face of rising demand while at the same time holding costs within affordable limits." Is that a breakthrough? Is that pioneering? This is the challenge. After two years, the minister has figured out that the challenge is to maintain quality within affordable limits.
Here it is: "Two major studies of the future of our health care system are under way: the Ontario Health Review Panel, chaired by" -- former Liberal candidate - "Dr. John Evans, and the panel on health goals for Ontario, chaired by Dr. Robert Spasoff. The government is confident that their reports will recommend fresh responses to this challenge." Two years in office and all the minister has to show are two studies and alienated doctors and pharmacists. That is the heritage he leaves.
"We are also committed to maintaining and enhancing institutional services." Now that is just what the world is crying for, "committed to maintaining and enhancing institutional services."
Let us be clear. Unlike any other minister in any province since medicare came in, he had the chance this year, because he had the money, to make some major breakthroughs in a variety of areas and he did not do so. I say to the minister that I know of the anticipation with which the mental health groups and the Supportive Housing Coalition and the other housing groups waited for his speech of a couple of weeks ago. I know that group because I put them on the map in large part. I know their anger was boiling over when the minister came and left with nothing.
That is the way it is in his ministry. Early on in his time, he chose to sacrifice all the great, important reforms in the health care system, to give away his opportunity to transform the health care system which was ready for it and needed it. He traded that away for a political fight with the doctors of Ontario. That is his heritage. Nothing he will do will ever change that record.
I say to the House, I say to the members present and I say to the public about the budget document yesterday as a whole that a missed opportunity in politics is not just a missed opportunity for a minister of finance, whoever he might be, is not just a missed opportunity for the political masters of the day and is not just a missed opportunity for the particular Premier or government or political party; it is a missed opportunity for the people of this province.
This legislature and the government that currently serves Ontario has the fundamental duty to seize opportunities for the people of Ontario now, for their future. An opportunity missed in that context is an opportunity ripped away from every man, woman and child in this province. It is $100 a month ripped away from every disabled person in this province.
There was an opportunity to stop shopping with our children's credit cards. This government said, "No, no." They are addicted to shopping with their children's credit cards. There was an opportunity to reduce the debt in this province, a debt young Ontarians will be carrying through no fault of their own. That opportunity was missed.
The Treasurer blithely said on the radio this morning, when I was on with him, that he thinks it is fair and equitable for us to leave a debt to our children because after all they are the ones who will be using the schools, the hospitals and the universities. He said: "So why not leave them a big debt? It is only fair." I say to the Treasurer that governments are already leaving them $30 billion worth of debt and are already leaving them almost $3.5 billion a year in interest. How much more does he want to burden them with? When does he draw the line? If it is not when he has an extra $8 billion in hand, when is it?
Is it going to be during the recession somewhere down the road when our overcapacity in autos catches up with us, when the American demand for our autos dries up and when financial services are not producing the boom they currently are producing in Toronto? What will his capacity be then?
When is he going to cut the deficit? What is he going to do then? It is going to be skyrocketing. His flexibility will be gone and everyone is going to turn around and say, "Where did those $8 billion go when we had them?" The answer will be: 5,000 civil servants, an attempt at high-technology, Exploracom and very little else to show.
There was an opportunity this time, a window in time, to look at the tax burden -- almost 50 per cent of the income of every single taxpayer in Ontario -- that every family in Ontario faces and say, "Let us allow that person, let us better equip that person to deal with his own work place, his own investments, his own family circumstance, his own social responsibilities by giving some money back." What did the government choose to do? To increase the deficit and not to decrease taxes. The opportunity was missed.
There was an opportunity to invest in education. Indeed, when I read all the education stories in the announcement vehicle for the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations (Mr. Kwinter), I presumed we were in for major investments in education. Candidly, that would have been a political problem for us but it would have been a welcome addition in terms of the Ontario educational scene. We looked at it. We said: "Here it comes. Mr. Nixon is going to use his tremendous financial flexibility to increase funding for our school system, to get rid of every portable, to bring the funding of education back up from 44 per cent" -- a 10 per cent reduction from where they inherited it -- "and to really change the landscape in education." What did we get? A missed opportunity.
This was the single chance the Premier and the minister had to become national leaders in education by saying: "We have this flexibility and we are not going to squander it today. We are not going to squander it, as impulse shoppers, to the latest special interest group that needs to be bought off or to the latest headline. Instead, we are going to look at those young people in our province and invest it there."
I know the minister will be long gone from politics in 10 years, when those kids graduate. I know that when those kids could have high-technology jobs, when they could have made the economic transition, when the employment rate could then be down to four or five per cent, no one will point back to the current government or any current politician and say it was their responsibility. It is far more indirect than that, but that is what they are elected to do.
This is a government that is mesmerized as to whether to call an election last week or next Monday or in September, October or November. If we could get it focused on doing the job it was put in office to do and governing, instead of seeking to get another chance to govern, perhaps our children and our education system could get the attention they deserve.
It had a chance to look at the freer trade discussion, to look at our tax levels, to look at our training needs, to look at the financial institutions' growth, to look at the transition in autos we are going through once again and to see the transition from heavy labour to a technology world. It had a chance to look at all those and say: "Here, in 1987, we have the financial capacity to make the transition. We have the tools and the resources now in 1987 to mount an adjustment program for freer trade. We have the resources and capacity, here in 1987, to do what Ken Dryden told us to do; that is, to keep our young people being educated and trained at least until age 18."
It had the flexibility to make sure women could get into the work force with meaningful child care programs. It had the opportunity to mount a massive new apprenticeship program, to reinforce our community college system, to upgrade our universities significantly, to put computers in every classroom and to take a whole generation of young people, older laid-off workers, everyone in the work force and say, "Let us now take our $8 billion and begin to restructure for a new tomorrow, for a different future."
What did it do? It opted for northern advisory councils. It opted for more civil servants, 5,000 more bureaucrats. It opted, instead, for squandering this opportunity. We will never be able to truly measure the damage wrought by the budget yesterday because we only have that opportunity once. The unemployed people in 1989 and 1990, the young people who will graduate without a good enough education from grades 12 and 13, community colleges and universities and those unemployed people who thought they had a future will not know about the opportunity missed in 1987. That is when it was missed; it was missed yesterday.
They will not realize that this Treasurer had the money to do it, but he lacked the political courage to do it. They will not know that the Premier was good at writing the speeches and had pretty Cupid lips, I read, but he had nothing when it came to having the political resolve to knuckle down and do the job.
They will know that he was at every black-tie opening in the province but at no plant closings. They will know that he presided over lots of black-tie galas and even more plant shutdowns. They will know that the economic transition occurred while he was out there making the speeches and while he was busy sliding down the slide at Ontario Place.
The heritage this Premier will leave is a heritage of glitz and glamour and lack of training, lack of jobs and lack of economic future for our young people. The opportunity was there and it was missed. It was kissed away while this Premier worried about his puff articles in the magazines, getting his picture around the province and, yes, sending the Minister of Colleges and Universities (Mr. Sorbara) around to every college to announce another $1 million.
That is their program. It is not an economic program. It is a political program. It has nothing to do with jobs for young people. It has nothing to do with jobs for northerners. It has to do with cars and drivers and jobs for Liberal candidates, Liberal back-benchers and Liberal cabinet ministers. It has more to do with jobs for Don Smith and his employees than it has to do with the Goodyear workers and the pulp and paper workers in northern Ontario, whose jobs were blithely waved goodbye with a letter from the Deputy Minister of Natural Resources saying: "Put on the tariff. We do not care." That is the heritage. The picture we will remember and the picture the people in the north will remember is the picture of the Premier standing up and saying to the federal government, "We think you should fight the softwood lumber tariff," while the deputy minister was sending a letter saying, "Put in the softwood lumber tariff."
The cosmetics and the optics are robbing us of our future. The concentration on Toronto Life, on Saturday Night and on getting the puff pieces is costing the jobs that our young people need. It is costing us an opportunity to train our people.
The government should focus these dollars. They are being robbed from our children. They are being squandered today instead of being invested for tomorrow. My plea to the government is not to squander today's money; it is giving away tomorrow's jobs. It is not to squander today's opportunity; that is ruining our future for tomorrow. It is not to squander the dollars taken from our people; invest them back in the people who gave the government those dollars. It is not to squander this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to change our economic base, to change our industrial base, to build a new infrastructure and to do the transition to freer trade. It is not to squander this opportunity, for in squandering today we give away tomorrow. We create today, tomorrow's unemployment.
This budget confirms the government's view that a fat-cat economy requires a fat-cat approach to fiscal and economic planning. The members of the government simply confirm that. They have confirmed that at the core of their being they are fat and complacent.
Whatever the winds of reform that were blowing prior to May 2, 1985, or June 2, 1985, those winds are gone. For sailors, this government is in irons and that is where it lies. There is not the slightest disturbance on the top of the lake. It is all quiet out there, all serene, all tranquil, so long as the puff pieces are written, so long as he has the government plane, so long as he can cut the red ribbons and attend the black-tie openings, everything must be okay in Ontario.
As long as this government's priority is for the Premier to be at the announcement of the name for the domed stadium instead of standing up in this House to deal with northern economic tragedy, the northern economic tragedy will continue.
We have a Premier who knew two weeks ago that if he went to the CN Tower to announce the name for the dome being built by the president of the Liberal Party of Ontario, that would get him on the front page of the newspapers and mean more to him politically than coming to this House to face some tough questions about northern layoffs, northern job losses and the economic tragedy that continues in northern Ontario.
When those priorities are reversed, then we will have a government in Ontario. When we have a Premier who says "That would be a good photo op, but I have a responsibility at 1:30 in the Legislature of Ontario, so change the time of the opening or do it without me" then we will have a government in Ontario. When we have a government in Ontario that is more interested in giving money to the disabled than to civil servants, then we will have a government in Ontario. When we have a government in Ontario that has figured out how to give out money to promote high technology in this province when the money is not requested by the spouse of the member for Oriole, then we will have a government in Ontario.
Until that time, all is tranquil. It is all serene. Nothing happens. They sail through a fat-cat economy like the fat cats they have become. We will get a chance to tell the public, the voters, a different view, to offer them an alternative, to talk about a low deficit, low tax and a booming entrepreneurial society out there; one where the transition to freer trade is a reality; one where we are helping the losers and letting the winners on freer trade grow and expand and create the jobs for those young people; one where our education system is reformed with the money available; one where child care is a reality, not a speech; and one where the government thinks that planning for the economy is more important than planning a photo op.
The party I lead simply has a different view of the responsibility of government. We have a view that says what really matters is not how well one can squander today's opportunity. What really matters is not how well one can find excuses to spend all the money that has come in today. Our party's view is that what happens and what matters in government is how well we plan for tomorrow. What really matters today is how we strengthen the industrial base, the jobs, how we get the new investment, where the growth opportunities are going to come from and how we improve the quality of life for tomorrow. That is what matters.
What matters during times of prosperity is how one plans so that one can cope with the times when the prosperity is not there. It is not how well one can handle the prosperity; it is how well one shapes the prosperity for the recession to come. The challenge for government is not to manage through prosperity; it is, instead, to use that prosperity for the times when we are not so prosperous. It is how to invest; not to spend.
What really matters, I suppose, is the value system one brings into government. If it is a value system that is shaped by puff pieces, by newspaper articles and by magazine covers, that is the value system. If the value system is reflected -- and I say this to my friends in the New Democratic Party -- in a Premier who will sign anything to get into office and then forget about it when he gets there, then that is the value system.
If the value system is one that says "We really do want to serve; we want to get into government to have the opportunity to change things in Ontario," then one has a government that cares. If the value system is one that focuses on announcements not followed through, one that focuses on attending the domed stadium announcement and not question period, one that buys off the north with civil service jobs and sells it off with softwood lumber tariffs and one that says the speeches, the fanfare and the photo ops are more important than the jobs and the economic future, then that is the value system. That is their value system. It is not our value system.
We are now convinced that the Liberal Party led by the member for London Centre (Mr. Peterson) wanted power for power. They wanted power for photo ops and cars. They wanted power for black-tie openings. They did not want power in order to change the shape of our education system or our economy. They wanted power for power for power for power. Sooner or later, that catches up to every government.
Because of the degree of squandering they have been into and because of the size of this missed opportunity, they will pay for that. Their day of reckoning will come a lot sooner than they believe it will and sooner than it usually does.
They have said in their speech from the throne the government that governs best is the government that touches the most people. We differ on this side. We believe the government that governs best is the one that maximizes the freedom of individuals to build their own lives, to shape their own futures, to tend to their own families and to reach for achievement and excellence.
We believe the government that governs best is the government that has the courage to care. The government that governs best is the government that comes to the House and does not give bureaucratic reasons that the disabled cannot get $100 a month. It has the courage to care about the disabled and seizes the opportunity to say: "This is the time when the disabled people of Ontario have a chance to catch up. This is the time when the disabled people will have an opportunity not to have tokenism but to have the money that they need to build their own lives, to establish themselves, to look after themselves and not to be punished for being disabled but to get the resources they need to live full, complete and independent lives."
This was the opportunity. That would have been a government with courage. That would have been a government that desires to change things. I am beginning to believe that, last time, we got the vision of change with no change. Things are not different in Ontario today.
It would have been good if they had spent for the people in the north or for the disabled, as much as they spent on rewiring the Legislature. That would have been a nice little gesture. The things that have changed are the things that have changed to make the Liberal Party's life and, candidly, our lives here easier, but not for the disabled, not for the unemployed steelworkers in Sault Ste. Marie and not for the laid-off pulp and paper workers all across the north. I suppose their lives have changed; they have changed for the worse.
A government that puts the future ahead of wallowing in the present, a government that understands that prosperity must be earned and not simply prayed for, a government that understands that prosperity is not to be squandered but is to be used to ensure future prosperity, that is a government that has the courage to care. That is the kind of government that has the courage to put the future first and not re-election first. In their case, it is election and not re-election.
Of the 13 people here -- seven government members -- I could put together a better cabinet from these 13 than the Treasurer could put together out of any 13 he puts up over there today or after the election.
In the context of the regard that the Treasurer has always had for the Legislative Assembly and the parliament of Ontario -- I am winding up my address on the budget -- this is the third time I have had a chance to address a budget introduced by this government and the second time as leader. I have spoken now three times on speeches from the throne offered by that government. The leader of the third party has done the same over the last couple of years. I guess that totals eight, 10 or 12 opportunities for the leaders of the opposition parties to address the major government documents of the year. As I recall, the Premier has not attended any of these speeches.
As the Treasurer knows, sitting through the addresses of the other parties as leader is not always the most easy or pleasant job one has. In the political atmosphere in this House, it obviously irritates sometimes. Sometimes rhetoric goes a little further than it ought to. It is only an opportunity for one to sit and take blows without responding. It is not a comfortable time, but it is part of leadership.
We are used to hearing the Premier say he is uncomfortable with certain things. He was uncomfortable having to deal with conflict of interest. He wished he did not have to deal with it, but that comes with the territory. If he was not prepared to take the tough decisions to put ministers who had broken the conflict-of-interest guidelines out of cabinet, he should not have offered himself as Premier.
I know it is uncomfortable. It is not good enough to go in front of the microphones and say: "Listen, I find this uncomfortable. I am going to find someone else to do it. Let us call John Aird. Let us appoint a commissioner." It is uncomfortable and it is one of the tough tests a leader has to go through, but being Premier is not all fun and games. It is not all slides at Ontario Place, black-tie galas, Hollywood galas. It is not simply getting the opportunity to greet Mr. Mitterrand or invite Desmond Tutu here. It is not that.
The real test of a Premier is the uncomfortable things. Anyone can do the ceremonial things; it takes no talent and no ingenuity. But we find time and again in this House, when the Premier is expected to be here to answer the tough questions, he is at the announcement of the name for the domed stadium. We find time and again, when there is a tough question for the Premier, he throws it off to his colleagues, the other ministers. He does not answer. The easy questions he takes.
When it is time to sit here and have his performance scrutinized by the leaders of the other parties, we find the Premier has somewhere else to go. I want only to say to the person who talks about how much he loves this assembly, that is, the Treasurer and government House leader -- and I know he does -- that I personally have been somewhat offended at the reality that the leader of the government does not have the time to attend this House for the major windup addresses on the budget or the throne speech by the opposition parties, the New Democrats and the Conservatives.
I sat here last Tuesday, two days ago, and I want to tell the Treasurer I had to listen to what I considered to be one of the most disgusting and trite offerings ever put up by a spokesman winding up a throne speech in my 12 years here.
The Deputy Speaker: Order.
Mr. Grossman: We will have an opportunity to respond to that sort of -- I think it is simple political immaturity on behalf of the minister. None the less, I did not walk out and the third party did not walk out. We sat here and took it out of respect. Not out of respect for the minister; he traded off a lot of the respect in this House last Tuesday afternoon. It was not out of respect for the minister; it was not out of respect for what he was saying. What he was saying had no call upon respect. As uncomfortable as it was, we stayed here out of respect for the system.
I would have thought that just out of respect for the system, not out of respect for me, the member for York South (Mr. Rae) or any spokesman for the opposition -- let me invite the Treasurer to take back the message. These speeches are what they are. We all know what they are. They are something that the parliamentary traditions around here used to require that the leaders of the parties attend and listen to out of respect for the system.
My colleague the leader of the New Democratic Party had to leave for a time this afternoon. He was kind enough to come over and say to me that he had to leave and that if he had an opportunity to get back, he would be back. I suspect the leader of the New Democratic Party has not particularly enjoyed the last 40 minutes he has been here.
An hon. member: I think he is sound asleep.
Mr. Grossman: He is not asleep. He is far more polite than to do that. He may not have endorsed any or all of what I said, he may disagree with all of it, but he was polite enough, out of respect for the system, to be here.
I say to the Premier, wherever he is, at whatever black-tie event, at whatever magazine interview, at whatever photo opportunity, his job is to be here. The Premier does not have to agree with us; he just has to be courteous to the system and be here.
In closing, might I say only that this budget demonstrates the lack of commitment I have spoken about. It demonstrates a lack of political courage. It demonstrates a lack of foresight. It demonstrates a lack of will to cut the deficit. It demonstrates a lack of prudence, a lack of conscience, a lack of a sense of, "This is why we wanted the job." It lacks a sense of desire; it lacks foresight; it lacks the sense of a will to govern; it lacks a message. It says that this government, after two years, has settled in to day-by-day, lavish squandering of this opportunity.
It says they are there to play games about elections but to do nothing serious about our economic future. It is a budget which demonstrates better than anything we could have that its future budgets mean nothing. It is a budget which demonstrates that the community economic transformation agreement of two years ago is not fulfilled; that the northern development fund of two years ago was not spent; that the Futures program turned out to be billboards, not jobs; that the 230,000 people who were promised jobs from Futures turned into 50,000.
It demonstrates that the skills fund was not meant to be spent. It demonstrates that the centrepieces of their budgets are centrepieces for headlines, not action. It demonstrates that $100 million a year set aside for high technology turned into $2 million. It demonstrates that politics, headlines and pictures are everything and that delivery, progress, planning and investment are nothing. It indicates a political agenda, not an economic agenda.
I said at the top of my remarks that I was going to treat this speech as an economic document, which it is not, not a political document, which it is. I regret that this is not an economic document. It will help us politically immeasurably. Yesterday in the Tory lockup there was a huge sigh of relief. Sadness at the missed opportunity; sadness that the education system was left behind; sadness in terms of the north, child care, families; sadness and anger over the disabled ripoff; sadness, over all that, that this opportunity, the May 29, 1987, opportunity was so squandered by this government.
I want to read one sentence from the throne speech delivered on April 28, about three weeks ago. "An investment in our schools is an investment in the future of our communities." I agree with that, and this government chose this year to decrease the investment in those schools. It chose to decrease the investment in young people. It chose to back off a commitment to excellence in education. It chose to back off major reform of our educational system. It chose to back off reforming our economic structures. It chose to back off day care. It chose to back off social programs in a wide variety of areas. It chose to take money from the disabled. It chose to trivialize the north, ignore the east and wallow in today's riches.
A government that will so squander the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity presented by the 19 tax increases implemented by this government is a government that has squandered not only our economic future but also its own political future. They had their chance; they have squandered it. They have had their chance to change directions, to tell the public why they wanted office, and they have decided not to do so, or they have shown the public that they wanted it for power, not for people. They wanted it for the perks of office, not for the people they are there to serve.
Because of this massively squandered opportunity for the thousands of young people whose future employment is threatened by this government, for the people who were left behind when there was $8 billion to help them, for the incredible deficit that our young people will live with through the rest of their lives in Ontario, for a budget which purports to cut the deficit but increases the deficit, for a budget which failed to seize the opportunity to make massive changes in the one chance the government will ever have in Ontario to make those changes, for squandering those opportunities, we in this party will proudly stand in November or December to vote against this budget. We will stand to campaign against this budget if the needless opportunity is presented to us.
We will come forward with policy options, a financial management program and a plan for the future that deals with people, not politics; gives the money to the disabled; cuts deficits and allows people, not ministers' egos, to grow. For all those reasons, we will stand on behalf of the people of this province, the forgotten people of this province, the people who do not work for Ellis-Don or the Liberal Party of Ontario, the people who do not have access, the people who have not had a chance to be heard by this government, the people who have been left behind with the vacuous promises of its early speeches and its campaign promises. We will stand up in this party for those people and say categorically, unequivocally, "No" to this squandered opportunity.
On motion by Mr. McClellan, the debate was adjourned.
The Deputy Speaker: I beg to inform the House that in the name of Her Majesty the Queen, the Honourable the Lieutenant Governor has been pleased to assent to certain bills in his chambers.
Clerk of the House: The following are the titles of the bills to which His Honour has assented:
Bill 6, An Act to amend the Regional Municipality of Haldimand-Norfolk Act.
Bill 12, An Act to amend the Municipal Act and the Education Act.
Bill 52, An Act to amend the Health Protection and Promotion Act, 1983.
The Deputy Speaker: The government House leader has the business for next week.
BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE
Hon. Mr. Nixon: Mr. Speaker, thank you for reminding me. I would like to indicate the business of the House for the coming week.
On Monday, May 25, the New Democratic Party's response to the budget will be presented, followed by a general debate on the budget.
On Tuesday, May 26, there will be a debate on the principles of the Meech Lake accord, set out in sessional paper 35 tabled by the Premier on May 4, by my insistence.
On Wednesday, May 27, we will conclude the debate on the interim supply motion, followed by, if it is concluded, the budget debate.
On Thursday, May 28, in the morning, we will consider private members' ballot items standing in the names of Mrs. Marland and Mr. McCaffrey. In the afternoon, we will deal with the third readings of Bill 116, loan and trust, followed by, if time is available, committee of the whole House on Bill 34, freedom of information, second reading of Bill 23, conflict of interest, and Bill 55, teachers' superannuation, and third reading of Bill 154, pay equity.
There may be a change in the order of Thursday's business, following further consultation among the House leaders.
The House adjourned at 6 p.m.