L022 - Thu 4 Jun 1987 / Jeu 4 jun 1987
The House met at 10 a.m.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
PRIVATE MEMBERS' PUBLIC BUSINESS
COMPUTERIZED TOURISTRESERVATION SYSTEM
Mr. Guindon moved resolution 14:
That, in the opinion of this House, the Ministry of Tourism and Recreation should move immediately to implement a computerized tourist reservation system for eastern Ontario similar to the system currently in use in the province of Nova Scotia.
The Deputy Speaker: The honourable member has up to 20 minutes for his presentation and may reserve any portion of that for his windup.
Mr. Guindon: It is with great pleasure that I address this assembly on a matter that is of great importance to me: tourism in eastern Ontario. I feel that we, as legislators, must pursue every available avenue in an effort to enhance tourism not only in the east but also all across Ontario. That is why I am requesting that this government implement a central computerized reservation system similar to that currently in use in several of the maritime provinces.
This government, as well as previous governments, has always put a strong emphasis on tourism. It has taken several forms and different names. We have asked people to "discover" Ontario and now we are telling them how "incredible" we are. The current government has even gone as far as creating a waterfall to promote the beauty of Ontario.
The one point I am trying to make through all this is that you can show as many picturesque scenes as you want, manufactured or natural, but if people do not know what accommodation is available or where to find the information, you will not see an increase in the number of visitors to your area, pure and simple.
I am proposing a form of one-stop shopping. The system could be run by the Ministry of Tourism and Recreation but I would rather see it contracted out to a private firm. There are several systems in existence but the one that could be used as a model is that currently in operation in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland, Prince Edward Island and parts of Maine. Let me describe exactly what I have in mind. The system is relatively inexpensive to operate. In the off-season, it would be run effectively with about 15 or 16 people. During the busy season, staffing requirements could reach a combined 40 full-time and seasonal workers. The entire business would be located in one suite of offices in eastern Ontario and staffed by people knowledgeable about tourism in the area.
How this service would work is quite simple. A person could call a toll-free number and the consultant at the other end would be able to reserve any type of accommodation, travel and excursion the client wished. A series of l-800 numbers could be established to serve all areas of Canada and the United States. There would be no cost to the general public for using the service. Listed or member operators could be charged a small percentage of their realized reservations to help pay for the system. This would make it fair to all members of the service. By paying a percentage rather than a flat rate, the operator is paying for the service only when it brings him business.
No special equipment is required by the resort owners. Large hotels would be advised immediately of reservations through their telex system. If a telex is not used by the resort, that resort would be advised by telephone within minutes of the reservations being made. The type of tourist operators who could join the service is not limited to large hotel chains. Anyone, including campgrounds, bed-and-breakfasts, lodges and small country inns, is able to use the service.
It is common that if the more well known resorts are full, people generally do not try to locate other accommodations such as bed-and-breakfasts. It is not because they do not want to stay in these places; it is because they do not even know they exist.
The use of such a system has proved to increase the number of people using the smaller inns as well as lengthening the average stay per person. Let us face it, there are several of these small country inns around this province that do not have the resources to advertise. Since this type of low-cost service is available, we should do what we can to help all tourist operators in Ontario increase their business.
If such a program were implemented in eastern Ontario, it would not only help the tourism industry but would also be of great assistance to the touring public. With one telephone call from your home or office, whether you are in New York or Vancouver, you could book your air ticket, get a rental car, reserve a two-week stay at any of a number of excellent resorts, and plan several day trips to places such as Upper Canada Village, the Thousand Islands, Old Fort Henry, World Fest in Cornwall and the Rideau lakes, and even excursions of fishing and hunting. You could even call up that number and it would give you the bank rates and the exchange rates as they are on that day.
It would also make it easier when organizing a convention. Those people attending the convention would have to call only one number to arrange their transportation and book a room. The system would automatically keep an up-to-date inventory of all rooms put aside for convention use. It would also make it easier for people visiting the area who are not involved with the convention. They would be able to find accommodation without making several frustrating calls.
The success of this type of approach to tourism speaks for itself. In Nova Scotia, there were only 10 operators participating in this service when it first started in 1978. Now, close to 99 per cent of all guest accommodation in the province is listed with the system. It is also in use throughout the Maritimes and in the state of Maine.
Municipalities, such as the National Capital Commission in Ottawa and the city of Vancouver, are currently giving active consideration to this type of program. I feel that for the system to be successful as well as to justify the implementation cost, a larger tourist area, such as all of eastern Ontario, should be used for at least the initial period.
The operating cost involved in serving the national capital region and the cost for all of eastern Ontario would be virtually the same. Covering all of eastern Ontario would also allow for a better evaluation of the service in that a more diverse tourist area would be covered. In this way, when the system proves to be a success, we would be in a better position to implement the system throughout Ontario.
Obviously, I am not advocating the use of one system or one firm over another. I would expect the government to examine and evaluate which program would be best suited to all aspects of tourism in Ontario. When you speak with people from outside eastern Ontario and mention various places, they have either never heard of them or else they may have stopped for gasoline while on their way to Montreal or Toronto.
We in the east, like those in other areas of Ontario, have much to offer. Our history goes back long before Confederation. There are excellent campgrounds, historical sites, terrific night-spots, fine restaurants and many interesting little out-of-the-way places for people to discover. More and more people are looking for a quiet place to spend a weekend or even a week. As big-city life continues to increase their blood pressure, the more they long for the solitude of a quiet country inn.
In eastern Ontario, we have all of this. What I am asking in this resolution is that the government implement a system that has been proved to increase tourism in a given area while giving the greatest flexibility to the public.
Mr. Speaker, I will reserve some of the time left for later.
The Deputy Speaker: Fine, thank you; 11 minutes and 22 seconds are reserved.
Mr. Warner: I would like to congratulate the member for Cornwall (Mr. Guindon) for bringing forward this resolution. Those of us who have had the privilege of visiting parts of eastern Ontario know that it is a beautiful area of our province and an area that has quite a number of scenic spots. As the member has indicated, it is quite an excellent area for a vacation, whether it is for a couple of days or longer.
I think the member has hit on a good idea. It is important for us to reflect on the fact that tourism today is certainly a growing area of our economy in Ontario, as it is in many parts of our country. People generally, especially middle-income people, have more money at their disposal for vacations. There has been an attempt, I would say over the last 30 or 40 years, to ensure that people have more leisure time, more holiday time, long weekends and so on, so that they have an opportunity to travel.
In Ontario, we have been attempting to improve the quality of the services provided to tourists. If members think back a little while, the variety of vacation opportunities and the variety of accommodation have increased. We have everything in Ontario from cottages and inns to hotels and motels. There are farm vacations, bed-and-breakfast opportunities, guest homes and so on. There is quite a range of accommodation available.
There is also a greater variety of things to see and do in Ontario. Much of that is being developed and continues to be developed, whether it is historic sites or forts such as Old Fort Henry, whether it is various parks such as small community parks and the large provincial parks, or whether it is the growth of the artisan type of operation where pottery and arts and crafts and so on are available.
Many communities are attempting to promote their local artists or local historic sites, to find something that makes them unique. In fact, if we want to talk about each little community attempting to put itself forward as a place for tourists to come to, I heard on the radio yesterday that the little town of Exeter has decided, as some white squirrels have been discovered, to adopt the white squirrel as the town mascot. Apparently, Exeter has a population of about 600 white squirrels. This has brought about a flourishing little cottage industry in producing ceramic white squirrels for sale. No doubt the tourists who go to Exeter will find they may wish to purchase a ceramic white squirrel as a little memento of their visit to the town of Exeter.
There is no end to the imagination and creativity of the good people of Ontario. Certainly in eastern Ontario, which is what the member is speaking about, the little towns and villages have an opportunity to develop their own tourist attractions.
How do we respond to this? We know there are more people with money to spend and a little more leisure time. We would like them, both the people who live in Ontario and those who live outside Ontario, to see all our province. We have an obligation to try to provide the very best in the way of information and service to the public.
One way to do that is to utilize computers. Naturally, it makes sense that we utilize the capacity of the computer system so tourists who are planning a visit, or while they are actually here in Ontario, can very quickly find out what accommodation is available, what places there are to see, things to do and places to eat. The more quickly and the better we can provide that information to tourists, the more likely they are to come and enjoy their stay in Ontario.
Because the member comes from eastern Ontario, he has of course directed his approach to eastern Ontario, but I think he will agree that the approach he is suggesting could be available throughout the entire province so each region of this province would have an opportunity to provide in a very systematic way the kind of detailed information helpful to tourists.
By so doing, we are strengthening our economy. We are making it possible to obtain those tourist dollars from folks outside the province, as well as from those within, and this has increased tax revenue. That always catches the attention of the Treasurer (Mr. Nixon). He likes to see a few extra dollars enter the very large Treasury on any occasion. I think it creates a little better quality of life for our residents as well. The people of Ontario have an opportunity not only to see the province but also to enjoy their short stay or their long stay.
I am pleased to support the resolution and I wish to commend the member on his effort. I hope that through his effort, the province, through the Ministry of Tourism and Recreation, will indeed take the resolution seriously and make it a reality.
Mr. South: I rise in support of the resolution of the member for Cornwall. We think anything that will assist tourism in this province has to be a big plus. We in eastern Ontario, especially in the Kingston area, feel that the surface of tourism has barely been scratched. We have in our area the beautiful and majestic St. Lawrence River, the river on which the earliest explorers came to this country, and later the voyageurs, soldiers and settlers. Now much of the commerce of North America travels on this mighty river.
In the eastern part of Ontario, we have not only the St. Lawrence River but also the beautiful Thousand Islands. There they sit in the St. Lawrence River like a beautiful jewelled necklace. Some of these islands are the size of postage stamps, and some, like Wolfe and Howe islands, support very viable farming operations.
Tourism is our fastest-growing industry and the recent restocking of game fish in eastern Lake Ontario has added great impetus to the development of a very viable sport fishing industry in eastern Ontario and in the Kingston area.
Tourism is labour-intensive and nonpolluting. It takes service people to look after your needs when you are on holiday. It is the type of labour that cannot be replaced with a robot; it is only people. It is a very labour-intensive type of industry and when any of us is on holiday, I am sure he enjoys being indulged by the service he gets from other people.
In the Kingston area, we have not only the St. Lawrence River and the beautiful Thousand Islands, but we also have the 120-mile inland waterway, the Rideau waterway all the way from Kingston to the nation's capital. In addition, we have many inland lakes and rivers and beautiful provincial parks, such as Bon Echo Provincial Park and Mazinaw Lake, with those prehistoric stone pictographs placed there by a now departed Indian culture.
We in eastern Ontario are very pleased with anything that will improve service to the tourist industry and we think the resolution by the member for Cornwall deserves investigation. We think eastern Ontario would be a good pilot project for this. We can iron out the kinks and work out this system for the whole of the province.
I certainly support the resolution by the member for Cornwall.
Mr. Runciman: I am glad to have the opportunity to participate in the debate today in support of the resolution of the member for Cornwall. We all know of the member's particular interest in the tourism industry in eastern Ontario and his efforts over the past two years as a member of this Legislative Assembly. He has been an outstanding member, speaking out frequently on behalf of the east and more particularly in respect to the tourism industry.
Tourism, as I think all of us know, is a very important component of the economy, perhaps more so in eastern Ontario where we see increasingly a down-sizing of manufacturing. In my own riding, there have been significant layoffs at the Black and Decker firm with the movement of its power tools division to the United States. There is Electrolux with some 80-plus jobs being lost. A number of other major manufacturing facilities are down-sizing, if not completely closing, in eastern Ontario. Kingston is another area that has been impacted negatively.
Tourism is extremely important, and I think more energy and more focus have to be placed on what we can do to improve the tourism sector in eastern Ontario. The member's proposal to have the government implement a central, computerized reservation system is an excellent suggestion, one proved in other jurisdictions and one that can reap immediate economic benefits to a region of this province that the Liberal government is treating with neglect.
One just has to look at the recent budget of the Treasurer for proof of that neglect. With close to $1 billion of additional revenues, what did they give eastern Ontario? Peanuts, crumbs, $5 million a year for five years; and this is at a time when they are contributing $30 million to a domed stadium in Toronto and 130 million extra dollars for roads in -- where else? Members guessed it -- Metro Toronto.
In 1986, unofficial figures, excluding Ottawa, indicate that eastern Ontario had an unemployment rate of 9.8 per cent versus a provincial rate of 7.4 per cent. We need some help and we are not getting it from this government. We have, I believe, four members of the current executive council from eastern Ontario. Two are in senior portfolios: Industry, Trade and Technology and Education. But what are they doing for eastern Ontario? The answer is virtually nothing.
The Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology (Mr. O'Neil) gets a grant to write down sewage-system debt in Belleville while ignoring smaller eastern Ontario municipalities in much more dire straits with their water and sewage system payments.
The Solicitor General (Mr. Keyes) gets a new government building for his riding, a building that violates a long-standing policy of deinstitutionalization for the mentally handicapped. At the same time, for purely political reasons, he delays a two-and-a-half-year-old government commitment to construct a secure custody facility for young offenders in eastern Ontario.
What about the Minister of Education (Mr. Conway), supposedly the most powerful of eastern Ontario ministers? He gets an Eastern Ontario Development Corp. office in his riding, and the rest of the region -- forget it.
Do not just take my word for it; listen to these comments from Andrew Haydon, chairman of the Ottawa-Carleton region. This is a press release of May 22, 1987:
"There are no initiatives" -- in reference to the budget -- "in this area by the province of Ontario. We have to initiate, fight for, and always receive second-class funding relative to Metro Toronto. Much has been promised. The Premier himself has vowed economic aid to eastern Ontario. The result of those promises is no economic initiatives, economic deprivation and higher municipal taxes. Never in the history of municipal government in Ontario have so many promised so much been so badly deceived."
That is from the chairman of the Ottawa-Carleton region.
Mr. G. I. Miller: He must be a recycled Tory.
Mr. Runciman: Okay. The member mentions the chairman's political affiliation. I am not sure what it is, but if that quote was not enough for the member, here is a quote from a prominent eastern Ontario Liberal, a gentleman by the name of Daniel Curley of Woodlawn, a vice-president of the Carleton Liberal Association. This was on Friday, May 15.
Mr. G. I. Miller: What are we debating, tourism or eastern Ontario?
Mr. Runciman: We are debating the government's neglect of eastern Ontario. That is what we are debating.
"The provincial Liberals are in real trouble" --
Mr. Runciman: The member does not want to hear this, does he? I do not blame him.
"The provincial Liberals are in real trouble if they are so Toronto-centred, imperceptive and insensitive that they fail to recognize that roads and regions are issues of major concern around here."
Curley, while continuing to support the federal Liberals, said: "I can no longer stomach the double-dealing platitudes and outright lies served up by the provincial Liberals. Like most people, I was willing to give Mr. Peterson a chance, but after all this time, we in Ottawa have little to show for our patience."
That is the vice-president of a provincial Liberal association.
Mr. South: Crybabies, crybabies.
Mr. Sterling: Liberal crybabies.
Mr. Runciman: Great stuff. We will get that framed and send it over to the government side.
The Deputy Speaker: Order. It is deteriorating a bit. Perhaps we could keep the interjections out, please.
Mr. &. I. Miller: Would the member for Leeds give us something to --
The Deputy Speaker: Order, the member for Haldimand-Norfolk. The member for Leeds.
Mr. Runciman: It is obvious, Mr. Speaker, that this Liberal government, propped up by the New Democratic Party, is failing in respect to its handling of eastern Ontario, and failing miserably. We need executive council members with the guts to stand up and fight for eastern Ontario, people like the member for Cornwall. We need a specific tourism program to promote this under-exploited market.
Mr. South: Destinations East. Have you heard of it?
Mr. Runciman: Baloney. We need innovative initiatives, such as the one the member for Cornwall has proposed here today. I urge all members to give this resolution their support.
Mr. Charlton: I too rise in support of the resolution put forward by the member for Cornwall and I congratulate him, as my colleague did, on bringing this motion forward.
I am going to make a couple of comments which I do not want him to take as jabs at himself. My comments are in response to the member for Leeds who just spoke. Ontario happens to be the largest province in Canada. We have led the way in this province in many, many areas of endeavour in this country, and I think it is just a little bit facetious on the part of the member for Leeds to be chastising the present government when the Conservative government failed for 40 years to put together any serious program to promote tourism effectively in Ontario.
It is good to see that the Conservatives have at least got a few new lights in their caucus to replace some of the deadwood that did nothing for 40 years. We are still the innovators in terms of every issue that this House has dealt with in the last year, so I would put it to the member for Leeds that he had better think seriously about what he says.
Back to the resolution, Mr. Speaker. The resolution is a resolution which can be a good start to some major initiatives in this province. A system that Ontario should have had many, many years ago would go a long way, as the member has said in his own comments supporting his own resolution, to making it easier for people to access tourism facilities in this province.
It is not a very costly approach to that question but there are so many other things that we could be doing in addition. I would like to run through just some of them, so that perhaps the member can think, as a member from eastern Ontario, about ways to get at some other very cheap forms of promotion, not only for the people of this province but also for those who come into Ontario from outside.
I have been a member of this House for 10 years now and, like most of the members from the large urban centres, I have had at least access to cable television stations for a number of years. One of the things that I find when I travel around Ontario is that I know about this facility or that historic site, because it has had some kind of profile in Ontario's history. We learned about it in school, or whatever the case happened to be.
The Ministry of Tourism and Recreation here in the province puts out lovely, big, thick books, which, in detail, run you through the entire province; but when you are planning a vacation you do not want to have to read for seven days to figure out what you might like to do and which of the tourist attractions in this province you might like to go to see.
One of the things that this government could do, in addition to setting up this kind of computer access to accommodation information, to the sights that surround certain accommodation locations and so on, would be, in a very straightforward way, to go out and make a number of tour package videos which we could provide to cable stations across this province. I think, even in locations like Cornwall, we have access to cable stations. There are lots of places in rural Ontario where we do not.
As I travel around this province, I find that I know very little about so many hundreds of lesser-known sites. The beauty and the facilities they have are little known to most people, especially most people who live in big urban centres and who do not get out of their urban centres very often: parks, recreation facilities, camps on the Ottawa River for whitewater rafting, all kinds of things the average Torontonian or Hamiltonian never dreams about except when he watches the wildlife films and the films of whitewater rafting in the Rocky Mountains. They do not think of those things as being close to their own homes, unless they happen to live in Ottawa or in Pembroke.
We could put together some very useful packages to promote this province, and not only here in Ontario to our own citizens to encourage them to spend more and more of their vacation time in their own province. Those packages would be just as useful on all the major cable networks south of the border, which are often-times looking for filler like that, where you have a 10-minute clip of a tour package in eastern Ontario, northern Ontario or the Georgian Bay area.
We have a situation where the tourist industry in Ontario is one of our major industries, yet ever since I have been here, the entire 10 years, we have stood up every year and talked about the problems that exist in the tourist industry. From time to time we talk about retail sales tax breaks on the cost of your accommodation when you are touring in Ontario. We do packages like that.
We also spend millions of dollars on mass media advertising programs in the form of 10-second, 20-second and 30-second clips, all of which look pretty glitzy but, unfortunately, most of which end up focusing on Toronto, Ottawa and the major centres, instead of focusing on some of the really quiet, serene, beautiful facilities we have in this province that we are missing in those targeted advertising campaigns.
We have an opportunity, if we take a serious approach to tourism in Ontario, by implementing the kind of computerized program the member has suggested and looking seriously at a number of other very cheap approaches to promoting tourism in Ontario in a way that people can view what a trip might look like if they were to take a particular trip that we set out in a video. If you think about the work that has been done in those cable stations, with taping of video shows and the video crews coming into city councils and filming the city council meetings and the other things cable stations have got into, you understand the really minimal cost for which that kind of a program could provide a very beneficial service.
I very much support the efforts of the member for Cornwall and his willingness to stand up as a new member of this Legislature and take positions that, far too often, we have found all kinds of government resistance to in the past.
Mr. Newman: I rise to support the resolution from the member for Cornwall. Maybe I should first read it, to point out the deficiencies in it.
"That, in the opinion of this House, the Ministry of Tourism and Recreation should move immediately to implement a computerized tourist reservation system for eastern Ontario similar to the system currently in use in the province of Nova Scotia."
I see nothing wrong with eastern Ontario, but why limit it to eastern Ontario? Where I live, in Windsor, there are more Americans living north of us than there are Canadians in all of Canada. If we want to go after a tourist market, we have the state of Michigan, which is an ideal market. It is close for people. In addition to that, the American dollar is worth so much more; so it is an inducement for the Americans to come to Canada. Also, Windsor and the western part of Ontario are the automotive centre; so that is another inducement for individuals to come. There is the manufacturing of the various automotive components, in addition to the assembling of cars. That is another reason for spreading the interests to all citizens in Ontario.
There is the good Canadian food we could be selling to our American friends; it is easier to sell them that across the border than it is to bring it in from the far eastern part of the province, although I am not saying we should not bring it in from eastern Ontario. In addition to that, we have an attraction that would bring our American friends across the border, and that is the raceway. In the Windsor-Essex county area, we had one of the first raceways developed in the Dominion of Canada. There used to be a Devonshire racetrack, there used to be a jockey club and there used to be a Kennilworth. At that time we catered to those who were living just a few miles north of us.
It is a simple trip for them. Once they get a taste of Essex county, it is only natural that they would like to see what else there is in the province. We strongly urge them in the Windsor area to do exactly that, to come in and sample Windsor and Essex county; they will be so surprised at what they see and how they are treated that the good news will spread to the 10 million or 11 million Americans who live within one day's drive, and in a lot of instances within two hours' drive, of the city of Windsor.
I would strongly suggest to members in the House that they support this resolution but not to limit it to only one part of the province. Let us get people coming to see Ontario from all over the United States.
Mr. Sterling: I rise in support of the resolution of the member for Cornwall. I think it is an extremely useful and constructive suggestion, and I am only chagrined that the Minister of Tourism and Recreation (Mr. Eakins) is not here to listen to the debate, to listen to fresh new ideas, to listen to the members of the Legislature on a subject in which he should be very much interested. As a member from eastern Ontario, I am not very pleased that he is not here today.
Mr. G. I. Miller: He's listening.
Mr. Sterling: He should be here. There is no excuse.
I would like to read from a report of Tourism Ontario to the federal standing committee on regional industrial expansion; I want to quote from an underlined portion of the introductory part of the report, on page 3:
"There remains considerable regional disparity, economic hardship and unemployment in and around numerous communities throughout Ontario and untapped tourism wealth in several areas, wherein the Ontario tourism and hospitality industry can provide diversification and numerous long-term employment and economic opportunities via necessary and appropriate planning and feasibility studies, expanded infrastructure and product development, and co-operative marketing initiatives which can and should be facilitated through an expanded and prolonged Canada."
I believe this resolution speaks specifically to that kind of statement. It offers a positive suggestion in dealing with the marketing aspect of eastern Ontario and the marketing aspect of smaller businesses in eastern Ontario.
By taking the Nova Scotia model, I think the member for Cornwall has struck upon an area that has many similarities to eastern Ontario. They have one large, major municipal area, the Halifax-Dartmouth area, and many smaller regions, smaller counties and smaller communities that are comparable to eastern Ontario as well. The populations in the areas are approximately equal. I think there are about 850,000 people in Nova Scotia and about 1.5 million people in eastern Ontario.
This resolution is also very positive in my view and would help many small businesses in eastern Ontario that are involved in the tourism and hospitality industry but cannot compete with the large institutions that are also located in the large municipal areas of eastern Ontario. The small motel along Highway 2 cannot compete with the Westin Hotel here in Toronto or Ottawa. It needs assistance in terms of dealing with getting to the public in some small way. I believe this kind of a resolution would help, first, the less-populated areas, and second, the smaller businesses rather than the larger businesses.
The third part of this resolution, which I think is extremely good, would help families afford a reasonable vacation in areas that I think have not been explored enough in eastern Ontario. It will encourage, in my view, people who come to our province to visit out-of-the-way places, to visit very quiet and very beautiful places. I think of places such as Merrickville which is located in my riding. I think many more people would go to those places if they could be assured that there was accommodation in those villages that was of a class quality.
Another aspect of this resolution that I believe is very advantageous, is that the scheme sees a day when it would pay for itself. It would not remain a drain on the taxpayer.
The member for Windsor-Walkerville (Mr. Newman) asked, why is this not done for all of Ontario? I agree it should be done for all Ontario but we have to start somewhere and this government has not paid enough attention to eastern Ontario in the past. I suggest that the unemployment rates in eastern Ontario, particularly in those areas outside Ottawa-Carleton, are probably much higher than those experienced in southwestern Ontario where they have other economic bases to rely on.
I want to refer to a report of the Ministry of Tourism and Recreation round-table conferences on the development of a provincial tourism strategy dealing with eastern Ontario. On page 7 of part 3, it recognizes two problems with regard to tourism in eastern Ontario. One is high taxes on gas and another that I would like to relate to is the unsupportive signage policies of this government.
To date, we have seen this government fix a tax on gasoline that has resulted in higher gas prices in eastern Ontario. We have heard much in this Legislature about high gas prices in northern Ontario. I want to tell the members of this Legislature that in eastern Ontario they are even higher and this government has failed to do anything about this. That has a very significant impact on travel in eastern Ontario because we are bordered along the St. Lawrence River by New York state, where there are much lower gas prices. We need to compete in the gas price area. I wish this government would do something in that particular manner.
Second, with regard to highway signage, I believe a different policy should be implemented for the less-populated areas of eastern Ontario. We do not have to worry in those areas about an overabundance of signs on our highways because there is not that much population. There is not that much activity over a long period or stretch of roads. If it can be done neatly and if it can be done with taste, then I would ask this government to consider that particular part of it.
When we talk about the attitude of this government towards tourism, I think it is no better explained than in the letter from the Minister of Tourism and Recreation to various people in this province about the recent budget. I want to quote from his tourism-related initiatives. He talks about northern Ontario and he talks about eastern Ontario as two locations in this province. He mentions under northern Ontario that better roads mean better access for visitors. He talks about $107 million going for northern transportation. He talks about an overall healthier northern economy benefiting tourism, and he talks about $30 million. He talks about more people with more money to spend, and he talks about $40 million going to the north, a total of $177 million.
Then he talks about eastern Ontario, and he talks about two things. He talks about a sound economic base promoting growth of all sectors. He talks about $5 million to co-ordinate business-related assistance programs. We welcome that $5 million, but we are talking about $177 million in the North in the minister's own literature. This is him bragging. He is bragging about giving $5 million to eastern Ontario, which has more people than northern Ontario, and he is giving northern Ontario $177 million in his budget. Second, he of course announces again the office in Pembroke in the home bailiwick of the Minister of Education.
I would like to sum up by reading from this same report on eastern Ontario that I referred to before, and I will read one paragraph because of the time constraints:
"What all the regions appear to have in common is a frustration with the lack of market awareness and appreciation of their areas' special tourism resources and opportunities, with the ineffectiveness of past and present marketing programs, with the lack of support for the tourism industry at all levels."
That is the summary of many seminars taking place across eastern Ontario. This is what the people are saying. The resolution of the member for Cornwall directly addresses it. I hope the Minister of Tourism and Recreation, who is not here today, listens on his television set to what this resolution says and takes some action.
Mr. Speaker: Are there any other members wishing to participate? The member for Carleton for three minutes.
Mr. Mitchell: I am somewhat surprised that I have this opportunity to speak this morning because of the representation of our party in discussing the whole issue of tourism in eastern Ontario. What surprises me is that the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology, who is a member elected from eastern Ontario, and the Solicitor General (Mr. Keyes), who is a member elected from eastern Ontario, are not here to participate; at least I have not seen them here, and I wonder. He is the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology, and he is not interested.
Mr. South: I'm here.
Mr. Mitchell: I saw the lone speaker up there, and I acknowledge that.
We really treat the tourists to Ontario shabbily. I know that the reason the member for Cornwall has raised this is that tourism is a big issue in eastern Ontario, and l know at the same time he recognizes that we pay short notice or short service or whatever you want to call it to the tourists coming to Ontario. For goodness' sake, they drive through into Winnipeg and Manitoba, and what do they get? The tourists are met with free coffee and everything else and real hospitality. People go to New Brunswick and they are met with an automatic dialling system for reservations. They go to Nova Scotia and they are met with a piper and all that goes with greeting the tourists and making them feel that they are, in fact, very important to that part of the country.
What do we do in Ontario? You come off the Thousand Islands Bridge, you drive along Highway 401, for example, and you may find a picnic area next to the gas stations that dot our highways, which are now going strictly into fast foods. Along our 401 now, nobody is going to be able to get a decent meal, not that I am putting down McDonald's or any of those. But a sit-down meal? Our travellers really are not going to be able to enjoy that sort of thing, because that is how much concern we have about the tourists.
Mr. Sheppard: Come in to Cobourg and get a sit-down meal.
Mr. Mitchell: Maybe in Cobourg, yes.
We really do treat our tourists badly. This resolution by the member for Cornwall certainly is a positive step towards making the tourists feel, yes, they are important to us; yes, we recognize that we have some beautiful things for them to see and we want them to come again. When we can provide services such as the computerized reservation system, the tourists are going to know we care, and they are going to come again.
Mr. Speaker: The member for Cornwall has up to five minutes to make final comments on this debate.
Mr. Guindon: First of all, let me thank the members for Scarborough-Ellesmere (Mr. Warner); Frontenac-Addington (Mr. South); Leeds; Hamilton Mountain (Mr. Charlton); Windsor-Walkerville; Carleton-Grenville (Mr. Sterling) and Carleton (Mr. Mitchell) for supporting my resolution this morning.
I would like to cover a few points. The member for Windsor-Walkerville mentioned that maybe it should be for all of Ontario. Let me give the member an example. Ontario never did start one big project as a whole. They always like to try a smaller project. If we can get the support of the House for an all-Ontario reservation system, I would be only too pleased to support that too.
In the throne speech, the Lieutenant Governor mentioned that, like all parts of our province, eastern Ontario's greatest strength is its people. Here we are and we are ready to do something about it. We are ready to go to work and make the tourist population that comes to our area feel at home, enjoy itself and want to stay longer than it is presently.
We have to mention that eastern Ontario is the gateway from Quebec and from New York state. In our area, we do not quite receive the tourists in the tourist season. As the member for Carleton mentioned, they are not piped in as they are in New Brunswick and they do not have any automatic reservation dialling system as they come into Ontario.
This is an improvement that could come right across Ontario, and it could come in a short time. We are ready to put it to work in eastern Ontario. We know we can use it. The small business operators and the large business operators in the hospitality field are ready to use the system. They are ready to get together to make sure it works and works well.
If we are truly interested in a distinctly increased quality in tourism, this resolution is the stepping-stone to making the commitment to tourism that the government and the Minister of Tourism and Recreation have, making it so that it would be fruitful and productive for all Ontario.
We have to have a focus of attention. The budget estimates for the tourism marketing department of the Ministry of Tourism and Recreation are going to be close to $30 million this year. Certainly, parts of that could be used for something similar to this.
Can you imagine what it would be like if you could tap the resources of New York City and Montreal? You could have people from New York City say they want to go to Apple Hill, which is in Glengarry, and they could have that information for free. Then they would really be relaxed whenever it is time to come. All they would have to do would be to get here, and they would know they would be getting the best of services.
I think the member for Hamilton Mountain mentioned the jobs spinoff and also his video for cablevision, which is a great idea. It would mix very well with my resolution. On the jobs spinoff, if we could just increase tourism in eastern Ontario by 10 per cent -- or in all of Ontario, but let us start with eastern Ontario -- it would be incredible. We would be able to assist the Ministry of Community and Social Services by paying less in welfare and other benefits people have to rely on to have a decent living.
This would also all fit in very well with the government's proposed hospitality curriculum which it wants to implement at Algonquin College of Applied Arts and Technology in Ottawa, ideally to make both of these ideas work together and as much as possible have the reservation system in place long before Algonquin College has done with its first graduates.
Once again, I would like to thank the House for the support members are giving to this resolution.
Mr. Speaker: That completes the allotted time for debate on private member's resolution 14.
Mr. Sheppard moved resolution 10:
That, in the opinion of this House, recognizing that the maintenance and construction of a good road system is vital to the local, regional and provincial economy and recognizing the increasing gap between road subsidy and the expenditures required to maintain the existing level of service for roads, the government of Ontario should increase the municipal subsidies available to municipalities for road purposes.
Mr. Speaker: The member will have up to 20 minutes, and if you wish to reserve any of that time, please advise the chair.
Mr. Sheppard: It gives me great pleasure to have this opportunity to say a few words about my resolution, which addresses the maintenance and construction of a good road system in Ontario.
In a sense, I had hoped the May budget would have made it unnecessary for me to present this resolution. Unfortunately, the Treasurer (Mr. Nixon) chose to underfund the rehabilitation of provincial highways and the roads, even though his government, and I quote from the throne speech, "appreciates the critically important role that roads and highways play in supporting tourism and all other Ontario industries. The best-made products and the talents of the best-trained work force will improve our competitive position only if we can bring our products to market on time."
In a brief forwarded to the Treasurer of Ontario in March of this year, the Ontario Good Roads Association stated that an extra $75 million a year for five years would be the absolute bare minimum required to halt the deterioration of Ontario's paved municipal road system. What is more, this amount of funding would not include even one extra kilometre of new road, nor would it include the addition of a new lane to an existing road.
The need for more money for roads is urgent. The price we are paying by putting off road repairs, in construction alone, is just too much to ignore. I am talking not only about the price in dollars, even though it is only common sense to realize that the longer we wait to do the repairs the more expensive and extensive the rehabilitation or reconstruction will be.
I am also talking about a high price to pay in terms of safety, employment, tourism and commerce. All of these factors are seriously affected because the government has not seen fit, now that it has the funds, to do something about our provincial road system before the roads are beyond repair.
With respect to satiety, for example, according to the statistics of the Minister of Transportation and Communications (Mr. Fulton), more than 250,000 schoolchildren are bused on a daily basis throughout the province. If nothing else, do we not owe it to our children and grandchildren to ensure their safety to and from school by providing the best municipal road system possible?
In addition, emergency vehicles for services such as fire, police and ambulance depend on the road system to respond to situations as safely and efficiently as possible.
I quote from the throne speech, "Tourism is a key source of employment and revenue for the Ontario economy." Notice the phrase "key source." I quote further, "It is estimated that tourism accounts directly and indirectly for at least nine per cent of total employment in the province and six per cent of gross provincial product." If we are to seriously promote tourism in Ontario, we must literally "pave the way" to encourage a strong tourist industry.
Again, to use one of the minister's own figures, 80 per cent of all tourists in Ontario travel by road. We must be able to assure these people that they will be safe while travelling our picturesque highways and that they will not wreck their cars while doing so. How serious can this government be about promoting tourism in Ontario when it is not willing to commit the proper funds to our vital transportation network?
Bad roads cost money every single day. It costs us dearly in vehicle repair costs and fuel consumption. It costs us in highway and road congestion, not to mention how much it costs us in accelerated vehicle deterioration. Deficient pavement surfaces cost each Ontario motorist over $100 a year in extra vehicle operating costs.
It is a well-established fact that every $1 spent on road construction and rehabilitation generates over $1.50 in the economy. This would literally create thousands of much-needed jobs, both on a local level and at the point of manufacture of the products used.
Furthermore, inadequate funding for roads increases industry costs. As a result, this means increases in consumer costs. Approximately 95 per cent of all trips in Ontario are made by road. The value of goods shipped by road is far greater than that of goods shipped by rail, air and water combined.
For example, the agriculture industry delivers the majority of its products to market by road and reportedly in Metro alone more than $12 billion in goods arrives by roads. More than 100 million tonnes of freight moved across Ontario by roads in 1986 and goods exported from Ontario via trucks amount to over $36 million every year.
Retailers have been increasingly relying on the road system for supply of goods and for access by customers. Between 1975 and 1985 the Ontario Good Roads Association's statistics indicated that car registrations increased by 26.9 per cent in Ontario, licensed drivers increased by 36 per cent and truck registrations increased in Ontario by 51.2 per cent. Over 904,000 commercial trucks and tractors were registered in Ontario in 1985 alone.
It is clear that our industries are turning increasingly to the trucking sector to handle transportation of their goods. They cannot afford to be delayed by a congested or deteriorating road system when delivery deadlines demand to be met.
We certainly recognize, as does the Ontario Trucking Association, that heavy trucks put considerable stress on our roads and highways, but most important, trucking contributes significantly to the employment figures, not to mention government revenues, of our province.
Our roads are in desperate need of repair. In the 1984 survey, 61 per cent of Ontario's paved municipal road system needed either resurfacing or reconstruction repairs over the following five years in order to prevent further deterioration.
The road information program surveys indicate that 7.6 per cent of Ontario's highways did not meet Ministry of Transportation and Communications pavement standards; 36.9 per cent are expected to deteriorate to fair or poor condition within the next five years.
Bridges are also in a state of disrepair. The same study indicates there are nearly 1,500 bridges in Ontario that do not meet normal highway standards and 32.5 per cent of the 11,684 provincial bridges need to either be replaced or rehabilitated in the next five years. The cost of this disrepair is a burden to the community and there is no doubt that the poor roads and bridges hinder the efficiency of all types of industries.
Now that the government is in a position to do so, why has it not allocated sufficient funds to make ours the best municipal road system ever? Our present economy is as strong as the $1.2-billion windfall indicates. The Ontario Good Roads Association's brief to the Treasurer strongly urged him to ensure that a portion of the windfall be invested in municipal roads. Why was that request not taken seriously?
In April 1985, during the provincial election campaign, the now Premier (Mr. Peterson) stated that he would spend an additional $40 million per year for five years on rural roads alone. The additional revenue generated by the increased cost of personal and vehicle licences generated that very amount. Why did this government not live up to that election promise in the May budget?
We all know that the Ontario Good Roads Association held its annual conference this past February. In the minister's address to the members, he stated, "The urgent need for transportation funding, both within the provincial and municipal networks, is well recognized by every member of the Liberal government."
If there is any truth to his statement, why was preserving our road system not a priority? Let us ponder for a moment how vital our road system is.
Mr. D. R. Cooke: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker: The member for Northumberland (Mr. Sheppard) is not addressing himself to rule 19(d)(4) in that he is reading verbatim from material which has obviously been prepared for him by a researcher.
The Deputy Speaker: Yes, I am familiar with the order and I would ask the member not to read his entire speech verbatim.
Mr. Sheppard: Let us ponder for a moment how vital our road system is to the elderly every day of our lives. Roads enable us to get to work and to pick up our day-to-day essentials. Roads allow our goods to be shipped and received. They allow us to get to cultural and social events. They allow Ontarians the benefit to receive or deliver our social and health care systems. Roads, as the lifeline that connects communities, make it possible for families to unite. How can anyone say that we are not affected by the conditions of our road system?
There is no debating that preserving our network of roads is an investment. The cost may be termed high initially, but there are no risks to speak of. The only risks we are taking here include increasing tourism, commerce and employment; those, to me, are risks we cannot afford not to consider. Putting money in our transportation network is an investment with a focus on the long-term economic impact of transportation dollars.
I am not disputing the fact that the proposed Highway 407 is necessary -- on the contrary, I am sure there is an urgent need for it -- but this government can no longer reserve its focus for multimillion-dollar projects. These projects, without a doubt, result in a healthy flow of capital into our economy. What is more, the long-term benefits to all of Ontario could not be denied. However, this government, and we as provincial representatives, can no longer ignore the dynamics of equally deserving projects which have just as great an impact on smaller communities. This government must realize that any project, big or small, which creates or maintains jobs for our local work force and brings much-needed social or economic benefits is undeniably crucial.
This to me constitutes a very important investment. I cannot stress enough how urgent the need is for adequate funding for municipal roads. As the minister, Treasurer and Premier are aware, several resolutions were submitted by municipalities throughout the province during the Ontario Good Roads Association's annual conference. Some of them read as follows:
"Be it resolved that the Ministry of Transportation and Communications be petitioned to allocate supplementary funding to rural townships to allow paving on roads where the volume of traffic warrants it."
"Be it resolved that the Ministry of Transportation and Communications be petitioned to consider providing supplementary subsidies for periodic gravel contracts since the regular road budget will no longer support the large expenditures required."
"Be it resolved that the Ministry of Transportation and Communications be requested to increase the municipal subsidies available to municipalities for road purposes."
From my own riding, I have a couple that I received from several of the municipalities.
"Be it resolved that we endorse the position of the Ontario Good Roads Association for increased subsidies for Ontario's decaying municipal roads."
"We urgently request that the provincial government provide additional funding to municipalities in the way of road subsidies to bring our road systems back to an acceptable level."
Those are just a few. Please note that these resolutions come from the towns and townships throughout the entire province, not just from the great riding of Northumberland. All these municipalities agree that municipal roads are in a bad state of disrepair and that road systems are falling way behind the Ministry of Transportation and Communications' established acceptable standards at an accelerated and alarming rate.
Municipalities are very concerned that putting off road repairs for five years will force them into spending five times as much on major rehabilitation work. They are responsible for the construction and maintenance of approximately 86 per cent of the entire 153,000 kilometres of roads in Ontario.
At present, in many cases, municipalities are raising 100 per cent of the dollars for essential work that the Ministry of Transportation and Communications does not even subsidize. Many municipal governments are being forced to spend dollars on road and bridge maintenance that were originally budgeted for much-needed new construction jobs to hold their road systems together. This is an extremely heavy burden on the tax base of any community, and especially the smaller rural townships.
There is no doubt the province has the money to significantly increase its share of contribution to municipalities for roads and to speed Ontario's economic recovery. This government is in the enviable position of having the resources to put a stop to the deterioration of our valuable road system.
The Treasurer had the best opportunity to win and influence over 1,800 municipalities and failed. He also had the wonderful opportunity to effectively share the province's economic recovery. The Treasurer could not have chosen a better time for replacing if he had planned it, yet his government chose to play coy with the public in view of the anticipated election.
I will reserve the rest of my time for later.
The Deputy Speaker: The member has reserved three minutes and 50 seconds. The member for Scarborough-Ellesmere.
Mr. Gregory: He is an expert on roads.
Mr. Warner: Just a minute, hang on for a minute, I was about to offer support for the resolution but, provoked, it is a very tentative thing.
Mr. Rowe: We take it back.
Mr. Warner: Okay, just be careful.
My support for this resolution is indeed tentative, and not just because of my experience and my memory. The member for Northumberland, who proposed the resolution, quoted some very startling statistics based on information collected in 1984, which, if we will all just stretch our memories a little bit, was during the time of the last Conservative government.
What the member has very accurately portrayed is the dismal record of the former government in providing decent roads in Ontario. It is a bit of an irony that the member could conveniently forget the history that preceded the 1985 election in suggesting that the present government is not paving enough roads in this province or paving them properly or repairing bridges.
Mr. Gregory: You don't have to defend the present government any more.
Mr. Warner: You cannot forget history, as much as you would like to.
Mr. Gregory: You can push it around a bit.
Mr. Warner: No, no; the facts are there. The deterioration of the road system in this province, in municipalities and through the provincial roads, started during the Tory regime. In fact, during that bad decade, the devastating decade as we call it, from 1975 to 1985, when there was an attempt to close hospitals and to cut back on funding in education and to cut back on social services, it included the deterioration of the roads for lack of money to keep the roads repaired and the bridges in order.
As I attempt to navigate my way down the clogged Don Valley Parkway, especially in these last few days because of the extensive repairs it is undergoing, and at night attempt to navigate my way along Highway 401 as it goes east from the parkway and encounter the incredible delays because half the highway is blocked off, I have certainly become very sympathetic with what the member raises. We have some very serious deterioration, and obviously a lot of repairs are required -- and throughout the province. Each of us can talk about our own local area, but it is throughout the province.
Highway 401, in the section skirting Metro Toronto, is undergoing major repairs, as are the Gardiner Expressway, the Don Valley Parkway and roads throughout Metropolitan Toronto, but there is another aspect to this which the member did not address and I think is extremely important.
The whole development of the road system is not only for cars and transports, as important as that is, but I think it also has to be put in the context of the development of a good public transit system. If we have a good road system throughout Metropolitan Toronto or other municipalities, it is used by the buses as well or by trolley buses or streetcars. Obviously, if you pave the roads properly and make sure there are good road connections, and at the same time provide a good light rail transit system or a subway system then both people and goods can move quickly and that is a benefit to all of us.
I think the development of the highway system in this province needs to be put into the context of the development of an efficient public transit system. What I find painfully frustrating is that both the previous government and the present government have failed to come to grips with having an overall plan for public transit in this province.
We see it now bubbling to the surface over the struggle in integrating the GO Transit system with the Toronto Transit Commission. There is going to be a lot of argument, a lot of heated debate over the next little while as there is an attempt to somehow integrate the systems in order to serve the area surrounding Metropolitan Toronto. That is very important, but it is being done and it will be done in isolation of any overall provincial plan for public transit. To me, that is a mistake.
It has been a tradition in this province that we will allow the residential development of areas first before planning any public transit service to those areas. To me, that is backwards; it is totally backwards. Public transit by my definition includes the development of roads, and the planning should happen first for the development of municipal roads and provincial roads before anyone starts to build homes or develop industrial areas or commercial areas. It makes a lot more sense to develop the road system, incorporating with it at the same time the development of public transit. When you have an idea as to how you wish to develop that, then you look at developing your commercial, industrial and residential areas in some kind of systematic way that makes sense for the growth of your area.
The former government chose --
Mr. Haggerty: They let Frank Drea give that speech four years ago.
Mr. Warner: Yes, and you could give it again today. The member for Erie (Mr. Haggerty) raises a good point. He made a speech like this 15 years ago. He could make it again today to his government, because it has failed in the same way in which the former government failed to pay any attention to that concept. I find it frustrating because when we do not follow that kind of systematic approach we create problems for ourselves. What we are looking at now is urban sprawl in the Metro Toronto area; urban sprawl that will do none of us any good. We are just sort of nitpicking our way through how the road system is developed to service these new areas and how a public transit system is developed to service the areas.
In conclusion, I support the member's resolution in acknowledging, as he has in the valuable statistics he has brought forward, the failure of the former government to come to grips with providing good roads throughout the province; and of course the failure of the present government to come to grips with the same problem. The answer is inescapable: we need someone else to tackle this problem, and indeed our group is prepared to do that.
Mr. Speaker: The member for Grey-Bruce.
Mr. Sargent: I thank the members very much. They may not be so kind after I finish. This debate may be my last shot, but I just think of the fact that when a racehorse retires they put him out to stud, and that ain't bad.
I am very pleased to take part in this debate sponsored by the member for Northumberland. It gives me an opportunity to put on the record the tremendous leadership of this government in the area of municipal roads funding. The member for Northumberland is doing exactly what he should be doing to press for action, as we did for 42 years when we were over there. But the member has raised an issue of great importance to all of us because the role of good roads cannot be overstated. We depend on them to get from place to place and to fuel the commercial life of our communities.
Good roads are vital to the movement of people and goods and they bring families together. I have been in the selling business all my life and I learned a long time ago that no one gives a damn how good your product is; it is how good your product makes them. Today, I want to say that we can all agree that roads play an irreplaceable part in our lives. That is why I am proud to state this government's position clearly, its commitment to improving the provincial and municipal road structure in Ontario.
In politics, a commitment is meaningless without the proper level of funding. Very clearly, this government has backed this commitment with vastly improved funding levels. Of course, there will be some who will argue that any amount of money for municipal roads is not enough, and I agree, but in recent years this government has increased road funding dramatically and this reverses a trend that for many years saw road funding drop year after year.
What is more, the recent increases have been much above the rate of inflation. Of course, I will review some of the numbers for my friend the member for Northumberland, because these numbers show clearly that this government has the kind of commitment we need to improve our roads network here in Ontario.
While any increase in municipal roads funding is important, it is especially important if those increases are above the rate of inflation. In the past two years the increases have been more than double the rate of inflation.
For instance, in 1986 the basic municipal roads funding increased from $536 million to $558.7 million, an increase of 4.1 per cent or a rate equal to the rate of inflation. But when you add in the Ontario municipal improvement fund of $30 million for 1986, the total increase in the municipal roads funding was at a rate of 8.5 per cent, an increase double the rate of inflation.
This year, in 1987, the basic municipal roads funding increased over half a billion dollars. Once again this year the Ontario municipal improvement fund continues. When you include new allocations from the budget you can add a further $27.5 million. The total increase in municipal roads funding for this year, then, is a rate of 9.1 per cent.
In the 42-year history of the former government we never had such performance as that. I cannot anticipate the rate of inflation for this year, but with the current rate running at just about four per cent you can easily guess that this year's rate of road funding increases will be at least double the inflation rate.
The recent budget reinforced this government's commitment to an improved road system in Ontario. That budget, while increasing overall municipal roads funding to a total of $601 million, before including the OMIF moneys, also held considerable promise for all of Ontario municipal governments in the years to come.
As members will recall, the Treasurer outlined plans to increase transportation funding by $290 million over the next three years. Many of those new dollars will go to municipalities in the form of new roads money. For northern Ontario the budget also had good news. The transportation funding in the north will be increased by 32 per cent to a total of $107 million this year.
While all of these dollars are being spent in the municipalities, this government has launched or revived a number of highway projects.
Mr. Haggerty: Highway 20 -- the first time any work was done on it in years was done with the Liberal government.
Mr. Andrewes: I've never heard you read a speech. Who wrote this stuff for you?
The Deputy Speaker: Order.
Mr. Sargent: Let us talk about the different regions. In the Niagara region Highway 406, which local residents had requested for so many years, will soon be a reality. The Minister of Transportation and Communications visited there last June to announce that work would start this year.
Mr. Haggerty: From St. Catharines to Port Colborne.
Mr. Andrewes: No; it is already in Welland.
Mr. Sargent: Does the member want to get up and talk against this? I will give him the floor if he wants.
Mr. Andrewes: No; I want to hear more.
Mr. Sargent: He is in favour of it? Okay. In Peterborough, residents had long awaited the completion of Highway 115 as a four-lane route linking that city to Highway 401. Again, the minister visited that city and got the project on track. Where were those members all those years?
Mr. Sheppard: Highway 115 wasn't in the budget this time.
Mr. Sargent: Pardon?
Mr. Sheppard: It wasn't mentioned in the budget or the throne speech.
Mr. Haggerty: Go ahead, Ed. You have three minutes.
Mr. Sargent: I am running out of time here. Mr. Speaker, will you give me some time for all this?
The Deputy Speaker: Order. Will the members please permit the member for Grey-Bruce to complete his debate.
Mr. Sargent: I think he is very much out of order.
In eastern Ontario, the minister announced work to complete Highway 62 near Round Lake Centre in Renfrew county.
Mr. Andrewes: What about Highway 6?
Mr. Sargent: We will get to that. Of course, I have already spoken about the increase in funding for northern Ontario. The member missed it when I talked about northern Ontario: a 32 per cent increase there.
We can all tell horror stories about roads in our own constituencies, and I have lots up my way. We can all argue that there simply is not enough to make the kind of improvements that are desperately needed, but I think we have made a very important start. I agree that we had a good minister in Jim Snow, but their policies were bankrupt for money.
Although I have spoken about the vast increases in road funding, I think it is worth while to quote briefly from the comments made by the Ontario Road Builders' Association after the last budget. The members should listen to this; they will like this one. Arthur Ryan, the executive director of ORBA, said: "It is an excellent budget for us. They have certainly started to address our concerns." That is from the horse's mouth. Later he said, "It is a substantial increase for us." Lee Smallman, vice-president of ORBA, referring to the increase in roads budgets, said, "This is the first turnaround and it is long overdue."
Just as important is the amount of increase for local roads and the way in which this increase can come about. I have had an opportunity to travel with the Minister of Transportation and Communications since working with him, and wherever he goes he tries to meet with the local elected representatives. Many of the members here recall meetings in their own areas with reeves, councillors, mayors and the minister.
I would like to tell the members, for example that down in Kingston with the member for Frontenac-Addington (Mr. South), we moved in there one morning at six o'clock and we met in Frontenac-Addington every village and township councillor, town councils and city people to review all of their budgets. This is a policy to let everyone know what is going on and that no one is getting more than they should be getting.
The Deputy Speaker: Order. Thank you. The member's time has expired.
Mr. J. M. Johnson: I am very pleased to join in this debate, and to follow my good friend the member for Grey-Bruce in this very important debate as we both share the same highways. Highway 6 is certainly getting improvement; they put a little gravel on the shoulders and that is it.
I strongly support the resolution presented by my good friend and colleague the member for Northumberland. I would like to highlight the importance of this resolution by reading it into the record once more:
"That, in the opinion of this House, recognizing that the maintenance and construction of a good road system is vital to the local, regional and provincial economy and recognizing the increasing gap between road subsidy and the expenditures required to maintain the existing level of service for roads, the government of Ontario should increase the municipal subsidies available to municipalities for road purposes."
As a member representing 21 municipalities, I can attest to the very strong support these municipalities have for the intent of the member's resolution. As an example of this very urgent need for extra funding for road improvements, I would like to quote from an article in the Wellington Advertiser of May 25:
"Wellington county's 21 municipalities, plus Guelph, have endorsed the funding push by the Ontario Good Roads Association... `A massive infusion of money is needed,' OGRA president Robert Leggate said in an interview. `We are pushing for $75 million annually over the next five years to arrest road deterioration.'"
The article goes on to say, "Wellington has prepared a five-year forecast of $67.7 million worth of maintenance needed for the county's 550-kilometre road system. The report recommends immediate replacement of 11 of the county's 82 bridges and a long-term program of bridge repair and evaluation to `ensure public safety and protect the county's large investment in its bridge system.'"
I have received letters from nearly all my municipalities supporting the brief prepared by the Ontario Good Roads Association, requesting the Premier and the Treasurer to provide additional funding for municipal roads. I would like to read a few of these into the record.
The township of Peel sent a letter addressed to myself:
"Enclosed are copies of letters sent to the Honourable David Peterson and the Honourable R. Nixon on the brief prepared by the Ontario Good Roads Association.
"Council of the township of Peel supported the position taken by the Ontario Good Roads Association, and we seek your support to urge the government to allocate more funds for municipal roads in the budget." That is what I am trying to do today, to get the ear of the government. I might need some money to do so but I am trying.
"In order for us to maintain our road system at an acceptable level to MTC standards and acceptable to the people who travel our roads on a daily basis, it will be necessary for the government to provide more subsidy dollars.
"We trust that you will consider our request for your support and that you will help to bring the message across to the government."
I hope the government members are listening. That is signed by Mrs. Christine Oosterveld, clerk-treasurer of the township of Peel.
One paragraph from a letter from Robert Skeoch, clerk-treasurer of the township of Maryborough reads: "The township of Maryborough is faced with the problem of replacing three bridges and culverts over the next few years. Without additional funding from the province of Ontario they would cause real hardship for the township ratepayers."
From the township of Pilkington: "A relatively small rural municipality supported by a largely agriculture assessment, the township is negated, both by a lack of reasonable provincial road funding support and an inability to further burden the depressed agricultural sector with heavier tax demands, from maintaining the roads to a minimum standard of public expectations." That is signed by Len Day, clerk-treasurer, township of Pilkington.
I have received similar letters from the town of Harrison, the villages of Elora and Arthur, the townships of Arthur, Erin, Guelph and Minto. Wellington county council, as well as several other municipalities; all support the intent of the resolution presented by the member for Northumberland. I am also sure the vast majority of the municipalities of rural Ontario are very supportive of this initiative, and I am sure the members of the opposition parties which represent rural ridings will bring their concerns to the attention of the government.
The member for Northumberland mentioned that the Ontario Good Roads Association is stating that the government should be providing $75 million a year, and this is money for repairs and upgrading to preserve the present system, not for new roads. They feel that with an extra $900 million in windfall revenues, the government has the funds to invest in a municipal roads system. Indeed, the government's revenues have increased 14 per cent and a matching 14 per cent for municipal roads would bring in that $75 million.
In the recent budget, gasoline tax revenues increased from $977 million to over $1 billion, a $23-million increase. Fuel tax will increase from $242 million to $280 million, an increase of $38 million. The government made a promise to provide an additional $40 million a year for rural roads. Instead, the government not only increased revenues through gas and fuel tax, but it also reimposed sales tax on heavy trucks and trailers that will bring in revenue of another $68 million. Surely, if our motorists and truckers are forced to pay heavy taxes, they should at least be provided with decent roads to travel on.
I might also mention that the Ontario Trucking Association has some comments to make pertaining to the budget. In their legislative report number 3, dated May 1987, they say there is some commitment to roads but Ontario truckers are unimpressed by the Ontario budget. Jim, you are a fairly reasonable man. You will understand that they are not impressed with this budget.
They go on to state: "According to Ray Cope, OTA president, `The Treasurer now appears to recognize that an efficient and safe transportation network is essential for sustaining economic growth, but he falls somewhat short of providing the amount of dollars needed to upgrade and expand the system.' The budget calls for a $290-million enrichment in spending on roads, bridges and highways over the next three years. In prebudget consultation, OTA maintained that an injection of $1.5 billion over the next five years was needed." That is quite a difference. "`Moreover,' according to Mr. Cope, `the budgetary estimates show that transportation spending will rise 7.8 per cent in 1987-88, but that is in fact lower than last year's growth rate of 10.2 per cent.'"
It is indeed quite a commitment by the government in the budget. The Treasurer has reduced instead of increased support for the transportation needs of this province. It is a sad indication of the government's commitment to the transportation system, the roads, especially in rural Ontario, that are so vital to the economy of our agriculture in the province.
I urge all members of this assembly to join with the member for Northumberland and pass this very important resolution. I hope the Treasurer and the Premier will take some interest in what we are doing here this morning and will do something about increasing funding to the road system of this province.
Mr. Grande: I too want to rise, and I am thankful for the opportunity to rise, to speak in favour of the resolution from the member for Northumberland. Actually, I want to thank him for bringing this resolution forward, as I thanked the member for Mississauga South (Mrs. Marland) last Thursday for bringing forward another very important resolution that dealt with municipal services, namely, the water distribution system. This week we have another resolution from the member that talks about the road system. I am sure that in another week we are going to have another resolution from some member that will talk about other municipal services that are desperately needed in all our municipalities in Ontario.
We do not often get a chance to talk about our municipalities. The only time we get a chance to do it is to get up on a speech from the throne and talk about our own ridings or to get up in response to a budget and talk about our ridings and the needs in our municipalities. Because we rarely do get a chance to speak about these, I am sure that letters, from all members and I suppose from myself in particular, to the Minister of Municipal Affairs (Mr. Grandmaître), to the Minister of the Environment (Mr. Bradley) and to other ministers of government flow very freely because of these municipal services and the lack of support for municipal services in our municipalities.
I want to ask the member for Northumberland a question. The member for Scarborough-Ellesmere (Mr. Warner) makes the point very well. Where on earth has he been? Where has his party been in the past 10 years when some of our municipalities have been screaming for support, have been screaming for help? Year after year, we got exactly the same answers.
Where has he been? Where has the Conservative Party been? Leave that aside; it is history, it is in the past. I guess it has to say mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa for having made mistakes as a government. Let us talk about this government because it is repeating exactly the same mistakes of the past government. In other words, it is leaving the municipalities out there without any great support.
Unfortunately, there is not one minister in his place in the Legislature for such an important debate, but I want to say to the government that while the member for Grey-Bruce (Mr. Sargent) may show that in this particular year government support went up 5.2 per cent or six per cent or seven per cent, the fact, and he knows it, is that our municipalities are suffering from structural problems in terms of their infrastructure. It is not something that is going to be fixed with a 5.2 per cent increase in one year. It is something that has to be planned over a period of time, a five-year period of time, that says we are going to put in this kind of support because services have deteriorated to the point that unless we inject billions of dollars today we are going to have to inject many more billions of dollars five years from now.
Our road system is deteriorating. In 1985, the Ministry of Transportation and Communications made a study here in Ontario that showed our municipal road system was deteriorating very fast. For the city of York, which I represent, it showed that for any urban municipality the size of the city of York, it had the worst municipal problems in all the province.
When I see that kind of information and when I get the concerns I get from the people of the riding of Oakwood, l do not say to those people that they are municipal problems: I have to say to those people, "Your provincial government is not responding to the needs of the people of the city of York, not just in terms of roads or water distribution systems or sewer separation, but in almost every kind of municipal service available."
The government can no longer say, "Here is a certain amount of money just to maintain your services." Maintenance of service is not the question today. The question today is redoing, structurally remaking. In other words, it is not putting on tar and patching holes any more. Structurally, some of the roads in our municipalities are not sound to be travailed upon. They are dangerous.
Therefore, while the member for Grey-Bruce and the Minister of Transportation and Communications may say, and may point to some people saying, "Applause, applause, applause for this year; it is a good start," the fact is that they know and the government knows we need plans for a five-year period and we need to inject massive funding into that.
Unfortunately, the federal government is not responding. It is too bad that the federal government is saying, "It is none of our responsibility." I think Michael Wilson is wrong. Michael Wilson is going to have to change his mind on that. The provincial government, on the other hand, is turning around and saying, "Because Michael Wilson says they are not going to spend a penny, we at the same time are not going to inject the funding necessary to look after the concerns of people in our province, in our municipalities."
It is unfortunate, because while the government now may get applause here and there, in two or three years from now, should the government remain, it will not be getting applause. As a matter of fact, more pressure will fall upon the provincial government.
In the little time I have left, I want to provide the government with a solution. Particularly with those municipalities that on a yearly basis get what is called resource equalization funding because they do not have a rich enough tax base to be able to provide services to their people -- those amount to a good number of municipalities in the province -- perhaps we should have the land transfer tax revenues that come from those particular municipalities, the kind of tax that is collected from the sale of homes and houses, to make sure we create a special fund for rebuilding the infrastructure in the province.
Mr. Sheppard: I would like to thank those who are going to support my resolution today, especially the member for Scarborough-Ellesmere. He mentioned how the Don Valley Parkway and the Gardiner Expressway are deteriorating. Nobody knows more of the traffic jam when you come down the Don Valley in the morning. If you come in late at night, you cannot get down the Don Valley. You have to come down Avenue Road.
I would like to make a comment on the remarks of the member for Grey-Bruce. He talked about all the money that was spent on roads in the past two years. I want to remind him that it was the previous government that brought in the Don Valley Parkway, the Gardiner Expressway and Highway 401.
Mr. Andrewes: Highway 6.
Mr. Sheppard: And Highway 6, if you want to mention it.
I was also interested in his comments about the budget. I do not know whether the member for Grey-Bruce is listening or not. If he would take his seat, maybe he could listen. He never mentioned, and it was not mentioned in the throne speech or the budget, the finishing of Highway 115. I wonder whether the reason it was not mentioned was that there is a Conservative member there and not a Liberal member.
I remind the minister and the Treasurer that Highway 115 is opening up part of northern Ontario, especially the great lakes in the Kawartha area. There are a lot of tourists in that part of our riding. I remind him that Highway 115 should be finished. I travel 115 a lot when I am going home, whether I am coming up in the morning or at night, whatever the case may be.
I would also like to thank the member for Wellington South (Mr. Ferraro) for his comments. I know he has 34 municipalities. I have only 15 but I got a letter from every municipality asking that I put pressure on the Minister of Transportation and Communications and ask for more money.
An hon. member: It was the member for Wellington-Dufferin-Peel (Mr. J. M. Johnson).
Mr. Sheppard: The member for Wellington-Dufferin-Peel; I am sorry.
Mr. G. I. Miller: We can all use more money. Mr. Sheppard: Yes, but Highway 115 was not even mentioned. The member for Grey-Bruce said the Minister of Transportation and Communications was down there at six o'clock in the morning. When one of this government ministers comes to my riding, he does not have the decency even to tell me he is coming. Just ask the member from Thunder Bay. I would get up at five o'clock or even 4:30 a.m. if he wanted me to meet him and take him around the great riding of Northumberland.
Mr. Andrewes: Not 4:30.
Mr. Sheppard: Not 4:30? I am used to getting up. The member knows I am a farmer. Do fruit growers not get up early in the morning too?
I would like to thank all those who are supporting my resolution. I do not know whether the member for Grey-Bruce is going to support it, but if he does not he should support it.
COMPUTERIZED TOURIST RESERVATION SYSTEM
Mr. Speaker: Mr. Guindon has moved resolution 14.
Motion agreed to.
Mr. Speaker: Mr. Sheppard has moved resolution 10.
All those in favour will please say "aye."
All those opposed will please say "nay."
In my opinion the ayes have it.
Motion agreed to.
The House recessed at 12 noon.
The House resumed at 1:30 p.m.
Mr. Partington: An exciting and very successful 42nd annual Canadian Secondary School Rowing Championship was held this past weekend on the l,500-metre Henley rowing course in St. Catharines.
In total, there were a record 93 schools represented from across the country, from Vancouver Island to Newfoundland, as well as from the eastern United States. Heats were run on Friday and Saturday, with 30 finals run on Sunday.
The trophy for the total points accumulated by men's crews was won by Upper Canada College of Toronto and, for women's crews, by the Ridley College team from St. Catharines. The Ridley College crew defended its last year's win in the senior men's heavy eight race, once again capturing the prestigious Calder-Cleland trophy and contributing to Ridley's overall victory in the total points championship.
Second place in total points was won by UCC, with Denis Morris High School, Lakeport Secondary School and Sir Winston Churchill Secondary School, all of St. Catharines, placing third, fourth and fifth respectively.
Rowing is a demanding sport which requires discipline and dedication from all participants on a seven-day-a-week basis. I commend the young people who have participated for their achievements throughout the season and particularly for the sportsmanship and the high level of competition displayed this weekend.
To the athletes, coaches and officials, I would like to offer my congratulations for a job well done.
OVERCROWDING IN SCHOOLS
Mr. Philip: The speech from the throne talks about the need for excellence and quality in education. However, the budget shows that when it comes to capital expenditures, the government is not really serious. I bring to the attention of the Minister of Education (Mr. Conway) just one example.
St. Stephen school in Rexdale presently has about 800 students. The school was never intended to accommodate that many students. The library is too small and the use is therefore limited. In order to accommodate the student population, it should have about 2,000 square feet more. The gym is so small that the children's allotted time has been reduced from 80 minutes to 50 minutes per week in order to accommodate every class and, at times, cancelled completely when the gym is required for other needs.
Space has been taken away from the playground by the six portable classrooms that have been inserted in there. The kindergarten rooms do not meet the standards of other schools. St. Stephen's students must be sent to other schools for many programs because of the lack of space.
The parents of the children of St. Stephen ask why their children must be deprived of the adequate facilities that other children in other neighbourhoods and other schools take so much for granted. I call on the Minister of Education to meet with the Metropolitan Separate School Board and to plan whatever corrective action is needed to remedy these serious problems at St. Stephen.
SAFETY IN SPORTS
Mr. Reycraft: I rise today to advise that CFPL-TV in London recently requested viewers to phone in and offer their support for government action to reduce injuries in hockey.
Pete James, CFPL-TV's sports director, told viewers that "the slashing, high-sticking and cross-checking have turned the hockey stick into a weapon" and that "it is now time to put the hockey stick back where it belongs -- on the ice."
Not surprisingly, there was a tremendous response to CFPL-TV's appeal. Over three evenings, approximately 9,000 calls were handled, some from as far away as Pennsylvania and Ohio. In addition, calls were received the following week from many who were unable to get through on the evenings of the show.
I recall that in January, the Minister of Tourism and Recreation (Mr. Eakins) allocated $1.4 million for a program to reduce injuries in sports and fitness. The minister took this option in response to the concern that the public had voiced against the increasing number of injuries resulting from participation in amateur sports.
The CFPL-TV phone-in has clearly reinforced this public concern. I understand that the minister is currently working to address the safety issue in amateur hockey and that the final report of the Ontario Sport Medicine and Safety Advisory Board is due on June 30. I look forward to initiatives which will reduce the risk of serious injury in sports.
Mr. McLean: My statement is for the Minister of Tourism and Recreation (Mr. Eakins). As he is aware, there is a long list of hospitals throughout Ontario, including the Orillia Soldiers' Memorial Hospital in my riding, seeking government funding for new or expanded health care facilities. When my party was in power it approved more than $200 million alone in the spring of 1985 for hospital capital projects in this province, and the list of hospital capital construction projects continued to grow with each passing month.
Hospitals must keep pace with increasing technological developments in the health care field and the growing number of Ontario residents who are using their services, if we are not to put health care at risk. That requires expansion and that means creative methods of providing capital funding must be devised by this government to meet the growing demands of Ontario's hospitals.
I would urge the minister to meet with the Ontario Lottery Corp. to devise a provincial lottery for the purpose of using profits to fund hospitals capital projects. The Irish sweepstakes has proved, over the years, to be a creative and imaginative method for generating hospital construction funds in that country. The success of existing lotteries in Ontario and throughout Canada indicates to me that the people of this province would support a new lottery, especially if they knew that all profits would be used for hospital construction projects in their own communities.
I would urge the minister to vigorously pursue the development and promotion of a new hospital capital lottery program, which I am certain will generate millions of dollars in profits that can be used to ensure that our health care delivery system continues to keep pace with growing demands.
Mr. Reville: The executive director of the Canadian Bar Association-Ontario strongly opposes the section in Bill 190 that restores to the review board the right to order treatment over a refusal by a patient representative or family members. The bar association recognizes that mental disorder may indeed compromise the decision-making ability of a patient. It believes, however, that this factor properly enters into only a decision of whether the patient is or is not competent to make the decision personally.
Once that question is resolved, a competent patient or a competent substituted decision-maker must have autonomy in deciding whether to accept the proposed treatment. This right is unquestionably one held by medical and surgical patients, and we see no reason why it should be withheld from psychiatric patients. In fact, the bar association feels that it is a violation of the equality rights provided by section 15 of the Charter of Rights and that such a legal position could not stand a court challenge on that ground.
BELGIANS IN ONTARIO
Mr. McGuigan: A couple of weeks ago, I was asked to go to the launching of a book called Belgians in Ontario: A History, by Joan McGee, an author and academic from Windsor. It was written with the support of the Ministry of Citizenship and Culture, the Ontario Arts Council and the Canada Council. It is the story of the development of the sugarbeet industry in southwestern Ontario, later the tobacco industry, and the role that was played by the Belgian immigrants.
They started as migrant workers who came from Belgium to Canada, stayed for a few months and went back each fall. They had experience in sugarbeet growing because, prior to the Canadian experience, they used to go to France. Through that, a number of them decided to come as immigrants and establish their families here, first as workers and sharecroppers, and many of them today are very substantial owners of farms. They moved really from the sugarbeets to the tobacco in Kent and Essex counties, where it has been established ever since the days of the Indians, and they moved to the second belt around Brantford.
Mr. Speaker: The member's time has now expired.
Mr. McGuigan: I would commend the book to anyone's reading.
Mr. Pope: I rise to express my dissatisfaction with the report released by the Industrial Disease Standards Panel concerning lung and stomach cancer among gold and mixed-ore miners. I believe my dissatisfaction would be shared in general terms by Jean Larcher and the victims of the mining environment organization in Timmins and by the local representative of the United Steelworkers in Timmins, Moe Sheppard.
Basically, in 1979 I stood in this House as a back-bench member of the governing party of the day to indicate the existence of a Wigle study. That resulted in the Muller study, phases I and 2, which clearly linked exposure to silica dust with the development of lung cancer. The standards that have been developed by the Industrial Disease Standards Panel are clearly inadequate to compensate dependents of dead miners.
I think it is incumbent on the government to step into this process, ensure that it is expeditiously dealing with claims and come up with a standard that is the same standard as it has allowed for other lung cancer claims in every other industry in the province.
STATEMENTS BY THE MINISTRY
Hon. Mr. Sweeney: The government of Ontario has stated its commitment to building a comprehensive child care system that will meet the needs of all families in this province.
In both the speech from the throne and the budget, we have acknowledged the need for a high-quality, affordable and accessible system -- one that recognizes child care as a basic public service and not a welfare service.
Together with my cabinet colleagues, most notably the Premier (Mr. Peterson) and the Minister responsible for Women's Issues (Mr. Scott), we have consulted widely and weighed the issues and concerns of Ontario families.
Further, we have benefited enormously from the energetic work done by advocacy groups, which have ably demonstrated their real concerns about the future of Ontario's children.
Today, I am pleased to announce the steps this government is taking to build a new system of child care in this province, a system designed to suit the particular needs of those contemporary families.
We are establishing a comprehensive, integrated and affordable child care system for Ontario. An undertaking of this nature is necessarily a long-term challenge. As a result we will be building this new system in stages. Specifically, we will be working in three-year planning cycles, beginning immediately.
Significant resource commitments are being made to the development of child care. This year we are allocating an initial annual increase of $26 million, which brings the total child care budget to $185 million.
By the end of the first three-year planning cycle, the total child care budget of the Ministry of Community and Social Services will have grown to a target of $325 million.
That represents an increase of 133 per cent over provincial spending for child care in 1986-87. These funds will be used to strike a balance between expanding the availability of services and improving the affordability and stability of these services.
I would like to take a moment to explain why we have come to regard child care as one of the most pressing social and economic issues facing Ontario families today.
Child care in Ontario is at a significant crossroad. A larger number of women are now working outside of their homes. In many cases, working women are the sole breadwinners in their families. In others, they are working to keep a two-parent family's income above the poverty level. For these families, child care is a necessity, but it is also essential to make the equality of women in the work force a realizable goal. In this context, the pressure on existing child care supports has never been greater.
Quality child care is in short supply and is increasingly out of the financial reach of many parents. Ontario families need more care and more financial help with that care. They need more information and a greater sense of participation, and they need a wider variety of options.
Child care, as it exists now, is difficult to find in rural areas, for shift workers and for irregular hours or emergency situations. Services for infants, school-age children and children with special needs are particularly lacking. The need for building a new system has never been more apparent.
In addition, because we are talking about the development, safety and wellbeing of our children, we must be stringent about the quality of that care.
In developing these new directions, we have concentrated on all of these issues: accessibility, affordability, integration, expansion and quality. In the years to come, we will be working to increase the flexibility in choice for all Ontario families.
Some of the highlights of these new directions include:
Starting this fiscal year, direct operating grants to licensed, nonprofit programs will be introduced to provide ongoing support. Priority will be given to improving salaries. By improving staff compensation in this traditionally undervalued field, we hope to make child care more affordable, while enhancing quality by attracting and retaining qualified staff.
Depending upon the results of our negotiations with the federal government, direct grants will be extended to the existing commercial sector as soon as possible, provided that federal cost-sharing is secured.
Increases in capital funding from the Ministry of Community and Social Services will expand the nonprofit system by supporting the construction of new community-based centres and the renovation and expansion of existing ones. Within the three-year allocation of $33 million, funds have been set aside for the renovation of vacant school space.
In addition, the government is requiring the provision of child care spaces in new schools. Separate capital funding for this purpose will be provided by the Ministry of Education.
We will continue to increase child care subsidies. Beginning with a preliminary cash flow of $7.4 million in the balance of 1987-88, this additional financing for new subsidies will represent approximately 30 per cent of the new child care financing.
We will replace the current needs test with an income test as the eligibility screen for subsidy during the 1988-89 fiscal year. Application of the income test to the commercial sector depends upon the outcome of current federal-provincial negotiations. Income testing is considered a simpler and less intrusive system. Together with the subsidy increases, we believe that this will make child care more affordable for a larger number of Ontario families, especially for farmers, who tend not to qualify under a needs test.
Under the new child care development program, we will continue to support the development and expansion of flexible models of service. Extra funding will be directed to innovative shift work and emergency care projects, the integration of children with special needs, programs for school-age children and care for children in rural and isolated communities.
There will be a special emphasis placed on community development.
Child care resource centres, which provide a wide range of child care support services to parents, informal care givers and licensed programs, will be expanded and new centres will be established over the next three years.
Parent information will be developed through the design of a new posting system that will prominently display the results of the annual licensing inspection visit on the centre's premises. Parents will be better able to assess their centre's compliance with the Day Nurseries Act.
The participation of parents in child care decision-making and management will also be encouraged.
Finally, a new child care act that will embody this new vision of a comprehensive, integrated approach to child care will be developed. It is expected to be introduced by the end of the first three-year planning cycle, setting the stage for the second three-year planning cycle.
These are only the highlights. The details of these and other initiatives are contained in the paper, New Directions for Child Care, which we are tabling today and which will be in each member's mailbox today.
I believe these new directions reflect the commitment of this government towards the establishment of a comprehensive system of child care in this province, but I must emphasize that the success of this plan depends upon the development of partnerships with parents at the core of the decision-making and with all levels of government joining with representatives of the child care community and with schools and employers.
All of us together are making an investment in our future -- our children. The degree of our success will be measured in the wellbeing of the adults of tomorrow. This plan is a cornerstone of this government's commitment to the preservation and enhancement of the family into the 21st century.
Hon. Mr. Wrye: In keeping with the government's commitment to review Ontario's minimum wage provisions on an annual basis, I am pleased to announce today an increase in the general minimum wage to $4.55 an hour from the present level of $4.35. This change will take effect in the work week in which October 1 occurs. It constitutes an increase of 4.6 per cent over the current rate, which took effect on October 1, 1986.
The special minimum wage for liquor servers, students under 18, domestics and hunting guides will also rise by 20 cents an hour in the work week in which October 1 occurs. This will mean increases of 5.71 per cent for students under 18 and 5.19 per cent for liquor servers.
As well, maximum room and meal allowances, which employers may charge against minimum wage earnings, will increase to $57 a week for meals and private room provided and to $46.50 a week for meals with nonprivate lodgings. In addition, the minimum wage for fruit, vegetable and tobacco harvesters will rise by 20 cents an hour to $4.55 on January 1, 1988.
The government has also decided to revoke the standard that permits employers to pay learners 10 cents an hour less than the minimum wage rate in their first month on the job. It is our view that the standard is inappropriate for many easily learned minimum-wage jobs and it is our experience that it is little used.
Finally, I would like to inform the assembly at this time that my colleague the Honourable Pierre Paradis, Minister of Labour for Quebec, has today announced an increase of 20 cents per hour in that province's minimum wage, ensuring that both provinces have the same general rate.
As I have indicated, my announcement today flows from the decision the government made last year to conduct a regular annual review of the minimum wage. I am pleased to report that the consultation undertaken during the review has indicated that this new approach has been received positively by all concerned.
Hon. Mr. Scott: Today the Supreme Court of Canada refused leave to appeal in the case of Regina versus Ernst Zundel.
As honourable members are aware, the Ontario Court of Appeal set aside Mr. Zundel's conviction and directed that a new trial be held. I am able to advise the House that the crown attorney for the judicial district of York has been instructed to proceed with a new trial as soon as possible.
Hon. Mr. Peterson: Je veux dire aujourd'hui que je suis très fier d'être un canadien. Je suis très fier de coopérer avec mes collègues partout dans ce pays pour créer un Canada plus fort.
Today, I would like to provide members with copies of the agreement the first ministers reached yesterday on proposed constitutional amendments. This agreement is one more progressive step in affirming explicitly what Canadians have long believed implicitly. With the changes and the clarifications worked out yesterday in Ottawa, we are continuing a process that began 120 years ago and we are building a stronger Canada. We are building a stronger Canada by bringing Quebec into the Canadian constitutional family.
We can meet our needs only by working together; clearly, this must include the government and the people of Quebec. Through these proposed amendments, we are renewing our collective spirit for the challenges of the century to come.
We are building a stronger Canada by reaffirming the importance of Canada's multicultural character. The Ottawa agreement includes a provision which expressly protects the recognition of multicultural communities, as set out in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
The agreement formally recognizes the existing Canadian reality -- that Quebec constitutes within Canada a distinct society. We also recognize that Quebec's distinctness focuses on its French-speaking majority, but it also includes an English-speaking presence.
The agreement makes it clear that Canada, as a mosaic of cultures and languages, can enhance both its bilingual origins and its multicultural evolution with stability, prosperity and security.
Moreover, the Ottawa agreement expressly states that the recognition of Quebec's distinctiveness will not reduce the powers of the national or provincial governments. Canada will continue to speak with one voice -- the federal government will speak for all Canadians.
We are building a stronger Canada by recognizing Parliament's ability to spend money on areas of exclusive provincial jurisdiction. Under the Ottawa agreement, federal spending powers are entrenched. It is now clear that shared-cost programs are established by the government of Canada. The federal government will set the objectives of those programs.
The federal government's direct contact with all citizens of Canada will be maintained, as will be its ability to introduce new social programs. Provincial governments will be able to operate their own programs and receive financial compensation, provided their programs are compatible with the national objectives as established by the Parliament of Canada.
Several other important points were clarified in the Ottawa agreement.
A new provision protects the rights of aboriginal peoples as set out in the Constitution.
The mobility rights in the charter are expressly given precedence over any immigration agreement that might be negotiated. Moreover, the language in the agreement now expresses the simple but important truth that whatever our mother tongue, we are all Canadians.
I would like to take this opportunity to help clarify an area in which there has been some confusion. The process for amending the Constitution agreed to in 1981 included a provision for unanimous approval for amendments to several matters. That provision was expanded under the Meech Lake agreement to include additional matters such as the Supreme Court of Canada and Parliament. On other items, the process of approval for constitutional amendments, in which no single province has a veto, will continue to apply.
The process of amending a constitution is not an easy one, nor should it be an easy one. There are many different perspectives to consider, and there must be an opportunity for all Canadians to examine the issues and make their views known.
For that reason, we are delighted that the Prime Minister has said there will be public parliamentary hearings to provide full and open discussion. Ontario will follow up on that process with provincial hearings.
Canada's greatest strength is the ability to take the ideas that all Canadians have to offer and to find common ground. We found common ground at Meech Lake five weeks ago. We improved upon it this week. I am confident Canadians will support it, and it will serve them well in the future.
Hon. Mr. Kerrio: Concerns have been expressed regarding activities by Ontario Hydro relating to the construction of the eastern Ontario transmission line in the city of Kanata. I would like to bring the House up to date on this matter.
As members may know, the joint board's March 9 decision regarding rerouting and mitigating measures for this line has been appealed. The appeals are before cabinet for consideration, and I can tell the House that this issue does discuss --
Mr. Speaker: Order. I am advised that members have not received copies.
Mr. Speaker: They just got it? I am sorry.
Hon. Mr. Kerrio: Yes, they have, Mr. Speaker, or they will in 30 seconds. I shall start from the top.
Concerns have been expressed regarding activities by Ontario Hydro relating to construction of the eastern Ontario transmission line in the city of Kanata. I would like to bring the House up to date on this matter.
As members may know, the joint board's March 9 decision regarding rerouting and mitigation measures for this line has been appealed. The appeals are before cabinet for consideration, and I can tell the House that this issue was discussed as recently as yesterday at cabinet.
The Ministry of Health is looking again into the matter of public health as it relates to high-voltage lines to determine if there is any new, valid evidence that such lines have an adverse effect on health.
I can also tell the members that at my request, Ontario Hydro has agreed to suspend all activities relating to the construction of the line in the city of Kanata until cabinet has dealt with the appeals.
Mr. Grossman: We in this party have been expressing our concerns about the Meech Lake accord since it was conceived. We have asked many questions and received few answers. Notwithstanding the allegations of the Premier (Mr. Peterson) -- which is the most I can say about them -- there seemed to be no new answers following yesterday's signing.
On May 4, I told this House of the context in which our party approaches these discussions. As Ontario Progressive Conservatives in the tradition of Robarts and Davis, we believe in a strong national government. We oppose the weakening of its powers and prerogatives.
Let us make one unequivocal point: Our party wants Quebec to be in the Constitution but it must do so as part of a strong agreement, an agreement that strengthens the country as a result of having Quebec sign, not weakens it as the price of getting Quebec to sign.
There is no rush. Meech Lake was a hurried agreement, finalized after a night of nonstop bargaining. It is fair for us and the public to ask for a careful analysis of a document so conceived. If Meech Lake is a good document, time will not now be its enemy.
On May 5, we asked for one week of public hearings on the draft agreement. The Premier said they were not needed. Then he said there was not time and then he changed his mind. He then said outside this House, moments after we again asked for public hearings here and now, that there would indeed be hearings in Ontario. He also said he would ask for hearings on the national level. We in this party have always supported the involvement of all Canadians at all stages in this important process. I might say we are glad the Premier has changed his mind on public hearings and now agrees.
There are many uncertainties surrounding the draft agreement and the new accord. The Premier's assurances today are not backed up by the constitutional experts or by any sense of unanimity among either the other Premiers or the experts who have perused the document. It is not sufficient simply to state that nothing much has changed. We need the proof.
These uncertainties remain. There are the concerns of the group of 43, the concerns of some of our finest constitutional minds and what appear to be growing concerns in the minds of average people who are eager that this country remain a strong central nation. There are the concerns of Canadians who put the national interest first, as we in this party have always done, who believe we must rise above our own likes and dislikes and our provincial preferences and our provincial politics. For us in this party, the national interest means equipping the federal government with the tools and the resources to do the job. It also implies not a community of communities, not a league, but a nation.
We need time. We now have time. I do not wish today to restate all of the questions we have raised. They are all on the record. They will be asked again at a future time, and there will be new questions. I hope it is understood by all Canadians that we have a duty to ask these questions. They are asked in a genuine commitment to this country and to our party's clear centralist heritage. That heritage lies in sharp contrast to the Premier's vagueness about this deal.
I call upon the Premier today to do several things: (1) explain his views as to the exact impact of what he signed, the impact for Canada and the impact for Ontario; (2) have genuine, unhurried public input and analysis, the analysis he has refused to offer today; (3) set out clearly his understanding of the distinct society and immigration clauses, and the opting out clause.
The ball is now in the court of the Premier. As he seeks ratification for what he has signed, he must analyse, explain and defend what it is he signed. There can be no blank cheques for Confederation.
Yesterday, the Premier said he always thought it was possible to "do a deal." Those are not words of reassurance. Nation-building requires perhaps a different approach from "doing a deal," an approach instead built of principles, commitment and vision.
It would be easy for our party simply to endorse the accord, but we have a responsibility and I am not in public office to take the easy way out. We look forward to the process and hope our concerns will be alleviated, but we are steadfast in our resolve to do what must be done to defend our vision of a strong Canadian government.
Mr. Mackenzie: I want to say how deplorable I find the increase of 20 cents an hour in the minimum wage. We are now going to give workers who are willing to work $9,400 a year in wages, about $1,500 or $1,600 less than the poverty level. We are going to give them $416 a year more if they work the full year; $786 a month, which barely pays the rent in a city like Toronto. I find it deplorable. I find it disgusting. I will send one of the pages across the floor of the House with 20 cents for the Minister of Labour (Mr. Wrye). Maybe he can add a nickel to it and call all his friends.
Ms. Gigantes: I would like to respond very briefly to the announcement by the Minister of Community and Social Services (Mr. Sweeney) and state, first of all, our regret that there is so little time today to respond. We understand the minister will be away most of next week.
The policy -- if one can call it that -- he has announced is one that says we will not have policy for another year and a half. The money he announced, he announced as if it were coming out of the provincial Treasury. Half of the money, of course, will be coming from the federal government.
The allocations he indicated for this year show how very little motion has been made through his ministry even to deal with the situation that currently faces municipal centres, nonprofit municipally-run centres that have been depending on transitional grants so that people could send their kids to those centres. What is going to happen to those centres now?
There is a lot less here than meets the eye. The minister, having waited a year beyond his promised day care policy, has produced yet another paltry excuse for a statement.
Mr. Rae: I want to respond to the statement of the Premier (Mr. Peterson) and simply say to him and to the House that -- while there may be an illusion out there that because of the length of the bargaining session, somehow the job has been completed -- I want to suggest to the House and to the people of the province that the work is just beginning.
I would remind the House that the last experience we had of constitutional reform, which was in 1980-81-82, was an experience where the government of the day brought forward some proposals which it felt it could have discussed and debated within the Parliament of Canada within a few weeks.
We then went through one of the most agonizing and difficult national debates, with several revisions and changes in the Constitution and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, in response to a number of legitimate and real concerns being raised by groups from across the country.
Anybody who thinks we will not be going through a similar process with respect to this agreement is simply deluding himself.
I want to start by saying that any agreement which has been willingly agreed to by Quebec is an agreement that all of us must see as an important starting point. That is the position I take on behalf of our party. We see it as an important starting point. We have many questions and concerns that relate directly to the impact of this agreement on our existing Constitution. We will be raising those questions today, and I can assure the Premier that we will be raising them for many months to come. l suspect there will be a great many citizens across the province who will also be raising them.
Let me also emphasize that in bringing these concerns to the House and to the people of this province, I do not think it is sufficient for me or for our party to simply reflect whatever traditions a particular section of the country, or indeed section of our party, might represent. Perhaps because of my federal experience, I have a very strong feeling that we have an obligation to think of Canada not simply as Toronto or Ontario writ large. We have an obligation to recognize that Canada is a very diverse place with many different traditions and, in order to have a Constitution, we have to understand that.
Alors, nous commençons le travail. Il va commencer aujourd'hui avec nos questions dans un sens que dans la province, nous avons des choses à faire pour vraiement arriver à une constitution qui reflète la réalité canadienne, la réalité de tout le pays. Le fait que le Québec soit maintenant un partenaire volontaire dans la constitution, c'est un bon commencement, mais c'est seulement le commencement.
Mr. Grossman: I have a question for the Premier. I wonder if the Premier could take this opportunity to explain to the House precisely what special powers Quebec will need to exercise its right, in the accord he signed, to preserve and promote the distinct society, over and above the powers the other provinces already have.
Hon. Mr. Peterson: The member is referring to clause 2 which recognizes the distinct society. That is an interpretation clause that the courts will use in determining certain areas under their jurisdiction. There is a nonderogation clause that does not alter the existing powers between the federal government and the provincial government. That is subsection 4 of the section my honourable friend refers to. It is an argument that will be put forward with respect to possible legislation or initiatives some time in the future.
Mr. Grossman: As a result of the lengthy sessions the Premier was in, he must surely be able to report to Ontarians and Canadians across the country today as to whether the distinct society clause means anything or not. If it means anything, then it has given Quebec some powers or some special rights or some special privileges; otherwise, Quebec would not have wanted that clause in there.
I wonder if the Premier can describe to us today, having heard Quebec's argument as he did for having that clause in there, what impact he thinks the distinct society will have, given his agreement to having that clause in there.
Hon. Mr. Peterson: The distinctiveness of Quebec is recognized inside the Canadian nation. I refer him to clause 2(1)(a) of that particular section as well, which defines Canada as one Canada with English-speaking Canadians and French-speaking Canadians centred in various different parts of the country but all part of the great Canadian nation. That is a clause that could be used by a Quebec government in the interpretation of certain other statutes or acts that may come forward.
If the member is asking me if special and unique powers are conferred that are going to upset the current distribution of powers, I do not believe that is the case.
Mr. Grossman: Clearly, the Premier is unusually uncertain about the impact of the clause he agreed to. Given that, I wonder if I could draw his attention to section 16 of the agreement he has just referred to.
He will know that in section 16 of the document it specifically says that only two of the 34 sections of the Charter of Rights cannot be affected by the distinct society clause. I presume that means all the other sections of the charter that are left out of that saving clause, which include such matters as fundamental freedoms, democratic rights, legal rights, equality rights, official languages of Canada and minority language educational rights, were not so specifically protected.
Could the Premier tell me why he would have agreed, or what the intent was, to provide protection for the distinct societies of multicultural and aboriginal groups but not for, for example, minority language educational rights?
Hon. Mr. Peterson: I do not agree with my honourable friend's interpretation of the situation. As he knows, there were special concerns raised with respect to the multicultural communities and indeed the aboriginal rights. Frankly, we do not believe they were affected prior to that, but to give that special reassurance those concerns were mentioned specifically. I do not believe it affects other powers under the charter.
Mr. Grossman: The leader of the third party is exactly right. When you name two parts of the charter, you, expressly by the courts, are deemed to say all the other parts shall not provide --
Mr. Speaker: Your new question is to whom?
Mr. Grossman: My second question is to the Premier. I wonder if the Premier today is prepared to acknowledge this fact. Two years ago, Quebec received 16 per cent of Canada's immigration. I wonder if the Premier will now acknowledge that the constitutional accord guarantees Quebec 25 per cent of all immigration to Canada.
Hon. Mr. Peterson: I think that is basically correct. Immigration tends to be allotted as to the percentage of population of the country.
Mr. Grossman: The Premier will recall that last week he denied that was the impact of the same clause. Today, for the first time, he has finally acknowledged that our concerns are right; that is, Quebec will now get a guaranteed 25 per cent.
Given the fact that means approximately 8,000, under that basic guarantee, would be required to go to Quebec as opposed to the rest of the country, I wonder what kind of assurance he could give to the Portuguese, Chinese and Italian immigrant families who are in Ontario and other provinces that this clause will in no way cut out what otherwise might have been immigration flowing from those countries to Canada.
Hon. Mr. Peterson: I can give them a blanket assurance that in no way happens; it does not interfere with family reunification. The reality my friend will want to point out, to give a balanced argument to the friends who express concern to him, is that Ontario receives roughly 45 to 50 per cent of all the immigration into the country. There has been an assertion that the mobility rights take precedence over any agreement that is signed.
I think he can very comfortably go to his friends who express concerns to him and say that has not been affected in any way at all.
Mr. Grossman: The Premier acknowledged that almost 50 per cent of the immigration to this country comes to Ontario. He has acknowledged that he has given Quebec an extra nine per cent of the immigration over what it is currently getting. It stands to reason, there is no other conclusion to be drawn but that a large majority of that --
Mr. Grossman: The Attorney General (Mr. Scott) has had lots of chances to explain this for the last two weeks and has been unable to do so.
It is inescapable that the immigration shift will have to be from immigrants who otherwise would have come to Ontario and now will be obliged to go to Quebec.
Given the fact that the 10 largest immigrant groups coming to Ontario are from Vietnam, Hong Kong, the United States, the Caribbean, the United Kingdom, Poland, India, the Philippines, Guyana and El Salvador -- those are the 10 largest groups --could the Premier explain how Quebec is going to get a portion of the population from these countries; or is Quebec, because of its added powers now going to replace some of that immigration with immigration from other countries such as Belgium and France, which was the intent of the Cullen Couture agreement, and thus exclude some Vietnamese, Hong Kong, Caribbean, Polish and Indian immigration that otherwise would have come to this province?
Hon. Mr. Peterson: I am sure my honourable friend does not want to raise fears that are incorrect; I am sure he would not want, wittingly or unwittingly, to raise those fears.
I tell my friend that mobility rights are protected. I tell my friend that Ontario gets 45 to 50 per cent of the immigration. I tell my friend that, as I said, immigration tends to be allotted on the basis of population, with a plus or minus factor of five per cent for Quebec under the Cullen-Couture agreement.
There is no reason those people could not go to Quebec and then come immediately to Ontario; there is no prevention of that. I do not want the member to give the impression unwittingly that something is being robbed from Ontario or that family reunification is being interfered with to go to Quebec. That is not what is happening, and I am sure the member would not want to create that impression.
Mr. Speaker: Order. There are other members who would like to ask questions.
Mr. Rae: I wonder whether the Premier can explain what he sees as the relationship between the new section 2 of the Constitution Act with respect to Quebec's distinct society, in particular subsection 2(4), and the existing Charter of Rights. The Premier will know that the charter does not grant powers to governments; it grants rights to individuals. The Premier will also know that certain sections of the charter have been expressly referred to in the new package.
There are other sections, if I can just list a few -- section 6 on mobility rights, section 23 on minority language education rights and section 29 with respect to separate schools -- none of which have been referred to in the general section which talks about how the distinct society will not apply. Can the Premier explain what effect the new section 2 will have on those particular sections of the charter?
Hon. Mr. Peterson: The simple answer is that there will be no impact on the interpretation of the charter, but let me go on and explain that. I invite my honourable friend to bring in all the expert advice he would possibly like to bring in on this particular matter. I assure him we went through this in considerable detail with Professor Hogg and others, who I think have quite a profound understanding of this matter.
One of the things the member has to understand is that in clause 2(1)(a) there is a recognition of the minority situation both inside and outside Quebec. Distinctiveness is not defined in terms of language. That is a very key point for people who are interested in the legal details, as is my honourable friend opposite. I do not believe it in any way precludes the operation of the charter or the protection of individual rights in that particular regard; that is why the answer to the question, in brief, is no.
Mr. Rae: I do not want to get into legal technicalities. I want to try to get an understanding of what impact this is going to have and what impact the Premier intended it to have. All I can say is, if he did not intend it to have an effect on the rights of citizens guaranteed by the charter, why did he not say so with respect to the distinct society?
Hon. Mr. Peterson: It was not necessary in the circumstances.
Mr. Rae: If it was not necessary in the circumstances, why did the Premier deem it necessary to refer to particular sections of the charter, which he did with respect to multiculturalism and native people? It would be curious indeed if the impact of that particular reference were to weaken the impact with respect to the rights of other groups who are not specifically named yet who are covered by the other sections of the charter.
Hon. Mr. Peterson: There were many people who did not feel section 16 was necessary at all; who felt, in fact, they were protected. But concerns were raised by those groups, as the member knows, that they were affected by the interpretation of the distinct society. That was put there to make sure those concerns could be laid to rest permanently. That is the reason. We could gather the best constitutional experts in the country and they would argue that it probably was not necessary, but it does reaffirm that very strong commitment to give a comfort level that may not have existed previously.
Mr. Rae: I would like to ask some questions in relation to amending the Constitution, in particular with respect to our native people. The Premier will know that the section "Constitutional Conferences" refers to conferences being convened on Senate reform, fish and sea and "such other matters as are agreed upon." Is it his understanding that the agreement among the Premiers as to other matters has to be unanimous?
Hon. Mr. Peterson: Not at all.
Mr. Rae: How many Premiers have to agree with respect to getting native people on the agenda before it gets on the agenda? If it is not unanimous, why did the Premier not insist that it be there in the document we are being asked to approve?
Hon. Mr. Peterson: I think one Premier can put it on the agenda. If one of them puts it forward and says, "I want to discuss this," it is fine. It is not a big problem.
Mr. Rae: Why did the one Premier who said he was concerned not do something to make sure it is there? If it took only one Premier to get it on the agenda, why did this Premier not put it on the agenda and have it?
I am not asking the Attorney General. Stop prompting. Let the Premier answer. When I want to go to Edgar Bergen, I will go to Edgar Bergen. Right now we are going to somebody else.
What I would like to ask the Premier is this: if it does not require an agreement, which it says -- it says "such other matters as are agreed upon" -- and the Premier is now saying it does not require an agreement to get it there, why did the Premier not insist that the question of what happens to our native people be at least as important as what happens to fish?
Hon. Mr. Peterson: I know my old friend likes to draw these comparisons, which I do not see, and I think he is getting exercised about absolutely nothing in that particular regard. I said to my friend, if he heard my closing remarks, this would make it easier to deal with the question of aboriginal self-government.
I believe that because we have agreed to an ongoing process of constitutional reform; I believe that because it has not been affected by the amendment section, section 42. As he knows, it goes back to the general amending provision, and I made my pledge to bring this matter up. It is interesting to note that we had a substantial amount of agreement. So my friend is entitled to put on a little show here, but I think it is not necessary in the circumstances.
Mr. Grossman: I have a question for the Premier. The Premier will know that last year Ontario got 40,000 immigrants. He will know and has agreed that under the Meech Lake accord, which he signed, Quebec gets an additional minimum of 8,000, perhaps 9,000 immigrants. If all those come at the expense of Ontario, that means one out of every five persons who came to Ontario last year would not, in the same circumstances, have been allowed to come to Ontario and perhaps, because of the Cullen-Couture agreement, not to Canada.
I wonder how the Premier can justify having agreed to give Quebec a quota in terms of immigration into this country when it could in fact cost Ontario --
Hon. Mr. Scott: Ontario is getting Manitoba's, Saskatchewan's, Alberta's and BC's immigrants. What are you talking about?
Mr. Grossman: If the Attorney General wants to become Premier he can answer the questions. Was he in the room or was he not in the room?
Hon. Mr. Kerrio: You are the guys --
Mr. Grossman: Does he want to let his Premier stand up and answer the questions or just take credit for signing an accord?
Mr. Speaker: Order.
Mr. Grossman: Can the Premier explain why he would have given Quebec a quota which may in fact cost Ontario one out of every five immigrants it has traditionally been receiving?
Hon. Mr. Scott: That is scandalous scare-mongering and you know it.
Mr. Speaker: Order, Attorney General.
Hon. Mr. Peterson: My honourable friend purports to speak in the great tradition of John Robarts and Bill Davis. They would be embarrassed if they heard him asserting that.
I think the answer to that question is that immigration is apportioned on the basis of population. Quebec gets 25 per cent in Canada, but on the basis of the attraction of this great province we get about 50 per cent. There is in no way a diminution, and if there is an extra five per cent it will be through an expansion of the quota, so there is no particular problem.
Mr. Grossman: The Premier cannot be that uninformed with regard to the document he signed. The document he signed does not say there will be an extra five per cent allowed into the country. It is not an increase from the overall amount; it says of all the immigration coming to Canada -- and the Premier signed the documents -- it says of all the immigrants coming to Canada; it does not say there shall be five per cent added.
Clearly, in the document which he quotes so often, it says right up front that whatever Canada's total immigration population, Quebec shall get 25 per cent. It is currently getting 16 per cent. Ontario gets 50 per cent. It stands to reason that if Quebec gets a quota for the first time, nine per cent higher than it is currently getting, most of that is going to come from Ontario.
There is no getting around the fact that that is the document the Premier signed. Let me also be clear that Bill Davis, John Robarts, Pierre Trudeau --
Mr. Speaker: And the question is?
Mr. Grossman: -- and all the other fathers of the Confederation he is amending had lots of opportunity to give Quebec quotas on immigration. They put the country and not getting a deal first, and refused every time --
Mr. Speaker: Question.
Mr. Grossman: -- to give one province a quota on immigration. So we, over here, will not tolerate any lectures from the Premier --
Mr. Speaker: Question.
Mr. Grossman: -- about the great tradition of nation building. We will speak up for immigrants and family reunification.
Mr. Speaker: Order. Do you have a question?
Mr. Grossman: To simplify it, is it the Premier's opinion that guaranteeing Quebec an increase of nine per cent in its share of national immigration will have no impact on Ontario and Ontario will not lose future immigration'? Is that the Premier's understanding?
Hon. Mr. Peterson: The simple answer to the question is yes. We have --
Mr. Grossman: Are you silly? Where is it going to come from? New Brunswick?
Mr. Speaker: Order.
Hon. Mr. Peterson: Yes, that is happening, presumably at the expense of a lot of other provinces right now, because people want to come here.
My honourable friend may want to argue that we have to go down to our proportionate population, 35 per cent or 36 per cent. In fact, we are getting 46 per cent to 50 per cent of the immigrants coming here. I am very happy. They are very welcome here and will continue to be.
Is he arguing that Quebec should have less than its 25 per cent of the population? It just so happens that Canada has been under quotas at various times and various periods. That is the normal dynamic in the system. I know my honourable friend does not want to spread misinformation about this point -- or perhaps he does.
Mr. Grossman: You are spreading misinformation. You categorically gave an incorrect answer.
Mr. Rae: I wonder if I can go back to the question, and it is a very real one, with respect to our native people.
First, we have a description of the country in a new section 2 which describes Canada but which does not mention the existence of our first citizens. That is the first problem. They are omitted from the definition. They are not described as a fundamental characteristic of Canada; neither are multicultural communities. Our native people are not even mentioned with respect to the definition of Canada.
The second problem is there is no guarantee that this can be corrected because they are not even on the list of items that are going to be discussed in the Constitution.
Can the Premier explain those two facts? First, in what he had earlier described as the definition of the country, the existence of our first citizens is not even mentioned. Second, if it is so easy to get these matters on the agenda, can he explain why they are not mentioned in the document?
Hon. Mr. Peterson: I would refer to my honourable friend's question. First, it describes a fundamental characteristic of Canada, not the fundamental characteristic of Canada. There are many other fundamental characteristics of Canada. He and I can have that discussion many times in the future. Since he is asking a legal question, I think one has to look at the legal answer.
Number two, I say to my honourable friend -- and I refer him back to my public statement and others as well -- Howard Pawley of Manitoba and others are deeply committed to this question, as are we. We are persuaded that we now have a process of institutionalized constitutional reform and when the situation is right -- and frankly it is not right politically to raise again because we would have the same result as we did -- but we are persuaded, God willing and assuming we are here at the right time, to bring this question up and keep pursuing it.
I would tell my honourable friend we had five provinces out of nine last time. Quebec is now in, so we can get seven provinces and 50 per cent of the population easier with 10 provinces than with nine provinces. I think there is a growing sensitivity in these matters and at the appropriate time, when we think we can do something proceeding towards our goal of aboriginal self-government, then we will bring those matters forward.
I would tell my honourable friend the rights of the aboriginal people are in no way diminished; they are enhanced by the process we have created and by their explicit recognition.
Mr. Rae: I want to return to this. The fact is that the Premier, in his answers to earlier questions from the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Grossman), referred to this section as the definition of the country. It obviously represents a foundation of constitutional interpretation, and that foundation does not include the group that was here before any of the rest of us or any of our ancestors came here. I think that is not simply a minor omission. I think it is a historic omission which we ought to rectify and which we have an opportunity to rectify.
I want to also ask the Premier, if the question of fisheries was obviously put there as a response to a demand from the Premier of Newfoundland and the question of the Senate was put there in response to a demand from the Premier of Alberta, where is his demand with respect to the native people of Canada?
If it was so important to Ontario and remains so important to Ontario, and if the inclusion of Quebec now makes that amendment possible, why did the Premier not insist that it be right there subsequent to the admission of Quebec into the constitutional discussions, if he is right that it is now a historic possibility?
Hon. Mr. Peterson: I say to the honourable member, I can only repeat that I think the opportunity for constitutional reform in that regard is greatly enhanced by this matter. There are other people who have other items they would like to discuss at various times -- we have property rights -- and the problem with doing that is that one either creates an exclusive list or a list that can be expanded.
What I am telling the honourable member because I think I clearly understand the intention of the first ministers, is that the intention is to expand that over a long period of time. There are a lot of things that are important to Ontario and there a lot of things that are important to other provinces and those will be brought up at the appropriate time. But I do not think my honourable friend can leave the impression that we are not serious about that. We took, with the help of the Attorney General, a leading role in trying to solve that problem the last time and we are continuing to press with that national leadership.
Mr. Sterling: I would like to ask the Minister of Energy a question.
I thank the minister for bringing us up to date with regard to the transmission line in the city of Kanata. As the minister knows, in the appeal by the Bridlewood community to the cabinet, it claimed that at a meeting in November 1984, Ontario Hydro told the community, including Alderman Eva James, that the present right of way could not be used for technical reasons. On page 8 of Ontario Hydro's response, it said that this statement was simply false.
Is the minister going to believe the people of Bridlewood or is he going to believe Ontario Hydro, which this morning, as he knows, went into the area and started building before his cabinet had finished the appeal?
Hon. Mr. Kerrio: I do not have to take the word of Ontario Hydro. This went through the proper procedure at hearings and everyone who had any interest in this matter was heard. The member knows the reason the lines have to be extended. There is no place in Ontario that has had the expansion and more of a requirement for electricity than the area we are talking about, and we are looking at spending some $600 million to expand the system to make certain we can deliver power to the people in that very important area.
That has gone through the proper procedure. The appeal has gone to cabinet and now we are very anxious to look at every mitigating circumstance or any question the people have. It has gone through the process. Would the member have us change the process, eliminate it; or what would be his response to dealing with this, other than a very, very open concept where everyone concerned has every right to be heard at the hearings? That has taken place.
Mr. Sterling: On Monday of this week, Ontario Hydro told Alderman Eva James -- the same Eva James -- that it would not begin construction until the cabinet had dealt with this appeal. The minister knows that Ontario Hydro went in there and started construction this morning, notwithstanding what it told Eva James.
Mrs. Judy Hunter went out there this morning and demanded that Ontario Hydro cease construction. What was Ontario Hydro's response? It called in three Ontario Provincial Police cruisers to stop Judy Hunter and one of her friends, who were there demanding that it stop.
The minister stated this afternoon that Ontario Hydro, on his request, had now ceased construction. Why, at 2:10, 15 minutes after the minister made his statement here in this Legislature, was Ontario Hydro still on the damned site? Who is Hydro listening to here?
Mr. Speaker: That is a good question.
Hon. Mr. Kerrio: Mr. Speaker, would you lock the cage over there so I can respond?
The fact of the matter is that I know precisely what I am talking about. The fact of the matter is that I shall share with the House and the honourable member, who asks a very good question -- if the members are quiet for just enough time for me to respond -- that the chairman and the president of Ontario Hydro stopped all work on the eastern Ontario transmission line in the area of Bridlewood in response to my request.
Mr. Sterling: They are still on the site. They are still there.
Hon. Mr. Kerrio: The member is not very well informed. That is his problem. I have been given the commitment --
Mr. Sterling: It is not my problem. You are going to cause a confrontation out there.
Hon. Mr. Kerrio: Mr. Speaker, I cannot respond if he is going to shout.
Mr. Speaker: Order. I thought it was a very sterling question. We would like to have a response.
Hon. Mr. Kerrio: I am not here to be an apologist for Ontario Hydro. If they did in fact take the initiative when they should not have -- and there is some question about that, they have responded to my request to stop work. That is what has happened. Regardless of what the member is saying in his place, as of now Ontario Hydro has stopped work until we resolve the problem. I guess the member is just not as up to date as I am and I think he should improve his research.
Ms. Gigantes: I would like to see whether we can get a bit of clarity out of the gobbledegookish kind of statement we had from the Minister of Community and Social Services.
Mr. Speaker: Order. A question to whom?
Ms. Gigantes: The Minister of Community and Social Services, in the hope that we can get some clarity out of the gobbledegookish kind of statement and flurry of paper we have had today.
Of the $9 million in the remaining part of this fiscal year which the minister will be devoting to direct operating grants for nonprofit centres, how much will that give on a per-day basis for a space in one of those centres? How much subsidy will that be? How much direct operating grant?
Hon. Mr. Sweeney: We are still in the process of consulting with our partners, particularly the municipalities that share the subsidies with us and with the day care centres that are going to receive the money. It is our intent at this time to have a $3-per-day direct grant. We are prepared, however, to consider options presented to us to vary that, to make it higher for some and lower for others, but it is going to work out to approximately $3 a day.
Ms. Gigantes: How is the minister going to provide $3 a day, which is not enough in terms of direct operating grant, when we have roughly 42,000 spaces now in the nonprofit sector and many of those spaces are in municipal nonprofits which are receiving transition direct grants of $8 to $10 per day? How is he going to produce that kind of money for each space? Is it not true that if that $9 million is spread out over 42,000 spaces in the remaining part of the fiscal year, the minister is going to be giving a direct operating grant on a per-day basis of $1.42?
Hon. Mr. Sweeney: As I indicated, I have already spoken to some of our municipal partners and they raised the question with us as to whether it would be better to give more money to some centres that have more need and less to others that have less need. We are prepared to negotiate that. We hope to actually start distributing the money next fall; we have said the balance of this fiscal year. We feel, in all fairness, that we have an obligation to consult with our partners. I have not been able to do that on any exact basis until today, when I received assurance from my colleague the Treasurer (Mr. Nixon) and my cabinet colleagues that this money would be available.
Mr. Pope: My question is for the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology. Yesterday the minister had no knowledge of the potential problems caused by the projected overcapacity in the auto industry in North America by the year 1990, some two and a half years from now. He did not know anything about it. Then he denied any responsibility or that he was going to do anything about it. He said that it was not a problem and that he did not share my sense of doom and gloom, as I recall his comments.
Could the minister then explain, if he thinks there is no cause for alarm, the story that appeared in the Report on Business this morning, as it so happens, that indicates "Domestic Car Makers Fight Slide in Sales"? Substantial reductions in car sales will add to the pressure for a renegotiation of the auto pact on a North America-wide basis and will add to the pressure for a 12-month notice under the provisions of that pact. It is already upon us and will become worse in two and a half years.
What studies and what planning is the minister doing to protect 285,000 jobs in this province that directly and indirectly depend on this most important industry?
Hon. Mr. O'Neil: I guess I would have to repeat in part what I said to the member yesterday, that we are not as pessimistic as he is. There have been predictions for a couple of years now about overcapacity in the auto industry and yet employment and new growth in the auto industry have continued for the last two years. We have growth. Over $2 billion is being spent by General Motors. We have Suzuki, we have Honda and we have many of these other plants expanding. We do not share the same pessimism that the member has.
Mr. Pope: We are talking about the most major industry in this province, the automotive manufacturing and assembly industry and automotive parts industry, with 285,000 jobs directly and indirectly affected, with projected overcapacity by 1990 and with problems already with respect to domestic sales.
Can the minister explain how he can stand in this House and claim to be the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology? How can this government, claiming to be concerned about employment in this province, have no plans and be doing nothing to deal with a major economic challenge for so many Ontario workers in the future? How can he stand there and take that position?
Hon. Mr. O'Neil: On the other hand, the member could look at what is happening in Ontario. As I mentioned, he would see the great confidence the auto industry has in this province. This government is working very closely with the auto industry, including the parts industry. We are also working closely with labour and the federal government to make sure certain things are put into practice that will enable us not to have that overcapacity.
Mr. R. F. Johnston: I would like to go back to the Minister of Community and Social Services on the day care announcement. As a member of the select committee on health, I am a little disturbed he has not followed even the majority recommendations of that committee that there should be an $8 per diem direct grant. If we spread this evenly, it would be only $1.42 for this year in direct grant instead of the $8 we recommended.
What does this mean for people in Geraldton who are already withdrawing their children because of the requirement there of a $9 per diem, in Thunder Bay of $9.75 and in Wingham of $10.50? If the minister is going to give them that money, who else is going to get any? He has not really thought this through, has he?
Hon. Mr. Sweeney: The member will be aware of the fact that, for the first time, we are introducing in Ontario direct grants to all day care centres. We are starting with nonprofit centres, which, by the way, the member and his colleagues have suggested we do. We are going to expand into the profit centres if we can negotiate the arrangements with the federal government. That is clearly stated in the document. The document also indicates that by the end of the three-year cycle, fully 30 per cent of the new money will be directed to direct grants.
The member will also be aware of the fact that in terms of total new dollars, over that three-year period we are going to put an additional $165 million into the system. The member will be aware of the fact that we have several targets we are trying to reach. We want to move to income testing. We want to give direct grants. We want to provide more money for capital spaces. We want to deal with kids who have special needs. We want to deal with families who have needs with respect to shift work and emergency situations. That money is being spread over a number of initiatives.
I am sure the honourable member would not want me to take any one of those other initiatives and direct all of that money strictly to direct grants. That is one way in which we are going to be able to meet a range of needs.
Mr. R. F. Johnston: There was nothing stopping this minister from doing any of those things over the past two years, even though he claimed last December that there were restrictions on him. Our projections are that on the present spaces alone, the 30 per cent figure for the increase in funds he is talking about would still bring a per diem of only $4.58 by the end of the third year.
I want to ask why has he not brought in other requests from that select committee, one of which was that there should be not only postings of annual inspections but also more inspections, that the results of each unannounced inspection should be posted, that there should be contracts between parents and operators so parents would know what to expect in terms of quality of care and that there should be a posting of financial statements in all the profit and nonprofit organizations around the province. Why did he not move in those areas?
Hon. Mr. Sweeney: The comments I made today and the document itself clearly speak to the fact that we are going to post the inspection agreements, as we had discussed previously. We are also including in the statement the fact that there is going to be an increase of staff at our various area offices who will do the very thing the member mentioned. We have also indicated in the document that there will be arrangements for parents to participate with the day care providers to a greater extent than they do now. I think we are meeting all those issues. We may not be doing it in quite the way the honourable member suggests, but we are meeting those initiatives.
Mr. Gillies: I have a question for the Minister of Housing. Today is an anniversary of sorts for the minister because it was one year ago today when he told concerned residents on McClure Crescent, living in homes built over contaminated soil, that he would respond very quickly to their recommendation and suggestion to him that they be allowed to transfer their mortgages to new homes being built on government-owned land in the north Malvern area.
It was one year ago today, and those concerned citizens have yet to hear from the minister. Can he tell them today, on the first anniversary of his commitment, what he intends to do about the 60 families living under those very serious conditions?
Hon. Mr. Curling: I want to thank the honourable member for his question. I am quite sure I have responded to many of those home owners in the past through letters. I am not aware that some have not been responded to. As a matter of fact, the matter now falls under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Government Services for the mortgage arrangements. I am definitely sure that I have responded to those people who asked for transfer of mortgage to the new homes to which they were going.
Mr. Gillies: There are some 100 homes involved in this, 40 of which have been moved under the steps he took some several months ago. There are 60 families still sitting there waiting for an adequate response. I wonder whether the minister knows who it was who said with regard to moving into a house on McClure Crescent, "Nobody in their right mind would do it." Does the minister know that those are the words of his own Premier (Mr. Peterson)? Does he agree with the Premier that nobody in their right mind would live on that street and yet the minister is leaving 60 families right there?
Hon. Mr. Curling: I am trying to contain my emotion here. The previous government had this situation sitting there on McClure for years and turned its back on the owners there. It did nothing.
I can go further and tell the member that when I was campaigning in that area, which is in my riding, I was appalled to know that even their member, Tom Wells, whom I respect very much, who was also a minister, took no initiative. As a matter of fact, he phoned me from England and commended me for taking this decision to relieve the people there. The nerve of the member getting up and asking what we are doing about that. We have done more than they did. I have offered to buy 40 of those homes and 25 of those people have so far taken up those conditions and the others are still negotiating with me.
Mr. Rae: I have a question for the Premier. I wonder if I could ask the Premier to come back to the question of the agreement he signed yesterday. I want to ask him now about shared-cost programs and the spending power. Can the Premier tell us, and he again refers to it specifically in his statement, why the words "the national objectives" are not followed by the words "of these programs"? Does the Premier not appreciate that unless that is clarified, it is always going to be possible for the concept of objectives to be completely watered down?
Hon. Mr. Peterson: I do not believe that. A lot of attention was paid to those particular words. The member will recall that the section talks about shared-cost programs "established by the government of Canada," and then at the end of that section refers to "the national objectives." Clearly, the national objectives relate back to the shared-cost programs established by the federal government.
Mr. Rae: As in all these matters, I can remember when Jean Chrétien and Robert Kaplan, that very distinguished constitutional authority, assured me that freedom of association meant that the right to strike was guaranteed in the Constitution. The Supreme Court told him he was full of it, just about a couple of months ago.
If it is so clear to the Premier and so crystal clear to everybody else, why are those words not contained in the document? Why are they not there? The fact that they are not there always allows the possibility that some judge or some group of judges will interpret it in a very different way.
Hon. Mr. Peterson: I appreciate that the member may have a different interpretation, but I can tell him very clearly that is the interpretation. We had legal experts advising on this matter. We believe it is quite clear even on a simple reading of the matter.
I am not saying that we could not run into a situation where some of the greatest minds in this country disagree with ours -- as a matter of fact, that is probably a very common practice but I think my honourable friend's concern should be allayed. Premier Pawley was satisfied with those words, as am I. I think the stated purpose has been clearly accomplished and I again want to lay my friend's concerns to rest.
WORKERS' COMPENSATION BOARD
Mr. Brandt: My question is for the Minister of Labour. On May 4, the minister will be aware that I raised a question in the House with respect to the Workers' Compensation Board. At that time, in response to my question, the minister indicated that the average increase for the premium cost to employers would be 8.7 per cent for the year. I believe the minister is also aware that the year prior to that, the average increase for premium costs was about 12 per cent, and at that time was about three times the rate of inflation.
Those increases, by way of question, are causing a lot of problems for employers, in terms of funding the total costs, in the operation of their business. Will the minister give this House any kind of an undertaking or assurance that in the next year, predicting the future in terms of the budget requirements of the WCB, the costs of the operation of the WCB will be more in line with the rate of inflation and will not be running at double and triple the rates, as they have been the last two years?
Hon. Mr. Wrye: I would have thought my friend, having been a parliamentary assistant to the then Minister of Labour during his first term, and indeed having been a member of the cabinet of the previous government, would have remembered that in 1984 the WCB set about a three-year program in which it could begin to set the tone for reducing and eliminating over a period of time the unfunded liability, which today is at some $6 billion.
That program, as far as I have heard in my last discussions with the chairman, is on target. The increases, substantial as they were over the rate of inflation, were increases in which there was some advance knowledge that they would be substantially higher than the rate of inflation over the last three years, in order that over the total period of time, which I believe is some 30 years ending around the year 2010 or 2012, the unfunded liability will be wiped out.
Now the parties, the employer community and the WCB, if they have not already begun, will begin over the next short while to discuss the increase to be given next year, and I am sure those discussions will go forward in that spirit.
Mr. Brandt: I do not know how the minister can say the unfunded liability is going to be wiped out over the next few years when it has been increasing at a tremendously rapid rate.
As of yesterday in the standing committee on resources development, both our party and the third party have called for a royal commission, as the minister is aware. The purpose of a royal commission would be to draft new legislation as it relates to the Workers' Compensation Act.
This is in response to the problem of spiralling administrative costs, which the minister must agree are occurring; a huge increase in staff, which we have already raised with him in this House; the unfunded liability, which is now some $6 billion; and continuing complaints on the part of the workers with respect to the time frames in which their claims are settled, and also the number of claims out there which are not as yet resolved by the WCB.
Will the minister give this House an undertaking that he is prepared to urge the Premier (Mr. Peterson) and his cabinet colleagues to proceed with a royal commission and a full study and investigation into the WCB in order that this matter can finally be resolved?
Hon. Mr. Wrye: No, I will not.
Mr. Rae: I wonder if the Premier can explain to us why it is that if the Premiers were so interested in institutionalizing constitutional reform with respect to federal institutions and other matters, that reform has been made more difficult by the expansion of the requirement for unanimity to include the selection of senators and the creation of new provinces.
The Premier will be aware of the very deep feeling in northern Canada with respect to this particular provision. As well, those of us who look forward to the Valhalla day when the current Senate is abolished are wondering how that has been made easier by the fact that everybody, from Prince Edward Island to Newfoundland to Quebec to British Columbia, has to agree with any reform.
Hon. Mr. Peterson: I appreciate the honour-able member's advice and I can assure him that I will not put his name forward as one of the potential Senate appointments from Ontario.
Section 42, the section to which my honourable friend refers --
Mr. Warner: Is there a list?
Hon. Mr. Kerrio: Elie for senator.
Mr. Martel: Never.
Hon. Mr. Peterson: It is interesting, though, at least half of the member's caucus has approached me to be put on the list, but I am going to pass that up; half the Conservative caucus too.
That section deals with institutional reform: new provinces, as my honourable friend knows, Senate reform and other changes. There was a sense that, if we are going to do a major overhaul of our apparatus, it is fair that every player would have a voice and a view in that particular situation. I say to my honourable friend as well that, in practical terms, I do not see a substantial difference from what is there now.
I think the common view of the Premiers, and we have certainly talked about this issue, is that, in practical terms, it would not be any harder than under the existing rules. I do not think that either the Yukon's or the Northwest Territories' position in real terms will be different in the future from what it is now.
Mr. Rae: I do not know whether the Premier is saying it is still impossible or what he is saying, but I just do not think anybody looking at the difference between seven provinces with more than 50 per cent of the population, as opposed to a requirement of unanimity -- Confederation has now become a kind of exclusive club in which any one member has a right to blackball the application of any new members coming from either the Yukon or the Northwest Territories.
That is completely contrary to the way in which Newfoundland, most recently, entered Confederation. It is contrary to the way in which Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia entered Confederation. They were all done by means of understandings with respect to the government of Canada.
I would like to ask the Premier why the Yukon and the Northwest Territories are being treated so differently. Did he raise this concern, and was he at all concerned with the requirement for unanimity now being required for any major institutional reform with respect to the federal Constitution?
Hon. Mr. Peterson: The concern was discussed -- and the member is quite right when he refers to the creation of Newfoundland as a province, and the other ones as well -- but in 1982 it was put back into the Constitution, coming under that section that called for seven and 50 per cent to do so. As I said, the feeling was that everyone should have a say. In fact, if new provinces are created, if the Turks and Caicos Islands, for example, became a new province of this country, there is a sense that there should be a veto.
As I said to my honourable friend, yes, it was a subject of concern to all of us in that regard. It was mooted, it was debated. Could we have moved that particular section --- and there was some will for doing that -- from 41 to 42? Then the question would be on Senate reform and certain other matters. That is why it was left where it is. In practical terms, I do not see a major difference.
Mr. Jackson: I have a question for the Minister of Housing, who I believe has left his seat momentarily. Will he be returning? Yes, I see him coming.
Mr. Speaker: I believe he can listen while he is returning.
Mr. Jackson: On May 13 in this House, the Minister of Housing responded to a question by stating that there were 10,000 applications from post-1975 buildings in Ontario awaiting rent review. The following day, May 14, the minister stated in this House, in answering a subsequent question, that there were 15,000 applications from post-1975 buildings waiting for a review hearing. If we are to believe the minister's own figures, it would appear that applications are increasing at the rate of 5,000 per day.
Could the minister tell us the most recent figures he has for the total number of applications now waiting for rent review, the number of those that are post-1975 buildings, and the date for which that information he is going to give us is accurate?
Hon. Mr. Curling: I am quite sure that the figures I gave on that day were from advice I had from my staff. If the member wants an up-to-date figure for today, I am unable to give one. I have not taken an up-to-date figure as of today of the number of applications before the rent review process.
However, I can tell the member, as one who tried to drive the fear into people, that the process is in place and there is no backlog, so to speak. We have put in place the necessary steps to be taken to deal with those applications and they will be dealt with accordingly.
Mr. Jackson: I find that quite incredible. I advised the minister that I quoted from Hansard of May 13 and May 14. That is over three weeks ago. Both days in the House he read from his briefing book to get those figures. Is he trying to tell this House that in three weeks he has not received any advice from his ministry staff, that they have not briefed him on the total number of backlog applications, and he now can stand in this Legislature and tell us he has the situation well in hand with over 22,000 applications in backlog? My question is, when will the minister have the hearings completed on his new bill?
Mr. Speaker: Order. Three questions were asked.
Hon. Mr. Curling: I repeat, there is no backlog. As I think I indicated to the honourable member at that time in the House about the figures he was quoting to us: many of those applications were applications which would never have been dealt with previously, and we had expected that amount to come in. It is a transitional period, wherein those tenants living in post-1975 apartments were not protected in the past, and we expected that amount of accumulation. The residential tenancy commissioners are still in place to deal with those. We also have rent review officers to deal with those accumulated amounts that are there.
CENSUS OF ONTARIO PUBLIC SERVICE
Mr. Grande: My question is for the acting Chairman of Management Board. On May 7, 1986, the minister announced that his government was going to conduct a census of the employment situation of all groups, including racial minorities, to determine what specific employment equity initiatives were to be taken.
The Attorney General (Mr. Scott) in May, 1986 also stated that the results would be available in September and the census was going to be conducted in June, 1986.
Can the minister explain to us and to the racial and ethnic minorities in Ontario why it has taken eight months for that census to be presented to the Legislature? In other words, why has he kept it under wraps for eight months?
Hon. Mr. Nixon: It is being extensively reviewed. I presume the material is being collated and printed, and it will be put before the Legislature in due time.
Mr. Grande: Is the minister telling us that the results are so bad? Is he telling us that the barriers to recruiting ethnic and racial minorities in the public service are so pervasive that he is even embarrassed to give us that information and that material? If it takes him eight months to give us a census of what is there, what expectations do the people of this province -- the ethnic and racial minorities -- have that he will bring forward the so-promised affirmative action and employment equity for women minorities and the handicapped in this province? How long do we have to wait for that?
Hon. Mr. Nixon: The honourable member who has been around the Legislature a long time as an elected member and dealing with the public service of the province, knows that there is no legitimate criticism from any group in the province for not having been able to gain reasonable access to jobs in the public service. I can assure him that the material and the specific information will be laid before the Legislature in the future.
NOTICE OF DISSATISFACTION
Mr. Speaker: I would like to inform the members that pursuant to standing order 30, the member for Scarborough-Ellesmere (Mr. Warner) has given notice of his dissatisfaction with the answer to his question given by the Minister of Colleges and Universities (Mr. Sorbara) and this matter will be debated at six o'clock today. I just wanted to inform all members of that important event.
Mr. D. W. Smith: I would like to present the following 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:
"We are strongly averse to the removal of the ambulance from the village of Alvinston, and respectfully request your immediate action to have this service relocated in Alvinston to better serve the emergency requirements of Alvinston and surrounding communities."
There are 188 names on this petition.
Hon. Mr. Nixon: Mr. Speaker, just in case there is some uncertainty about this, I thought that there had been a rather belated agreement that we would do four private bills, 101 to 104. I do not think there is any problem with those, but if there is, we can certainly stand them down.
Mr. Harris: Mr. Speaker, I wonder if we might hold Bills 101, 102 and 104. We could proceed with 103 today and do the others tomorrow.
Hon. Mr. Nixon: We will not do any of them. I would like to call the first order.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
The following bills were given third reading on motion:
Bill 7, An Act to amend certain Acts respecting Regional Municipalities.
Bill 25, An Act to amend the Wine Content Act.
RETAIL SALES TAX AMENDMENT ACT (CONTINUED)
Resuming the adjourned debate on the motion for second reading of Bill 62, An Act to amend the Retail Sales Tax Act.
Mr. Speaker: I believe the member for Cambridge (Mr. Barlow) adjourned the debate. Are there any other members wishing to participate in the debate?
Mr. Harris: I ask my colleague to lend me a bill.
Hon. Mr. Nixon: You do not need that.
Mr. Harris: I do not need that?
One of the problems I would like to briefly put on the record with respect to Bill 62 is more or less what is not in the bill, as opposed to what is in the bill.
Mr. Speaker: The more appropriate time would be in committee.
Mr. Harris: I beg your pardon?
Mr. Speaker: I thought we were referring to what is in this legislation.
Mr. Harris: Then I will refer to what is in the legislation in the context of how silly some of the stuff in here is, in view of some of the stuff that could have been in here. If it pleases you, Mr. Speaker, I will talk about section 3 and section 4.
I have already referred, in my remarks and in my questions to the Treasurer (Mr. Nixon) the last time we talked about this bill, to the Dickie Dee controversy that is spreading rapidly across this land. It was one where I thought the Treasurer might have wanted to take a look at whether there was room to make an exception for the prepared ice-cream products, for a number of reasons. One is that most of the products are sold by these vendors. Most of them are students. Most of them are very small business people who are involved in the vending. It is mostly a summer, part-time type of business.
There is an anomaly, in that premium-brand ice-cream sold by the major outlets, let us say, on Yonge Street, is not subject to sales tax, whereas the same product being sold by the Dickie Dee people -- I guess, because it has a wrapper on it, it is a pre-packaged product -- is subject to sales tax. It is something I regret. It was brought to the Treasurer's attention by a number of people, and I regret it was not looked at in this budget.
Mr. Harris: Is somebody calling me?
An hon. member: No, it is okay.
Mr. Harris: It was not looked at in this budget, and I would hope there is still time, if the Treasurer wishes to move this bill into committee of the whole House, that he could tidy it up, even if it takes an extra day, and I would ask him to consider that -- in the unlikely event that he does consider that, though. It is something that the Treasurer may argue takes more time than that and I guess that is why I wrote to him with the submission a couple of months ago. However, somehow or other that has been slipped up on and perhaps it is something that should be looked at next year if the Treasurer decides it is too late to do so this year.
I just want to refer to the budget, which is the document on which these bills are based.
Hon. Mr. Nixon: Don't let him soften you up, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Harris: Do these bills not derive out of the budget?
Hon. Mr. Nixon: They were mentioned there.
Mr. Harris: Yes, I thought so.
We got to this debate faster than I thought so it will just take me a jiffy to find in the budget the revenue side of what comes in from retail sales tax, since retail sales tax is what we are dealing with.
Hon. Mr. Nixon: It is $5.6 billion.
Mr. Harris: Is it $5.6 billion? Is that the figure?
I guess the first figure I want to get on the record is in the last budget that was brought in that featured a white trillium as opposed to the stinking red trillium; that is, the 1984-85 budget. The amount that was brought in from retail sales tax was roughly $4,239,000,000.
Now, if I can find -- the Treasurer just gave me the figure there. Oh, here is the budget.
Today, two years later, we are looking at revenues from provincial sales tax of, if I could just find that figure --
Hon. Mr. Nixon: It is $5.6 billion.
Mr. Harris: Is it $5.6 billion? I always have to check because the Treasurer has a slippery way sometimes of giving figures that sound good, as he did when he tried to hide $350 million of deficit in this budget and as he did when he played fast and loose with the education funding, which appears to us to add a minimum of $330 million to the deficit, unless perhaps there is a little inflation involved and it could be $350 million more to the deficit. It is not hard to read this budget and come up with a deficit of close to $1.7 billion as opposed to the Treasurer's sleight-of-hand $900-and-whatever-it-is million.
That is that one; I need to find the revenue. If my colleague could just get me the revenue there for retail sales tax, I think I can go on to something else and come back to that.
I guess the point I want to make -- and I will put that figure on the record as soon as I can find it in this budget -- is the enormous increase in provincial revenues that are coming in via the retail sales tax route.
Members can see the Treasurer gave me the figure of some $5 billion but in actual fact he is now budgeting $6 billion in retail sales tax. That is the figure I was looking for. The Treasurer tried to slip me some $5-billion figure, so it was important that I take the time to find that figure in the budget.
So, we are going from $4.2 billion to over $6 billion, an increase of close to 30 per cent, I guess -- maybe close to 33 per cent -- a $2-billion increase. No, I guess it is 50 per cent. If you go from $4 billion to $6 billion, it is not quite a 50 per cent increase in revenue in a period of slightly over two years, or in three Liberal budgets.
I do not know why we are to be so delighted with what is being done in Bill 62. The Treasurer indicates he is giving back $40 million -- I think that was the figure -- by putting the exemption on prepared foods up to $4, presumably because it was a campaign promise, something that was probably dreamed up in haste and thrown out. It is not something we particularly disagree with but it certainly is something we could argue is not very significant -- when revenues through retail sales tax are up close to 50 per cent or $2 billion in Ontario --that the government is going to throw $40 million back through that vehicle.
We would also argue that through this budget of missed opportunity, the retail sales tax is one of the vehicles whereby the Treasurer could have cut the retail sales tax by a point to six per cent, which would have had a very significant effect on the manufacturing areas of our economy -- certainly on the auto sector, on many areas of the economy, on consumer spending.
It could have had a very significant effect, and he still would have had far more money than inflation through the vehicle of the retail sales tax. I guess it points to the very heart of why we are concerned about these tax bills and why we are concerned about the whole budgetary policy of this Treasurer. When we look at figures like an $8-billion increase in revenue -- let me put that into perspective, because sometimes billions of dollars are thrown around and people lose track of how that fits into perspective.
It fits into perspective in this way. If we took the last budget of two years ago when spending was $26.9 billion, and we took inflation for the three years that this budget is to cover of 4.4 per cent, 4.0 per cent and 4.1 per cent, we would arrive at increased spending of around $3 billion. If the Treasurer wanted to maintain the same level of spending as when he assumed office, he would be spending $3 billion more than was in the 1984-85 budget. But he is spending $8 billion more, and that includes inflation. I am giving the inflationary increases.
I am also talking about a period when the welfare budgets are down on that base. We have more people back at work. We have less need for short-term work programs except in the north, and we are not getting them anyway. There are far fewer dollars being put into any kind of assistance programs to put some of our foresters and miners back to work than there was in 1984-85. There are far fewer dollars being spent on that 1984-85 base for welfare.
There is far less need, when we look at the community economic transformation agreements that were set up specifically to help those communities where one or more industries in a sector were causing them problems. At that period, there was a little slack there, just by taking inflation, for the Treasurer and the government to be able to spend about $3 billion more and still have some new programs.
What we have is $5 billion of excess money. Our party has said a couple of things should happen with that money before the government goes off half-cocked into new spending programs, hiring 6,000 civil servants. I guess the word must be out with the deputy ministers: "You do not have to worry any more. You can spend, spend, spend; you can hire, hire, hire. Away you go. We have lots of money." That seems to be the number one priority.
When we look at this tax bill, it is important this be brought up because we felt, and I am very comfortable putting it on the record, that the first priority with that $5 billion should have been to reduce the deficit. There was plenty of money there to do it. You can balance the budget. You can take $1.5 billion --
Mr. Harris: The Treasurer says you need only $1 billion, but I think he is fibbing; it takes $1.5 billion based on what I have seen of this budget. You take $1.5 billion and balance the budget.
Mr. Laughren: You think he is fibbing.
Mr. Gillies: Fibbing.
Mr. Harris: Fibulating.
You still have inflation and a booming economy. You still have less, surely, that would have to be spent on welfare and on make-work programs. You still have $3.5 billion left and you have a balanced budget. Why does the Treasurer not give $1 billion back to the people who are being overtaxed in this province? He would still have $2.5 billion or almost double inflation to come up with his creative new spending programs.
As we debate this bill, I would argue that one of the methods that would have helped to stimulate the economy would have been to cut the retail sales tax from seven per cent to six per cent. He could have cut it to three per cent; that would have been a vehicle too. I would not have opposed that, but take it from seven per cent to six per cent.
Mr. Haggerty: You would be screaming for more money to build more roads, culverts and bridges. You cannot have it both ways.
Mr. Harris: Let me tell you something else, big mouth. Okay, big mouth, do you want to get into the debate?
The Deputy Speaker: Order. It is getting a little unparliamentary, and the speaker should speak to the chair in this debate.
Mr. Harris: I will be glad to speak to the chair. Let me say that in history, when we look at India or when we look at the United States back in the days of Kennedy when some taxes were cut, there has not been a significant example anywhere in history where a government made a commitment to cut taxes that more money did not come back because of the stimulation of the economy that was there.
Mr. Haggerty: That is not what happened in the United States.
Mr. Harris: The member -- l described the size of his yap a minute ago -- can stand up in this debate and give me one example otherwise.
Mr. Haggerty: That is not happening; they are getting further into debt.
Mr. Harris: The member will have an opportunity.
Let me give an example. During John Kennedy's days in the United States, they cut the tax on capital gains. The Treasury officials in the United States at that time cut it in half. I guess it went from 50 per cent to 25 per cent. It was cut in half during the John Kennedy days. The tax officials said, "I guess that means we will have only half as much money coming in."
Mr. Laughren: What about Reagan's debt? How about your hero?
Mr. Harris: We are talking about John Kennedy. If the member wants me to comment on the size of his mouth, I will do that too. I have got away with it so far. I might get away with that too.
They cut the level of taxation of capital gains in half, and within one year there was more money coming in than there was at the higher level. Why? Because of the increased activity it created. I do not think that cutting the tax to six per cent necessarily results in less revenue.
Mr. McGuigan: Why do they have a trillion-dollar debt there?
Mr. Harris: The member will have an opportunity if he would like to speak on it.
What I am really saying is that the Treasurer could have balanced the budget. He could have reduced sales tax by a point. He could have reduced income tax by 10 per cent and he still could have had $2.5 billion to spend on new programs. If I saw any sign of it in the north in any kind of significant way, I might have more sympathy for the tax grab he has put on the people of Ontario over the past three years, but I have not seen any sign of it in the north.
We obviously are not opposed to the perhaps insignificant bill that is before us today. It is insignificant in terms of the fact that the revenue from this tax is up close to 50 per cent over three years. It is insignificant in the fact that this amounts to about $2 billion. It is insignificant in the fact of the lost opportunity this Treasurer and Minister of Revenue, this Premier (Mr. Peterson) and this government had to do something good and beneficial for Ontario. They had that opportunity and failed to do it.
Hon. Mr. Nixon: I have the definitive Dickie Doo answer. It is a bit long for the few moments available to me, although the clock is not indicating yet how many moments I have, but they are working on it. So I am going to save the definitive Dickie Doo answer for the windup.
I did want to say at the end of my honourable friend's dissertation that the last substantial change in the sales tax was, I believe, in the principal budget brought forward by the member for Muskoka (Mr. F. S. Miller), former Premier of Ontario and former Treasurer, when the base of the sales tax was dramatically widened to include Dickie Doos and actually every kind of purchase. That ought to be particularly significant for my honourable friend because we do not tax it by the price. I will let that go.
It is too bad he did not have any clout in his caucus in 1982, not to mix metaphors, at the time of the substantial expansion of the sales tax base which caused so much travail among the people who were trying to make a living selling ice-cream, sandwiches and so on. There was a tremendous outpouring.
The honourable member may recall that vendors formed a circle right around Queen's Park to protest. There may have been some insignificant withdrawal at the time; I do not recall. But I would be the last to criticize the member for Muskoka, unlike the member for Nipissing, who has just spoken. I want to point out to him that if he had been more influential in the Conservative caucus in those days they would not have had this tremendous expansion of the sales tax base, which I think was the second-largest tax grab in the history of the province.
Mr. Gillies: I do not particularly want to get caught in the middle of the Dickie Dee controversy, but I wonder if I could seek some clarification from my colleague. I thought I heard him refer earlier to a company called Dickie Dee. The Treasurer has now referred to it as Dickie Doo, which frankly strikes me as a little Dickie Dumb. I wonder if my colleague could straighten us out on this matter and all the various ramifications. I am trying to get the flavour of what it is my colleague is getting at here.
Mr. Harris: I am sorry that some of the yappers while I was speaking did not see fit to get up and comment when they had an opportunity. We do provide that time if they have any concern with anything I say. I can only assume they agreed with everything I said; their silence indicates that and I thank them for it.
It is Dickie Dee, of course, as the member for Brantford (Mr. Gillies) has indicated. I hope that clears up the Dickie Doo/Dickie Dumb/Dickie Dee controversy.
But let me comment a little bit. The Treasurer or the Minister of Revenue in this case, indicated there was a broadening of the sales tax back in 1982. He is quite right; there was. There was a broadening of the base on a number of tax measures.
Let me take the members back to 1982 and look at the financial situation the province was in. We were in a very severe recession. The tax revenues to the province were down dramatically. Economic activity was down. There was a great need for make-work programs in northern Ontario and for new programs in northern Ontario. There was a great need for welfare programs. There was a great need for programs.
When one has that kind of depression -- many have called it the great depression of modern-day times in Canada and certainly in Ontario -- there is a need for dollars. Probably appropriately, as I have heard the Treasurer say on many occasions, that is the time when everybody has to dig a little deeper and give a little more so that we can all survive to see a better day.
Well, we are here with the better day, and it is because of the good planning and the good forethought that we have lived to see another day. Now we are here with the better day. It is time to reduce those taxes so there can be another better day in the future, and that is where the problem is, as the Treasurer ought to know.
The Deputy Speaker: Before the member for Nickel Belt speaks, I might advise the House that because of the inability of the Minister of Colleges and Universities (Mr. Sorbara) to attend the House tonight at 6 p.m., he and the member for Scarborough-Ellesmere (Mr. Warner) have agreed that the debate under standing order 30 will be postponed until next Tuesday at 6 p.m.
Mr. Laughren: I had some second thoughts about pursuing the debate this afternoon, since I spoke on this bill yesterday, but the member for Nipissing has provoked me, even though he is supporting this bill, as I am. I do think I heard the member for Nipissing (Mr. Harris) state --
The Deputy Speaker: Order. Did I hear the member for Nickel Belt correctly that he had spoken on this bill yesterday?
Mr. Laughren: You must have heard me wrong, Mr. Speaker.
The Deputy Speaker: Fine. Thank you.
Hon. Mr. Nixon: That is what he said, Mr. Speaker. Let's check the record. Otherwise, he is out of order.
Mr. Laughren: I just wanted to say very briefly, just in case I did speak yesterday, that we in this caucus are supporting this bill because of the good things it does vis-à-vis the sales tax. I was really astounded a few minutes ago to hear that the Conservative Party now believes that in tough times, you increase taxes. I did not know that was Conservative economic policy in Ontario.
Hon. Mr. Nixon: That is what they have always done.
Mr. Laughren: That is what they certainly did in reference to expanding the sales tax base. I find that a strange economic policy. It is such anti-Keynesian economic policy on the part of the member for Nipissing.
In conclusion, because I do not want to take up the time of the House for two days in a row on this bill, I just want to make it clear that we are supporting these improvements to the sales tax.
The Deputy Speaker: Thank you. I will take it that the member for Nickel Belt is joshing and will ask for comments and questions of the member for Nickel Belt.
Mr. Polsinelli: I would like to find out whether or not the member for Nickel Belt spoke on this bill yesterday.
The Deputy Speaker: Are there any further comments and questions of the member for Nickel Belt? There being none, does the member for Nickel Belt have a reply?
Mr. Laughren: No.
The Deputy Speaker: Does any further honourable member wish to participate in the debate? If not, this concludes the debate. Minister?
Hon. Mr. Nixon: I was quite serious when I said I had been provided with additional information about the Dickie Dee situation, which was raised by three honourable members on the opposite side, both in this debate and also by letters received by myself and the Ministry of Revenue and Treasury over the last six weeks.
I understand some of the franchisees had visited a number of the members personally. Being young people and innovative and enthusiastic and in business, there is every reason to want to encourage them in every way we possibly can.
One of the very difficult situations associated with the sales tax on food, prepared or otherwise, is that as soon as you give some leeway in one area, it simply moves off into an area where someone else would certainly prefer not to pay the tax. Actually, to follow the reasoning of the member for Nipissing, the way to really improve the revenues is to abolish the tax. I am not sure how we would pick it up, but he indicated the lower the tax, the more you get. There is some reason to that, unless you pursue it a bit too far, as perhaps I just have.
It might be useful -- as it was useful for me, although you feel like sort of an anti-Santa Claus when you read it -- if I simply put the information before the honourable members.
For sales tax purposes, hand-scooped or machine-dispensed ice-cream and sundaes are considered to be prepared food products. Pre-packaged individual portions of ice-cream, such as ice-milk, sherbet, frozen yoghurt, sundaes, ice-cream bars and Popsicles, such as those sold by Dickie Dee, are defined as snack foods and are taxable.
Effective June 1, 1987, any transaction of prepared food products sold for $4 or less is exempt. As no exemption threshold exists for snack foods, no matter where sold -- such as in eating establishments or variety stores or by street vendors such as Dickie Dee -- a snack food is taxable at a cost of 21 cents or more.
Ice-cream products are differentiated as to being a prepared food product or a snack food on the basis of product and marketing. Whereas an ice-cream cone or a sundae is prepared just prior to consumption, relative to being susceptible to spoilage, prepackaged ice-cream bars, Popsicles, etc., can be prepackaged individually and stored in a freezer for purposes of indefinite storage and thereby offered in competition with other similar snack foods such as chocolate bars.
I would just say, and this is not in the note prepared for me, that I myself sometimes buy chocolate bars and I am always careful to see that the full tax is paid. The only differentiation with ice-cream bars and chocolate bars is the frozen state of the ice-cream bar, so they can be seen as all the same thing.
To redefine individually prepackaged ice-cream bars, Popsicles, etc., as a prepared food subject to the same exemption threshold as ice-cream cones and sundaes would be to invite representation from the potato chip and chocolate bar industries, which are very big industries indeed.
I am diverging from the note prepared. It would be great to say, "Surely we ought to be able to take the tax off that," but the revenues from those products are substantial, and I mean a lot of money. It is really difficult for me to back off simply because of the tremendously attractive name of this particular product and the fact that it consumes the attention of so many honourable members.
No inequity exists in the ice-cream product industry. Vendors may carry their choice of product -- prepared food products such as ice-cream cones, or snack foods such as individually prepackaged ice-cream bars, Popsicles, etc., or a combination thereof -- and sell from either mobile or stationary premises. Thus, it is upon the basis of the product sold and not the type of operation that sales attract tax. All vendors in the hospitality industry, including the Dickie Dee type, are authorized to use the tax-included pricing method to simplify calculation and collection.
That is the end of the prepared note. I do not for a moment want to say that is the definitive and final answer. I would hope the buoyancy of the economy of the province to which so many members have frequently referred would allow us to have this very near the top of the list in the near future, as we look at the possibility of withdrawing from these various tax fields for the convenience of people and for the stimulation of the entrepreneurial spirit.
The honourable members have brought many anomalies to my attention, all of which have been considered very carefully by the disinterested -- if I may use that word appropriately -- officials of the ministries of Revenue and Treasury and Economics, where the policy is established.
The honourable members will know that in this budget, which was referred to in a rather general way by the member for Nipissing, we did have a reduction in tax revenues on a rather broad base of something over a quarter of a billion dollars. I prefer to refer to it that way rather than as $250 million. This was for the benefit of low-income individuals and particularly the elderly and farmers. That was the decision of the budget, which the honourable members are invited to support.
In this particular bill, aside from two or three individual administrative changes, the basis is to exempt prepared foods to the extent of $4. I am very glad to know the member for Nipissing is not even thinking of voting against that.
I should also like to respond to a comment made by, I think, the former minister, the member for Durham West (Mr. Ashe), who was concerned about the additional verbiage having to do with penalties for not returning the tax collected by the vendors or returning it incompletely. I just want to mention here, the proposed amendment will split the penalty, which is the traditional one of 10 per cent up to a limit of $1,000. It will split it into two separate penalties, one under subsection 30(1) and one under a new subsection, 30(1a).
There are several reasons for making this change: First, to clarify the fact that a penalty would be imposed for either situation, that is, either late filing or short payment; second, to give the authority to assess both penalties if the situation is warranted; and third, to make clear that if a return is short-paid, the penalty will be imposed only on the short-paid amount rather than on the whole amount, as previously.
I think the intention of the Ministry of Revenue is, as always, to think of our clients, who in many respects are both the people who remit the tax and the taxpayers in general, and I think this is a nice balance of fairness in this connection.
I appreciate the fact that all members who have spoken have indicated, after some lengthy period of time, that they are prepared to support the principle of the bill.
The Deputy Speaker: Mr. Nixon has moved second reading of Bill 62, An Act to amend the Retail Sales Tax Act. All those in favour of Mr. Nixon's motion will please say "aye."
All those opposed will please say "nay."
In my opinion the ayes have it.
Motion agreed to.
Bill ordered for third reading.
INCOME TAX AMENDMENT ACT
Hon. Mr. Nixon moved second reading of Bill 63, An Act to amend the Income Tax Act.
Hon. Mr. Nixon: This bill, an act to amend the Income Tax Act, implements amendments arising out of the budget as well as some administrative and technical amendments. The budget increases the availability of the Ontario tax credit in two ways.
First, the property tax credit enrichment will increase the basic property tax credit to $230 from the previous $180.
Second, the Ontario tax credit will be made available to visa students. Persons admitted to Canada from other countries as visitors with student authorization will be eligible to claim Ontario tax credit, subject to the same guidelines that apply to all other claimants. The bill will make these changes effective for the 1987 and subsequent taxation years.
Administrative and technical changes are also being made to bring the act in line with the federal Income Tax Act, in accordance with the tax collection agreement with the federal government.
Mr. Ashe: Can the minister clarify one section? As I read it, frankly, without having looked up the original statute, is he making the three per cent surcharge somewhat more permanent?
Hon. Mr. Nixon: The surtax, which I hate to say is permanent, was extended beyond the first year by an amendment last year and was extended without limit. It would be, of course, the will of the Legislature to remove that at some time in the future, I trust.
I think we should point out that it is a three per cent tax on incomes over $50,000, and we feel it is a reasonably balancing method of increasing revenue. At the same time, we are improving the funding of the tax reduction program, which means that more citizens will be exempt from paying provincial tax.
The reference in here is essentially to bring it into line with the federal income tax. I should know exactly what this is, and I can get some additional information when I have a bit more time, when I wind up, on a couple of things I will tell the members about later.
Mr. Andrewes: I am not sure I heard the Treasurer (Mr. Nixon) respond to the question of my colleague the member for Durham West (Mr. Ashe). It was a rather significant question. If one reads the explanatory notes beside the legislation with respect to section 1 of the bill, it says, "Section 2b of the act provides for the payment of a three per cent surcharge and is set out below showing underlined the words proposed to be deleted." I will pass over the next bit. Then it says, "The effect of the amendment is to require the surcharge to be paid on all the tax payable for the year, including tax payable under the forward averaging provisions of the federal act."
The question was whether this makes the surcharge a more permanent tax. I am not sure I heard a response from the Treasurer.
I want to indicate that we will be supporting the bill, but in doing so I want to make some comments with respect to the growth in revenues for the government with respect to the provincial income tax. That growth has been significant, as the members know. From the 1982-83 budget year of $5.85 billion; it now is projected in 1987-88 to grow to $9.95 billion. It is becoming a very significant proportion of the government's anticipated income for 1987-88.
Hon. Mr. Nixon: It still does not even pay for medicare.
Mr. Andrewes: For medicare; he is right. It still is less than the total health care bill in this province, now projected to be over $11 billion, but it is a significant amount of revenue for the government.
Part of the reason for this growth, and particularly in the past couple of years the significant reason for the growth, has been the effect of changes in the federal statute that the province is the beneficiary of, once one makes the calculation of tax upon tax. If one goes back to 1982, when the anticipated revenue was at about 55.85 billion out of roughly a $20-billion budget, the projection for 1987-88 is not that much changed proportionately from 1982.
In participating in any of these budget bill debates, one has to ask oneself, what is the purpose of this whole exercise? It is probably a foregone conclusion that we are going to support the bill, as no doubt are my colleagues to the left because it imposes a surtax on those best able to pay. However, If one were to consider the conversations that take place outside this chamber, if I can refer to them, one would assume that certain aspects of one's duties here as a member are perhaps underpaid. I think most of us kind ourselves in a position to pay this surtax.
I do not want to prolong the debate lest it appear that I am making an argument on my own behalf, nor do I want to appear to be making an argument on behalf of many of my constituents, particularly those who live in rural communities and derive their income from the soil. The Treasurer will be well aware of the circumstances that confront those people today with rather turbulent conditions in world markets and the somewhat depressed market situation. These people kind themselves not in a position to pay the surtax, and in some cases not in a position to pay any tax at all.
It was rather interesting to hear the member for Erie (Mr. Haggerty), who does come from a somewhat rural part of Ontario, defending the high taxes, the highest percentage tax increases on the personal income tax side that this province has perhaps seen in its history, certainly in a good number of years. It was rather interesting to hear him defending the hiring of additional public servants, some 6,000 in total. It was interesting to hear him defend the rather uncreative budget that did not live up to many of the promises or the anticipated commitments the media and the general public had. Unfortunately, the member for Erie is not present to hear my comments now, so I will pass on to other things.
The extension of the surtax, or the making more permanent of the surtax -- l think the Treasurer is going to clarify that for me before we pass on from this bill -- perhaps could be described as a tax on the rich, a tax on those who, no doubt, have a greater ability to pay it than do others.
I want to make this observation: it is also this group of people who have the ability to invest in this province. It is also this group of people who have the ability or the desire to pay down their mortgages or make home improvements that they have put off for some length of time, which creates work and opportunities for others to share in the benefits of the province. It is also this group of people who can use this money to improve their businesses, had they not had to pay it to Ontario, to improve the productivity of their businesses, to become more competitive, to create a job or two or three, so that others will be able to share in the benefits of their labours.
It is also this same group of people who might choose to use this money to improve their education, their background, their experience, perhaps to assist a member of their family, to retrain themselves or to take advantage of the educational system in this province, but this government does not seem to have a desire to give people that choice.
Some have described this government as intrusive. Of course, that has been the nature of the Liberal Party in Ontario and in Canada for a good number of years. We would not be surprised if some cynics might describe not only this budget but also the tax structure and the revenue structure of the whole budget as being intrusive.
In closing, I might make one observation. A couple of years ago, the government of Canada and the federal Minister of Finance made some changes in the taxing policy that would allow individuals a once-in-a-lifetime capital gains forgiveness, a $500,000-exemption from capital gains tax. That action was predicated on the theory that if you allowed people that kind of an exemption, they might be encouraged to make capital investments that would produce a capital gain, and that fuelled the economy and some activity and kept the money in circulation.
At that time, this Treasurer, who was just new to his post, made the observation that he was not supportive of this kind of thing because it was a bit loose, it perhaps invited investments in things that were not work-creating. He suggested that if his federal counterpart were not quick to act, to perhaps reconsider his action, there might even be an opportunity for this Treasurer to be intrusive in that field and to tax away some of that capital gain the federal Minister of Finance saw fit to exempt taxpayers from.
We heard those rumblings back two or three budgets ago. We have not seen any activity, and I say to the Treasurer I am pleased at that; we have not seen this government intruding in that area. But it does seem somewhat inconsistent, when the Treasurer comes forward with a surtax on those who have that higher income level premised on the basis that they have the ability to pay, that they are wealthy enough to pay the surtax, yet he has set aside for the moment his grumblings and his rumblings about the principles of the capital gain tax.
The Treasurer says he has not lost hope. Perhaps that is true. I will be here in my place to speak against that kind of activity when in fact he takes that action. I only want to make that observation because it does seem somewhat inconsistent to, on the one hand, be prepared to tax those who allegedly have the ability to pay, to apply this surtax, but on the other hand to kind of forget about this other principal concern the Treasurer had some two or three budgets ago.
Mr. Speaker: Are there any comments or questions?
Mr. McGuigan: I rise to defend my --
Mr. Speaker: I just asked if there were any comments or questions, referring to the comments made by the member for Lincoln (Mr. Andrewes). The member has no comments on that member's comments?
Mr. McGuigan: That is what I was going to do.
Mr. Speaker: I am sorry.
Mr. McGuigan: At least I thought so. If I am wrong, the Speaker should tell me.
The member for Lincoln was commenting about my colleague the member for Erie and his principle of heavy taxation in the good years. Ever since the 1920s, when Lord Keynes brought in the theory of taxation, governments in the United States and Canada have been following Keynesian economics. The theory was, of course, to tax heavily in good times and tax lightly in bad times, but very few governments ever had the courage to carry forward the increasing of taxes when the good times came along. For that reason, we have gone through a series of depressions and boom times, building up constantly higher and higher debts.
I just want to point out to the member that the various things for which he is criticizing the member for Erie were the items the member for Nipissing (Mr. Harris) was extolling as a great system of financial management.
Hon. Mr. Nixon: I will just make a comment on the honourable member's speech.
Both section 1 and section 5 deal with the surtax in rather minor ways. Since it was introduced two budgets ago on a one-year basis and then continued the second year, and there is not an amendment in this year to stop it, the officials felt it was necessary. I support them in this -- perhaps I feel it was necessary and the officials support me in this that all of the income reported at the federal level goes into the calculation of whatever the surtax would be. I believe it is anything over $5,000 of taxable income.
The specific explanation is as follows: "The amendment recognizes the extension of the surtax to beyond the 1986 taxation year and provides for the computation of the basic federal tax according to the forward averaging provisions of the federal act. This makes the Ontario surtax more equitable and consistent with the ongoing relief provisions conferred by forward averaging under the federal act." I think that should clear it up once and for all.
I would also like to say in the few seconds remaining, that I do not feel uncomfortable with the surtax at all. I do not go around writing on walls, "Make the rich pay," but every time I see it, I read it. I do not apologize for strengthening the tax reduction for low-income citizens in this. I simply ask the members to compare that with the initiatives taken at Ottawa, where they absolutely abolished the tax reduction program that had been part of the policy of the previous administration and gave a $500,000 capital gains exemption for the other end. There is a difference between the Tories and the Grits; maybe not enough, but there is some.
Mr. Andrewes: To my colleague the member for Kent-Elgin (Mr. McGuigan) who wanted to give us some background on Lord Keynes, I certainly appreciate having that bit of history because it is very important. I am quite sure that in the course of this debate, it will become even more important. Of course, I do not disagree with the member about taxing in good times to build up those things that one needs to keep sacred and whole in preparation for the future. I do not think that is such a harmful thing to do.
The member is a farmer and he knows very well that when you collect your reserves in the good times, the banks are very anxious to see you. It is not a bad principle that during those good times, you pay off some of those debts. This Treasurer has kind of acknowledged that but avoids telling us how he is going to do it.
I am still going to have to reread what the Treasurer read into the record with respect to the surtax to understand it more fully, but he tells me it will clear it up once and for all. I sense what he is saying is that the surtax now is a permanent tax and that we will have an opportunity to remove it in future Tory budgets.
Mr. Laughren: It is a pleasure to take part in any debate that amends the Income Tax Act. I am somewhat enthralled by the Treasurer's new sloganeering. His new approach to taxation in Ontario is to make the rich and poor pay. He has expanded the slogan we all know so well.
Mr. Wiseman: Which category are you in?
Mr. Laughren: I am somewhere in the middle, as most democratic socialists tend to be.
Mr. Wiseman: Ian Deans does not feel that way. He does not put himself in that category.
Mr. Laughren: I think he is struggling. He is in the middle of the upper-income group.
Mr. Speaker: Is he referred to in this bill?
Mr. Laughren: No.
I must say that when the government brought down the throne speech, there was what I would refer to as a mask of civility to that speech. However, when the budget came in, the harsh reality of the measures in the budget washed away that mask and we are left with a kind of tax regime that has not changed a single thing of substance in Ontario. When you make a comparison between the kind of revenues coming into the province now from income taxes and the kind of relief given to low-income taxpayers, it reveals the Treasurer for the kind of tax man he really is.
For example, just in the past two years since the government changed, the amount of income tax that has come into the provincial Treasury has increased by $2.7 billion. That is the increase in provincial income tax. It is not just because the economy in Ontario has been buoyant. As a percentage of total tax revenues in the province, it has gone from a little more than 26 per cent to a little more than 29 per cent. It is not just that the income tax revenues are buoyant; income tax has gone up as a percentage of total revenues.
Despite this $2.7-billion increase in provincial income taxes, the low-income end of the scale got very little of it. As a matter of fact, it really is the most disgraceful part of the entire budget. I thought that a couple of weeks prior to the budget this party laid before the Treasurer a number of means by which the system could be made fairer.
Hon. Mr. Nixon: It was very constructive.
Mr. Laughren: It was very constructive but the Treasurer totally ignored the very instructive suggestions we had for him.
Hon. Mr. Nixon: It is all in there.
Mr. Laughren: It is all in the back of his head and it will never get to the front. I am not sure why it will not get to the front. I will not get into speculation about what is in there between the front and the back.
Mr. Epp: Are you ever nasty today. What did you eat for lunch?
Mr. Laughren: Not so. I am very unhappy that given the amount of money the Treasurer had, he would do so little for low-income taxpayers in Ontario. In one case -- I will get to it in a few moments -- on the property tax credit, he did not even keep up with the rate of inflation in increasing the property tax credit.
To stick specifically to the income tax revenues for the moment, the Treasurer gave the low-income taxpayers in Ontario $10 million in relief out of a windfall, just in this year alone, of something like $670 million in provincial income tax revenues. Ten million dollars for low-income taxpayers: I do not think that is any significant recognition of the problems of low-income people in our society. That is why I call it a mask of civility. Today, the Minister of Labour (Mr. Wrye) stands up and gives the minimum wage earners in this province a 20-cent-an-hour increase. It surely is only a mask of civility when they deal in such a token way with the people who need relief the most.
With income tax, there was an opportunity for the Treasurer to do something that would not have bankrupted the province. As a matter of fact, if our figures are correct, and one is always at risk when making projections, by our calculation everyone in the province below the Statistics Canada poverty level could have been given relief from any kind of provincial income tax whatsoever and it would have cost the Treasury a little more than $100 million this year. Those are not small potatoes -- l am not suggesting that -- but it was within the fiscal means of this province to do that. The Treasurer instead chose to give them $10 million and did not make a significant impact on low-income earners whatsoever.
As a matter of fact, the level at which Ontario taxpayers now pay zero income tax is still $200 below the poverty level, by our calculations. I will reword that; I do not think that is a fair description of it. The zero tax level now in Ontario is almost $2,500 and that is $200 below what the 1981 zero tax threshold would have been if inflation had been built into the system. Perhaps that is a little clearer for the Treasurer. It is not even keeping up with the rate of inflation.
What I found so hard to take -- duplicity is a strong word -- was the misleading statements in the Treasurer's budget that said "the current tax system is failing the tests of fairness" and, "Today, I am bringing forward...measures designed to ease" the tax burden for low-income Ontarians. I find those more than misleading.
Hon. Mr. Nixon: I did not say eliminate the tax burden.
Mr. Laughren: No, the Treasurer certainly did not. For that I will give him credit. He did not say eliminate it. You get more ease from a Pepto-Bismol tablet than from the Treasurer's measures.
When the Treasurer's staff came into the lockup I said to them: "Perhaps we could be specific. If you have a family of four, a single income earner in the family and that income earner earns $15,000 or $15,500" -- I believe I said to them specifically -- "in a year would that person still pay provincial income tax?" They scratched their heads and said, "We do not have any model built up but we can find that out for you." They came back a few minutes later and said, as I recall, "Yes, that person will be paying $450." It was more than $400 anyway. They would still be paying more than $400 in provincial income tax for earning a salary or income of $15,500.
I ask the members to think how low that is. They still have to pay more than $400 in provincial income tax with the normal level of deductions with the two children and spouse to support. That is no levied of measurable relief for low-income earners. What really disappointed us was that at a time the Treasurer could have done it, he chose not to. There was obviously a deliberate decision not to do it.
The other area that bothered me so much -- as a matter of fact, I raised it in the Legislature a couple of days after the budget -- was when the Treasurer announced an increase, and he referred to it in his opening remarks this afternoon, in the property tax credits that would go from $180 to $230, which would cost the Treasury, I think he said, about $85 million a year.
When we did our calculations on the value of that property tax credit and backed it up to the introduction of it when it was first announced, we found that it actually had not even kept up with the rate of inflation. As a matter of fact, it is a drop over last year of $12 million in absolute figures. Last year, the value of the tax credit was $292 million. This year it is $280 million. It is an absolute drop in dollars. For that, the Treasurer pretended to take some kind of credit.
I am going back now to when the government changed. If you build in the inflation factor, it is closer to $40 million, so we were disappointed when the Treasurer did so little for the low-income earners in Ontario.
Whenever I see the Treasurer taking a shot at the federal government about the capital gains relief, which I do not mind him doing, I think to myself. "Wait a minute now. The Treasurer is having it both ways. He is taking his shots at the federal Tories for eliminating the capital gains tax and then does not do anything to make up for it at the provincial level." I recall very well that it was the former Treasurer, the member for Muskoka (Mr. F. S. Miller), who eliminated succession duties in Ontario. Not only is that offensive to the whole principle of equity and redistribution of wealth, but also it is saying in a very loud and clear way that not only can you keep more of what you have while you are here earning your income, but also you can pass it on. There is no redistribution attempt at all when you do not have any succession duties.
I stand to be corrected on this but I think there is not another western industrialized country that does not have succession duties. I do not think there is any other. If there is, I would be interested in knowing it. We allow people to accumulate enormous wealth and then to pass it on to the next generation. There should be taxation on succession.
I hasten to add that I would exempt family homes and family farms for very particular reasons; I have no problem with those kinds of exemptions. But at least there should be succession duties in Ontario. There is no reason not to have them. We had them before. The Tories in Ontario removed succession duties and you would think that the Liberal government would put them back in. At the time the Tories in Ontario said, "We are doing away with succession duties because capital gains will look after that." That is not happening any more, yet this government has chosen not to do it.
We are not talking about the kind of money that comes in from sales tax, income tax or corporation tax, but we are talking about a principle. We are talking about sending a signal out that our society is more equitable than it was under the Tories. There was an opportunity for the Treasurer to send out that signal by imposing a succession duty tax and he chose not to do it. I do not understand that.
I think I know what happened. I do not expect the Treasurer to admit this, but I think what the Treasurer did was to say: "Now we have an opportunity here with buoyant revenues to bring in a budget that has no increases at all. It does not matter if some of them would make sense or not. Forget it. We are not having any tax increases. I want that signal out there. No tax increases. Absolutely none. Do not give me any malarkey about there being opportunities for revenues here or there being opportunities for increasing taxes on cigarettes. No, no. I want the principle out there that there are no tax increases in this budget."
Hon. Mr. Nixon: Hear, hear.
Mr. Laughren: That is correct. The Treasurer can gloat about that all he likes but it has clouded his judgement. There was an opportunity to impose some taxes that would have made the tax regime in Ontario much better than it is now. I can recall my suggestion for an increase in the cigarette tax. It seems to me that if the Treasurer would put aside his own constituency for the moment --
Hon. Mr. Nixon: That is not fair.
Mr. Laughren: Why? Are there no tobacco farmers in the Treasurer's constituency?
Hon. Mr. Nixon: You are suggesting I respond only to them.
Mr. Speaker: I am sorry to interrupt the member. I am just wondering whether you are speaking to order 28 or order 6?
Mr. Laughren: Yes, I am, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Speaker: Order 28 -- Bill 63?
Mr. Laughren: Yes.
Mr. Speaker: You were. Okay; fine.
Mr. Laughren: I thought maybe the Speaker was losing track. We are talking about the Income Tax Act.
Hon. Mr. Nixon: How did tobacco creep into it?
Mr. Laughren: I suppose I should get off the tobacco tax.
Anyway, there are some aspects of what the Treasurer has done that we support. We support continuing the three per cent surcharge. It is on taxes in excess of $5,000, people who pay income tax of more than $5,000. I think the Treasurer indicated that applies to total incomes of around $50,000 and up. We do support that. Making the surcharge permanent is something that we support as well. If at some point that can be removed, fine, but that can be done through another budget.
We are going to support this bill, even though it is clear we could vote against it. It would not be considered an act of nonconfidence in the budget because, as I recall the accord that was signed, it was agreed that individual bills could be defeated without it being a sign of lack of confidence in the overall budget. I am sure the Treasurer is heaving a sigh of relief that is in the accord signed between his party and our party.
In conclusion, we are going to support Bill 63, although, as I said earlier, we are very disappointed at the Treasurer's refusal to introduce an element of fairness that heretofore has been missing in the province in the entire tax regime.
Hon. Mr. Nixon: I would like to comment briefly, if I may, and point out to the honourable member that although he feels the tax reduction program is inadequate, since the government took office it has applied $35 million -- it is now annualized at $35 million -- to tax reduction. He is correct that it increased by $10 million this year. While he thinks that is inadequate, and frankly I agree with him, I am in a position where I have to make the balance between his position, representing many in the community, and the position put by some people in the Progressive Conservative party, also representing many people in the community, who felt we should have reduced the deficit even more.
The idea he has that we might very well have raised taxes is not really responded to by everybody in the province, although it is true there are many people who feel that some tax or another might have been increased. Even the idea of a succession duty is not the wildest idea I ever heard of. Some of the people advising the government tend to get a little tired when they even think of it, but it is certainly an idea that has to be given careful consideration. Although that is not very satisfying to the honourable member, I am just glad to say that to him.
The Ontario tax reduction in fact does mean that there are now 600,000 people in Ontario paying no tax at all at the provincial level and 60,000 more paying reduced taxes. I suppose the reason I particularly like the tax reduction concept is that you get a big bang for the buck. Mind you, if one gets up to the level the honourable member is recommending, substantially at the poverty level or even above -- l hate to use that particular adjective; I feel it is inappropriate -- then it gets costly.
Mr. Laughren: I am sorry if the term "poverty" offends the sensitivities of the Treasurer. I suppose I would be sensitive and defensive about it too if I had done as little for low-income people as the Treasurer has.
I can recall, a number of years ago, the Treasurer expressing dismay at the kind of taxation policy we had in the province when the Tories were in power. He expressed dismay about the capital gains.
Hon. Mr. Nixon: I was always fair, sensitive and understanding in my criticism.
Mr. Laughren: And I appreciated his comments earlier that my suggestions were very constructive. I hope the Treasurer will not just say nice things, but will do nice things when it comes to effecting tax change in his next budget.
Hon. Mr. Nixon: I am glad to have a moment to respond to the little exchange about the use of the word "poverty" I think the honourable member is right in criticizing my reluctance to use it, except it may be that I am a lot older than he is. I feel that a poor person is a person who is without medical care, who is without access to an adequate education, without resources to provide for the family in situations of need and want. I do not feel the policies of the government of Ontario, both now and previously, have left a significant proportion of our community without the basics of life.
The quality of life is something else. Then, as we move beyond the provision of these basics, as the honourable member would wish the government to do, and that every member here would wish the government could do, we are getting into something else. I am not going to argue about it, and I do not know what adjective to substitute that really indicates my feeling. I do not want to dwell on that because we all know of inadequacies in the community. The basics are provided for, we talk about a welfare net, or something like that, and members may feel there are holes in it, but for my view, I think the governments of Ontario over the years, and the governments of Canada over the years have not been unduly callous in recognizing their general responsibilities. There is lots more to be done, and I do not deny that.
All members know that this is a minor bill. All of us, as taxpayers in Canada, are expecting to be informed by the Minister of Finance for Canada, on June 15, 14 days from now, as to what his proposals are in more far-reaching tax reform. There is no doubt that these will have a greater impact on this province than any other province in Canada.
The member will be glad to know, as everyone else would, as I mentioned in the budget Michael Wilson has done a good job in keeping the Treasurers informed as much as he can, consonant with his own responsibilities, and listening to our advice.
Mr. Laughren: So that makes you an accomplice.
Hon. Mr. Nixon: If I am an accomplice in tax reform that moves towards fairness and equity, then I am proud of it. I will reject the word "accomplice" and just say that we are a co-operative jurisdiction and I do not object to that. It does mean, however, that once the basis of tax reform is made clear by the government of Canada, and they move toward enactment, I think there will be every reason to believe that this House will be presented with alternatives that will parallel that and perhaps compensate for those things, if they are necessary to maintain our revenue with a solid base.
There have been a number of references made to the productivity of the income tax itself, and that is true. The fact that we are very close to $10 billion is amazing and surprising right across the board. We have all agreed, even the spokesman for the Progressive Conservative Party has agreed, that on the basis of fairness, the income tax is the best measure of the ability to pay. The agreement is complete on all sides in that regard.
While we did broaden the base, strengthen it two or three years ago, the economic buoyancy of the province on that base has been quite responsive. The base itself and the changes in the tax going back to the budget of 1985, returns us about an additional $800 million this year. That is quite significant, but it is not exactly off the scale. I think the actual, economic buoyancy is responsible for about an additional $100 million over the projections of those budgetary changes that we made at the time.
This series of amendments actually reduces our revenues by approximately $250 million, not entirely in this area referred to here, because there is also some reduction of our revenues associated with farm tax changes. While this reduction is not a reduction in rate, it is a reduction in the revenues that would otherwise have come into the consolidated revenue fund without the changes that we are putting to the House.
I can understand why all members are in support of these amendments. We feel they are useful and, frankly, I find them appreciated in the community. I am not looking for appreciation -- that is not why we are here, as we all know -- but at least they are understood by the people who are affected. I think that is healthy and democratic.
I appreciate the fact that all parties are in support of the amendments.
The Deputy Speaker: Mr. Nixon has moved second reading of Bill 63.
Motion agreed to.
Bill ordered for third reading.
Resuming the adjourned debate on the motion that this House approves in general the budgetary policy of the government.
The Deputy Speaker: I believe when we were last on this debate, the member for Burlington South had the floor.
Mr. Jackson: I am pleased to continue responding on the government's May 19 budget announcement, particularly since the Treasurer (Mr. Nixon) is still in the House this afternoon and he will be leaving within the hour by his government-chauffeured limousine, off to the great community of Burlington South to attend a Liberal fund-raising event. I believe it is $100 per person for this cocktail get-together with our Treasurer, and I thought it would be quite appropriate this afternoon that I could perhaps assist the Treasurer with some of his crib notes for that wonderful speech they are anticipating down at the Burlington Golf and Country Club.
An hon. member: There is a little note of jealousy in his voice.
Mr. Jackson: They are up to 38 ticket sales.
An hon. member: They are ahead of you.
Mr. Jackson: Well, I do not want to plug one, but we are having a fund-raiser the following evening and the Treasurer is most welcome. It is a heritage dinner, including my good friends from the Ukrainian and the Croatian and the Austrian communities, which are sponsoring it on my behalf.
An hon. member: Good people.
Mr. Warner: How much?
Mr. Jackson: It is at half the price the Liberals are charging, but we anticipate about 350 people.
Mr. Warner: That's $50.
Hon. Mr. Nixon: Wait a minute; what are we charging?
Mr. Jackson: One hundred dollars a pop.
Hon. Mr. Nixon: Golly.
Mr. Jackson: It is only a cocktail party, and the Treasurer is well noted for his sobriety. I suspect he will painfully have to go through the evening without watching the cash register ring with all those liquor taxes coming into his revenues -- as if they had not already been growing over the last year.
The situation in Burlington has been well documented with respect to its response to the Treasurer's budget. There are so many comments I believe I could objectively convey into the record that may assist the Treasurer. I will, and had he been here when I started my comments yesterday, he would know that I compliment him for a couple of points in his budget. In fairness, that is only appropriate when a budget attempts to address a certain number of new program needs.
But by the same token, I indicated, with particular respect to the expansion of chronic and acute care beds for Joseph Brant Memorial Hospital, that we will not see one of those beds operational for at least five years and that there is a solution which the honourable Treasurer could consider for considerably less dollars. It would provide at least 30 acute care beds that would free up the three-and-a-half-year waiting list for the citizens in my community, who are also represented quite well by the member for Halton-Burlington (Mr. Knight), who I have to believe shares my concern that we need rather immediate relief and not the long-term pronouncement that was made two weeks ago by the Minister of Health (Mr. Elston).
The mayor of the city of Burlington, Roly Bird, expressed concern about the announcements with respect to funding for road reconstruction and for GO Transit. My mayor was quoted as saying he was quite sceptical of the $28 million, the 9.5 per cent increase in funds for municipal roads.
He said, and I will quote just one statement, "Any money is welcome and is certainly needed, but there are 637 municipalities in the province, so how much of the $601 million is coming to southern Ontario, or particularly to Halton region?"
This is a particularly appropriate comment for the mayor of Burlington to make, because on several occasions he has attended meetings with all the members of the provincial and federal Legislatures, and road reconstruction moneys has always been a high priority. It is such a high priority that a recent report on their capital needs, prepared by the staff of the city of Burlington, in consultation with the region, has identified an estimated $35 million in immediate road reconstruction needs that should be addressed -- and that has been communicated to the government -- and, over the 10 years, a cost of approximately $111 million.
Surely, the Treasurer is not going to try to convince this House that those dollars, when applied across the province, are going to be able to address, even partially, the needs that have been expressed by the Association of Municipalities of Ontario, particularly by my mayor, Roly Bird.
He goes on to suggest that there are reasons these funds have not been forthcoming, that there has been a preoccupation in other areas. He indicates it will seriously affect the transportation network, and will seriously affect the commerce and trade in this province if we allow that situation to deteriorate further.
With respect to the GO Transit announcement of $100 million, following the budget announcement, I did not immediately rush off to the Treasurer's reception. I immediately approached the Minister of Transportation and Communications, the member for Scarborough East (Mr. Fulton). I asked him quite clearly and directly, would he please tell me whether those $100 million would be allocated, in part or in full, to expansion of the current system at either the east or the west end of the GO Transit system, for expanding full service to the community of Burlington and possibly on to Hamilton? The minister said something quite interesting to me. He said: "No. There are no moneys for expansion. These are basically dollars for retrofit and upgrade."
That may sound rather innocent, but when pursuing what he meant by retrofit and upgrade, we now come to realize that the government is seriously looking at creating a fee or a charge for Ontario commuters who park at GO Transit stations and use the service. Part of this announcement could and will most probably be used for creating a situation of toll charges for parking privileges at the GO Transit stations all along the current network.
No wonder many of the editorial comments have made reference to the Treasurer giving with the one hand and taking with the other hand. I think this is one point which has not been fully exposed in the media, but I am pleased to bring it to the attention of the House, because it has a direct impact on the community of Burlington.
On the environmental front, the Treasurer will be at a lovely golf and country club overlooking Burlington bay, and I want him to be mindful of the kinds of requirements of the sewer system and municipal infrastructure in the Hamilton-Burlington area.
Hon. Mr. Nixon: Is that still the richest community in Canada?
Mr. Jackson: No, actually Markham is.
However, what I would like the Treasurer to realize is that in his budget he has $8 million put aside for a comprehensive waste management program. He talks about funds for upgrading landfill sites and for developing waste management facilities. We wonder how many new dollars might find their way to Halton region, which has been struggling with a landfill site for the last 10 years. Based on the criteria, it looks as though none of those dollars will find their way into our community. If his $8 million is in any way a commitment to upgrading landfill sites, I would like to remind the Treasurer that he is going into a community tonight that recently spent $1 million in a control order just to clean up an old site, the Bayview dump site in our community, only about a mile and a half from the golf club at which he will be speaking.
The Treasurer gave the Minister of the Environment (Mr. Bradley) $14 million for consulting studies. I really find it interesting when we are going to study the condition of sewage lines again and again. We are going to do that over a three-year period. One has to wonder how many of those dollars will be spent now, next year and in the final year, if we remember.
The fact is that the community of Burlington needs $14 million immediately just to upgrade its sewage facilities in order to participate more fully in the cleanup of Burlington Bay and the Hamilton harbour.
The directors of both the public and separate school boards had a major comment to make in the media about their reaction to the budget. They were inspired by the throne speech, as many people were, and they looked with great anticipation and hope towards the budget document. I quote from the Globe and Mail: "They indicated that the purpose of a throne speech is to give people an idea of a government's intention, and by that definition the Ontario Liberals intended to do everything."
The boards of education in Halton do not necessarily share the view that the part about doing things for everyone with respect to public and separate education in Halton was achieved. The unfortunate truth is that we are still funding at a 44 per cent level for the provincial contribution in spite of a Liberal government and a previous-to-the-last-election Liberal Party policy that it would increase the funding level. It made a solid commitment to do it. It has failed to do it and this is going to have a serious impact on the residential property taxpayer in Halton, particularly in Burlington.
This is significant because the real harm in that nonfunding decision in the budget will not come to light until next February or March when the school boards are establishing their budgets and when the mill rate is being calculated and communicated to the taxpayers of Halton and in particular those of Burlington. What it means is that the true impact of that statement will probably not occur until after the next election. It is very clever, very well crafted in terms of a position, but in no way does it honour the kinds of statements made in the throne speech in terms of the commitment to education.
In the area of health care, the minister has bypassed many communities in Ontario for assistance in improving ambulance services -- some communities had greater need than the city of Burlington -- and I have indicated my appreciation that we received our badly needed ambulance funding.
When one looks carefully at the health budget, one is concerned about the growing pressure -- I actually have the number -- on the 29,500 nursing home residents in Ontario. The throne speech made a very glowing statement about support for nursing homes and nursing home residents, but unfortunately, as the Globe and Mail aptly put it, it was not forthcoming in the budget. One has to question seriously the government's commitment to improving the situation in Ontario for nursing home residents when it is not providing the necessary funding to ensure that the assessed needs of those residents are being met adequately and in fact improved where necessary.
The budget gives one short statement -- that is their entire commitment -- to nursing homes. I am pleased to quote it into the record: "The government will provide additional funding to improve the quality of care in nursing homes." That is all that was said. The government is sitting on a bill that was introduced by the New Democratic Party, supported by the Progressive Conservative Party and then sent to the standing committee on social development for approval.
I am talking about Bill 176, An Act to amend the Nursing Homes Act. That is a significant bill because it involves increasing the rights of nursing home residents. It provides them with a series of documented rights that must be fully respected and promoted, including the right to be treated with courtesy and respect, to be properly fed, groomed and clothed, to privacy, to receive visitors, and where possible, for married couples to live in the same room. Those were just a few of the enhancements and rights embodied in the nursing home residents' bill of rights.
The government was very reluctant to support that bill. They were very reluctant to provide any details in their throne speech and now they have been totally reluctant to provide details of those funds in the budget. What concerns me is that we are seeing a trend emerge here, a trend which the Minister of Municipal Affairs (Mr. Grandmaître) referred to in his speech just last week and which I am sure did not escape many members of this House.
That minister said he had been listening to whispers out there: "You can shake the hand of a Liberal before an election, but after an election he will shake your confidence." I was rather impressed with the brutal honesty of that statement coming from a minister, but in no one program do I find that statement more appropriate than the government's lack of commitment in funding the nursing home situation in Halton, in Burlington and more generally throughout Ontario.
I am disturbed that the Minister of Health has not been able to provide sufficient dollars within his budget to deal adequately with the nursing home situation. It is common knowledge that the daily rate in Ontario for privately owned and nonprofit nursing homes is $49.16; that this rate is now almost two years old; that there has been no government action on a rate increase; that the contract that exists between operators and this provincial government has been open since January 1, and to my knowledge the province has not even responded with an offer at this point, some five and a half months later. I find that position indefensible.
I believe it is appropriate to the budget if I comment on the activities of the Health minister, who most recently was found to be involving himself in fund-raising activities from his office in the Ministry of Health. I find it somewhat unusual and perhaps even improper that he would be soliciting funds from the very people he was in the process of negotiating with, the nursing home operators of Ontario.
I am not of the legal profession, but I do have considerable background in labour negotiations, and it raises an interesting question. In Ontario today we have laws against one party making direct approaches to the other parties, or parts of parties, or groups representing the parties, during negotiation, yet the very law established by the government in labour negotiations is not applicable to their conduct with respect to soliciting funds from groups they are negotiating with. I find that quite odd.
The Deputy Speaker: You are going to tie this in with the budget?
Mr. Jackson: Yes. I think it is rather appropriate, as the minister has not provided the funds necessary to deal properly with the request of the nursing home operators for a rate increase and yet, instead of providing the funds in the budget, he is soliciting funds from the very group he is negotiating with by direct mail solicitations for donations to come out to a Liberal fund-raising event. I think it is rather appropriate to the budget.
There are many analogies that could be found, but I feel it is quite inappropriate that at this sensitive time -- l have looked through this budget and I do not see where the Minister of Health has provided for Ontario hospital insurance plan fee negotiations with Ontario doctors. I am also having difficulty finding where the budget deals with the pharmacists in Ontario, who have been waiting almost a year for the minister to resolve the issue of their rates under the Ontario drug benefit plan; and the list of health care professionals and service providers in Ontario who have been held at bay by this government with respect to negotiations, is growing each month.
I asked the Treasurer if he would be able to provide more clearly defined figures in his budget, and hopefully we will be able to get on with estimates, Health estimates in particular, so we can determine what kind of real dollars this government has committed to ensure not only that the bricks and mortar of health care are addressed in this budget but also that all the people who work in our health care facilities across Ontario get equal treatment and attention.
I find it rather interesting that in Ontario today there are more people working in health care facilities than there are involved in the manufacturing of automobiles or auto parts. It is a significant sector in our service economy, yet in this budget I find the government lacking in addressing the wage and human needs of the health care providers in Ontario, whether they be nurses, doctors, pharmacists or nursing home operators.
I would like to expand some of my comments about the list of improved services that are required under Bill 176, but nowhere do I see in the budget that the government is dedicating the necessary dollars to ensure that the assessed needs of nursing home residents are met. The government's failure to deal with the memorandum that has been forwarded by the Ontario Nursing Home Association should be cause for considerable concern by all members of this House.
In closing, I want to comment briefly about a concern that has been raised in my community particularly. In my last newsletter I asked a question about the budget. I asked where my community felt the extra $1 billion in revenue should be dedicated in the Treasurer's forthcoming budget. An unprecedented 85 per cent of the residents -- and I guess some 600 residents responded -- all agreed we should be dealing with some form of legitimate deficit reduction and not the kind of sleight-of-hand deficit reduction that the Treasurer has engaged in with his figures.
I am concerned that his entire budget statement goes on to talk about all the areas he intends to spend in and then he concludes with the bottom line that he will be in a position to reduce the deficit if he does not spend on some of the things he promised in the previous pages of the budget. I find that most unusual and rather new. Mind you, as a new member, I have only been privy to two budgets while I have been in the Legislature.
I have to say two things about the deficit which concern me most. One is that the accumulated debt for Ontario is now upwards of $38 billion. That is a figure that people have lost sight of and do not seem to be talking about. The cost of servicing that debt is $3.8 billion. We are spending more today on servicing that debt than we are on all our social services.
I see the Minister of Community and Social Services (Mr. Sweeney) is in the House. It must be of great concern to him that we as a province are spending more on debt service than we are spending on those human needs that are his responsibility. Eleven cents of every dollar is going to that debt service.
Last year in Ontario every man, woman and child owed $3,847. This year it has gone over $4,000 for the first time in our history, $4,019 under this budget, yet the Treasurer can stand in his place and advise us that he has significantly reduced the deficit and he is doing something to bring government spending under control.
That raises another point. It is absolutely unbelieveable that this government preached austerity on the campaign hustings in the last election. I remember their bringing up government advertising as their greatest whipping boy. I am sure the cabinet and all members of the government party will be pleased when all the amounts of dollars spent on advertising are tabled and they realize how many more dollars they are spending on trying to look good. They have increased the civil service to approximately 3,900 more civil servants in less than two years. The previous Tory government worked hard, over a five-year period, to reduce the civil service by an almost equal amount.
That is the concern that has been expressed by the constituents of Burlington South. I do not believe they have bought the minister's comments and pronouncements that he has done something about deficit reduction. Those facts are well known. They are very well hidden within the budget document, but the people of Burlington are quite adept at reading budgets. They are quite adept at seeing through the kind of presentation and packaging that has occurred with this budget.
There are many other areas of this budget that I would like to address. The Minister of Housing (Mr. Curling) is present. I would like to advise him that the Treasurer can continue to give him additional dollars to spend, but it is well documented that his is one of the most underspent of ministries.
It is interesting to note that in the last two years we have seen a wholesale shift in announcements from the Ministry of Housing. They do not talk about what they have spent. They do not talk about what they have achieved. They talk only about what they have announced. It is a very clever ploy. Again, they are not fooling the building community. They are not fooling the tenants of Ontario. They are not fooling the landlords of Ontario. They are not fooling the growing list of people who have become reliant on an improvement in their housing situation, the needs of whom are not being met; special groups such as the disabled, the disadvantaged and in particular our adolescent youth, who are having difficulty finding affordable accommodation.
The minister knows that most of his programs are undersubscribed.
Hon. Mr. Curling: We are cutting down.
Mr. Jackson: I say to the minister, they are undersubscribed. I would hope that he would be most forthcoming during estimates with respect to not only what he is producing but also why so few people in Ontario are able to take advantage of the government programs established.
All the budget does is lay out a framework for political announcements and allow the minister to develop a very strong public image that he is concerned and aware of the housing crisis in Ontario. But the time clock is running. He has been the minister now for two years, and we are not seeing the commitment to completed units. He has stood corrected in this House on a statement he made earlier, that he had produced more units in one year than the previous government. That matter has been corrected, and he will know the previous government did produce more units in a given year than anything he has accomplished.
He had the largest budget in Ontario's history with which to accomplish that. He had the largest increase in revenue in Ontario's history and he was unable to accomplish that. He had an increase of $8 billion and he was unable to accomplish the goals that he set for housing.
I would ask the minister to reflect very carefully, not on the announcements he has made but on the accomplishments he thinks he might be able to achieve in the next year, because his record in the past two years is one of gross underspending because his programs have not caught fire. They have not been acceptable, and therefore they are not working to the extent that they should be working in Ontario.
That concludes my remarks. I appreciated the opportunity and the patience of this House in listening to the very detailed points about the impact of this budget on the great community of Burlington.
Mr. Speaker: Are there questions or comments? If not, any further debate? The member for Hastings-Peterborough (Mr. Pollock).
Hon. Mr. Curling: Do we not go in rotation?
Mr. Speaker: I am sorry. Minister?
Hon. Mr. Curling: It gives me a great opportunity and it is a great pleasure for me to rise in this great House to express my unreserved support for the 1987 budget. After listening to my colleague on the other side, the member for Burlington South (Mr. Jackson), for one moment I thought he had great praise for the budget. He was saying what a lovely budget and the commitment we have made with regard to housing was really better than any time they have ever seen it in this House for a very long time.
There have been criticisms of this budget voiced by the opposition and the media, as we have read; criticisms suggesting that this budget somehow fails to focus on the needs of the people of Ontario; the criticism that the financial assets available should have all been devoted to eliminating the deficit rather than to addressing some of the very urgent needs we have, including the need for new schools, an increased housing supply and improved social services.
No astute observer could ever expect that the opposition would rise in the House and congratulate the government in power for its superb financial management, for its astute fiscal planning. I do not expect that. I know how difficult it is for them to do that, even though the budget is so well done. Critics they should be and critics I expect them to be. It is the opposition's job to quibble, as my dear friend in the opposition has just been quibbling, yet I submit that in the case of the 1987 Ontario budget their quibbles were rather weak, ill-founded and verging on really just being ridiculous.
As a member of the Ontario cabinet and in my capacity as Minister of Housing, I am prepared to offer my unqualified support for the provisions of this budget. I am also, as members well know, the member for the great riding of Scarborough North, which has a population of more than 200,000 residents. The honourable member for Scarborough Ellesmere (Mr. Warner) is also one of my constituents.
Mr. Warner: That's right.
Hon. Mr. Curling: He is quite proud to know I am his member, and I serve him very well.
Mr. Warner: I didn't vote for you.
Hon. Mr. Curling: I know that 220,000 voting for me would be quite historic, but as members know, the largest vote total was received by the member for Scarborough North. So adding the vote of the dear member for Scarborough-Elllesmere, it would again -- l would expect his vote the next time. I know how tough and difficult it is, when he goes to the poll, to make the decision for his party. I respect his commitment to his party, but his great leader would understand if he makes the stroke against --
Mr. Warner: You are making it easier by the moment.
Hon. Mr. Curling: As the member for Scarborough North, I want to say that my support is equally enthusiastic as the Minister of Housing. I believe the provisions of this budget will bring important and long-lasting benefits to the people of my riding, and not only there but to the people of other ridings and to the people of the entire province.
It was the responsibility of this great Treasurer to take the financial resources available to him for expenditure and, carefully weighing the priorities of this government, to determine in his great wisdom the ways in which those funds could be spent to bring the greatest constructive and long-term benefits to the people of Ontario, this great province.
I submit that all the decisions he made were founded in care, compassion and determination to serve the people of Ontario to the best of his capacity. You know, Mr. Speaker, the respect he gets when he rises in this House, not only for his knowledge of the House but also for his capability and for the astute and wise manner in which he conducts himself with the budget.
We were enlightened, all of us, both by his profound sense of responsibility and his well-known sharp pencil. Those decisions will not only support the growth and prosperity that have taken root in Ontario and are flowering more with every passing month; those decisions have laid foundations for future growth and renewal that will serve this province well in the 21st century. We are even looking forward, when the next election comes about -- whether it be in six months, two years or three years -- to the fact that we can run on these records.
The sheer folly of the previous government in its ad hoc responses to social needs was a case of minding the store and listening for the fire alarm. If the alarm went off, they would come running with their little bucket and put that fire out. They would just throw the water there and somehow get that blaze under control.
The strength of this government is that we are not only minding the store, but are minding it superbly: the envy of the opposition, realizing they had 42 years in which to perfect the manner in which they could conduct government. I would say that in those 42 years they did some wonderful things, but complacency set in. They took it for granted: and what happened? They ran this province down to the situation where we have to be looking at that backlog, that neglect, and addressing those concerns.
They allowed this province to erode that infrastructure for cities. If I could just reflect a bit, we saw the education system being eroded. We saw our roads needing maintenance and service. We saw the neglect of providing affordable housing for the people of Ontario.
The day we walked in here, they immediately asked what we were going to do. Sometimes when we increased some of those budgetary situations, we found we could not even arrest some of the problems that had been caused by the previous government. However, we are moving in a direction to revitalize and fortify this province once more. We made a vow that Ontario would never again be caught off guard by any changing industrial base, by severe economic fluctuations or by hundreds of thousands of young people who are unprepared for an unpredicted job market.
We intend to run this province in a manner that we can leave it for those who are coming behind to have it much better. It is that simple. Like fathers and parents, we should make it easier and better for our children. We found a situation that was rather difficult for us to continue or to even make easier for our children, but we can. With the capable hands of the wonderful cabinet ministers and the caucus that we have, there is still hope.
In my ministry, the Ministry of Housing, we have been compelled to spend much of the past two years racing to rectify the unanswered needs of tenants, landlords' roomers, boarders, lodgers and the homeless -- l am glad that my honourable colleague the member for Burlington South has returned; he always listens so attentively needs that had been allowed to accumulate, to fester and to grow, without any concrete government response.
We saw interest groups warring against each other. We can all recall -- it was a long time ago -- in 1985 when, just to put the supplies back in order, we had to get those advocacy groups together to make the climate better for us to operate. Landlords were warring, tenants were fighting; that was the manipulative manner of certain governments in the past, using tenants against landlords. It was quite a task but, with the faith we have in people, we brought them together.
Now we are not only addressing the present housing needs because we have put the environment back in order -- needs that exist in the present housing market -- but also preparing for the needs that will arise five, 10 and 20 years down the road. That is the strategy for this entire government, to run this government like a responsible corporation, to plan for the future and to ensure the resources will be in place to meet the needs of those who inherit the social legacy the government leaves behind.
Let us look at the provision that this budget has made for housing. Before I do that --
Mr. Wiseman: You lost your page.
Hon. Mr. Curling: I am all right.
Mr. Wiseman: Help him find his page.
Hon. Mr. Curling: As I said, in December 1985 I announced an assured housing policy strategy. We all recall it. Mr. Speaker, I remember you sitting there listening very attentively; not only you but also all the members of this government and opposition. As I recall your expression and the expression of the members here, it was the first time that a comprehensive housing policy had been announced in this House. I myself was rather shocked that it was the first time. No one felt the previous government had addressed the issue in a comprehensive way; as I mentioned earlier on, just in an ad hoc manner: if a couple of groups came by, they would deal with that specific interest or specific case, and then that was the policy.
The housing policy of my other colleagues over the way in the New Democratic Party was quite precise and limited. It said: "Four per cent. That is all we want. Four per cent control on any increase in rents. That is our housing policy." What we did was we listened and we agreed as a government that, yes, there should be some type of review and control. We acknowledged that and we put that in place in 1985-86.
We went further and put a guideline in place that is sensitive to inflation, so that we need not have to come back every time to the people and put them against each other or play games against each interest group. We made a permanent kind of a guideline that is sensitive to inflation. That is what we have done. We have brought about a comprehensive housing policy. Under that policy, we brought protection to 260,000 tenants living in post-1975 buildings who were never protected in the past.
That assured housing policy is just the foundation of the structure that is needed to meet the needs of the people of this province. Let me give an example of what assured housing has meant to every region of this province. I did not say this. It is written, if you will bear with me a bit, Mr. Speaker, in the May 2 editorial in the Thunder Bay Chronicle-Journal:
"Thunder Bay has always been a tough town in which to find low-cost housing, but the housing situation for people on the bottom end of the income ladder should start to change for the better, thanks" -- and this is a direct quote -- "to the renewed commitment to social and public assisted housing by the Ontario government."
I am speaking about the north, when they stand here and ask what we have done for the north. This Minister of Housing is not the Minister of Housing for Toronto, he is the Minister of Housing for Ontario and Thunder Bay.
It continues and it gets better: "The housing allocations for Ontario have quadrupled. In Thunder Bay and northwestern Ontario, they have more than quadrupled. Everything was initiated" -- and I did not say this -- "by the minister, Alvin Curling, in his December 1985 announcement of the assured housing strategy."
This is the line I like, it is so true: "It was a conscious change in government policy."
"From an average of 100 new units a year, social housing allocations for the region have jumped to 704 for 1986 and 1987. Before 1985, allocations for the whole province were around 1,500 to 1,600 units a year. In January 1986" -- the member for Burlington South should listen to this -- "it went up to 6,700 a year provincially, with another 6,700 units for 1987."
That is what assured housing did for Thunder Bay. That tells members what assured housing is doing for the communities across Ontario.
The other day, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Grossman) stated that in 1982 the previous government had 16,000 rental units completed and that in 1986 the rental units completed were 11,000, saying it was because of our government that it dropped. He deliberately did not state anything about 1983, 1984 and 1985, which were very dismal efforts on their part.
He did not say why it dropped in 1986 -- it was because of poor funding by that government when it was in power in 1984 and 1985 -- but somehow gave the impression to the public that it was because of this government that it had dropped that low. He did not say we had committed ourselves to allocations for 6,700 in 1986 and 6,700 units in 1987.
Mr. Philip: What is the vacancy rate now?
Hon. Mr. Curling: I will get to that, if the member wants to talk about the vacancy rate. Let us look at the provisions this government has made for housing.
Mr. Philip: I can hardly wait.
Hon. Mr. Curling: The member likes this stuff.
This budget provides $220 million in capital support for the construction of more affordable rental housing and an additional $50 million annually to support the operating costs of new housing stock. This budget provides for a total expenditure of $378 million on housing in Ontario this year, an increase of more than 34 per cent over last year.
No one can stand in this House and criticize those efforts. Of course, one could say it is not enough to address the needs, and I fully agree. It is not enough to address a need neglected over years.
I want to address the impact this budget will have on the people of my own riding. This gives me that opportunity, and I do not get the opportunity many times to speak, but to answer questions that --
Mr. Jackson: How did you do on your questions on the hot earth in your riding?
Hon. Mr. Curling: Very well. The honourable member mentions the radioactive soil at McClure Crescent in Malvern. It was on June 26, 1985, that we became the government of this province, and on October 15, 1985, we made an offer to those people at McClure Crescent who had no place to go, no one to address their cause and no one to listen.
When I took that issue to my colleagues in cabinet, we made a commitment and followed through on the commitment of offering to buy 40 of those homes at market price.
Mr. Jackson: What about the 60 tenants?
Hon. Mr. Curling: I just want to address the honourable member's question. Sometimes question period does not give us the opportunity to go into details, and I want to make sure the member gets it right this time.
We commissioned three appraisals to value that property, one coming from the Ministry of Government Services, one from the residents themselves and one from the Ministry of Housing. We paid for all three appraisals. We paid for the transportation costs wherever these residents resettled.
We went further. We told the residents there that they need not move in a hurry; they can take their time to decide. We are also further committed to move that soil, and they can make up their mind if they want to take that offer one year after we have moved that soil, so there is no hurry on their part.
In response to what we have done with some of that housing, we have further rented those houses out. We have explained to the tenants that we are still convinced, from scientific information and advice we have gotten, it is safe to live there. It is their decision if they would like to move and when they would like to move.
Why did we buy it? Because we are a responsive government, a listening and compassionate government, giving them an option, to say to them they are not trapped in that situation, which the Conservatives, when they were there as a government, did nothing about. As I said today in the House, when we made that decision, the highly and most honourably respected previous member there, Tom Wells, commended me. He called me and said: "I am so happy that you could have done something for those people. I tried for years with my colleagues. They would not listen."
That is what the situation is there today. It has been resolved.
I said earlier that the critics in this House said this budget lacked focus. I have no hesitation in asking this House to focus its attention on the people of Scarborough North -- those wonderful people there -- because my riding, in so many ways, is the new face of urban Ontario and urban Canada.
It is a riding of families, a riding of parents who are prepared to do everything possible to ensure that their children receive the best possible education.
It is a riding of senior citizens, a riding of individuals who helped to build modern Ontario, who settled in the communities and raised their families and established a remarkable network of churches and volunteer organizations; people who deserve to live now in comfort and security.
It is a riding of people who were born in 100 different nations, new citizens who wanted so much to be Canadian citizens that they struggled and worked and sacrificed for years to become part of our city, part of our province, part of our great country, Canada. It is a riding of ambitious entrepreneurs and hardworking business people.
It is also a riding of individuals who need practical and focused assistance to reach their full potential: the physically and the psychiatrically handicapped, the unemployed and the homeless.
It is the human face of all that Ontario is and all that Ontario will become: an energetic, burgeoning riding, alive with 100 different cultures and vitality that is magnificent to observe.
It is important that I say this, because when we make a budget we must reflect the people and their energies and their potential.
For almost 10 years now, the children of Scarborough North have been in urgent need of more schools and increased classroom spaces in existing schools. I have visited many in the portables, and I have seen angry parents and angry teachers.
I am a product of 14 years in a community college, working there in portables. Community colleges were a great idea, a tremendous idea, of the former government, but as usual its consistency waned and it could not carry it on. I saw where portables were attached to portables, rat-infested and cold portables, for students to spend most of their school life in. I visited the elementary schools, the grade schools; and they are not adequate. We should not be doing this to our pupils.
They see me as the one to address those problems and I will, but I want to say we inherited a legacy of neglect that will take more than a year to correct. I am proud that my honourable colleague the Minister of Education (Mr. Conway) has shown an increase in budget to address those problems. It is not enough. Just yesterday, I was at the opening of a school, the Divine Infant Roman Catholic School. They were so happy that we acted to give them a school in the fastest-growing community of Scarborough North. As I said, 200,000 was the statistic in 1981. I am quite sure it is more now.
I am saying that this budget has addressed many of the problems but it has not completely solved all the problems. In Scarborough, these problems have been characterized by portables stretching as far as the eye could see, staggered classes and children being bused miles from their homes to schools, children having their lunches in the corridors and at times parents having to come to monitor their lunches because there was no place for the children to go.
This budget provides $26 million in capital funds for new school construction in Scarborough, the largest funding allocation for any city in the Metro Toronto area. I am very happy and proud the Minister of Education has addressed that. It is not enough and I will be at him again to make sure Scarborough North is not neglected. I do not think I have to be at him too hard. He understands the problem.
This budget will mean a new separate secondary school, Mother Teresa, and two new separate elementary schools in Scarborough, as well as two new public elementary schools and an addition to Lester B. Pearson Collegiate Institute to accommodate 400 more pupils.
The need is not yet met but this budget is proof that the Ministry of Education is committed to meeting the educational needs not only of Scarborough but also of children and young people across Ontario. I defy the opposition to prove these funds are not needed because we know they will be well spent.
Let us look at skills training. Under our Futures program, in less than two years, 50,000 young people have been helped to upgrade their education and work skills. The great majority now are successfully employed. This budget acknowledges the outstanding success of this program and gives it the expanded support it deserves. I defy the opposition to criticize a program that has finally brought concrete solutions to a problem that has been troubling Ontario for close to a decade.
I mentioned earlier the college I was at, Seneca College. Let us look at colleges and universities. We know that our once-proud post-secondary system had by 1985 been allowed to deteriorate to a point where there were not even enough funds for decent maintenance -- I was there and I saw it and lived it -- let alone for the all-important investments in research and faculty that were needed. Any university administrator in this province will tell members that this government has done more to revitalize our universities and colleges than has been done in the past 10 years. They should be ashamed of themselves over there.
I further defy the opposition to say that this budget's provision to sustain that support is money ill spent. I say to the member for Burlington South that his leader got up and said: "There is so much money in the coffers. Why do we not hand it out?" How irresponsible from a former Minister of Revenue.
Let us look at the additional $26-million provision for child care this year, raising our commitment to $185 million in total. The members heard my honourable colleague's announcement today. The opposition itself has raised the case of parents unable to work because of inadequate care for their children. We have no more important responsibility than our responsibility to the care and nurture of our children. This is truly money well spent.
Our senior citizens: This budget provides increased tax grants for seniors. It provides significant funds to maintain and upgrade municipal and charitable homes for the aged. It provides increased funds for all the services that enable senior citizens to remain independent, to live comfortable lives in familiar surroundings.
We are quite sensitive, of course, to our community. I went to great pains to describe Scarborough North. I think my government went to great pains to address all Ontarians, whether young, senior citizens, disabled, etc. We were quite sensitive to that. Are these services the opposition believes are not necessary? Are these people the opposition would prefer we ignore? The answer is a resounding no.
Let us look at the physically disabled. This budget addresses their needs in meaningful ways. I would like to add that this government has done more to support the needs of the disabled than the previous government ever considered doing, including provisions to Ontario's building code that provide the greatest access to both public and private buildings for the disabled of any province in Canada.
Would the opposition prefer we withdraw these supports?
Let us look at the extension of Ontario health insurance plan assistance to 40,000 needy families. It assured medical care, a service the opposition thinks is not necessary. Shame on them.
These are all programs that will touch and improve the lives of the people in the riding of Scarborough North. I defend their absolute right to the benefits they will gain from these programs. They are all programs that will enhance the lives of people across this province.
I have just touched on some of the highlights of this budget. I would like to conclude by affirming my belief that this budget is, in the most important ways, a fiscal reflection of the vision that our government has for Ontario. We envisage and we are determined to achieve a province in which energy, ambition and aspiration are encouraged to flourish, because it is those sources of growth and development that form the bedrock of economic stability. At the same time, we envisage and we are determined to achieve a province in which no child goes uncared for, unfed or uneducated, a province in which no adult goes without shelter or whatever form support is necessary to make his or her life one of dignity and comfort.
Before I sit down, I would like to make an observation. For some time, I have heard criticism from the opposition about staffing. Each day they rise in their seats and criticize the growing bureaucracy. On the other hand, they encourage and ask for more programs. I ask the opposition, who will do the work if there is no staff to carry out the work? We have seen, even in my ministry, that staffing is very necessary.
I have seen here the same bureaucracy that served that government so well being criticized so badly. I want to say we have some of the best bureaucrats I have seen in this world. They are dedicated and they are committed to their task. I ask members of this House, when they rise for questions, to have a bit more respect for those dedicated civil servants because, in my two years as minister, I have seen their commitment.
As a new member, in two years I have learned a lot and I have seen a lot. I am charged with representing the people of Scarborough North -- and to work for a group of people like the Liberal Party of this government of Ontario. I can tell you, Mr. Speaker, that I am looking forward to representing them for a long time.
Mr. Jackson: I apologize for my interjections but I could not contain myself when the minister made a statement that he was running his ministry like a responsible corporation. That is absolutely too much to swallow for anybody in this House or anybody outside this House. He is sitting on a ministry that was allocated $251 million in 1985-86 and he spent $226 million. He underspent by $25 million.
I will tell him the report card on his performance. His own Treasurer in his budget said, "the Ontario housing industry has returned to its full strength. However, the problem of providing enough low-cost rental accommodation continues to be a major challenge."
We know what the Treasurer thinks. So what does he do? He gives the minister a bunch more money the following year. He is given $349 million and he spends $282 million. He has underspent by $67 million. All the minister does is make announcements, but the one element of his ministry that he is given all free rein to provide to work in is his rent control program.
When this government left office, we were spending $7 million on rent control administration. In the estimates the minister tabled last week, he is going to be spending $25 million. That is a 220 per cent increase in government bureaucracy. If he is going to stand in his place and tell the citizens of Ontario that the opposition should respect his ability, he should phone them and talk to them. They are using words like "nightmare," or "the worst paper bureaucracy" they have ever seen, or "three-year backlogs." I respect their comments. That is why I raised the questions in the House. If the minister checks with Hansard, he will realize that three quarters of all the statements I have raised in this Legislature have come directly from his own staff.
The minister says he is moving forward with roomers and boarders. It took the New Democratic Party and the Progressive Conservative Party to bring forward Bill 10 and Bill 59. He has been sitting on the roomers' and boarders' legislation since March and there has been no legislation forthcoming.
Mr. Speaker: The member's time has now expired.
Mr. Mancini: I would just like to make a couple of comments and also take this opportunity to congratulate my colleague on the fine job he has done as Minister of Housing.
The member for Burlington South has been highly critical. In many ways, he has in fact contradicted some of the things that he and his party have said. For example, they have criticized the government for hiring new employees in the Ministry of Correctional Services, psychiatric hospitals and the health and safety area. They have tried to criticize the government for that; in fact, they had. Yet, today we see the honourable member getting up and shouting at the minister that we need more people to work in his branch of government. They are very inconsistent. They want us to fire the people who work in Correctional Services one day and then they want us to hire more people the next.
I want to tell the member for Burlington South something. When we took over as government, the rent review process was a disaster, a shambles. We had no housing program whatsoever in this province. The tenants who lived in buildings that were constructed after 1976 had no protection whatsoever. Our Minister of Housing put forward legislation that was supported by this party and ultimately by the whole chamber, and that gave protection to those thousands and thousands of tenants to whom the Conservative Party never wanted to afford any type of protection. That is what we saw from the previous government. Major pieces of legislation were passed through this House in carriage by the honourable minister. I am glad to say that I am his colleague and I am proud of the work that he has done over the last 22 months.
Mr. Speaker: Any other questions or comments? Does the minister have any windup comments?
Hon. Mr. Curling: No.
Mr. Speaker: This may be the appropriate time for someone to adjourn the debate.
On motion by Mr. Pollock, the debate was adjourned.
BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE
Hon. Mr. Nixon: I would like to indicate the business of the House for the coming week.
On Monday, June 8, we will deal with committee of the whole House on Bill 34, freedom of information.
On Tuesday, June 9, we may continue with committee of the whole House on Bill 34 and begin committee of the whole House on Bill 154, pay equity. Any divisions will be deferred to 5:45 p.m. every day that Bill 154 is considered.
On Wednesday, June 10, we will have third reading of Bill 78, mental health, and resume committee of the whole House on Bill 154. On Thursday, June 11, in the morning we will have private members' business standing in the names of the member for Brantford (Mr. Gillies) and the member for Leeds (Mr. Runciman).
On Thursday afternoon, we will again deal with the committee of the whole House on Bill 154, followed by second reading of Bill 77, the Beef Cattle Marketing Amendment Act, and the resumption of the debate on the budget.
The House adjourned at 6 p.m.