The House met at 1000.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
PRIVATE MEMBERS’ PUBLIC BUSINESS
Mr Runciman moved resolution 5:
That in the opinion of this House, recognizing that there have been 28 bank branch closures across Ontario between 1982 and 1986 which have left many small communities without adequate banking services, the government of Ontario should review all requests for satellite banking services and establish Province of Ontario Savings Offices in those areas where population levels demonstrate a need for them and where financial benefits can be determined.
The Deputy Speaker: The member has up to 20 minutes to make his presentation and may reserve any portion of that 20 minutes for the windup.
Mr Runciman: This resolution arose as a result of concerns in my own riding of Leeds-Grenville in 1987 following the closure of the Toronto-Dominion Bank branch in a small rural community, North Augusta. Mr Speaker, as a resident of eastern Ontario, you may indeed be familiar with North Augusta, a beautiful little rural community approximately 15 to 20 miles outside of Brockville.
The closure of the Toronto-Dominion Bank branch in that village was a major tragedy -- and I do not think that is too strong a word -- in that area. One of the primary reasons it was construed as a tragedy was that the overwhelming numbers in terms of the population of that area are elderly people who have been encouraged by this government, the federal government and governments in the past to make every effort to stay in their own homes. The loss of that banking service in their village was another disincentive, if you will, to remaining in their own homes and in the community where they had spent their lives.
We can look at programs that have been brought in over the past number of years, the Victorian Order of Nurses service, the Red Cross homemakers service. A whole host of programs have been brought in provincially, federally and municipally to try to assist and encourage our growing, increasingly older population in this province to stay in their own homes as long as they possibly can.
In my view, the opportunity to have banking services in your own community is another element that this government should look favourably upon in terms of filling a vacuum left by the private sector. As most members know, I am certainly a strong supporter of the private sector, and I may be open to some humorous comments from the other parties today in respect of my stand on this issue. But I believe I am being consistent, because I do strongly believe that government certainly has a role to play in areas where the private sector is either unwilling or unable to fulfil that capacity.
In this respect, I want to say that once the Toronto-Dominion pulled out of North Augusta, I made an effort to encourage other chartered banks to fill that void, and failed. I also went to a trust company and spent considerable time with that trust company in an effort to have it move into the village. I will give them credit; they spent some time, did a thorough assessment and felt that it was not in their best interests to establish a branch. Having exhausted the private sector options first, I then turned to the government as a possible source of providing that much-needed service in rural Ontario.
I know in the past the current Treasurer (Mr R. F. Nixon) has been very supportive of the Province of Ontario Savings Office and its expansion. I stand to be corrected by members of the government if this is not correct, but I believe his father, Harry, was the Premier of the province -- he had a very brief tenure as Premier -- when POSO was established. That may be the case, and that may be the reason for the current Treasurer’s --
Mr Dietsch: Imagine all the good things he would have done if he had been there longer.
Mr Runciman: I could say the same about Frank Miller.
That may be the source of the current Treasurer’s affection for POSO, I am not sure. Indeed, I have an account in POSO in Toronto.
Currently, POSO has 21 offices in 15 communities across the province. Six of those branches are in the city of Toronto. Looking through the phone book, there are a number in some of the smaller communities in Ontario, Aylmer, Guelph, Walkerton, to name a few, but none in what we would call the small rural communities, with populations of 1,000 to 1,500, which could be serving much greater populations surrounding them.
I think that is an area this government could take a serious look at. It is certainly a growing concern in my own area and, I know, in other parts of eastern Ontario. I cannot speak for other regions of the province, but I suspect the situation is somewhat similar.
Between 1984 and 1986, we had 28 chartered bank branch closures in Ontario, and that was just in a two-year period. That is an indication of the fact that the chartered banks are abandoning rural Ontario, much to the distress of residents in those areas.
Mr Wildman: Just like the government.
Mr Runciman: Well, I do not want to get into making this a partisan discussion today. I think there is an opportunity here for all three parties to recognize that need and to address it in a very nonpartisan fashion. I am hoping that is going to be the thrust of the debate here today.
I want to talk a little bit about how the government can do this as a possibility. I have suggested in my resolution that they “establish Province of Ontario Savings Offices in those areas where population levels demonstrate a need for them and where financial benefits can be determined.” I have tried to qualify it in such a way that it is worded in what I believe is a responsible fashion.
If we take a look at just my area -- obviously that is the one I have a better understanding of -- following the North Augusta closure of the Toronto-Dominion Bank we had another closure, in the small village of Lyndhurst, a couple of months later. If you are looking at my riding, it may not be attractive to go into both of those rural communities and open up a five-day-a-week operation; but I think if the government is committed to providing this kind of service, there are very innovative ways it can be achieved without establishing some sort of onerous cost burden on the taxpayers. I do not think that has to happen at all.
I think these can be done on a nonprofit basis and certainly do not have to be, in any way, shape or form, money losers for the taxpayers of this province. I would not want to see that happen and I am sure the Minister of Revenue (Mr Grandmaître) would not want to see that happen.
But, for example, we have had this happening in rural areas for many years, where you will see a post office operating out of the corner of a grocery store or out of a hardware store. The government has now expanded -- and, I might suggest, at my urging -- the agency store concept, which has been established in northern Ontario for some time, where they can sell alcohol products out of a variety of stores. I think if POSO can take a look at that kind of approach, it may make it that much more feasible to go into some of these smaller communities. Again, I will use my riding as an example.
If they went into Lyndhurst and operated out of the corner of a hardware store or a grocery store two days per week, Monday and Tuesday, and the next three days of the week they operated out of North Augusta, they are operating with the same staff and they are just going 20 or 30 miles to operate their branches in those different small rural communities. I think that may make it much more attractive and attainable, in terms of cost-effectiveness, for POSO to go into many of these rural communities that are finding themselves without adequate banking services.
I have spoken to the Canadian Bankers’ Association with respect to providing banking machines in these communities, which seems to most of us to be only common sense, but if you talk to the bankers they are not prepared to do that either. They feel the maintenance of these machines, the fact that they have to be filled with new bills -- there are a whole host of complications and reasons they can come forward with.
The bottom line, in any event, is that they are not prepared to do it. I am not sure that POSO is into banking machines as yet. I do not believe they are, but in any event the answer I have had from the Canadian Bankers’ Association is that it will not work, it is not practical. But again, perhaps it is something POSO could independently take a look at.
Rural Ontario is increasingly losing its voice, its importance, its influence, if you will, in matters in this province. We saw it through redistribution prior to the last provincial election, where we see Ontario becoming increasingly urbanized. Even in this Legislature, the representatives from rural Ontario are becoming a smaller and smaller percentage of this body. So the voices and the influence we can bring to bear and members of all parties can bring to bear with respect to the concerns of their constituents are gradually being reduced. I think that is another concern.
To the best of our ability as members of this body, we have to represent all people of Ontario as effectively as we possibly can and try to address the very real needs of the communities out there. I think most of us in this place are committed to doing that as best we can. I believe strongly that POSO has a role to play, a much more activist kind of role than it has played up to this point in time.
I placed this resolution in Orders and Notices back in 1987, following the provincial election. I spoke to the Treasurer, who was very supportive at the time, and also communicated with his successor as Minister of Revenue. He also seems to be basically supportive of the intent and thrust of this motion, but I have not seen that translated up to this point into any concrete proposals or initiatives.
I hope that if this resolution is looked upon favourably today, we can see some action forthcoming in the very near future, because I think this is important. It sends out a very clear message to rural Ontario, as well as a variety of other things that we are attempting to do to try to make life easier for people in rural Ontario and to allow our elderly to remain in their homes in rural Ontario. That we are prepared to provide this additional service, this very important service to people to make it that much more feasible for them to remain in their own homes for a good many more years. I will try to retain the rest of my time to respond to comments made by other members of the House.
Mr Faubert: It is a pleasure today to rise on the resolution by the member for Leeds-Grenville (Mr Runciman), which essentially recommends the expansion of the service provided by the Province of Ontario Savings Office, affectionately known as POSO to members of the Legislature and much of the public, by providing service to communities which do not have adequate access to banking services.
One point I should clarify for the background of members of the Legislature is that technically POSO is not a bank; it is a deposit-taking institution governed solely by provincial legislation and is defined as a “near bank” in financial institution terms. I wish to speak in favour of the resolution and I think we should provide first a brief overview of the role of the Province of Ontario Savings Office over the years.
The savings office was founded in 1921 by the United Farmers of Ontario government, interestingly enough, as pointed out by the member for Leeds-Grenville, by the Treasurer’s father, Harry Nixon, who at that time was Provincial Secretary in the United Farmers of Ontario government. The objectives were to provide loans to farmers and small business as part of an agricultural credit scheme and also, according to the conspectus of 1924, to promote and encourage thrift among the citizens of Ontario.
Although the United Farmers government lasted only two years, the Conservatives who took over as the succeeding government kept the savings office because they recognized the importance to a number of rural communities not served at that time by other financial institutions. In between 1934 and 1936, the Liberal government of the day added a further eight branches to the original 17 for a total of 25. However, during the Second World War four branches were closed and that brought the total in 1943 to the present number of 21, the number correctly put forward by the member for Leeds-Grenville.
The savings office mandate, while originally to promote the development of agriculture, was also to encourage saving among the people of the province. POSO feels that it has achieved its mandate because it offers savings and chequing services combined with high interest rates, and at that time it quickly established its popularity with the public, which was reflected in a continual and rapid growth in deposits.
However, under the succeeding Conservative governments POSO’s development was not encouraged. Indeed, there were many calls for privatization or abolition from the Conservative ranks. During the 1970s several studies were undertaken to either close or sell the savings office. No decision, of course, was made one way or the other, but POSO was held in position and required to operate with the same amount of services it actually offered in the 1920s.
This was in a period of aggressive expansion by the banking service industry, which became a very aggressive marketer of services. As a result, POSO’s rather staid, single-account system became uncompetitive. In 1984, deposits fell for the first time since the Depression. However, with the election of the new Liberal government in 1985, POSO was immediately authorized to offer more competitive services and positive steps were taken by giving it a wider range of banking service instruments.
We all know that in 1986 the Trillium daily interest savings-chequing account was introduced, which offers two tiers of interest above and below $5,000. Interest is calculated daily and credited monthly and it has chequing privileges, of course. The success of the account is pointed out by the fact that deposits have grown from $630 million in 1986 to the point today where 80,000 Ontarians have deposited $1.25 billion of their savings.
In response to requests from the public, in 1988 the savings office offered guaranteed investment certificates, or GICs as they are commonly known, and in little over a year 13,000 Ontarians have invested $200 million of their savings in POSO GICs.
POSO, of course, is part of the government program of assisting first-time home buyers. The Ontario home ownership plan, OHOSP, was introduced and the OHOSP account was offered by POSO on 1 September, and as such was one of the first to be offered under this program. The POSO OHOSP account today offers 10.75 per cent interest and there are more than 2,000 depositors with a total sum on deposit of $2.2 million. POSO also relocated some branches, such as in Brantford and Hamilton, to give them more competitive sites.
Of course, while all this was going on -- part of this was written by the ministry so you have to appreciate that this is part of a commercial for POSO -- it still offers what it calls its “no frills” account. That is still a very popular one in the wake of some of the criticism of banking charges.
POSO also leases safety deposit boxes at low rates, and has travellers’ cheques at no commission, money orders and most international currencies, purchase and sale of securities, and finally, friendly and helpful service.
Mr Dietsch: End of the commercial.
Mr Faubert: End of the commercial. However, the new services offered by the savings office have been well received. Today, deposits exceed $1.4 billion, which is up $600 million from 1985. POSO continues to be a very popular financial institution -- it is popular certainly among members of this Legislature -- as depositors welcome the opportunity of investing in Ontario, and every single dollar is guaranteed by the province of Ontario.
Today in Ontario, there are 4,700 branches of financial institutions serving 8.8 million people. That is one for every 1,900 people, which by any standard is good, but for some years POSO has been aware of the difficulties faced by residents of small and remote communities that do not have ready access to the services of a bank, trust company, credit union or caisse populaire.
Many Ontarians have taken the time to draw our attention to their plight through ever-increasing correspondence. There have been many members of the government party, and as well the member for Lake Nipigon (Mr Pouliot); I am aware of his interest in this. There are presentations and resolutions, such as that of the member for Leeds-Grenville, on behalf of their constituents, for a POSO branch. In a study carried out by the savings office in 1986, it was determined that in southern Ontario, 292,000 people live in 178 communities with no bank, trust company, credit union or caisse populaire. In the north, however, 76,355 people live in 286 communities with absolutely no financial institution.
The savings office examined options by which services could be provided to these communities, and after careful analysis, including discussions with the Alberta Treasury branches -- Alberta is the only other province in Canada, along with Ontario, that has government savings offices -- a program was defined by which savings office agents could be established in small or remote communities. A local person would act as an agent under direct supervision of a regular savings office branch. The agent would be paid by commission and would provide cheque-cashing and deposit services, plus other services such as money orders and travellers’ cheques.
Staff in the savings office have identified a number of communities in northern and eastern Ontario that in their opinion could support a Province of Ontario Savings Office branch. To ensure the branch would be available to provide this necessary support, the savings office has made arrangements with the Ministry of Government Services to provide space for branches in new government buildings that are being built in the north.
As a result, I am pleased to advise that the savings office will open a branch in Sudbury in July 1990. This will be followed by additional branches in Thunder Bay in December 1990 and Sault Ste Marie in December 1991.
These are the logical first steps to establish a presence in the north, as a basis for a network of agents located in smaller remote communities that are connected to the central branches by telephone or computer hookup. The decision on location of these branches will be made after the first three branches are established and the service is stabilized.
On the matter of further expansion of the service, I am not in a position to provide further details at this time. However, the government is presently carrying out a thorough study of POSO’s operations.
I will just make one last comment. It may be of interest to members to know that to play the active role proposed by the member for Leeds-Grenville, POSO’s statutes would require revision to give it a solid business mandate, which may involve changing its status to a crown agency rather than a department of the Ministry of Revenue, as it is presently.
I urge all members to support the resolution of the member for Leeds-Grenville.
Mr Wildman: I rise in support of the resolution and congratulate the member for Leeds-Grenville in bringing the matter before the House.
I must say also that I found the intervention of the member for Scarborough-Ellesmere (Mr Faubert) quite helpful. He characterized it as an advertisement proposal, but I think it was useful to the members of the House because it did outline the operations of the savings offices and the possible approaches to expanding into other areas.
I might say at the outset without being too partisan, as this is private member’s hour, that when I read this first resolution and saw who had introduced it I was tempted to ridicule, not the aim of the resolution as I support it, but the fact that this could indeed be seen as a serious intervention in the invisible hand of the marketplace, an attempt by government to somehow limit the free market and somehow interfere with the market forces of which we know the member for Leeds-Grenville is very supportive and is wont to expound about in this House on occasion.
However, I do understand his concern, as he represents a rural area in eastern Ontario, an area I am familiar with. Also, as I represent a very large rural constituency in northern Ontario, I know exactly the problems he is having.
In Canada, I suppose the banking system is the epitome of the capitalist system. He used the term “bottom line” in another context in his presentation, but the member for Leeds-Grenville will recognize that the banks, for obvious reasons, are concerned about the bottom line, and the bottom line is that it is not profitable enough for the banks to maintain branches or even satellite branches in many small communities because the amount of business does not balance off the overhead, the cost of doing business, in those communities.
The member for Scarborough-Ellesmere pointed out that there is one financial institution branch for every 1,900 residents in Ontario, but he did point out a large number of communities that have no financial institutions of any kind.
In my area, we have a very difficult situation in a community called White River, which I know you are familiar with, Mr Speaker. It is halfway between Thunder Bay and Sault Ste Marie on Highway 17. That means it is approximately 200 miles from the Sault and Thunder Bay. The closest full-fledged bank branches to White River are in Wawa, 60 miles to the southeast, or Marathon, 60 miles to the northwest. One of the banks had historically maintained a branch in White River, but it was closed a few years ago during an economic downturn in White River. Since that time, the same bank has run a satellite service from Wawa to White River a couple of days a week. This has meant enormous inconvenience to the local businesses and has meant long, long lineups.
During a couple of election campaigns, I found that the best way to canvass in White River was simply to go to the bank on the day it was open. You could meet just about everybody in town there because they were lined up around the block. This is most inappropriate. I also understand, though, the bank’s position. The bank has extended service somewhat for a few more days after a great deal of pressure from the local town council, myself and the local business community, to try to alleviate the lineups and the inconvenience, but the bank says it cannot promise to do this for ever unless business picks up, because it does not feel it is profitable enough for it to do this.
I also support this resolution because I think it would give an option to communities like White River. I am sorry, though, that the member for Scarborough-Ellesmere did not make this clear: Besides opening new offices in Sudbury and Thunder Bay in the north that could then become the focal point for telephone networking to allow for agency branches in the small communities that do not have financial institutions, he did not say that POSO is actively advertising this so people know about it. I do not think there is any attempt by the Ministry of Revenue to promote the possibility of establishing near-banks -- Province of Ontario Savings Office branches -- in these small communities.
The member mentioned Alberta. Alberta established a similar institution many years ago and I understand it has, in proportion, something like five times as many offices as Ontario, if you take population into account. Of course, the reason in Alberta was that it was an attempt to encourage economic activity in rural communities and particularly in agricultural communities, to make financing available to the farm community.
I think we should be looking at the Province of Ontario Savings Office branches in a similar way in Ontario. My former colleague from Welland-Thorold was a great advocate of this approach, to try to assist the rural communities and agriculture to obtain banking services in areas where they were not available, and also, frankly, as a way of alleviating some of the interest squeeze farmers face by providing loans at lower interest rates to farmers.
I am a little concerned about the approach, even with the expansion since 1986, that POSO takes in Ontario. I understand there are about 21 offices in this province. Six of them are in Toronto. If there is any community that has a myriad of financial institutions and banking services in this province, it is Toronto. I really do not see why more than the head office should be located in this city.
I understand there is one located in Ottawa as well. Again, it is not a community that is short of banking services. If that is seen as a regional headquarters for POSO, which then could be expanded into eastern Ontario in a way similar to what the member for Scarborough-Ellesmere was saying POSO hopes to do in northern Ontario by establishing branches in Sudbury and Thunder Bay, that would be useful. But if it just a branch to operate in Ottawa without expanding into the rest of the eastern Ontario communities, it is not very useful.
The banks in this province are in business to make as much money as possible, to maximize profits. They are the only institutions in our economy that benefited from the federal budget. Frankly, it is amusing, or I think even tragic that the federal Minister of Finance did not take the opportunity to impose some further taxation on the banks, since he had whipped up such a concern about needing to consolidate and improve the revenues of the federal government while cutting expenditures.
The banks expected it and obviously were not too happy about it. It was a nice surprise to them that they did not have to pay. They are the only institutions that got off without having to pay. I think that is unfortunate. It seems to me that if the banks are indeed going to be able to make as much money as they make and have the tremendous concentration of wealth that we have in this country, which is far greater even than in the United States in the banking institutions, they should be obligated to provide services in the smaller communities.
If, however, we cannot and do not have a government that is prepared to try to encourage the banks to move, and as a part of doing business to provide services that perhaps do not make them as much money and perhaps even cost them some money, then we should be counteracting that by providing an alternative service in small communities, like White River in my riding, that are seeing banking services curtailed, making it difficult for local small business to expand and for the residents of the communities to obtain the savings and financing services they need.
Mr Cureatz: As we are participating in this debate after the fallout of the budget, I have to begin my remarks by indicating that I am supporting my colleague’s resolution this morning. Of course, it would now be apparent, from listening to those who have already spoken before me, that he does have support.
I want, though, to do something a little different. I mean, am I known for it or not? I thought to myself, “Self, is this something that has happened close to my particular riding of Durham East?” Interestingly enough, about a year ago in the great riding of Northumberland, which is the riding east of mine, my wife and family happened to vacation in the community of Colborne. Castleton is a very small community north of Colborne, a very small hamlet. They had what I guess you would call a part-time bank that opened two days a week in the mornings. Lo and behold, it was closed and I thought to myself that was a little sad.
Am I allowed to name banks? Are we protected? Two weeks ago I got a call, I think, from the Royal Bank, the head officer out of Oshawa or something. He left a message, “Tell the member that we are closing the branch office in Blackstock.” I thought to myself, “Now isn’t that rascally?” It is so frustrating when you get the call from on high. I can remember waiting for years trying to get the call from the then Premier to get into cabinet. Now I get another call from another hierarchy, way up in the towers of Bay Street, telling me that one of my little communities, Blackstock, will not have the facility of a banking service. I sort of sat back in my chair and just shrugged. I mean, how do you attack the banks?
I remind everybody that they can just sit around the Golden Horseshoe and look towards Toronto and can see those darned bank towers sticking up in the sky. We are all paying our interest to the banks so they can build the darned things. You say to yourself, “How does that relate to the community of Blackstock so the residents there would have banking facilities?” We are pushing all this stuff into the big Toronto King-Bay Street area and there are people out in those rural communities who want these kinds of services.
I have the map of Ontario for all members who are not familiar with it. When you look down at the legend here, there is a little circle. When you see this little circle, it says, “Community or community within a regional municipality.” I took a look across just southern Ontario, because my colleague the member for Algoma (Mr Wildman) certainly has a better working handle in terms of northern Ontario, and I circled some areas right across southern Ontario where I bet they do not have banking facilities and where, I guarantee members, there are people who have to travel a great deal of distance to do their banking.
Of course now, I say to my colleague the member for Durham Centre (Mr Furlong), with this very onerous provincial budget, this sin tax on driving, it is going to be more expensive to drive to those communities. Why can we not start thinking in terms of looking at the smaller hamlets for part-time services?
Let’s just take a tour boat, as Bud Germa, the former member for Sudbury used to say, across southern Ontario, starting down to the west. I wonder what is happening in Cottam, or in Merlin, or how about near Nanticoke? I know Nanticoke is sort of a bit bigger community. I am sure it will have a banking facility. But how about Villa Nova, and then working our way further north, north of London to Newry, or Bluevale, or how about way up in the peninsula, Clarks Corners? Do members think these communities have banking facilities?
Certainly with today’s technology we could come up with the solution to work out a system to help facilitate banking requirements of our people in the province. Just north of Toronto -- well, halfway between Toronto and Collingwood -- Terra Nova; and how about in the riding of my colleague who is sitting here to my right, farther east into Tamworth, Enterprise, Kirk Cove, Catchacoma, Flower Station?
An Hon member: Absolutely nothing.
Mr Cureatz: He is familiar with it. He says, “Absolutely nothing.”
Surely with today’s technology we could get our act together to do something. I heard my colleague who brought forward the resolution say how he turned to the banks and how he turned to the trust companies. My NDP friend the member for Algoma indicated that when he had the problem, the banks indicated that they look to the bottom line.
I will tell the members, as I indicated in one of the committees, I do not ever remember the president of General Motors campaigning for me in my elections, and I get labelled as a Tory supporting big business; nor do I remember one of the presidents of the big banks ever canvassing for good old Sam Cureatz in Durham East who is a Conservative and I still get labelled as a Conservative. So why should I worry about the banks?
I say, let’s take a look at these good corporate citizens who are building these huge monstrosities in downtown Toronto, causing traffic chaos to such an extent that now this government has to put in a special tax on the greater Toronto area to alleviate the problem. Why do we not start thinking of first putting some pressure on these banks to follow the position of being good corporate citizens and moving out into these communities?
We heard it already from my colleague who brought in the resolution: “Well, we can’t do that. It’s the technology, it’s the computers; it just won’t work.” Gobbledegoosh, or as they used to say in law school -- what did they used to say in law school -- balderdash. You hear this all the time from these big institutions, which are as bad as big majority governments, as we have here presently in Ontario, and there is a road that should be taken to look in these smaller communities.
I indicated that we do have a problem in terms of the seniors, because do members know what this means now? A senior in the rural communities -- and look, they do not all want to come to the greater Toronto area, they want to stay in their local municipalities -- has to turn to his friends, his neighbours, his relatives, and rightly so, but in terms of banking it is a personal relationship in terms of a person’s monetary status. Why do they have to rely now on somebody else? Why can they not follow through on their personal finances directly with the institution?
Now with the closures, as I have indicated in my own community in Blackstock -- and in Durham East we could be looking at places like Columbus, Raglan, Myrtle Station, Myrtle, Kendal, my little home community. Pontypool, I think, does have an institution, as does Bethany, but Nestleton or Nestleton Station, Seagrave, Caesaria, and Janetville -- Janetville services a large area.
As a matter of fact, the Ministry of Consumer and Commercial Relations has allowed a franchise operation with a liquor store. That is a step in the right direction, and certainly I support my colleague who brought forward the resolution that indicated -- look, we don’t need 57 storeys of a bank building in downtown Janetville, but what we could use is a little corner so that people in that surrounding area would have the opportunity of walking to the bank, or at least not driving so far.
Alternatively, if we cannot put some kind of heat on these big banking institutions, then maybe we should be thinking in terms of approaching the Province of Ontario Savings Office. Certainly, the speaker from the government side indicated it would be supportive of something innovative along that line, and maybe that is the road we have to go.
I am looking with great interest to see if this resolution can be followed up, because when I look at a map of Ontario, you can draw a line roughly from Cobourg along Highway 401 west up to Barrie, then south again around Toronto to St Catharines and around the Niagara Peninsula. Within that area, generally speaking, I bet you would not have too much difficulty banking. You could single out areas such as Ottawa, London, Windsor and St Thomas; those communities, I am sure, can adequately supply the needs of their citizens.
But when you look at the map of Ontario, you see the great big white areas with little tiny black dots all over the place. The government cannot service those people the way they expect to be if it is going to keep raising the gas prices. I say to that rascal member for Mississauga West (Mr Mahoney) that I watched with glee as he banged his desk when the Treasurer announced the payroll tax. I want him to now start going across Ontario and get his picture in a nice fancy magazine and let him try to explain to all those fine businesses how and why he supports that increase. And now we have the huge increase in gasoline tax. That just deters more people from driving their vehicles. We should be trying to implement a situation so that people can do their banking in their own little local community.
Mr Mahoney: To that rascal member who just spoke, the honourable sir, the member for Durham East, as a matter of fact I will start right now defending that without any difficulty.
What I find most interesting in speaking in support of the resolution by the member for Leeds-Grenville is the apparent Conservative Party philosophy of saying, “We have principles, and if you don’t like them, we have others.”
It is quite clear to me that the members opposite in supporting this resolution are indeed supporting a resolution that is antiprivatization.
Mr Dietsch: “What principles do I put on today?”
Mr Mahoney: That is right; they seem to change with the wind, even though I think that for a very unusual moment the member for Leeds-Grenville has obviously come to his senses, I must point out to the member for Durham East, who said he could not remember the banks campaigning for him in the last election, and I want you to know, Mr Speaker, that in his campaign literature -- he is not dumb -- he had himself standing beside a gentleman we all know and love in this House, the Premier (Mr Peterson). It drove his colleagues wild. They said, “What is a Conservative member doing campaigning with literature with the Premier on the front page?” He actually had the common sense to put the Premier’s picture in his literature. To me, that showed he really is a closet Liberal, who would really rather be on this side of the House. It is actually further proof of that this morning that the member for Durham East is supporting this almost left-of-centre resolution by the slightly right-of-centre member for Leeds-Grenville.
Having said that, I want to congratulate both members for showing such common sense, because this is clearly not simply a small-town issue. In fact, I totally agree -- and not very often do I agree -- with the federal member, the honourable Don Blenkarn, who is chairman of the federal standing committee on finance, trade and economic affairs in Ottawa. Mr Blenkarn, members will recall, has led some rather vociferous -- he tends to be vociferous at the best of times -- attacks against the banking institutions for some of their activities. I think he was quite correct and quite appropriate in doing that, in most instances. I would say that if this resolution were to be supported, clearly this would provide some better competition to those large banking institutions that the member was referring to with their towers in downtown Toronto. It would provide an opportunity for the people in the rural communities of this province to have better access to what really is a tremendous service.
I was interested in reading in the Toronto Star an article by Conrad Yakabuski, who says, “It no doubt comes as a surprise to most Ontarians, who are unaware that their government even owns a bank....” It may be a quasi-bank. It is not in the lending business, but it still provides financial services to the people in those rural communities. He goes on to say that “The Province of Ontario Savings Office would begin offering GlCs” -- guaranteed investment certificates -- “and would add to its current 21 branches. It indicated the government wants more people to know about this rather unique financial institution.”
I would say that the resolution of the member opposite will indeed accomplish that and will allow for more people in the province to realize that we are very competitive. I believe the interest rate, as the parliamentary assistant has informed me, for GICs at the POSO institutions is 11.6 per cent, which is extremely generous and very competitive with the trust companies. I should point out, though, particularly to the members in the Conservative Party, who are always so concerned with privatization, with the philosophy that Conservative governments around the world are espousing. In England Margaret Thatcher is even talking about privatizing the building of roads and putting up toll booths -- actually putting it out to the private sector. Normally the Conservative Party, and particularly the member for Leeds-Grenville, is one to expound upon the merits of doing that, but I would point out that Randall Chan, a spokesman for the Canadian Bankers’ Association, has stated that the POSO operation, as a government agency, is not subject to income or capital taxes, nor is it required to deposit cash reserves with the Bank of Canada, or anywhere else, for that matter. The trust companies, of course, are equally upset. It is pretty easy to understand why they do not think that the government should be competing with them to deliver services.
In reality, you see, I think that is the difference. I think our friends on the extreme left of the political spectrum would rather the government take over banking and auto insurance and just about any other private operation that you can think of. The people on the right of the political spectrum, of course, think that the private sector should just be allowed to run amok, which it has been doing in some instances. It takes a calm, reasonable Liberal -- large, capital L Liberal -- position to realize that there must be a balance in society; to realize that we cannot simply leave it to the hawkish members of the business community to go out and provide services. Yet, on the other hand, we should not leave it to the bureaucracy that can accompany any kind of a government operation.
Quite clearly, I very much believe, as the small business advocate, that the private sector can generally do it better than government, regardless of what it is, but I also believe that the government must offer a certain tempering to that type of facility. Quite surprisingly, the member for Leeds-Grenville obviously agrees with me on that.
I think it should also be clear that it is not simply an issue for the small communities, because many people in the larger communities, of course, tend to take vacations in those beautiful smaller communities, tend to own property in those communities, and so they would like to have the facilities. Actually I quite agree that it would be very beneficial if the banks would put in the machines that are so prevalent in this community, in the Toronto area. Certainly in Mississauga, there is a bank machine on every corner. It is very convenient.
I think it would be helpful, if this government continues, along with the Treasurer, its very aggressive attitude towards the savings offices in the small communities, maybe we will force the large banks and the trust companies to become a little more competitive and perhaps offer some services. Whether they are part-time or full-time services, they could at least offer some services in those communities that would then accommodate not only the all-year-round, full-time residents of those communities but also the summer residents, the vacationing residents and the students who in many cases go to those communities to find part-time work in the summertime. Perhaps they spend the summer at the cottage or the summer home, whereas they live in the larger city. If they go there, they would like to have a savings office where they could deposit their money.
Clearly, this resolution, as shocking as it is coming from the member, is a resolution that is worthy of support. I know the member has saved about seven minutes for his final wrapup, which appears to be what we have left in this hour, so I will just say that I am delighted, in this instance, one of the few times, to support the member for Leeds-Grenville in his resolution.
The Acting Speaker (Mr M. C. Ray): The time remaining permits only the member for Leeds-Grenville to give his wrapup.
Mr Runciman: If no one has any objection, the member for Hastings-Peterborough asked for two minutes. Can I allocate two minutes of that time to him?
The Acting Speaker: Not without unanimous consent. It would revert back to the opposition in rotation.
Some hon members: Agreed.
Mr Pollock: I would like to thank the member for Leeds-Grenville for giving me a couple of minutes of his time.
I might say that I certainly support his resolution. I do not have quite the same problem that he has. I have a municipality which did not lose a bank; it has just been lobbying for a bank for quite some time. That is the municipality of Coe Hill. The good citizens of Coe Hill have been trying to get a bank there for quite some time. It would be a plus to have any outlet, and I am sure they would welcome the Province of Ontario Savings Office.
Coe Hill is actually about 35 kilometres from Bancroft, which has the nearest banking facility in the one area. On the other side, they are about 30 kilometres from Apsley. It is quite a distance for those people to travel to actually get banking services. There are senior citizens in the Coe Hill area. Also, Coe Hill is a tourist town. There are some lakes around there, like Wollaston Lake. This would be a plus for the tourist industry, too.
As I say, I am supporting the resolution of the member for Leeds-Grenville, and I hope all members of this House would join with him in that respect.
The Acting Speaker: Now, the member for Leeds-Grenville to wrap up the debate.
Mr Runciman: I want to thank my colleagues from all parties for their comments. I qualify that somewhat in respect of the comments from the member for Mississauga West. As the small business advocate for that government, it is somewhat scary to hear the sort of anti-private-sector diatribe that spewed forth a few moments ago. I think that certainly with respect to small business the budget is not receiving any accolades, so obviously the advocate was not having a great deal of influence in that sector in the development of the budget.
I do take exception with respect to my sharing his view of the role of the Province of Ontario Savings Office. He has a much larger mandate in mind. I look at it as primarily serving in areas where the chartered banks and trust companies are not playing an active role and are not prepared to play an active role.
I share the concerns here in respect of chartered banks in this province and this country. They have operated in a very protected environment. Seemingly, in areas such as small communities in rural Ontario they are not prepared to make that kind of sacrifice. They are not prepared to make that kind of commitment to this province or this country.
I share the views of my colleague the member for Durham East (Mr Cureatz). I have no reservations whatsoever about criticizing the actions or inactions of chartered banks and their commitment to the small rural communities in this country. I just do not think they have done the job. I think they are obviously not prepared to do the job, and this is an area where the provincial government can fill that void, can provide that very much needed service.
I want to thank the member for Scarborough-Ellesmere for his comments as well. He was very enlightening with respect to the history of POSO. It was interesting to note that Harry Nixon, the father of the current Treasurer, was a member of the United Farmers of Ontario. I was not aware of that. Someone suggested we now know that the current Treasurer was the offspring of a UFO. That might explain in some people’s minds why on occasion he may seem spaced out or from some other planet. In any event, we very much appreciate that information.
I want to talk very briefly in the few minutes I have left. Again, the member for Scarborough-Ellesmere mentioned that one element of the original mandate of POSO was the promotion and development of agriculture. I think that ties in very nicely with the message I am attempting to deliver here today. This is an area that is certainly in need of this kind of service.
We can look at a host of other areas. We are especially trying to keep seniors in their homes for many more years than has been the case in the past. We are looking at the Victorian Order of Nurses, we are looking at Red Cross homemaker services, a host of services -- repairs to their homes, having individuals available to live in their homes and so on -- to assist them in remaining in their homes. Those kinds of programs are out there. They are available through all three levels of government.
This is another kind of service that can be provided, I suggest, in very innovative ways. We do not have to look at large banking facilities. They can operate out of grocery stores or hardware stores, similar to post office branches and agency stores for the Liquor Control Board of Ontario, that kind of operation, in a very innovative way.
The member for Scarborough-Ellesmere mentioned two new branches, Sudbury and Thunder Bay, and talked about satellites developing off of them. We already have a branch in Ottawa with respect to eastern Ontario. I have not heard of any discussion with respect to the development of satellites from the Ottawa branch for that part of eastern Ontario. I would think that Kingston -- and the member for Kingston and The Islands (Mr Keyes) is here this morning -- would be very supportive of the establishment of a branch of POSO in Kingston.
Mr Keyes: No, on Wolfe Island. The big banks pulled out.
Mr Runciman: Or Wolfe Island. Kingston indeed could serve as the base for satellites on Wolfe Island, in Lyndhurst or North Augusta or areas surrounding his area, my area or that of the member for Frontenac-Addington (Mr South). We would all welcome this kind of expansion of services provided by the Province of Ontario Savings Office.
I want to encourage the members of the government especially to bend the arm of the Minister of Revenue to ensure that he gets the message from this resolution that those of us representing eastern Ontario want to see this go forward. We want to see it developed in a very meaningful way in the next couple of years, not simply that this resolution is going to be passed and then go to the shelves and remain there for ever and a day. We want to see some meaningful action and we are optimistic and hopeful, based on the responses I have heard today, that this indeed it is going to occur.
I want to thank all members of the House again for their supportive comments today.
Mr Matrundola moved resolution 9:
That, in the opinion of this House, recognizing the benefit of having the elderly, disabled and chronically ill remain in their own homes, the government of Ontario should establish a framework to allow for the relatives of frail elderly, chronically ill and disabled persons to care for them at home, where mutually agreeable and medically possible, by compensating the care giver at the same rate as qualified homemakers, and that the government of Canada be urged to allow the care giver to maintain Canada pension plan and unemployment insurance contributions.
The Acting Speaker: I remind the member that he has 20 minutes for his presentation and may reserve any portion thereof for a wrapup.
Mr Matrundola: Dignity, compassion, choice and quality care as well as saving the taxpayers of Ontario a considerable amount of money -- that is what this resolution is all about: allowing our elderly, ill and disabled citizens to live in dignity with compassion and a choice of the type of quality health care they need, desire and deserve.
We all seem to agree that it is much more cost-effective to have people remain in their own homes rather than go into institutions, but we should also be looking beyond costs. We should be looking to humanity and dignity for the people who built this province. It is often better to be cared for in a familiar environment by someone you know and trust. It can also be more therapeutic, especially when a care giver cares about and loves the patient.
It is obviously not possible in every circumstance. Indeed, in many circumstances there may not be a relative available or healthy enough to provide the needed care. Also, they may not be able to afford the reduction in income for the person to leave work and provide the care.
However, there are some people who are already doing this and suffering tremendous financial hardship. In my time as a member of this Legislature and even before, I have met a number of loving, dedicated people, some of whom are in the gallery here today and who are providing these services to their loved ones at a tremendous personal cost.
A constituent of mine, Mrs Nardone, was forced to leave her factory work because after working all day she would come home at night to take care of her husband Alex. She would spend most of the night caring for him and would get very little sleep. At work the next day she would be too tired to concentrate and could easily hurt herself on the machinery. Finally, she could not continue to risk her own health through this pattern and was forced to choose between her job and her husband.
She decided to stay home to take care of her husband and is now relying on his disability pension only. If she is never able to return to work, she will not have contributed to the Canada pension plan. If she is able to return to work, she will not have contributed to unemployment insurance during this period and will not have an income while she is looking for work.
We have other examples here. Ms Arena was looking after her parents. Another woman I am familiar with, Mrs Allen, is also in the gallery. She is unable to work because her mother needs around-the-clock care but does not have to be in a hospital. Her mother would not stay in an institution and she does not want to have her mother in an institution. She has been taking care of her mother by herself for 10 years or more.
These people are caring, compassionate people. After years of love and companionship, they cannot bring themselves to put their spouse, parent or child in an institution. Even if they wanted to, we do not have enough institutional beds for all these people.
Another woman, Mrs Harrison, who is also in the gallery, wrote:
“I desperately want to keep my husband at home -- in his own environment -- where he receives exceptional care, love and comfort on a one-to-one basis, and in so doing, save the taxpayers millions of dollars.
“As things stand now, we (the care givers) feel victimized, are subjected to incredible indignity and insensitivity, and are grandly ignored.
“It is a great service we are rendering to our society, one done with a great deal of love and compassion. I can assure you that it is feasible only if the care givers receive financial assistance from both the federal and provincial governments.”
Mrs Harrison gave up her job as a teacher in order to look after her husband, who has Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. The money they have saved for their retirement is quickly being used up. She will have very little, if anything, left for herself.
Of course, our government does have a number of home care programs. The integrated homemaker program through the Ministry of Community and Social Services; the Ministry of Health’s home care program, workers’ compensation and some municipalities all offer one type or another of home care services.
However, while these programs are constantly being expanded, there is still a very large shortage between what is being offered and what is being requested and needed. Some of this is due to the funding limitations and some of it is due to the problem of finding people willing to do home care work.
The ministries of Health and Community and Social Services are doing their best to come to terms with these problems. They are both working very hard at finding alternatives to institutionalizing people and they are planning new ways to move care back into the home and the community. But the numbers are so large that it is not something that we can solve overnight.
Canada and Ontario in particular have one of the highest rates of institutionalization in the world. In a study done in the late 1970s, 7.5 per cent of Canadians over 65 were in long-term institutional care, a rate surpassed only by Sweden and Holland. Within Canada, Ontario had the third highest rate, behind only Manitoba and Alberta.
Currently, 10.5 per cent of our population is over the age of 65, and between 1983 and 2001 this number is expected to increase by 55 per cent, compared to an overall growth of 16 per cent. Furthermore, by the year 2006 the number of people over the age of 85 is expected to increase by 117 per cent. Although this statistic is very good news, because we all are going to live longer, these numbers are quite staggering and will put more pressure on our entire health care system.
A consultant’s report last year found that half of the residents in our institutions required less than the amount of care that was being provided there. They felt that these people could return to their homes if the support services were in place. This is one way of providing some of the support services.
The National Advisory Council on Aging in 1986 found that home care costs only 11 per cent to 14 per cent of institutional care.
As I said, the government is already doing a great deal in this area. In 1987-88, we spent $80 million on homemaking services, and this is expected to increase to $140 million by the year 1990-91. The Ministry of Health recently released an operational review of its home care program. The review showed that the home care program cost $245 million in 1987-88, but it probably saved $1.8 billion in capital costs and $773 million annually in operating costs.
Even though in yesterday’s budget the home care program was increased to $349 million, it still does not address our problem. What this resolution proposes is another step along this road.
Our concern, however, should not be just with money but with how people want to live. A number of agencies have looked into this area. In 1985, the United Senior Citizens of Ontario asked the elderly what type of housing they would want, if they had difficulty caring for their own needs: 57 per cent said that they would want to stay at home with community services to assist them, 16 per cent that they would like to move in with family members and 3 per cent that they would like to move in with friends.
The ethnic makeup of our province brings with it other concerns. The West Toronto Support Services Italian Outreach Project did a study which found that older members of the Italian community will not accept help from strangers but will accept help from family members. They do not feel comfortable having strangers come into their own homes to care for them. I would like to add that this is not only with the people of Italian descent; it is also very frequent with people of other communities, of other descent and ethnic origins.
The Federation of Italian Canadian Seniors looked at health care requirements of Italian seniors and found that 30 per cent of them were unaware of the programs available to them and that over 90 per cent said they would prefer to remain in their own homes with assistance.
In the past, it was natural for a wife who did not work to look after parents or children. Today, with more women entering the workforce and the reliance on two incomes, as well as cultural changes, these people are not available to look after their parents without assistance.
Moreover, there is an acute shortage of trained homemakers in the province. The Interministerial Committee on Visiting Homemakers felt that there would be a need to train between 1,700 and 4,700 new homemakers in 1988-89, depending on how heavily the government gets involved, and this will continue to increase.
Due to low pay and demanding work, it is getting increasingly hard to find people to do the work. The Homemakers and Nurses Service Act defines homemaking services as: child care when parents are incapacitated; meal planning, preparation and marketing, including special diets; light, heavy and seasonal cleaning; light laundry and essential mending; personal care and hygiene, and bedside care but not nursing care.
As you can expect, it is not always easy to find someone to do this type of work at the relatively low wages with the compassion and concern that is needed. We may find younger people willing to be homemakers while they look for some other type of employment; but after a short time, they tend to leave the business, because they can find other jobs that pay a lot better and are also less demanding.
I feel we need mature, dedicated, caring and compassionate people who will cater to the personal needs of the individual, such as the people we have here in the gallery today. That is what we need. Of course, there is a shortage of this type of person. But the people that this resolution will support may continue this type of work outside of the home, and these people, who know and care about the work, could make excellent homemakers for other people as well.
The concept of relatives acting as care givers and being compensated for it is not a unique one. In New Zealand, a benefit is paid to those caring for elderly persons on a full-time basis. In Norway, some municipalities provide what they call “nursing pay” when elderly people are cared for at home. In Finland, a home care allowance is given to the elderly person to hire someone to care for him.
Currently, there is a three-week home training support program, with other courses available through community colleges. The people who would qualify under this resolution could either take the course or be examined to ensure they know what is necessary.
However, you can be sure that while hired homemakers do their very best at their jobs, care givers looking after relatives are going to provide more and better care in most cases.
The last part of the resolution deals with the Canada pension plan and unemployment insurance. If someone leaves work to provide these services, when the ill person passes away, recuperates or has to be hospitalized, the care giver is often emotionally and physically drained. They have also not contributed to these plans and have nothing to draw from.
If they had paid unemployment insurance contributions, they would be able to collect the benefits while looking for a job, and if they had continued their CPP contributions, they would have more to draw on at retirement. Many care givers acknowledge these changes alone would be of great assistance to them. We would also have mature, compassionate and experienced homemakers who would be able to assist other patients in the home care program.
While this program would cost money, I feel it would be well spent and would save money over the long term. It would not apply to everyone who needs home care. it would have to be acceptable to both the patient and the potential care giver, which would limit the takeup of the program. As well, it could apply mainly to people who have been working and would be giving up some income to provide this service. By only paying them up to the rate of a homemaker, you are further limiting it because many people would be unwilling or unable to take that drastic a reduction in salary. But if they opted for this, it would at least help them pay for groceries and other necessities.
People suffering from many diseases, including Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, need around-the-clock care. If they are left alone, they can do harm to themselves, or they may need to be turned over in bed regularly, have dressings changed or medication given. They also need consistency in the people who are caring for them and need people who understand them as well as the disease.
Care givers are able to do this, and of course would not expect to be paid for 24 hours of work. The resolution contemplates compensating them for a regular workweek, although it is clear the job is not a nine-to-five job. They could sign an employment contract with the government or a homemaking agency that would last until the patient recovered, had to be hospitalized or passed away. At the end of this time, depending on their age, they would be eligible for unemployment insurance while they looked for a job, or could collect their pension.
I feel I was elected to help make decisions that will better the lives of the citizens of Ontario. That is what I am trying to do with this resolution. The elderly are the people who built this country and this province in particular. We must treat them, as well as the disabled and ill, with the dignity and respect they deserve. We must work to ensure their days are as comfortable as possible, and passing this resolution would be one small step in that direction.
Ms Bryden: The member for Willowdale is doing a service to the Legislature by alerting the public to the desperate shortage of homemaker services. It is vital to avoid institutionalization of seniors when simple services provided by homemakers are not available. People in hospitals cannot be discharged, even though they no longer need acute care, when homemaker services are not adequate.
I can sympathize with those people who have the responsibility for a frail, elderly person, a handicapped child or a person who is developmentally retarded. I think the resolution is really an indictment of one of the greatest failures of the Liberal government that he supports, because after almost four years in government it has not brought the promised integrated home care program beyond the pilot project stage.
They have not fulfilled the pledge their leader the Premier (Mr Peterson) signed with the New Democratic Party leader, the member for York South (Mr B. Rae), in the 1985 NDP-Liberal accord that brought this government to power by mutual agreement on certain policies.
Let me quote to members what the May 1985 accord said. The pledge was “Reform of services for the elderly to provide alternatives to institutional care, and a reform of the present nursing home licensing and inspection system.” This pledge cannot be fulfilled without a province-wide integrated homemaker program.
Instead of moving ahead on this program to make it province-wide, we are actually going backwards. The whole program has been put in jeopardy by the terrible shortage of homemakers, because the wages are so low that private care givers cannot find employees willing to undertake this essential but difficult work with the sick and elderly.
Nonprofit care givers like the Victorian Order of Nurses and the Red Cross are in the same position, as the government grants from the province and the municipalities are inadequate to cover the costs today. The VON and the Red Cross did get the government belatedly to bail them out on the big deficits they were running, but it still does not meet the need for future care by these nonprofit bodies.
They have not solved the problem. In fact, they have frozen expansion of the whole homemaker program as of last September. This is probably what motivated the member for Willowdale to bring in this alternative proposal. I think we should look at any suggestions for ways to meet the homemaker crisis and help people who have a responsibility for family members who need extra services.
We know the number of family members who can help in the home with frail, elderly or disabled persons is shrinking, because more and more women particularly and both members of any family are having to take at least part-time or shift work to cover the high cost of living and housing, not to mention the higher regressive taxes imposed on them at the provincial level.
I intend to vote for the resolution with the rider that the whole question of providing adequate homemaker services across the province be studied by the government or a committee of the Legislature. This proposal under my rider should be considered only as one of many measures that might be looked at. It should possibly be considered as an emergency program for areas where homemaker services in either the public or the private sector are not adequate. It should not be considered a substitute for faster implementation of the government’s promises to improve and extend home care services of all kinds. It should not justify the continuation of the freeze on expansion of homemaker services, which I understand is still in effect.
Yesterday’s budget does not hold out too much hope that the government will meet its obligation to provide adequate home care and homemaker services. I think there is $55 million in that budget for the next fiscal year that is supposed to cover a wide diversity of services in the home for the thousands of frail elderly, the developmentally handicapped, the sick, the physically handicapped and all the people who need that little extra service to enable them to stay in their own homes and to save the province the tremendous costs of institutionalizing these people, which I think are at least four or five times as much as the cost of home care and homemaker services.
It would also mean a lot to the government in savings in hospital bed costs, bed shortages and postponed surgery if more people in these categories who do not need acute care could be moved out of the hospitals into their own homes or group homes.
Unfortunately, the budget does not contain a strong commitment to the goal of providing and expanding adequate homemaker services. That is where I think the member for Willowdale should be directing his attention, to his own government, as to why in almost four years in power it has not achieved this very important and essential service of homemakers for all kinds of people who need those services.
I hope this resolution is a matter of putting pressure on the Liberal government to get on with its commitments about providing adequate homemaker services through both the public and the private sectors, with grants to private social service agencies in some cases and with public hospitals providing services through outpatient arrangements.
I think we should not consider this as a solution to the problem but as something that should be investigated in areas where homemaker services are not available, under very strict rules of course as to who would qualify and how much supervision there would be of the kind of care they give, the hours they provide it for and other matters of that sort. It should not just be an open-ended grant that somebody could apply for without having to go through certain requirements that would be part of any program for such emergency services.
Mrs Cunningham: I would like to begin by congratulating the member for Willowdale for the resolution he has put before the House, and more important, for the tremendous amount of research he put into this particular concern he has.
It is an area I have had to research quite extensively as well, given that my critic position is for the Ministry of Community and Social Services. So the concerns he has raised in his resolution are not new to myself and obviously are not new at all to the member for Beaches-Woodbine, who has also been sharing that critic portfolio with me.
On a number of occasions in the last year, we have asked questions in the House and I have spent literally hours in estimates asking questions of the Minister of Community and Social Services (Mr Sweeney) and some of our colleagues have asked questions of the Minister of Health (Mrs Caplan) with regard to extended care legislation, with regard to all aspects of home care, with regard to assistance for the disabled and with regard to special-services-at-home programs for children. All of them have to do with a changing society and all of them have to do with families that truly want to keep their special family members in their own homes.
I was most interested to hear the information the member for Willowdale presented to this House today with regard to how many people wanted to remain in their own homes and how many people wanted to remain with their families. I think that is indicative of all of us. That would be our first choice.
Given that observation, the Liberal government made it one of its strong election promises, quite frankly, to extend the integrated homemaker program from some 18 centres to some 36 or 38 in the next couple of years. In fact, that promise should have been fulfilled at this time. What we have witnessed is no extension and we are very concerned about that. I know there are a lot of reasons for it, but I think the member for Willowdale is representing his constituents well by raising this very real concern.
The future trends he talked about are those all of us know about, which is that this problem is going to become a bigger one, I should not use the word “problem,” really; it is more a challenge. It is going to become a bigger one, as we are so successful in keeping people healthy for a longer period of time and in assisting in prevention.
I think one of the greatest concerns has been the deinstitutionalization challenge this government faces and the promises, again, that were made by the government to families: “If you can and are able to maintain your special family members, whether they be children or adults, in their own home, we will help you.” I have been very much involved in programs in my riding in London and across the province. I frequently talk to groups of parents of special children, many of whom are extremely disabled.
I share the member’s real picture he painted of the families that are so tired after being up most evenings with an ill family member, whether it be a young person or an elderly person, so physically and so mentally exhausted. The parents advised us that they did not have a choice after a period of time. In fact, young mothers were having to make a very big family decision that affected other children in the family; that is, that in these very tough economic times, and I am talking about economic times for families, with the cost of housing -- everyone’s dream still is to own a home, I hope -- and with the increased taxes we looked at again just yesterday, there are challenges in maintaining a lifestyle, especially for young families. These young mothers are choosing to stay home with their young children and they will be there for as long as they can be.
I think the saddest issue I have faced in the last couple of months has been that those very families we chatted with some two and three years ago are now making decisions and asking for institutionalization, in a sense. Basically, they are looking for group homes and they are on very long waiting lists.
We have had some four or five press conferences in this building in the last six weeks by groups advising us about the lack of care for disabled people in their own homes, about the lack of housing, about the lack of homemaker services and about the lack of special-services-at-home programs.
I suppose my greatest concern with the motion will be that if we cannot do it now, where will we get the money to pay for it? Or is it going to be a priority of this government? Hopefully, we will be looking today at the statement by the Minister of Community and Social Services. Perhaps as he responds to Transitions he will also respond in some way to the concerns the member for Willowdale has raised for us today.
As far as remuneration for family members is concerned, in my opinion I do not think you could ever remunerate family members who have chosen to stay home to take care of their elderly or their young disabled family members. So many of us, myself included, have this challenge in our own homes. I personally know what it is all about. As we look around us, many more elderly people are taking care of their elderly husbands, family members and neighbours who have become members of their family. I think it is because of the community we all live in. We still do care. We care a lot about our own families and our own communities. I hope we never lose it.
I am not sure what to do with the private member’s resolution. I certainly support his objective, and that is establishing a framework. I would have expected that he might have added -- and I ask the question -- disabled children. These are questions for the member. He might want to respond. Does this mean we allow mothers to stay home and mind their children, as they do in other countries, and are given an allowance to stay home? Is that something we should be looking at? Should we also be looking at paying the young mothers and fathers of disabled children to stay home because they are truly exhausted?
Do we look at paying people just to take care of their own relatives or can we also pay them for taking care of their elderly neighbours who in fact are basically extended family members in these times? Many of us were able to grow up in the same city and in the same neighbourhood as our relatives. Most of us have moved away from our home and we look to our neighbours and friends as our extended families.
In these times I think we should be looking seriously at the resolution of the member for Willowdale. I think the future trends are rather frightening in the sense that we are not caring right now for the people we have promised to care for. I would ask the member for Willowdale to respond to this. How much more pressure can we put on this government to make this area of concern a real priority?
In this very large province only 14,000 families a month are dealt with in the integrated homemaker program. Do members know the average amount of relief time families get? It is four hours a week. Are we going to pay the people who stay home with their own family members for four hours a week? That is all the help most of the integrated homemaker programs are allowing for the majority of families. For special services at home, the average amount of time per month is something like 10 hours. Is that the number of hours we should be supporting family members? This is a very large question.
I agree with the member’s comments on unemployment insurance and the pension plan and I think we should be looking at those kinds of remuneration or support for family members in another arena immediately.
I hope that this motion can be dealt with in some way, either at committee or in this House, but I think we have very many questions. I congratulate the member for bringing this to our attention.
Mr Keyes: I rise too with a great deal of admiration for the member for Willowdale for the work he has done in bringing forward this resolution. What he has said today in a very impassioned way truly shows his caring for people who are, as he has described in his resolution, the elderly, the disabled and the chronically ill. I would suggest to the member for London North (Mrs Cunningham) that I see his resolution somewhat encompassing all those situations where families -- and I can think of many too on a personal level -- have looked after their physically and mentally handicapped members from birth right through until the end.
In beginning, I want to sincerely congratulate the member for Willowdale, because he has in a number of instances talked about the need for the dignity, the compassion, the love for family members and I think that is so important as we deal with this situation. I appreciate very much the spirit in which he has put forth the resolution, because it is born out of compassion, the sincerity of his heart and a sense of fairness. Also, he has given us several personal examples.
I too can attest to those personal examples. I go back and think of the family farm on Wolfe Island, which has had five generations of people in it, and in each succeeding generation, one of the members of the family has looked after the frail elderly. I remember personally as my mother looked after my grandmother in the home as she became elderly, and in her 90s eventually feeble. I remember well being at her bedside when she passed away.
That mother of mine is now in much better health, shall we say, but at 91 years of age is reaching a point in time when we too must face the fact that she has served well on this earth but some day her time will come. She too is being looked after by members of the family living in that same home, and probably the same thing will happen in the next generation as we continue in that way, so I appreciate fully what the member is doing.
However, there are concerns about the resolution and the way it is framed. It needs a great deal of work on it in order to tidy it up. It is simply too open and is not as comprehensive as it should be. It has the potential in its current form of compromising to some extent the current Ministry of Health and Ministry of Community and Social Services standards of care that we have been so careful to develop. It needs a great structure in order to administer this, and it certainly has the potential of being subject to abuse.
It is very difficult to legislate the concept that the member for Willowdale is putting forward and what he supports, because as we try to keep our members of the family in their homes for longer periods of time and out of institutions, we must encourage this family support and recognize the love and the care that is provided in those situations. It is impossible for us to put a price on that type of support.
The Ministry of Health is concentrating its efforts -- and likewise those of the Ministry of Community and Social Services -- on improving the quality, the availability and the efficiency of its health services. At the same time, we are trying to ensure that they are well managed and they are fairly and reasonably funded. We encourage any suggestions of innovative ways such as this of providing health services. In fact, we do provide some of these very same types of services now on a pilot project basis.
Home care is available province-wide. We have 38 programs in operation; 29 of those 38 programs are run by boards of health. I will gladly give members my statistics. Others are sponsored by the Victorian Order of Nurses, public hospitals and a regional social services department. The very largest, here in Metropolitan Toronto, has its own autonomous board. We fund these local services fully through our annual program budgets.
Again, the member for Willowdale did an excellent job in his statistics of the moneys that have been spent, the moneys that are projected and the demographics of this province, which is one of the greatest challenges facing our whole health care system. As members know, under the Ministry of Health our home care services include nursing, homemaking, physiotherapy, occupational therapy, speech pathology, social work, nutrition counselling, respiratory technologists and enterostomal therapists. Our goal is to avoid or delay institutional admission, to reduce the length of stay in any of our institutions and facilitate earlier discharge from the hospital or other facility.
Home care originally focused on short-term care for acute illness, but in the 1970s chronic care pilot projects began. All of our 38 local programs today include both acute and chronic home care and the role is steadily expanding.
We now have school support services under home care. Home care agencies also administer a new home program that has been established in several pilot areas, providing housekeeping and similar services so that we do allow the frail elderly and the physically disabled to remain in their own homes, as the member has requested. While this is a social service, rather than a medically oriented program, we recognize the benefits of common case management and the convenience of access for the client.
Looking at the growth of this, we know that in 1987-88 we served some 610,000 people in this province, more than double the numbers we accommodated six years ago. During that same period of time, we more than tripled the money spent in that area, To give members a quick idea, in 1984-85 we spent $104.5 million. In 1985-86, the first year we took office, we increased that almost 50 per cent to $153 million and the following year to $201 million. In 1987-88 it was $245 million. This year, in the budget of yesterday, $349 million will go towards home care assistance, an increase of 25 per cent over last year.
In the budget of yesterday, 75 per cent of all the new expenditures are devoted towards the individual, to education, to health and to housing. It is individual and people oriented. We are also spending $108 million for community mental health programs, an increase of 30 per cent and an increase of another 17-plus per cent for alcohol and drug dependency.
When it comes to the Ministry of Community and Social Services, as we know from yesterday’s budget, there is an increase of 20 percent to $2.3 billion in the coming year.
One of the main aspects of our home care program must be that we have quality control, supervision, fiscal accountability, monitoring of effective and efficient provision of services and appropriate types and amounts of services as the needs change.
Homemaking issues fall within the jurisdiction of both the Ministry of Community and Social Services and the Ministry of Health, but basically for homemaking our services are medically oriented. They have the capacity at the moment to direct funds to families. While this proposal before us today may be contemplated in terms of some of the home services currently provided, we must ensure that medical treatment and professional services provided by the Ministry of Health are not compromised in planning an efficient and well managed health care system.
While I cannot support the honourable member’s resolution in its current form, we have heard expressed today on all sides of this House support for the concept of trying to provide kindly, compassionate, loving care for the frail elderly, the chronically ill and the disabled. No one can really oppose that concept.
However, I must say again that in the context of looking at a comprehensive, well planned, co-ordinated program in homemaking, we must continue with the progress we are making, increasing on an annual basis, and in this year by as much as 25 per cent again, the moneys that we provide so that all our persons can live in dignity with the compassion of their fellow members.
Mr Allen: I want to rise and address a few remarks to the resolution of the member for Willowdale which I thought was sensitively framed and well researched. Certainly his comments about the families he knows to whom this is addressed were very touching and moving.
At the same time, I want to say that I have some major concerns with the resolution. While I am not at all closed to the notion of moving in some respects in this direction, I will be voting against the resolution and certainly not for any hard-hearted reason. I do believe that the direction in which this province has been moving towards an integrated homemaker program is, in fact, the direction we have to take with respect to the support of families who so badly need the backup in dealing with members of their families who are disabled frail elderly in their attempt to keep them in their own homes or to maintain the elderly in their own individual places of residence.
What I am, unfortunately, struck by as I confront that proposition is that on 3 September, the Premier had a very specific proposal to make at that point in time, which was that in the course of the subsequent three years after the election, his government would be moving to complete the program of 38 centres providing integrated homemaker services -- namely, homemaking, home care and meals availability to those families and those persons.
Yet, today, we have not moved beyond the number of instances where those homemaking services were in place. Eighteen was the number that we had chalked up at that point in time; 18 it is today. As of December of that same year, the assistant deputy minister of the community services division of the Ministry of Community and Social Services was writing to his field workers saying that he regretted the premature capping of this new program before it had become well established and mature.
By the next June, the minister received a large report, the triministerial committee’s report on homemaking services, which said directly to him what he needed to do with respect to addressing the crisis in homemaking that had begun to afflict this province. He was told that the question of low wages, the problem of lack of training and the problem of lack of benefits were critical to the problems of maintaining an adequate service out there for families.
He said that he would be addressing those problems within the next month. We have yet to receive an announcement as to how he plans to move ahead with respect to the integrated homemaker program, which has been in a state of relative disarray now for months and months on end, to the point where this last January the major deliverer of that service, the Red Cross, and a number of other agencies indicated they could no longer stand to rack up deficits to the tune of almost $2 million in the course of the past year’s operations and that they had to have some kind of relief or else they were going out of business.
That is how serious a situation the support of families and homes and individuals trying to keep seniors at home was in at the beginning of this year. So I find myself a little bit betwixt and between with respect to the member’s resolution, because while I understand and sympathize with the compassionate grounds upon which he is proposing it, I in no way want to compromise the major thrust and direction of this province in supporting families in the concerns that he has.
For my money, that means that we cannot give this government any opportunity to abandon, to qualify, or to modify in any respect the major thrust that it has undertaken and promised to this province -- namely, that it will expand and complete the integrated homemaker system. When I see that in place and well funded, I will be happy to listen further to the member and to certainly listen very carefully and respond as best I can to the kind of program that he is supporting.
I do not reject any refinements, add-ons or supplements to the integrated homemaker program; far from that, but I want to see an adequate, properly structured, backup system. I know at the present time there are concerns about elder abuse, and one has to recognize the compassion and concern of families who look after the elderly. But we do not have an advocacy system in place.
We do not have an accountability proposal matched in this resolution to make certain that there is no abuse taken of seniors as the government’s money is taken in hand in order, ostensibly, to look after senior elderly parents.
The Speaker: The member has now run out of time.
Mr Allen: I think we need to look at this issue, but I will be opposing it on those grounds.
The Speaker: Thank you. The member for Willowdale reserved almost two minutes.
Mr Matrundola: I would like to thank all the members who participated in this debate. As I have said before, it is important that we discuss new and innovative ways of assisting the citizens of Ontario. We cannot continue to put all our elderly and disabled people into institutions as we used to do. We cannot afford it economically or humanely.
Who better can provide the care than a relative who cares deeply for the patient? But, very often, those willing to give the care need assistance. We are not talking about the bank president who receives $100,000 a year or more. We are talking about providing someone with the means to live while they look after their loved ones. Not every elderly, ill or disabled person will take advantage of it, but the cost to do something includes savings to existing support services and institutions, as well as human cost.
As I said previously, we have a responsibility to the citizens of Ontario. I believe in the saying, “The character of a nation is best judged by the rights it extends to its minorities.” We owe the people a chance to live in dignity, and this is one way of ensuring that they can.
The Speaker: That completes the allotted time for discussion on ballot item 3 and ballot item 4.
The Speaker: Mr Runciman has moved resolution 5.
Motion agreed to.
The Speaker: Mr Matrundola has moved resolution 9.
All those in favour will please say “aye.”
All those opposed will please say “nay.”
In my opinion the nays have it.
The House recessed at 1202.
The House resumed at 1330.
MINISTRY OF NATURAL RESOURCES
Mr Wildman: Tough times have hit the Ministry of Natural Resources and the management of resources in northern Ontario. MNR’s total budget was cut by three per cent in yesterday’s provincial user-pay budget. Natural Resources is the only ministry whose budget has been cut.
As a result of these tough times, budget cuts and so on, morale in the Ministry of Natural Resources district offices has reached an all-time low. Severe constraints and more job losses will hurt morale even more, but this can only be accelerated by this so-called emerging vision for the tough times, 1990s, of MNR.
Ministry staff are reaching the point where they are unable to perform their responsibilities effectively in providing services to the public of Ontario. This new vision is a nightmare for both the permanent and casual employees: they must do more with less. The ministry is becoming a skeleton staff attempting to audit all the programs that have been handed over to the private sector.
MNR has three alternatives for trying to get the job done: contracting out even more of the work to the private sector, using special employment programs and volunteers or making further cuts to management programs and services to the public. This is no way for our natural resources to be treated by this government. The morale in the ministry is terrible and it is getting worse. It is time for the minister to get a hold of his ministry and end the tough times for Natural Resources.
Mr J. M. Johnson: I would like to bring to the attention of this House my concern about one small item announced by the Treasurer (Mr R. F. Nixon) in his budget yesterday, a $5 tax that will be charged on the purchase of each new tire. This is not only a very regressive tax, but indeed a measure which could very well impact on the safety of cars on our highways.
As usual, for the wealthy and affluent people this $5 levy will be of little or no consequence, but for the senior citizens, the young and the low-income people of our province it will be of considerable concern. These are the people who will again be called upon to shoulder this added burden and, in having to do so, may justifiably be tempted to postpone the purchase of new tires for economic reasons, thereby jeopardizing their own safety and the safety of the motoring public, which is already one of our major problems.
Surely for safety’s sake alone the government should be encouraging car owners to make certain that their cars are fitted with the safest tires possible. This tax will discourage car owners from replacing their worn tires and more motorists will be driving with unsafe tires.
Also, this Liberal government is levying tax on tax in this tax initiative. The $5 tax will be added to the price of the tire and then eight per cent provincial sales tax will be added on: the $5 then becomes $5.40. Tax on tax -- the Treasurer should be ashamed of his devious tax policies.
SAINTE-MARIE AMONG THE HURONS
Mr Black: I rise today, on behalf of the Minister of Tourism and Recreation (Mr O’Neil), to draw to the attention of the House a milestone in Canadian history, the 350th anniversary of the founding of Sainte-Marie among the Hurons in what is now Midland in my riding of Muskoka-Georgian Bay.
Tomorrow, the Premier (Mr Peterson) and other distinguished guests will take part in the opening of anniversary celebrations. At this launch, a representative of the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada will also dedicate Sainte-Marie as a national historic site.
Sainte-Marie was founded in 1639 as a French Jesuit mission, in the 30 years that followed, the priests and their lay helpers lived and worked among the native Huron population of the land we now call Ontario.
During that decade the mission was the largest European community in the interior of North America. When Father Jérôme Lalemant founded Sainte-Marie, he saw it as a place where natives and newcomers could live in harmony, sharing their skills for the benefit of all.
The snowshoe and the canoe, which are still useful today, are just two examples of the native technology that enabled Europeans to survive in the new world. Three and a half centuries later, the ideal of forging a community from many cultures is still held high in our province.
We recognize it quite rightly as the birthplace of Franco-Ontario and on behalf of the Minister of Tourism and Recreation and all of us from Huronia, I invite all the members and their families to come to Sainte-Marie in the months ahead to share in the celebrations of the 350th anniversary.
PROPOSED BUILDING SITE
Mrs Grier: Yesterday, the Minister of the Environment (Mr Bradley) appeared somewhat irritated when I asked him why he had refused to designate an area of Etobicoke’s waterfront under the Environmental Assessment Act.
The area in question is 40 acres between the Humber River and the Mimico Creek. Much of the land is vacant and was created by illegal lake filling in the 1960s. There are also a dozen old motels and a couple of taverns.
Camrost Developments Ltd wishes to build Harbourfront West there with condominiums and commercial space. The city of Etobicoke supports Camrost and so apparently does the government of Ontario, which is only natural because Camrost supports the government.
What concerns environmentalists is that the minister has refused to designate a project which will involve massive amounts of lake filling. This lake fill will be placed in an area where sediments are already highly contaminated. According to the city’s plan, the lake fill will be used to create public access to the waterfront and public parks.
The minister in effect is exempting a public project from the Environmental Assessment Act. Instead, he has asked for an environmental management master plan. No one knows what that is. There are no criteria, no definitions, no guidelines and, more important, no public hearings, no public participation in a study to determine the extent of public amenities on a contaminated area on Lake Ontario’s shoreline. It is a sad day for the environment, for open government and for Etobicoke-Lakeshore.
TORONTO AREA TRANSPORTATION
Mr Cousens: We need to rename the transportation capital program announced in yesterday’s budget. A more appropriate title should be tax the travelling consumer program.
This government obviously felt that travelling in and around the greater Toronto area was not being taxed enough, so it decided to levy a gasoline tax, a tire tax, a licence tax and a parking tax. Such an unfair burden on the greater Toronto area is unconscionable.
When will this government realize that the roads and transit systems in the greater Toronto area are the transportation hub of Ontario? When will they realize that transportation is a core government service?
Yes, we need money and systems in place, but we need more than money; we need a vision. We need a long-term plan that outlines where this province is headed. We need some indication of the future of transportation in Ontario.
This wait and see attitude is a travelling time bomb. Wait and see if the Olympics come. Wait and see if we get Expo. The people of this province, especially in the greater Toronto area, deserve more than to be held hostage to special events and they deserve more than being victim in taxing our troubles away.
It is a sham. We have to do something but right now this government is just playing with our money and not delivering the services we need to get around in this city.
GREEK-CANADIAN CULTURAL MONTH
Mr Faubert: I rise today to bring to the attention of the House the fact that the Greek community in Toronto is celebrating Greek-Canadian Cultural Month during the month of May.
The energy and enthusiasm of the Hellenic Canadian Congress in bringing this festival to life is to be commended, and many events have been sponsored by the Ministry of Culture -- Greece, the General Secretariat for Greeks Abroad, the Consulate General of Greece for Toronto, the Greek Community of Metropolitan Toronto and the Greek-Canadian Associations of Ontario.
The Greek-Canadian community is an active and vital part of the multicultural community in Ontario. The multiculturalism strategy in Ontario says that we celebrate cultural diversity, that we support cultural retention for those who choose it and cultural sharing for all.
Events such as Greek-Canadian Cultural Month are a true reflection of this policy at work. Since the beginning of the month, Greek entertainers have been performing in several Ontario cities including Toronto, Hamilton and London. There have been traditional Greek dramas and dancing. Just yesterday afternoon, the Aristotelis Dance Group from the city of Florina, Greece, was entertaining here in the Legislative Building. This weekend, the festivities will spread to Ottawa, where the Hellenic Canadian Congress will be meeting in convention.
I urge all members to participate as fully as possible in Greek-Canadian Cultural Month and commend its observance to all peoples of Ontario. In addition, I would like to bring to the attention of all members of this House the presence of the consul general of Greece, consul Vasilis Moutsoglov, who is seated in the members’ gallery.
Mr Philip: Not only is the Liberal government creating increased problems for injured workers through its insistence on the passage of Bill 162, but it is failing miserably to provide adequate community legal services for those injured workers wishing assistance in fighting for their rights under the present act. At the present time, the community information legal service office in Rexdale, with a case load of over 330 cases, has been told that it will have an increase in funding of less than the rate of inflation.
The situation is also complicated in other legal clinics, with cutbacks under the Ontario legal aid plan resulting in legal aid clinics such as the Kensington, Bellwoods, Parkdale and Kingston legal aid services having to reduce the number of law student case workers normally hired during the summer in an effort to deal with the backlog.
Hon Mrs Wilson: On a point of privilege, Mr Speaker: I rise today to announce the appointment of JoAnne Fillimore as the new chairman of the Ontario Advisory Council on Senior Citizens.
Mr Wildman: Why didn’t you do that as a ministerial statement?
The Speaker: Order. With respect to the member, I would suggest that should be a ministerial statement.
STATEMENTS BY THE MINISTRY
Hon Mr Sweeney: I would suggest that my colleague the member for Scarborough West (Mr
R. F. Johnston) would know what I mean when I say that this is a culmination of 14 years.
It is my privilege to announce today a series of initiatives to reform the social assistance system in this province. In making this announcement, I would like to acknowledge the contributions of all those individuals and organizations who provided their views on the issues and the possibilities for reshaping these essential programs. In particular, I would like to recognize the work of the Social Assistance Review Committee. Their report, Transitions, represents a major contribution to the discussion of public policy, not only here in Ontario but in the rest of Canada as well.
It has become increasingly clear, both in the context of the Social Assistance Review and in the overwhelmingly positive response to its findings, that the people of Ontario share our sense of priority as well as the government’s commitment to comprehensive reform.
My recent consultation on the committee’s report has demonstrated that the concern and desire for reform extends to diverse elements in our communities including business, labour, church groups, the voluntary sector and municipal organizations.
We have paid careful attention to the advice we have received. We have been told that social assistance reform tied to its traditional objective of simply meeting need is insufficient. We have heard that a system that only attempts to meet basic needs is a system that ignores the recipients’ hope to move from dependence to autonomy. We have concluded that a reformed social assistance system must recognize society’s desire to help the recipient, as Transitions puts it, “from exclusion on the margins of society to integration within the mainstream of community life.”
In the recent throne speech, the government announced its intention to reform the social assistance system. In yesterday’s budget, the Treasurer (Mr R. F. Nixon) allocated $415 million. My purpose today is to provide details of these reforms, which fall into three broad categories: economic independence, benefit adequacy and fairness and simplification.
Under the heading of economic independence, the government has made it clear it is committed to doing a better job of helping social assistance recipients to move into the mainstream. Today, I am announcing a new program initiative, the supports to employment program or STEP. The STEP initiative is comprised of seven separate changes, which will be implemented this fall with a first-year expenditure of $22 million.
The first reform is the removal of what is known as the 120-hour-per-month rule for single parent recipients. In future, single parents will no longer be arbitrarily limited to working only on a part-time basis as a condition for eligibility.
The second element is the adoption of a net definition of earnings under both family benefits and general welfare assistance. Regulation changes will be made to redefine earned income to exclude payroll deductions for Canada pension, unemployment insurance and income tax.
A third change relates to child care expenses. Perhaps the greatest single impediment to single parents working outside the home is the cost of child care. I am implementing changes that will allow single parents to deduct child care expenses, up to a specified limit, from their earned income. This means in effect child care expenses will be an additional deduction allowed in order to arrive at the amount of net earnings.
The fourth part centres on basic earnings exemptions. Traditionally, our social assistance program has recognized the requirement for a significant basic exemption on earnings, in order to encourage employment while helping to defray typical work expenses. We will be moving to increase the basic exemptions under both the family benefits and general welfare programs.
A fifth aspect of the STEP initiative will also affect the amount of assistance recipients may retain when they have earnings. Currently, all family benefits recipients are subject to a dollar-for-dollar reduction in allowances for each dollar they earn above a basic level of exempted earnings. Changes will be made to the family benefits and general welfare assistance regulations to equalize all exemption rates, so that all recipients retain 20 per cent of net earnings beyond the basic exemption.
The sixth element of STEP will result in reforms to our treatment of training payments. Our treatment of training income frequently fails to provide any financial incentive to sign up for these programs. Therefore, I will be providing enriched exemptions to training income.
The seventh component is one that will alleviate a problem which is familiar to all members of this House. The issue to which I refer is the dilemma faced when an increase in outside income, whether it be from a pension or earnings, reduces recipients’ entitlements to zero. Although they may have sufficient income to get along without social assistance, the loss of their last dollar in social assistance means they also lose their health benefits, such as their drug card.
As part of the STEP initiative, I will be introducing a buffer zone, to enable recipients to retain all their health benefits. This zone continues until their outside income rises to the point where the average recipient is in a position to pay for these benefits himself or herself. I view this as a major breakthrough for low-income persons who, through no fault of their own, are without such coverage today.
Once implemented, the impact of the STEP initiative will be immediate. Some 27,000 social assistance recipients now earn income, usually on a part-time basis. STEP will not only result in significant encouragement to these individuals to increase their earnings, but also enable thousands of others to pursue employment opportunities they could not previously have afforded.
We also have to recognize that many recipients require specific supports in order to access employment opportunities. Accordingly, we will be taking action to expand, consolidate and streamline existing employment support programs. An overall increase of $54 million by year three has been provided for this purpose.
These significant funding increases will take place in co-operation with municipalities and will expand the network of assessment, employment preparation and referral support services for social assistance recipients. Furthermore, participants will be provided with financial assistance to defray their out-of-pocket costs of transportation and child care.
As part of this initiative, we will undertake four to six pilot projects, in co-operation with community agencies, to test a more rationalized approach to the delivery of employment preparation services to disabled persons.
We recognize that social assistance recipients need improved access to the mainstream programs providing skills training and employment experience. This must be done in partnership with the Ministry of Skills Development and the Canada Employment and Immigration Commission. The Ministry of Skills Development will be provided a further $8 million in literacy training money over the next three years, with social assistance recipients as the key target group.
These measures, totalling $84 million, will increase the economic independence of recipients. They are investments that will lead to significant returns for individual recipients, and ultimately, society as a whole.
Under the heading “Adequacy of Benefits,” I would like now to turn to the second major plank of Ontario’s social assistance reforms, namely benefit adequacy. The government recognizes that poverty is correlated with poor health and lower educational achievement. Many of these problems can be traced to the simple fact that persons receiving social assistance do not have sufficient funds to make ends meet. Particularly hard hit are those who have very high shelter costs.
In addition to the general rate increase announced by the Treasurer in yesterday’s budget, I am announcing two further areas of improvement: (1) reform of shelter benefits, and (2) children’s benefits increases.
The current manner in which the system reimburses shelter costs is both inadequate and complex. It requires recipients to take money from the food and clothing portion of their allowance in order to pay the rent. Accordingly, a complete redesign and new funding are the only possible solutions.
The changes we will make will result in a new and simpler social assistance allowance structure with only two major components, a component for basic needs such as food and clothing and a separate shelter component that pays 100 per cent of the cost of shelter up to a specified limit.
New provincial funding of $119 million will be required for this initiative, which will help an estimated 225,000 adult social assistance recipients and 175,000 children. Those with higher rents will benefit more. For example, a single parent with two young children paying rent of $600 per month will receive an additional increase of $133 per month. This shelter initiative is in addition to $20 million of shelter improvements effective last September.
The high cost of shelter has been cited as the major reason some people have to turn to food banks. I expect today’s improvements to have a real impact on the use of food bank services.
Over 40 per cent of the people in receipt of social assistance are children. Child poverty is a distressing and challenging social issue. Many of the initiatives I have already announced today will assist children in families receiving social assistance, but more direct help is needed. Therefore, I am announcing an infusion of $54 million in funding to increase the children’s portion of the allowances in our social assistance programs.
These funds are intended to achieve three basic objectives: fairer recognition of the cost of raising children of various ages, a simpler rate structure, and equalizing benefits paid to children on general welfare to those paid to children on family benefits.
Accordingly, two new age categories will be established, 12 and under and 13-plus, at a cost of $34.4 million. The amounts paid for the second child in the family will also become the amounts paid for any subsequent children, at a cost of $5.8 million. Finally, general welfare rates for children will be raised to the FBA level, at a cost of $14 million.
Moving on to “Fairness and Simplicity,” the SARC report identified two problems that recipients and administrators have known for some time: that there are inequities in the system, which is overly complex. It is now time to begin to redress them.
A total of $18 million is being set aside for this purpose. With this fund, we plan to make a number of improvements.
By way of example, we will be raising the level of benefits paid to men aged 60 to 64 to the level paid to women of that same age. We will raise allowances for elderly people who do not now qualify for old age security. We will be making changes to the treatment of farm income so that it is put on the same footing as small business income. We will be pilot-testing the direct deposit of social assistance payments into recipients’ bank accounts.
As noted at the outset, the combined total of today’s initiatives is $415 million on an annualized basis. It represents not only a major reform of the welfare system in Ontario; it is an investment in people. Furthermore, we intend to ensure that we can demonstrate the value of this investment.
To that end, we will establish an evaluation framework for measuring the effectiveness of the reforms we are undertaking. We are particularly interested in the rate at which recipients are able to take up and retain employment as well as the response of the business sector to hire more recipients.
The overall impact of these improvements will be of particular benefit to families with children. For example, a single parent with two children will see increases of up to 17 per cent. I might add that a family with two parents and two children will see an increase of up to 20 per cent. In addition, basic allowances will be increased further, by six per cent, on 1 January. We have created financial incentives to work and enhanced employment support services. We have taken specific steps to improve fairness and equity.
With the reforms announced today as a foundation, we will begin the task of moving towards new legislation that will consolidate the Family Benefits Act and the General Welfare Assistance Act. We must also address the question of provincial-municipal cost-sharing and decisions regarding delivery. The Provincial-Municipal Social Services Review Committee is considering the recommendations of the Transitions report in its deliberations on the delivery and funding of all social services. Given the critical nature of these issues, the report of that committee will be an important basis for discussion and consultation with municipalities on the future delivery system in Ontario.
We also intend to pursue with the federal government those issues that will require discussion at the national level, in that they affect the broad income security programs of the country as a whole.
If my colleagues will permit, I would like to take a minute to give special thanks to a few people. I want to say a special thanks to the member for Scarborough West for having been there at the beginning and helping to plant the seed. I want to say thank you to the member for Hamilton West (Mr Allen) for the significant work he has done to encourage public support. I want to say thank you to the member for London North (Mrs Cunningham) who has insisted from the beginning that a good evaluation component be built into that plan, and it is.
I want to say thank you to a group of people who made an important announcement, I would suggest, at the right time. I am referring to Art Eggleton, the mayor of Toronto; Conrad Black; and Robin Korthals, the president of the Toronto-Dominion Bank.
I want to say thank you to the staff of my office and the staff of my ministry. I want to say thank you to my caucus, which backed me all the way and I want to say a special thanks to the Treasurer, who as many members know, challenged me all along the way to do this right. Finally, I want to say thank you to the Premier (Mr Peterson), who never gave up.
Hon Mr Conway: I want to inform my colleagues that because of the length of this statement, I am sure the next statement is going to require a little more than one minute and 35 seconds. Also, I would like to provide a bit of time for the Minister without Portfolio responsible for senior citizens’ affairs (Mrs Wilson) to make a short introduction. So I would like there to be an extension. Of course, I am quite prepared to afford the opposition additional time in their responses as well, obviously.
The Speaker: Unanimous consent for what length of time?
Hon Mr Conway: We probably would need an extension of four to five minutes on this side and if the opposition requires an additional five or eight minutes for its combined responses, so be it.
Mr Harris: I am quite prepared to give the amount of time required and would suggest opposition parties be given the same.
The Speaker: Is there unanimous consent?
Hon Mr Ward: Today, I am providing details of a plan to ensure greater fairness and equity in the distribution of local and provincial education revenues between Ontario’s public boards of education and Roman Catholic separate school boards.
With the extension of funding to the senior separate school grades, a change endorsed by all three parties in this Legislature, it is appropriate and just that both of our province’s publicly funded school systems have fair rights of access to local assessment revenues.
In coming to this conclusion, we have given careful consideration to the significant public input that was part of the deliberations of the Macdonald Commission on the Financing of Elementary and Secondary Education. In addition, over the past several months we have had consultation with the Ontario Public Education Network and the Completion Office Separate Schools.
I want to commend both of these groups for their sincere commitment to arrive at a solution that would provide for equity without undermining the financial stability of public boards of education in this province. Both parties, I believe, were sincere in their desire to provide a fair share of available local resources to the children in the two systems. The great challenge was to find a solution that would ensure no public school board in this province would incur a net loss in revenue as a result of these changes.
Specifically, we propose to permit Roman Catholic members of a business partnership to designate their school support to the separate school board in proportion to their interest in the partnership; require the property tax assessment of publicly traded corporations to be shared between coterminous public and separate school boards on the basis of each board’s share of the residential and farm assessment in each municipality; and require telephone and telegraph company receipts to be shared between public and separate school boards on the basis of each board’s share of the residential and farm assessment in each municipality.
Finally, the rules governing the division of revenues raised locally from private companies, sole proprietorships and individuals’ businesses will remain as they are.
These changes will be phased in over a period of six years, beginning in January 1990. This will provide a reasonable period of time for school boards to adjust their financing to this new sharing of assessment.
Public boards of education have always had a mandate to provide the best quality education for all children in this province. They have done this effectively over many generations and I believe the changes we put forward today will ensure that they continue to do so with adequate local resources, since in no case will a public board experience a net loss of revenue. In fact, the vast majority, nearly 80 per cent, of all public boards of education will experience an increase in revenues.
To accomplish this, we will increase grants to all school boards by some $30 million each year over the six-year, phase-in period. This will mean a total increase in school board operating grant ceilings of $180 million per year at the end of the six-year period.
Thus, I believe we can provide an assurance that the changes I am describing today will not adversely affect the public school system.
It should be noted that these changes bring to a conclusion the last outstanding issue relative to the decision of this province and this House to provide equality of opportunity for all children in this province, regardless of whether they are enrolled in the public or separate school system. It allows every child the opportunity to reach his or her full potential in an atmosphere of certainty and harmony, and it also allows all of us involved in this great challenge to move forward with an agenda that focuses on the quality of education.
ONTARIO ADVISORY COUNCIL ON SENIOR CITIZENS
Hon Mrs Wilson: I am pleased to announce today the appointment of JoAnne Fillimore as chairman of the Ontario Advisory Council on Senior Citizens. Mrs Fillimore has been a member of the advisory council since 1985 and served as vice-chairman last year. She replaces Ivy St Lawrence, whom we all know, who stepped down on 31 March.
An active senior in the Windsor area, Mrs Fillimore is chairman of the Windsor-Essex Council on Aging. She also sits on the board of the United Way of Windsor-Essex County, is a member of the South Essex Arts Association and is past executive director of the South Essex Community Council.
JoAnne Fillimore has been a dedicated and valued member of the Ontario Advisory Council on Senior Citizens. I am very pleased we will continue to benefit from her experience as she assumes her new role. I look forward to working with her to promote the wellbeing of seniors across the province.
JoAnne Fillimore is with us in the members’ gallery today. I would ask honourable members to please welcome her.
Mr Allen: The Treasurer (Mr R. F. Nixon) finally saw the light. The vigil that was held over the last two weeks out here sent prayers to high heaven. We all wore our little flames on our lapels, hoping those prayers in fact would mean something, and indeed I think they have meant something of some significance.
I should say too that those who allied themselves in one of the largest, most far-reaching coalitions in Ontario’s political history in the campaign against poverty and those supporting the Social Assistance Review Committee public awareness campaign have a great deal to congratulate themselves for in the excellence, the stick-to-it-iveness and the stamina that they showed in the overwhelming lobby they conducted in recent months.
I want to say that for my colleague the member for Scarborough West (Mr R. F. Johnston), this represents a culmination of the major thrust of his political preoccupation over the last eight years he has been in this Legislature, and even preceding that date. For those of us who have come more recently to the cause, we have reason to be thankful.
Hon Mr Scott: Let’s see if you can say something nice about John Sweeney.
Mr Allen: If I might, if the Attorney General would not try to anticipate one’s remarks, I want to say that the minister himself has had his heart in these reforms, and many, or perhaps all, of his ministry staff have worked in this direction for some time, only to meet the frustration of various regimes that have occupied the heights of power in this province over various lengths of time.
It would be cavilling to note that there is no mention of improved case-load ratios; no mention of the need to consolidate the unconsolidated municipalities and get a more consistent delivery of social services across the whole province; not yet a benefit for the low-income earner such as a dental benefits program announced, and so on.
There are a number of items of the first stage of the Thomson report that are not yet announced, at least by this minister. At the same time, moves with respect to shelter subsidies, benefit adequacy and the whole question of fairness and simplification are major steps.
We hope that the employability programs that we hope will make it possible for those on social assistance to move towards self-support and independence will be a significant notch above those that have been employed in the past. I notice some pilot studies there, I am sure a lot of experimentation has to go into making certain that those programs do the job they are intended to do.
At the same time, I would note overall that in order for this package of reforms to work, it is going to be essential that the government address in a much more substantial way the problem of the plight of the working poor. An inflation level increase in the minimum wage is not nearly adequate to make it possible for a person moving from social assistance into low-income employment, as almost inevitably happens, to maintain the thrust of his movement towards independence. It will be necessary for the government to look to the add-ons of those benefit programs to make that also continue to happen.
We know there are four more stages in the Thomson report to accomplish. It will require a great deal of energy and imagination on all our parts to make certain that those reforms are in fact implemented in their fullness. This party dedicates itself, as it always has, to the lot of the less fortunate, to the working poor of this province, to those who need our help so much and to whom this Legislature can give so much as we move through the subsequent stages of the Thomson report reforms and towards a more adequate distribution of wealth among the total population of our province.
Mr R. F. Johnston: I might first address the first statement, even though it is no longer my responsibility. It is an awkward situation when an opposition politician has only to quibble about the timing of an announcement and not the major substance of it.
Members -- and even the Premier (Mr Peterson), who may remember his days in opposition -- may sometimes wonder what they will think about what their career actually accomplished and what effect they actually had on the process. I am hoping that today I am going to be able to find that there was some significance to some of the work that I did over the years.
I know the tendency that the minister went through, which was to make this an Academy Awards kind of thank you, and it is a dangerous thing to get into. But there are a couple of people I want to point out, three in fact.
First, I know the minister had a tough time with this at times with colleagues and fought very hard and has been dedicated to this issue. Second, there is my colleague the member for Hamilton West (Mr Allen), whose work around coalition-building helped to build the most incredible movement -- I almost clapped when the minister mentioned Conrad Black. The number of people who came on side was really phenomenal on this matter. Third is George Thomson, whose work in pulling together a review of the most colossal challenge was remarkable. I just want to draw attention to those people.
Mr R. F. Johnston: To my new responsibilities and the Minister of Education (Mr Ward), I would just say that I think he is wrong if he thinks that the matters of educational financing disappear with this announcement and that the questions about the adequacy of funding to the Catholic system, for example, is now finished with this announcement today. It is going to take six years for the system to even get up to the sharing of resources that the minister is talking about.
Although there is no net loss to the public system in his announcement, it must be remembered that, after six years, his $180 million is only going to be an increase of 4.5 percent on the existing ceilings we have today. This is not an enormous adjustment, and I find it a little disappointing that that is the case. One must put this in the context of other things, like the payroll tax of the Treasurer (Mr R. F. Nixon), which this year alone is going to cost some $27 million to the boards of education across Ontario.
Although I think the minister has made some very clever political moves on this, the question of adequacy for the funding of education is still out there and will be the focus of the select committee on education this September.
Mr Jackson: I too would like to comment on the Minister of Education’s announcement today and the Treasurer’s announcement yesterday, that is, his reference to a historic moment in public education for this province.
At the outset, the Minister of Education makes the statement that the principles enunciated in his statement were endorsed by all three political parties. I would hasten to remind him that there were several opportunities during the negotiations on Bill 30 when our party advanced several amendments which would have clearly provided the guarantees he espouses to protect the public system, but which the minister and the then third party of the day voted against.
We are left today with an announcement from the minister based on simply a statement that those guarantees will be upheld, guarantees we have not seen in fact guaranteed, as was witnessed in some of the negotiations that went on in Hamilton over the use of school space.
There is concern that the minister indicates he has widely consulted, with respect to his announcement today. It is fair to say that, although there was a province-wide commission, in light of the implementation of Bill 30, the full impact of his statement today has not been fully discussed and consulted.
I am confused somewhat by his statement of consultation when I consider the fact that Ron Trbovich, a member of his own ministry, for example, told a group of northern boards of education that there has been a deal made. My question to the minister is, why would he be announcing deals? Who was doing the consultation? Who was officially at the negotiating table for the public school children of this province?
In turn, the minister made a statement to the Ottawa boards of education, within the last few months, that negotiations have been terminated. What negotiations? When did he ever announce publicly that this matter was the subject of negotiations? Who was at that table to discuss the future of educational financing in this province?
The second guarantee the minister makes is that somehow his plan will be revenue-neutral. We have heard that expression before. On those occasions, he has assured this House that that will not occur. But now that it is a provincial initiative and he insists it will be revenue-neutral, we are expected to believe the pronouncements of this government.
In fact, in the briefing by his own ministry, the minister uses calculations that are a year-and-a-half old; he is using taxation rolls that are two years old, with his calculations; he draws assumptions in here that the impact on the average home owner will be a net reduction in tax, and in fact, during the briefings, his ministry quickly indicated that that will be absorbed by the fact this government does not fund at the 60 per cent level, but only funds on a lower grant ceiling rate.
The fact of the matter is this is not going to be revenue-neutral. In fact, while yesterday the Treasurer announced that $180 million would be committed in the budget, today the Ministry of Education announced to partners in education that in fact the general legislative grants would increase by $165 million and there would be a special top-up grant of $35 million. There is already a discrepancy between the two ministries of $20 million.
Again I ask the question: What is going to happen in the sixth year? Is that when the government offloads its responsibilities?
In conclusion, it is apparent that on public education, once again, this government is long on discussing the principle but short on implementing the necessary financial commitments to ensure the safety and security of public education.
Mrs Cunningham: In response to the Minister of Community and Social Services (Mr Sweeney), all I can say is that he has done it and we congratulate him. This is a lesson in democracy, because we have only been here for one short year, and if anybody can have this kind of influence on the Premier (Mr Peterson) of Ontario and the Treasurer (Mr R. F. Nixon) in just one year, everyone should run for public office and do a good job.
The Speaker: Order.
Mrs Cunningham: Seriously, I should think that in looking at what the minister has done, economic independence, adequacy of benefits, fairness and simplicity are the very topics we wanted him to address.
I should say, in my role as critic and as part of this democratic process, that we will be watching very carefully. We will be watching for programs that affect the quality of life of these people that we, all of the taxpayers in this province, have now said we will support. We will be looking very carefully at affordable housing, not only to the people we have decided to support but to the taxpayers who eventually will be paying the bill. Therefore, we need responsible rents and reasonable costs in housing and it is extremely important that we do this in a very efficient way.
With regard to child care, I think these announcements today will be putting an even greater stress on the minister’s program, and we will be making certain that those spaces that are available are available for those people we have talked about today.
With regard to skills training, I hope the Minister of Skills Development (Mr Curling) will work to the best of his ability and to the best ability of everyone in this province to make these programs available so that people can re-enter the world of work.
I think the big question for us is, when will it all happen and how fast can we make it happen, carefully and with a built-in structure for evaluation? Who will we communicate with in making this happen?
I hope the municipalities and the front-line workers will be the first persons on the minister’s list. We have looked at everyone else across this province, across this wonderful country, North America and Europe, and now it is extremely important that we communicate with those who deliver the front-line services first and the municipalities, which we are asking to take on the responsibility of program delivery.
I think how we will do it is extremely important, and we know that right now we have built-in inefficiencies in our system that are extremely important to dismantle. In looking at how we can implement many of these new programs, I have to stress the fact that efficient service delivery is extremely important. Where we have a little bit of fat and meat and those kinds of things that happen in almost any department of government, this is the most important one of all, because the people we are serving with these programs are the people who notice it first. Therefore, we want to be credible and accountable to the public.
I should say in respect to the Treasurer that there were a few little things that happened yesterday that took away from these programs. I am very concerned about the payroll tax and I hope that will not increase too significantly goods that the very citizens we are trying to help have to purchase. We hope the business community will not be deterred in providing even more employment to people who need it the most.
Congratulations to the minister. We will be watching the implementation carefully and we wish him the very best.
Mr Laughren: I have a question for the Treasurer concerning his failure once again to introduce an element of fairness into Ontario’s tax structure.
The Treasurer will know -- and in case he has forgotten, it is on page 29 of his budget
statement -- that when he introduced an increase in the Ontario tax reduction program this year, in a budget of over $40 billion in revenue, he beefed up the tax reduction program for low-income earners by a total of $9 million. That amount will be eaten up by the increase in the personal income tax and by the rate of inflation, so it is really giving them absolutely nothing.
The Speaker: Does the member have a question?
Mr Laughren: Can the Treasurer tell us why he gave so little?
Hon R. F. Nixon: I have maintained the tradition in the fifth budget that the tax reduction program be expanded still further. I wish it had been more, but the question is why it was not more. It is because we have removed the premiums from the Ontario health insurance plan for substantial revenue gain for every person in this province.
I think it is important to note that many of the people the honourable member is talking about, the working people at the low end of the income scale, do pay their premiums to OHIP. This means that there is an additional $714 that they need not pay. If their employer pays it on their behalf, under this program the tax benefit does not go on their T-4 form and their personal income tax is reduced.
The honourable member would know from having carefully read the budget papers that for the taxes that people pay there is an overall gain of over $400 million, in addition to the tax reduction that the member has referred to that benefits all of our citizens.
Mr Laughren: The Treasurer knows full well that the OHIP benefits accrue to people at different income levels, not just people at low income. We are talking specifically today about people at the bottom of the income scale. Can the Treasurer tell us, given the fact that he introduced no minimum corporate income tax, he introduced no increase in the capital tax on banks or on financial institutions and the fact that he has over $1 billion in new revenues, how he squares that with the fact that people earning $10,000 below the poverty level will still pay provincial income tax in this province’?
Hon R. F. Nixon: I suppose I can square it by saying we are moving toward perfectibility, but unlike the honourable member, we have not achieved it. I simply point out that under the provisions of this budget, 365,000 people who pay federal income tax pay no tax in this province. Another 200,000 approximately have substantial tax reductions. While that is insufficient, and we would agree on that, it is a substantial situation.
I have already indicated other provisions of the budget which will assist low-end earners. Not the least of these is the provision of medical care without premiums required. I know the honourable member has a look of exasperation on his face, and yet the $1-billion tax saving that accrues to all of these people has a focus on low-income people which must be significant and should be recognized.
Mr Laughren: That is total nonsense, and sarcasm will not make this a fairer budget. Could the Treasurer tell us what is fair in terms of horizontal equity in the tax system, when a single senior earning $12,400 starts to pay income tax to Ontario, whereas a working single person under the age of 65 starts paying income tax to the province of Ontario at $4,000 less than that? What is fair about that?
Hon R. F. Nixon: I think the member, in looking at the impact of the budget as a whole, would realize that with the improvements that are available to all of our citizens, whether they are senior citizens, the working poor or those who are presently in receipt of social benefits, or whether they are the large middle class which obviously pays the largest share of our revenues, there are advantages from this budget that are significant and measurable.
He focuses on a particular group and there is no reason why he should not, other than for me to respond and say that the fairness and equity in the programs that we provide and the taxes we impose are recognizable and effective. The member should be among those who congratulate the government for these initiatives.
Mr B. Rae: I also have a question for the Treasurer on his budget which might be called death by a thousand tiny cuts. He has introduced these taxes: There is the income tax, gas tax, fuel tax, tire tax, pesticide tax, land transfer tax, the commercial tax for Metropolitan Toronto, the health levy, the driver’s licence, beer tax, hydro taxes and rentals.
Given the impression that people no doubt have as a result of this budget, that every time they turn around there is a little user fee added here, there is a tax here and there is a tax there, I want to ask the Treasurer specifically about the element of regional prejudice which he has, for the first time in the history of our province, introduced into the treatment of a particular area. Why is it that he has singled out Metropolitan Toronto and the citizens of Metropolitan Toronto for higher taxes at a time when the rate of inflation in this town is going up by seven per cent and when we already find that the average house costs $280,000?
Hon R. F. Nixon: I certainly do not like the tone the honourable member has put on his question, but I would say we have singled out the greater Toronto area for the maximum benefits in the programs we have announced. The honourable member, as a resident of Toronto, will know of the congestion in transit on our roads, and of the $2 billion that has been allocated in the budget fully $1.2 billion will be spent in this area.
I want to respond to the main point the honourable member made, of some sort of regional competition. He would know of and has always supported, for example, the recognition of the needs of northern Ontario with lower-cost licence plates, special allocation for roads and special funds available to the north, which we certainly all enthusiastically support. In this instance, in the great world-class city in which we have the greatest pride, it is the aim of this government to provide infrastructure by way of servicing the community in education, in health services, in recreation services and now, in this special program the honourable member refers to, in transportation services that will make it continue to be among the finest in the world.
Mr B. Rae: Surely the Treasurer would realize that his task is to establish that the public good and public goods -- and presumably roads are public goods, not private goods, and presumably transportation is a public good as much as health is a public good -- should be paid for fairly by those who can afford to pay, not simply strapped on to everybody who drives a car and everybody who has to buy a tire. That is the principle at stake here.
Since the Treasurer responded --
The Speaker: The question is?
Mr B. Rae: -- by mentioning northern Ontario, perhaps in terms of regional prejudice and in terms of regional impact he will recognize that the two-cent-a-litre increase in gasoline has a profoundly stronger impact in northern Ontario than in any other part of the province. I wonder why he has neglected to keep a very old, long-standing Liberal promise, which no doubt you, Mr Speaker, will recall, because it was part of the platform in 1985.
The Speaker: The question?
Mr B. Rae: And that is a tax credit for northern Ontarians that would allow them to cope with a higher --
The Speaker: Order. The question has finally been put.
Hon R. F. Nixon: The honourable member will be glad to know, since he has not examined the budget very carefully, that of the special additional funds raised for transportation, together with the standard budget that my colleague the Minister of Transportation (Mr Fulton) administers, northern Ontario will receive fully 20 per cent of those funds. The honourable member does not want to distribute the funds specifically on a head count basis and neither do we. That is why the northern needs are met at that rate, because we understand their transportation requirements are greater than those in which the communities are closer together. I am very proud of the fact that this 20 per cent commitment is standing and is going to improve transportation in the north.
Mr B. Rae: Mr Speaker, you may have heard an answer to my question as to what happened to the northern tax credit; I did not hear the answer to that question.
The Speaker: Ask it again if you wish.
My question to the Treasurer is this: Does he not realize that working families in the greater Toronto area face a rate of inflation which according to his own figures is going to be up over seven per cent; that they are excluded now from his rebate on the land transfer tax because one cannot find houses in Metropolitan Toronto at the rate which he has suggested?
The Speaker: Question?
Mr B. Rae: I would like to ask the Treasurer this simple question: Does he not realize how divisive and unfair this budget is when it applies harsh measures to citizens living in some parts of the province --
The Speaker: Order.
Hon R. F. Nixon: I think the honourable member talks quite rightly about the people who are in need in all communities of the province of Ontario and whose income is inadequate, but he should also recognize in this budget the fact that the abolition of Ontario health insurance plan premiums gives a full $1 billion to our people, and that is money in the pocket. It is not smoke and mirrors; it is money that all of us as members of this Legislature and all citizens in Toronto and elsewhere receive.
I think it is incumbent upon the Leader of the Opposition to recognize that this budget, in serving the needs of the community by way of increasing taxes to pay for services that are required, including the Social Assistance Review Committee recommendations as well as education recommendations, including improvement in transportation and new programs for the environment, also returns to the public a full $1 billion to be used by themselves as consumers. In that way there is a balance which should be recognized in a way that would be appropriate: with the support of opposition parties for these initiatives.
Mr Brandt: I have a question for the Treasurer as well. In the document the Treasurer tabled in the House yesterday -- if I can get the Attorney General (Mr Scott) to not interrupt -- I wanted to address to the Treasurer the question of some of the areas of the budget that perhaps were not as well identified for the edification of the public as they should have been. I want to know if the Treasurer is aware that on the revenue side of his budget, fully a 100 per cent increase has occurred in the taxation he has subjected this province to over the period of time since he has become the Treasurer. The revenue he generates through taxation is now some $30 billion or $31 billion.
Hon R. F. Nixon: Forty-one billion.
Mr Brandt: That is $41 billion in spending. I am talking about the revenue the Treasurer generates. I will give him the page in the budget if he would like to look at it.
The fact of the matter is it was $15 billion when the Treasurer took office. In that short number of years. he has doubled taxation in this province. Does the Treasurer consider that to be fair, equitable. reasonable, in the light of the number of years he has sat over in that position?
Hon R. F. Nixon: Not only have we improved the inadequate programs we inherited, but we have brought in substantially new and innovative approaches for the funding of quality in education; for the improvement of our transportation infrastructure; for dealing effectively with the environment; for funding our medicare system as is certainly needed, and at the same time -- and this would appeal surely even to the leader of the Progressive Conservative Party and his little band of followers -- we have reduced the deficit in the province from well over $3 billion, which we inherited, to $577 million.
Mr Brandt: I want to say to the Treasurer, with respect, that the sarcasm he displays in this House is beneath him.
The Treasurer surely must be aware of the fact that the growth in the provincial economy during the selfsame time that he has doubled taxation in this province has gone up at about half the rate that he has subjected the people of this province to in terms of new taxation. The growth of the provincial economy has gone up some 50 per cent; the growth of his revenue sources, namely, taxation, has gone up 100 per cent. Is there no end to the number of times he is going to subject the people of this province to $1.3-billion tax increases, such as he did in that budget he tabled yesterday?
Hon R. F. Nixon: I think we can be proud of the fact that the share of the revenues that come into the provincial Treasury are a decreasing proportion of the economy of Ontario. I am not prepared to say that we have kept within the levels of inflation, because that would have been impossible if we were going to provide, which we are determined to do, the kinds of service through medicare and all the other programs that the honourable member tells us to spend on in the other days when he is here. But if we are going to do that, it is and must be within the power of the economy to withstand and support it economically. I can assure the honourable member that we are doing that in a fiscally responsible way.
Mr Brandt: There would be many who would question whether the Treasurer’s latest budget increases are fiscally responsible, but I want to suggest that when he compares the budget of Quebec over the same time period that I suggested to him a few minutes earlier, namely, the past five years, and the budget of Ontario, what he will find is that a tax advantage for those who lived in Ontario that was some 10.5 per cent just a few short years ago has now, as a result of the measures he has undertaken, narrowed to two per cent, and our position vis-à-vis the competitive position of Quebec in terms of enticing new business, new industry and new jobs into that jurisdiction has eroded to only two per cent.
The Speaker: And your question?
Mr Brandt: Is the Treasurer proud of the fact that he is gradually, over a period of time, eroding the competitiveness of this province as it relates to other jurisdictions?
Hon R. F. Nixon: I think the leader of the third party is correct when he says that the economy of Quebec is growing and well-led by the Liberal government of that particular province, but I should point out to him a fact that perhaps has eluded him. During the four years of our administration -- and about the same period of time in Quebec, if he wants to compare -- we have had substantial and impressive growth here; as a matter of fact, as great as any jurisdiction in the western world with the exception of Japan. Our unemployment levels are now at about five per cent, and in many of our communities, we have sustainable, full employment.
While comparisons are invidious, one of the unfortunate aspects about the distribution of the benefits of a growing economy in this nation is that the unemployment level in Quebec is just below 10 per cent. It must be frustrating for those people who, as the member points out, have improved their competitiveness in a way that is quite commendable for them but is not our policy because we provide a different range of services, which are well supported by the community. This inequity is a matter of grave concern, and it is true right across Canada. When you go to Newfoundland, the unemployment levels are higher.
What I am really saying is that, without making invidious comparisons, which I do not intend to do, we are proud of our accomplishments here: that we are competitive not only in Canada and North America but worldwide, that we have full employment in most of our communities and that our economy is buoyant enough to support --
The Speaker: Thank you.
SOLICITOR GENERAL’S VISIT TO POLICE STATION
Mr Runciman: My question is to the Solicitor General about her visit to the Lucan police station in the early morning of 9 April and her phone call to it some two hours later at 3:51 am.
Press reports indicate that the minister went to the police station because the arrested man’s family was out of town. However, police officers report that the minister met the young man’s father in the police station parking lot, yet still proceeded to approach police and make inquiries. The young man in question had earlier warned police officers not to arrest him because he was a friend of the Solicitor General and they would lose their jobs.
In light of her role as the province’s senior law enforcement officer, does the minister believe her actions on the morning of 9 April were appropriate and justified?
Hon Mrs Smith: I would put it to the member for Leeds-Grenville that he must consider all the factors involved. I received a call, as he states, in the middle of the night. The point of the call was the safety and wellbeing of a girl’s brother. She assured me her family was out of town and that she did not know what to do and was deeply distressed about the safety of her brother overnight. I tried to reassure her that the police are dependable, reliable and that her brother was in no danger. She continued with her accusations, I would say, and I could not persuade her that her brother was safe.
In the middle of the night, you do not know exactly what to do with this kind of information. Other results could have occurred from that information and you would wonder in a different way what should be done.
In my own way, I decided the best thing to do was to deal in an open and forthright manner by going to the police station in a public way stating to them that I had had a phone call expressing concern for the safety of this young man, to assure myself that he was indeed safe and then reassure the daughter.
I got there, as the member states, and found that I had been misled, that the girl’s father was in town and had been contacted. I spoke therefore to him and found out that I had been further misled about the safety of the brother. He had met with his son and was satisfied about his safety. In fact, he was leaving him there overnight.
I then spoke briefly to the police officers, simply to --
The Speaker: Order.
Mr Runciman: I gather the minister believes we are living in a police state and is uncertain of the safety of people incarcerated in our jails.
Mr Jackson: That is exactly what she said.
Mr Brandt: How could safety be in question?
The Speaker: Order.
Mr Runciman: The Solicitor General has led us to believe that she is a great believer in independent and public investigations of police conduct, but the investigation of her own conduct was done by the force that reports directly to her and was never made public until the media found out about it. This whole affair smacks of a whitewash, and I ask the minister to tell us why she did not insist on an independent investigation of her conduct similar to the investigation carried out in the George Kerr affair in 1978 and why she did not immediately release the results of the investigation to the public. Is there a double standard, one for the police and one for her?
Hon Mrs Smith: I would reiterate I was concerned with only one thing, the safety of the young man. I had had these allegations made. I satisfied myself that I had been misled about his safety, as I expected I would satisfy myself, and I simply immediately withdrew from the whole matter.
Mr Runciman: That is an unbelievable response. This is a very serious matter, much more serious than the incidents that resulted in the resignations of George Kerr and the member for Kingston and The Islands (Mr Keyes). This minister contacted her employees, Ontario Provincial Police officers, on two occasions inquiring about the arrest of a friend’s son. She has endorsed an investigation of her activities by people answerable to her, contrary to everything she tells us she stands for. She is guilty of terrible judgement, if nothing worse, and I ask her: Is she prepared to do the right thing and submit her resignation to the Premier (Mr Peterson) pending an independent investigation of her actions?
Hon Mrs Smith: I would reiterate that I did not inquire about arrest or know anything about arrest. I had no idea whether he was or was not arrested or charged. I simply inquired about his safety and wellbeing and that was all.
Mr Brandt: How was he unsafe in a police station?
Hon Mr Scott: He wasn’t. His sister thought he was.
The Speaker: Order.
Mr Brandt: George Kerr made a phone call and resigned. You go and visit the place and that is okay.
Hon Mr Scott: Who did he phone Andy? Who did George phone? He phoned a judge.
The Speaker: Order, the Attorney General and the member for Sarnia. If you want to waste the members’ time, we will just wait.
New question. the member for Riverdale.
Mr Reville: My question is for the Solicitor General as well. I am the parent of teenagers. I have lots of friends who have young adults living in their family. I can sympathize with the Solicitor General’s impulse to go to the aid of a family friend, but I am very concerned that the minister does not seem to understand she has made a terrible mistake. Does the Solicitor General not realize that she cannot, try as she might, step out of her role as Solicitor General?
Hon Mrs Smith: I would reiterate that I received a call in the middle of the night stating that the police had acted with undue force, in fact accusing them of beating the young man and a friend referred to as his “crippled friend.” I really wished -- I tried to persuade the person calling that he would be fine and safe. I was unable to do so.
For this reason, along with the fact the parents were out of town, according to the information I was given, I went strictly to make sure and to reassure that these accusations were unfounded, as I expected they would be and as indeed they were.
Mr Reville: The Solicitor General is in one persona a friend and in another persona a parent. But she is the Solicitor General, the chief law enforcement officer of this province. By her actions, she is putting out a terrible message that there are two kinds of justice, one for those who can call her and one for those who cannot. What I think we require of the Solicitor General is that she stand before the House and acknowledge that she made an error in judgement.
Hon Mrs Smith: I would point out that I had a difficult decision to make. The member may consider it an error of judgement. It was a difficult decision to make, I would point out as well that there is only one system of justice, which the police well understand.
I acted in a forthright and open way where all of them could hear anything that was said. I addressed only the problem of his safety. The police, as they should and did, dealt with all matters to do with justice and in fact subsequently laid charges.
Mr Runciman: Again to the Solicitor General, I guess we would appreciate in this House some elaboration in respect to her concerns about any individual being incarcerated in the Lucan jail under the custody of the Ontario Provincial Police detachment.
She has given us an indication here this afternoon that she was concerned about the safety of an individual incarcerated in the Lucan station, that she was concerned this individual was being assaulted by police, OPP officers under her jurisdiction. I would like her to elaborate on why she feels that indeed was a valid concern.
Hon Mrs Smith: I would point out to the member for Leeds-Grenville that I had a phone call making certain allegations. I had indeed been misinformed, but I did have a phone call making certain allegations. Like himself, I have great confidence in the police, but I am aware that occasionally unfortunate things do happen.
I wanted to reassure this person. By doing so, I believe I protected the police as well as myself because I was able to reassure them that indeed their conduct had been excellent and that he was in safe and secure hands.
Mr Runciman: I think there is a question of public confidence in the administration of justice in Ontario and certainly this is an assault against public confidence in respect to this system; there is no question about it.
We take a look at the George Kerr situation. Mr Kerr contacted an assistant crown, someone who was not his direct responsibility and not his employee, and inquired about an impaired driving charge. The Solicitor General contacted an employee of hers. She endorsed an investigation of her own conduct by her own employees, contrary to everything she tells us she believes in.
She went to this police station, the Solicitor General suggests, because she did not believe the parents were in town. She met the father in the police station and yet she still pursued the police on this question --
The Speaker: And the question?
Mr Runciman: -- and she followed up with a phone call at 4 am in the morning. How can she possibly justify her actions on the morning of 9 April? How can she do it?
Hon Mrs Smith: I would simply remind the gentleman that I was awakened by a call, certain statements were made and I really had to make a decision that was a very difficult decision to make. He may not agree with the decision I made, but I acted openly and in a forthright manner, in a way that I would not be ashamed of.
I was well aware the police were able to hear and see everything I was doing. Therefore the member may be assured that I acted in a completely appropriate manner at all times. I had been misled and the facts are as they stand.
Ms Collins: My question is to the Minister of Transportation. Two years ago, the regional municipality of Hamilton-Wentworth made a commitment to support the retention and expansion of trolley bus service as a major mode of public transportation in the region. This decision was made with the understanding there was a commitment made by his ministry to subsidize this plan with 90 per cent funding. There are now fears the commitment will be withdrawn.
Could the minister clarify the funding commitment his ministry has made with respect to trolley buses in Hamilton-Wentworth?
Hon Mr Fulton: I appreciate the question of my friend the member for Wentworth East and her ongoing interest in matters related to transportation. It gives me an opportunity to clarify some erroneous comments in the House by the member for Hamilton East (Mr Mackenzie) a week or so ago with respect to the funding issue as it relates to trolley buses.
The subsidy program was offered to the operators, which only involved Hamilton and the Toronto Transit Commission in Toronto, back in 1970 as a response to the energy crisis then. At no time, however, has the 90 per cent subsidy ever been undertaken or utilized by either transit authority, so we have never in any way, as suggested last week, discriminated, nor would we, with respect to Hamilton or any other municipality or transit authority.
We continue to study, with Hamilton and other transit users, other alternative fuels, as we are required to do. We have asked Hamilton and others to participate in that overall review of alternative fuel vehicles.
Ms Collins: Can the minister inform the House whether his ministry will continue to fund trolley buses in this province?
Hon Mr Fulton: I can assure my friend the ministry is committed to subsidies through our transit office, supported as recently as yesterday by the massive support from the Treasurer (Mr R. F. Nixon) with respect to public transit. We will continue our support for the refurbishing and remodelling of the trolley buses in Hamilton at the current 75 per cent level.
SOLICITOR GENERAL’S VISIT TO POLICE STATION
Mr Reville: My question is to the Premier. I think the Legislature is entitled to his view of whether he thinks it is appropriate for a Solicitor General to have parking lot conversations and telephone conversations with officers of the Ontario Provincial Police.
Hon Mr Peterson: My honourable friend raises a legitimate question. Let me tell him my view of the situation. I was aware of this shortly after it happened. I asked for a complete investigation of the situation and I am satisfied I am in possession of the facts.
As the minister has said to the member, she was phoned in the middle of the night and there was an allegation that the parents were out of town and that a young person was being beaten by the police, as was a crippled friend.
The minister was then presented with a judgement. The member made a very legitimate point. He said she could not distinguish herself as a human being from her role as Solicitor General, but it works the other way as well. Even as Solicitor General, obviously she, and you and I in the circumstances, would have human instincts.
Here she is at two or three in the morning possessed of this allegation as Solicitor General, and a choice has to be made. What should she do in the circumstances? Do nothing? Obviously, I am sure my friend, in fairness, would say that if in fact this allegation was true and she had not acted on it, obviously there could be repercussions from that point of view.
She exercised her judgement in the circumstances. I can understand reasonable people feeling that was not a reasonable exercise of judgement. I can tell my honourable friend that after a thorough investigation I am satisfied, as the Premier of the province and the one responsible ultimately for this, that it was in the circumstances a reasonable exercise of judgement.
Charges were laid by the police. I had the investigation; it came back to me and said that there was nothing untoward, that there was no unreasonable influence exercised in this circumstance. So, as I said to my honourable friend, I am persuaded in the circumstances that it was not unreasonable, although I understand my honour-able friend, in the circumstances, perhaps having a different view.
Mr Reville: The Premier’s answer raises two very disturbing things. One is that he has characterized the choice that was facing the Solicitor General (Mrs Smith) as an either-or situation, “Either I do nothing or I go and visit the Ontario Provincial Police.”
The Premier will know that the Solicitor General probably knows every senior lawyer in southwestern Ontario who would have responded, I am sure, with alacrity to a call from her for help for a person who was being held in a police station. There would have been no problem with that response at all.
The other point the Premier raises that disturbs me particularly is that he says he has known about this since about 10 April, yet neither the Solicitor General nor the Premier of Ontario told the Legislature about this until the matter appeared in the newspaper, even though the Ontario Provincial Police had prepared a press release against that eventuality. I would like the Premier to comment on those matters as well.
Hon Mr Peterson: I am aware of a great number of things all the time, obviously and I think that is legitimate in the circumstances.
I understand my honourable friend’s point of view. I have reviewed the matter. When it came to my attention, there was a thorough independent review. As I said to my honourable friend, I am satisfied in the circumstances that it was a reasonable exercise of judgement.
The member says there may be other things the Solicitor General could have done, and obviously that is the case. Maybe he would have done other things, but I am saying to him that I am satisfied that in the circumstances it was reasonable and the minister has my support.
Mr Runciman: My question is to the Premier on this matter as well. It would be interesting to reflect back to 1978 in Hansard with respect to the Premier’s views and the Treasurer’s views of the day with respect to Mr Kerr’s actions.
Like most members of the executive council, the Solicitor General probably receives thousands of phone calls over the course of the year. Is the Premier suggesting to the House today that this is a new policy his government is establishing, that if the Solicitor General receives calls comparable to the one she received on 9 April, her response is quite appropriate, that she will turn up at every police station she happens to be in the neighbourhood of when she receives a call? Is that what he is suggesting?
The Speaker: Order. The question has been asked.
Hon Mr Peterson: I can understand my honourable friend’s desire to push this to its logical extension, but I do not agree with the circumstances as he was interpreting them.
I think the Kerr situation, from my recollection of the facts, was quite different. There was a minister of the crown who phoned a judge to try to influence the --
Mr Brandt: No, he didn’t phone a judge.
Hon Mr Peterson: Then my honourable friend may have some information I am not aware of.
As I said, in this circumstance, she went to the police station. Allegations had been made. Subsequently, the young man was charged. I am satisfied from the independent review there was no untoward influence exercised in the circumstances. That was clearly the report that came back, so I am satisfied in the circumstances.
Mr Runciman: It is passing strange this Premier is telling us he is completely satisfied in respect to this matter.
I raised this issue earlier with respect to any serious charges laid against a police officer. This government and this minister have continually told us that a police department cannot carry out the investigation, that it cannot do it in an independent manner. Yet the Premier is saying he is completely satisfied with an OPP investigation of its boss, the person it is responsible to, the person it is ultimately answerable to, the top law enforcement officer in this land.
Another legitimate point that has been raised here is the fact that the Premier kept this report completely under wraps. He has gone on for four or five years now about an open government. Let’s hear some answers with respect to why this was kept under wraps, a very serious matter indeed. Would the Premier tell us why he feels it is all right for this minister to have her own staff investigate her, but why a police officer out there, a guy walking the beat doing the best he can do for the people of this province, cannot use that process --
The Speaker: Order. The member has asked a couple of questions.
Hon Mr Peterson: Back to my honourable friend, I am of the view that there was an independent review of this situation and that I am in full possession of all the facts on the matter. Obviously, judgements have to be made. As I said to the member, charges were laid in the circumstances. There was no suggestion any influence was used to influence the course of justice one way or the other.
I understand my honourable friend trying to draw a different conclusion from the facts, but those are the facts as I understand them and the conclusions I have drawn on the basis of the facts as I know them.
Mr Faubert: To the Minister of Transportation, the Macdonald-Cartier Freeway is the northern boundary of my riding of Scarborough-Ellesmere. It provides an important east-west transportation link across our province, as well as within Metropolitan Toronto. However, for some residents of Metro Toronto and indeed other urban parts of the greater Metro area who reside near the highway, Highway 401 represents 24 hours a day of traffic noise, alleviated only by the noise attenuation barriers erected by the ministry. Can the minister update the House on his ministry’s retrofit program for these noise barriers?
Hon Mr Fulton: I appreciate the question of my friend the member for Scarborough-Ellesmere. Certainly, I am very familiar with the issue he raises in Scarborough and with the demands on the ministry with respect to noise barriers or noise protection for abutting residences. It is ongoing throughout Metro, throughout areas adjoining the Queen Elizabeth Way and areas of Kitchener and Ottawa, particularly those four.
He would know we attempt to address many projects per year. We have several ongoing across the province, particularly in the jurisdictions I have indicated. We are moving as quickly as possible. In fact, there was some funding in yesterday’s budget as announced by the Treasurer (Mr R. F. Nixon), for which we are indeed thankful. We hope to get on with the installation of new barriers as quickly as we can.
Mr Faubert: I would like to advise the minister of the apparent need for an extension of a noise barrier along the 401 eastbound between the on-ramp for Victoria Park Avenue and Shandon Drive. Some residents of Shandon Drive have expressed their concerns about the noise level generated by the 401 in this area and their attempt for years to have this barrier extended along the off-ramp of the 401 behind their homes. Indeed, this barrier was one of the earliest barriers in Ontario.
Can the minister advise if consideration could be given to extending the barrier in this area under the ministry’s retrofit program?
Hon Mr Fulton: We are looking at a number of areas that require retrofits. My friend the member for York Mills (Mr J. B. Nixon) has also brought a similar situation to our attention. As a result of that, both in the areas in Scarborough and across the 401, because of the age and the nature of materials that went into the barriers in those days and a number of technical improvements that have in fact been adopted with respect to sound barriers, we are indeed looking and will of course include the sites the member has indicated in that review for eventual replacement.
Mr R. F. Johnston: My question is for the Minister of Education regarding his statement today. I wonder if the minister can advise us of a couple of things. First, is the figure that is involved going to be $180 million, or is it going to be $200 million as was given out in his briefing today, a $165 million change to the general legislative grants and $35 million to compensation, a $35 million figure which according to his staff could be considerably more?
Hon Mr Ward: On the point the member raises, perhaps what he should know is that the changes, in terms of the designation of assessment as a result of today’s statement and our intent to proceed on this matter, represent in total a shift of revenue from public boards to separate boards in this province of $120 million.
He will also know one of the very important recommendations of the Macdonald commission was an increase in grant ceilings. We arrived at the conclusion it would be appropriate to increase grant ceilings, both to public and separate boards in this province, at the same time as we phased in these changes. The $165-million figure represents an increase in ceilings that will ensure that in its totality, public boards do not have a loss of revenue.
However, there are, I think, a dozen or so boards in this province that specifically could face a negative impact, so we will establish a pool of money to ensure that no board in this province loses any revenue. That, of course, will be dependent on the assessment roll figures that are available at the beginning of the year. Our estimate is that figure could be from $180 million to $190 million.
Mr R. F. Johnston: It is quite incredible that now it could be $180 million to $190 million and yet in his own briefing just an hour and a half ago, his own people were saying that it was going to be at least $200 million and it could be much higher.
I want to also say to the minister regarding this whole matter that there seems to be a bit of sleight of hand here. The major problem, of course, is the fact that we are only paying 42 per cent of the cost of education from the provincial coffers at this point. What we are really talking about is an adequacy factor. The minister’s increase of four-plus per cent of the ceilings is not going to make a major difference.
But why did the minister indicate on page 2 of his announcement that he is commending both parties for their commitment to finding this solution when on Monday the minister received a hand-delivered letter from the representatives of the public systems indicating that they did not support this approach to solving the financial problems of both systems?
Hon Mr Ward: The member will know that there are probably only two organizations in this province that have representatives of all of the stakeholders in both public and separate education. One is the Completion Office Separate Schools which has representatives of separate board trustees, teachers and administrators. The other is the Ontario Public Education Network which has the same kind of representation.
The member will also know that many, many years of public input went into the work that looked at the specific recommendations of reform of the financing of elementary and separate public education in this province. The member should know and should understand that the approach that we have taken in this proposal that is put forward today is somewhat different perhaps from what was recommended by the commission. It is an approach that guarantees that no public board of education in this province will suffer a net loss of revenue. In my view, it is the only approach that requires an equitable access to local resources in this province for every child in this province, whether they be enrolled in a public or separate school.
EMPLOYER HEALTH LEVY
Mr Pope: My question is for the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Technology with respect to the budget. The minister will know that the legislatures of both Saskatchewan and Quebec, in the tabling of their budgets this year, have boasted of the fact that Ontario is virtually the highest taxing jurisdiction in Canada. Therefore the costs of living in Ontario and doing business in Ontario are substantially greater than either of those jurisdictions.
As my leader said, the gap between Quebec and Ontario is narrowing and is now virtually nonexistent with respect to the new taxes. In light of that, will the minister please explain to me why he can support what is, in effect, a two per cent tax on employment in this province, namely the payroll tax? How can the minister support that tax?
Hon Mr Kwinter: I am sure all members will realize that any time taxes are added, it is not a popular thing, no matter who gets taxed. In a perfect world, there would be all the services that were possible to provide and no taxes.
This is not a perfect world. What we do is we keep very close tabs on how we compete, not only with the other provinces, but also with the state jurisdictions -- also on an international basis. It was the decision of this government that considering what we provide in the way of services and what the requirements of the population of Ontario are regarding health service, social services and education, that there had to be a sharing of that responsibility.
We think it is critical that we provide the $1 billion that is going to the people who can get it directly as a result of the elimination of Ontario health insurance plan premiums and that should be shared equally. It is being shared by a one per cent personal income tax on the part of the private citizens and a sharing of this employment health levy on the part of industry.
Mr Pope: The minister knows full well that the Treasurer (Mr R. F. Nixon) and the Premier (Mr Peterson) whacked the hell out of small business in this budget. The Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology himself, in his own studies in 1986 and in 1987 from his small business bureau, put out his own ministry’s position. He was contemplating a two per cent payroll tax then and both studies said: “Don’t do it. It’s going to erode the competitiveness of small business in Ontario.” How can he support the measure that his own ministry that he represents opposed for two years?
Hon Mr Kwinter: Again I say that if we felt it was not an equitable sharing, we would have used other alternatives. We think it is fair, we think it is equitable and we think it will keep us competitive, but in the long term it will provide the quality of life that we have expected in Ontario and which really acts as an incentive to attract industries to this jurisdiction.
Mr Tatham: My question is for the Minister of Agriculture and Food. On 2 May 1989 the United States Department of Commerce imposed a preliminary countervailing duty of three and a half cents a pound on imports of Canadian fresh chilled and frozen pork. I know that this action has come as a major disappointment to the Ontario swine and pork processing industries, especially at a time when the Canada-US free trade agreement was expected to foster improved trade relations between the two countries.
As the minister is aware, one of the criticisms of the Canada-US free trade agreement is its lack of ability to diminish in the future the effects of US protectionist actions on bilateral trade. Is this unfortunate development for Canadian and Ontario pork processors an indication of the kind of trading relationship all Ontario agriculture can expect under this agreement?
Hon Mr Riddell: The Ontario Pork Producers’ Marketing Board must not only feel disappointed but must feel betrayed by a free trade agreement which it supported, only to be hit by another countervailing duty after the agreement was signed. Now it seems that through a revision to US trade law, the United States pork industry can constrain our processed pork exports as well as our live hogs.
I feel it is important to stress to all members of the House that the free trade agreement did not provide much relief from the countervailing actions of the United States. In other words, the United States has retained its right to use countervailing duties on so-called -- and I underline, so-called -- unfair trade.
I will tell the members that the Ministry of Agriculture and Food is doing all that it can to assist the Ontario pork producers and processors to fight this action.
Mr Tatham: As the minister is likely aware, a controversial element of this action concerns a new provision in US trade law that allows the Department of Commerce to automatically count all subsidies to swine producers as subsidies to pork processors. I understand that this provision does not require the Department of Commerce to investigate the actual economic impact of swine subsidies on pork processing operations. I am told this action could be contrary to US responsibilities in the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. What has the Ontario government done to support the interests of Ontario hog producers and pork processors in this matter?
Hon Mr Riddell: As the honourable member might expect, this countervailing duty case has involved investigating the subsidy practices of Canadian federal and provincial governments. I will tell the member that my officials have been working closely with the federal government and with the Canadian and Ontario swine producers and pork processors in their efforts to develop the best possible defence against this action.
I fully support the federal government on its intentions to challenge the United States on the conduct of this case and I will certainly continue to relay the interests of Ontario’s swine producers and processors to my federal counterpart over the course of this case.
Ms Bryden: I have a question for the Minister of Transportation. It is apparent from yesterday’s budget that the new revenue from the huge tax increases slapped on motorists in Metro and the greater Toronto area will not be used for ending the horrendous traffic congestion in this expanding metropolis.
No commitment is made in the budget speech for construction of the Sheppard Avenue subway beyond a minor improvement to the Yonge-Sheppard station announced over a year ago, nor are any commitments made for any other subway construction projects in Metro.
In view of the vital importance of improved public transit in this area in relieving traffic congestion, will the minister tell us why the Sheppard Avenue subway is still in limbo? Will he give us a list of what subway expansions, if any, he will contribute funds to this year, in what amounts and why they might have higher priority?
Hon Mr Fulton: I find the member’s comments totally contradictory to what she was suggesting on Monday of this week, wherein she was expressing concern about the lack of funding for public transit and other initiatives to reduce the congestion problems in and around Metro and the greater Toronto area; and then here, on Thursday, she ignores the most incredible infusion of funds to address congestion in the greater Toronto area this province has ever seen.
Ms Bryden: There is nothing specific for public transit, and my concern is that the minister does not appear to give it priority.
I would also like to draw to the minister’s attention that the huge tax increases on drivers in the Metro area will force many seniors and people with disabilities to give up their cars and rely entirely on public transit or special programs to overcome barriers to access.
How does the minister expect to meet the needs of these important and growing groups, seniors and the disabled, with the token $5 million given by the Treasurer (Mr R. F. Nixon) to “...improve transportation services for seniors and disabled people throughout the province”? It is an insult.
Hon Mr Fulton: I am not sure whether the member for Beaches-Woodbine wants an answer to the disabled situation or with respect to Sheppard Avenue, but perhaps I could try to touch both.
The member would be aware that last November, in response to a question from my friend the member for Scarborough-Ellesmere (Mr Faubert), we enunciated what in fact we were doing with respect to Sheppard, and that was providing $1 million to protect, from a planning point of view, the Sheppard corridor, which had never been done before. There was no consideration for what in fact you do, other than draw a black line on the map with respect to Scarborough. That is now in the works.
The member would be aware that hundreds of millions of dollars in the Treasurer’s budget yesterday were directed towards transit, not only in Metro but the 73 transit operators across this province -- I think $196 million in operating subsidies alone across this province.
The member would be aware that only two weeks ago the Metropolitan council voted 26 to 6 in support of the Spadina subway extension, which we will then have. When that is completed, we will be able to exercise options in at least three different directions. We further have indicated strongly and indicated yesterday that we would carry out the Sheppard-Yonge subway/bus terminal.
Mr Charlton: I have a petition addressed 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 urge the Liberal government to scrap Bill 162, An Act to amend the Workers’ Compensation Act.
“Because Bill 162 contains the most significant changes to the Ontario system of workers’ compensation contemplated for many years, and yet was confirmed through the public hearings on the bill and was developed without an adequate process for public consultation with the stake-holders; and
“Because Bill 162 represents an attack on injured workers and their families and all those who have fought over the years to achieve fairness and justice for injured workers and their families; and
“Because Bill 162 will eliminate the current lifetime pension for lifetime disability and replace it with a dual award system combining a lump sum and actual wage loss award benefits that has been rejected by injured workers and lawyers working on their behalf and by the trade union movement since it was first proposed for implementation in Ontario by the 1980 Weiler report and the Conservative government’s 1981 white paper; and
“Because Bill 162 virtually ignores the devastating critique and recommendations of the Majesky-Minna task force report on vocational rehabilitation that was submitted to the Minister of Labour and suppressed by the Liberal government until April 1988; and
“Because Bill 162 gives legislative form to the unacceptable and reactionary policy of restricting access to supplement awards announced by the Workers’ Compensation Board in 1987; and
“Because through Bill 162 injured workers are made subject to increased discretionary power at the hands of Workers’ Compensation Board and made subject to ever more intrusive and demeaning assaults on their dignity, their privacy and their right to fair and just treatment.”
This petition is signed by a number of residents of the province from Fort Erie all the way up to Barrie. I guess that should make it very clear that, in fact, Hamilton is the centre of the Golden Horseshoe.
The Speaker: Thank you. You have signed it?
Mr Charlton: I have signed my name to it, Mr Speaker. Thank you.
Mr Wildman: I have a petition signed by eight residents of this province. It is addressed
“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 urge the Liberal government to scrap Bill 162, An Act to amend the Workers’ Compensation Act ... “
The reasons that were read by my colleague the member for Hamilton Mountain are explained on the petition.
I have signed my name to the petition and I support the position of the petitioners.
Mr Owen: I have a petition which is signed by 12 residents of this province.
“To the Honourable the Lieutenant Governor and the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:
“We, the undersigned, beg leave to petition the Parliament of Ontario as follows:
“Whereas it is the duty of a free people to constantly guard and, if necessary, defend those freedoms; and
“Whereas the French Language Services Act elevates one linguistic group into lawful, but unjust, privilege over 95 per cent of all Ontarians; and
“Whereas the French Language Services Act has since 18 November 1986 been implemented in secret without the public being made aware of its implementation and to which access has been denied to the public and even to the elected members of this assembly; and
“Whereas such implementation is plunging forward at enormous cost while health care, police and fire protection, municipal grants, education and the environment are experiencing cutbacks in funding; and
“Whereas no minority can expect for long to enjoy the advantages of a law that shows such reckless disregard for majority sensitivities; and
“Whereas the views of the majority of the citizens of Ontario were not represented on 18 November 1986 as only 55 of the 125 elected members of the Legislature were present to vote,
“Therefore, to preserve patience and goodwill in the name of justice and for the love of harmony, we implore this House to refrain from further implementation of the French Language Services Act.
“We further respectfully request the above-mentioned member of Parliament to stand and read this petition” -- namely, myself -- “imploring every member of this House to study this law and to demand a copy of its implementation procedures manual and to bravely reveal the contents of both law and implementation to his or her constituents, who may then respond with a ballot in the next Ontario election.”
I have signed it, but of course do not endorse the contents of same.
The Speaker: This might once again be the appropriate time to remind all members of standing order 31: that members are entitled to present the material allegations of their constituents or people of Ontario. It is not necessary to read all the “whereases.” The “therefore” is sufficient.
Mrs Grier: I have a petition addressed:
“To the Honourable the Lieutenant Governor and the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:
“We, the undersigned, beg leave to petition the Parliament of Ontario as follows:
“Whereas it is my constitutional right to have available and to choose the health care system of my preference;
“And whereas naturopathy has had self-governing status in Ontario for more than 42 years;
“We petition the Ontario Legislature to call on the government to introduce legislation that would guarantee naturopaths the right to practise their art and science to the fullest without prejudice or harassment.”
It is signed by over 60 residents and I support their petition.
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS
BRUCE OFFICE SUPPLY LIMITED ACT, 1989
Mr Harris moved first reading of Bill Pr23, An Act to revive Bruce Office Supply Limited.
Motion agreed to.
ONTARIO SAFE DRINKING WATER ACT, 1989
Mrs Grier moved first reading of Bill 25, An Act to protect and enhance the Quality of Drinking Water in Ontario.
Motion agreed to.
Mrs Grier: The purpose of this legislation is obviously to protect and enhance drinking water quality in Ontario, to set standards that can be enforceable for the quality of drinking water and to provide opportunities for public involvement in the making of regulations to set those standards.
HEALTH PROTECTION AND PROMOTION AMENDMENT ACT, 1989
Mrs Grier moved first reading of Bill 26, An Act to amend the Health Protection and Promotion Act, 1983.
Motion agreed to.
Mrs Grier: The purpose of this bill is to prohibit the sale of irradiated food and food which contains ingredients which have been irradiated within Ontario.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
BUDGET DEBATE (CONTINUED)
Resuming the adjourned debate on the motion that this House approves in general the budgetary policy of the government.
The Speaker: I believe the member for Nickel Belt adjourned the debate.
Mr Laughren: I did indeed adjourn the debate yesterday following the reading of the budget of the Treasurer (Mr R. F. Nixon). I welcome this opportunity to respond to the budget on behalf of New Democrats.
A budget is both a social and an economic document. It is or at least can and should be a blueprint for the future with directions on how to get there. It is, I believe, the single most important document produced each year by the government and provides in one place the best overall summary of just what a government is all about. Unfortunately, this government is not about much.
After four years in power and five budgets, it is clear that this government is lacking in leadership that provides us with direction and goals. This is not just the assessment of the opposition members of the Legislature, but the assessment of an independent consulting firm based on interviews with the government’s own members. Instead of a document that sets out to effect change in our economic and social system, this budget, like the ones before it, only reinforces the status quo. Never before has so little been done with so much.
Looking back at the first Liberal budget in 1985, the government had revenues of $26.2 billion and expenditures of $28.8 billion.
Mr Laughren: I am going to have to cope with the government House leader today, but I will try to work my way through my response to the budget despite the presence of the government House leader.
Today, just three and a half years after that budget was delivered, those numbers are $40.7 billion and $41.3 billion respectively. Cumulatively, the government has collected an extra $35 billion in this short time, but it is hard to see what concrete benefits have come from this. I repeat that figure: $35 billion in extra revenues have been collected since this government came to power.
Are workers better off? Is affordable housing a reality? Has poverty been eliminated? Have we a revamped and efficient health care system? Have we gained domestic control of our high-technology sector or begun a program of import replacement that should have started with the development of a domestic mining machinery industry? No. The list goes on and on and the answer is always no.
This government really has become a government of the status quo. Almost nothing has changed in direction since this government came to power in 1985.
In preparing my response today, I considered what I think are the three most important goals of government: The first is fairness to individuals, groups and regions; the second is the provision of a strong social infrastructure; and the third is to give us a vision of tomorrow and to ensure that this vision is an egalitarian, economically prosperous society with participation by all. I would like to address each of these issues.
Fairness has a number of dimensions. The one I most often talk about is tax fairness, and we had an exchange in the House this afternoon with the Treasurer, I must say a very unsatisfactory exchange.
We understand that the government must raise the revenues necessary to pay for public services on an equitable basis; to do otherwise would be unethical. Yet when I look at this budget and the ones before it, I can honestly say that the Treasurer seems to have failed to grasp that point; that it is one thing to raise money, even great gobs of money, but it is another thing not to do with that money what you should in a fair and equitable way. That is where this Treasurer has failed miserably ever since he became the Treasurer.
Hon R. F. Nixon: Don’t you support the Social Assistance Review Committee?
Mr Laughren: The Treasurer asks whether I support SARC. This caucus indicated today an appreciation for the work the Minister of Community and Social Services (Mr Sweeney) has done and the battle he has had to fight in cabinet, including, I assume, the Treasurer, in order to get those funds.
If the Treasurer wants to talk about equity in our society, I would ask him how he feels about 84,000 people every month getting food from food banks in Metropolitan Toronto. There was not a single food bank in this city 10 years ago. Now there are 80 of them functioning.
As long as we have people going to food banks in order to sustain themselves and their families -- There is something terribly wrong with a government that has raised all that extra money, in the neighbourhood of $35 billion, and can still sit back and watch food banks function in a society as rich as this, and in particular in a community as rich as Metropolitan Toronto. I know it probably makes the Treasurer feel good to watch the big cars pull up at the food banks and dump off the cartons of canned food, but that is not the kind of society we want in Ontario. Until food banks are eradicated, the Treasurer should not be satisfied.
We do know that when the Treasurer became the Treasurer, the provincial income tax rate was 48 percent of the federal tax payable. That is now up to 53 per cent, which is a substantial increase. He has increased the land transfer tax, the gas tax, the liquor and tobacco taxes and motor vehicle registration fees. As a matter of fact, the 1985 budget sounds a lot like the 1989 budget because of the specific items he addressed in that budget.
The Treasurer certainly did not understand about tax fairness last year when he increased the personal income tax, the retail sales tax, the tobacco and liquor taxes and the gas taxes while lowering corporate taxes by about $100 million. I am talking about last year.
He continues to miss the point again this year, with further increases in the personal income tax, gas taxes, liquor taxes, retail sales tax, and increased fees on car registrations and licences, which raise an additional $800 million.
Whatever happened to the notion of a progressive tax system and a tax system where the tax burden is shared more equitably between individuals and corporations? It appears that the Treasurer, when he is thinking about his budget each year, looks around to see what still does not have a consumer tax on it or does not have a user-pay approach to his budgeting. There is nothing complex, there is nothing mysterious about a fair tax system. It is simply based on ability to pay. The Treasurer seems to have forgotten that.
I would, however, like to congratulate the Treasurer on the elimination of Ontario health insurance plan premiums. Of that I am pleased. I do understand this was a Liberal promise going back to 1985, and without taking away from my pleasure at the OHIP premiums being eliminated, I would remind --
Hon Mr Sorbara: Don’t display your pleasure, Floyd.
Mr Laughren: No. I am very happy about that. This party has been on record, since the very beginning, that there should be no such thing as OHIP premiums. I would just point out to the Treasurer that we have now become the eighth province in Canada to have no health insurance premiums. It is not as though this is some kind of breaking of new ground and progressivism.
Mr Bossy: It is for Ontario.
Mr Laughren: That is absolutely correct. For Ontario, that is breaking new ground. I would thank the member for Chatham-Kent for that interjection, because seven other provinces already realized it was wrong to have health insurance premiums and I am glad we have finally joined those other provinces.
I must also admit the Treasurer had my heart in a flutter for a few seconds, when I was reading his budget and I flipped through and saw the words “commercial concentration levy.” At first I thought, “Finally, it’s here: a levy on the corporate concentration of wealth in Ontario.” That is what I thought. I should have known better; that really was not what it was going to be.
I still find it hard to believe that those living below the poverty line in this province still pay provincial income tax. Whenever we talk about the poverty line, these are not figures we make up. These are figures that come from Statistics Canada, which establishes the poverty level for people all across Canada in urban centres. In Ontario, the poverty line, for a family of four, is roughly $24,000. At this point, in Ontario someone who is $10,000 below that poverty line, at $14,500, still pays provincial income tax.
The Treasurer, simply mumbles he cannot, when I ask him this in this assembly, month after
Hon Mr Sorbara: The Treasurer never mumbles.
Hon R. F. Nixon: The Premier (Mr Peterson) mumbles.
Mr Laughren: Maybe his mouth was full when he answered the question; I do not know, but he seemed to be mumbling.
The Treasurer really has never explained how he justifies the fact that a family of four with an income of $14,500, $10,000 below the poverty line, should have to pay provincial income taxes in a province as wealthy as Ontario. He has never satisfactorily answered that question. I do not think it is just to me that he has given unsatisfactory answers. I suspect there are a lot of Liberal backbenchers who do not feel it is quite right that someone at that level of income has to pay income tax to Ontario, given the wealth of this province. We think that is fundamentally wrong.
I raised in the Legislature today, although in question period there is never much time, the whole difference between the way a single senior is taxed and the way a single working person is taxed. A single senior whose income is $12,400 pays no provincial income tax, but if you are under the age of 65 and your income is $8,300, you pay provincial income tax. I have always thought one of the measures of fairness was horizontal fairness as well; people at the same level of income should be treated accordingly. I wonder how the Treasurer squares that with any definition of fairness. I do not understand that.
Why is it, when the working person has expenses, perhaps more than the single senior citizen, the single senior citizen versus the single working person -- How can you have this enormous discrepancy in the provincial income tax system?
I will get into that later, about why Ontario should have its own tax system.
There really was nothing in this budget to make things fair, other than the Ontario health insurance plan premiums. I hasten to add that we are big supporters of the abolishment of the OHIP premiums so the honourable member does not have to keep interjecting that I am forgetting about it; I have not forgotten that.
Last year and again this year, we presented to the Treasurer in the form of a prebudget submission, if you will, some suggestions for making the tax system fair. They were very specific and we added up the numbers so that the Treasurer could see that this was not simply spending a whole lot of money and not collecting any money. That is the easy way out for opposition politicians, and we did not play that game. We were very careful about documenting how much money the Treasurer would lose and how much he would gain by our tax measures.
One of the things we suggested to the Treasurer was that Ontario have its own provincial income tax system. In his reply to my leader, the Treasurer said he refused to do it because of common sense, as I recall his rather flippant answer.
Mr Laughren: Yes, last week. That was the Treasurer’s response to my leader.
The Ontario Economic Council commissioned a major study -- if 2 inches thick is a major study these days -- on whether or not we should have a provincial income tax system in the province. The council did not come down firmly and say: “Yes, Ontario must have a provincial income tax system.” It did not say we should not, but it did talk about the merits and demerits of such a system.
The Treasurer himself has explained to many people, anybody who will listen to him, that he does not like to have to apply taxes on federal tax payable, because as long as you do that, as long as you are paying what the federal system says is taxable, then you are mirroring an inequitable federal tax system. The Treasurer understands that; he has commented on that several times.
If we were in control of our own tax system, we could do things much more equitably than we do now, because I do not think that this Treasurer really wants to be an accomplice to the Michael Wilson tax regime that comes out of Ottawa. I do not think he likes that, and we said we should have our own here. Quebec has its own. We have our own corporate income tax system here, so it is not as though this is a revolutionary idea. Once again, we would not even be breaking new ground in Canada. Besides, the Treasurer should stop whining about the federal tax system if he does not want to put in his own.
One of the measures we talked about that the Treasurer should do in this budget was to redress the problem of property taxes at the local level. I believe that if there is a tax revolt coming out there, this is where it will start, at the property tax level.
In 1975 the province paid roughly -- using round figures now -- 60 per cent of the cost of education and the local property taxpayer paid 40 per cent; now those numbers are virtually reversed, with the local taxpayer paying around 60 per cent province-wide and the province only picking up in the neighbourhood of 40 per cent. We suggested that what we should do is work towards getting that back to the 60-40 per cent level to start with as an immediate goal. We could see doing it in four years and our estimate of the cost this year was a little over $400 million.
Nothing is free; we understand that. The taxpayers are paying either way, but we believe the property tax way of paying it is the most regressive way to pay it and that there is a much better way to do it. Besides, surely education is a province-wide responsibility, and we should be picking up more than 40 per cent of the cost of that. It is expensive to get back to that 60-40 per cent, but over a four-year period, at over $400 million a year, we could get back to that.
Hon R. F. Nixon: I read it and I thought they shouldn’t get hung up on that one.
Mr Laughren: If the Treasurer had read the figures, he would know we explained how to fund that too.
Mr D. S. Cooke: It used to be a big deal for you.
Mr Laughren: Yes. The Liberals used to believe that was important. They do not seem to any more.
Hon R. F. Nixon: It used to be 80 per cent.
Mr Laughren: The Liberal promise used to be 80-20. All we are asking the government to do is to go halfway to that and get back to 60-40.
Hon R. F. Nixon: Times change.
Mr Laughren: Times have changed because they have made them change. They have not changed willy-nilly.
The other thing we wanted to do in terms of equity was to increase the Ontario tax credits for low-income earners. The Treasurer did not do anything this year on tax credits, nothing. Last year, when he raised the sales tax, he did something about tax credits because I think he felt he had to. This year, nothing.
We think that should be brought up to a level where it actually means something. At the present time those tax credits do not mean much for anybody. The way it is now, the poor of this province are subsidizing the rest of us and we think that is fundamentally wrong. This had a price tag of $300 million in order to increase the Ontario tax credits for low-income earners.
The other tax we have been encouraging the Treasurer to look at seriously is the whole question of a wealth or inheritance tax. I know this will bother the member sitting beside the Treasurer.
Hon Mr Sorbara: I am all in favour of it.
Mr Laughren: Nevertheless, it is good to see the Minister of Labour is all in favour of a wealth tax.
As I recall, there are 24 countries belonging to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, OECD countries; 22 out of those 24 countries have either a wealth or an inheritance tax. Half of them have both, as a matter of fact. Only Canada and Australia do not have either. Even the United States has an inheritance tax.
The Treasurer says: “Well, we can’t do that. The wealth will disappear.” Has it disappeared from all those other OECD countries? That really was not a very thoughtful response from the minister.
We surely are not a banana republic. Was it the Treasurer who commented on E. P. Taylor’s estate being probated in the Bahamas? I think it was the Treasurer who commented on that, as a matter of fact.
Hon R. F. Nixon: Harry Oakes did the same thing.
Mr Laughren: Yes.
I know the Treasurer does not subscribe to the image of bloated capitalists with their big cigars and their top hats with the eagle perched on their shoulders, but I want to remind the Treasurer that we have become the haven. Why do we allow this?
We can impose a wealth or inheritance tax and we could do it without worrying about the wealth fleeing this jurisdiction. Are we so fragile in our security of why people live here and invest here? It is really a silly response by the minister.
We would of course ensure, as other countries do, that if we had a net wealth tax every year, it did not include the principal residence. It would not include cars or furniture or pension rights. It is not a case of taxing everything, and of course there would be a floor established, but we really believe it would make it a much more equitable tax system in the province and we think it would more appropriately share tax between labour and capital, which we now think is unfairly imposed on labour. I just remind members that the last figures I saw indicated 10 per cent of the wealthiest people in this country had over 50 per cent of the wealth, so there is lots there to be taxed.
We are not talking about a confiscatory tax regime here; we are talking about a very small amount of tax. Nevertheless, it would appropriately tax those people who get a great deal out of our society. We think they could put a little back into it through a wealth tax or an inheritance tax.
Mr D. R. Cooke: Where would you put the floor?
Mr Laughren: The floor would be negotiable. I would want to do a study on it. The number that comes to me immediately is $500,000, but I am not saying that as cast in stone. There does need to be a floor, but the Treasurer just dismisses these suggestions out of hand. He is so wedded --
Hon R. F. Nixon: No, I do not.
Mr Laughren: Well, he does.
Hon R. F. Nixon: I had to say something and
E. P. Taylor had died the day before.
Mr Laughren: Right.
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please.
Mr Laughren: Perhaps the Treasurer could tell us at some point during this budget debate what studies he has commissioned that would look at a different kind of tax system in the province. At some time in the debate, I would like the Treasurer to tell us what studies he has commissioned. I would just as soon he did not do it now.
One of the other suggestions we had was that there be a minimum corporate income tax plus a capital tax. I think the Treasurer understands that there should be a minimum corporate tax. A story goes that they were pressuring Ronald Reagan to impose a minimum corporate tax. He did not like that idea until somebody showed him that Texaco paid less in taxes than his secretary and he was convinced. That was the way they convinced Ronald Reagan about these things. Perhaps that is the way we have to go with this Treasurer as well.
Hon Mr Sorbara: What does Ronald Reagan’s secretary have to do with this budget?
Mr Laughren: Perhaps that is the kind of reasoning we need to use on the Treasurer to bring in a minimum corporate tax.
In the mid-1950s, the ratio between corporate and personal taxes was about one to one. ln the mid-1960s, it was two to one, in the mid-1970s or now, it is about three to one for personal taxes. The last numbers we could obtain showed there were 30 corporations with income of over $7 billion that paid no taxes to the Ontario Treasury.
Let me give members some examples. In 1987, Xerox Canada: Income was $64 million; taxes paid, not only zero, it got a $2.6 million credit. In 1988, Bramalea: $41 million; no taxes paid. Brascan: $174 million; no taxes paid. In 1987, Tridel Enterprises: $16-million income; no taxes paid. Hees International in 1987: $151-million income; no taxes paid.
At the same time, as though adding insult to injury, those companies that had these profits paid out dividends to their shareholders. And what do the shareholders get when they get those dividends? They get a tax credit based on the presumption they should not have to pay taxes on those dividends since the corporation that is paying them the dividends already paid corporation taxes. That is my understanding of the dividend tax credit. The Treasurer sits back and lets this go on in Ontario. It is absolutely ridiculous and it just does not seem to bother him. This in itself is an inequity. When those people do not pay taxes, somebody else pays their share, and we know who is paying their share these days in Ontario.
I will not dwell on the next suggestion I had to the Treasurer because we have been through it too many times. That has to do with a speculation tax on people who flip houses that are not their principal residences, on people who buy homes simply to speculate on the fact that prices are going up in the province and that they will get a quick return on their investment. That is all we have ever said. It does not deal with principal residences. We said there should be a 100 per cent speculation tax if they flip in the first year and 75 per cent in the second year. The Treasurer has simply refused to do it.
He has watched prices. The first time the Treasurer refused was in 1987. When I first asked him that, the average price of resale homes in Toronto was about $180,000. It was about that; a little more. The Treasurer said: “No, I do not think so. I think the problem has peaked.” The Premier said a year later, when the price was about $230,000: “It is a sweet headache. It is going to go away. Do not worry about it.” Now the average price of a resale home in Toronto is $280,000 -- $100,000 more than when the Treasurer said the prices had peaked.
Hon R. F. Nixon: So I wasn’t right on the money there.
Mr Laughren: So he was wrong. The Treasurer was wrong and he is wrong now when he says it is not the right time to impose a speculation tax.
I do not know why the Treasurer is so determined to remain with the status quo in Ontario’s tax system.
Mr Wildman: He is a conservative.
Mr Laughren: Oh, it is because he is a conservative. Perhaps that is it.
This measure would not be a source of revenue to the Treasury because if it was brought in, if we had a speculation tax in the province, members can be sure it would end speculation. It is not a case of earning revenue; it is a case of putting a lid on speculative activity in the housing market because we believe housing is a social necessity, not something on which somebody should make speculative profits. The Treasurer does not seem to understand that. To the Treasurer, it is the marketplace. That is what will determine the price of housing in this society, nothing else.
When we total up the price of all these proposals, Ontario’s own income tax system, we think, would cost about $100 million to administer, but do not forget that we take in about $10 billion. Tax elimination for the poor would cost $150 million. Property tax credits for municipalities to change the ratio of education taxes to 60-40 for the province versus the municipalities would cost a little over $400 million. Tax credits for low-income people: $300 million. That totals a little under $1 billion, $966 million that it would cost the Treasury.
New revenues that I have suggested, and I really feel we were most responsible in laying out these new revenues in order to pay for those programs, are the wealth tax, about $500 million; the minimum corporate tax, another $500 million, and $65 million for the bank tax on capital, for a total of a little over $1 billion. As a matter of fact, there was excess revenue in our proposal.
That the Treasurer seems content to simply remain with the present tax system we find most discouraging, given we had hoped that we would have some element of reform in this government when it came to the tax system.
Another concept of tax fairness is of regional fairness. Again, the budget has failed us on this account, as well. As a northerner, I am more aware than most that there are in fact two Ontarios, the economically vibrant Golden Horseshoe and the rest of Ontario, particularly the north which continually fails to reap the benefits of the seeming growth and prosperity of the south.
Even though I too believe the greater Toronto area has grown too big and too fast, I must condemn the government for its pathetic solution to the problem. Instead of pursuing creative and innovative solutions that encourage growth in other parts of the province, their solution is to put an increased and oppressive tax burden on those Toronto area residents who already face a higher rate of inflation and exorbitant housing costs. It is the middle class that is the victim of this unbridled growth. Forcing them from the city will not solve the problem, but only create more problems.
It will create a city where only the wealthiest of the wealthy and the poorest of the poor live. I feel very strongly that unless we are able to arrest this kind of drift, of having only the wealthy and only the poor living in a place like Toronto, we are heading for problems that we now talk about as existing in American cities. I think we have been able to avoid that up to this point, but things have simply got to change.
I looked in vain for programs of new funding in northern Ontario in the provincial budget yesterday, but I could not find them. Laid-off workers get nothing. Those with innovative ideas who thought there might be an infusion of capital into the northern Ontario heritage fund should forget it. Municipalities that thought much-needed northern road construction would get a boost will be disappointed.
Let’s start with job losses. The Ontario government has talked a lot about helping those in the north who have lost or will lose their work because of the free trade agreement or the 15 per cent tax on softwood lumber exports to the United States. There is nothing specific for these northern Ontarians. For example, government revenues from the softwood lumber tax will be $18 million, but none of it is going to help those who have lost their jobs because of it, despite previous promises to that effect.
The government has come up with $19 million for labour adjustment for the whole province, $9 million of which will go to the federal program for older worker adjustment for laid-off employees over 55. Government officials estimate this will help 1,000 workers. That is small solace when there are already 1,700 jobless in the lumber industry and 700 will be out of work when the iron mines in Kirkland Lake and Temagami close, all in northern Ontario.
Not only is there nothing for those people who are laid off, but going to the north, getting back and travelling within the north are going to cost a lot more after yesterday’s budget, as well. There really are two increases of one cent per litre on gasoline and diesel fuel. The 22.2 per cent increase in motor vehicle registration fees, the 43 per cent increase in driver’s licence renewals and a new tax of $5 charged on each tire are going to make a lot of motorists in northern Ontario very angry. Northerners are already forced by large distances and underdeveloped public transit to depend more on their cars and trucks than people in urban centres in the south.
Some revenues are supposed to go to transportation projects, but northern roads are not a priority in this budget. The Treasurer’s comment in the budget -- and I quote because it is a wonderful quote -- was, “Our improvement of roads and highways in the North continues at a steady pace.” That was one of the most discouraging statements in the budget for those of us from northern Ontario, because “at a steady pace” means at a similar pace, at the same pace. I do not know if this Treasurer has ever poured molasses in Moosonee in January, but that is the pace at which road improvements are going on in northern Ontario. No comment about four-laning of any highways or major improvements. They will put in the odd passing lane and that will be it.
Mr Dietsch: I have been up there. There were only 15 cars on the road I was on.
The Acting Speaker (Mr M. C. Ray): Order.
Mr Laughren: Liberal backbenchers from southern Ontario who say there are only 15 cars on the road in northern Ontario have a surprising lack of understanding of the problems of living in northern Ontario.
I would like to move now from dealing with northern Ontario, because I see it is getting the Liberal backbenchers too upset. There must be a residual guilt there among Liberal backbenchers about northern Ontario, because if there is one thing we feel certain about with this government it is that it simply does not comprehend the problems of northern Ontario.
Hon R. F. Nixon: Not true.
Mr Laughren: It is true, it is self-evident. I would like to turn now to deal for a few moments with housing.
Mr Dietsch: I know more about northern Ontario than you do about drinking Ontario wines.
The Acting Speaker: Order, please. Can we resume the speech?
Mr Laughren: If the member for St Catharines-Brock (Mr Dietsch) thinks there is some relationship between living in northern Ontario and drinking Ontario wines, I wish he would rise to his feet on a point of privilege and explain it to us, because it escapes me.
I would like to spend a few moments on housing, because housing has been one of the major failures of this Liberal government, and this budget only increases the upward spiralling of housing prices. Instead of introducing a real estate speculation tax which would provide a real slowdown in house price increases, we have another increase in the land transfer tax and a potential big jump in lot levies with the enabling legislation --
Hon R. F. Nixon: An increase for houses above $400,000. You’ve got to go to Ramsay Lake where you live to get them that expensive.
Mr Laughren: The Treasurer cannot defend increasing taxes on housing by pretending that I live in an exclusive area of Sudbury. There is no link between the two facts. Because there are no facts there.
The home builders’ association has said that the price of a new house may jump by $15,000. When this is combined with the national goods and services tax, it could add almost $25,000 to the price of a new home, and the price of a new home in Metropolitan Toronto now is truly remarkable.
Hon R. F. Nixon: That’s one of those $400,000 items you’ve got on Ramsay Lake.
Mr Laughren: Truly remarkable. The Treasurer seems to get satisfaction out of the fact that the price of a new home in Metro now is in the neighbourhood of $350,000. Since this government came to power, if there is one fact that is absolutely certain, it is that virtually all the houses that have been built have been built on the outskirts of people’s incomes. That is an indisputable fact.
While it is $350,000 for a new home in Metro, a resale home, as I said earlier, is about $280,000. Even to buy the resale home of $280,000, to meet the requirement for the mortgage of 15 per cent down payment and so forth, I believe that a family income is about $102,000. I would ask the Treasurer what kind of city he is encouraging here.
The number of nonprofit units to be built in the next three to five years has actually been reduced by 3,500 units per year due to federal cutbacks, and the province has not taken up the slack. The government has done nothing to increase the supply of affordable rental housing. The vacancy rate in Toronto is 0.2 per cent.
For members who are more qualitative-minded than quantitative-minded, that means two empty apartments in 1,000. For the rest of Ontario it is 0.7 per cent vacancy rate. There are nearly 40,000 families on the waiting list for assisted housing in Ontario, a number that has nearly doubled since this government came to power. That is not to mention the 20,000 homeless people in Ontario, half of whom live in Toronto.
We did not get a definite commitment that the government would use government lands only for nonprofit and co-op housing, as opposed to for-profit housing; nor will the government be instituting land banking to provide future land for housing initiatives. So much for its housing policies.
I would like to spend a few moments on an issue that is with us seemingly daily in this assembly, and that is health care. Reflecting the recommendations of numerous government studies on health in Ontario, including the Premier’s Council on Health Strategy and the finding of the New Democratic Party task force on northern health care, the report on which will be available shortly, the government has adopted the rhetoric in its 17 May 1989 budget emphasizing “community-based services and health promotion.” However, while New Democrats support the increase in the budget to “home care assistance ... community mental health programs” and “alcohol and drug dependency programs,” we think the government has to go much further to make community-based and preventive care a reality.
The health care system has entered an acute crisis. While government neglect has forced northern Ontarians to do without many services taken for granted in the south, other Ontarians, especially in Toronto, have been experiencing for the first time since the Second World War overcrowded hospitals, unacceptably long delays in surgery, nursing shortages and a litany of other problems.
The crisis of access is happening at the same time that health budgets are running out of control. In yesterday’s budget the Ministry of Health will spend $13.7 billion; that is one third, or 33 per cent, of all government expenditures, and an increase of 10 per cent over last year. There appears to be no end in sight.
Hospitals and OHIP payments are driving up the costs. Together they account for most of the Health ministry’s spending. In the 10 years between 1977-78 and 1987-88, funding to hospitals increased at a rate of 10.3 per cent per year, well over inflation. In 1987-88, over $3 billion went into these institutions. That is $533 for every man, woman and child in Ontario.
OHIP payments rose a staggering 15 per cent in this 10-year period. In 1986-87, 16,433 doctors received the lion’s share of the $3.2 billion paid out by Ontario’s fee-for-service medicare plan. Their average earnings increased 63 per cent over the five-year period ending last year.
How can two contradictory trends, a huge increase in spending and a decrease in the overall quality of care, take place at the same time? New Democrats believe that successive Tory and Liberal governments have put too much emphasis on treating illness by physicians in hospitals, and this has led to a misallocation of precious resources.
Budgets for prevention, community-based delivery and the development of a range of nonphysician health care providers must be dramatically increased. Think of how hard the Red Cross and the Victorian Order of Nurses had to fight for every penny they got. It shows a lack of commitment.
However, figures in the latest available Ministry of Health annual report of 1987-88 paint a picture that tells a thousand words about the topsy-turvy priorities of our health care spending. While the institutional health program and OHIP premium payments accounted for 84 per cent of that year’s total health budget of $11.5 billion, the public health envelope got 1.4 per cent and the community mental health budget received 1.8 per cent.
The moneys announced in this budget do little to change this situation. The $108 million for community mental health programs, for example, is about three quarters of one per cent of the Ministry of Health budget plan for 1989-90.
We are at a crossroads in respect to health care spending. There has to be a new vision of putting resources to developing wellness, not throwing money into a bottomless pit of treating illnesses.
New Democrats will be pressing the Liberal government to changes that implement our vision. Members will have an opportunity to discuss these critical health care concerns further next Thursday morning when my resolution, based on the NDP task force on northern health care, will be debated in private members’ hour. I would encourage members to take part in that, particularly those members from southern Ontario who do not seem to understand the problems of health care in the north.
One of the major responsibilities of any government is to encourage and maintain a strong, vibrant future for its citizens. This involves, but is not limited to, maintaining and nurturing our fragile environment, educating and training all its citizens so that they can be productive members of society and fostering conditions which encourage economic growth. This budget is also significant because it is the first budget since the free trade agreement was implemented.
Yesterday, when the Treasurer was reading his budget, I was not inclined to ask him who wrote it.
Hon R. F. Nixon: You are more polite.
Mr Laughren: Yes, I was polite to start with, and second, I had a funny feeling of despair that he had.
I did want to talk for a few moments on the environment, because I think most of us who are in daily touch with our constituents know how strongly the people of this province feel about the environment.
Neither the throne speech nor the budget does much to develop a vision of what could be called a sustainable society. The 1987 Brundtland report of the World Commission on Environment and Development in defining sustainable development indicates that “We need to meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” We will now have to deal with the impact of ecological stresses upon our economic prospects such as soil depletion, the greenhouse effect, forest mismanagement and so on.
Brundtland not only links environmental quality and a healthy economy, but makes direct connections between a healthy environment and eradication of poverty. As the report puts it, “The reduction of poverty itself is a precondition for environmentally sound development.” And again, “Poverty is not only an evil in itself, but sustainable development requires meeting the basic needs of all and extending to all the opportunity to fulfil their aspirations for a better life.”
Because the budget fails to do what a government can do to achieve the goal of meeting the basic needs of all Ontarians, particularly to address the needs of the neediest citizens, it does not lay the basis for a sustainable society in the future.
Specifically, there is nothing wrong with $6 million per year for the environmental technologies program to help companies research and develop environmentally sound technologies, but it is a paltry sum in the budget as a whole, relative to the crying need for such research and development and the Liberals’ alleged commitment to its round table on environment and the economy.
It is heartening to see an increase in Ministry of Natural Resources funds for forest renewal, but we have no guarantee, especially given the approach and the time being taken by the MNR at the forestry environmental assessment hearings in Thunder Bay, that the funds will be used to develop methods of forest management that are more environmentally sustainable than massive clear-cuts and improperly monitored and tended regeneration.
The five-cents-per-bottle tax on liquor, wine and imported beer to fund waste reduction and recycling, while somewhat regressive, tries to address the garbage crisis, but it really does not go to the heart of the problem.
Hon R. F. Nixon: Regressive.
Mr Laughren: Yes.
It does nothing to reduce garbage at its source, which in this case would be to require that all such bottles be refillable, that is, reused, which takes less energy than crushing and making a new bottle from the old.
The budget and the throne speech should have provided a clear vision for solving the garbage crisis. Waste is a misplaced resource. Where is the commitment to move to a low-waste society with better use of natural resources? The budget should have focused not on recycling but on reducing the production of waste, such as taxes on excess packaging; three layers around a package of crackers, for example. It would push manufacturers to develop and use more environmentally sound practices.
I want to spend a couple of moments and talk about post-secondary education, because I really believe that given the statement --
Hon R. F. Nixon: How about neutrinos?
Mr Laughren: As a matter of fact, it is funny the Treasurer would talk about neutrinos. I thought that when the Premier’s technology fund was established, it was to accomplish and put in place projects such as the Sudbury neutrino observatory. Because the Treasurer cannot see neutrinos, cannot feel neutrinos, cannot smell neutrinos, he thinks there is no such thing.
Mr Wildman: He is a tactile person.
Mr Laughren: Yes. There is a gap in the Treasurer’s education, because there is such a thing as pure research. For the Treasurer not to recognize that pure research is legitimate, I think, does not comment well on his ability to look into the future or at least to try to think ahead as to the society we are going to have. It is bothersome to hear the Treasurer for ever sneer at the concept of a neutrino.
Hon R. F. Nixon: Scoff.
Mr Laughren: The Treasurer does. Every time we raise it, he sneers at the idea. That is simply not appropriate. The United States is putting money into it; Italy is putting money into it; Great Britain is putting money into it; Ottawa has put money into it already through the National Research Council. This province has done diddly-squat, absolutely nothing, for the neutrino observatory.
Mr D. S. Cooke: They only want $7 million, do they not?
Mr Laughren: They want $7.2 million over four years. It is a good research project. It is a world-class project. That in itself should attract the Treasurer.
Hon R. F. Nixon: Yes, but is it proactive?
Mr Laughren: Yes, it is.
Hon R. F. Nixon: How much do you need from us?
Mr Laughren: We need $7.2 million over four years. Other jurisdictions are way ahead of this government and it really is sad.
Hon R. F. Nixon: Is there money up there in Sudbury?
Mr Laughren: Yes.
Hon R. F. Nixon: And it’s just sitting there in the bank.
Mr Laughren: I see what you mean. No, they have committed their money to the observatory and the province has committed nothing. I think the Treasurer should reconsider.
Hon R. F. Nixon: Neutrinos?
Mr Laughren: The Sudbury neutrino observatory. It is an important project; SNO, as it is known for short.
I would like to talk about post-secondary education and emphasize that if this government wishes to be consistent in its pursuit of an improved competitive edge in the global economy, it must start where ideas start and not ignore post-secondary educational funding. The Treasurer should not look so surprised. He knows he has not done the job with the post-secondary institutions.
According to the Council of Ontario Universities, in a position paper called The Financial Position of Universities in Ontario: 1988 -- very recent -- Relative to its economic growth, the provincial economy has grown faster than university operating support. While other publicly supported sectors have enjoyed real increases in their levels of support per client served, the position of Ontario universities has declined.
Relative to expenditures in other areas, overall government expenditures increased at a rate one third faster than grants to universities, and relative to other provinces, government support for students in Ontario has traditionally been below the average of the rest of the country.
Provincial expenditures on university education -- I am talking now about operating grants per student. The average in Canada is $6,486. For Ontario, it is $6,315. That makes us sixth in Canada. Relative to the United States, we are also behind.
The Treasurer and the Premier, particularly with their talk about getting this global edge out there in competition, surely must understand that you cannot just let the post-secondary institutions sit there and cram more and more students into them and hope that just putting more and more students in a lecture room will solve the problem.
I must say as well that when it comes to the colleges of applied arts and technology -- a place where I spent several very enjoyable years and where some day I might very well return, voluntarily or involuntarily, so I have a vested interest in making sure that our colleges are well funded -- there are numerous studies that indicate we are facing a shortage of a number of qualified workers who are trained in the colleges. That makes no sense whatsoever. I am thinking now of technicians, technologists, computer operators and health care workers who are covered under the colleges of applied arts and technology programs, and because of inadequate funding, we get distortions in the offering of those programs.
I would not want to put all the blame here, but it is a fact, I believe, that there is no community college representative on the Premier’s Council and there certainly is, I believe, from the university community. I think that is an oversight, perhaps, that should be redressed, because I do think that is important.
The funding to the colleges has not kept up with inflation. The 1988-89 level of funding per student was 16.3 per cent lower in constant dollars than the 1978-79 figure. The level of funding per student increased by only 63 per cent since 1978-79, during which time the consumer price index increased by 94.9 per cent. If the funding levels were brought up to adjust for inflation, the funding for students would be over $1,000 more than it is now. I wonder if the Treasurer was aware of that; that in the last 10 years the funding for students has gone up by about 63 per cent while the CPI has gone up by almost 95 per cent. The colleges have not done well.
An increasing interest and need for post-secondary education has led to record enrolment levels in the past two years, with no sign of a significant downturn in the number of applications expected in the next five years. The government’s allocation of $88 million towards accessibility funding is inadequate.
As students taken into the universities in 1987-88 move out of the first year of their programs, they cost 50 to 100 per cent more to educate. The Ontario Federation of Students estimates that $57 million of that $88 million accessibility funding that was granted will be accounted for by the flow-through of the fall 1987 enrolment increase and the special $4 million allocated for improving accessibility for disadvantaged groups. Little will be left over to deal with this fall’s enrolment increase.
Universities must be given the resources to educate the students they admit and not simply be encouraged to pack their classrooms and halls without regard to providing facilities for them. University administrators have responded by arguing that tuition fees must be increased and by making entrance requirements tougher. The Ontario Federation of Students appropriately asked this question:
“Tuition does have a definite impact on accessibility and it is logical to assume that the impact falls heaviest on students from average-and low-income families, Why, when we have finally made some progress, albeit inadequate, in improving educational opportunities for average-and low-income students, should tuition hikes be considered?”
Good question. Why indeed?
Hon R. F. Nixon: Who said that?
Mr Laughren: The Ontario Federation of Students, which does an enormous amount of good, reliable research in the post-secondary field.
In response to the very vague comments on post-secondary educational funding in the budget pertaining to addressing the funding problem in the face of increased enrolment, the budget says, “A more permanent approach to allocating university operating grants will be introduced which will take into account recent enrolment growth and will include funding recognition” for the progression of these students through subsequent years of study.
The time to take that permanent approach was in the budget, not some unknown time in the future.
As I come close to the conclusion of my remarks on this budget, I would like to make some comments on the Ontario economy. This budget was not encouraging from either a short-term economic perspective or a longer-term one.
In the short term, we are facing higher inflation, higher unemployment and slower growth. The risk of recession cannot be ruled out. In the longer term, the government has not given any indication that it has a strategy to manage economic growth in the future. There was barely a mention of free trade in the budget. Certainly, there is no serious commitment to assist workers who will be displaced by free trade. There were no innovative programs announced on behalf of the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Technology.
Despite all the talk about world-class Ontario, I am convinced this government has no idea how to get there from here and on what its own role should be. Looking at just two economic programs, I find that while they both had the potential to make a difference, neither of them have.
First of all, the creation of the industrial restructuring commissioner “to assist in the transition to a more technologically and competitively-oriented international marketplace” came out of the legislative committee studying plant closures and layoffs. But by the time this government actually got around to appointing its commissioner, it had its comfortable majority and so neglected to give the commissioner power to actually do anything.
One of the first industries supposed to have been looked at was the food processing industry, but one and a half years later, we have not heard a peep from them. The union that represents the food processing workers has yet to be contacted by the commissioner’s office. What could have been a viable industry in this province was left to deteriorate, first by the Tory government and now by the Liberals.
The Premier’s high-technology fund is another promising idea that was never fully thought through. Announced with such haste, the fund could not even spend its money in its first two years, a $200-million funding allocation in the first two years, because it had no idea what to spend it on or how to spend it. The only reason it is now spending its full funding allocation is because it is giving away most of it through tax breaks to corporations, rather than through a comprehensive plan on how the money should be spent.
Yet, with all this talk about high technology, we have just seen two really world-class Ontario high-tech firms, Connaught Laboratories and Lumonics pass into foreign hands. Surely, if this government was serious about an Ontario-based, Canadian-owned industry, it could have done something about these two.
The budget talks about increased investment in equipment and machinery, but the truth of the matter is this equipment and machinery consists largely of foreign imports. Our imports of equipment and machinery in Canada were up $6.9 billion last year to over $40 billion.
I know I have asked this question many times before, but I do not know how this is allowed to happen. Why is it that we as a country, the third largest producer of minerals in the entire world, are the number one importer of mining machinery? It makes no sense whatsoever.
If Ontario wants to be competitive in the global markets of the next century, it had better stop depending on its natural resources and on foreign capital, and develop a true economic plan.
This afternoon, I have tried to say to members of this assembly that we do not have a tax system that is appropriate and that is fair to a lot of its citizens. I have tried to say the government has no vision. It does not know where it is going. Everything is done on an ad hoc basis. Huge amounts of new revenues flow in, without any overall plan as to where it is trying to take us as a society or as an economy. For those reasons, I am compelled to move an amendment to the motion by the Treasurer yesterday afternoon.
The Acting Speaker: Mr Laughren moves, seconded by Mr Wildman, that the resolution moved by the Treasurer on Wednesday, 17 May “that this House approves in general the budgetary policy of the government” be amended by deleting the words following “that” and adding thereto the following:
“This House, recognizing that the 1989 budget fails the fundamental test of tax fairness, condemns the government for:
“Refusing to implement a minimum corporate income tax on profits, and instead taxing payrolls and jobs,
“Failing to distribute taxes fairly with an inheritance tax or other wealth tax for the richest of our citizens,
“Sheltering the banks and financial institutions from any new capital taxes,
“Introducing virtually no relief for low-income families, and continuing the absurdity of taxing families that earn $10,000 below the poverty line,
“Broadening and increasing consumption taxes that hit low- and middle-income people the hardest,
“Ignoring the north when it comes to investment and jobs, and instead using it as a source of tax revenue,
“Continuing to starve municipalities and school boards of much-needed funding, while simply piggybacking on the pain of the unfair tax increases of the Wilson budget,
“Failing to address adequately the needs of those on social assistance and those who dine at food banks,
“Therefore, this House declares its lack of confidence in this government.”
On motion by Mr J. M. Johnson, the debate was adjourned.
BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE
Hon Mr Phillips: Pursuant to standing order 13, I would like to indicate the business of the House for the coming week.
As members are aware, Monday, 22 May is Victoria Day, so the House will not be sitting.
On Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, we will continue with the debate on the budget motion and on Thursday morning we will consider private members’ business.
The House adjourned at 1637.