The House met at 1330.
Miss Martel: On 10 April 1989, the Sudbury Board of Education released an information package highlighting concerns regarding the provincial funding of education. This action was prompted following the Ministry of Education announcements concerning the 1989 general legislative grant regulations. The increase in mill rates to be used by this and other boards to determine the local share of expenditures effectively transferred 10 per cent of the elementary panel costs and 20 per cent of the secondary panel costs to local taxpayers. The Sudbury board announced it had lost about $3.7 million in grant moneys as a consequence.
While the decline in provincial funding means a school tax increase locally, the board is now having to cut programs as well. On 3 May, the board moved to terminate the family studies and design and technology programs in all elementary public schools. Both programs have been in existence for 35 years. This cost-cutting measure has dismayed the board, the teachers and the parents involved, However, the reality is that the board of education cannot continue to operate as it has in the past in the face of losses in provincial funding.
In the throne speech the government said it was determined to improve the quality of education for our children. We in Sudbury, facing school tax increases and termination of programs, find that hard to believe.
Mr Jackson: I hold in my hands today a Liberal government news release issued three years ago by the then Minister of Health; it was prior to the last provincial election. In it, we read the promises made by the then minister, the member for Bruce (Mr Elston), in which he announced an expansion of approximately 4,400 hospital beds. These beds were to have been financed by an $850-million capital allocation to Ontario’s hospitals -- an allocation billed then as the largest in the history of Ontario.
Yesterday, however, the Premier’s Council on Health Strategy released its report on health care in which it recommends that the government review whether or not it should go ahead with those beds as promised because “the implementation of the plan for hospitals announced in 1986 would have very negative long-term effects on the system.”
We know from past experience that when this government says “review,” it really means “cancel.” Three years ago, it was announced that 3,000 of the 4,400 beds were for chronic care patients. This included 90 chronic care beds for Joseph Brant Memorial Hospital in Burlington. It is now abundantly clear that the government intended all along to break this important election promise.
Is this the new health care strategy of the Premier (Mr Peterson) for Ontario patients in need of chronic care? The situation is so bad in the region of Halton that the only access to a chronic care bed is when someone dies.
FOLK ARTS FESTIVAL
Mr Dietsch: I would like to take this opportunity to inform this House of a very special event that is presently taking place in my riding of St Catharines-Brock and area: that is, the 21st annual Folk Arts Festival. Every year, the Folk Arts Council of St Catharines, an association of ethnocultural groups, runs this very popular festival, which highlights the 35 nationalities that are represented in the city of St Catharines.
This year, the festival began on 19 May and will conclude on 4 June. Among a number of the major events that have taken place and will take place are the Queens’ Ball, where 22 queens from different nationalities are crowned; various open houses which feature the foods, arts and entertainment of each nationality; a citizenship court and, last but not least, the grand parade with its international food booths.
The president of the Folk Arts Council, Sylvia Matthews, and her many committed volunteers have worked especially hard again this year to ensure that the festival is a tremendous success. It is important to note, however, that Sylvia and the many others operate year-round offering services to new Canadians and recognizing and promoting the uniqueness of each individual nationality.
I hope my colleagues will join with me in congratulating each and every one involved in this festival, as well as taking the opportunity to come down to St Catharines and enjoy hospitality at its best.
Mr R. F. Johnston: It is important that the people of Ontario know that their government was a major participant in the ARMX exhibition of armaments in Ottawa that has taken place in the last few days. This government not only spent $20,000 to help exhibitors participate; it also spent $60,000 on a directory of arms producers in Ontario and is planning to renew that.
The Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology (Mr Kwinter) has an advisory group which happens to include a chief executive officer from a major producer of nuclear weapons component parts in this province, in spite of a resolution to which his government agreed: to make Ontario a nuclear-weapons-free zone. The minister is proud that this is the third-largest industry in Ontario; is happy that we have 80 per cent export of its goods; feels in fact that there is an infinite amount of export potential there that we should be involved with.
This government takes a Pontius Pilate approach to its responsibility and to whether or not we should be involved in the assistance of the export of arms, and says it is up to the federal government.
It is time that the people of Ontario and the government understood that there are major questions here as to whether or not we think we should be exporting arms anywhere in the world; whether we really think there is any kind of control that we can have over those arms once they are exported, and whether, in fact, taxpayers’ dollars should be spent on assisting armaments producers who are bringing death and destruction in repressive regimes all over this world.
Mr McLean: The recent budget proves that this government is no friend of the Ontario tourist industry. Ontario’s third-largest industry and major employer will see its competitive position eroded as the consequences of this budget, a budget which makes Ontario a more expensive tourist destination and which will reduce discretionary income available for travel and vacations.
The payroll tax will have a particularly negative effect on this labour-intensive sector. Preliminary estimates indicate that the tax will increase industry costs by 75 per cent relative to what employers currently pay in Ontario health insurance plan benefits.
The commercial concentration levy is simply a thinly disguised room tax imposed on the industry in the greater Toronto area, a room tax which will limit the ability of the industry to attract convention business to the region. The two-cents-a-litre hike in the gasoline tax is another direct blow to the industry.
The budget gives a whole new meaning to the “Ontario -- Incredible!” campaign. The government’s tax policies with regard to the tourist industry are indeed incredible. It could not have done a worse job if it tried. The industry will be hard hit by and was bitterly disappointed with the budget. It has every right to be disappointed, because this government has failed to recognize the contribution which the industry makes to Ontario’s economy.
Mr Miller: On 13 May 1989, the dedication and grand opening of Selkirk’s Cottonwood Mansion took place in my riding. Actually, it was in the riding of the Treasurer (Mr R. F. Nixon), Brant-Haldimand, but it is on the town line.
The opening was attended by more than 1,000 people who toured the house and grounds on opening day. An additional 120 guests visited the mansion this past long weekend. This once-grand, 16-room home was built in 1865 by William Holmes on land inherited by his wife, Mary Hoover. Mary Hoover was the granddaughter of Jacob Huber/Hoover, one of the founding settlers in the Selkirk area in the 1790s. Cottonwood Mansion has been designated a heritage house and is undergoing major restoration by the Cottonwood Mansion Society, which has been approved as a registered charity.
Larry Hamilton, a Hoover descendant, is the resident host and owner of Cottonwood Mansion. Once restored, Cottonwood Mansion will be a living museum serving as a repository for regional historical artefacts. In addition, the house and grounds will be available to the community for meetings, weddings and other social events.
I would encourage all members of the Legislature to visit this historic site near Selkirk and to join me in voicing our appreciation to the community for its enthusiastic support of this project.
ASSISTANCE TO FARMERS
Mr Wildman: The member for Brant-Haldimand (Mr R. F. Nixon) stated in his budget that “the farm property tax rebate program will be targeted to assist those engaged in full-time farming activities.” This raises many questions. These questions must be clarified through consultation with the farm community only, not through unilateral action by the government.
Right now, applications for interim payments for 1989 would normally have been in the hands of farmers. They are not yet. Does this mean that the interim payment has been eliminated without notice? Has the government arrived at a definition of a full-time farmer?
The Ontario government should not introduce arbitrary changes in the farm tax program. The rebate program has provided significant tax relief to farmers. Farmers have a right to know what needs fixing. There must be consultation with farm organizations.
STATEMENTS BY THE MINISTRY
HOSPITAL FOR SICK CHILDREN
Hon Mrs Caplan: I am pleased to inform the House that my ministry is committing additional funding for the redevelopment of the Hospital for Sick Children.
As members know, Sick Children’s is one of the most valued health care facilities in the province. Indeed, Sick Kids is recognized around the world for the expertise and innovation it brings to the care of children and adolescents.
Expansion of the hospital is underway to create much needed space. in addition to the Elizabeth McMaster Building, which houses research and administration, a new patient care centre is being built. The nine-storey patient tower, which will face Elizabeth Street between Elm and Gerrard streets, will include enhanced operating and emergency facilities, a bone marrow transplant unit and a burn unit. Construction will begin this summer, with completion scheduled for 1992.
To help finance the project, the Hospital for Sick Children Foundation agreed to provide $55 million, with the remainder of the hospital’s share to be raised by the community. This was an ambitious undertaking. It meant launching a concerted effort by the community, by the hospital and the hundreds of volunteers working with hospital staff, corporations and private foundations to raise the needed funds.
The level of support for this project was impressive. Nearly $50 million has been raised in what has become Canada’s largest-ever hospital fund-raiser.
It therefore gives me great pleasure to announce that my ministry is increasing its share of funding for this capital project by $32.4 million, to a total of $104.9 million. In addition to the increased capital grant, the hospital will receive an increase in annual operating funds, of $9.2 million, beginning in 1991. This will be used to support enhanced services in paediatric intensive care, bone marrow transplants, trauma, the burn unit and plant maintenance and operations.
With the addition of the new patient care centre, the Hospital for Sick Children will continue to provide invaluable service to our community. I am sure members will join me in offering congratulations to all of those who contributed to this important project.
Hon Mr Sweeney: My announcement today has to deal with the foster care initiatives. When children cannot be cared for in their own homes, very often the best option is to place them in a home-like setting; that is, a foster home. The care given in Ontario foster homes is a critical resource for more than 5,000 children across this province.
Over the past few months, my ministry, through the Ontario Association of Children’s Aid Societies, has been consulting with foster parents and agencies throughout the province. Our discussions have confirmed that Ontario’s foster care system is facing serious difficulties. The number of foster homes is declining and efforts to recruit new foster parents are falling short of their targets. Foster parents have told us that they need an increase in rates, more support and opportunities for training and that they would like a stronger voice in planning for their foster children.
This afternoon, I am announcing a new foster care initiative developed by my ministry and the Ontario Association of Children’s Aid Societies. My ministry has allocated an additional $6.7 million this year to strengthen foster care services. Municipal contributions of approximately $1.4 million will commence on 1 January 1990, resulting in a total of more than $8 million dedicated to assisting foster parents.
This funding process will allow time for municipalities to build the increase into their next fiscal budget. In all children’s aid societies across the province, including the three native child welfare agencies, the minimum rate paid to any foster parent will be increased to $14 per day per child, an amount that addresses the cost of room and board. This will benefit foster parents in 44 of 54 societies across Ontario for whom the minimum rate is now as low as $7.45 per day. The cost of ensuring this increase to the new $14 minimum is approximately $2.5 million.
Expenses, such as clothing and spending allowances, which are reimbursed by children’s aid societies, and subsidies provided to meet the special needs of some children are in addition to this minimum rate.
After providing funds to ensure the minimum rate, the regions will then allocate additional money to increase rates further and to improve support for foster parents. These allocations will address local needs and issues and will be based on the recommendations of regional committees, which will include senior staff of my ministry and of the children’s aid societies’ staffs.
In light of the projections made by my ministry and the Ontario Association of Children’s Aid Societies, it is anticipated that $2.5 million will be allocated regionally to enhance rates beyond the new $14 minimum. All rate enhancements will be retroactive to 1 April 1989.
Our consultations have determined that, important as it is to increase the rates provided to foster parents, it is equally important to strengthen the support provided to foster parents. Foster parents are being asked to take into their homes youngsters with multiple problems. Foster parents often care for children who have suffered physical or sexual abuse. Helping such youngsters requires special training, regular relief and the availability of foster care workers when difficulties do arise. As part of this initiative, $2.5 million will be used to improve these supports for foster parents.
Finally, OACAS, in partnership with my ministry, will provide training programs for foster parents and foster care workers. We will also allocate funds to projects which demonstrate innovative methods of increasing foster care placements in a child’s home community or improving the quality of foster care services. A joint ministry/OACAS committee will review these proposals. Funding of more than $500,000 has been earmarked for these training programs and demonstration projects.
It is our hope that the increased rates, improved supports, better training and creative approaches to foster care will attract new foster parents as well as help retain those already caring for our children.
At the same time as this initiative is going forward, my ministry is working with OACAS and foster parents on the residential family resources project to develop a long-range plan for the improvement of foster care services.
This project is identifying ways in which foster parents might be involved in providing a spectrum of services from prevention to long-term care. I am confident that by bringing together the collective resources of my ministry, children’s aid societies and foster parents, we will build a stronger family care system seeking to provide the best possible care to children.
The Speaker: Responses? The member for Riverdale.
Mr Reville: Of course I want to respond to the statement made today by the Minister of Health (Mrs Caplan), but I wonder if the Speaker would forgive me if I delayed that response so that I could acknowledge the heroism of the minister on the weekend in Huntsville. Now, back on the attack.
Mr B. Rae: Now if you could only do in a hospital what you did on the weekend.
Mr Reville: That is right, saving the people of Ontario two at a time.
HOSPITAL FOR SICK CHILDREN
Mr Reville: This is the fifth announcement in as many weeks by the Minister of Health (Mrs Caplan), and should this session go on for a long time, as l suspect it might, there is no telling what the health care system might look like at the end of the session.
Michael Bennett of the Toronto Sun is now calling the minister the “windup” minister. I am not sure why he would say such a thing, but yesterday the minister was wound up and said all the capital projects would be on hold and today she has said, “But there is this one down the street, at the Hospital for Sick Children, that is going to go ahead.” That is probably fairly confusing to the people of Ontario, but perhaps they are getting used to being confused by this government.
Clearly there are congratulations in order. Dr Reva Gerstein went out and raised, I think, $55 million, and when Dr Gerstein sets her mind to a task, the task is done and double quick too. The building is obviously going to be splendid. Eb Zeidler does good buildings, and we will see, obviously, one of the cynosures to all eyes of children’s hospitals built here.
There are a lot of other problems in the health care system that the minister is not winding up and announcing, and I look forward to the weeks and months ahead to see if she can give us some announcements that will give us a little more hope.
Mr R. F. Johnston: I would like to respond to the statement on foster care. It is important to put this in a historical perspective. We have known for many years now that there is a problem in foster care. The problem often comes down to people wanting more money to provide the care, but the real issue is why and how we deal with foster parents as replacements for group professional care.
The changing role of foster parents is still not dealt with adequately in this announcement today. Although they are dealing with such issues as training, the fundamental questions have still not been addressed in terms of the future role of foster parenting.
The other thing that really needs to be done is to put this in a context of government policy. Latterly, we received an announcement about Transitions and government action to assist the poor, but we have to put this in contrast to what we have here today.
What is being said here today is that once a child becomes a ward of the state, the people who are looking after that child will receive a minimum of $420 a month to look after that child. The average, in point of fact, in a place like Metropolitan Toronto, is closer to $600 a month. This can go to the foster parent to look after that child, who might have been taken from a family benefits mother -- for all sorts of reasons, the family broke down -- who is given less than $200 a month to raise that same child.
Even with the new initiatives announced by the government that will be coming in much later on around assistance of children who are poor, that family is still going to receive much less than a person who is dealing with that child as he becomes a ward of the state will get to look after the same child.
There is something just fundamentally wrong with that, if we do not recognize the incredible role that poverty plays in terms of children ending up as wards of the state and if we do not understand that if we gave the same kind of money to those family benefits mothers and mothers on welfare to raise their children, we might not have to pay for those children who now get the basic rate under foster parenting to even be considered to be wards of the state at all.
People who need the care are all those exceptional children who need all the other kinds of assistance that the minister is talking about when he talks about training these people more. Kids who, just because they happen to be poor and their families cannot look after them, are still a large number of the foster kids in this province could be better looked after by their own natural parents, if we were just as generous with them as we are with the parents who look after them after the pieces of the family have fallen apart.
Mrs Cunningham: I would like to respond to the foster care initiative. I think this gives us an opportunity to again compliment the government on recognizing a wide range of services that are very much needed: the improved rates, the support that we have been asking for -- I think we are a very effective opposition -- and the training we have asked for, for such a very long period of time, for families in their homes. Families today raising their own children need many supports in the community and it is only fitting that we recognize the real needs of foster families.
We recognize that the government has built into its plan an opportunity for the foster parents and the agencies to work with the ministry around consultation and planning for the future. It gives us an opportunity today -- and I am sure the minister would agree -- to say hats off to foster parents across this province, while recognizing that $400 a month at a minimum, and hopefully a whole lot more when we take a look at the real implications of this announcement today, is not a lot of money for the work they do. Really, it is the heart that is put into these children and the family that one can never put a price on. We talked about this last month.
I would also like to take the opportunity to thank the children’s aid societies across this province who have made it their priority to recruit foster parents, not always successfully, but certainly, in London, very successfully. I think they went within their own resources to do that. I am sure the members would agree that we should be very proud of their efforts and very proud of the response of foster families across this province.
If anyone is bothering to watch us today, there is a real need for even more. I think this support service in our community is one, if possible, that we should be tapping into to the very greatest of our abilities, because there is no place like home, especially a foster home for disabled children and disabled adults. We should be looking at this resource.
I look at this as just a beginning. I look at the rates as still being extremely minimal, but certainly a step in the right direction. I hope that the minister has built in, as in the previous announcements, an opportunity and a vehicle for evaluation of this new program.
HOSPITAL FOR SICK CHILDREN
Mr Harris: I want to comment briefly on the statement by the Minister of Health (Mrs Caplan). First of all, to add our voice to the minister’s when she said, at the end of her statement, “I am sure you will join me in offering congratulations to all those who contributed to this important project.” Indeed, on behalf of my party, we would like to add our congratulations. The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto is a hospital that extends far beyond Toronto or Metropolitan Toronto. All of us in Ontario are very proud of the facility and, as members will know, it has Canadian, North American and indeed world significance as a leader in the health care field.
However, I do want to say that I am surprised that the Minister of Health, who stood in her place yesterday and indicated a freeze on $850 million of capital funding that had been announced in 1986, had been blown about in campaign after campaign and talked about in community after community. Yesterday she rose and told us it was all on hold. Now she is starting to carry on with individual announcements, and of course it does confuse those who have projects that are on hold; communities like Nipissing, which has been waiting since 1984 for the government to follow through on commitments that were made.
I would also offer congratulations to the minister, though, for obviously not making this funding conditional on capitation or on doing things her way or one does not get the money. This is of course what she has told others in this province, including people in Nipissing, “Unless you play ball my way and unless everybody does things the way we want to do it, you can’t have a new hospital.”
I would also indicate to the minister that there is nothing in the announcement, and we have raised this on numerous occasions, on the waiting list for children’s cardiac surgery. I would hope, although the minister is not paying attention to me now, that this serious and chronic problem is addressed through this project as well as the critical shortage of nurses, regardless of capital facilities and program dollars, that is affecting program delivery in Sick Kids and other hospitals.
SOLICITOR GENERAL’S VISIT TO POLICE STATION
Mr Reville: My questions are for the Solicitor General. This is the sixth day of our confusion about the actions of the minister in visiting a police station and then calling later. The minister has said that she does not feel that she made an error in judgement; she said to the press, “In retrospect, I don’t think I would do anything differently.”
That seems to indicate on more mature reflection that the minister still does not see the error in judgement. I guess we need to know from the minister, should the phone ring this Sunday morning, next Sunday morning or some Sunday morning in the future, would she in fact respond the way she did in April?
Hon Mrs Smith: The member for Riverdale asks a hypothetical question. As I have told members repeatedly on the circumstances of one incident, I got a call from someone who expressed great concern for somebody’s safety. I did nothing improper in inquiring into and reassuring her on that matter. The same situation will never be replicated. It is a matter of judgement. If I said I would never, ever do anything, would the member opposite think I am a better person for such a statement?
Mr Reville: I do not think the question is whether or not the minister is a good person. I have no doubt about that. What I am worried about is that she is a good minister. Can she show the right kind of judgement that we need in the chief law enforcement officer of this province?
The minister says she cannot answer a hypothetical question, but I need to remind her of some things she said about her office in the past. On 11 January 1989, she said, “It would be most improper for me to rush the police.” What was she doing on 9 April? On 3 January she said, “It would be most improper for me, as Solicitor General, to try to get particular information that is in a police investigation.” What was she doing on 9 April? On 13 December 1988, she said of the Clare-Lewis task force that it was her “plan to remove any vestige of discrimination or perception thereof.” What was she doing on 9 April?
Hon Mrs Smith: I was doing none of the things referred to in those incidents and I would stand by all those statements at the time.
Mr Reville: No one wants to get this person qua person, that is for sure, but the minister continues to misunderstand the problem here. I have to ask again, does the minister not realize that by saying she is not here in her official capacity in fact nothing changes, that tomorrow morning she is the Solicitor General as long as she occupies that position?
Hon Mrs Smith: I repeat that on that occasion I made absolutely no inquiry into the case, knew nothing about it and found out about it only later from the media. I simply inquired into the safety of the young man and left.
Mr B. Rae: My question is for the Premier. The last time he was in the House, on Thursday, in an answer to questions from my colleague the member for Riverdale (Mr Reville), the Premier said that he asked for a complete investigation of the situation. He went on to say that, “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.”
I wonder if the Premier can tell us the precise nature of the investigation which he asked for, the precise nature of the investigation which took place and why he remains unprepared to make that report public.
Hon Mr Peterson: I asked for a police report of the matter, of all the circumstances surrounding the Solicitor General’s attendance at that police detachment on the particular evening we are talking about, that is, the event and all the details attendant thereto.
It is a police report. As the member knows, it is not the tradition to make police reports public. There was one exception to that -- my honourable friend will be aware of that -- but in this particular case there are circumstances in there that relate to the charges that have been laid in this case. This matter is before the courts, and the advice I have is it is not appropriate to make that public.
Mr B. Rae: Since the Premier has referred to a particular police report, I can advise him that my colleague the member for Welland-Thorold (Mr Kormos), who will also have some questions this afternoon, went down to the Ontario Provincial Police this morning and had a lengthy interview with Detective-Inspector Howard Williams, who we understand was the individual who conducted the investigation.
Mr Williams has reported to my colleague the member for Welland-Thorold that, first of all, at no time did he personally interview the Solicitor General. I wonder if the Premier is aware of that.
Hon Mr Peterson: I do not know who he interviewed or who he did not interview. I do not tell the police how to conduct their inquiries.
Mr B. Rae: The inspector also made it very clear that his sole responsibility was to inquire into the possibility of criminal wrongdoing by any of the officers involved or by the Solicitor General herself. His report had nothing whatever to do with the appropriateness or the reasonableness of the minister’s judgement or discretion. That, I would say, is the exclusive responsibility of the Premier of this province.
I wonder why the Premier has such difficulty in making it clear precisely what standard he requires of his ministers, as previous premiers in this province did when he was sitting in this place and asked them to do it and when Mr Trudeau did so in the 1970s when there were phone calls from politicians to judges. Why does the Premier have such difficulty in establishing for himself the reasonableness of the minister’s conduct --
The Speaker: Premier.
Mr B. Rae: -- when he knows full well that the police report had absolutely nothing to do with the question of reasonableness by the minister?
The Speaker: Order. The question has been asked.
Hon Mr Peterson: The honourable member is quite right. I did not ask a police officer to make a judgement that only I can make in these circumstances. I asked the police to inquire as to the facts. I have the facts in front of me. As my honourable friend quite rightly said, I had to make a judgement with respect to the appropriateness. I discussed in the House the difficulty I had in making the judgement I did. I can understand others having a different opinion in the same circumstances, but I take full and complete responsibility for the judgement I have made, and the judgement I have made is that this does not warrant dismissal from the post.
Mr Brandt: My question as well is to the Premier on the same subject. I wonder if the Premier could perhaps share information with this House in regard to how the incident in question was originally brought to his attention.
Hon Mr Peterson: One of my staff members told me shortly thereafter.
Mr Brandt: I have some difficulty, as does the Leader of the Opposition (Mr B. Rae), with respect to the whole question of how the so-called investigation by the OPP was carried out.
I want to say that in the case of a former Solicitor General, when there was a matter of the boating incident which the Premier will very clearly recall, at that particular time it was considered inappropriate by the Attorney General (Mr Scott) to have the OPP carry out the investigation because of the very unique and very specific responsibilities the Solicitor General had with respect to that police department. The Attorney General, who took on that investigation, decided to call in the Metro Toronto Police to investigate the matter, which involved the member for Kingston and The Islands (Mr Keyes).
I wonder why there is a double standard here. In one particular case it was inappropriate for the OPP to investigate their boss, and in this particular instance the Premier is indicating that a report completely satisfied him, a report drafted by the same OPP. Could he --
The Speaker: Thank you. The question has been asked.
Hon Mr Peterson: My honourable friend would agree that they are different circumstances from this point of view. In the first case my friend alludes to, there was a question of a charge being laid against a minister of the crown. In fact, charges were laid in that case. In this case, there was never any suggestion of any wrongdoing in a criminal sense by the Solicitor General. I wanted to determine the facts, because as my honourable friend knows, it was a political judgement that had to be made.. There was never any question here about charging the Solicitor General.
Mr Brandt: My colleague the member for Leeds-Grenville (Mr Runciman) has on numerous occasions indicated the appropriateness of an investigation being carried out by the boss of the very department for which that minister is responsible.
Also, we have had some difficulty on this side of the House understanding why this report, which the Premier has received for his eyes only, is not available to other members of the House. The Premier has answered this by very casually indicating that it is a police report. I wonder if he might respond to the House by indicating who besides himself has seen the particular report in question. Has he in fact received an outside legal opinion as to the appropriateness of the report, and was the final decision, as I understand it to be, made by him personally?
Hon Mr Peterson: The crown law officers looked at it from the point of view of criminality.
I am very much aware of the view of the member for Leeds-Grenville. I have had the benefit of that on many occasions and I take it seriously, as I always take his advice on these matters.
I say to my honourable friend, ultimately, as the first minister, I have to make these judgements, be accountable for them and take responsibility for them.
Mr Brandt: I want to remind the Premier of a disagreement in position with regard to how he views the matter now that he has seen this report, and how the Solicitor General sees the matter. The Premier has been quoted as saying, “I have frankly agonized over this question. It is not an easy one for me. Maybe in retrospect, she’d do something else,” meaning the Solicitor General. Then, as has already been pointed out, the Solicitor General is quoted as saying, “In retrospect, I don’t think I’d do anything differently.” On the one hand, the Premier is saying the Solicitor General should have done something differently, and on the other hand, the Solicitor General is saying she acted quite appropriately.
I wonder if the Premier, who was concerned enough to have this matter reviewed by the OPP, recognizing that he agonized over the decision, feels that it is appropriate now for the Solicitor General to indicate that she has not done anything inappropriate by visiting that particular OPP station on that evening.
Hon Mr Peterson: I think reasonable people can certainly understand the circumstances at hand here. I understand my honourable friend having a difference of opinion. Perhaps in a similar situation he would have done something differently. Had he been the Solicitor General and been phoned in similar circumstances, he may have reacted the same way, he may not have. We can always sit here with the benefit of hindsight and say “What if?” this or that, and I understand that.
Obviously, nobody likes to create an unnecessary problem. It is obvious that the member would like to make this into as big an incident as he possibly can, and I understand that as well. I understand the democratic process. But I say to my honourable friend that I think reasonable people could have different points of view on this. No decision I make is completely 100 per cent one way or the other. I did agonize on this, I said, and I have come to the conclusion, the bottom line, that the minister does not warrant dismissal over this incident.
Mr Brandt: The Premier can perhaps attempt to trivialize this incident to the extent that he may want to, but I would remind him that in the case of the former Solicitor General, the member for Kingston and The Islands, and in the case of the member for London South (Mrs Smith), the current Solicitor General, both investigations were criminal investigations. That has been very clearly pointed out to the Premier.
I would suggest that the visit by the Solicitor General would be absolutely no different, if I may draw an analogy for the Premier, than the chief of police of the Metropolitan Toronto force walking into the station late at night in his civilian clothes and inquiring of a constable why they had arrested the son of a friend of his. It is exactly the same kind of situation, and the Premier surely would agree that is inappropriate. Is anything less than appropriate now than to ask for the Solicitor General’s resignation?
Hon Mrs Smith: On a point of privilege, Mr Speaker, I have repeatedly said that I did not inquire why or anything about their actions.
The Speaker: Order.
Hon Mr Peterson: To assist my honourable friend, I do not think anybody is trivializing this at all. I think my friend would like to oversimplify this to some extent, and I think the facts are all there. He can draw his own conclusion on it. I respect his right to draw his own conclusion, but the analogy he used I think is quite inappropriate, because it does not conform to the facts and the circumstances.
Mr Brandt: The analogy is totally appropriate, and I might add that the Solicitor General herself has already admitted that she inquired as to the health of the individual in question. Her very presence is an intimidation of the police in that particular instance.
I want to read to the Premier a letter from the former minister of that same department. George Kerr, who resigned in 1979 after calling an assistant crown attorney on behalf of a constituent:
“I am wholly conscious of the fact that there can be no suggestion of impropriety on my part that could in any way reflect upon the administration of justice and law enforcement. Under the circumstances, therefore I feel I have no alternative at this time but to submit my resignation.”
That is the standard we have been accustomed to in this House. I want the Premier to think over very carefully his actions, because by condoning the actions of the Solicitor General he is agreeing to a new standard for ministers in his government, a standard I think is unacceptable to the majority of Ontarians. Will he not protect the integrity of the justice system in Ontario, as has been done in the past, and ask --
The Speaker: Thank you.
Hon Mr Peterson: My honourable friend has drawn a number of parallels in his questions, and I say as respectfully as I can that I do not think any of them are appropriate in the circumstances. That is the judgement I ultimately have to make. He obviously will make another judgement in a partisan way with respect to his responsibilities, and I understand that. But I have to deal with the facts as I see them and obviously make a judgement I can feel comfortable about and support. So I say to my honourable friend that although I wish this whole incident did not happen, I do not think it is appropriate to justify dismissal in the circumstances. That is the decision I have had to make.
Mr Kormos: I have a question for the Premier. Much justification has been made of the Solicitor General’s conduct by virtue of explaining that there was an allegation that the parents were out of town and that a young person had been beaten by the police. Those are the words of the Premier in terms of explaining or helping to explain the Solicitor General’s conduct. But it remains that the OPP investigation reveals that the father arrived at the detachment at 1:20 am, was permitted an opportunity to speak with his son, left the detachment, and the Solicitor General, upon arriving, met the father outside the police detachment in the parking lot.
Surely at that point she is aware that the parents are not out of town. She is aware indeed, because the father had just seen his son, that he was not being abused. How can she then justify carrying on at that point, no longer under any misapprehension, and going into that police station and spending some five to 10 minutes there concerning herself with this matter?
Hon Mr Peterson: The member is quite right, and as I understand the facts, when she was satisfied that she had been misled, she withdrew.
Mr Kormos: Not only did she not withdraw, she carried on into the police station, spent some five to 10 minutes there before she left at 1:50 am and then, notwithstanding that, the Solicitor General called the police station again, that time at 3:51 am, indicating that there were further allegations of abuse.
Mind you, once again, she was not acting in an official position. That is tantamount to prefacing a comment by saying “Nothing personal.” The fact is she is the Solicitor General one way or another. How can that be justified under the circumstances? There is no withdrawal; there is no misapprehension at that point. How can it be justified?
Hon Mr Peterson: As far as I know, there was no question there.
The Speaker: Order. New question.
Mr Runciman: My question is to the Premier as well. The Premier has said that the Solicitor General’s misconduct was bad enough that he agonized over asking for her resignation, yet at the same time be failed to insist that a full report of the incident be made public as soon as possible, although that was exactly what he did in the case of the member for Kingston and The Islands.
The Premier himself thereby acquiesced in a coverup. Is the Premier now prepared to correct his own error of judgement and release a full report of this incident with appropriate deletions of the names of people who are now before the courts?
Hon Mr Peterson: It is a serious matter, but I do object to the excessive and outrageous language the honourable member employs in this circumstance. Let me pass over that for a moment and say that it is a police report. I have explained this, I think, to his interim leader when he asked me the same question. It is a police report that deals with a particular set of circumstances in which charges have been laid, not against the Solicitor General but against another person. The advice I have in the matter is that it would be prejudicial with respect to a criminal proceeding that is being undertaken.
Mr Runciman : In the 4 December 1986 issue of Hansard, the Premier is quoted as saying in respect to the Ken Keyes incident, “The Attorney General decided to make that police report public, even though that is not the custom, because of the particularly sensitive nature of this matter and given the fact that it was the Solicitor General who was involved.”
We will hark back to yesterday, and again from Instant Hansard, the Solicitor General responding to my question: “The report was ordered by the Premier to be doubly certain for political reasons.” Is the Solicitor General perhaps inadvertently explaining the real reason why the Premier is reluctant, even adamant, to release this document to the House and to the public -- simply because of political reasons, as the Solicitor General suggests?
Hon Mr Peterson: I think there is a difference between that and the Keyes case. That was one exception, to the best of my memory, of when a police report was made public, but there is quite a distinct difference here. In that case, the Solicitor General was the accused and the accused agreed to have the report released, In this case, the Solicitor General is not the accused, someone else is the accused, so the matter is before the courts.
I think my honourable friend, on taking legal advice from one of his colleagues in front of him, would agree that is the appropriate response in the circumstance. I am sure the member for Cochrane South (Mr Pope), as a former Attorney General, would agree with that approach.
Mrs Stoner: My question is to the Minister of the Environment and is about the provincial directions in waste management, specifically in waste reduction. The minister knows that landfill is a major issue in my riding and that my community is leading the way in recycling in Ontario. My constituents would like to see an expansion of the existing recycling programs. How is the minister responding?
Hon Mr Bradley: I think the member has certainly identified what has to be the wave of the future in terms of waste management when she talks about the reduction of the amount of material that would normally go into a landfill or an incinerator. It is our idea and plan, to be supplemented by a big investment of government’s money in this area as well as from the private sector, to expand rather considerably the blue box program that we have in the province now to include a number of other materials which, up to the recent past, have not been able to be recycled and to extend that right across Ontario.
We also -- and we have some of this happening at the present time -- are expanding our activities in Ontario, through the municipalities, into apartment dwellings, which in the past was not considered to be appropriate by some people. I always thought they would be an appropriate place to expand it. We expect the private sector to develop 4R programs which, for instance, would affect -- and again that would be with provincial help -- office towers and would reduce the tons of fine paper that have been recycled over the years. In addition to that, construction companies will be recycling their materials, and food wholesalers and retailers. There are a number of issues. I could go on, but in the sense of time I should limit my remarks.
Mrs Stoner: Composting has the potential of reducing our waste stream significantly, and communities such as Seattle are doing so in their programs. What are we doing to encourage the composting of both kitchen and garden wastes?
Hon Mr Bradley: There is a considerable program being initiated in Ontario. Once again, there are a number of other jurisdictions looking at what we are doing in this direction. The member for Durham West has long been an advocate of composting and of other measures of reducing the material that would normally go into landfill sites. In fact, the province will be contributing an estimated $50 million for the expansion of this program.
It would work in two different ways. In some communities there would be a distribution of individual composters which would allow people, on a personal basis, to compost those items appropriate for that within their own household or within their own business. Second, other communities have selected the opportunity to use composters on a municipal-wide basis to ensure that material could be collected and wet and dry materials separated and composted. We have already had examples of leaves that used to be put in landfills being composted.
We see this as a major thrust forward. We think it will have a remarkable effect on the reduction of materials normally going to landfills, and I know that communities across this province will be supporting it very strongly.
SOLICITOR GENERAL’S VISIT TO POLICE STATION
Mr B. Rae: I have a question of the Premier. The Premier has said it is his information or understanding that the Solicitor General (Mrs Smith) withdrew as soon as she realized that she had been misled. I wonder how the Premier can possibly continue to say that when the facts are that the Solicitor General spoke to Mr Whalen’s father in the parking lot and was approached by Constable Foley, who was surprised to see the Solicitor General.
He approached her and she indicated to the officers that she was there in response to a call from the daughter alleging abuse to herself and her brother. She then went into the detachment. She was not accompanied by the father and was told specifically by the police that the father had just been there. She continued to stay there and spoke to the police, according to their information, for some five to 10 minutes.
I wonder if the Premier can tell us how this and the subsequent phone call are compatible with his statement in this House that the Solicitor General withdrew from any involvement in the case as soon as she realized she was there under false circumstances.
Hon Mr Peterson: There is an allegation that the parents were out of town and that the brother was being physically abused by the police. So she satisfied herself that those charges were not valid and left. There was no discussion about charges being laid or anything else, to the best of my knowledge.
Mr Brandt: And then called back.
Mr B. Rae: And then she phoned back two hours later. On 7 September 1978, after it was first revealed that Mr Kerr had phoned an assistant crown attorney, the then Premier said that he was satisfied that Mr Kerr acted from no motive other than a concern for his constituent’s problems.
The Premier will recall that the first instinct of the Premier at that time was not to insist on the resignation of Mr Kerr. But he did make this statement: “Such a call should not have been made, and Mr Kerr does not dispute that fundamental fact. Propriety, in the conduct of one’s affairs at all times, must be characteristic of the actions of any member of cabinet and must be so perceived by the public. That this requirement was not displayed, in this instance, is clear.”
I want to ask the Premier, why is he incapable of making a similar statement with regard to the conduct of his Solicitor General?
Hon Mr Peterson: As the honourable member knows, I think I have discussed this in a full and fair way, with my own views on the subject as well as the facts as I know them, but my honourable friend has not been here listening to the entire matter. I think we have discussed that as clearly as we possibly can, laid the dilemma before the members of the House, and a decision has been made.
Mr Runciman: My question is to the Premier, as well, on the same issue. I wonder if the Premier would advise the House if he or any member of his staff has discussed this issue, this controversy if we will, with Don Smith.
Hon Mr Peterson: Not as far as I know.
Mr Runciman: We would certainly appreciate the Premier’s following up on that and advising us, at some point in the not-too-distant future, if indeed it has occurred.
The Solicitor General (Mrs Smith) was quoted, in the 20 May issue of the London Free Press, in respect to this matter, “In retrospect, I don’t think I’d do anything differently.” Has the Premier discussed this matter with his Solicitor General?
He indicated that he was in extreme discomfort in respect to this whole matter. I wonder if he has discussed it with her and if he has advised her in respect to her future actions. Does he concur with what she is suggesting in the London Free Press, “In retrospect, I don’t think I’d do anything differently”?
Hon Mr Peterson: I have discussed it with her at great length; there is no question about it. Obviously, it is a concern to her. It is a concern to me. We have shared our views in this House with members in as forthright a way as we possibly can.
Mr Tatham: My question is for the Minister of Energy. What is the status of negotiations between TransCanada, ConGas and Ontario Hydro?
Hon Mr Wong: Yesterday, I met with the president of Ontario Hydro. I was pleased to raise this matter with the president and can assure the honourable member that negotiations concerning the installation of a gas-fired power-generating station facility at Hearn continue to be ongoing.
Mr Tatham: Is Ontario Hydro planning to use more natural gas for future power generation?
Hon Mr Wong: I thank the honourable member for his questions. I think that even before the Power Corporation Act amendments have been passed, Ontario Hydro is showing a responsiveness and a sensitivity to what the people, industries and other users of electricity within this province want. People in this province and the industries want a reliable supply of electricity. They want low-cost electricity and they want our environment to be protected as much as possible when we are generating electricity. One advantage of natural gas, of course, is that it is less environmentally harmful than coal-burning fossil-fuel plants.
In conclusion, let me say that the natural gas option is one that Hydro is certainly considering in its plans for development of the system. It will give the electricity system in Ontario diversification and flexibility, so we hope that we will see more use of natural gas in the future.
SOLICITOR GENERAL’S VISIT TO POLICE STATION
Mr Kormos: The Premier tells us that he is going to keep secret the report prepared by the Ontario Provincial Police. It remains that this report does not concern itself with the charges laid against the young people in Lucan, but the report prepared out of Toronto concerns itself with the attendance of the Solicitor General at the police station and the subsequent contact by the Solicitor General with the police.
Is not the real reason that the Premier will not release that report because it chronicles and documents very precisely the inappropriateness of the Solicitor General’s behaviour; the fact that she did not withdraw when she became aware that the parents were there and that there was no harm done to anybody who had been arrested that evening? Is that not the real reason we are not being allowed to see that secret report?
Hon Mr Peterson: My honourable friend is absolutely wrong and is taking a very different line than his leader takes in asking questions. The facts were laid forward in that.
Judgements were not made about the appropriateness of that particular set of behaviours. Those are judgements for me to make, as the honourable member’s leader asked in questions some time ago. It laid out the facts. It did not lay out any conclusions with respect to the appropriateness of it.
Mr Kormos: All the more reason that the report should not be secret. We should be allowed to see it and see exactly what the Solicitor General did. It remains that, using the police in this way, using the Ontario Provincial Police like a private or secret government police, preparing secret reports for the Premier’s eyes only, secret reports that the rest of this Legislature is not entitled to look at, is that not an abuse of the OPP? Does that not put the OPP into a compromised and totally unacceptable position?
Hon Mr Peterson: I believe my honourable friend is a lawyer, although it would be hard to discern from the question he just asked. He understands that police reports are not made public. Surely, he has been in criminal court enough in his life to understand that. My honourable friend’s use of innuendo and value-laden words is, frankly for a lawyer, not appropriate.
Mr Brandt: Again, with respect to the same issue, since the Premier has indicated that the Solicitor General did not in fact have any influence over any of the proceedings that occurred at the station that particular evening, could he perhaps, as a result of his eyes having seen the police report, indicate why it was necessary for the Solicitor General, after having visited that location that evening, to make the subsequent phone call that occurred? Why was the follow-up phone call necessary?
Hon Mr Peterson: Charges were laid and I think that she wanted to make sure that there was no misunderstanding about why she went there. It was in a humanitarian capacity, to respond to a call in the middle of the night and I think that was the reason for it.
Mr Brandt: I am having increasing difficulty with the way in which the Premier is responding to these questions. It is not easy for those of us in opposition, as l am sure it is not easy for him. The fact of the matter is that the Premier has in fact established his defence on the basis that the Solicitor General perhaps did not act according to how the Premier wished she had acted, but did nothing inappropriate.
I ask the Premier again, if in fact the Solicitor General was not, even in some modest way, interfering with the way in which justice was being carried out that evening, why was the subsequent phone call necessary?
Hon Mr Peterson: For the reasons I have expressed and the facts as I have them. The question is, did she interfere in the carriage of justice, and the answer in my judgement is no. Charges were laid in the circumstances and those are the facts. They are there for all to see.
OTTAWA AREA HOSPITALS
Mr Daigeler: My question is to the Minister of Health. Last week, the Ottawa area members met with the administrators of our hospitals. One of the questions raised was the decrease in revenue for Quebec patients who are no longer treated at Ottawa area hospitals. As the minister probably knows, the Quebec side has now moved ahead with several hospital constructions and they are serving the Quebec residents on that side of the river. However, this means that there is a revenue loss for the Ottawa area hospitals.
I understand that the administrators have recommended that the ministry undertake to negotiate, with each Ottawa hospital, a mutually acceptable base, from which point that institution’s Quebec revenue budget will be rolled into the budget base of the Ministry of Health.
I am wondering whether the minister is prepared to follow through with this recommendation?
Hon Mrs Caplan: I want to thank the member for the question, which is of significant importance to the Ottawa area hospitals.
When the Ottawa hospital system was originally built there was in fact significant capacity arranged in that area to meet the needs of Quebec residents who would be coming to Ontario for services. Over the course of time, that has fluctuated and created problems in planning for the Ottawa area hospitals.
I want to tell the member that I visited Ottawa, and we have made a commitment to attempt to work co-operatively with the hospitals to resolve what has been a difficult issue. As well, it is very important that we review the capacity requirements and needs of the Ottawa area in light of the changing relationship with Quebec and the needs of the people of Ottawa as they relate to the Quebec revenue issue.
Mr Daigeler: I appreciate the minister’s willingness to work with the hospitals to look at this serious situation. I understand there have been negotiations with the Ministry of Health already. Could she give us some indication as to what time frame she is looking at, within which this important question might be settled?
Hon Mrs Caplan: In the past, adjustments have been made on an annual basis to the hospitals for those costs which could be directly related to loss of Quebec revenue. This is a situation which is not unique to Ottawa; it implies a relationship between Ontario and Quebec, and in fact has implications on the Manitoba border as well.
I can tell the member of our commitment to wanting to resolve this in a manner which is considered fair and equitable, and that we are working co-operatively with the hospitals to develop an approach that will resolve an issue which has been very difficult for the hospitals in the Ottawa area particularly, to be able to encourage the kind of good planning that we all know is necessary if we are going to be able to deliver the services to our communities that they really need in the future.
SOLICITOR GENERAL’S VISIT TO POLICE STATION
Mr B. Rae: I want to go back to the Premier again. He has already stated that he had received a criminal investigation report from the Ontario Provincial Police with regard to the conduct of the Solicitor General, which dealt in some detail with the question of criminality. I hope the Premier would not be saying that one has to be proven a criminal before one’s conduct would be deemed inappropriate.
The question that I have for the Premier is this: has he had any conversations with senior officers of the OPP with regard, not to the criminality of the Solicitor General’s conduct, but to the appropriateness of her conduct?
Hon Mr Peterson: The answer is no.
Mr B. Rae: The obvious question would be, why the hell not? The Premier told us on Thursday that the police report said there was nothing “untoward,” but in fact the police report did not say what the Premier told us it said back on Thursday. I would like to ask the Premier if he could document for us very specifically what conversations he has had with the Solicitor General with regard to the appropriateness of her conduct; and precisely what standard and what message he is sending to her and to other members of his cabinet with regard to their contact with law officers of the crown, as well as with senior police officers and with police officials who are dealing in their day-to-day jobs with the citizens of this province.
Hon Mr Peterson: Obviously, if the Solicitor General or any member of the cabinet does anything that in any way influences untowardly the course of justice or the laying of a charge, that very clearly would be inappropriate.
In the circumstances, and the facts brought forward in the report, that was not the case and in fact charges were laid. That was part of the report coming back to me. I made my judgement based on those facts.
As the member said, the function of the police report was to give me the facts so I could make judgements based on those. I did that and I thought that was appropriate in the circumstances.
Mr Runciman: To the Premier again with respect to the Solicitor General’s misconduct. The sad fact of the situation is that in this case the Premier has set aside all his own past statements and policies as well as the public good, because of political debts. If Ken Keyes’s name were Ken Smith, he would still be Solicitor General.
Can the Premier tell us how many other ministers are exempt from the general rules of conduct for cabinet ministers?
Hon Mr Peterson: I am trying to be as forthcoming as I can, but I do not think that the question merits a response.
Mr Runciman: That holier-than-thou reaction was really, “The answer is there is no answer.” The Premier does not have an adequate answer for this House.
The Speaker: And you have a supplementary?
Mr Runciman: Earlier the Premier was asked about how he knew about this incident. He mentioned a member of staff. I wonder if he could advise us specifically how this member of staff learned about the incident and under what authority he himself personally ordered a police investigation?
Hon Mr Peterson: It was done through the Deputy Solicitor General.
NIAGARA DETENTION CENTRE
Mr Pelissero: I have a question to the Minister of Correctional Services. Recently the minister was down in the Niagara Peninsula opening an addition to the Niagara Detention Centre and received some criticism with respect to the facility only being readily accessible to young male offenders. I was wondering if the minister would wish to comment on that.
Hon Mr Ramsay: It was a pleasure to be down in Welland-Thorold and welcome the member there when we opened this facility, the addition to the Niagara Detention Centre for young offenders.
The member is quite right. With the counsel we had and the transportation needs of the regional police to transport young offenders to the Hamilton-Wentworth facility, we felt that it would be most appropriate just to build a facility for male young offenders at that time.
Mr Pelissero: I was wondering if the minister has any plans to correct this situation in the future should the need arise.
Hon Mr Ramsay: I would like to assure the member that I will be continually monitoring the count situation at that facility. If need warrants, we could make plans in the future for expansion.
SOLICITOR GENERAL’S VISIT TO POLICE STATION
Mr B. Rae: I want to go back to the Premier, because, frankly -- like, I am sure, many other Ontario citizens -- I remain entirely unclear as to what this Premier’s standards of conduct are with regard to a senior law officer of the crown, in this case the Solicitor General, in terms of what contact with police is acceptable, what contact with other law officers is acceptable and what is appropriate.
I do not know now, and I do not think the people of this province know, what the standard the Premier of Ontario is. He has said if somebody commits a crime, that is to say is accused of or alleged to be interfering with the course of justice, then that would be unacceptable. I would hope that it would be unacceptable; you would be charged by the police. It would be hard to know how you could carry on as Solicitor General.
What I want to ask the Premier is this: Short of committing a crime, what precisely is his standard? What is the Solicitor General supposed to do next weekend when she gets the phone calls from all those people who now have her phone number? What is she expected to do with regard to problems that she says constituents are facing with the police? Is she supposed to go down to the police station next week? Yes or no?
Hon Mr Peterson: Obviously, no one can interfere personally in the administration of justice with respect to the laying of charges or bring any influence to bear one way or the other. In other words, she cannot say, “I want charges laid against this person” or say “I don’t want charges laid against this person.”
Mr B. Rae: That is criminal.
Hon Mr Peterson: Well, no. With great respect, there is nothing criminal about that. I do not think my honourable friend is right, but she cannot have any influence on that and neither can anyone else -- neither should he or me or anyone else -- and clearly, that has got to be a rule that has got to be sacrosanct.
Mr B. Rae: Back in 1976, 12 March, to be precise, the Prime Minister of Canada was faced with a problem. It was alleged in a newspaper that a number of ministers of his cabinet had in fact been having conversations with judges. There was a special inquiry held by the Chief Justice of Quebec, Mr Deschênes, which found that in fact there was no criminal wrongdoing, that in fact there was no attempt to obstruct or interfere with the course of justice, but there was another question for the Prime Minister of Canada and that was the appropriateness, the judgement of ministers in dealing, in this case, with judges.
At that time the Prime Minister of Canada made a special statement in the House of Commons. He laid down a standard which made it clear there could be no contact whatsoever between individual ministers and members of the judiciary --
The Speaker: You have a question?
Mr B. Rae: -- and subsequently a member of the cabinet broke that rule and was asked for his resignation, and he resigned.
I want to ask the Premier: Why does he have such difficulty in setting out, with clarity, standards which have been laid down by the Prime Minister of Canada and Premier Davis with regard to the appropriateness of what the Solicitor General did on that Saturday night at one o’clock and at four o’clock in the morning?
Hon Mr Peterson: The member brings in an analogy about bringing influence to bear on a crown attorney and/or a judge, and I say to my honourable friend, I think those are quite different circumstances. I have said to him as clearly as I possibly can what I think the standards have to be here and I try to be as forthcoming as I can in responding to his question.
Mr Brandt: Again, I would like to advise the Premier, as he is well aware, that the first public information of this particular incident came to our attention as a result of a story that appeared in the newspaper. I wonder if the Premier could share with us who in fact informed his government, either the assistant deputy minister, his office or whoever, that there was a visit by the Solicitor General to the Lucan detachment.
Hon Mr Peterson: I was told by my staff. I am not exactly sure who called them. I think it was the Solicitor General and/or her staff.
Mr Brandt: Surely, when we cannot get at the police report, which the Premier indicates is not available for us to observe for reasons that he has outlined, and when we are in fact attempting to get to the bottom of the story as to how it unfolded, it would be of some interest to determine who thought the incident was serious enough to advise the government, either the Solicitor General’s office or the Office of the Premier, that an incident had occurred in Lucan.
The simple question I have, which I think deserves a response, is: Who made the contact indicating that there was a problem there? Was it an OPP officer, some government member, or who?
Hon Mr Peterson: The Deputy Solicitor General, who told my staff, who told me.
Mr Black: My question is for the Minister of Education. In the recent budget speech, there were some announcements related to the pooling of commercial and industrial assessment and the impact that would have on education financing across the province.
I know that was a recommendation of the Macdonald Commission on the Financing of Elementary and Secondary Education in this province and I know that the minister and his staff have been looking at those recommendations at some length, over some considerable period of time.
I wonder if the minister could share with the House some of the options that were discussed and some of the alternatives that he examined before arriving at the particular model that he did arrive at.
Hon Mr Ward: The member is correct that the Macdonald commission did make a recommendation for the province-wide pooling of commercial and industrial assessment.
I want to stress to the member that the model we chose and the plan we will be utilizing is a regional one in that it will not see revenue from assessment within a given municipality shift outside the boundaries of that municipality by providing access to commercial and industrial assessment of publicly traded corporations. There will of course be some shift in revenues. This, however, is to be offset by increases in the grant ceilings.
One of the other options that was available to us was a province-wide shift which would have involved amounts in excess of $1 billion. A further option was the utilization of access to this revenue only on the basis of growth, in other words, just as new commercial and industrial assessment came on.
The latter option was rejected because it would have taken many, many years to achieve any sort of equity. The first option was not acceptable because of the size of the shifts involved and the localized impacts in some communities and also the fact that there would be a disincentive to regional economic development programs undertaken in many municipalities to attract business and industry.
Mr Black: I guess I am somewhat puzzled by what has taken place here and I wonder if the minister could share with me some further information that might help me understand the situation.
I believe I am right in saying that the minister rejected one of the alternatives he was looking at, which was a full pooling of commercial-industrial assessment across the province. He also gave an indication following the budget speech that no public school board would suffer any loss of revenues as a result of this fairly significant change that has taken place.
I wonder if the minister could elaborate a little on that for the benefit of all members of this House, regardless of the parts of the province they may represent. Could the minister share with us exactly what he meant by that statement?
The Speaker: I believe the question has been asked.
Hon Mr Ward: As a matter of fact, the question was so long I forgot what it was. But let me begin by saying that there are two initiatives involved here. One, of course, is the fact that publicly traded corporations will now be divided on the basis of the ratio of residential assessment in a given community, as opposed to the Treasury taking all of that revenue. The second major initiative is an extraordinary increase in grant ceilings over the phase-in period. The net result is that no public board will lose revenue as a result of this.
I just happen to have at my fingertips the figures for Muskoka, which may help the member somewhat. Based on projections utilizing the 1987 assessment rolls, bearing in mind that those are the most current data available, there would be a revenue loss as a result of access to the commercial-industrial assessment of about $32,000. The grant ceilings should provide --
The Speaker: Thank you. You may sit down.
SOLICITOR GENERAL’S VISIT TO POLICE STATION
Mr Kormos: I have a question of the Premier. The Ontario Provincial Police obviously have great concern because he tells us now that the original complaint about the conduct of the Solicitor General (Mrs Smith) is directed to the ministry from the OPP. People in the community have great concern because they see an interference here with police work, particularly when it was not a matter of making a phone call at 1:40 or 1:45 in the morning, but was a matter of driving to the OPP detachment.
It was not a matter of stopping short when she realized that the father was there, that he had spoken with his son and that there clearly could be no difficulties that could have arisen. Why is it that this sensation of impropriety exists across the province, yet the Premier persists in defending the conduct of the Solicitor General when it was so clearly improper?
Hon Mr Peterson: It was not a complaint coming from the OPP, it was just regular information that was passed on to my office, as is normal.
Obviously, it could be a very sensitive matter and obviously it is. I say to my friend that I think many people, in looking at the circumstances in a similar situation, would say, “Now look, here was a phone call in the middle of the night, certain allegations were made and a response was taken by the Solicitor General .” They would not judge it nearly as harshly as the member would, and they might, frankly, interpret the member’s motive as being political when he stands up in this House and continues to just be critical.
Mr Kormos: Exactly what did the Solicitor General have in mind when she went to the police detachment? She is not a lawyer and she did not concern herself with any apparent urgency by making a telephone call. She persisted in going into that police station, notwithstanding that she knew that the boy’s father had been there and that he had visited with his son.
The police were dealing with a particularly unruly accused. His conduct resulted in charges; there were two counts of mischief being laid as a result of the young man’s conduct in the police station. His own father did not want to take him home but rather told the police, “Keep him there until late in the morning and I’ll come back for him then.”
Do the police not have a hard enough job to do without the Solicitor General getting involved in what is very difficult work on their part?
Hon Mr Peterson: I think it just shows my honourable friend that justice works in this province, and he would support that.
The Speaker: Order.
Mr Runciman: My question is to the Premier on the same issue. One of the most serious things wrong with what the Solicitor General did that night was to leave the impression that she was trying to influence members of the OPP and how they handled a particular case. I think the Toronto Star story today highlights that. It is essential that there be and be seen to be equal justice for all in this province.
Can the Premier give us a categorical assurance that, as far as he knows, no OPP officer has indicated any feeling of intimidation or pressure as a result of this incident? If he cannot give this assurance, will he tell the House who felt intimidated or pressured and why?
Hon Mr Peterson: I am not aware of anyone who felt intimidated, because obviously charges were laid in the circumstances.
Mr Runciman: I will go back to an area that the Premier avoided answering earlier, and that is with respect to a comment the Solicitor General made in this House yesterday.
The Speaker: Actually, the question is supposed to come out of the response.
Mr Runciman: It is a supplementary. It is dealing with the same issue. The Solicitor General, in respect of the police report, indicated that it was authorized by the Premier and carried out for political reasons. Does the Premier agree with that assessment?
Hon Mr Peterson: What I wanted to do was to clearly determine, in an independent way, the facts of the situation. Some have suggested that I should have talked to the OPP to get advice on the matter, but did not. I got it all on paper, the facts of the situation. Then I had to make judgements with respect to the appropriateness.
I told the member how I agonized about that. I told him how I can understand a human response of the Solicitor General, a humanitarian one, if you will. I can understand as well other people having a different view of the situation. Ultimately, the judgement I had to make was whether this warrants dismissal from the executive council. That was the judgement.
The member for Leeds-Grenville may have taken a different view, my friends opposite may have taken a different view, but I took the view that it was not serious enough in the circumstances, because justice did work. Justice operated and charges were laid in the circumstances, and that is now before the courts. That is the course of action I chose.
Mrs Fawcett: “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:
“To amend the Teachers’ Superannuation Act, 1983, in order that all teachers who retired prior to 31 May 1982 have their pensions recalculated on the best five years rather than at the present seven or 10 years.
“The proposed amendment would make the five-year criteria applicable to all retired teachers and would eliminate the present inequitable treatment.”
I have signed the petition.
Mr McCague: “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 support the expansion of home care and visiting nurses services as the most cost-efficient mode of health care delivery. We therefore want our government to adequately fund the Victorian Order of Nurses.”
I have signed this.
Mr M. C. Ray: I have two petitions. The first is 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:
“To amend the Teachers’ Superannuation Act, 1983, in order that all teachers who retired prior to 31 May 1982 have their pensions recalculated on the best five years rather than at the present seven or 10 years.
“The proposed amendment would make the five-year criteria applicable to all retired teachers and would eliminate the present inequitable system.”
I have signed this petition.
ANIMALS FOR RESEARCH
Mr M. C. Ray: I have a second petition to the Honourable Lieutenant Governor and the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.
“Each year, thousands of animals suffer and die slow, painful deaths in laboratory tests of cosmetics and household products.
“These tests are cruel and not required by any provincial or federal law.
“Safe alternative methods of testing such products do exist; methods that do not involve the use of animals, but do provide reliable results.
“Therefore, we, the undersigned, beg leave to petition the Parliament of Ontario to pass into law a bill prohibiting the use of animals in cosmetic and product testing.”
I have also signed that one.
Mr Black: I have a petition signed by 77 residents of Simcoe county, 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 support the expansion of home care and visiting nurses services as the most cost-efficient mode of health care delivery. We therefore want our government to adequately fund the Victorian Order of Nurses.”
I have signed my name to this petition.
Mr Wiseman: I have a petition from 444 people who work in my riding, which reads:
“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 care about the injured workers of Ontario and object to Bill 162, because the proposed changes will take payments away from injured workers who the minister feels have been paid too much or too long. Only strong reinstatement rights, real retraining provisions and pension reform, not pension removal, will improve the workers’ compensation system.”
I have signed this too.
Ms Bryden: I have a petition on the subject of naturopathy 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.”
This petition is signed by 20 people, and I have signed it myself. I support it.
Mrs Stoner: I have two petitions 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 request that Premier David Peterson and Minister of the Environment Jim Bradley guarantee that any proposal for a solid waste landfill in the region of Durham be subject to a full environmental assessment under the provisions of the Environmental Assessment Act; and further
“That the Minister of the Environment not utilize the less restrictive provisions of the Environmental Protection Act to convene a hearing before the Environmental Assessment Board with regard to said proposal and thereby bypass the provisions of the Environmental Assessment Act and a full environmental assessment.”
I have signed this, and it is also signed by 24 residents of Durham.
My second petition is somewhat similar. It reads:
“We, the undersigned, beg leave to petition the Parliament of Ontario as follows:
“To request that the Premier and government of Ontario withdraw immediately the P1 site located on provincially owned land in the town of Pickering as a proposed new mega dump site for Metro Toronto; and
“To urge that Metro Toronto never again be permitted to locate garbage dumps anywhere in the region of Durham; and further
“To urge that whenever a site or sites are chosen, either as contingency or long-term dump sites anywhere in the region of Durham or in the province of Ontario, the people always be granted their full and complete environmental rights and safeguards according to the Environmental Assessment Act processes.”
This has been signed by 24 residents of Durham and myself.
Miss Roberts: I have a petition to the Honourable the Lieutenant Governor and the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.
“Whereas the government of Ontario, in its discussions with the Ontario Teachers’ Federation on amendments to the Teachers’ Superannuation Act, has refused to allow an equitable partnership between teachers and government in management of the pension fund, establishment of an acceptable contribution increase, benefit adjustments, equitable treatment of future surpluses and satisfactory dispute resolution processes;
“We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly to insist that the Treasurer of Ontario negotiate with the Ontario Teachers’ Federation towards an equitable settlement.”
There are 61 names, and I have affixed my name to the various petitions, as required by the rules.
Mr Tatham: This is from the local members of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation, district 46, Oxford:
“To the Honourable the Lieutenant Governor and the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:
“Whereas the government of Ontario in its discussions with the Ontario Teachers’ Federation on amendments to the Teachers’ Superannuation Act has refused to allow an equal partnership between teachers and government in management of the pension fund, establishment of an acceptable contribution increase, benefit adjustments, equitable treatment of future surpluses and a satisfactory dispute resolution process;
“We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly to insist that the Treasurer of Ontario negotiate with the Ontario Teachers’ Federation towards an equitable settlement.”
That is signed by 220 good people and my name also is affixed.
Mr MacDonald: I also have a petition.
“To the Honourable the Lieutenant Governor and the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:
“We, the undersigned, beg leave to petition the Parliament of Ontario as follows:
“To amend the Teachers’ Superannuation Act, 1983, in order that all teachers who retired prior to 31 May 1982 have their pensions recalculated on the best five years rather than at the present seven to 10 years.
“This proposed amendment would make the five-year criteria applicable to all retired teachers and would eliminate the present inequitable treatment.”
I have affixed my name thereto.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
BUDGET DEBATE (CONTINUED)
Resuming the adjourned debate on the amendment to the motion that this House approves in general the budgetary policy of the government.
Mr Morin-Strom: This is a motion that certainly I cannot endorse. The budgetary policy of this government as reflected in the budget that was delivered last week certainly has serious flaws in it.
Today I would like to address at least briefly some of the concerns with respect to tax fairness, an issue of prime concern to residents of this province and of concern with respect to all levels of government. As the years pass, it seems that our tax system gets more and more regressive and puts the burden more and more unfairly on consumers and on middle- and lower-income residents both of Ontario and of Canada as a whole. This government in this budget certainly has not gone the distance it should have in terms of putting some progressivity into our tax structure.
I guess I would really characterize it as an opportunity lost. The Treasurer (Mr R. F. Nixon) has had many recommendations made to him that came from our critic in terms of the opportunities that were there to improve tax fairness in Ontario. I, as a member of the standing committee on finance and economic affairs, know that we had suggestions made to our committee from groups across the province in the public hearings we held, recommending improvements to our tax structure that could make the system fairer and more equitable for everyone in Ontario.
Many of these recommendations were made to the Treasurer in terms of possible tax changes that could be made with our system, but for the most part they have been rejected out of hand. The Treasurer has not acted with respect to ensuring that everyone pay at least some tax at the higher income levels. We do not have in Ontario today a principle that everyone at least pay a minimum tax. The wealthy and major corporations have the availability of large tax write-offs and loopholes which allow them to avoid having to pay taxes despite having high incomes.
Today we have figures that indicate more than 2,900 taxpayers with incomes of over $50,000 last year were not taxpayers at all and paid zero income taxes either to the federal government or to the Ontario provincial government. When it comes to income taxes, which should be the fairest system of taxation and the one we would encourage the use of because it is based on ability to pay and allows for formulas that would allow progressivity in the tax calculation, the provincial government continues to adopt and use the formulas that are being implemented on the federal level by the Minister of Finance, Michael Wilson.
The Treasurer knows full well that as a provincial government we have the right to set our own income tax formulas and calculations. Quebec has taken that initiative and has taken the opportunity to change the tax rules and ensure a fairer tax system, an opportunity that is available to our Treasurer but which he has rejected in this budget.
When it comes to sales taxes, the Treasurer continues to rely on sales tax as a major source of revenues for the province. Last year the Treasurer hit the province with an increase from seven per cent to eight per cent in our provincial sales tax, and as a result of that he took in an increase in revenues of well over 20 per cent above the revenues he had taken in the year before from sales tax. These are revenues coming from a form of taxation which is very hard on the consumers of the province and does not hit the wealthy and those who are able to put much of their income into investments and savings, as opposed to those who have to buy goods and services with most of their income.
One of the major tax opportunities that could have been used, particularly here in the Metropolitan Toronto area, was the opportunity to do something about the tremendous speculation in house prices. There could have been a speculation tax imposed on speculators -- not on home owners who occupy their own home; we are talking about speculators who are buying and selling and trading properties. In many cases properties are being traded, purchased on pure speculation months and years in advance even of the actual construction. While that construction is going on, speculators are trading on the value of the housing market. The final home buyer, the person who is actually going to live in the home, ends up paying tremendously inflated prices because of the overheated market and the high percentage of units, both single-family homes and condominium units, that are currently in the hands of speculators who are looking for a quick buck.
The Treasurer could have made a move to provide some revenues from a speculation tax. As well, it would have gone some considerable distance to cooling down an overheated market in a marketplace where it has become more and more difficult for average income earners, for young families, to actually have the opportunity to have their own home, to be able to purchase their own unit, whether it is a condominium unit or a single-family home. That opportunity is only available today to those who have incomes well over the average income in Ontario; and in many communities, income levels required for mortgages on the average priced home now have to be from $80,000 to $100,000 just to be able to convince a bank that you can handle the mortgage payments.
The one area I think the Treasurer has come through on, in terms of an issue that will be of benefit to many, is the elimination of Ontario health insurance plan premiums. This is the one initiative I would commend the government for. It has been long overdue. It is an item that our party has stood for and advocated for a long time, certainly going back to the accord agreement that was negotiated four years ago with the Liberals.
I wish the government had acted on it sooner, but the elimination of the OHIP premiums will go some distance to assisting those kinds of employees, particularly at the lower-income levels, who do not have higher-level management jobs or a strong union that is able to negotiate the payment of their OHIP premiums. Many lower-income working people in Ontario have been paying that cost of more than $700 a year for their OHIP premiums, one of the most regressive sources of income this province has had. I know the Treasurer will find that one a political winner in terms of the numbers of people it will assist.
The funding for the replacement of the funds that came in for OHIP premiums -- And we know that OHIP premiums were only paying, I believe the Treasurer had indicated before, 16 per cent of the total cost of health care in Ontario as projected for this year. As an alternative for raising that portion of the cost of health care, the government has proposed to impose a new payroll tax that it calls the employer health levy. I certainly do not think that was the best alternative to OHIP premiums. Although it is better than continuing OHIP premiums. there would have been sources in the tax structure that would have been far fairer and more progressive than imposing a payroll tax.
There is also some question about why the imposition of the payroll tax should be in the form of something called an employer health levy. I take it that the Treasurer sees that as an opportunity to justify the payroll tax, by putting it on to a subject matter that everyone in the province endorses and knows has to be funded, but it is a bit deceptive to suggest that the employer health levy will pay the costs of our health care in the province today. In fact, it will only cover a relatively small proportion, under one quarter of the total cost of health care in the province, so by no means should people or employers think they are paying the full cost of health care through this levy.
However, I am one who is not totally opposed to the concept of a payroll tax. I think a payroll tax is one source of taxation that had to be looked at by the province and probably an appropriate one to be in a mix of revenues for the province. It is one which puts some burden on the business community to pay at least some taxes in Ontario. There are serious problems with our corporate tax structure today when we have thousands of corporations making considerable profit paying zero corporate taxes.
The government could have taken steps towards insisting that corporations pay at least a minimum tax, an item that even President Reagan and the American government moved ahead on for their corporate sector. I guess we could take some solace in feeling that a payroll tax is insisting that corporations pay at least a certain portion, based on the size of the corporation and the number of employees, towards the costs of the province.
I would also think that with the level of the economy we have in Ontario today and the increase in revenues he has seen over the last year, the Treasurer could have used that opportunity to do more in terms of a fairer tax system than having to rely on some of the other increases he has imposed on, for example, drivers in the province. If there is one set of consumers that got hit hard in this budget, it is the drivers of Ontario. The increase in gasoline taxes has to be one of the unfairest and least justified taxes the Treasurer has imposed on the province.
When we were within the minority government, the New Democrats insisted that this government have no further increases in gasoline taxes, and there was a freeze on gas taxes for that two-years-plus we were in the minority government. Now that we are back after a second election and the Liberals have a majority government, we see them sticking it to the drivers of the province, going back to the former policies of the Conservative government and imposing a very regressive, difficult tax that hits everyone on approximately the same basis,
In communities like mine and others in northern Ontario where drivers have to have cars, where, because of the distance involved, everyone drives relatively similar amounts and is dependent upon cars as the major means of transportation, the result of a heavy tax on gasoline is that it is a tax everyone pays in approximately the same amount. It is not based on income or ability to pay, and as a result it places a very difficult burden on lower-income and middle-income taxpayers and virtually no burden on higher-income people.
As well, this kind of tax is one which particularly hurts economic development and business activity in regions of the province which are geographically dispersed and farther away from marketplaces. Certainly in northern Ontario, we realize the kind of cost penalty we have, the disadvantages of our transportation infrastructure structure and the penalty we have to pay for energy costs, heating and, most particularly, gasoline and diesel fuel for carrying goods and services back and forth across the highways to reach our communities in terms of the goods we are purchasing in northern Ontario. Then, for products that come out of the north, when one puts a penalty on industry in the north with higher and higher gasoline taxes, it is one which discourages the development and diversification of the northern economy.
I had hoped this government would have tried to change that type of policy and gone to a more enlightened policy which recognizes the difficulties of various regions more geographically away from the heartland of Metropolitan Toronto, where the major population and markets are, and recognizes that there are real benefits to encouraging economic development. A big part of that encouragement is providing the transportation infrastructure and ensuring that the costs of getting goods and services from communities in northern and eastern Ontario and the rural communities of Ontario can be done at a fair and reasonable cost.
Finally, in terms of taxation concerns, we have to express concern about where this province is going with its relationship to the municipalities and school boards of the province. I suppose the Treasurer uses the excuse of the federal government’s cutting back on transfer payments to Ontario as his excuse for doing the same to municipalities and school boards.
This government has not kept up its level of funding to municipalities. It has frozen funding particularly on an important component called unconditional grants and that freeze has resulted in municipalities having to impose property tax increases of eight per cent, 10 per cent or higher just to be able to keep up to inflationary increases in their costs, because in real terms the money coming from the provincial government has decreased.
This is putting a particular burden on communities like my own in Sault Ste Marie and the taxpayers are getting hit again with major property tax increases, a form of taxation which the province should be working towards eliminating, and certainly decreasing its emphasis as a source of tax revenue to governments in the province.
When it comes to education taxes, again, this government has done nothing to live up to its own commitment and its own promises in the last two election campaigns to ensure that the province goes back to the historical level of funding 60 per cent of the cost of education in Ontario.
Since the early 1970s, the percentage that the province has provided to school boards has declined continuously to a point where it had reached 47 per cent or 48 per cent when the Liberals took power in Ontario. Despite their commitment to move back to a 60 per cent funding of the cost of education, they have continued the decline in their support for our school systems and now we are down to support levels of 42 per cent to 43 per cent of education costs to school boards across the province funded from provincial taxpayers.
The burden is going on to municipal taxpayers, and property taxes for education, for our school boards are one of the most serious problems in terms of escalation of taxes to ratepayers across Ontario.
In many communities now education taxes are higher than their municipal property taxes, a very unfair burden and one that certainly does not make any sense in terms of the throne speech announcements we heard several weeks ago where the government proclaimed that among its six priorities, one of them was going to be education.
It really is a farce when a government says that one of its priority items is education and then continues a process of reducing funding and putting more and more of the education burden on to local school boards who have to hit their local taxpayers with increases well above the inflation rate just to stay even, let alone to be able to pay for some of the new programs that are being imposed upon them by the provincial government.
One of the surprise announcements in this budget was the announcement with respect to pooling. The Treasurer has taken it upon himself to announce that all local tax bases for educational property taxes “will be shared equitably by all school boards in the same area.” It is unusual that this announcement should come from the Treasurer and not from the Minister of Education (Mr Ward), particularly considering the amount of concern that has been expressed about this issue by school boards across the province, both Roman Catholic school boards and the public school boards.
My concern here is, how can one say that one is moving towards an equitable source of funding from commercial and industrial property tax assessment when one is going to do it on the basis of boards only in one particular area? How can one justify that a sharing is, as the Treasurer claims, “shared equitably” when the sharing occurs only in a given area? Most particularly, I do not see how this government can continue to justify the tremendous tax base that is available to the city of Toronto and the Metropolitan Toronto area because of the tremendous amount of commercial development in downtown Toronto.
In my view, the institutions -- those major banks, the financial institutions, the insurance companies and all those head offices on Bay Street in downtown Toronto -- represent corporations that service all of Ontario; those offices are not offices exclusively serving the city of Toronto. The sense of this government continuing to provide that tremendous tax base from those institutions arid the value of those properties solely to the school boards in Toronto does a disservice to this government, as it does a disservice to all the people of Ontario.
If one wants to look at fairness and equity in terms of a tax base, an assessment base where school boards have the right to get property taxes from commercial and industrial operations, fairness will never be achieved as long as that concentration of economic wealth in the city of Toronto provides a tax base solely for the school boards in Toronto. I do not see the solution presented by this government as one which is an appropriate one. It is not one that is fair to rural Ontario, it is not one that is fair to eastern Ontario, it is not one that is fair to many communities in southern Ontario and it is certainly not fair to all our communities in northern Ontario. I would ask that this government reconsider its way of sharing that property tax base to ensure that there is some real fairness to property taxpayers right across Ontario.
Of course, in the long run, property taxes are a completely inappropriate source of revenue for Ontario. I would suggest that this government should be looking at new and innovative ways of funding municipalities that would allow us to avoid the use of property taxes. In particular, I would suggest that this government should look into the possibility of replacing property taxes on a local basis with a more progressive form of taxation, preferably personal income taxes.
In particular, I think this government should look at the possibility of allowing municipalities to disband their property taxes and go to a municipal income tax as an alternative. A municipal income tax which would piggyback on to the provincial income tax but still allow municipalities the right to control their own bases and set their own percentages would be a much fairer way of raising funds on a municipal basis.
I think we really have to have a joint provincial-municipal study and co-operation to look at how we might be able to make municipal taxes fairer taxes. I would strongly suggest that either a sales tax, or more preferably an income tax at the municipal level, would be a far more preferable alternative to the current property taxes, which are more and more becoming the major, if not the only source of new tax revenues being provided to them by this provincial government. I think they are moving in the wrong direction.
We could be moving to a system of fairer taxes in Ontario, but unfortunately our Treasurer again this year has found an opportunity and has lost it. This really is an opportunity lost. I regret that I cannot support the budget direction that has been indicated in the budget address by the Treasurer. I ask that members from all parties take very serious consideration as to what the alternatives could be for a fairer system of taxation for all the taxpayers and all the types of taxation we have in Ontario.
Mr Cousens: This is an important budget that is touching just about everybody in this province, and as one realizes that the power does lie with the government to implement its programs, as poorly defined and as poorly thought out as they might be, it has brought forward a budget that is really invoking the anger and the frustration of those of us who sit opposite and try to understand just where this government is coming from and why it is doing this to Ontario. There are many problems that I have with this budget and I trust that I will have enough time in this House to at least touch upon some of them.
The problem you have when you are in opposition, as I am, sitting with the Progressive Conservative Party, is that there are 17 of us and there are 113 of them. That includes both the Liberals and the New Democratic Party. I am not about to agree with some of the statements made by my friend the member for Sault Ste Marie (Mr Morin-Strom), but it really is that what you would call the balance of power really does not give that much opportunity for those who do oppose this budget to really stand up, stop it and force some thinking on it.
If there were a minority government right now, if there was some way in which this government had to negotiate with other members of this House, I can assure you, Mr Speaker, it would not be presenting this budget to this House, because if it was a minority government, it would be defeated. The combined resources of both the New Democrats and ourselves would be sufficient, maybe for different reasons, but at least we would be speaking for the people of Ontario. I have to say I believe that, on balance, I am speaking for the people of Ontario.
There are things within this budget that I will touch upon that I see as a positive statement and something that indeed is needed so that we can become stronger, more tolerant and a province that really is the place that people want to live, but I see major problems with the fact that this government continues to have a deficit when in fact we are dealing with an economy that is burgeoning.
It is strong, it is strident, it is growing, and yet what continues to grow at the same pace as the economy is this government’s size. They have increased the size of this government by more than 7,000 since they came to power four years ago. They continue to spend money in the delivery of programs that really affect the staff and the complement of people who are delivering them, but not the people who are receiving the support. An example of that is the Ministry of Housing, where the budget in four years has gone from $7 million or $8 million to over $40 million -- just phenomenal increases in the cost of running government.
What it is is the ineptitude of a group of people who came from Ottawa when Pierre Elliott Trudeau went into his retirement. They are in there helping the Premier (Mr Peterson) and his cabinet run things, and they are spenders.
They know how to do the public relations. They know how to build things so that they are comfortable and secure. They have got the latest cars, they have all the things and services that really are part of the blue-eyed sheikhs of Ontario, because there they are, living in a state of comfort with all these support mechanisms around them while the people of Ontario pay the bill. I have to say government spending is a source of a great sore and problem to those of us who look on and watch how these spenders are taking our money and just throwing it away.
I think we have to see how this government is taxing the life out of people and out of businesses and everybody who has made this province as strong as it is. They know how to tax, and then they know how to build a strong, great bureaucracy and they know how to make themselves look good, but the test is in how much they are doing to serve people and how much they are doing to really meet the needs of all the people of Ontario.
What I see is a province here now that has had some control for some time on inflation, and yet what they have introduced in this budget is a most inflationary budget. They should not kid themselves. When people sit back and say how wonderful it is that we are not going to have to pay our Ontario health insurance plan premiums. they can be just assured that those businesses that have to collect that extra money out of their payrolls are going to go back to the people who are buying their products. buying their services, in order to recapture the money they will have lost through the payroll tax. I will touch on that further in a moment.
I believe this government is going to lead our province into another series of inflation. Anyone who went through the stages of inflation when it was at such a high rate and was on a fixed income understands just how terrible inflation is. Speaking for those people who seem to have no defender on the government side, I have to say this budget is wrong and it is going to lead this province in the wrong direction as to what it is going to do to those people who we really have to serve.
I think one of the other realities is that the people of this province should realize that there are 130 seats, and of those 130 seats, approximately 30 are Metropolitan Toronto-oriented. Another 10 or so service York, Durham and Peel, which surround Metro. Therefore, 40 of the 130 seats are really Metro- or greater-Toronto-oriented. Therefore, when you start seeing a double standard for the province, where in the past the province has had a standard service of serving all people equally -- I remember when I was on the York Region Board of Education we said, “We want to treat the children in the southern part of the region equally with those in the northern part of the region so that there is equality of opportunity.” That was a concept of government where there was no one being treated differently.
This government is now, in its budget, deciding that it is going to treat the greater Toronto area differently from the rest of the province. That comes through in the commercial tax; it comes through not just in the gas tax but the licensing fees; it comes through in just a number of the areas of this budget.
The people of greater Toronto must understand that we help fuel the economy and we also have other costs and other things that it takes in order to survive here. Now, what this government has done is to impose an extra penalty on those who happen to have chosen to live in the greater Toronto area.
Part of the problem one has when he is in opposition is that everybody says, “Okay, Donald, you’re going to get in there and you’re going to lambaste the budget.” I hope to do so, but I think, on the other hand, one has to have some balance. One cannot always come out from the starting gate damning everything that is being done. I would like for a moment to touch upon three areas in its budget that I would like to compliment the government on, because I think there are a number of things that have happened that are a part of the ongoing government that I feel worthy of mentioning in that they really touch upon the area of south York region, Markham, that I represent.
The first is, in 1985, when I was in cabinet for just a short time, I had the pleasure of being able to bring the announcement to the people of Markham, Unionville and Stouffville of the approval by the government of the Markham Stouffville Hospital. It was a significant decision made back in 1985 when the Miller government did not have many days left. None the less, the decision was made, and the decision, having been made, has continued to be supported by the Ministry of Health in this government.
There are many times when one government does a thing and another one will cancel it, change it, retract it. That has not been the case with the Markham Stouffville Hospital. I am very pleased that the Ministry of Health, the Management Board of Cabinet and the Premier have continued to support the construction of this great hospital for our community. It is going to open in January 1990, all going well, and the fact of the matter is that over 250 beds will help service our community. It has been a project that is a model of a good relationship between the province and our community, and I would like to compliment the government for having done that.
There are not that many hospitals being constructed in Ontario right from scratch. I think one in the past was the Credit Valley Hospital. and certainly this is another one. There was no hospital previously in the town of Markham or to service this southeastern part of York region. I stop, pause and reflect with a sense of gratification and satisfaction that this government has allowed the Markham Stouffville Hospital to continue.
It will serve our community well. We have had an outstanding board, and the community as a whole has raised in excess of $6 million. The community has raised its share of the funding and the region, as well, has contributed its share. The other part of the equation was that the province had to do its share, which was over 60 per cent of the total cost. So I give credit to the government.
Another comment I would like to make that is really part of this budget is about the Social Assistance Review recommendations made by Judge George Thomson. I want to compliment our own member for London North (Mrs Cunningham) and her ongoing support for this program. I would especially like to compliment the Minister of Community and Social Services (Mr Sweeney).
I happen to believe that the minister is a very conscientious, hard-working, good politician, by virtue of the fact that he has been able to take these recommendations through cabinet, having had the recommendations in the first place prepared and presented to him by Judge George Thomson.
It starts with the process. It started at least with a consensus of feeling from within this House of all three parties, where we knew that something had to be done to help those who could not really help themselves. They are on the social welfare rolls of the province, they want to get out and make a contribution to society and yet are not able to. So our system really was hindering their opportunity for self-fulfilment and for contributing something of themselves back to society. We really had a system that was archaic, that had worked in its own time but needed to be changed.
The recommendations now being implemented through the Ministry of Community and Social Services certainly have my support, the support of our critic, the member for London North, and the support of our party. I think commendation is due to the Minister of Community and Social Services for his leadership.
I would also like to comment in a positive way on part of the strategy this government has announced, in the form of a transportation strategy for the greater Toronto area. I have found it very easy to criticize the Minister of Transportation (Mr Fulton) for his failure to come up with an overall comprehensive strategy that will begin to meet the needs of all of us who are part of the greater Toronto area.
For those people in Ontario who do not come from the greater Toronto area and who are seeing us now, please understand that I respect the needs that go on in South Porcupine, Cornwall and other parts of the province. But I have to say we have got a major problem here in the greater Toronto area, and it is becoming worse and worse by virtue of the failure of the government to put in the money in a way that would begin to solve the transportation crisis. It is unbelievably bad.
No wonder people do not come to Toronto. They only come when they have to, and when they are here they go away really glad to disappear and go back to their home town or their home territory, because it is no fun being caught on Highway 401, the Gardiner Expressway, the Don Valley Parkway or any of our major transit routes. It is no fun using the TTC and the underground services of Toronto transit. The fact is that people who rely upon the bus services and all the public transit system know it is overcrowded. When they try to get into the subway, we are almost at the point where we are going to have people pushing them on to maximize the number of square feet there.
Therefore, what we are seeing may be the possibility that the government is going to give an emphasis to transportation in the greater Toronto area. To that I say hurray. I have not yet seen the recommendations. I know if they kept going at the pace they are now, Highway 407 would not be in place to start using for 23 more years, because what the government has put into Highway 407 for the last two years is something like $25 million a year. The total project is $650 million. If you just divide 25 into that, you are talking about 24 or 25 years.
Fortunately, there is at least a mention in this budget of Highway 407 and that the government is going to do something to accelerate Highway 407. Highway 407 is needed to relieve Highway 401; it is needed to relieve the east-west traffic in York region. The fact of the matter is that this government is now saying it is putting together a $1-billion plan and proposal to help make that happen. I have to say: “Good stuff. Keep on with it. Let’s make sure you put those dollars into it so that we begin to have some results.” In order to start Highway 407, they slowed up Highway 404. We just have to keep this road construction under way.
Members have also got to understand that we are going to have major problems after 3 June with the opening of the domed stadium. What we are going to have is just chaos, absolute chaos, when people go to the opening of SkyDome and to the baseball game on the 5th and the 6th. I got my tickets today and I am wondering whether I really want to go. It is going to be just terrible.
Yet, unlike governments in the past, where we saw planning in advance of all that was happening, this government does it after the fact. Before, when a new community such as mine was formed, the roads would be in place and then the community would come in around it. Now what happens is that we get the people all in there and they do not have the transit services or routes in order to get out of the place.
I do not think we would want to get out of Markham or the South York region, but most of us, a large percentage, work in areas around York region. Therefore, we need transit services. We are paying the taxes and we certainly want the services in return. In fact, the statement made by the Minister of Transportation that he is going to do something with transportation is in itself a compliment and I would like to commend him for
I live in a community in which there is so much to be thankful for. We do not just rely on the government to do everything. Maybe that is what people in Ontario have to understand: The government cannot run everything. If it does, we end up getting this group of Liberals running it the way they are now.
In our community, in January, there was a tragic accident of a young hockey player who broke his neck and is now a quadriplegic. Kurt Gengenbach is making good progress. Our community has rallied around him and his family, in order to try to at least show him that we care and we really want to hope for the best for him.
An example was when two of our local town councillors, regional councillor Fred Cox and local councillor Jim Jones, with the co-operation of a host of people, sold over 1,300 tickets at $100 a ticket. They had an auction and they had celebrity sports there and raised $150,000 in one evening to help Kurt Gengenbach have the services that he needs in order to live a fruitful and fulfilling life.
That is the kind of thing that happens in my community and I know it happens in communities across this country and this province. People know that the government cannot do everything, that we have to do something to help ourselves. I give that as an example of something really good that can happen.
Maybe there is a lesson for all of us. We should not just sit back and say: “Let the government do it. Let the government pay for it. Let the government provide this service.” We also have to be able to work together and support volunteer agencies that are out there trying to make this a better province. We should not just rely on this government to do it. That is for sure.
The United Way is another example in my region. I am very proud of the way that the United Way has continued to grow and last year raised in excess of $2.2 million. The problem is that it continues to need more funding for other services and the budget that we have just announced here and that we are dealing with is going to make it more difficult for people to contribute to other agencies and services, because there is not going to be much money left in their pockets after this government has dealt with them.
What we are really seeing in my area, and probably in many other areas across the province, is communities that want to have the best for their children, the best for their seniors, the best for everybody, so that we can enjoy what is ours and what is our right. I would like to say that the fact that we are dealing with this budget is an example of how a government has gone amok and has failed to understand that there is a balance that is needed, that it can leave some money in people’s pockets, that it can leave something for them to do on their own.
Let me touch on some of the problems I have with this budget and establish something of an historical context for where we are at. All in all, this budget adds up to $568 million in new taxes this year. That amounts to $1.3 billion in new taxes in a full year; $1.3 billion in a full fiscal year is what will be netted to the province through this budget. On top of that, the Liberal government will rake in an additional $1.3 billion in new taxes as a result of this budget. I think people should realize that this is following upon the 1988 budget, where the personal income tax rate was increased. In fact, what it really amounts to is that we have had three provincial income tax increases in 20 months, one per cent a time. It has gone from 50 to 51, 52 and 53 per cent of our federal taxes. By adding another one per cent this year, this really is an additional $210 million for the red-tie government.
In fiscal 1989-90, compared to the interim results for 1988-89, revenues jumped by 9.4 per cent and expenditures by 6.7 per cent. The government will spend $41.3 billion in this fiscal year, $14.8 billion or 56 per cent more than was spent by the last Progressive Conservative government in 1984-85. In four years this Liberal government has doubled the amount of money that it is spending. Nothing has gone up by as much, except my temperature and the temperature of everybody else who is concerned about the cost of government.
If this money were being spent on services or getting rid of the debt and really wiping out the debt and really setting the house in order, then we would have something to celebrate. Instead of celebrating, we are here and we are going to make the point again and again that the Ontario Progressive Conservative caucus would not run a government the way this government is running this one and we would not be as fiscally irresponsible as this government is.
This government will collect a total of $30.2 billion in taxes this year, $3.2 billion more than last year and $15.2 billion or 101.1 per cent more than in 1984-85. We are seeing the costs of everything go up, but a lot of it has to do with the way this government wants to do everything for everyone. The government wants to spend more and more without having a real understanding of what it takes out of the pocketbooks and out of the livelihoods of the people who work to make this province a great place to live in.
When you look at the major new taxes, you know that people do not see it. They are used to having their taxes taken off at the source before they get their paycheques. But the fact of the matter is that the personal income tax for this province is now at the point where if you were to live in Ontario around the Toronto area versus Buffalo, it would cost you about 30 percent more to live in and around Toronto, and it is primarily because of the heavy tax load that we have here.
Why is it that this government has to continue to levy more taxes on gasoline? It sounds so easy when they say one cent a litre. That is four cents a gallon. Yet four cents a gallon now and then four cents a gallon -- but I remember how one government in Ottawa had real trouble –
Mr Miller: If you want roads you have to pay for them.
Mr Cousens: Well, the problem is that we are talking about just a gouging, gouging government. They come along and have a tire tax now, have the gas guzzler tax, have the employer health levy tax and have the commercial concentration levy.
When we start to think of what they are doing through the commercial concentration levy and through the employer health levy -- there is this word “levy.” It almost sounds easier to say than “tax.” We all know what tax is; we know they are hitting us in our pocketbook. But the way they come along and try to sell their lovely little ways: “the employer health levy.” It is a tax.
It is a tax that is going to hurt businesses and it is going to cause them to maybe cut back. It is going to cause them to think about expanding in Ontario or maybe moving to another location rather than staying in our place. It is going to remove something of our competitive position that I think we should be building towards and working on.
We are talking about a province that has to become far more competitive. We have to build a province that is going to expand our horizons beyond our own borders and into the United States and Europe and the Pacific and everywhere possible so that we become enterprising entrepreneurs who are not afraid of the opportunity that the rest of the world gives.
But we should also encourage people to come into our environment and to come here and do business with us. What we are really going to do is make it noncompetitive for them. They will have to think twice or three times before they come here, What a shame.
I will touch further on my concerns about the land transfer tax and lot levy that the government is bringing in, but I just have to underline my complete disdain for the way this government is coming along and taking money out of the pockets of the people of Ontario and not really giving that much back.
When I think of my own area, York region, we are faced now with a lot levy proposal. As you read the fine print, you suddenly find out that York region will not be able to assign any of the moneys from lot levies for hospitals. A few moments ago I was commenting on the Markham Stouffville Hospital. York region was a major contributor to our new Markham Stouffville Hospital, yet the kind of moneys that it would have been able to give us, which is in excess of $10 million or $12 million -- a lot of money by anyone’s standards -- it will no longer be able to raise through lot levies. The government has said, “No, we are going to find another source, so you will have an education lot levy.”
The municipalities can have certain lot levies but not hospitals. That means that over the next 10 years York region will lose $29.25 million just by that little phrase. That is enough for quite a lot more hospital beds and for our own region to participate in it.
In fact, what could well happen with that kind of thinking from this government that is saying the region can no longer collect lot levies for hospitals is that a region like York might start saying: “Why should we even pay for hospitals? The province is throwing so much on our backs that we have to pay. Maybe in the future we as a regional municipality will not contribute towards hospitals, because the province is really closing the door on that opportunity for the region to raise necessary funding.”
When I start thinking about what this budget does as well, and in checking with the treasurer of York region, an extra levy -- just the cost, instead of having the health insurance program, and I keep on forgetting what it is called now -- the employee health levy, will cost York region an extra $300,000 just in this fiscal year. May I ask where that money is going to come from? It is another way in which it is going to go back to the local ratepayers, who have to pay more of the cost of running things.
I am dealing with a region which is facing a crisis in finances, because we are growing so quickly that we are not able to provide the services quickly enough for all the new people coming in. I would like to quote from the 30 March 1989 press release from York region. John Scott, the information officer, says, “Funding cuts and other shifts of costs to property taxpayers by the province are blamed for half of a $48.40 tax increase for the average York region home owner.”
It is not that they are poor administrators. I happen to be very impressed by the staff and political people who are running the region of York. As I have talked with other representatives of regional councils in Peel and Durham, I am impressed too by their leadership and their capabilities. But what can they do? They are having to pass onto the local ratepayer, the total property owner, costs of services that heretofore were covered by the provincial government. The province does it so nicely and easily that the media pick it up and have one little trip about it and people do not really understand what happened.
What happened in fact is that in December 1988 the Treasurer (Mr R. F. Nixon) of this province announced the decision by the province to freeze 1989 unconditional grants and roads assistance at the 1988 levels. They froze them. Why? They do not take into consideration at all anything of the growth and needs. It is just a way of freezing it, so that much of that extra cost is now a burden of the local property owners in York region or in any region.
The Treasurer indicated that he has his provincial priorities, but his provincial priorities are now at the cost of the regions and the municipalities across this province, and the municipalities and regional governments are as angry as I have ever seen them.
I have a report from the Association of Municipalities of Ontario. What an impressive organization it is. When we start seeing that Stephen Clark, who is mayor of Brockville and president of the association, is having special meetings in which they are coming out and – they are angry. They cannot believe how badly this government is treating the municipalities in Ontario.
I look at some of the things that come out of their press release. AMO “spoke to the hidden agenda of the provincial government. President Stephen Clark challenged the apparent policy of the government of Ontario of assessing municipal revenues to pay for provincial programs.” That is the point I want to make.
Mr Dietsch: Wasn’t Stephen the Conservative candidate in Leeds?
Mr Cousens: No, he was not. What I am talking about is where the province is taking programs that have long been established as provincial programs and is now saying to the local municipality, “Okay, educational improvements” -- and I will come to education in a moment, if I have time. They are passing that load on to the local municipalities. Higher welfare rates are being passed on to the local municipality. increased accessibility for child care is passed on. Additional mandatory health programs are now paid for at the local level, community-based social services as well.
Pay equity is something this government strongly supports, but I will tell members it is having a heavy cost at the local level. There was a negotiation with the York Region Board of Education just in the last couple of weeks, and the cost to the board on that unit alone is in excess of $2 million a year.
We are seeing how the new occupational health and safety legislation is being passed on to the local level. Bill 187, which is still under consideration in this House and which has to do with courtroom security, is another example of where the local level will be picking up the courtroom security costs. I look at the whole municipal-industrial strategy for abatement, and all of the monitoring and gathering of that data is passed on to the municipality.
What we are talking about is a significant passing on of provincial responsibilities, provincial costs to the local level, to the extent that there was a tax increase in York region that amounted to 11 per cent. You start getting that down. If you look at the region of Sudbury, it was up by 11 per cent. You are talking about the town of Exeter.
Mr McLean: On a point of order, Mr Speaker:
This is an excellent speech and I think there should be at least 20 people here listening to it.
The Acting Speaker (Mr M. C. Ray) ordered the bells rung.
The Acting Speaker: The member for Markham will now resume.
Mr Cousens: My point here is the effect on the local tax base this province is going to have, in summary, if you were to really look at it, what it means is that in my area alone we have had an approximately 20 per cent increase in local taxes in this year. If we have a continuing abandonment of provincial programs and pass them on to the local ratepayer and the local property owner, we could have a doubling of property taxes within the next four to five years.
If you start compounding the interest and compounding everything else that is involved with it, you are talking about an affordability crisis for people to own their home. Right now it is almost impossible to buy a home in the greater Toronto area; now it going to be almost impossible to carry on in that home, especially if you are on a fixed income.
I would like to touch on one other aspect, and that has to do with the problems around education. When you start considering the whole problem that education is having to maintain quality programs and you start reading the letters that I am receiving from such associations as the Ontario Public School Boards’ Association -- I would just like to read the beginning of their 11 April press release. It says:
“ ‘A shortfall in provincial government grants to Ontario’s elementary and secondary schools means that Ontario citizens will be facing double-digit school tax increases or see their educational services cut back,’ said Arlene Wright, president of the OPSBA.”
What we are really seeing is more and more evidence that this government is cutting back on education.
They are great with the talk. When the throne speech came out, education was one of the great priorities of this government, and yet when you get down to the reality of how much money is going out there, in fact it was abominable what the Minister of Education (Mr Ward) did.
He went by plane and flew around the province to tell people how much he was doing for capital grants. He did not bother to talk with the chairmen of the school boards or the administration. He came in, had a press conference and then moved on to another place. Yet, at the same time, he was not fully clear on what these government promises were all about.
We are going to see how bad some of them are when we are dealing with York region. I know in one community in particular he made an announcement and the press picked it up as if, boy, you had the schools announced. The fact of the matter is it is going to be the local ratepayers who pick up the costs, and yet the minister was there, got the headlines, got the first hit, got the news out that he was really a hero. The fact is he is no hero. When you start looking at the facts around what is going on in education, people have something to be alarmed about.
Let’s first of all talk about lot levies. My caucus is strongly opposed to this government’s initiative to start collecting more and more tax dollars through lot levies for education. Our opposition is based on the fact that the proposed levies are inconsistent with the government’s avowed commitment to affordable housing and the well-founded suspicion -- given the government’s policies on Sunday shopping, court security and unconditional municipal road transfers -- that the proposal is simply another part of this government’s hidden agenda to offload its responsibilities on to Ontario municipalities.
The proposed lot levies would place an unfair additional burden on new home buyers. It would further inflate home prices. It would hit some taxpayers but not others and would totally negate the already minimal benefits available from the government’s Ontario home ownership savings plan. In the midst of a housing affordability crisis, it makes no sense to pursue a measure which, regardless of market forces, will add thousands of dollars to the price of a home by way of a hidden tax.
The proposed lot levy is also an inappropriate mechanism for financing the educational system. The maintenance of a quality educational system is in the interests of and is the responsibility of the entire community, not just new home buyers, and should be financed as such.
When the government came through with its budget, it said it would be optional for municipalities to begin with its lot levy proposal. It is not, because the government has already given its capital grants at a new low rate. In my own York region, the rate has been reduced from 75 per cent share by the province to 60 per cent share by the province. The remaining 15 per cent or more will be collected through local lot levies.
I find it peculiar that this government would come along and have a reversal such as it does on this important subject. I would really hope that the board would find other ways of financing education than coming along and penalizing in such a punitive way the new home buyer, as it is in this one.
I believe that property tax is not the most appropriate basis for financing the majority of education costs. I do find it rather upsetting that the government has gone ahead and tried to find this as a mechanism to pay for new schools. They made the commitment and now they are backing off and it is going to be passed on to our own local ratepayers.
Our school boards are furious at this government, and I am seeing signs of that at every turn. I thought one of the quotes that came from a trustee in Vaughan, in the area of the Minister of Labour (Mr Sorbara), expressed the mood of the Roman Catholic separate school board in a very excellent way and I want to quote from what he said. This is taken from the board’s Highlights. I just have to find it again.
“He accused the provincial government of making promises it cannot fund and placing the financial responsibility on local ratepayers. What is happening here is that the provincial government is centralizing the glory and decentralizing the blame.”
That is exactly what the Minister of Education did when he went around saying, “Oh, look at the big announcements,” but he did not take the time to explain to people how much more of the blood would be taken from the system in the local areas.
This board, the York Region Roman Catholic Separate School Board, has written a letter to the Minister of Education requesting emergency funding for needed school projects and requesting earlier funding for projects to be approved in 1991-92.
We are not beginning to get enough money to build the schools for the new people who are coming to our area. The fact of the matter is that we have more portables than we have ever had, thanks to the Peterson government. The people who are sending their children to portables probably will see those kids in portables right through their whole elementary education and right into high school. We have high schools that are 50 per cent portables, and if you talk about that being satisfactory, it is not.
All you have to do is be a parent of one of those children in my area and you would understand how frustrating it is. Here is a government that says all the big words about education, and when it comes time to really doing something for the children, it is not doing it.
All you have to do is start looking at the numbers of children we are getting in there. It is unbelievable. I do not know where they are going to put them, I do not know where the roads are going to be, but right now the Roman Catholic separate school board projects its total number of students for 1989 at 36,748.
Let’s just look at how much it goes up. In 1990 it goes up to 40,000; 1991 to 43,000; 1992 to 46,000; 1993 to 48,000; 1994 to 51,000; 1995 to 54,000; 1996 to 57,000. It goes right through to 1997, 60,000. In 1998, 10 years from the last figure, there will be 63,781 children from what was there in 1988, 32,964. It is phenomenal growth, and those poor new kids who are coming along will probably be in portables, for the large part.
What you end up having is a school board given the responsibility to provide an education for the children and yet not given the funding for it.
I would like to quote and put on the record the chairman of the Roman Catholic school board, Joe Virgilio, who on 10 May 1989 wrote a letter to the Minister of Education. He sent copies to me as well as the York region members of Parliament, the member for York Centre (Mr Sorbara), the member for Durham-York (Mr Ballinger) and the member for York North (Mr Beer). What he says is,
“We are writing this letter to express our serious concerns over the totally inadequate and inequitable level of educational funding for separate school boards in Ontario and specifically the York Region Roman Catholic Separate School Board.”
He goes onto say, “It is now one year later and for 1989 the financial concerns previously outlined remain.” In other words, they have talked, they have not listened, and now the problem still remains. It is not a political problem for the Premier and the Minister of Education, but it sure is for the local trustees. Here is what he says:
“Those financial concerns have, however, been significantly aggravated by the insulting” -- notice he uses the word “insulting.” I use that language around here and those guys all pick on me. Here he is saying it is insulting -- “1989 general legislative grants, which were received and their impact determined in the fourth month of the year to which they apply.” He goes on.
You are dealing with a responsible board, not unlike the public board, and it is saying: “What are we supposed to do? We’re given the job under the Education Act to be trustees,” and what this government does is make it impossible for them to do the kind of job they need to do.
I have a group of people who have been fighting for a way for Brother Andre Catholic high school. You are talking about probably one of the most responsible group of parents. They had a newsletter they sent out on 8 May and here is what they said:
“The provincial allocation falls well short of the minimum needed to effectively resolve the crisis.” By the way, the crisis is the school crisis, the accommodation crisis. We have got super teachers in York region, but we have a real problem in having accommodation for the children.
The board stated in its press release, “We are grateful for the allocations we have received.” So we do three bows. “However, it isn’t anywhere close to what we have been asking for and what we need. For instance, seven of the 10 projects we have received allocations for will not see any real dollars until 1992.
“Personally,” he says, “I am very concerned about the province’s apparent lack of concern over the education crisis facing York region. These funds in my opinion represent too little, too late. If we cannot secure a new high school until September 1992, then the enrolment of Brother Andre could conceivably be twice the design capacity of the school by that date.”
May I just suggest to you, Mr Speaker, when Mr Bruce Keen had put that together along with other representations, he has said in an honest and clear way on behalf of the people of that school, but on behalf of every other school that has a crisis in funding from this province. “We are deeply concerned about this serious problem.”
And he goes on to say, “Many of our children have endured intolerable situations at the elementary school level and we, as parents, are not prepared to accept a similar overcrowding situation in Brother Andre.” And he goes on.
The fact is he is mad, but he is right, and this government is wrong not to fund them the way it should. The government just thinks it is going to go away and it can get these little beaters coming along here, harping away, thinking that there is something the matter with me.
I will tell the members opposite, there is something the matter with their government, by failing to do what they should be doing to finance and fund education as it should be, We are talking about people moving into a region and it is just like anything else: when they were in opposition as a government, they were saying, “Let’s get the schools built when 80 per cent of the kids are there. Let’s do it before that time.” No change.
Here is a government that talks out of both sides of its mouth. When they were in opposition, they were saying they were going to make some changes. When they get in there -- I was fighting for that as well, when I was in the back benches of another government. I was not successful then, but I believed it then and I believe it today: We should not be building the schools so long after the fact, when the children are there, that in fact they have had to be housed in portables or bused for miles and miles and years and years without having the proper accommodation.
We have got a problem in York region as well. Here is the government that comes along and says, “We are going to do junior kindergarten and we are going to have an expansion of kindergarten services.” Do members know what that does to the York Region Board of Education? It means that they need 93 more classrooms and 93 more teachers. And is the money coming from this government to finance it? It is not coming. It is going to come out of the local ratepayers and we are going to see an increase in what they have to pay.
It is one thing to come along and have great expectations and expand the goals, hopes and aspirations of Ontario, but it is quite another thing to have to pay for it. It is going to come out of the backs of the people in our area. They are worried about it. The fact is that many of those people who are paying for it are seniors on fixed income and cannot afford the kind of increases in property taxes that are going to be levied because of this government’s programs that are passed on to the local level.
I have to tell you, Mr Speaker, I am angry. I am really angry at the failure of this government to deal honestly and with integrity on the matters of fiscal responsibility for running the system. The government builds up the expectations, it says it is going to do something and then who pays the bill? Not the government. It falls on the local ratepayers. I will just tell members that lam sick of it and --
Mr Dietsch: Where would you take it from?
Mr Cousens: The member will have his turn to speak. But the fact is that it is a serious matter and I have been elected by the people of York region to speak out on this, and the fact is, the government comes along and thinks it is a laugh. I do not think it is a laugh at all.
There are other problems to this budget. Here is a government that has a social budget, and I would like to give a compliment to those areas and I tried to find that at the beginning of my address. But I have to say, is it not odd, if we start looking at what Canada is all about: in Canada, we cut down more trees than probably any other place in the world and yet we import chainsaws. Stop and think about what that means.
If we look at Sweden and some of the other countries, Sweden is a socialized country and yet somehow it has been able to keep industry, commerce and entrepreneurship strong. They manufacture cars, airplanes and armaments. They have tremendously good computer equipment. We are talking about Electrolux, Saab and Volvo. What do we have that is comparable in Canada, which is a bigger country with more resources?
I really believe that here is a government that has failed to look at its responsibility to industry and commerce. What it has done instead of having any incentives to industry is that it has come along and taxed them.
It is too bad we cannot develop our own chainsaws in this country. Maybe we do not need to cut down as many trees, because people can cut them down cheaper and there are more of them elsewhere. In fact, we are moving into an economy that will not be cutting as many trees in the future. We are moving away from commodities and into innovative things. We are moving into high technology, yet I have a fear that this government does not show the support it should show to the Minister of State for Science and Technology, who has a real job to give leadership.
Today at noon hour I had the pleasure of having lunch with the Honourable Harvie Andre, the Minister of State for Science and Technology. It was at a meeting of the York Technology Association. What I was really impressed by was the way in which, at a federal level, we are talking about a ministry that is trying to promote the exchange of information; it is trying to have a sharing of information throughout the country. We want to pursue the sciences. We want to expand the number of people who are involved in research and development and science and technology.
When we compare Canada with other countries, and we have 30 of I, 000 employees who are engineers, we have to increase that so that more and more of our technology can be developed, maintained and expanded by the brains of our youth, who will have learned more of what science and technology are all about.
We need to increase the proportion of engineers and technologists. We need somehow, as a country, to begin to position ourselves strategically for an opportunity that will open up when we are into the new opportunities provided by the free trade agreement with the United States.
Yet what are we doing? This budget has no reference at all to how this government can, in a significant way, help us position ourselves so that we can be strong in the future.
Mr Hampton: On a point of order: I do not think we have a quorum. Since we are debating the budget, it would seem to be fairly important.
The Acting Speaker ordered the bells rung.
The Acting Speaker: A quorum is now present. The member for Markham will continue.
Mr Cousens: I guess the budget is one of the most important documents that comes out in this House. We deal with many things. The budget debate has a traditional purpose, to give all parties an opportunity to present their views.
I realize that my views would not be the same as those of too many of the Liberals. Surely most of them are not able to stand up and speak their minds. They, in fact, have to go with party policy. They will not be able to come out and deal with some of the local issues, because they will be afraid of losing their opportunity for advancement in the Peterson government, knowing that their parliamentary assistantship could be terminated very quickly or that something would happen if they stepped out of place. Therefore, they are all pooled together.
Mr Carrothers: Is that how it worked in your government, Don?
Mr Cousens: Just by the reaction, you can tell I have hit a nerve.
The Acting Speaker: Order, please.
Mr Cousens: I would like to touch for just a moment on some of the concerns around the Metropolitan Toronto area. It was amazing that the budget, which follows from the throne speech -- Really, in some respects you could tell it was not going to do an awful lot for Metro. They sure were not going to brag about it in the throne speech beforehand, because Metro and the greater Toronto area did not receive any mention at all in the throne speech. The throne speech becomes a time when they can do some gloating, bloating and bragging about all the things they are going to do, but then when the real down-to-earth situation develops as per the budget, the people of greater Toronto suddenly find that here is a government that has another plan for what the people of Ontario really have to do.
We are seeing a problem in Toronto with unprecedented levels of congestion, we are dealing with a lack of reaction on transit initiatives, we are talking about deteriorating highways and roads, yet the government refuses to improve the funding levels to the municipalities. That in itself is a source of great problems. In Metro Toronto alone, the shortfall in funding for transportation means that repairs and rehabilitation of current systems of roads will just not be done, just will not be happening. It is estimated that even the current funding in Metro is several million dollars short for the repairs that need to be done.
I hated it last night when the Don Valley Parkway was closed. I had not seen it was going to be closed. Now that we are into, the repair season, the poor people of Ontario. If we had a long-term hope that there was going to be a solution to all the road problems, then we would have a sense of hope and optimism.
Mr Black: There is.
Mr Cousens: At this time of the year, when I head up to the member’s country in Muskoka, as I did on the weekend --
The Acting Speaker: Order, please.
Mr Cousens: -- and I see the disrepair of the roads and the failure of this government to do anything about it, I think you should stand up and have some kind of --
The Acting Speaker: Order, please. The member will address his remarks through the Speaker.
Mr Cousens: Traffic congestion alone costs close to $1.9 billion for everyone: the retailers, the manufacturers and the consumers. It is the cost of these trucks and equipment sitting and not moving.
Mr Furlong: Where did you get those figures?
Mr Cousens: I got those figures from the Ontario Good Roads Association.
Congestion also exacts a social cost from our communities and our families, in the wasted time spent on freeways and downtown streets.
Transportation planning is becoming increasingly development-led. What we need is a matter of reacting now in an insightful, long-term way on how we can envision the transportation networks around Metropolitan Toronto, the greater Toronto area. I just hope that the few dollars being set aside, which I complimented the minister for, in the early stage can be invested in the proper areas and not just splurged away on some of the things that are not important.
I want to say one other thing.
Mr Dietsch: I can hardly wait until you get to multiculturalism.
Mr Cousens: If members opposite want to keep chattering --
The Acting Speaker: Order, please.
Mr Cousens: As we are dealing with the garbage crisis in and around the greater Toronto area, I have to say that certainly the people in south York region are concerned with the fact that there could well be a new garbage site in Durham and that the government will not be proceeding with a full environmental assessment. I find that just unbelievable.
Mr Furlong: You don’t know that’s a fact, Mr Cousens: I tell the honourable member for Durham Centre that I would just love it if he were right, if he can tell us there will be a full environmental assessment for the garbage dumps being proposed for York, Durham and Peel. The fact is that I am hearing -- and enough people are concerned -- that this government is just going to go ahead and shove down the throats of the people of those communities those new garbage dumps -- and we need them -- without a full environmental assessment. I think we have just had an announcement made by the member for Durham Centre saying that there will be a full environmental assessment. I would like to have that on the record. The member for Durham Centre is very supportive of that.
We are talking about a relationship between the province and the city which is deteriorating. It is deteriorating on just about every level, and we are talking municipal politicians --
Mr Black: That’s nonsense.
Mr Cousens: When I hear the member for Muskoka talk about nonsense, he is a specialist in it. Maybe he can stand up and give one of his speeches so that we will really get a proper definition of what “nonsense” is.
There are a number of points I have tried to make in my presentation. In conclusion, what I would like to say is that I have tried to be balanced in giving credit where credit was due. It is unfortunate that there is not that much credit due to this government, but in those areas in which they have been supportive -- the hospital in my own community and the Social Assistance Review Committee by the Minister of Community and Social Services and hopefully a good transportation initiative -- that is a beginning.
In the meantime, the people pf Ontario will pay the bill: double the taxation in four years since this government took power. What we are seeing is also a passing through of those costs to the local ratepayer. We are going to see more inflation. We are going to see more costs of government. What we are going to see, as well, is a government that continues to spend on itself and not really on the needs of the people of this province who need those services.
I will be voting against the budget of this government, and I just hope there will be enough people from the Liberal back benches who will join with me and the members of the Ontario Progressive Conservative caucus to vote this budget down.
Mr Sola: I would like to respond to the member’s statement with just a few quotes from various newspapers. Here is one headline from the Toronto Star, May 21: “Scrapping OHIP Premiums a Nice Gift for Many Families.”
It goes on to say: “If you list the pluses and minuses, chances are you’ll conclude you will be better off in 1990 because of this budget. And even if you aren’t, there’s an element of fairness in this financial blueprint for the next 12 months that may make the pill easier to swallow.”
It goes on: “For individuals, the elimination of OHIP premiums next January -- that’s a saving of $714 at the family rate -- makes an awfully nice gift that far outweighs the modest increase Nixon plans for Ontario income tax next year.”
In regard to that income tax, which will go to 53 per cent of the federal tax, George Brett says, “But this is a fleabite compared to the advantage you get from the dropping of the OHIP premiums.”
That is just one opinion.
Then in regard to picking on the Metropolitan Toronto area, when you take a look at the transportation announcement, Highway 403, Highway 410, Highway 427, the Queen Elizabeth Way and Highway 407 are all within the greater Metro area. A transit link to Pearson International Airport, I think, benefits Metro Toronto and the greater Toronto area, if it benefits anybody.
Then, gateways to speed commuters: There are 15 gateways in the greater Toronto area. More GO Transit and Toronto Transit Commission service: GO improvements will include extensions of service to Oshawa, downtown Hamilton, Milton, Georgetown, Richmond Hill and Stouffville.
The Deputy Speaker: Thank you. The member’s time is up.
Mr McLean: I would like to comment on the member’s speech this afternoon. It certainly brought out a few facts that a few members in this Legislature did not like to hear. I would like to comment on some of the facts he did bring out. With regard to the indication by the Treasurer that he has reduced the deficit and has recorded surpluses and practically given the people of this province a balanced budget, I want to say something. I want to tell members what the truth is. That is what the Treasurer said. The truth is that he is adding another $577 million to the debt. The total debt will be $39,921,000,000 after this year. That is $4,159 for every man, woman and child in this province, and he has the nerve to get up here in the Legislature and say that he has reduced the deficit, that this province is showing good fiscal responsibility, which is not the truth at all.
The member who just spoke previously certainly indicated much of that in his statement. There is going to be another 101 per cent increase since 1984-85 in the provincial spending, and he says that is good fiscal management. I say it is not.
I want to comment briefly with regard to the payroll tax that is going to be taken off all the school boards and the hospitals and everyone in this province. When we look at the amount of money that is going into the payroll tax from the tourist industry, there will be fewer jobs for temporary, part-time and casual labour because of this extra tax. You cannot tell me that the gasoline tax is going to help the tourist industry; it is certainly not. The increased taxation that has been put on by this Treasurer in the last two years is exorbitant and disgraceful. I think the member’s speech was excellent.
When I look at some of the spending with regard to some of the ministries, I am glad to see the Office for Disabled Persons’ administration has increased 90 per cent in three years, just for administration. I say that is fiscal mismanagement.
Hon Mr Mancini: Once again, we have witnessed great laxity in the way members use figures in the House. The honourable member who just finished speaking said something about the administrative costs of the Office for Disabled Persons. The honourable member opposite knows full well that the office was created three years ago, and the figures he alludes to are not correct at all.
What the honourable member should be referring to, if he was indeed honest with himself and with the members here in the House, is the fact that he and a lot of other members across the floor have written me letters, have asked questions here in the Legislature about programs like the Ontario home renewal program for disabled persons, and we have increased the budget for the next two years by $5 million in each year so that we could accommodate the people who have requested the use of the program as supported by the honourable member opposite.
The speech that was given by the member for Markham (Mr Cousens) was quite interesting. He lashed out in every direction: north, south, east and west. As he was lashing out north he would say we are spending too much, and then he would turn around and go south and say we are not spending enough. Oddly enough, for some reason he seemed to focus on York region, where the honourable member is from, and laid out a litany of areas where we could spend more money. As soon as he finished laying out that litany of areas where we could spend more money, he then turned on the rest of the province and said we should not be spending any money anywhere else.
As far as the deficit is concerned, when I was first elected in 1975, I want to tell my friend opposite who just finished that the annual provincial debt was almost $3 billion.
Mr Adams: I would like to pick up on the point about the debt and the deficit. The member for Simcoe East (Mr McLean) made remarks about the size of the debt. He should know that at present it would take 10 months of our current provincial revenue to pay off completely that debt, which is the overall debt he was talking about. Only one year ago, that was 15 months. Now if that is not an improvement, IP do not know what is.
Also, with regard to his federal colleagues, I would point out that the increase in the annual deficit at the federal level equals -- that is, the increase this year alone after four years in power -- the size of our annual payments. With regard to the federal debt, our total debt, the provincial debt of Ontario, is equal to the annual deficit at the federal level.
Mr McLean: On a point of personal privilege, Mr Speaker: The minister has said the figures that released in this Legislature are incorrect. I want to tell members that the figures I released are in this year’s 1989 budget and they are correct.
Mr Cousens: I thank the member for Simcoe East. I believe he has touched a nerve of the Minister without Portfolio responsible for disabled persons (Mr Mancini), because there is no doubt that the minister responsible for the disabled failed to understand the point made by the member, that he is spending money with a great abandon on his administration and support costs and not necessarily putting it where it is needed.
I would also say that the minister responsible for the disabled made accusations which were totally wrong. I think there has to be a balance in what he is talking about, and I was asking for that. If he is going to have new areas coming in, he should provide the services for them, not just abandon them the way this government is doing. The last thing I will ever do is try to do things for one area at the expense of the other. What this government has done is do things to Metropolitan Toronto, in charging it taxes, that it is not doing to the other parts of the province. I would just ask him to stop and look himself.
The member for Mississauga East (Mr Sola) gives Liberal happy talk, but what he needs to do is look at the tax commentary of Deloitte Haskins and Sells Associates when they talk about the employer health levy. They say: “The imposition of the employer health levy to replace OHIP premiums is just one more tax burden for businesses to shoulder, whether they be large or small, incorporated or unincorporated, profitable or struggling. It may represent a disincentive to job creation or job retention. Such a tax can be expected to cause the greatest difficulty for existing small businesses or those just starting up, as profit margins for these enterprises tend to be small. Employers currently suffering losses and those in the service sector and other labour-intensive industries will be hit hard by the new tax.”
The member for Mississauga East should consider carefully what he says when he thinks he is doing everybody a big favour by levying that employer health levy.
Mrs Sullivan: Once again, I am pleased to participate in the debate on the Ontario budget. Last year, I was able to combine my remarks on the province’s fiscal plans with my maiden speech to the House. This year, I feel something of an older hand in putting forward my views. One of the views that has not changed over that period of time is my view that the Treasurer (Mr R. F. Nixon) will surely be counted as one of the finest treasurers in the history of the province. I believe that this budget tells the story of why he will be held in such esteem.
The 1989 Ontario budget is creative and innovative, It provides the underpinnings for a substantial action agenda. It has been carefully crafted to combine fiscal responsibility with social justice. It is a Liberal budget. It provides services needed today while building for a better tomorrow. It will keep Ontario dynamic, compassionate and competitive.
In my remarks, I want to raise some of the issues that people in my constituency have brought forward to me. The province’s fiscal and expenditure plans mean a great deal to people in my riding, and they have told me their views. My experience is not unique among members, of course, but we would all agree that the passion that is expressed becomes more poignant when it is our own constituents who express that passion.
Some of the people who have come to talk to me about the budget are sophisticated in financial matters, and their views have been placed with great amounts of accompanying detail. Other people speak from a life experience in work. Others reflect their association with community groups and agencies. Many speak as individuals who have been hurt about how things must change to save other people from the pain that they have endured.
Because we live in a relatively small geographical area in Halton Centre, or perhaps because economic and social influences are similar, there is a remarkable community of views, no matter what the individual condition. People in Halton Centre want Ontario to capture and retain control over its future financial capabilities. They do not want us to burden their children and grandchildren with debt levels that are intolerable.
People in Halton Centre want to see fair and equitable treatment of those who, either for a short-term or longer-term crisis are unable to share fully in our booming economy. While they support food banks and clothing exchanges with donations and work, they do not believe these ought to be a continuing part of our lives in Ontario.
People in Halton Centre are convinced that we must hone and plan our business and industrial expansion to take into account the changing world of work and trade. They know that economic prosperity is a spur to social development, and they want to be sure that there are adequate roads, bridges and sewers to accommodate new and changing industries and residential areas. They want to be able to work in their home community more and more; and when they cannot do so, they want to be able to get to work in a safe way by a reliable transportation network.
People in my riding, like others in Ontario, are generous. They are willing to pay their fair share, not only for themselves but for their neighbours. In return, they want to see high standards in education, health care, business and technological development, social services, environmental programs, and in our basic infrastructure.
I want to trace with the members how this budget responds to the issues that my constituents tell me matter to them. Overall, that response is a very positive one.
People in Ontario have told me they are concerned with levels of government deficit. Whether it is an organized group like a chamber of commerce or individuals expressing concern about deficit levels, it is clearly on people’s minds. I do not believe that all of that concern is a reflection of the federal government hype leading up to and following the federal budget. What it does reflect are fears that if the public sector borrows too much today for its day-to-day expenses, the next generation and the next one after that will not be able to clear themselves of an ongoing debt burden.
I thought I would take a moment to review the progress that Ontario has made under the budgetary planning of the Treasurer in his recent budgets in coping with our debt deficit load. I should remind the House that in 1986 the deficit stood at $2.6 billion; in 1987, that shrank to $2.5 billion. Last year, the deficit fell further to $1.5 billion, and in 1989, the Treasurer is forecasting a budgetary deficit of $577 million -- the lowest level since 1974.
Net cash requirements have similarly been reduced from the planned level of $2.2 billion, which the Treasurer inherited in taking office in 1985, to the expectation of a net cash surplus of $478 million in 1989-90. The members will note that this is an improvement of $572 million from the interim estimates of 1988.
Under the Treasurer’s stewardship, the province’s operating position has also strengthened, to the point where it is the strongest in Ontario’s history. From minus $400 million in 1985, the operating position moved to a surplus of $1.67 billion last year. For 1989, the Treasurer is forecasting a surplus in the operating account of S2.69 billion, surpassing last year’s progress by $1 billion. That surplus will mean that more than four fifths of our capital needs will be met from current revenues this year. it means that our day-to-day accounts are met from our revenue base.
The charts for every indicator tell the story of fiscal responsibility. We can see that the factor of public debt interest as a percentage of revenue has steadily declined from 12.4 per cent in 1985 to 10.5 per cent in the 1989 budget plan. I have spoken about the operating position. The debt as a share of the economy has decreased from 17.7 per cent in 1985 to 14.9 per cent in 1989. The number of months of revenue that would be required to pay the total debt has declined from 15 months in 1985 to 11.8 months in 1989. The debt as a percentage of revenue has declined from 12.4 per cent in 1985 to 10.5 per cent in 1989.
Every chart, every indicator is heading in the right direction. Every indicator underlines a responsible approach to our spending today and the effect that it will have on the next generation. With this fiscal record, we are the envy of most other provinces, and certainly of the federal government. I am confident that this record means a great deal to my constituents and that they will applaud the conscientious efforts that have been made to keep our performance in control.
There are many new initiatives in the 1989 budget. It is not only a fiscally responsible document, but it is socially responsible as well. There is one particular area that I would like to highlight and that is the elimination of Ontario health insurance plan premiums beginning 1 January 1990. Members will recall that in 1985 our party told Ontarians that we intended to eliminate OHIP premiums. In the budget of that year, OHIP premiums were frozen. Between 1986 and 1988, more than 105,000 individuals and families were exempted from paying OHIP premiums. In addition, premium assistance for senior citizens and low-income families and individuals was enriched in each of those years, with a 1988 provincial cost of $770 million.
The Social Assistance Review Committee report which was released last September also underlined the need to abolish premiums altogether. With the 1989 budget, the Treasurer has taken a bold new step in providing a billion-dollar benefit to individuals and families in 1990; $550 million will be saved by people who would otherwise have been required to pay premiums, and an additional $450 million will be realized in personal income tax reductions from the elimination of personal income tax on taxable benefits.
Those are heady dollars, but in the budget lockup last week George Brett, who writes for the Toronto Star, worked with a computer model and calculated what this could mean to an individual family. He selected a two-income family with a $50,000 total income; $30,000 earned by one spouse and $20,000 by the other. I would like to read how he calculated his model and what results he came up with. He reports in the Toronto Star of 21 May:
“It was assumed that this family has two children under seven in day care, for a total day care cost for the year of $8,000. The computer was asked to produce numbers showing the benefit from eliminating both employer-paid and employee-paid OHIP premiums.
“In either case, the computer responded, this couple’s income taxes would rise by $49 in 1990 if you count just the one percentage point provincial tax increase.
“But including the OHIP saving, husband and wife -- in the case of employee-paid OHIP premiums -- would enjoy a net tax saving of $665 in 1990 compared with the situation if they had paid the $714 OHIP premiums themselves....
“But if the OHIP premium before 1990 was 100 per cent employer-paid, there would be a saving of $274 for the family.
“This comes about because the dropping of OHIP premiums also results in the elimination of the $714 taxable benefit (which it was assumed went to the $30,000 earner).
“A smaller saving, but still worth while.”
To any family, $274 would look pretty good.
I did another analysis for a family from Halton Centre, married with one income earner, who was earning $25,000. They have two school-aged children. Net of other taxes, they would still see a significant improvement. If they paid their own OHIP premiums, their savings would range from $600 to $650. If the employer paid their premiums, they could receive a $150 to $200 break on their tax bill.
George Brett concluded in his Star article, “If you list the pluses and the minuses, chances are you’ll conclude you will be better off in 1990 because of this budget. And even if you aren’t, there’s an element of fairness in this financial blueprint for the next 12 months that may make the pill easier to swallow.”
I believe that fairness has gone hand in hand with fiscal responsibility and that, frankly, that is what people in Ontario want. To put the funding of the health care system on a responsible, solid basis, two new sources of funding are drawn on: first, a one-point increase in the personal income tax and second, an employer health levy.
That kind of a levy is not new to Canada. Indeed, Manitoba and Quebec have a similar approach to health care funding. Of course, the federal government utilizes this method for Canada pension plan and Unemployment Insurance Commission contributions.
In Ontario, for, businesses with less than $200,000 gross wages, salaries and other remuneration, there will be a rate of less than one per cent. I want to point out, particularly to my Conservative friends who are conspicuous by their absence, that this sector will comprise 75 per cent of Ontario employers.
Then, of course, there will be a graduated rate, to the maximum level, for companies with gross payrolls of over $400,000. That rate will be less than two per cent. I want to advise the members that the highest rate will apply to about 15 per cent of Ontario’s largest employers.
I want to compare that to the rate announced last week in Quebec in the provincial budget. In Quebec, their rate is 3.36 per cent, close to one and one half times that proposed for Ontario. In Manitoba, the levy is 2.25 per cent across the board.
As well, I think we should recognize that the employer contribution to health care is still lower, significantly lower, than private health care insurance in the United States. In 1989, it is estimated that a manufacturing company in the US pays on average about $3,000 a year for each employee for health care coverage.
I believe we have an equity in the sharing of health care costs from the personal tax base and from corporate sources. As well, we are yet maintaining our competitive position vis-à-vis neighbouring jurisdictions which have a similar levy. Our health care costs remain at about 33 per cent of our budgetary expenditures at $13.9 billion.
We have in Ontario, and we expect, one of the finest health care systems in the world. Our health care programs are envied, copied and studied by people from around the world. If the corporate clout of Lee Iacocca can be combined with the political will of Ted Kennedy and others to change the system in the United States, it should be noted that it is our system that they want to copy.
It strikes me that Ontario is looked to as a model, not simply because our system makes sense from a social justice point of view, but it is also clear that our system makes sense from an economic and business point of view. By putting the funding of our system on a more rational basis, we will guarantee that our health care system will continue to provide the highest standards and will make economic and social sense as well.
Part of making sense is to provide funding for community and personal health programs so that we do not have to be continually dependent on an institutionalized setting for health care service. I know that it is not only people in Halton Centre, but people throughout the province who will welcome the funding initiatives included in this budget.
I would like to remind the members of them: $349 million will be allocated to home care assistance, a 25 per cent increase over last year; $108 million will be spent on community mental health programs, a 30 per cent increase over last year; and $43 million for alcohol- and drug- dependency programs provide an 18 per cent increase over last year. In sum, $1.3 billion will be spent in 1989 on community health programs.
Many of us are still reviewing the recent report of the Premier’s Council on Health Strategy. It is clear that the budget initiatives are very much in line with their initial strategy document and with the latest report. If the experts are telling us that these are important things to do, I can tell the members that the people in Oakville, Burlington, Milton and Lowville are saying the same things.
They are also saying that the response in the budget to problems in our social assistance system was needed and is thoroughly welcomed. Just recently, some 125 people from my constituency, joined by a few from Burlington South, Oakville South and Halton North, met with me for lunch and to hear the Minister of Community and Social Services (Mr Sweeney) talk about the myths associated with our welfare recipients and the welfare system. There were business people, farmers, volunteers, people who receive social assistance and care givers at that meeting.
If the Social Assistance Review Committee report was eloquent in written form about the profile of people who need help, the Minister of Community and Social Services was adamant about exploding the myths and bringing people to understand that the welfare bums could be them, given injury, given spousal death, given marriage breakdown, given disability, given industry decline, given circumstances that are difficult, if not impossible, to control.
It was clear that people in the room recognized that even with the $4.3 billion which we spent last year on community and social services, including $2.2 billion on income maintenance programs, we were shortchanging our fellows. Too often, after the rent was paid, there was not enough money for food; too often, the system of penalties built into the way we deliver benefits meant that people could not afford to work or go back to school or out for training, and too often, children were going to school hungry or were not able to participate in school activities.
Just as members of all parties in the Legislature celebrated the social assistance initiatives included in the budget and the addition of $415 million so that we can face and deal with some of these problems, so do my constituents celebrate.
I want to just remind the House how that money will be spent: $120 million of the $415 million will fund the six per cent average increase in benefits on 1 January 1990. The balance of the $415 million will be directed at reforming social assistance, providing increases for children, redesign and enrichment of shelter benefits, support to employment and removal of disincentives to work.
The new funding addresses the major recommendations of the Social Assistance Review Committee. The reforms which the funding will drive represent a major economic as well as a social investment in people in the province, but on a personal level, they will make a difference to the way people live and to the way people see themselves. In association with the social assistance funding initiatives, we must also join our community agencies in celebrating the new $88.8 million that will boost the salaries of some 15,000 people working in community agencies across the province.
In Halton, our agency work has been severely hampered because people working in the agencies could not afford to keep working, and although Mr Wright does not come from my riding, I wanted to draw to members’ attention a quotation from David Wright, executive director of the Visiting Homemakers Association in Metro Toronto. He indicated that homemakers were leaving the profession to escape low wages and no benefits and he said, “It literally has been a situation where we were abusing people because of their caring qualities.”
Mr Wright was pleased to see these initiatives and so am I. I will tell members that in Halton the four groups that will benefit from the new funding include visiting homemakers who go to the homes of the elderly, the disabled and those suffering from acute or chronic health problems; workers who assist children and adults with developmental difficulties, such as group home workers; attendant care workers who provide care for people with severe physical disabilities, such as quadriplegics; and community agency staff working with young offenders and individuals who help victims of family violence in group homes, halfway houses and women’s shelters.
These people are caring and dedicated. The work they do and the care they provide comes from the kind of a commitment that people in Halton Centre want to see. This budget initiative is one which will serve us all well.
There are other areas in which people in Halton Centre are anxious for change and the budget has addressed many of them. My constituency is a growth area, very much a part of the rapid expansion which has characterized the circle around Metro Toronto. For regional officials in Halton, it was an important step to be included in the greater Toronto area and a step that was sought. For Halton, it means that there will be involvement in the discussions of planning for growth, the ramifications of growth and the capital requirements to meet residential and industrial expansion needs.
There will be benefits of dialogue but there will also be a common recognition of problems which can be foreseen and, in partnership with the province, dealt with in a concerted and planned way. We know what those problems are: major highways at capacity from dawn to dusk, overcrowding in schools that draw from a new population which is family-oriented and the need for sewage and garbage disposal and transportation networks that will enable our new and existing industries to take their goods to market.
The user-pay portion of the GTA bargain has not settled lightly yet with Halton residents, but it certainly has with those who see the deterioration of roads proceeding at a faster pace than their original expectations because of the nature and volume of traffic and with those who want to be able to plan ahead rather than play catch-up ball later.
For us in Halton, the introduction of a new transportation capital program of $2 billion will be vital. Indeed, the expansion and accelerated construction of Highway 403 will be of extreme practical value to us in Halton. When that construction is complete, pressure on the Queen Elizabeth Way and Highway 5 through Oakville and Burlington will be relieved from overcapacity to, in the case of the Queen Elizabeth Way, a reasonable traffic flow.
As well, additional GO service to Milton will provide necessary transportation to and from work for many of my constituents as well as those of my colleague the member for Halton North (Mr Elliot). I can also guarantee that our municipalities in Halton will seek their share of the new $200-million, four-year capital program for municipal arterial roads and highway connecting links. For our changing, evolving and growing area, these initiatives are needed.
Halton Centre is in transition. Not long ago it was bucolic and pastoral. Agriculture was a mainstay of the economy, and we still have an aggressive, progressive agricultural sector that will welcome the commitment to red meat stabilization and to the land stewardship program enhancements. The Ontario Farm-Start program providing assistance to new farmers was a program that Halton farmers particularly liked, and they used it. The injection of $11 million into that program will assist a new generation to maintain a viable agricultural sector in my area. In Halton Centre there are new energies at work. This budget will go a long way to ensure that all of our assets are maximized.
I believe a budget is not a document that is put together in isolation. Before it is drafted, expertise and analysis are solicited from a broad range of groups and organizations representing a wide spectrum of our Ontario community. The Treasurer has opened up the budget process by requesting the involvement of the standing committee on finance and economic affairs. That committee received 56 written submissions and heard 39 oral presentations before making its report available to the Treasurer. Some 96 interest groups submitted prebudget briefs or met with the Treasurer, and I know that the internal analysis with the Treasurer and his officials is comprehensive, intensive and demanding.
I would like to congratulate the Treasurer and his officials for compiling and presenting budget papers on the expenditure profile of the Ministry of Community and Social Services, on municipal government finance and on public sector pension reform. These papers are clear, coherent and concise. I believe that they will serve as useful backgrounders for people who want to discuss these areas and that they will be appreciated by the people who read them.
This budget supports Ontario’s competitive position while responding to those who are less able to help themselves, It is truly creative, controlled and compassionate. It carries the mark of a Liberal Treasurer. I will definitely be supporting this budget when the matter is placed before the House.
Mr Wlldman: I was listening over the electronic Hansard, as we call it here, to the member’s comments. I found them very interesting and cogent. I am just wondering, though. She indicated that she represents a growth area in the province.
Mr Pouliot: GTA -- a catchy phrase.
Mr Wildman: Yes, it is now called the greater Toronto area.
I think she was alluding to the importance of the proposals to allow for lot levies, which would enable some municipalities and I suppose school boards to gain additional revenue to assist them to provide capital construction for services that are required. I wondered if she might comment on how this is going to assist in any way those areas of the province which are not fortunate enough to be considered growth areas or part of the greater Toronto area.
I wonder if she might explain how municipalities or school boards in, say, northern Ontario or eastern Ontario that have deteriorating capital facilities can obtain assistance to renovate and rebuild when they do not have a lot of growth and there are not a lot of new lots being brought on stream which they could apply such levies to, particularly when we are considering that the money probably is not for new capital construction but rather for repairs and rebuilding.
Mr Adams: I have a very small point to make. I think the people of Halton Centre can be really proud of the fine speech they have just heard, It was in very marked contrast, I thought, to the previous speech we heard. It showed a very real grasp of the issues, a very real understanding of the implications of a budget of this quality.
The point I would like to make is that the members of the House who were here, including the Treasurer, listened with great attention to that speech, and I was disappointed that there was no member of the third party here to hear the words of wisdom of the member for Halton Centre (Mrs Sullivan).
Mrs Sullivan: To the member for Algoma (Mr Wildman), I did not refer to the lot levy proposals in my text, but I am pleased to do so in responding to his remarks.
Indeed, both of my school boards, the separate school board and the public school board in my area, are looking very positively and have given the Treasurer an indication of their support for those initiatives as well as for other initiatives that he has made available to school boards in growth areas, including (he ability to look at new and innovative funding methods involving, for example, the private sector.
I should mention to those who are concerned about school boards in areas outside of growth areas that the sources of funding are basically the same as they were before the budget. This new initiative responds to very serious problems in serious areas. There is a property tax base. There are provincial grant levels which are, for retrofitting and renovations, 75 per cent of the cost of the program. These initiatives are for capital, they are not for renovation, and lam sure the member understands that.
M. Pouliot : J’apprécie l’occasion qui m’est donnée, tout comme aux autres députés, de participer au débat concernant le budget qui a été déposé en Chambre la semaine dernière, le 17 mai, par l’honorable trésorier de l’Ontario (M. R. F. Nixon).
If the speech from the throne over the years has lost its significance, aside perhaps from select people choosing at some personal expense and greater public expense to make the journey to Toronto, the same cannot be said of the budget, perhaps because of the amiable guardian of the public purse. I guess seniority does that. You even acquire a distinctive walk that you equate with being solemn.
When you talk about a budget of some $41 billion -- it is not a secret to anyone that no government is all bad or all good. Certainly not. There were some good things in the budget. If standing order 24(b) is strictly adhered to, I may have the opportunity, with the understanding and blessing of this House, to talk about the good deeds in the last budget, such as the abolition of Ontario health insurance plan premiums. So what was in the accord, after the fact, mind you, gets --
Hon R. F. Nixon: It was not in the accord; it was a pure Liberal initiative.
Mr Pouliot: There will be no need to have it in any future accord, I can assure the Treasurer of that.
So the less fortunate will have access to the health system without going the route of premium assistance.
In regard to social assistance reform, bad news travels rather quickly in this sanctum, so maybe someone will take the responsibility on my behalf, and the same with our colleagues, and convey appreciation and congratulations to the Minister of Community and Social Services. He has done very well. In fact, it was very timely when yesterday he made an announcement of some supplementary $88 million.
I think we are talking in terms of 15,000 people, the people who go beyond dedication. Time and time again they are, yes, foot soldiers, front-line workers, the people whose dedication at times borders on abuse. Their pay envelope has been enhanced. There is more money now to provide that essential service. It is a win-win situation. It is a measure whereby people save money.
When the government keeps people out of institutions, those good deeds do not go unnoticed by the opposition. I am happy that one does not have to shout loudly. For instance, the Minister of Agriculture and Food (Mr Riddell) was nixed in the last budget, but not so the Minister of Community and Social Services. So we, of course, agree and commend the government for a job well done. It is not what it should be, but it is a step in the right direction. The vision begins to have some substance; it is significant.
On the minimum wage, there was not much. Some cynic could say, “Twenty-five cents, a two-bit budget.” No, no, no. Let’s be fair. Twenty-five cents over a small sum, if you look at the percentage, is more than five per cent. So you are looking at $5 per hour. I am sure that does not even get you across to McDonald’s in Toronto; certainly not the McDonald’s at the SkyDome. Consequently, it is one of the highest -- and I am sure someone will correct me -- if not the highest in the land. But again, Ontario and especially the greater Toronto area or GTA, which is the catchy phrase that has been thrown forth, can well afford to do those things.
There is always a dilemma. You have to raise money to provide essential services. We all readily acquiesce in the need for people to pay what should be a fair share, but I will get to that later. I just want to touch briefly on revenue. There are some changes here. One has to do with lifestyle. Again, we are talking about $40 billion or $41 billion. I see under “Tobacco Tax” in 1987-88 that it was $639 million. The projected revenue on the sin tax, which is tobacco, is expected to only yield $646 million. So it is not even keeping up with the rate of inflation.
The tax on alcohol is under “Other Revenue” under “LCBO Profits.” The member for Muskoka-Georgian Bay (Mr Black) will appreciate this. Lifestyle does that: people smoke less and they drink less. Consequently, the tax portion of both products is decreased. So much for sin taxes.
Mr Black: A step in the right direction.
Mr Pouliot: That is right indeed, a step in the right direction. So what the government has to do in this case is enhance its revenue. Where does it go to raise more taxes? Does it create another sin tax? It has already hit tobacco and alcohol. So what it does is tax wheels, literally. It turns the necessity of driving a car --
Mr Pouliot: Mr Speaker, one more time, all I am asking the members of the Liberal party for is an ounce of civility. It deals specifically with article 24(b) of the standing orders of the Legislative Assembly. If I am going to be interrupted every time I attempt to convey a message to the people of Ontario, more specifically the people of our great region, it simply does not make any sense.
Back to the sin tax, This is what we are talking about: a gasoline tax of one cent per litre effective when the budget was tabled last week, and a supplementary, another one cent per litre effective 1 January 1990. Members will recall that with the tabling of the federal budget an additional two cents a litre was asked for from the motorists of Ontario, so what we are talking about in a period of six months is nothing short of four cents per litre in the riding of Lake Nipigon where you drive longer distances, where a car is not a luxury. You do not have the alternatives such as a sophisticated public transit system. A car is an absolute necessity.
What you are looking at, on average, in the riding of Lake Nipigon, in northern Ontario, is that you are getting closer to 60 cents a litre, because in the past six months the federal and provincial governments of the day have imposed an additional four cents a litre. When you drive longer distances, and when you must warm up the cars because of the climatic conditions, it becomes indeed punitive.
It does very little to enhance tourism. In fact, you could say it turns tourism into a shoeshine industry. Not only are we asking people paying us the compliment of a visit to drive on substandard roads, we are also gouging them. We are asking them to pay close to 60 cents a litre.
But this does not suffice. The government has a budget of $41 billion and what it does is tell people: “Every time you buy a pneumatic tire, we’re getting you on the tax. Every time you buy a tire, we’re going to sock it to you, an additional $5 per tire.” You are already paying eight per cent with the sales tax. Now the federal tax on manufacturing has gone up by 1.5 per cent, it is going to work its way in. Additionally, what this government is saying is, “Now you’re paying 13 per cent on every tire you buy.” Sales tax is eight per cent and five dollars per tire. The tires get a little balder. It is an invitation to sin -- sins of omission -- because there is not much money left.
If you are to get a licence to drive the substandard roads of northern Ontario, it will cost you an additional three dollars per year just to get the permit that gives you the right, that is, a driver’s licence. That is quite a substantial increase.
We are being nickel-and-dimed to death. That is what is happening. Then for every duplicate you need, every form, every test, every inquiry, the cost goes up in some cases by 250 per cent. It is not a big deal, but there is a style, method, approach that is regressive.
It goes on and on. In terms of producing revenues, you are looking at the base, what you call income tax, the provincial tax. It goes from 52 to 53 per cent -- Not so long ago we were talking about 48 per cent -- if you have a family with a federal taxable income. People get their T-4; it tells them how much they made last year, then they take the tax form and work it out. I think usually on page 4, it says, “Federal tax payable: $10,000.” That is something that the “middle class” can relate to.
It means that when you see 53 per cent of the base -- and I think you find that at the bottom of page 2 -- last year if you were paying $5,200, which is the provincial share, this year you would be paying $5,300, so there is 100 bucks gone, 100 bucks less that you cannot throw into the economy, that this government has taken from your pocket. It is very regressive indeed. They show no mercy.
On the one hand, while I was complimenting the good deeds of the Ministry of Community and Social Services and its success with the last budget, I just want to bring to members’ attention -- and there are others -- a point that is simply appalling and shocking: other taxation that will generate $69 million. Last year it was only $5 million.
Then the shocking news: $ I million out of the $69 million projected will come from a tax on vehicles for the disabled. It is right here. I hope the Treasurer will have the opportunity to say whether we are talking about taxing wheelchairs. For some people. it is a vehicle. I was really appalled and shocked, because it ran contradictory, most blatantly in the face of what I was led to believe and still believe is a reform concerning the less fortunate, that more money is available in the budget. That is what it says right here under “Other Taxation:” $1 million anticipated revenue for vehicles for the disabled. I find this rather surprising, and it is right in this book.
I try for an instant to put myself in the shoes of a civil servant in this province, or, if members wish, a teacher. I look at three reports that are condensed -- they are summarized broadly -- to serve the needs of a government.
We have already run through together the way the government systematically and deliberately took more money out of the pocket of the middle class, $100 here through the sales tax and another $150 to $200 if you drive a vehicle in northern Ontario, so you are up to anywhere from $200 to perhaps $250.
It is not enough. If you are a teacher or a civil servant and if you have a combined fund of $21 billion to administer -- $15 billion, a figure of some magnitude by any standard, for the teachers’ pension. It is well-funded indeed, $6 billion, with the civil service. It is not enough. They will go and pick up another one per cent. They call it the indexing plan. So, if you make $35,000 or $40,000, figures I can relate to, it speaks for itself. One per cent means an additional $400 a year, when there really was no need for the government to pass legislation.
Mr Furlong: It means 100 per cent index inflation,
Hon Mr Conway: For a fully indexed pension.
The Acting Speaker (Mr M. C. Ray): Order, please.
Mr Pouliot: The government has chosen to make a difference between the plans. The three studies will attest. We are talking about experts here, people who are most familiar with these kinds of endeavours, people who can come up with projections. They are telling us that both plans are well-funded, that there is significant money. We already went through the $21 billion. a significant amount.
But for the next 50 years there is the guarantee on any projection that the plan will take care of itself. Of course, at the present rate, by the year 2007, the indexing portion could be in a deficit position, but the government did not wish to negotiate that. Instead, the government is informing us that “Yes, negotiations are going on, but in the meantime, we will arbitrarily take the position and we will go another $300, $400, in some cases $500 less in your pocket, because you will be paying one per cent more.” This is what the government is saying; this is what the government will do.
The result of the budget and a great deal of hype was intended to appease the population, to prepare people. The proverbial scare tactics were employed; you blame anybody but yourselves. In this case, the federal government was blamed. It says that transfer payments, payments from the federal government to the province of Ontario, had decreased as a result of the last federal budget. Therefore, if the government of Ontario was to provide the same essential services, it would have no alternative but to increase taxes, so users of those services would pay in order to compensate.
“The Treasurer lied,” said some politicians. The Treasurer (Mr R. F. Nixon) did not refuse or play with figures, because I have it here in the budget. It says that revenues -- that is, federal transfers, what the feds give back to the province -- will go from $4.9 billion, $5 billion if you wish, to an amount surpassing $5 billion. You cannot blame the neighbours for your own endeavours. This is systematic and this is deliberate.
In fact, and the words are not too strong, the government of Ontario has placed the middle class under a state of siege. When you look at the method here, it has every component that will incite a tax revolt. What this party was asking was simply that fairness be the order of the day, because the system was intended to be progressive, not regressive. The system was never meant to shift the fiscal responsibility from high earners to a consumer system where the consumers get picked left and right.
This government prides itself with role models. It tells us daily that it rewards risk-takers. When I first came here, I thought they were talking about hardrock miners; I thought they were talking about pulp workers. They were talking about the risk-takers on Bay Street.
I ask anyone if it is not normal for people to pay their fair share of taxes, that you do not have to use the Bahamas as a tax shelter, that the middle class can look at the future with a degree of confidence. When we look at the revenues, for every $1 that comes in only 12 cents comes from the corporations, from the business community, only 12 cents on the dollar and they are the people who benefit the most.
We do not want to discourage those people. Everyone wishes, candidly, to wish somebody else well. But we are talking about fundamentals here. Why can they not pay their fair share. We have 80,000 companies not paying a cent of income tax. Those are companies across this country, a good many are in Ontario, not paying one cent of tax on profit.
We have middle-class families in 1988, and it is getting worse -- I am not the one saying this, the Fraser Institute says it, right here in black and white. For the money that you earn -- I will get Ontario here -- when federal taxes were counted in, provincial taxes, excise, amusement, municipal taxes, sin taxes, you started to work on 1 January and you gave everything to the government, in Ontario, until 15 June. That was in 1984.
In 1988, you are up to 6 July. For every dollar you work year round, carry your attaché case, your briefcase, whatever, your lunch pail, go to the factory, go to the mill, go to the car plant, you give everything to the government until you get to 6 July and then you start working for yourself. That is what it means, That is not simplified figures. That is what the Fraser Institute says.
Yet, people on the other side do not pay one cent. There are more than 3,000 people in this province who make $50,000 a year and are not paying one penny of income tax. We do not even get an even start.
I will put it to members this way. By virtue of being born, if you happen to be “born the right’ way” and you inherit some money -- if you are the middle class, you either inherit it, you marry it, or in my case, you forget it. Let’s say you are the more fortunate. Some people -- we do not have to divulge the findings or read from Mr Justice Evans about conflict of interest; it does not tell us much; it just gives us an indication -- can relate to that.
The inheritance tax: there is no such thing here. We are one of the few jurisdictions in the world that has no such thing, so the wealth gets passed from one generation to the next. There is no tax on that. Capital gains is a mini-tax haven. We are seeing more and more, not less and less, of sheltering. The government does it for foundations, and people -- some audiences -- will applaud. The government does it for entertainment with tax rebates of 80 per cent 1090 per cent over a period of five, six, seven, eight years. Ask the consortium at the SkyDome. They will tell members how the game is played.
It is not a game for the middle class. There is a saturation with taxes to the point where there is nothing left in the left or right pocket, or very little. And the risk is as follows: when you have one per cent of the population, all of us in Canada put together in one big room, and you take one per cent and put all the money in another big room right beside it and you tell that one per cent that six or seven years ago they would have both hands in the cookie jar in the other room to the tune of 30 per cent, and then it becomes 32 per cent and then it becomes 34 per cent.
On the eve of the last Depression, the threshold had been exceeded; surpassed. It was about one per cent owning 36 per cent of the money.
It does not make sense, but then there are checks, thank heaven. Governments will not do it by design, because they are not committed. They do not see it that way; they do not see the fairness. They are afraid people are going to go away; they are going to vanish, They are going to take their mines and their trees under their arms and run away and live someplace else. It takes courage to be fair. The government has to break with what the order of the day has been. It has to see what is being done here. It works fairly well, but life is short. If we are going to have a bit of justice, this is the time to do it, Let them pay their share. It is not being done. It will really have to be addressed.
I wish that I could convey compliments to the government for addressing what is nine tenths of the overall land mass of this province: northern Ontario. Unfortunately, this budget does not lend itself to being complimented. I sympathize. The population in the riding of the Minister of Northern Development (Mr Fontaine) is decreasing. People are losing their jobs and going elsewhere, I think the minister will attest that in his riding he has lost some 3,000 to 4,000 northerners who had to move out because they were losing their jobs. The incentives are not there.
I attend many meetings, as most members do, of regional municipalities in northern Ontario, school boards and districts. People inevitably, if they are with a public or separate school board, are talking in terms of a double-digit tax levy. In other words, the rate of inflation is 4.6 per cent across the province. Those people are saying that in order to make ends meet, to keep the public’s kids at school, they are going to have to raise taxes this year by 10 per cent, II per cent, and in some cases 15 per cent or 18 per cent.
Then one goes to the municipalities -- they collect on behalf of both; they collect taxes on behalf of the school board as well -- and they say: “For general purposes -- to collect the garbage, to give some recreation and offer, of course, some fire protection, etc -- we too have to raise taxes by 10 percent, 11 per cent or 12 per cent.” So there is a double-digit taxation.
The government can come up with perhaps good intentions and tell us in the speech from the throne of the focus or attempt to focus on education. They say, “We are going to send the children to school earlier. The little ones now will go at four years old,” and everyone applauds, and why not? “Then they will stay longer.” But what the government does not say in the same breath and should really mention is that the portion that it pays for every dollar it costs for education, it used to pay 60 cents, Now it is down to 42 cents. So the government says, “You take the kids earlier; they will stay longer and it is going to cost more money. We will pass the legislation, but we will not pass the buck. We will pass it to the jurisdictions; they will collect the dollars.”
We are not talking about net wealth here, because we could impose a tax on that. I mentioned the inheritance tax. We are talking about a state of siege; the same style, the same methodology of going to the taxpayers feeling that there will never be saturation and that we must never underestimate the ability to pay more taxes. I think we are making a big mistake. People are going to start cutting back. The government may have a soft landing, but it is going to take some time, unless the government affects the fundamentals before it enters a “golden age.”
There is some readjustment that needs to be done. People will tell me: “In these cases, if you were to be specific in focus, it will not generate, it will scare more; it will have a countereffect. It will not generate more taxation.” But I say to those people, “It looks so darned good,” and the government is being fair. Then they can speak from the heart and then we can plan together, and we begin to relate to division. It is not only a mere word; it has to be done.
Back to northern Ontario -- while I can still afford to drive -- I see, from 1980, changes. Those are what took place in 1980. I am not going to read every year, but if the members will bear with me, I will go from 1980. I see “provincial highways capital construction program.” That is to build highways. Members should remember that we are nine tenths of the overall land mass of the province. Highways mean everything to us.
In 1980-81: $238 million. The total provincial budget -- that is important, because we can put “so much was spent then out of the budget.”
Then we go from 1981 to the other side, and it says that the provincial budget from 1980-81 to 1987-88 increased by 102 per cent. Provincial highways capital construction for the north increased by three per cent.
So, if the government was talking about real dollars, with the inflation factor there has been a substantial decrease, almost 50 per cent. The provincial budget doubles, and yet when it comes to building roads, capital expenditures, it does not even begin. Three per cent is insignificant indeed.
Last week I met someone from Florida in the riding of Lake Nipigon and he said, “What are all those signs that say, ‘bump, bump, bump’?” I said, “They are to warn the motorists of the hazards, because we are not getting the kind of treatment we so rightly deserve,’ He said, “Where I come from, sir, we fix the bumps; we don’t advertise them”
Under other circumstances, had the situation not been so tragic, I too would have laughed. I thought it was a good joke, but when you try to manoeuvre around potholes, when you constantly have to be an apologist, when you spend more than 50 per cent of your time defending the lack of service, you are not given to laughter.
If members go to the Association of Municipalities of Ontario, people who represent their brothers and sisters up north covering such a wide region, they will talk to them about health care, the lack of services. And I heard the representative on the government side say “second to none” It is their sort of yuppie catchphrase. They refer to the GTA, which is the greater Toronto area. ‘They mention services that in some cases we have never heard of, speech pathology, family doctors.
There is not one community that is not anxious -- I should riot say “possessed” or
“obsessed” -- that is not concerned about where it will be tomorrow in terms of an essential service, even a doctor who just plain refers you, an audiologist, a physiotherapist. We constantly have problems attracting and, once we are lucky, retaining, keeping those people. When we tell the government that we need supplementary funding so that we can do things elsewhere that we need its lobby, almost inevitably we have to wait in line.
The same holds true for forestry. I feel sorry for the Minister of Natural Resources (Mr Kerrio). He was the clear loser in this budget. He too was nixed. He too missed the boat. I do not know, with respect, if the minister was counting trees. The Minister of Agriculture and Food must have been counting sheep, because they were the losers, and it is unfortunate up north, where seven out of 10 jobs are the result of the forest industries.
Comme la chanson le dit si bien « Que c’est triste, Venise ». Eh bien, que c’est triste, Venise quand on parle du budget provincial qui a été déposé le 17 mai, soit la semaine dernière. C’est avec peine, c’est avec un sens sincère qu’une injustice a été servie à la classe moyenne, celle qui représente 88 pour cent des revenus.,.
En fait, non seulement « Que c’est triste, Venise », mais ça devient de plus en plus triste ici en Ontario.
As I am about to adjourn the debate, it being close to six o’clock, I will have the opportunity tomorrow to perhaps wrap up on what is indeed an injustice.
On motion by Mr Pouliot. the debate was adjourned.
The House adjourned at 1801.