The House met at 1330.
The Speaker: I beg to inform the House that in the name of Her Majesty the Queen, His Honour the Lieutenant Governor has been pleased to assent to certain bills in his chambers.
Clerk Assistant and Clerk of Committees:
The following are the titles of the bills to which His Honour has assented:
Bill 124, An Act to amend the Children’s Law Reform Act;
Bill 170, An Act to revise several Acts related to Aggregate Resources;
Bill 187, An Act to amend certain Acts as they relate to Police and Sheriffs;
Bill 189, An Act to amend the Provincial Offences Act and the Highway Traffic Act;
Bill 200, An Act to confirm a certain Agreement between the Governments of Canada and Ontario;
Bill 205, An Act to amend the Amusement Devices Act, 1986;
Bill 206, An Act to amend the Elevating Devices Act;
Bill 207, An Act to amend the Energy Act;
Bill 218, An Act to amend the Environmental Protection Act;
Bill Pr5, An Act respecting Certain Land in the Town Plot of Gowganda in the District of Timiskaming;
Bill Pr9, An Act respecting the City of Windsor;
Bill Pr10, An Act to revive 561239 Ontario Inc;
Bill Pr12, An Act respecting The Madawaska Club Limited;
Bill Pr19, An Act to revive the Port Bruce Boat Club;
Bill Pr22, An Act to continue The Corporation of the Village of Killaloe Station under the name of The Corporation of the Village of Killaloe.
TORONTO AREA TRANSPORTATION
Ms Bryden: The Minister of Transportation (Mr Fulton) is trying to meet the transportation crisis in the greater Toronto area with smoke and mirrors. His two announcements last week on road construction and public transit were mainly repeats of projects announced in his Transportation Directions for the Greater Toronto Area, unveiled with much fanfare in May 1988. While a few projects are to be accelerated, he is still talking about a five-year plan with completion dates as late as 1997 for some projects, such as the extension of the Highway 401 core collector system to Brock Road.
He boasts about the $1.2 billion in the budget for transportation improvements in the greater Toronto area, but there is little new money. It is all for last year’s promises. In the public transit field there is no commitment of funds to start construction of the badly needed Sheppard Avenue subway to link the Scarborough and North York city centres, nor is there any money for the necessary extension to Pearson International Airport. There is nothing for new subways beyond the one-stop extension of the underused Spadina line.
Why is more of the money from the huge tax increases loaded on to greater Toronto area residents not being used for immediate transit improvements in the greater Toronto area? The likelihood of a hefty Toronto Transit Commission fare increase on 1 January to offset new taxes will not encourage people to get out of their cars and on to public transit. It is time we had a Minister of Transportation who will fight traffic congestion by more imaginative ways than recycling old amendments.
Mrs Cunningham: We are all aware of the increasing dropout rate of our high school students. Unfortunately, apprenticeship training, which could assist these students and help them to contribute to society, is virtually dead in Ontario. Consequently, these students are dropping in and out of our workforce.
The Minister of Skills Development (Mr Curling) stated last week in response to my question that he does not have a solution to this horrendous problem and that he is not ashamed of the way things are going in Ontario. We think he should be. The minister has spent literally hundreds of thousands of the taxpayers’ dollars on these studies -- far too many of them -- and we have not seen any progress to date.
Incidentally, these reports are useless because they only confirm the obvious. For example, everyone knows that dropping out of school narrows one’s career choices, and it was not necessary to spend $100,000 to confirm it. The minister should be spending his money on apprenticeship training and other viable solutions to the dropout problem which will enable our young people to contribute to society.
We cannot hope to compete in tomorrow’s markets with yesterday’s skills and abilities. It is the responsibility of this government to ensure that apprenticeship programs reflect current and emerging skills needed and to ensure that the appeal of the skilled trades is increased. It is about time that this government put its money towards improvements rather than to more reports telling us what we already know.
WORKERS’ MEMORIAL DAY
Mr Campbell: Five years ago today, four Sudbury miners lost their lives owing to a seismic disturbance known as a rockburst. This is caused when a portion of a mine wall becomes so stressed that, as the name implies, the rock itself literally explodes, sending shrapnel-like fragments hurtling through the mine. I leave to members’ imaginations the horrific results.
Rockbursts are only one of the many dangers faced by underground hardrock miners on a daily basis. They know and accept these dangers while trying at all times to minimize them. Their contribution to the building of our cities and towns is often unacknowledged. This edifice we stand in today would not exist if the miners of Ontario had not toiled in their underground pursuits.
I would ask all members to pause today to remember the sacrifice made by the miners of Ontario for the building of our province.
Miss Martel: This statement is being made both on behalf of myself and the member for Nickel Belt (Mr Laughren).
At 1020 in the morning five years ago today, a rockburst occurred at Falconbridge nickel mines. When it was all over, four Sudbury miners were left dead. It was a terrible tragedy for our community, one which has seen more than its share of horrible mining accidents and deaths.
The Canadian Mine, Mill and Smelter Workers Union, in conjunction with other Canadian unions, recognizes 20 June as Workers’ Memorial Day. This is done not only to acknowledge the deaths of those miners killed in the rock blast, but to recognize all men and women in this country who are maimed or killed on the job. Alongside those are the thousands more who perish every year from occupational disease. They have given a great deal to build this country. It is fitting that we acknowledge not only that contribution but the tragedies which result when workplace accidents occur. I ask all members of this House to take some time out to reflect on that.
One other important point must be made. Yesterday was the beginning of Canadian Occupational Health and Safety Week. Today we recognize Workers’ Memorial Day. Surely the time must come when true health and safety in the workplace will end the overwhelming number of accidents and diseases suffered on the job. This government cannot back down on Bill 208. It is the only hope for those people who become the victims of unsafe workplaces is Ontario, workers themselves.
G. W. MARTIN LUMBER LTD
Mr Eves: It gives me pleasure to rise in the House today and bring to the attention of the Minister of Natural Resources (Mr Kerrio) a matter of which I am sure he is already aware. I am sending over to him a copy of a letter I have written, together with a copy of a letter, dated 14 June, from the mayor of the town of Mattawa. I am sure the minister is aware of layoffs taking place as a result of the shutdown of some aspects of G. W. Martin Lumber Ltd’s operations in the Mattawa area as well as in other communities across Ontario.
It has been my understanding that logging workers have been out of work since the end of March in many communities and that a further 71 employees are to be laid off at the Mattawa mill as of tomorrow, Wednesday, 21 June. Further possible layoffs may take place at both the Mattawa and Rutherglen mills.
It has been suggested, I know, that an American firm was looking at purchasing the Rutherglen mill but is apparently seeking a guarantee from the ministry of more lumber than the ministry is able to give. There is also some suggestion that Tembec, of the province of Quebec, is considering purchasing the Mattawa operation from G. W. Martin Lumber Ltd.
It is the community’s concern and my own that local people are not left out in the cold of any prospective transfer of any assets of G. W. Martin Lumber Ltd or its timber licences or agreements. We would ask the minister to ensure this by putting specifications or conditions on such transfers, to protect their jobs and the community.
Mr Cleary: May I extend a personal invitation to my colleagues to experience the best of all worlds. The Cornwall and District Multicultural Council is presenting Festival ‘89. The spectacular showcase of multicultural activities includes superb entertainment, colourful costumes, arts and crafts and a splendid cuisine.
The Minister of Citizenship (Mr Phillips) and I will be at the Cornwall and Area 7th Annual Multicultural Festival, and I hope that many of the members will join us. That is at the Cornwall Civic Complex this Sunday, 25 June. Plan for a day of fun, good food, entertainment and an opportunity to learn more about the heritage and culture of various ethnic backgrounds. Members may discover a world they never knew before.
PROPOSED NEUTRINO OBSERVATORY
Mr Laughren: I am pleased that the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology (Mr Kwinter) is here as I make my few remarks concerning the Sudbury neutrino observatory. For some time now this government has been stalling on this very worthwhile project, a project that will put Sudbury in the forefront internationally in pure scientific research on particles from the sun known as neutrinos.
Sudbury is unique in that it has a deep mine shaft that is free of external factors that would affect the observatory. Every time we raise the question with the government that what is needed is $7.2 million over four years -- not a major commitment from the technology fund -- the government ministers respond that, first of all, they did not know anything about it. Then they say: “Well, we’re not going to go this alone. We want to make sure there are other people on side on this.”
Now the international community is on side. Last week the National Sciences and Engineering Research Council indicated that it was prepared to put $15 million into this project, more than twice what this government is being asked to put in. It seems to me there is no longer any excuse whatsoever for this government to stall. What they should be doing is making a firm commitment to provide that funding, so that other major players can then come on side knowing full well that the province is fully committed to this project.
STATEMENT BY THE MINISTRY
Hon Mr Eakins: I am very pleased to inform my colleagues that I intend to introduce legislation today to resolve a long-standing and contentious dispute between the city of Sarnia, the town of Clearwater and the county of Lambton.
As members may know, the dispute involves an attempt by the city of Sarnia to grow into the neighbouring municipality of Clearwater, or Sarnia township as it was known when the dispute began.
One year ago today, I established a steering committee composed of local politicians and asked it to draft a framework for the strengthening of Lambton county. They reported back to me last October with some alternative local government structures for Sarnia-Lambton.
This January, with the work of the first committee as a starting point, I asked the new committee of nine local politicians representing the city, the town and the county to finish the job. I asked them to work out a detailed solution to the dispute and to report back to me by 30 April. They agreed on a local solution.
The legislation I am introducing today will permit them to implement the solution that together we have worked so hard to draft. Under the terms of the local solution:
The city of Sarnia and the town of Clearwater will become one municipality.
The new city will become a member of the county, having 40 per cent of the representation on county council.
The county will take over from the city those services it now provides within the county.
All local municipalities will transfer to the county responsibility for waste disposal.
A county-wide reassessment will take place for the 1992 taxation year.
County council will be reduced in size from 36 to 24 for the 1991 municipal election.
County council will be given the power to resolve any boundary applications received before January 1991.
An implementation committee will submit a final report to me by 1 May 1990, making recommendations regarding administrative, operational and staffing issues which must be addressed as a result of this local solution.
There will be costs involved for the people of Sarnia-Lambton as they implement the agreement they have reached. My ministry will make available transitional funding to ensure appropriate and adequate implementation of the boundary adjustment and restructuring.
I am extremely pleased that the boundary dispute that has been ongoing for so many years is now over and that our government has been able to bring the different parties together in partnership and begin a new phase in the history of Sarnia-Lambton.
As a result of this local solution, I firmly believe the people of Sarnia-Lambton will have a stronger local government structure, better able to meet their needs now and in the future.
Mr Breaugh: Just very quickly, the minister has announced some legislation today to deal with a long-standing boundary dispute and I want to congratulate the minister for using his personal abilities to the fullest. It is my information that he stayed out of it completely, which is the smartest thing he has ever done, to let them have their own local agreement put together. I congratulate the minister for having the good sense to do nothing.
Mr Brandt: I want to take this opportunity to congratulate the minister on his efforts and his very competent staff, many of whom are in the gallery today listening to this historic statement by the minister. I would also like to reflect just for a moment on the efforts of the local committee, because without its efforts, without its co-operation, it would have been impossible to put this agreement together as the minister is announcing today.
It has been an extremely difficult time for Sarnia, the town of Clearwater, formerly the township of Sarnia, and the county of Lambton, because it has been historically a very complicated and very difficult matter to resolve in the sense of the very well entrenched positions that were taken on all sides of this question by people who are well meaning and who have the best interests of their constituency at heart. But I think the people who were involved in finally pulling this particular solution together realized that after close to 40 years and with the tremendous boundary problems that were surfacing in the Sarnia-Lambton area, something certainly had to be done.
I want to say to the minister that I appreciate his sense of pragmatism and flexibility in connection with the way in which he approached this. He did not attempt to heavy-hand the decision by ordering a particular direction on the part of the province, but in fact provided the co-operation and the assistance for local people to arrive at a local solution, which is the best, I think, of all worlds. They are the people who are going to have to live with it. They are the people who are going to have to make it work.
I truly feel on this historic occasion that the minister should be given perhaps the only bouquet I will hand out today, but it is a bouquet that is sincerely meant. I want to thank the minister for his efforts, for the number of trips he has made to discuss this matter with local councils and local elected officials, who had a tremendously difficult time arriving at the point that I think we can all celebrate with some degree of satisfaction today.
Although there is still much to be done in terms of the implementation of the plan and pulling all of the various details together, I think we have taken a major step today, and I would like to thank the minister for his efforts.
Mr B. Rae: I have a question for the Minister of Culture and Communications. I wonder if the minister can explain why it would be that the executive director of the National Council of Jewish Women of Canada, Toronto section, is quoted in today’s Hamilton Spectator as saying as follows, “I have no idea about it,” referring to the survey the minister’s mother was paid to do.
“‘We didn’t hire her. We didn’t pay her,’ Mrs Rudson said yesterday in an interview. ‘It has nothing to do with the Toronto section. I don’t know what it was for,’ Mrs Rudson added,” adding she didn’t know where, or if, a copy of the survey results could be obtained.
I wonder if the minister can explain how that comment could be made by the executive director of the charity in question.
Hon Ms Oddie Munro: The honourable member is asking me about an agreement that was made between my mother and Mrs Starr and I am not aware of any details other than the ones I have shared with him. All I can tell him is what my mother has told me. Second, I have not spoken to the particular person whom he has spoken to at the National Council of Jewish Women, and all I can say is that I do not know. I cannot answer the question.
Mr B. Rae: The minister has written to Mr Justice Evans asking him to rule whether or not there is a conflict. We have a number of material facts that are now coming out that the minister has not referred to in her letter, which she is under an obligation to provide to the judge if she is serious about wanting an opinion from him. She has to tell him who paid the money, when the money was paid, what it was paid for, what service was provided and the nature of her association with Mrs Starr.
All those are perfectly relevant, pertinent facts. If she is not prepared to tell us, she at least has to be prepared to tell Mr Justice Evans before he can render any other kind of opinion.
Again, I wonder if the minister can explain the comment today that as far as the National Council of Jewish Women is concerned, it has not heard of the survey, has not seen the survey and does not even know if such a survey can be found anywhere in Ontario.
The Speaker: Thank you. The question has been asked.
Hon Ms Oddie Munro: The honourable member has asked me in previous sessions in the House if I had a copy of the survey or the report, and I indicated I have not. I have had no dealings with the National Council of Jewish Women on this incident. I have explained several times, and I am more than willing to explain again, that I received an inquiry from Mrs Starr as to people who might be able to do a particular kind of work, and I referred my mother.
I am not responsible for what the National Council of Jewish Women says to any media person, and indeed I cannot answer the question that the National Council of Jewish Women was asked. I think the issue is before the investigation that has been proclaimed by the acting Solicitor General (Mr Scott), and my mother is more than willing to take part in that investigation.
I think it is also fair to say, and very important for me to say, that I can only tell the honourable member what my mother told me. My mother is not here to speak for herself, and I believe, knowing my mother, that she will co-operate to the fullest of her ability to do so.
Mr B. Rae: The question is not the conduct of the minister’s mother; the question is the minister’s own conduct in her relationship with Mrs Starr, her having determined that a contract was appropriate, her having decided that she would refer one name and one name only. The minister is accountable to this House for her own conduct and for what she has done, and that is the determination we are making in this place today.
I want to ask the minister if she does not feel embarrassed by the fact that after all this time, she still cannot provide us with any details of the survey, still cannot provide us with any significant details as to what was performed and still cannot tell us and explain to this House why she does not understand how wrong it is, in pure and simple terms, to refer a very close relative for what can only be described as a sweetheart deal with a professional lobbyist on behalf of the Liberal Party, who has established a slush fund of tens of thousands of dollars --
The Speaker: Order. The question has been asked.
Hon Ms Oddie Munro: No, I do not feel embarrassed. I have listened very carefully to the comments of members in this House, including those of the Leader of the Opposition, and I can appreciate that there is a perception among some members and the general public that my role may not have been appropriate. I have asked for advice from the Conflict of Interest Commissioner. I have written him a letter, of which the members have also received a copy, and I am more than willing to have conversations or discussions with him when the time arises.
Having said that, I also believe that I have acted as quickly as I could to answer any responses by the media on contributions either to my riding association or to my campaign and that I have made it quite clear what the initial inquiry was when received from Mrs Starr.
Mr B. Rae: I have a question for the Minister of Housing (Ms Hošek), but I will stand it down until she comes back.
The Speaker: Is there agreement for that? All right. First question, the member for Sarnia.
Mr Brandt: My question is for the Minister of Tourism and Recreation. Within the last hour and a half, allegations have been brought to my attention with respect to Ontario Place, and more specifically some of the documents that relate to Ontario Place during the tenure of Patricia Starr. These allegations suggest that in fact shredders are being used at Ontario Place with the specific purpose, I would believe, of disposing of certain documents that may be of interest to the government of Ontario and particularly the Provincial Auditor.
I would ask the minister, if these allegations are correct, will he move immediately to make sure that those documents are secured at Ontario Place and delivered into the safe hands of the Provincial Auditor immediately?
Hon Mr O’Neil: In reply to the member, I am not aware of any such thing happening at all. As I mentioned yesterday, we wrote the Provincial Auditor last week asking him to go into Ontario Place. It is my understanding that happened and that he has been in there now for a number of days. I am not aware of any of these allegations the member is making at all.
Mr Brandt: In checking yesterday, the Provincial Auditor perhaps went to Ontario Place yesterday, but I am not aware he has been in there for a number of days.
There is some importance behind the question I raise with the minister. Whether the allegations are correct or not is really not the question. The question is whether the documents are secure. The Premier (Mr Peterson) indicated everything would be open, aboveboard and completely investigated through the Ontario Provincial Police, as well as the auditor. If those documents are missing, it will create a situation in which it will obviously be extremely difficult to investigate.
I ask the minister, will he move immediately to secure those documents so that they will be available to those who want to check into the operations of Ontario Place?
Hon Mr O’Neil: Again, I should tell the member that in fact the auditors were in Ontario Place last week on their annual audit. They do an audit there every year. We gave them the instructions. As I have said, that letter went out last week. Again, I think the member is making certain allegations that are wrong.
Mr Brandt: The allegations are wrong before the minister has even looked into them.
I ask the minister again, in view of the fact that there are documents at Ontario Place that could prove to be extremely important with respect to the investigation that is being carried out in that facility, is the minister prepared to move to seize those documents and make sure that all of them are available for the perusal of the Ontario Provincial Police, as well as the Provincial Auditor, so that nothing will be hidden, disposed of or removed? Is he prepared to take that action today?
Hon Mr O’Neil: It was my understanding, when we sent the Provincial Auditor in, that this is just what would be done. As far as I am concerned or the government is concerned, there is nothing whatsoever that we intend to hide. Our books should be completely open to any inquiries that are made, whether they be by the auditor, the police or whomever. For the member to make such allegations, I do not think is very fair at all.
The Speaker: New question.
Mr Brandt: The question is will he in fact –
The Speaker: To which minister?
Mr Brandt: To the same minister.
The Speaker: Fine.
Mr Brandt: With the agreement of the Leader of the Opposition, if I can carry on with my line of questioning, I want to be absolutely certain that no documents are removed. Will the minister make sure as part of the responsibility of his office, which is directly responsible for the operation of Ontario Place through his appointee Patricia Starr, that none of those documents is removed. Is the minister prepared to give us that undertaking today?
Hon Mr O’Neil: As I say, it was my understanding that nothing like that would happen. If the member is asking me whether I am prepared to confirm that, yes, I will confirm it to the member today. I will make sure those instructions are forwarded to them, but it is my understanding that anything that is at Ontario Place, any files that are there, are completely open to anyone in the way of the four investigations presently going on.
Mr Brandt: One of the documents the minister may come across during the course of the investigation of this particular issue relating to Ontario Place relates to the concessions and the proposal calls for the restaurants and the food concessions at that establishment.
I will make available for the minister today a document related, in part, to a question I raised yesterday about the rather unusual manner in which the food concessions were given out during the tenure of Patti Starr as chairman of the board of Ontario Place. This particular proposal call appears as follows, and I will make that available to the minister. What it says is that Ontario Place is inviting Kelly’s, which was one of the concession holders up until that point in time, “to submit preliminary proposals for the premises currently known as Kelly’s;
“Kelly’s burger outlet will close;
“Review lease, discuss, agree concepts within two weeks;
“Full proposal including detail plans, investment, etc, one month after;
“Final plans subject to board approval;
“Key is originality and quality;
“Term likely five years, fee likely 20 per cent gross restaurant, fee likely 25 per cent gross fast food.”
The Speaker: The question.
Mr Brandt: Is this the kind of proposal call the minister is proud of having submitted on behalf of this government through Patricia Starr at Ontario Place for the $1-million-plus operation? Does he consider that --
The Speaker: Thank you.
Hon Mr O’Neil: Again, the Provincial Auditor is in there doing a comprehensive study. That is one of the things they will be looking at. I might also remind the member that the allegations made by this particular gentleman from whom the member received that are the subject of litigation. If his claims have any merit, Mr Jupp is free to pursue them in the normal manner through the courts as is being done at the present time.
Mr Brandt: Ms Starr at one point wrote a memo to the minister indicating that she was very pleased he stood firm in the face of legal threats from the Kelly’s operators as well as others who were upset with the way in which this entire matter was handled. She also goes on to compliment the minister on the assistance he provided to her during that particular time. Could the minister indicate what kind of assistance he gave to Ms Starr and Ontario Place while these legal threats were being pursed with Ontario Place.
Hon Mr O’Neil: Just as I mentioned to the member a couple of minutes ago, because this is being dealt with legally -- I have had several calls from different people concerning this particular case. I dealt with it the same as I recommended the member deal with it just a minute ago, and that is I stayed completely out of it. I turned it over to the legal people within my ministry, and if there were any calls to be made, they made the calls. I did not interfere and they did not interfere because this matter is before the courts. That was my participation in it.
Mr B. Rae: To the same minister, if what the minister says now is the case, and I am sure we would all hope very much that were true, why would Mrs Starr have written him in the very fulsome memo I have quoted on other occasions, where she claims to have cut the deficit by $2 million, using these exact words to the minister, “How wise we were,” -- “we were” -- “thanks to your assistance, to stand firm on the legal threats from Lakeshore Pubs”?
Why would Mrs Starr have described a lawsuit by a company that is unhappy with the cancelling of a contract and that feels it has been done in an unfair way as a legal threat? Why would she regard the minister as an ally in his assistance in standing firm if in fact, as he has described, the minister has consistently taken an arm’s-length relationship with Mrs Starr?
Hon Mr O’Neil: I do not know what she meant by it, but I can only tell the member that I think she was pleased I did not interfere one way or another in that.
Mr B. Rae: I could only say that is not what she says in the memo. It was a “Dear Hugh” memo, signed “Patti” in a large signature, in which she claims to have reduced the deficit by $2 million. She has provided us with no evidence to that fact. She talks about all the wonderful things that have been done. We have a long letter from Mr Jupp to the Premier. It is all a matter of the record today.
But the interesting thing Mrs Starr has to say, first of all, is, “The funds saved are being spent,” and the next thing she says is, “How wise we were, thanks to your assistance,” referring to the minister’s personal assistance, “to stand firm on the legal threats from Lakeshore Pubs.”
One moment the Liberal members are embracing Patti Starr and they cannot be fulsome enough about Patti Starr. When this memo was signed, they had their arms around Patti Starr. Now that the facts are coming out, they say: “Patti Starr? Never heard of her. Who is she?”
The Speaker: Question?
Mr B. Rae: If it was the case that the minister disagreed with Mrs Starr’s interpretation of their cozy relationship, why did he not write her a memo back and say --
The Speaker: Thank you.
Mr B. Rae: -- “Dear Mrs Starr,” -- none of this “Patti” stuff – “I don’t know what you are talking about” --
The Speaker: Thank you.
The Speaker: Order.
Hon Mr O’Neil: Again to the Leader of the Opposition, in any dealings or any inquiries on this particular case that I had, because it was going to litigation, it was handed over to the legal staff within my ministry or with the Ministry of the Attorney General.
I might read something for the member: “The advice of counsel from the Ministry of the Attorney General is that the claims made by Lakeshore Pubs are without merit and Ontario Place Corp is prepared to defend the action on that basis.” That was the advice that was given to the people at Ontario Place and that may be why Mrs Starr put those comments about the advice she received.
Mr Brandt: I have a question to the same minister. In June 1988, apparently there was a party at Ontario Place sponsored by Mrs Patricia Starr. That party was catered by one of the individuals who was successful in receiving one of the concessions at Ontario Place.
Can the minister confirm that such a party was held in June 1988 and can he give this House the assurance that this party did not come at a direct cost to Ontario Place and therefore to the taxpayers of Ontario?
Hon Mr O’Neil: For me to give that information to the member, I think I would have to have more details as to what the date was and where it was held. I am not familiar with the particular one the member talks about. If he has more details, I would be very pleased to receive them and check into it for him.
Mr Brandt: This is exactly the reason why the documentation being secured is of so much importance and why I asked the minister earlier to make absolutely certain that documentation is secured.
The party was held in the Trillium Restaurant in June 1988. It was for the son of Patti Starr, and I am asking the minister to indicate to this House that this party was in fact paid for by those who were involved and not the taxpayers of Ontario. That is the confirmation that I want, and I want the minister to give that assurance to the House.
Hon Mr O’Neil: Again, I just say to the member that any of the documents that are there are there for any of the people doing the investigation. This particular matter that the member has mentioned again that has been raised by Mr Jupp makes certain accusations. I cannot confirm or deny those accusations.
The Provincial Auditor is in there. They will be reviewing those matters, as I say, along with any others. If there are any problems with them that are reported back either to me, as minister, or to the standing committee on public accounts, there will be action taken, but I cannot comment on any particular situations that the member has mentioned. I do not have the details of it.
Mr Kozyra: My question is to the Treasurer. The recent announcement in the budget about the elimination of Ontario health insurance plan premiums is beginning to cause a good deal of concern for both management and labour about the implications, especially as they relate to collective agreements and employee benefits.
Specifically, some agreements state: “If there should be a reduction in the premium charge, the company’s contribution shall not be reduced from the amount set out. The balance shall be applied to such other employee benefit plans as may be agreed upon between the company and the union. Pending such agreement, the balance shall be paid directly to the employee.”
Does the Treasurer have an interpretation of this development that might clarify the situation?
Hon R. F. Nixon: I think the honourable member used the right word in his question. The premiums are not reduced, they are eliminated. In that sense, the wording in the agreements that he refers to should be subject to the negotiations between the two parties in reaching some sort of an agreement on their salary position or their wage scales for the coming year.
I think it is important to know that the elimination of OHIP premiums really means that it is about $715 in the pockets of the individuals who pay their own, and for those of us, including all the members of the Legislature, whose employer pays our OHIP premiums at the present time, it means that there is a taxable benefit which we receive now which is not taxable next year. In other words, there will be $1 billion in the pockets of individuals in the province.
It seems to me it is on that basis that employers and employees might carry on their discussions.
Mr Kozyra: Does the Treasurer think it advisable to introduce explanatory directions on this matter or does he feel that the natural course of collective bargaining will resolve the difference of opinion?
Hon R. F. Nixon: Actually, I would answer by saying the latter. I simply say again that the wording of the section in the present agreement that governs some wage situations is that if the costs are reduced; in this instance they are reduced to zero. It seems to me that really means that bargaining in good faith would be the best way to proceed for a fair and equitable disposition of the problem, if there is one.
SECURITY GUARD LICENCE
Mr Mackenzie: I have a question of the Minister of Labour. Can the minister inform this House as to why Paul Downing, former principal officer and shareholder of Securicor -- who lost his licence for deliberate violations of the Labour Relations Act for, among other things, infiltrating an agent provocateur, David lvers, on to a legal picket line where he deliberately provoked violence -- was issued a private investigation and security guard licence and incorporated as a new company, Canada Security Corp, on 1 April of this year? Does the minister have any idea of the anger this has created throughout the trade union movement?
Hon Mr Sorbara: I do indeed have a sense of how affronted some people will be that the individual was once again issued a licence. My friend the member for Hamilton East has provided some of the background. I do not think we need to go into much more detail, other than to respond to his question in this way. My understanding is that under the law that governs the issuance of those licences, the applicant had met all of the thresholds required, so the law requires a licence shall be granted.
May I say as well, though, my understanding is that the licence is restricted in such a way that he is not allowed to offer his services in any facet that relates in any way to labour relations, strikes or lockouts anywhere in the province.
Mr Mackenzie: Mr Downing, in his previous incarnation, was ordered to pay $507,000 to the United Steelworkers of America when proven guilty of deliberately prolonging a strike. He did not pay. In fact, he defaulted. Does the minister not believe that section 8 of the Private Investigators and Security Guards Act, which says a licence or licence renewal can be issued “where in the opinion of the registrar the proposed licensing is not against the public interest,” has been clearly violated by Mr Downing’s contempt of the judgement against him? What steps is the minister going to take to see that this injustice is undone?
Hon Mr Sorbara: I just want to point out to my friend the member for Hamilton East that I am not sure he is directing his question to the right minister in the sense that I have no jurisdiction over that act. I do not have the authority to tell another branch of government whether or not it is acting within the law. But I want to assure him that I have the same degree of concern, particularly because of the default judgement. I think his figures were accurate, somewhere around $500,000 in the bankruptcy that ensued thereafter.
The facts, as I am given them, are that the individual in question met the threshold test for a licence and that there are significant restrictions on the licence. But in view of my friend’s questions, I will pursue it further, and if I have the authority within my own ministry to comment further on it, then I will get back to him at an appropriate time.
FARM TAX REBATE
Mr Villeneuve: Can the Minister of Agriculture and Food tell this House the number of farm property tax rebate cheques that will be affected by his recent announcement?
Hon Mr Riddell: Somewhere between 20,000 and 30,000 cheques.
Mr Villeneuve: I hope the minister realizes that there are many implications and ramifications on the way the ownership of farms is held and a number of other questions that still remain unanswered. For instance, if a farmer earns extra income from agricultural work such as custom combining or custom farming, will this be considered as farm or off-farm income?
Hon Mr Riddell: It would be considered as off-farm income. It is income that the farmer is not making operating his own farm, but it is income he is making off his own farm. That will be considered as off-farm income.
VEHICLE AND FUEL TAXES
Ms Collins: My question is to the Treasurer. I had an inquiry from a constituent who is disabled and requires the use of a wheelchair. It is necessary for his family to own a large car with trunk space to accommodate the chair. My constituent is concerned that the new tax on fuel-inefficient cars, as announced in the recent budget, will penalize him because of his disability.
Could the Treasurer please clarify this provision in the budget?
Hon R. F. Nixon: There is certainly no intention in the tax on fuel-inefficient automobiles to interfere with vehicles that would be made available to people who are handicapped in any way. I can simply assure the honourable member that the number of vehicles that will be affected will be less than three per cent of the vehicles offered for sale and that the exclusions will, in most instances, be the high-performance cars that are not normally associated with providing transportation for the handicapped.
I can give the honourable member my assurance that there will be adequate vehicles available without paying this tax, without going into the high-performance cars that do come under the direct imposition of the so-called gas-guzzler tax.
Ms Collins: There is a line in the budget that refers to retail sales tax rebates on alternative-fuel conversions and on vehicles for the disabled. Could he clarify this line and explain the implications of this rebate for the disabled?
Hon R. F. Nixon: I think it is appropriate that the question is asked, because it has been put to me a number of times outside the House. In the past, the policy was to rebate the sales tax on any vehicle used for the purposes of officially transporting individuals who are disabled. There were many instances where the vehicles were very expensive indeed. We simply put a limit of $20,000 on an automobile and $30,000 on a van. That was the limit for the sales tax rebate. From our investigations, adequate and appropriate transportation can be provided within those limits.
The member also referred to the sales tax position on alternative fuels. That does not affect the handicapped specifically, but it does reduce the difficulty and inconvenience of applying for the sales tax rebate. It gives a longer period of time during which the rebate may be applied for. It is for the convenience of those people who want to undertake fuel conversion at a later period of time after the automobile is purchased.
The Speaker: The Leader of the Opposition asked to stand down his second question. I see the minister is here.
Mr B. Rae: I wanted to go to the Minister of Housing. It is obvious that the capital account controlled exclusively by Mrs Starr, in addition to being a slush fund for the Liberal Party principally, was also a very important source of funds and cover of funds for companies controlled by Mr DelZotto.
I want to ask the minister this question. She will recall questions that were put to her back in November concerning Mrs Starr’s role at the Metropolitan Toronto Housing Authority in leaking certain information to the Tridel Corp and the fact that a numbered corporation controlled by Tridel and the DelZotto brothers completely broke the rules of the tendering process in place at the housing authority at that time.
Back in November, when I and my colleague the member for Oshawa (Mr Breaugh) put questions to her about Mrs Starr’s role and the special deals being given to Tridel and the DelZotto family, her response was: “Hands off. There is nothing I can do.” We now see there is a pattern. It is a very disturbing pattern.
I want to ask the minister whether she will not now reopen that file and have a look at the particular contract which was offered to the DelZotto brothers and to Tridel Corp under the guise of the numbered corporation.
Hon Ms Hošek: As the member opposite knows, decisions about contracts are made by the MTHA board. The MTHA board has people on it who are representatives who have been sent to it by the Metropolitan Toronto government, by our provincial government and by the federal government, because all three governments participate in the running and management of the housing that is part of the Ontario Housing Corp stock. So any decisions that were made were made by the board of MTHA as a board, not by any single member of that board.
Mr B. Rae: Mrs Starr leaked information. She is the minister’s representative. Mrs Starr is the minister’s friend, the friend of the Liberal Party, who is on MTHA. She leaked information to Mr DelZotto’s companies, to Tridel. She leaked information which should have been confidential to the board and the minister cannot absolve herself of responsibility for Mrs Starr’s conduct. Mrs Starr’s capital account is full of payments to people who were not only Liberal Party candidates but people who were also Liberal Party fund-raisers and people who are senior executives of the DelZotto companies. This is all now part of the public record.
I want to ask the minister whether she does not feel an obligation to at least reopen that particular file to make sure that this kind of special deal for the DelZotto family does not continue to happen in Liberal Party Ontario.
Hon Ms Hošek: This is a serious matter the member is raising. If the board of MTHA decides there is a problem, it is open to it to open that file, take a look at it and see if it sees any difficulties. If there is anything wrong, they can look at that and release that information to the public.
This is a responsible board. They manage 33,000 housing units in the Metro area. As I said to the member, they represent all three levels of government that are associated with this and have been appointed by three different levels of government. They are serious people. If they think there is a concern about what happened in this matter, they are free to look at it and to make the matter public if they choose to.
Mr B. Rae: It is hard to do that when the Liberal Party hacks who are appointed and the Tory hacks who are appointed are not about to reopen an issue when the minister knows what has happened. That is exactly the problem. That is the issue at stake here.
The Speaker: Order. It might be time for all members to pause. Order.
Mr B. Rae: When this matter was being considered by this House in November, it was revealed that an internal document of the housing authority said this: “Del” -- that means the Del-Zotto empire – “requires this arrangement with a numbered company and not with Tridel itself to avoid having the site staff unionized.” This is what it is all about. It is about breaking the power of workers who are trying to organize. It is about giving special deals under the table to one’s friends. It is about having a slush fund in which money is transferred from the Liberal Party --
The Speaker: The question?
Mr B. Rae: -- transferred back and forth between numbered corporations and nothing being done about it.
The Speaker: Question?
Mr B. Rae: In her role as Minister of Housing, will the minister not at least guarantee that in an area in which she can exercise jurisdiction she makes sure that this kind of abuse is finally investigated so we can find out --
The Speaker: Thank you. The question has been asked.
Mr B. Rae: -- exactly what the special ties between the Liberal Party and the DelZotto empire in fact are?
Hon Ms Hošek: The bureau of accuracy over there at New Democratic Party headquarters is at it again. It is very clear that the reason we have a structure with responsible boards is so they can be responsible. There are three levels of government that have appointed members to that board. I know, as does the member opposite, that some of the members currently sitting on the MTHA board would be quite insulted to be associated with either the Liberal Party or the Tory party. I am sure he will be hearing from them. The issue here is that there is --
Mr B. Rae: The four people who asked to reopen the contract for sure are not your appointees.
Hon Ms Hošek: If I may answer the member opposite, I would be delighted to do so if he were interested in listening to the answer.
There is a clear process for doing this. There is a responsible board which is able to look at its own affairs. If they believe, in the light of some of the issues that we have been raising recently, that there is a problem, and they may indeed decide that they believe that, they can reopen the question and it is up to them to do that.
The Speaker: We will just wait until they settle down.
OCCUPATIONAL HEALTH AND SAFETY
Mr Morin-Strom: I have a question for the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology with respect to his involvement with Bill 208, An Act to amend the Occupational Health and Safety Act.
The Ontario Trucking Association has reported publicly that “the Bill 208 Business Coalition, as it has become known, has worked with officials at the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Technology to express mutual concern and to propose alternatives to key aspects of this legislation.” The minister has met with this association and the association reports that “it seems these efforts have effectively convinced the government that Bill 208 needs revision.”
Obviously, the minister is working hand in hand with industry to stop progressive legislation improving health and safety for workers in the province. Is the minister doing this in part because he and his riding association received more than $60,000 in contributions from corporate interests last fall?
Hon Mr Kwinter: I am sure that all members, and I say all members, have heard from business interests objecting to some of the provisions in Bill 208. As the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology, I have a responsibility to hear those concerns. The member should also know that I have personally met with Gord Wilson, who cannot by any stretch of the imagination be termed a business interest, to discuss exactly those same concerns.
I have heard from a wide range of people on both sides of the issue. As a responsible Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology, I have an obligation to listen to them and to pass along to my colleagues some of their observations.
The Speaker: Order.
Mr Morin-Strom: It is evident that when it comes to this particular bill, industry or the corporate sector has its representative in cabinet advocating for it. I wish the working people of the province had an advocate in the cabinet representing their interests when it comes to health and safety legislation.
This minister has received, in a fund-raiser for himself, more than $60,000 from more than 150 corporations last fall. Why is the minister representing the corporate interests solely in this matter and acquiescing to their concerns with respect to the health and safety legislation? Why is the minister not taking a stand that would reflect the interests of the working people of this province rather than those of his corporate donors?
Hon Mr Kwinter: I am sure the member will agree that when legislation comes forward, we do not take one side or the other, nor do we exclude any person who is going to be impacted by that legislation. There is ample opportunity under our system for people to make representations to all of the members in this House and to all members of cabinet.
As the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology, I take some pride in being a champion for industry in this province. I have no excuse and make no apologies. There is also ample opportunity for other groups, depending on their interests, to make representations to anybody in this House and anybody in cabinet.
Mr Harris: I have a question to the Minister of Housing. We have already established that she awarded a $250,000 consulting contract without tender to a former campaign worker who made a substantial financial contribution to the minister’s campaign. We also know that Dino Chiesa received a $10,000 consulting fee from the minister’s friend Patti Starr and that he previously worked for Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp.
Could the minister tell us what information she has concerning Mr Chiesa’s involvement at CMHC in the $10-million CMHC Prince Charles project that was constructed by Tridel and spearheaded by Patti Starr?
Hon Ms Hošek: It is my information that when Mr Chiesa worked for CMHC, he had no relationship to the file associated with the building that the member has just mentioned.
Mr Harris: In fact, Mr Chiesa was employed by CMHC until May 1987. This morning CMHC confirmed that, as manager of program operations, it was Dino Chiesa who recommended the approval of the Prince Charles-Patti Starr project, and indeed that it was his pet project and his file.
Given what we know about Patti Starr and her use of the political slush fund that came out of this project, given the established ties of Patti Starr to the minister, Tridel and the Liberal Party of Ontario and given that Mr Chiesa was not only involved in the project but that it was in fact his project, I really would like to know if none of this is of the slightest concern to the minister.
Is this relationship with Dino Chiesa and all of the players involved in this whole controversy of no concern to her and her ministry’s role of dealing in a fair manner with all of the corporations in Ontario?
Hon Ms Hošek: It is of great concern to me that we do our work as well and as fairly as we possibly can. I understand that it is the member’s wish to put as many things together to create the sense that they are all related. I do not know if they are all related. What I do know --
Mr Harris: I am not putting them together. I didn’t put the people together. I didn’t do this.
Hon Ms Hošek: Would the member like to listen to the answer to the question he asked? Perhaps he will give me that courtesy.
My concern is that we do our work the best way we know how. The member knows that very well, because I have told him this before in the House. When we in the ministry were looking for someone to look at the whole question of how we used government land as well as we knew how, partly in response to the concerns mentioned in the opposition and in the third party about the way we were using government land to help with people’s housing needs, it was decided that we needed someone who had those skills.
The deputy minister developed a sense of what kind of skills were required. He developed a list of criteria. Five people met those criteria.
Mr Harris: The only skills that we have seen are his connections. He has connections. Those are the skills that he brought.
Hon Ms Hošek: Let me finish, if I may. Five people met those criteria, and that is why Mr Chiesa was offered a job. It seems to me that is extremely important and that is why he is working together with the ministry to do the work associated with land development for the benefit of the people of Ontario, so that we can make sure that our land is used well for people who need housing help.
Mrs O’Neill: My question is to the minister responsible for women’s issues. As the minister is aware, conservative estimates indicate that one in 10 women are physically abused by their partner. The minister himself has acknowledged that the impact of wife assault is far-reaching. Indeed, studies on children who witness such violence indicate that serious behavioural problems are 17 times higher for boys and 10 times higher for girls.
While I was delighted by the minister’s recent announcement of the additional $5.4 million for the joint family violence initiatives, I must point out that the unfortunate needs still exist.
I would like to ask the minister what other measures will be undertaken to address this problem, particularly those things that have to do with services to shelter homes and the staffing ratios of those homes.
Hon Mr Sorbara: I want to thank the member for the question and congratulate her on her interest in the whole issue of domestic violence. I want to say to her and to every member of this House that we have a very significant obligation, as a Parliament and as a province, to do every single thing we can to confront, deal with and eliminate the problem of domestic violence.
I would encourage the member, other members of this House and every resident of this province to become a serious and committed advocate in the campaign to eliminate from our province and our country the terrible problem that we still confront in the area of domestic violence.
Frankly, as minister responsible for women’s issues, I feel that domestic violence and sexual assault against women are two of the most challenging problems and issues that I, as minister, face and that we, as a province, face because it is clear to me that one cannot truly speak of equality of women while we still have these problems that are here.
To answer the question of the member for Ottawa-Rideau, I simply want to say that our commitment of $5.4 million this year in enhanced programs will add very significantly in those areas that she referred to.
Mrs O’Neill: As we in the Legislature are all aware, the government is now halfway into its fourth year of a five-year commitment to address the issue of wife assault and prevention.
I would ask the minister if plans are in place to assess and evaluate the effectiveness of the initiatives we have taken thus far to see what we have done, what we might have done differently and what must still be done. Furthermore, this government must continue its commitment to this extremely important issue beyond the five years. I hope that commitment will be reinforced with the minister’s answer.
Hon Mr Sorbara: I hope as well that we can complete our five-year commitment to a program that is comprehensive and has initiatives out of some 15 ministries, if my memory serves me well.
The question from the member was about the evaluation of programs. As I said, we improved services in this area by some $5.4 million just seven weeks ago. If the member looks at the increase in expenditures from 1985 to the present, she will see that the increase in funding in programs has gone from some $16 million to some $40 million over the past four years. But simply increasing funds is not enough. The member is right. We have to do a careful evaluation. It is not sufficient just to spend more money, but to spend more money wisely and well.
We have in place now an evaluation program looking at all the initiatives we have undertaken. We are, in a sense, preparing for the second phase of this five-year program. But I want to report that the key services, like shelter and education services, are doing, I think, marvellously well under very constrained circumstances, and certainly constraints of resources as well.
Mr D. S. Cooke: I have a question to the Minister of Health. It has now been four years since her party made a commitment to the Windsor-Essex area to replace our chronic care hospital. In fact, it was in the 1985 election that the present Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations (Mr Wrye) said that if the Liberal Party was elected the sod would be turned for the new hospital by the end of that calendar year. It is now 1989. The sod has not been turned. There have not been final approvals given for the hospital.
Can the Minister of Health tell the people of Windsor-Essex, and in particular the chronically ill, when our old 80-year-old chronic care hospital in a school is going to be rebuilt and a new chronic care hospital put in place?
Hon Mrs Caplan: I would like to acknowledge the interest in the need for appropriate and effective planning in the Windsor area by the members on all sides of the House who represent the Windsor area. In fact, a number of discussions have been held with numerous members of this House.
I can say to the member opposite that as we review our capital planning, one of the things we want to ensure is that not only do we renew the hospitals and the infrastructure that must be renewed, but also we meet the real and changing needs of the community. I want to assure him that I have discussed this matter with the chairman of the district health council for the Windsor area and I am pleased to tell him of the willingness of that council to work co-operatively with all the partners in the region to make sure we are planning for the future.
Mr D. S. Cooke: I have no idea what the minister meant. I am talking about the replacement of a chronic care hospital. I am not talking about fancy planning or more delays. I am talking about fulfilling the promise she made to build a new chronic care hospital in the Windsor community.
Is the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations correct when he is quoted in the Windsor Star a couple of weeks ago as saying that the Premier’s Council on Health Strategy report which talks about community-based services will result in further delays for the chronic care hospital the minister and her party promised for our community? Are we going to get this hospital or are we not going to get this hospital, and if so, when?
Hon Mrs Caplan: I am pleased that the member opposite has acknowledged not only the leadership but also the advocacy of my colleague the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations. His leadership is in the area of determining that we meet the real needs of the community as we plan for the future.
The member opposite would know that what we are saying in a number of forums is that we want to be able to plan appropriately for the future and bring people together around the district health council table to review how we can provide those services, because our focus is on services to meet the real and changing needs of our communities.
Mr Brandt: My question is to the Minister of Tourism and Recreation and it relates to a contact made earlier today by my office to the minister’s office that he table all correspondence that has changed hands between him, his deputy minister and Ms Starr relative to the operation of Ontario Place. Is the minister prepared to undertake today to make that documentation available to the House?
Hon Mr O’Neil: First of all, I would like to say to the member that I appreciate the call. I was made aware that he had called or that his staff had called. I would just state that we would be pleased to forward any information that he ever requested, and we would suggest that it go through the ministry’s freedom-of-information co-ordinator.
Mr Brandt: That is exactly the kind of answer that just puts this whole question of what went on at Ontario Place into total disrepute on the part of the Liberal Party. He can make that information available without going through freedom of information, which he knows will take months to process.
If he were sincere about making the information available in a public, open fashion, the minister would not give us this charade about freedom of information. I ask him again: if there is nothing to hide, if there are no shredders at work and if in fact he wants to provide the people of this province with the information they deserve, then would he make that documentation available?
Hon Mr O’Neil: The member knows that l am likely one of the most sincere members in this House. I do not know whether he said that, but I tell the member that the freedom-of-information act was something that was brought in and agreed to by his party. It is there for the protection of certain names or information. But I tell the member that any information that is there which is approved through my ministry will be released to him.
Mr Brandt: You are ducking, Hugh. It has nothing to do with sincerity. It has to do with your credibility as a minister.
Hon Mr O’Neil: No, I am not. I am not ducking at all.
The Speaker: Order.
BROOKSIDE YOUTH CENTRE
Mrs Fawcett: My question is for the Minister of Correctional Services. A great number of my constituents are most concerned about the security at the Brookside Youth Centre in the town of Cobourg. Over the past few months, there have been escapes from this facility, and my constituents and I are justifiably concerned for safety within the community.
Could the minister please advise us as to the steps that have been taken to ensure that the movements of these young offenders in the Brookside Youth Centre will be restricted to the confines of the fenced-off area?
Hon Mr Ramsay: I share the concern of my colleague and I am quite happy to have the opportunity to indulge in a lighter moment in this House talking about prison security.
As the member will know, we in Correctional Services took over this facility from the Ministry of Community and Social Services in April 1987. That facility had been previously operated under the old Juvenile Delinquents Act. One of the main problems with that facility as we took it over for more serious offenders was that the school, as the member knows, was outside the compound, and as we fenced it in, we had to transport the young offenders outside the compound to the school.
We now have a new facility under way. By September of this year, that school within the compound will be open and running, and we will no longer have to transport young offenders outside the fenced compound.
Mrs Fawcett: Could the minister please advise me as to when these steps will be taken so that I can assure my constituents that there will be no further unwarranted escapes?
Hon Mr Ramsay: As I previously outlined, this was a very minimal security facility that the Ministry of Community and Social Services had run under the old Juvenile Delinquents Act. As we placed more serious offenders in the facility, we had to make subsequent security advances to the place.
First, we have increased staff levels. We have also designed more security posts along the perimeter and other strategic locations within the facility so that we can have better surveillance of the young offenders in the facility. Also, as the member knows, there has been a problem at King Street and Cottesmore Avenue and we have beefed up the security at that particular location.
We feel that with the strategic improvements we have done, the staffing increases and all the other structural changes, we have better security for the people of Cobourg.
Mr Allen: I have a question to the Minister of Community and Social Services, who just looked at the clock to see whether he was going to escape.
Yesterday, a complaint was lodged with the Ontario Human Rights Commission regarding discrimination against visible minority women under section 8 of the regulation. The minister has indicated that some studies were done in a review by his ministry of a similar question. The study in question that I am aware of was done last November by a person who had no skills to undertake a survey, went to four Metropolitan Toronto offices, asked to see some section 8 cases and looked at them to see which ones were inappropriate or appropriate. There was no large sample involved. There was no randomness. It was not scientific. There was no question asked about racial origins.
The Speaker: And the question?
Mr Allen: Can the minister tell us, when he says in the press this morning that there was no discrimination in the application of section 8, does he indeed have any study that tells him independently whether there was or was not any discrimination?
Hon Mr Sweeney: The honourable member will be aware of the fact that the basis for the report he mentioned was 17 clients from a file of 311, which represents approximately one third of one per cent of our entire case load. I would suggest to him that is open to discussion as to whether or not it is an appropriate basis for making the decisions that were made. That is number one.
Number two was the fact that we then went to all the area offices of this ministry and pulled files completely at random that were involved in section 8 decisions to determine two things, first, whether there was any evidence to support the contention that had been made in the report -- there was not -- and second, to see whether or not the entire process of making section 8 decisions was deficient. The answer to that second question was yes, and that is what is being changed right now.
FISHING LICENCE REVENUES
Mr Villeneuve: I have a petition against improper use of licence money and the Pearse report on the future of fishing in North America. It is addressed to the Honourable the Lieutenant Governor and the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:
“We, the undersigned, beg leave to petition the Parliament of Ontario as follows:
“We the undersigned are concerned about the improper use of fishing licence revenue and the possible negative influence of the Pearse report on the future of fishing in North America.
“In regard to the first problem, it has become apparent that licence money revenue has become a replacement for regular MNR funding. Projects in our area, such as the indexed netting, RAP, St Lawrence River assessment and CFIP, which were originally funded from the general budget, are now funded by licence money. We would like to know why.
“Concerning the Pearse report, it is our view that although there will certainly be a need for advanced fisheries management strategies in the future, these strategies should involve both fish population management and user management. The Pearse report does little more than offer a way to avoid the responsibilities of effective stocking and habitat improvement.
“You asked for support of the licence so that you could carry out proper population management. You got the support. Now why aren’t you holding up your end of the bargain?”
I have signed this petition and so have 450 constituents in the riding of Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry and the riding of Cornwall.
The Speaker: Just before I recognize any other members to present petitions, I would remind all members that we are not in recess or adjournment, we are in session. Thank you.
Mr Lupusella: I have a petition signed by 145 citizens, addressed to the Honourable the Lieu-tenant Governor and the Legislative Assembly of the province of Ontario:
“We, the undersigned, beg leave to petition the Parliament of Ontario as follows:
“Whereas it is our constitutional right to have available and to choose the health care system of our 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.”
Mrs Grier: I have a petition addressed to the Honourable the Lieutenant Governor and the Legislative Assembly of Ontario which petitions us to “introduce legislation that would guarantee naturopaths the right to practise their art and science to the fullest without prejudice or harassment.”
Mr Matrundola: I have a petition that is signed by 267 citizens and that was collected in the office of Pat Wales, a practising naturopath in my riding. The petition is addressed to the Honourable the Lieutenant Governor and the Legislative Assembly of Ontario. It calls on the Ontario Legislature to “introduce legislation that would guarantee naturopaths the right to practise their art and science to the fullest without prejudice or harassment.” It reads as follows:
“To the Honourable the Lieutenant Governor and the Legislative Assembly of the province 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.”
As required by the standing orders, I have affixed my signature to this petition.
Mr McCague: I have a petition signed by 135 citizens of my riding. The text of it is exactly the same as the one just read previously. I believe it to be acceptable to the table and have therefore signed it.
Mr Owen: I too have a petition addressed to the Honourable the Lieutenant Governor and the Legislative Assembly. It too is calling on our “government to introduce legislation that would guarantee naturopaths the right to practise their art and science to the fullest without prejudice or harassment.” It is signed by 117 people from my area and it is submitted under my signature.
SECURITY IN PREMISES USED BY PUBLIC
Mr Villeneuve: I have another petition addressed to the Honourable the Lieutenant Governor and the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.
“We, the undersigned, beg leave to petition the Parliament of Ontario as follows:
“We request that the Ministry of the Attorney General withdraw Bill 149, An Act to amend the Trespass to Property Act, which we believe is unnecessary and without mandate.
“While we respect the rights of minorities and youth, whom Bill 149 alleges to protect, we oppose the way in which the proposed legislation will erode the ability of owners and occupiers to provide a safe and hospitable environment for their patrons or customers. We are further concerned about the legislation’s potential for increasing confrontation in the already difficult process of removing individuals who create disturbances on publicly used premises.”
I fully endorse this petition. It is signed by 59 constituents and I have signed it as well.
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS
SARNIA-LAMBTON ACT, 1989
Hon Mr Eakins moved first reading of Bill 35, An Act respecting the amalgamation of the City of Sarnia and the Town of Clearwater and the addition of the amalgamated City to the County of Lambton.
Motion agreed to.
Hon Mr Eakins: As I mentioned earlier, the purpose of the bill is to amalgamate the city of Sarnia with the town of Clearwater on 1 January 1991, and to make the amalgamated city part of the county for municipal purposes.
PUBLIC SERVICE PENSION ACT, 1989
Hon Mr Elston moved first reading of Bill 36, An Act to revise the Public Service Superannuation Act.
The Speaker: All those in favour will please say “aye.”
All those opposed will please say “nay.”
In my opinion, the ayes have it.
Motion agreed to.
Hon Mr Elston: I have just a brief explanation to indicate that the bill provides the basis upon which pensions will be delivered to the public service. I have made contact with the various representatives of the union organizations represented under the ambit of this fund. There is, of course, the scheme of pension deliverables about which the Treasurer (Mr R. F. Nixon) has spoken before. This takes into account some of the announcements and statements that have been made through the budget papers with respect to contributions.
There are various ways in which the pension can be delivered if suitable agreements can be reached with representatives of the employees. We are looking forward to using this particular piece of legislation to provide us with the flexibility to address the modern-day needs of pension deliverables in Ontario. It also addresses the manner in which we anticipate being able to ensure indexation of public service pensions. We have also, in the ambit of this series of provisions, allowed for increases of some benefits. We will look forward to being able to pass this through the Legislative Assembly.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
ONTARIO LOAN ACT, 1989
Hon R. F. Nixon moved second reading of Bill 17, An Act to authorize the Raising of Money on the Credit of the Consolidated Revenue Fund.
Hon R. F. Nixon: The honourable members will have become accustomed to these bills over the years. The amount of authority asked of the Legislature is $2.6 billion. They would be aware, being as attentive to the details as I know they are, that the actual deficit of the province this year is expected to be under $600 million, but there will be retirements of debt to be financed of approximately $1.6 billion.
As well as that, the authority is more than for the full fiscal year. Because of advice that came from the standing committee on public accounts some years ago, the authority extends to the end of the September following the fiscal year. Additional borrowing authority will be required under those circumstances.
Also, it is expected that we, as a province, will be borrowing from the Canada pension plan on behalf of Ontario Hydro. Rather than giving the authority to Ontario Hydro to borrow directly with our guarantee, the process we have used in the province is for the province to borrow a part of its share of the premiums that accrue to the pension plan in Ottawa. It is expected there might be as much as about $1.3 billion for that purpose. This authority is a substantial amount indeed, at $2.6 billion, but I simply give further assurances to the honourable members that it is expected our deficit this year, in total, will be $577 million.
I think it is worth saying in this connection that of course the operations of the government will be fully covered by our tax revenues. In this connection, we will have a substantial operating surplus of just under $2.7 billion. All of this will go towards paying a large share, about 80 per cent, of our capital expenditures this year, and the borrowing that is referred to is for the completion of that capital account.
I feel the request is a reasonable one. The Legislature in the past has been good enough to give myself and my predecessors the authority to borrow on the credit of the consolidated revenue fund, and I ask for that authority to be continued.
The Deputy Speaker: Do other members wish to participate?
Mr Laughren: I do indeed wish to participate in this debate on Bill 117.
The Treasurer is quite right. We have agreed to support his efforts to borrow money in the past and we will do so again today. Although I think it is important to state that we do not always like what the Treasurer does with the money he borrows, we do think he has the right to borrow it, so for that reason, we will be supporting it.
We are concerned, though, about the way in which this government is running the show. We think the very clear shift to having the local level, the property taxpayer, reduce the deficit of this government is not appropriate. That really is what has happened. While the Treasurer trumpets his efforts at deficit reduction, what he is really doing is saying: “We are going to carry on business as usual and the property taxpayer, by assuming a bigger share of education and municipal expenditures, will reduce the deficit for us. We will pay less to the municipal and educational levels at the local level and make them assume more of the costs. Therefore, they in fact will be reducing the deficit.”
At some point I think the Treasurer should stand in his place and express his appreciation to the property taxpayers for all they are doing to enhance his reputation in the province in what seems to be, to many people, his attempts to reduce the deficit. I think it is time the Treasurer fessed up and was more honest with the taxpayers of Ontario and gave them credit for reducing the deficit by eating it at the local level, along with a combination of higher consumption taxes.
This is a bad time to talk to me about consumption taxes, having just received my auto insurance bill which is really a form of consumption tax.
Hon Mr Conway: And?
Mr Laughren: I have just had an increase from $2,800 a year to $6,000 a year for my automobile insurance. I am glad the minister is here.
Hon Mr Conway: Any explanatory note? Did you buy a new car?
Mr Laughren: There are lots of explanatory notes, which I would rather not get into.
Mrs Grier: It is called speeding to Queen’s Park.
Mr Laughren: I am not pleading totally innocent in this regard. On the other hand, when your auto insurance tax bill goes from $2,800 a year to $6,000, it does give one pause for thought about many aspects of one’s life, I might say.
Hon Mr Conway: So we are not going to get into this. Since Elie left your passenger seat, it has not been the same.
Mr Laughren: It is now out of control totally.
Hon Mr Conway: Elie was such a calming influence on you.
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please. No interjections, and address the remarks through the Speaker as you usually do. Thank you.
Mr Laughren: I could tell the members of some of the conversations the former member for Sudbury East and I used to have on our trips back and forth, but I will save that for another day. I will save those comments for the going-away party of the Treasurer at some point.
Hon R. F. Nixon: If you followed his advice you would be a member of cabinet.
Mrs Grier: No. He might be on the Environmental Assessment Board.
Mr Laughren: We are very unhappy with the way the government is shifting responsibility to the property taxpayer at the local level. Not only that, while the Treasurer sticks it to the property taxpayer and to the ordinary consumer with the kinds of taxes he has been imposing, namely, the retail sales tax, the government --
Hon Mrs Caplan: Is this the “Don’t spend” speech?
Mr Laughren: I do not think this is an appropriate day for the Minister of Health (Mrs Caplan) to get involved in the debate, considering how she misled the taxpayers in Windsor vis-à-vis a new hospital. The Minister of Health knows full well that is exactly what she did.
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please. I think that is rather unparliamentary language and I would ask the member for Nickel Belt to withdraw, please.
Mr Laughren: I will withdraw the comment with “misled” that I used and let the taxpayers of Windsor decide whether or not she misled them in the past when she promised that hospital and did not deliver. It is up to the voters of Windsor to make that determination.
Hon Mrs Caplan: Continue with your “Don’t spend” speech.
Mr Laughren: It is good to see the Minister of Health involving herself in the debate again.
The Deputy Speaker: No interjections, and the member will address the House through the Speaker as usual.
Mr Laughren: It is very difficult when the Minister of Health, who should be running for cover, has the audacity to sit in her place and heckle an opposition member for the way in which her government is spending the funds that it extracts from the taxpayers in this province.
I did want to talk about the tax credits that the Treasurer also talks about from time to time. The tax credits that are supposed to be used to ease the burden of taxes on low-income people and seniors in this province have not been keeping pace with other costs to these people. For example, since the 1970s, the last time we did the numbers, they had eroded in value by about $300 million in tax credits in Ontario. We think that is simply not appropriate.
While the Treasurer is raising all sorts of taxes, he then in all honesty should be raising the tax credits that continue to protect the people at the low-income level. That was the purpose of those credits. Yet the Treasurer goes on raising all sorts of taxes in the province and not raising the tax credits. That simply is inappropriate. The low-income people are worse off with this government than they were when the Tories were in power. That is a fact because this government has not increased the tax credits.
Mr Black: That is not true.
Mr Laughren: It is actually a fact. I know it must hurt a Liberal to hear that his or her Treasurer is meaner to low-income people than were the Tories. Now that is saying something, but it is absolutely true. We will not get into the whole question of taxpayers this afternoon although it certainly would be in order, considering the bill that we are debating. We dealt with that in the budget.
I was checking some of the numbers going back a few years, and the level of property taxes is going up at approximately double the rate of inflation.
Mr Laughren: The Minister of the Environment (Mr Bradley) does not seem to think that is true, but according to the municipalities themselves the property taxes are going to go up in Metropolitan Toronto, 12.4 per cent; in Hamilton, 8.9 per cent; in Waterloo, 10.4 per cent. Not all of it is the responsibility of the government, of course, because the local municipality has expenditures that it must make as well, but the municipalities figure that about half of those increases are due to the shift from provincial responsibility to the responsibility at the local level. That surely is not appropriate.
The other thing that this government and particularly the Treasurer himself have done is freeze the unconditional grants to the municipalities and the road assistance grants. He uses the word “freezes,” but in fact he means “cut.” If we have an inflation rate of five per cent and he says he is freezing the level of grants,” he is really cutting it five per cent. That is what he is doing, because the rate of inflation eats into that. So here we have the Treasurer talking on the one hand about how he is increasing grants to municipalities by eight per cent when in fact he is cutting grants. He is cutting the unconditional grants and he is cutting the grants on road assistance.
He is talking out of both sides of his mouth. One side is saying he is giving the municipalities an eight per cent increase and the other side is saying he is freezing the unconditional grants and the road assistance, which really means cutting them. Besides, much of that eight per cent increase that is going to municipalities is going in areas where the municipalities must make matching grants. I am thinking of day care, welfare and public transit.
When the Treasurer and the Minister of Community and Social Services (Mr Sweeney) talked about the Social Assistance Review Committee, the Thomson report on social assistance reform, they did not quite carry through the way they could have. As I recall, Judge Thomson recommended that social assistance be a provincial responsibility, not partly municipal. Until we have reached that stage, we really are not dealing with social assistance the way we should be.
On the Ontario health insurance plan payroll tax, which was raised in question period today by the member for Port Arthur (Mr Kozyra), as I recall, while I endorse totally -- as this party has for a long, long time -- the abolishing of OHIP premiums, the Treasurer simply is going to have to look after public bodies out there that simply cannot cope with the increased costs.
I understand that the universities have been given reassurances that they are going to have their grants make up for the increased costs of their paying the payroll tax for health care to abolish the OHIP premiums. I assume that all universities are having that done. I would be interested in knowing from the Treasurer what time commitment he has made on paying for the extra costs for those institutions, so that they can absorb the costs of the OHIP replacement premium, the payroll tax premium.
I would also like to know whether any commitment has been made to the school boards or to the municipalities. Metro Toronto tells us that the increased cost to it alone will be $1.4 million. I believe that announcements have been made about all the post-secondary institutions, but I would appreciate clarification as to what extent that is going to continue and to what extent that is just to ease the pain this first year, after which they will have to absorb that themselves.
We intend to vote for Bill 17, but I did want to express the concern we have with the way in which the Treasurer is shifting costs to the local property taxpayer. If there is ever a tax revolt in this province I predict it will come at the local level, and a lot of that responsibility will not be on the shoulders of the local municipal politicians; it will be on the shoulders of this Treasurer.
Whether or not he is still the Treasurer at that point remains to be seen because we do not know how long it will take before a tax revolt occurs, if ever it does. But it is inappropriate that the Treasurer would be shifting so much of the responsibility to the local property taxpayer while he pretends he is reducing the provincial deficit when in fact it is the local property taxpayer who is doing that.
Hon R. F. Nixon: I will comment briefly and then I can have some windup remarks after the debate is completed. It is interesting that the honourable member, in his inimitable fashion, is talking about a tax revolt. It is difficult for us to perceive that the opposition members would support or even think of a tax revolt. As far as I know, there have been only two questions on the budget asked in the House since it was brought before the House.
Really, I do not recall a time in the last 100 years when there has been less interest in the budget, particularly one of this importance, in the Legislature of Ontario. We have received phone calls from interested citizens who do not seem to have anybody in the House to speak for them, and a few letters, I must say, as well as some specific calls. But as far as tax revolt is concerned, if we go by the response from the members of the opposition parties in the Legislature, it looks as if the budget is welcomed with open arms.
The honourable member is also certainly aware that the overall grants to municipalities have grown substantially this year in spite of his concern that we are offloading to the municipalities. The overall increase is from $4.1 billion to $4.5 billion: an overall increase of eight per cent. I wish it were more, but it is certainly substantial.
School boards’ capital, for example, is 30 per cent year over year. We have also arranged to preflow the capital so that the school boards can get on with their financing without delay.
As far as the employer health levy goes, the honourable member asked a question particularly. He was in the House last week when I announced additional financing of an interim nature to assist the hospitals and universities and colleges in this regard. I also said at that time that in the regular announcements that the Treasurer makes in the fall -- usually November or early December -- of course, those additional expenditures would be taken into account; not as a separate amount, because we simply have a year-over-year increase announcement.
Mr Laughren: Someone else was speaking in my other ear when the Treasurer was responding at one point.
Hon R. F. Nixon: I know what that is like.
Mr Laughren: I did not understand the Treasurer’s statement on municipalities and school boards as to what extent those bodies have been assisted concerning the payroll tax in the way the hospitals and universities and colleges have been.
When we combine the freeze on the unconditional grants, the freeze on the road assistance and some other provincial initiatives like the municipal-industrial strategy for abatement and pay equity that cost the municipalities a lot of money, even though they may be appropriate to have in place -- I am not questioning that -- it does put an undue burden on the municipalities and through them on the local property taxpayer. To what extent is the Premier -- the Treasurer -- gee, I should not make that mistake -- prepared to stand in his place and recognize the fact that those bodies have problems just like the hospitals, the colleges and the universities? I would appreciate a response from the Treasurer.
Mr Harris: I do want to participate briefly in this debate.
Hon R. F. Nixon: It is not the size of the caucus that counts.
Mr Harris: I concur with the Treasurer’s interjection. I note he pointed out that I was absent at the beginning of this debate or that nobody from my caucus was here, I believe.
Hon R. F. Nixon: No.
Mr Harris: Oh, that was not what he said.
Hon R. F. Nixon: No, no.
Mr Harris: Oh, well. In any event, I was busy outside meeting with the media on the Pattigate, Chavivagate, Liberal Partygate affair.
Mr Laughren: On a point of order, Mr Speaker –
The Deputy Speaker: A point of order, under which standing order?
Mr Laughren: I trust the member for Nipissing (Mr Harris) will forgive me for this, but the Treasurer’s comment about it not being the size of the caucus that counts provoked me and I think it is appropriate that we have a quorum in a debate as important as this.
The Deputy Speaker ordered the bells rung.
The Deputy Speaker: A quorum being present, the member for Nipissing may resume.
Mr Harris: I do not want to spend a great deal of time on this particular bill. There are some other more damaging and contentious and, I would suggest, hideous bills the Treasurer has in Orders and Notices that we will have the opportunity to comment on, but I do want to point out a few interesting facts.
We are dealing with a bill empowering the government to borrow $2.6 billion to feed its appetite for the increases, double and double-and-a-half the rate of inflation, we have seen from this government year over year. I suppose I ought not to blame the Treasurer -- in fact, I do not blame him -- for the fact that neither he nor anybody else has been able to contain the massive spending increases the Premier (Mr Peterson) has authorized for his cabinet.
Indeed, I know the Treasurer, in the spirit of cabinet solidarity and confidentiality, must support his Premier, although I am sure secretly and quietly he is as frustrated as we are and as the people of this province should be with the fact that this province is so totally out of sync with every other senior level of government across this country.
The federal government spending increases in the last five years averaged 3.5 per cent on its own programs. If you look back over the past four or five years, the other provincial legislatures increased their own expenditures at or below the rate of inflation. Then of course this government is now up about 50 per cent in its five years, double or double-and-a-half the rate of inflation year over year and in this budget, necessitating this borrowing.
I am most intrigued. If we look at this budget right at the start and take the $400 million that was preflowed and put it in the appropriate year where it belongs, we are looking at double the rate of inflation again, close to a 10 per cent increase in spending year over year. That is why we must once again borrow this money.
I point out a couple of interesting statistics as well. The total debt of this province when this government took over in 1984 was just over $30 billion. This government has been in power through five of the highest growth years, five sustained years, something that this country, and certainly this province, historically has probably never seen before, not this type of sustained growth -- revenue increases that come in without tax increases.
Of course, when you add the crippling tax increases this Treasurer has brought in to try to keep pace with the Premier’s rampant spending, you will realize the massive amount of money he has had coming in through increased economic activity and through the massive tax increases. In spite of that, over these five years the total debt of this province has gone up fully one third, from $30 billion to $39.9 billion or close to $40 billion this year.
Can anybody believe we are going to have five years like this again any time in the future? One would hope so, of course, although the Treasurer is not budgeting for that himself; he shows a great slowdown in the rate of growth. On behalf of the poor, beleaguered taxpayers of this province and on behalf of the young, who will have to repay this money, I find it absolutely irresponsible that the debt of this province has gone from $30 billion in these five years to very close to $40 billion.
Another interesting figure that I am sure is a rather scary figure is the public debt interest, the amount paid in interest; this is, of course, the debt that is there. Even after the recession and the very difficult times of the early 1980s that preceded this government’s taking over -- I might add that it was this Treasurer who, that summer when he took over, complimented the former Conservative government for the wonderful fiscal and financial affairs he discovered the province in. He said, “You know, I inherited a very well managed, well run province.”
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please.
Mr Harris: I do not think I am paraphrasing beyond what the words were. Certainly that is the intention the reporters reported, and I believe the Treasurer. But at that point, when he took over, we were paying $2.9 billion in interest. That was just on the debt. That is a scary figure. That bothered me. In spite of the recession and in spite of the most caring way we had to help those less fortunate through those difficult times, I still was a little concerned that in interest alone we were paying $2.9 billion.
Then the good times came, and we had five years of growth and five years of massive tax increases; five years of money rolling in from the federal government; five years of $2 billion in revenue that came into this province which the Treasurer did not even budget for. Those are what are called excess revenues. “We think we will get this much; this is our budget.” Over those five years, $2 billion came in.
What did the Treasurer do with the $2 billion? I am sure he said: “Gosh, Premier, we’ve got $2 billion more than we thought we were going to have. Shouldn’t we reduce our deficit? Shouldn’t we reduce our debt?”
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please.
Mr Harris: The Premier said, “No, we’ve got $2 billion extra dollars. We’ll spend that money.”
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please.
The Deputy Speaker: Again, may I remind all members of the standing orders: one member at a time.
The member for Nipissing. I would like to hear what the member says.
Mr Harris: I understand the discomfort of the Liberal members in hearing these figures. In fact, if I were in their shoes, I would be very uncomfortable and would want to interject and try to --
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please.
Mr Harris: -- distract me, too. Indeed, I understand where they are coming from. It is an embarrassing and very uncomfortable position to be in.
What is that interest payment of $2.9 billion today? Now we are paying $4.29 billion. Almost $4.3 billion is now being paid in interest alone. Indeed, that is why we have to have this bill to borrow $2.6 billion.
I want to put a couple of other things on the record. The Treasurer has said repeatedly that the reason he had the high taxes and the reason he must borrow money to keep up with spending is that the federal government is cutting him back. It is cutting back the transfers. The Treasurer may carefully use his words and say, “That isn’t exactly what I said,” but if that indeed is the impression that is left out there, who am I to object to that?
I would ask him, knowing that the Treasurer will have two minutes to comment on my remarks, whether he would respond and just confirm for me two figures, which are his figures, in his budget. The first one I would ask him to confirm -- this is his budget document, the one with the Stinking Benjamin on the front, reflective of the budget --
Hon R. F. Nixon: Trillium erectus.
Mr Harris: -- is on page 40, and his officials are looking up and will fire it to him and the Treasurer can indeed confirm whether I am correct --
Hon R. F. Nixon: I have it right here; wait a minute.
Mr Harris: I am sorry, it is on page 41, the consumer price index: He projects for the next year that across Canada inflation will be 5.2 per cent and that in Ontario he thinks it will be 5.8. That is probably because we have such a free-spending government here that will contribute to inflation, more so than across the country, but I would just ask the Treasurer to confirm a 5.8 per cent increase in the cost of living that he projects in his budget for the province, and indeed 5.2 per cent that he projects for the country. I would ask him if he would confirm those figures in his comments.
I would ask him to also confirm, on page 58 of the budget, where we have the total of the payments from the federal government to the province, that indeed the figures are “interim 1988-89, $5.114 billion” and that he budgets that the federal government will transfer to him $5.469 billion. Those are the Treasurer’s figures, and indeed he could confirm as well that that rounds off to seven per cent.
All I would ask the Treasurer to do is to confirm that inflation across this country is 5.2 per cent and that the federal government, in spite of the massive debt problems it has inherited and still cannot seem to be able to work its way out of -- and gosh knows, I think we should all be giving it every bit of co-operation we can, because surely the biggest problem facing this country and this province is that massive debt at the federal level -- in spite of the fact it has that problem, in spite of the fact that spending on its own programs this year is up about 3.6 per cent, it is increasing its transfers by seven per cent to the richest province of this country, Ontario.
That is well in excess of its own spending, well in excess indeed of the rate of inflation for Ontario, and it is short only that amount that it cannot seem to -- While they can transfer more than the rate of inflation, while they can transfer an increase in excess of what every other government of this country is spending -- the increases of every other province -- the only thing I think the Treasurer can say is that they have not been able to keep up with the Premier and his capacity to spend double the rate of inflation. I am surprised that the federal government is transferring in excess of the rate of inflation to Ontario.
I would ask the Treasurer if he could confirm those numbers, and then he can take whatever time he wants to fudge it around and hedge it or however he does those things; that on page 58 indeed his document says the Treasurer will get seven per cent more from the federal government this year than last year, and indeed his document says that inflation is 5.2 per cent and confirm for all the people of this province that the federal government is transferring to him more than the rate of inflation. Surely he cannot use that as an excuse to not be able to keep up with the spending that his Premier has inflicted with such damage to this province.
I will have much more to say later in the day as we get into the more substantive bills. As you know, Mr Speaker, it is not within our power to hold up this borrowing -- I suppose we could hold it up. I am not sure that is particularly responsible, and knowing, as the Treasurer would know, that I would never hold something up unless I was doing so in a very responsible way, we will not oppose this proceeding on second reading today.
But we are not happy that this type of borrowing is going on in the fifth year of such economic boom in this province and we are not happy that the Treasurer has seemed to found his excuse that the federal government somehow or other is not giving the Treasurer what he thinks the province is entitled to when indeed Ottawa is transferring to it in excess of the rate of inflation. I do not really know where they can possibly find the money to do that. I was astounded myself, when I saw the figures, that they are transferring seven per cent more this year than they did last year.
Hon R. F. Nixon: I would like to comment briefly. I always like to hear the honourable member in full flight. If it is any help, I can confirm to him and to any other interested persons and taxpayers that the figures he brought to the attention of the House are correct. I would just like to put them in perspective for about 50 seconds.
Although the grants from the government of Canada have increased, as he pointed out, they have increased at a rate only about half as great as the growth in the expenditure in Health, which this year is just under $14 billion, capably administered by my colleague. The fact that she is now being criticized for not coming forward and building more hospitals is simply an indication that there is not enough money in the Treasury for the Minister of Health to acquiesce to the needs in the communities as they have been assessed.
I would just like to point out to the honourable member, however, that earlier in this decade, when another government had the responsibility for directing the affairs of Canada, they paid about 51 per cent of the cost of medicare right across the country. Now this has fallen down to well below 40 per cent, as a matter of fact to 37 per cent. That is why we have had to add substantially to medicare in order to meet the needs which the honourable member and his colleagues very properly point out to us -- that is their duty, along with our own members -- are felt for improved medicare services in all parts of our province.
I would also like to say that when it comes to the national debt as compared to the provincial debt, he is correct in his comments that the situation in Ottawa is very serious indeed. We sincerely hope that the policies of the government of Canada are going to constrain its expenditures more effectively and that its revenues will be more productive than they have been in the past so it will no longer have to pay more than 33 cents out of every dollar in interest. I am very glad to report to the honourable member that we pay just over 10 cents out of every dollar in interest. That is a lot of money, but it is better than some other jurisdictions.
The Deputy Speaker: Does the member wish to respond?
Mr Harris: Yes, I do wish to respond. I want to thank the Treasurer for confirming that the federal government has transferred a seven per cent increase, that the transfers that come from the federal government to the richest province in this country are up seven per cent; and that inflation across this country is 5.2 per cent. Therefore, in spite of the horrendous problems the Treasurer also acknowledges the federal government has, it has transferred in excess of the rate of inflation to Ontario.
I also want to say this to the Treasurer: He made mention of 33 cents on every dollar that is collected by the federal government now paying interest only. It is a staggering figure. Indeed, it works out to close to $40 billion, which, to put it in perspective, is the entire budget of Ontario being paid by the federal government as interest on the debt alone. Those figures are within a billion dollars or so of each other, about $40 billion. That is a scary, staggering figure.
I believe very firmly that the people of this country and indeed the people of Ontario are looking for governments to work together, for municipalities, school boards, the provincial and federal governments to work together to solve the biggest problem we face today, and which, as the richest province, we have to be most concerned about: the federal debt.
The Treasurer does not help solve that problem when he cries and screams that he is not getting enough money, as the richest province. He helps solve that problem when he works co-operatively with that government towards that end. I would encourage him on behalf of Ontario citizens to indeed do that.
Mr D. S. Cooke: I want to take a couple of minutes to talk about an item that should be included in the plans the Treasurer has had for capital expenditure, for borrowing money in this province.
I am glad to see that the Minister of Health is in the Legislature so she can hear a few words of what I have to say about one of the most frustrating experiences I have had as a member of provincial Parliament in trying to get this new chronic care hospital in Windsor.
In 1985, I remember very clearly having a debate on TV with the member for Windsor-Sandwich (Mr Wrye) and the Conservative candidate June Boyd who was running in Windsor-Walkerville. The issue of the chronic care hospital and the plans for a new chronic care hospital were debated.
The member for Windsor-Sandwich said at that time that there was absolutely no problem; that if a Liberal government was elected the sod would be turned for that new chronic care hospital before the end of December 1985. Here we are in 1989 and the sod has not been turned. The Ministry of Health is still playing around with the plans that have been submitted by the hospital.
I cannot indicate that a particular member or minister has misled the House, because that would be unparliamentary, but I can clearly indicate that the Liberal Party clearly misled the people of Windsor-Essex in the provincial election in 1985, and then it misled them again in 1987 when it was running for re-election. The member for Windsor-Sandwich had all over his campaign literature that he was responsible for getting the --
Mr D. S. Cooke: Mr Speaker, I was very careful of what I said. I have not said that an individual member of the Legislature misled another member of the Legislature. I said the Liberal Party in its campaigns in 1985 and 1987 misled the people of Windsor-Essex by saying we would get this chronic care hospital, and we still do not have the sod turned on the chronic care hospital.
I remember when the former member for Kingston and The Islands, Keith Norton, was the Minister of Health, and we were in committee; the member for Windsor-Sandwich was in opposition at the time. We had been talking about the chronic care hospital then. In fact, this thing has been on the drawing board since 1971. The member for Windsor-Sandwich said to the then-Minister of Health: “You approve of the chronic care hospital. If there are problems at the local level, your bureaucrats should go down to Windsor and bang a few heads together to get this thing through the process.”
I say to the Minister of Health now that if she is going to put the blame back at the local level -- I wish she were listening, because this is the number one health priority in our area. Four out of five Liberals have been elected down in Windsor-Essex, and one of the main reasons they were elected was because they promised a chronic care hospital, and then the government deliberately went back on its promise.
It is too bad that the Minister of Health is so bloody arrogant that she will not listen to what is happening to the elderly people in our community. It is the same old story. That is how the Tories used to behave. That is why we never got the chronic care hospital before. Now the Liberals are doing exactly the same thing. They got the votes and now they thumb their noses at the people of Windsor and Essex when it comes to health care.
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please.
Mr D. S. Cooke: I would like to indicate what the member for Windsor-Sandwich, the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations, said in the Windsor Star on Friday, 9 June. He said that not only have we had the delays and the misleading of the people of Windsor-Essex by the Liberal Party, but now we are going to get even further delays because of the Premier’s Council on Health Strategy recommending the alternative forms of health care.
I totally agree that alternatives are absolutely essential, but we do have to have a basic chronic care facility. It is inappropriate that our elderly, our chronically ill, are put in a hospital which is a converted school, 70 or 80 years old, which is just not adequate. The minister would not want her relatives in that hospital, and I do not think we should be stuck having chronic care people in this inappropriate hospital either.
More important, the new chronic care facility is supposed to have in it a geriatric assessment centre, a day hospital, physiotherapy, outpatient services, all of the types of services that should be provided on a community basis but which we do not have in our community because we have an 80- or 90-year-old school that is being used as a chronic care facility. The minister just says: “It’s not my responsibility. It’s the folks down in Windsor. Let them deal with it.”
The former Minister of Health, the present Chairman of Management Board (Mr Elston), came down to Windsor, flew down and made the announcement before the last election. He said, “You’ve got the money here. You’re going to get your new chronic care facility. Re-elect Bill Wrye. Elect Mike Ray. You’re going to get your chronic care facility.” Here we are now a couple of years after the election and they say: “We don’t want to talk about it. It’s a local problem. We’re reassessing.” That is totally dishonest. Totally dishonest is the only way of describing it.
I will conclude by reading the last two paragraphs of a column that appeared in the Windsor Star on this issue just last week. It says:
“The sooner other area politicians join Cooke in demanding action the better. Time is running out.
“The way this clumsy, scandal-ridden government is going, they won’t be around to make decisions for Riverview residents or anyone else after the next election.”
I hope the Minister of Health understands that it will not take scandals to get rid of the Liberals down in Windsor-Essex. If they do not deliver on this hospital very soon, the people of our area will throw all four Liberals out and they will deserve to be thrown out because it is clear their party to date has misled the people of Windsor-Essex.
Hon R. F. Nixon: Mr Speaker, it does not seem to bother you that the honourable member has said that our political party has misled the people. Perhaps that may not be unparliamentary; it is simply in very poor taste. The fact that the member is indicating that the party is not keeping its promises is, of course, untrue, and he knows it is untrue. The fact that we are not responding to some sort of a timetable that the honourable member has set for the Minister of Health or somebody else has nothing whatsoever to do with the case.
I think that since we are here talking about borrowing money, the member might show a little more understanding as far as the needs of the province are concerned and the actual requirements of all the communities put together which assess their own. I hesitate to say that all of these things are as essential as all others, but there is the requirement of about $6 billion to $8 billion. We have already announced $850 million over a five-year period. The ministry and the minister’s predecessor have made certain commitments which we certainly intend to keep when we can.
The honourable member will know that we have already allocated $104 million for the Hospital for Sick Children and another $200 million for cancer treatment facilities right across the province. We would like to be able to announce the honourable member’s chronic hospital to suit him, but unfortunately we cannot. We are allocating $190 million in capital cash flow this year. I can assure the member that the Windsor facilities will be built as soon as they possibly can be with respect to the allocation.
It is not fair to blame the Minister of Health personally and directly. It is not fair. She can only build hospitals and give authorizations for cash flow when the Treasurer makes the money available. That is my job, and I am doing the best I can. One day the member says I am taxing too much and the next day he says that not enough money is going into his home town. If he can balance that, then that is fine. The people in his home town can make their own judgements in that regard.
Mr Laughren: I understand what the Treasurer is saying, that there are only so many dollars to go around and that the Minister of Health can only spend dollars on hospitals as the Treasurer allocates them to the Ministry of Health. But that surely begs the question of what the people of Ontario are to believe when cabinet ministers go around promising that specific facilities will be built. Are we supposed to assume that that means some time in the future? They announced it --
Hon R. F. Nixon: It doesn’t mean in the past.
Mr Laughren: Wait a minute now. They announced it prior to the 1985 election. They announced it prior to the 1987 election. The Treasurer just announced it now again in 1989. Are we to believe that ministers can go around promising anything everywhere? Are they going to promise whatever people want to hear and then deliver only in their own sweet time? They may think that that is not misleading the people, but I want to tell them that the people of Ontario will not put up with these phoney promises any longer.
I would like to know why the Minister of Health does not get into the debate. She has every right to get up and speak in this debate. It would be very nice to know what kind of timetable she is on. Obviously her predecessors --
Hon Mrs Caplan: There were 13 hours of debate on the estimates.
Mr Laughren: Wait a minute now.
The Deputy Speaker: Through the Speaker, please, and no interjections.
Mr Laughren: In 1985, the ministers were promising this facility. Prior to the 1985 election, prior to the 1987 election, they were promising it. May we assume that prior to the 1991 election, if that is when it is going to be, we will have another announcement saying that facility will be built?
What else can we believe of this government when every time there is an election coming up, it promises the facility and then does not deliver and saves it for another promise prior to the next election? What kind of evidence do we need? Prior to the 1985 election, prior to the 1987 election --
The Deputy Speaker: Thank you.
Mr Laughren: -- and here we are halfway through and they are promising it again.
The Deputy Speaker: Time is up.
Mr Harris: The member for Windsor-Riverside (Mr D. S. Cooke) indicated that it was time for others to speak up on behalf of Windsor. I am proud to stand up today on behalf of my party to pledge our support for his efforts to hold this government accountable, to live up to its commitment of 1985, some four or five years ago now, to live up to its commitment of $22 million.
I heard some interjections from the Treasurer that this should be taken up in estimates. On the other hand, the Treasurer also says: “I’m the Treasurer. She can’t spend what she does not have and I’m the man who’s responsible.” So where is the $22 million or $23 million going to come from?
Let me suggest this to the Treasurer: He got $2 billion in excess money that he did not budget for over the last five years and he blew it all. He frittered it all away, and $22 million for Windsor was not his priority.
Second, in 1984 the former government promised a new hospital for North Bay. When this government took office in 1985, it cancelled the hospital for North Bay.
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please.
Mr Harris: They cancelled it in 1985, 1986, 1987, 1988 and 1989-90. I will tell members opposite that while I might have screamed at the time, surely they could have taken that money and built Windsor’s chronic care hospital since they obviously do not intend to fund Nipissing’s hospital and the one that was promised in 1984.
I leave the government with this --
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please.
Mr Harris: -- $2 billion in excess money cumulatively over the last five years the government has been in office, $2 billion more than it budgeted for came in. They hired more civil servants and they frittered the money away. They did not live up to the promises and commitments and obligations they already had on the record. Even now they are making up new ones instead of living up to the ones that they promised in the past.
The Deputy Speaker: Other comments?
Le député de Lac Nipigon.
Hon R. F. Nixon: Wait a minute.
Hon Mr Sorbara: Rotation here.
The Deputy Speaker: If members want to take their turn, I would appreciate it if members would stand up when it is time for their party to make a comment.
Mr Pouliot: With the unanimous consent of the House, I see that I have a right to feel shortchanged. I see the clock is ticking away on my-
The Deputy Speaker: Proceed.
Mr Pouliot: Proceed? I am already down 30 seconds, Mr Speaker. We are under a state of siege as it is, and it does not begin to do justice. I have seldom in the short time that I have been here seen members being so agitated about what is obviously a broken promise.
Mr Pouliot: The minister can shake her head and say the member for Lake Nipigon does not understand, but we in this party are not only concerned about the less fortunate, of whom the government will find a multitude up north when it comes time to acquiesce and to relate to essential services, but we are our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers as far down as Windsor, I say to the minister. She has given the members of this House the impression that when the writs are issued, she can walk on water.
Her friend and accomplice the Treasurer of Ontario says circumstances indeed do change. The member for Nipissing has said indeed they have changed. They have changed in a very positive fashion where the government has received a windfall of some $2 billion. The minister went to the people of Windsor, and it was good enough for them to believe the minister in the time of an election: “Well, the minister wouldn’t, would she?”
Those people are talking about an essential service. It is getting a little long in the tooth, four years --
The Deputy Speaker: Thank you.
Mr Pouliot: For four years she has had the money and the commitment to deliver and she has failed to do so. What the people are saying to her is that her credibility in terms of that essential service in Windsor is long --
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please. There is no more time for responses. Does the member wish to respond?
Mr D. S. Cooke: It is too bad that the Minister of Health did not bother to try to intervene and express her beliefs on this, but --
Hon Mr Sorbara: She did, and you wouldn’t let her speak.
Hon R. F. Nixon: The Speaker wouldn’t recognize her. I was standing in front of her.
Mr D. S. Cooke: All I know is that when the Treasurer got up to speak, he said they will make an announcement when they are ready to make an announcement. It is not an announcement that we need. We have had two announcements on this hospital by their party. They have been in power since June 1985 and already this hospital has been announced twice, but there has not even been a sod-turning. What we need is somebody who has the integrity to deliver on the commitments made to the people of our area, and that obviously is not the case with the current government.
I just think that anybody who does not understand how desperate this situation is should go down and visit this facility called Riverview chronic care hospital, which is a 70- or 80-year-old school that was converted to a hospital and badly needs to be replaced. It has been our number one health care priority for over a decade, and the Liberals promised that they were going to cure this problem. They were going to solve this problem by building a new chronic care hospital but, to date, no chronic care hospital.
I flew down with the former Minister of Health when he was making the grand announcement. I took him at his word. I thought he was sincere. I should have known it was a pre-election promise and it was a meaningless promise. All he wanted was a day’s publicity and pictures with the member for Windsor-Sandwich so that they could sell themselves in the 1987 election. They had no intention of fulfilling their commitment.
As one of the representatives from that area, I am here to say I will not sit down and I will not rest until I see this government fulfil its promise and we have adequate services for the chronically ill in Windsor and Essex.
The Deputy Speaker: Do other members wish to participate in the debate?
Mrs Marland: I think if there is one thing that this current government will go down in history for, it will be its list of broken promises. It is true that in electioneering campaigns all parties and all governments make promises but, tragically, this government will have a list at its feet of more broken promises than any government in the history of this province.
The thing that I find intriguing about this government is the way it can make its multi-year announcements in terms of funding. It does not matter what it is. It does not matter whether it is health care, social services, housing; whatever the program is, it is always a multi-year announcement.
One thing that I have not been able to figure out is, what happens the next year of the multi-year announcement? I can give members an example of a fund that I am particularly interested in, and I am talking about the access fund.
Mr Black: That is when we build the schools and hospitals. That is when we build the sewer systems. That is what happens next year.
Mrs Marland: Perhaps if the member for Muskoka-Georgian Bay were interested in the disabled, he might stop interjecting and listen to what I want to say about the access fund.
The access fund was announced to be $5 million per year for three years. However, last year was the first year of that fund and the $5 million in 1988 was not expended. When I questioned the ministry responsible for disabled persons in estimates, its representatives said the reason it was not all allocated was that they did not have sufficient eligible applications.
Of course, that would then beg the question of this $5 million that was not fully allocated in one year. Because it was $5 million per year for three years, anybody in the public would assume that that money would be accumulated so that the next year there would be a balance added to it from that which was not expended the first year, but that is not how it works.
The other thing that we have learned is that with this gift for multi-year announcements, nobody at the end of each program that goes through this process -- and we have now listened to it for four years -- has any idea whether we end up with more or less money. It is a very clever way of plying the public with promises, because suddenly the government says, “We are going to spend X dollars for the next five years.” I think, in fact, this year we had an eight-year announcement. I am not sure what the total dollars were, but there was one program that was a multi-year announcement over eight years.
First of all, we will not have to worry about that, because this Liberal government will not be in office for eight years to fulfil that promise, nor will we have to worry about whether each of the years in between has been fully met.
But multi-year funding is a very difficult method for people who are responsible for planning, because the truth of the matter is, although it sounds good, in his own words from a few moments ago, the Treasurer said, “We help when we can.” That is true, they help when they can. But “when they can” does not always meet the commitment of the multi-year announcement that they have made.
When this Liberal government says, “We are continually criticized for raising taxes. We are always being asked not to spend more money on this, that or the other program,” the fact of the matter is that this government cannot prioritize. That is the basic problem. There are a whole lot of programs that this government announces, again because it thinks they are vote-getting ploys, which the public has not asked for.
Certainly, I have talked about one before in this House, and I still talk about it because it is still a concern for those people who are having both to pay for this program and to find the accommodation and the professional staff that are needed. That program, I would remind the House, is the reduction of class size around this province. When this Liberal government says that it does not have the money to build much-needed hospitals and when this government announces junior kindergarten, this is the same government that does not meet its commitment in health care.
I agree with the Treasurer that the health care budget is the greatest figure that it has ever been. I acknowledge that the health care budget for Ontario today is close to $14 billion. But I also acknowledge that there is no point in establishing junior kindergarten and mandatory all-day kindergarten around this province when there are children on waiting lists at the Hospital for Sick Children, when there are children who may not live long enough to go to kindergarten and are put at risk because they are on waiting lists.
I have heard the Minister of Health say: “It’s not a political decision that those children are on waiting lists. It’s a medical decision.” Sadly, the medical decision has already been made. The medical decision that has been made is that those children require whatever the procedure is. A lot of them, of course, are heart surgery patients at the Hospital for Sick Children.
Mr Black: It is irresponsible of you to make a statement like that.
Mrs Marland: Mr Speaker, I wish you would draw to the member for Muskoka-Georgian Bay’s attention the rules of the House. I really do object to his prattling on with his interjections. I find it very disconcerting. I do not mind one or two, but he has not stopped since I started to speak.
Mr Pouliot: Why don’t you speak on the bill? Otherwise, let the lady speak. She is a distinguished representative.
The Acting Speaker (Mr M. C. Ray): Order, please. The member for Mississauga South has the floor and the member for Muskoka-Georgian Bay can speak on the conclusion of her speech for two minutes.
Mrs Marland: We talk about unrequested programs costing money around this province and some of those certainly are programs that are not for the survival of human beings. They are not health-related to the degree I am speaking of, with waiting lists at the Hospital for Sick Children, or the people around this province who are waiting for their new hospitals, for added hospital beds and for funding for staff where we have beds, but where wards are mothballed because there are no staff to staff those beds.
People are having surgery postponed. I am not talking about cosmetic surgery. I am talking about major surgery, cataract surgery, hip replacements, procedures that often mean the difference to a person’s being able to earn a living or not. When those kinds of procedures are available -- I will be the first to agree with the Treasurer about the increased cost of health care in this province, but part of that is because fortunately we now have made tremendous advances in medical science.
We now are able to give people relief and remedy for what otherwise used to be so debilitating that people had to stop work and ultimately became so ill at home that they ended up being institutionalized. The fact is, yes, health care is a big dollar, but as I have told this Liberal government so many times, it could stand on any public platform in this province and say: “We are sorry. We could not fund X, Y and Z programs, but we have funded health care. We have said to these people in Ontario that we recognize health care is of primary importance in government spending.”
The problem is that until people are at risk with health or have a health problem within their immediate family, it is not a priority for anybody. It is not priority for anyone until he experiences it at first hand. Most people are healthy. It is the minority of people who are unhealthy. Only when you are faced with that on a personal basis does it really truly hit home.
I think, fortunately, most of the Liberal government members are fairly healthy in the physical sense. Recognizing that and recognizing the tremendous population growth in this province, of course we would have a health bill that would increase every year with the kind of progress medical science has made. And thank goodness. Otherwise, why would we have a cancer research fund or a heart and stroke foundation? Why would we have all these organizations raising money for medical research, whether it is for multiple sclerosis, arthritis or whatever the medical need is? Why would we spend and invest millions of dollars in medical science research for any of those illnesses if it were not to find solutions?
When we do find some of the solutions, fortunately -- and we do have medical technology that gives relief and sometimes, fortunately, can procure a cure for some patients suffering from some of those illnesses -- when that happens, how wonderful indeed that that relief or that cure is available, but how tragic that someone who could benefit from those programs simply is not able to access it in time because of waiting lists.
If only this Liberal government would decide that it was going to start investing from the top down in terms of human need and set its priorities with the health care system, instead of spending money on programs that nobody has asked for and nobody wants. It loads down the school systems with reduction in class size, and I can speak for the Peel Board of Education and the Dufferin-Peel board, which today have over 40,000 students in portables. If you were trying to operate a school board with 40,000 children in portables, would you want to have your class size reduced? It only means more portables. The parents of those children in the region of Peel who are now in portables -- who are now the second generation, by the way; we now have children in the region of Peel whose parents were in portables.
What that says is we have a tremendous growth in our population. I can tell members that we in the city of Mississauga have doubled our population in the last 10 years. Obviously, in the last five years, when you look at the Liberal government and the fact we have had a growth in population in Ontario, we have had double taxation. We have had tremendous economic growth and yet we still do not have the money for the remedy to these problems of accommodation.
The solution that the Minister of Education (Mr Ward) has for these boards, which are already beleaguered by the fact they are short of teachers and do not have enough classrooms, is to load more programs on them, “Let’s have all-day kindergarten, let’s have mandated kindergarten a year younger and let’s reduce class size.”
He never talks to the school boards about it. He never says to the school boards: “Is this a program your community would support. Is this your priority in education today?” Oh no, because if he had, if he had discussed it with the school boards in this province, that program would not have been announced. No, it is another series of promises. When the government is floundering around not making decisions on major issues, it thinks, “Now what can we announce that will really impress the people of Ontario?”
I want to tell the Treasurer that the people of Ontario really understand what is going on. They know what the game is. They are very intelligent people and they know that this Liberal government keeps making multi-year announcements and many promises that are not fulfilled and that it does not seem to be able to prioritize in terms of human need for government speeding. They know what all that means.
They know this is a government that ignores the Association of Municipalities of Ontario when it comes to funding priorities. They know this is a government that has received a seven per cent increase overall from the federal transfer of funds. They also know this is a government led today by the Liberal Premier, who for two consecutive years has had the largest tax increase ever. If that money was, on the one hand, taken and allocated to the first priority of need, instead of a whole lot of programs this government feels are vote-catching, then we would not have the concern we have today from the public.
We realize that every time the funding of a major need is short-circuited by the announcement of another new unrequested program, every time that happens the public says to this government: “Don’t think we won’t remember. We will remember how you taxed us. We will remember where the money went and we will remind you that was not our priority.”
I think, with respect, that it is a sad day for this province that the spending and the taxing continue. Yet the people in this province who suffer most, not the largest number in votes by any means because they are a minority in number of votes, but those people who suffer most and who are put at risk because the government cannot prioritize will certainly remember when the next election comes.
The Acting Speaker: Are there comments and questions?
Mr Black: I think it is most unfortunate that the member for Mississauga South does her usual routine of sweeping generalizations without the benefit of any documentation. I think it is recognized that the great scare about health care problems in Ontario was nothing more than that. It was a cry during the earlier part of this winter, at a time when we were debating questions related to health care spending. The approach of the members of the opposition was to do just that, make sweeping generalizations, but they were unable to support them with facts.
What is particularly unfortunate in my view is that the member for Mississauga South should go into her antieducation stance at a time when the galleries of this building are filled with young people. Here we have a member of this House who should be responsible, who should be encouraging the education of young people in this province, speaking out against the young people who are here to watch this House in session, who are here to benefit from a learning opportunity. To suggest that the education system is somehow responsible is simply unfair and untrue. I think it is tragic that a member of this House should take that stance when the galleries are filled with young students from across this province.
Mr Fleet: I must say that the comments made by the honourable member for Mississauga South were quite amazing -- no one wants to attack unduly in these things -- and really rather sanctimonious at times. There was real hypocrisy when you compare what was said by her and by her colleague a few minutes earlier. The member for Nipissing was condemning the government for any spending that was over the rate of inflation, regardless of the fact that in the area of health care the costs have been rising higher than the rate of inflation. Now what we have with the member for Mississauga South is a kind of --
Mrs Marland: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I do not think the word “hypocrisy” is parliamentary language.
The Acting Speaker: The member for High Park-Swansea.
Mr Fleet: The fact of the matter is that the member has proposed an idea that is rather simplistic at best. She has expressed an anti-school-construction attitude and she has indicated her opposition to reducing class sizes. I am wondering if she has spoken to any parents in the school system, because surely all they have expressed when I have spoken to them is a preference for reducing class sizes whenever that is possible.
The fact of the matter is that we have aimed very much, as a Liberal government, at making the health care system more accessible. We have indeed increased our spending dramatically. That has been necessary in a number of ways. We have also moved forward with the abolition of Ontario health insurance plan premiums. That is a real way of helping people on a pragmatic basis. Those are the priorities this government has set. We are doing what we said we would do. We are advancing as much as possible the status of citizens and the health care for those citizens across Ontario.
The Acting Speaker: Do we have other comments in polite language?
Hon R. F. Nixon: I just want to respond to one of the points the honourable member made in which she felt there was something somehow misleading -- I do not think that is the word she used -- about multi-year commitments, particularly for capital, in an area of importance such as hospitals.
I can certainly recall being in a position in opposition of criticizing the then government for not making some commitments beyond one year so that locally elected school boards, hospital boards, boards of universities and colleges could plan for capital development. The fact that they might be disappointed from time to time when their requests are not granted, simply means that when there is a decision made by government that they can go ahead with some capital construction, the local community can go ahead and raise the money that may be a part of their share of whatever capital might be needed.
For example, in health the multi-year commitment is $850 million. This year, $180 million of that will be spent. The honourable member spoke about schools most movingly. In the last year of the Conservative government about $76 million was allocated for new schools. We are allocating $300 million a year, and I have made that commitment on behalf of the government for four full years. The school boards, although they may feel the capital is insufficient, will know that in the future their school requirements are going to be met.
The same is true for colleges and universities, where $110 million a year has been committed. Once again, this is not meeting the needs and desires of the university boards, but at least it enables the minister to indicate more than just this year, what is going to be available next year and the year after so that appropriate planning can take place. I do not think it is misleading; I think it is sensible budgeting.
Mr Laughren: I can say it during my comments or perhaps make it a point of order, but I think there is a precedent in this assembly in which the word “hypocrite” was ruled unparliamentary. In order to prevent a decline in the --
Mr Fleet: Mr Speaker, can I rise on a point of order?
Mr Laughren: I think I am in the middle of one. I do think it would be appropriate for the member to withdraw his comment.
Mr Fleet: That was the point I was rising on.
The Acting Speaker: I was going to address that issue after the time-limited speeches were concluded. We have approximately a minute left in comments before the member for Mississauga South gets her response. Do we have any other comments?
Mr D. S. Cooke: You’re going to lose your chairmanship over this one.
The Acting Speaker: You have already had an opportunity to comment on the speech.
Mr Fleet: I rise on a point of order then, Mr Speaker.
The Acting Speaker: What is your point of order?
Mr Fleet: If I have inadvertently contravened the rules of this place, I am quite prepared to withdraw the use of the word “hypocrite.”
The Acting Speaker: Thank you.
The Acting Speaker: Order, please. Could we now hear from --
Mr Polsinelli: Is there time left to comment, Mr Speaker?
The Acting Speaker: We have approximately 30 seconds for the member for Yorkview (Mr Polsinelli).
Mr Polsinelli: I would like to bring to the attention of the House that the member for Nickel Belt is talking on a point of order and saying that “hypocrite” may be an unparliamentary term. That party should remember that a few weeks ago it did not respect the Speaker’s ruling when he indicated that “lying” and calling a member “a liar” are unparliamentary. Now they have the audacity to get up and rise on a point of order. How dare they?
The Acting Speaker: Order, please. You people are testing my patience. Could we now hear from the member for Mississauga South.
Mrs Marland: I listened to the member for Muskoka-Georgian Bay talk about the health scare tactics we entered into, according to him, earlier this year. I think perhaps he would do well to represent some of the patients in Muskoka-Georgian Bay who indeed phoned my office who are on waiting lists for heart surgery.
It is disgusting to say that we were into health scare tactics. I would invite those members, particularly I guess the member for High Park-Swansea and the member for Muskoka-Georgian Bay, to come with me and visit Mrs Charles Coleman, Muriel Coleman, who today is a widow. Her husband waited eight months for surgery. I challenge those members who think these were health scare tactics. I would take them today to visit with the family of Paul and Martha Godman, whose child Jessica still is not through her heart procedure operations at the Hospital for Sick Children. She became ill on the waiting list and then had to have a further postponement, which in itself put her whole procedure at risk.
I am very happy to hear what the Treasurer has to say about how good they have been to the people of Ontario since the Conservative government days, but $300 million for schools in one year is fine until you look at the fact that they have actually taken in $1.3 billion more in taxes both this year and last year. That $300 million for schools is an interesting figure.
Another interesting figure I would remind the Treasurer of is the $43 million unspent by his Minister of Housing (Ms Hošek), allocated for housing last year and unspent. What kind of government would unspend money for housing?
The Acting Speaker: Before we degenerate any further, can I say that I wanted to address the question of the point of order and I am thankful the member has withdrawn the statement.
Just for the record, I would like to indicate I am advised there is a precedent in this House, that to make an allegation of another member that he is a hypocrite has been held to be unparliamentary language, as distinguished from the situation where one indicates and uses the word “hypocrisy.” The first, being specific to the person, is held to be an allegation for which the Speaker should intervene and bring the member to order. In any event, we could use a little more respectful language at all times around here.
Hon R. F. Nixon: I found the debate stimulating and in many respects quite useful. Specifically, I believe there was a comment made by the critic for the official opposition about what the government might do in the future to assist school boards and municipalities to meet their additional responsibilities because of initiatives taken by the government, in this instance for the employer health levy. I should be able to tell the honourable member the increases over the year before that I announced last November, but they were multimillion-dollar increases, in spite of the indication that he has given that our transfers were frozen.
If we were to divide the announcement of these increases into specific areas of special responsibility, that is, so much for inflation and so much for different aspects of their responsibility, I am afraid that my budgeting job would become impossible. But I have given assurances to the school boards and municipalities that when the transfer increase occurs -- if there is an increase, and I confidently expect there will be one announced next fall -- when that transfer announcement is made, included in that will be what we consider is sufficient assistance so that the municipalities and school boards will, of course, be able to respond to their requirements under the law.
A number of comments were also made by honourable members about the state of the financing of the province. I just want to point out very briefly, particularly to the critic of the third party, who does not seem to be in his seat just at this moment, that when we took office in 1985, the budget that we had was in deficit about $420 million for operating account. In other words, we were borrowing money in order to pay for the groceries. A lot of members objected to the fact that we raised taxes, in spite of the fact that at the same time we carefully controlled costs, allowing costs only to go up for the kinds of programs that we felt were inadequate up to that point.
But even while we were doing that, we soon turned things around so that we were paying the full operating cost of the government and, in fact, had an operating surplus at the end of 1987. It took us two years to do that, but by good management and a certain amount of good luck, the honourable members might say, we were able to do that. But this operating surplus is now $2.66 billion. It is substantial and it really means that we can pay a large proportion of the very large capital commitments that I was referring to just in my comments a few moments ago, without borrowing.
This really means that all of the ratios pertaining to the fiscal position of the province have improved dramatically. The Ontario deficit in the year we took office was $3.2 billion. It is now less than $0.6 billion. The total debt as a share of the economy this year is 14.9 per cent; the year before we took office it was 18 percent.
The honourable members who perused the budget carefully would know that the months of revenue required to pay the total debt of the province are now about 11. The year before we took office it was 15.5 months. The public debt interest as a percentage of revenue is -- I have indicated that in my brief answer -- now about 10.5 per cent.
The last figure I would like to bring to the honourable members’ attention -- since I am afraid they do not read the right pages of the budget; they read only some of the wrong pages -- is that the deficits per capita across Canada indicate, I think, the careful husbandry of our fiscal affairs.
Ontario has a per capita debt of $158. If I can find some Conservative provinces -- ah yes, Alberta, compared to our $158, is $572, in spite of the fact that it has wealth running out of the ground. Let’s see. Quebec, a good Liberal area, is doing well -- $241. Our per capita debt is $158 in Ontario; the federal government per capita debt is $1,115. I feel that the comparisons, if the honourable members are going to do this objectively and fairly, as I feel I am doing, indicate the fiscal responsibility of this process.
But of course the purpose of the bill is to give me, as the Treasurer, the authorization to borrow money on the credit of the consolidated revenue fund. I appreciate the honourable members supporting the bill. Believe it or not, their comments are listened to and in the long run, I believe, have very positive effects in most cases.
The Acting Speaker: That concludes the debate on Bill 17, so I will put the question.
The Acting Speaker: Order, please.
All those in favour will please say “aye.”
All those opposed will please say “nay.”
In my opinion, the ayes have it.
Motion agreed to.
Bill ordered for third reading.
ONTARIO MUNICIPAL IMPROVEMENT CORPORATION AMENDMENT ACT, 1989
Hon R F. Nixon moved second reading of Bill 18, An Act to amend the Ontario Municipal Improvement Corporation Act.
Hon R. F. Nixon: This is a small amendment but one I believe to be important. The Ontario Municipal Improvement Corp has been established for quite a long period of time. As I understand, if my memory serves me correctly, it was established to permit the government of Ontario -- actually the Treasurer -- to make loans available to municipalities for the purpose of utilizing the Canada pension plan funds that might be made available as they accrued to the credit, in that sense, of Ontario. The utilization was limited at the time to $150 million and the proposal here is to remove that limitation.
The honourable members may recall that I made some comments under the order of ministerial statements some months ago about municipal finance and school board finance which indicated that we were going to make available some of these Canada pension plan resources to the municipalities in order to assist them in their responsibilities, so that they would be able to borrow, we hope, at an improved rate of interest. This would be to their benefit.
In fact, this amendment simply removes the $150-million limit that seemed appropriate when the bill was passed some years ago. This will give certain flexibility to the Treasurer, the Minister of Municipal Affairs (Mr Eakins) and the Minister of Education in order to allocate some of these funds, and I would ask for the support of the honourable members in this regard.
Mr Laughren: This bill is, of course, a logical extension of the Treasurer’s budgetary policy of shifting costs from the province to the local property taxpayers. It was inevitable that when he started that process, he would have then, at some point, to give the school boards the right to borrow money from somewhere like --
Hon R. F. Nixon: They have it now.
Mr Laughren: -- the Canada pension plan. We are talking about this particular bill and this particular amendment. By this bill, the Treasurer is making it easier, presumably, for the provinces to get money from the Canada pension plan, which of course is a lower rate. Nobody questions that the province should be using Canada pension funds; at least, most people do not question that. I think maybe he did when he was in opposition.
An hon member: The Premier (Mr Peterson) did.
Mr Laughren: That is correct. The Premier did it when he was in opposition. He questioned it, but now, of course, the Treasurer has convinced him that not only should the province use the funds but that the school boards should as well.
So, this is truly a logical step, although I find it offensive, and I think a lot of people do. It was really inevitable. Every time I talk about school board funding, I must go back to the Liberal promise. We had a long discussion in here earlier this afternoon about broken promises, misleading, hypocrisy and so forth. I am not going to get into that debate again this afternoon. I do not think I need to. I think the fact speaks for themselves.
The Liberal Party assured the school boards and the taxpayers of this province that if it were the government, the province would pick up 60 per cent of the cost of education, with the local property taxpayer to pick up the balance of 40 per cent. What has happened since then is almost the reverse. At this point in time, the province is picking up a little over 40 per cent, and the local property taxpayer is picking up almost 60 per cent of the cost of education in Ontario.
The proportion of education costs paid for by the local property taxpayer is a higher proportion in Ontario than in any other province in Canada. The property taxpayers in this province are picking up a higher share of the total education costs, a higher proportion, than the residents of any province in Canada.
Hon R. F. Nixon: Do you want to go over that again?
Mr Laughren: I would be glad to go over that again. The property taxpayers in Ontario pay a higher proportion of the total education costs than the residents of any province in Canada. What we are saying, and I have been trying to say this to the Treasurer for a long time, is that is inappropriate. It is inappropriate because of the promise that he and his colleagues made to the people of Ontario before they became the government. It is inappropriate because it is not the proper way to pay for education in the province. Education, surely to goodness, is a provincial responsibility, first and foremost, and that is where the bulk of the funding should come from.
The province sets all the rules on education. Almost all the standards are set by the province, and for the province to keep backing away and backing away --
Mr Reycraft: Why do we elect boards?
Mr Laughren: Well, why does the government have a Ministry of Education? They have a huge bureaucracy called the Ministry of Education, yet while that bureaucracy is there, they are taking away more and more of the spending powers of the province and transferring them to the local property tax level. I have not seen them doing anything about the bureaucracy in the Ministry of Education.
Mr Laughren: If they really think the boards of education should be doing it all --
Mr Reycraft: Nobody suggested they should.
Mr Laughren: -- why do they have this huge Ministry of Education bureaucracy, I would ask the government whip?
It is very clear what the government is doing, and it is wrong on two counts: (1) because it is breaking its own promise, and (2) because that is a regressive way of paying for education in Ontario. We all know -- and I think most fair-minded people would agree -- that property taxes are a regressive form of taxation. They are not related to ability to pay. That is one of the fundamental reasons and should be one of the fundamental measurements of how fair a tax system is. As long as they keep dumping more and more of the obligation of education costs on to the local property taxpayer, they are making the system more regressive, and surely that is inappropriate in a province such as Ontario.
If I were a Liberal, I would be terribly embarrassed at what they are allowing their cabinet to do. I do not think that the backbenchers who seem to surround us in this chamber have diddly-squat to do with the decision, but at the same time, they are part of it. My friends have to live with it.
At the local level, the school boards are getting a bit testy with this government, and so they should be. It will be interesting to see who the Association of Municipalities of Ontario invites to its big convention next year. Do the members really think it will be a government minister again? They are coming to the conclusion: “What is the sense of having those people here? They don’t listen to us anyway.” That is what the school boards are beginning to say as well.
This is one move that the government has made. Another one is the whole question of lot levies. That is another way of dumping costs on to the local level.
I hear the government say it is giving an increase in funding of four per cent in the base grants to school boards, but I can tell the members -- and the school boards have all of the documents in this case -- that if the government gives a four per cent increase in the base grants to boards of education, two per cent of that is going to be taken up by increases in enrolment and certain other percentages will be taken up by new rules the government has brought in, such as the kindergarten rule about everybody having access to full-day kindergarten and to half-day junior kindergarten.
By the time you take out the factors over which the school boards have no control whatsoever, they are not getting an increase from this government and it is shifting ever more costs back on to the local property taxpayer. I am glad to see that the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology (Mr Kwinter) agrees with me.
Mr Campbell: The member for Scarborough West (Mr R. F. Johnston) is in the minister’s place.
Mr Laughren: I wanted to read into the record some documentation that backs up what I am saying. I am not just speaking as an opposition member of the Legislature; this is coming to us from boards across the province. This is from the Durham Board of Education:
“You have received information indicating that 1989-90 provincial operating grants to school boards will total more than $4.1 billion, an increase of 6.1 per cent over the previous year. However, during the past two years, the Durham Board of Education has become alarmed that this increase is in reality translating into a reduction in provincial funding at the local level.
“In particular, the reduction at the secondary level is nothing short of severe. Based upon data received from the Ministry of Education, the province contributed $2,032 per student in the public secondary school system in 1987 and this support declined to $1,987 in 1988.” Down from $2,032 to $1,987. “This represents a 2.2 per cent reduction in this government’s support of the existing regular day school program.
“Based upon the 1989 general legislative grants, this board has again experienced a significant decline in the level of support for secondary school purposes and therefore speculates that even the reduced level of grants of $1,987 per student will decline further in 1989.
“I should point out that statistics on a per-pupil basis are far more appropriate and accurate than gross statistics of provincial contributions that encompass a growth in the student population.”
I think that is a point that needs to be re-emphasized; that you can increase grants, but if enrolment is going up substantially, that is not giving the school boards a true increase in grants.
“The extension of funding to separate school boards and an increasing number of provincial initiatives and mandated programs and changes, this actual reduction in secondary school support per pupil, is particularly disturbing to us considering the provincial statements and directions to combat the secondary school dropout rate. Expecting school boards to increase levels of service while the province reduces their level of financial support appears to be irreconcilable to us. A joint effort on both our parts is necessary to effectively combat the current dropout rate, and this will take an increase in our resources to combat the problem.”
This is signed by the chairperson of the Durham Board of Education, Mrs Lorna Murphy.
The school boards out there are seeing through, as some would call it, the smoke and mirrors of the Treasurer when he talks about increased grants to school boards. I am not surprised that he feels this bill will give them access to extra money, because they are sure as heck going to need it by the time this Treasurer is through with them. It really is unfair, to use a parliamentary word, to say to the school boards, “We are giving you more money,” but then not take into consideration the fact that there are increased enrolments out there on which the school boards have to spend that money. It is not giving them an increase. I think the Durham board points that out very well.
I think most of the members of the Legislature have had letters from different school boards across the province based on this year’s budget. I think that the heart of the problem is not whether there is money to be borrowed from the Canada pension plan and we are going to support this bill; that is not the issue. The issue is that this government is cutting back on funding of education, expecting and assuming and, I guess, knowing that the local property taxpayers will pick up the difference because they really have no choice.
If we are going to have equality of education in this province, it is not going to come from this government; it is going to come from the local school boards all across the province, which, thank goodness, have a higher commitment to the quality of education in this province than this government does.
Mr Harris: I do not even need to take all of the two minutes allocated to me because I will have an opportunity to speak shortly. But I do want to indicate to the member for Nickel Belt (Mr Laughren) that I could not agree with his comments more.
I want to say how amazed I am at how much shrewder and more to the point the member has sounded to me in his budgetary debates over the past four years. There has been an obvious maturing of the member for Nickel Belt, because I can recall in the period from 1981 to 1985 that I very often did not agree with the member when he commented on the financial affairs of the province. But he has obviously done his homework very well and is now right on the mark, and I want to associate myself with the remarks that he has made today. Perhaps those in this chamber will find it strange, and perhaps it is a little strange, that one who is a confirmed socialist and indeed very well represents his party and its philosophy in his views, indeed is far, far more fiscally responsible than these Liberal rascals who are running this province today.
Hon R. F. Nixon: From my point of view, I cannot tell much difference between the two opposition parties either. I agree with the honourable member for Nipissing that they are pretty well ad idem, as we say, when it comes to fiscal matters. They both with one breath tell us to spend more and with the other tell us to reduce taxes and stop borrowing. It is rather difficult to know where the rationale is, other than they were making some sort of superficial appeal for some kind of support out in the province.
I can only count on the fact, as some honourable member said earlier this afternoon, that the electorate in this province is intelligent, because we do have good schools and good people, and it realizes that the services have to be paid for and that they have to be administered in a fair and competent way. We believe the school boards do that.
We also feel they have the capacity and the responsibility, if they particularly feel their capital is not being met quickly enough from provincial sources, to have access to borrowing. They have that access. As a matter of fact, with records that are here in the budget itself, I would say that some school boards might make more use of that access if they want to improve the situation in their local community. We think it is fair and equitable that this particular legislation give them the flexibility that democratically elected boards should have to meet their responsibilities.
Mr Pouliot: Our Treasury critic, the member for Nickel Belt, does agree with the government that the time is right to allow the school boards the ability to borrow from the CPP. One could call it, for instance, an affinity rate, a cheaper rate than what the marketplace would govern.
While he was making all those valid points, the member for Nipissing paid tribute to our colleague and said that in a few short years he certainly has displayed a maturity and an understanding of subject matters being addressed which is second to none, I should say, in this House.
The Treasurer should take some advice from the critic for the party with a social conscience, from social democrats, because we are aware, we see through the systematic and deliberate style of the Treasurer enacting legislation and not having the money to match the vision. Consequently, he has most school boards in this province being forced to tell the home owners, “Now you will pay 10 per cent more taxes or double-digit taxes.”
Ten per cent is very low. Whether you are a public or separate school supporter, in almost each of the 850 municipalities in this province you are asked to shell out or fork over 12, 13, 14, 15 per cent because this government, through this Treasurer, has lessened the percentage it pays for education.
It tells us that the young ones will go at a younger age for a longer period, but what it does not do is put in the matching dollars. I think, not unlike the Peterson portables, this kind of endeavour will be judged very harshly. What the Treasurer has been doing is simply passing the buck to municipalities.
Mr McCague: I too would like to congratulate the member for Nickel Belt and the member for Nipissing for their very relevant comments. I might just say to the Treasurer, though, that I think he deserves some credit for the quality of the speeches of the member for Nickel Belt and the member for Nipissing, because I have seen them time and time again poring over the Treasurer’s previous speeches when he was in opposition. To the Treasurer does go some credit.
Mr Laughren: Of the praise that has been heaped on me, I do not know which source bothers me the more, my colleague the member for Lake Nipigon or the member for Nipissing. I do think, though, that people should not be surprised when the member for Nipissing and I are in agreement on the way in which the government is funding education in the province, because when the Tories were in power, to give the devil its due -- I did not say “her” or “his” -- they did pay a higher proportion of the cost of education at the provincial level than this government is doing.
I am not surprised that the member for Nipissing would find us of like mind in this regard. It really is a pox on the house of the Liberals that they are doing this dastardly deed, because it truly is unfair to be shifting all these extra costs on to the local property taxpayer. We all know that property taxes have no relationship whatsoever to income. Therefore, it is an unfair tax.
Nobody ever accused the Treasurer of being progressive. Even when he was in opposition he was considered and called a conservative critic. Everybody knew that, and we knew what to expect when he became the Treasurer, but I can tell members I did not think he would break his own promise, the promise of his own government, and completely reverse the position of the province’s funding more of the cost of education and taking some of the burden off the local property taxpayers.
Mr Harris: I do want to say a few words on this particular piece of legislation. The Treasurer has indicated that the legislation is intended to increase the limits of the Ontario Municipal Improvement Corp, effectively to allow the school boards, as he puts it, to borrow money to make up for the shortfall in provincial transfers. We understand what the Treasurer is doing. We understand what he is saying. We will not support this piece of legislation.
I would like to put on the record a few of the reasons why we will not support it. This legislation is designed to take pressure off the provincial government from living up to its obligations. It is designed to encourage school boards to go into debt. It is to facilitate, to make it easier, to move away from the principle of pay-as-you-go, to borrow.
We understand this government has that philosophy and that it appears to be Liberal philosophy. This government’s track record is no different from the track record of other Liberal governments; in fact, it is worse than most of the ones we have seen. It parallels the worst Liberal administration in the history of the world when it came to fiscal responsibility, which of course was the one proffered by that great thinker and gentleman who, I admit, was strong-willed -- he was a great thinker and had the ability to force his will on the people of Canada -- Pierre Elliott Trudeau. He was very much admired by a number of Canadians across this country. Fiscally, though, he was seen as the architect of the disaster that is facing the country today.
This government, when it comes to fiscal policy, seems to have picked up on the very worst of Pierre Elliott Trudeau and tried to emulate his fiscal policy. It is a government that believes in borrowing. It is a government that believes in crippling the options and the opportunities for the future for itself. Now it will not live up to its commitments to fund its share of education and on the capital side has decreased its share of local school projects from 75 per cent to 60 per cent. I guess it is dropping fully 15 points, which must be about 20 per cent if my math is anywhere close, or maybe it is an 18 per cent decrease in the amount of the capital projects it will fund on average across this province.
It is encouraging school boards to spend tomorrow’s money today and to mortgage the future of our children who will have to pay back for the frivolous overspending that this government not only does itself but which it encourages other jurisdictions to do. We are opposing this on the principle that the cancer that has infected this government ought not to be allowed to spread. We ought not to be part of a piece of legislation that encourages other jurisdictions to get involved in the same cancerous type of thinking.
This bill, I suggest, actually complements the government’s lot levy legislation, which will be before us for some considerable period of time in the not-too-distant future, part of an evolving Liberal position based on the assumption that municipalities and subprovincial agencies such as school boards and municipalities indeed are better positioned to assume and service new debt than the province is.
We agree they are better positioned, because most school boards and most municipalities have been far more responsible in their finances over the years than this province has been. Indeed, they are probably in a better position to heap on new debt. But we know what Trudeau has done to the country. The feds cannot possibly consider heaping on any more debt. They cannot keep up with the debt they have in that debt load. Now, over the last five years the total debt of the province of Ontario has increased some 33.3 per cent since these rascals have been in office.
Mr Laughren: A bunch of bandits.
Mr Harris: A bunch of bandits is right.
As I pointed out earlier, the total debt has increased from $30 billion to $40 billion, up $10 billion roughly. Now they are bringing in legislation to encourage other jurisdictions to follow in the folly of their own ways and to encourage them to go out and borrow money to make up for the shortfall they are not transferring. Why is this happening? It is happening because the province has increased its own debt substantially over the last 10 years and because of double-the-rate-of-inflation growth in government expenditures over the years.
There are some interesting statistics on the tax position which they have put this province in. I know the Treasurer will be interested in this. I am referring to the release very recently of information on the 1989 tax freedom days. The Fraser Institute annually releases its reports and tells Canadians how many days of the year they have to work to pay their tithe to the government. “Tithe” is not the right word. That was back when it was 10 per cent.
Mr Villeneuve: Those were Tory days.
Mr Harris: Ten per cent days must have been Tory days, although I will confess even Tories have increased taxation beyond that.
What has happened since 1984? Here is the most recent report. Tax freedom day is the day at which you start to keep the money you earn for yourself. In 1984, it was 18 June; 1985, 21 June; 1986, 25 June; 1987, 30 June; and 1988, 4 July. What is the date today? In 1989, it moves to 7 July. For over 50 per cent of the year, and moving more and more in that direction in this province, Ontarians are working to pay taxes.
What has happened in the other provinces over this same period of time? Members would be very interested to know what has happened in this wealthiest province, this province so blessed by geographic location to the great markets to the south of us, this province so blessed with concentrations of wealth, head offices and population, and with the opportunity for economies of scale not available to many of our sister provinces. What has happened to this most wealthy of provinces? Where does it stand in its overall level of taxation? It stands 10th, last and worst in the country today.
In Newfoundland, 40.7 per cent of their income is taxed; Prince Edward Island, 38.9 per cent; Nova Scotia, 42.4 per cent; New Brunswick, 44.1 per cent; Manitoba, 46.9 per cent; Saskatchewan, 45.4 per cent; Alberta, 50.7 per cent; British Columbia, 48.3 per cent; Canada on average, 50.2 per cent; Quebec, 48.6 per cent, and Ontario, 51.3 per cent. There is more taxation as a burden on the residents and the citizens of the province than if you lived in any other province across this country.
What does this say about this government? People will say, “What has happened?” What happened in Quebec? At the same time, the tax competitiveness of Quebec versus Ontario has been pointed out to the Treasurer. Where we enjoyed a 10 per cent advantage in Ontario when this government took over, that has virtually been eliminated. That is now around two per cent when all the factors are put in.
These are significant facts when companies are deciding where to locate. Where do you want to do business? When you are coming from other countries to locate in Canada or indeed want to expand within Canada, Ontario used to be the place to be. This is no longer the case. The situation is deteriorating very rapidly and so the alarm bells should be going off.
In Quebec, in 1984 tax freedom day fell on 6 July. What has happened since 1984 in Quebec? It fell on 28 June 1987 and this year it falls on 27 June. They are moving in the right direction. Quebec is taxing less at the same time as Ontario is taxing more. This is another example of why the Treasurer must shift the burden to another jurisdiction. He has spent double the rate of inflation. He has increased taxation. I guess some have said, and the Treasurer takes offence when they say it, that this Treasurer has indeed increased taxes substantially to pay for the massive overspending of the Premier and for Peterson economics.
We are now at the danger point. This is yet another study that ought to send out a signal that we are at the danger point. It points out another reason why, to live up to what historically and traditionally has been this province’s share of the capital funding of education, and they cannot live up to that, they are now shifting this to the school boards.
The member for Nickel Belt has pointed out, on the operating side of education, that whereas this government campaigned in 1985 at paying 60 per cent, increasing the provincial share, in actual fact, year after year it has decreased the provincial share. Now this bill on the capital side is complementary to decreasing their share of individual capital projects on average across this province, from 75 per cent to 60 per cent.
We will not support this bill. We will not support the encouraging of spreading this cancer of borrowing today and letting somebody else pay it back tomorrow, making that and encouraging that down into other levels of government. We say we should stand up and fight to change what is wrong. We should stand up and fight to change the attitude of this provincial government when it is wrong, not try to convince everybody else across this province and other levels of government to be as wrong as this government is in the way it is approaching the finances of this province.
The Deputy Speaker: Are there any questions and comments?
Hon R. F. Nixon: The honourable member is pretty graphic in his use of language. He talks about the cancer of borrowing money. I would agree that this word, if it can be called an adjective, is not too extreme if he is talking about borrowing money for the regular operation of the government of Ontario, the way his government borrowed money for the regular operation of the government when he was in office. Now, that was cancerous.
But if we are going to borrow money for capital works -- schools, sewage disposal systems, waterworks, roads and bridges -- they are going to be there for 30 or 40 years, with any help, and I do not think there is a thing wrong with borrowing money for that purpose.
The fact is that this year we are spending $3.3 billion on capital works, and we are paying about $2.7 billion out of our ordinary cash flow. As a matter of fact, I could imagine some fairly progressive and well-intentioned opposition member indicating that our taxes might be a little too high and that we should be borrowing more, but this is the decision we have made.
Frankly, I want to say more about this at the conclusion of the debate, if I have an opportunity, but it seems to me that municipalities and school boards share the responsibility of borrowing if they decide to make that decision for their capital works. There is nothing cancerous about borrowing money for a school. It is bad judgement to forgo having good schools because the school board or somebody else does not want to borrow to put those facilities in place.
I feel quite badly that the honourable member, who may very well become the leader of the third party some time in the future, would even speak the words he has and express the attitude he has if there is any possibility of his moving into a position of leadership. I thought perhaps I should help him in that regard.
Mr R. F. Johnston: I have just a couple of comments on this matter, if I might, and that is to say that it struck me, in listening to the member who is opposing this bill, as well as to our member who has raised some major concerns around the government’s underfunding of education, that when we think about this being referred out, and I gather there has been some discussion about referring this to committee, it might be wise to think of it in the context of another bill as well, which is Bill 20. When we refer these out, hopefully they might go as a package to a committee to be dealt with. They do fit together and might be neatly handled together before a committee to deal with concerns that have been raised in this matter and will be raised around Bill 20 as well.
The Deputy Speaker: Any more questions or comments? Would the member wish to respond?
Mr Harris: First of all, let me thank the Treasurer for his indication of support for any future plans I may have. He indicates to me that the cheque is in the mail. I would like to suggest to the Treasurer that under the Election Finances Act, I do not think I could accept the cheque yet, but I confess to accepting commitments. I know the Treasurer’s word, unlike that of his overall government, is a word to be respected and I do consider the commitment as future money in the bank.
I want to say this, though. The Treasurer talks about borrowing for capital as being okay and borrowing for noncapital as not being okay. I agree that borrowing for operating expenditures is indeed a bigger cancer. However, I want to say to the Treasurer that under the accounting method used by the government, there are no figures that I see for depreciation. So many of the capital items the Treasurer is talking about are repair and maintenance. When you have roof repairs to schools, they come out of the capital item, but really they are repair and maintenance.
When the government puts in a four per cent or five per cent or six per cent figure for depreciation, it will find out, as normal businesses do, that it is substantially in a very solid deficit position. The government cannot have accounting methods as the private sector has them on the one hand, and not have them on the other hand. The Treasurer knows that and omits to mention that when he talks about financing capital.
Finally, I want to say that this is capital that used to be paid by the province when Conservative governments were running affairs and now he is asking boards to borrow because he will not live up to his commitments.
Hon R. F. Nixon: I think the suggestion made by the member for Scarborough West, that this bill be treated in committee along with Bill 20, is a good one because it certainly is associated. The concept of assisting school boards in their responsibilities to provide school buildings and other school capital is part of the policy we have already enunciated.
The honourable members opposite think there is something heinous about giving more responsibility to the school boards to move forward more rapidly in the provision of their capital facilities. It is clear that Ontario, having expanded its capital commitment for schools from, I believe the number is, about $76 million a year the year we took office to $300 million a year with a four-year commitment, has made a huge expansion indeed. While the honourable members may feel that should be expanded still further when we see the need for new schools out in the rapidly growing parts of the province, our provincial budget cannot provide sufficient money in sufficient time to meet that need.
For that reason, this bill will permit the Treasury to allocate Canada pension plan funds to school boards for this purpose. If Bill 20 is approved by the Legislature, it also will allow school boards to allocate money from capital lot levies, which we feel will give further assistance and will no doubt be debated in the House in a constructive and useful way. I still feel and hope it will be approved.
At the same time, any school board that does not want to borrow or use lot levies may simply raise its taxes on its present assessment and pay for it as many do now, by counting on the province to simply pay the capital cost and the local municipalities to pay the operations.
The honourable member, I think, makes a good point when he says that they are associated. Other members have as well. I think that debate will be useful and important because there is not enough money that we can allocate from the Treasury, as it presently is, for the capital needs.
The member for Nipissing indicated that back in the good old Tory days this was not necessary, yet it is interesting to note that there is a special section on municipal government finance in the budget itself. I am not sure all members would have read it as carefully as I have, but it is extremely well prepared by the officials in the Ministry of Treasury and Economics. It is really designed so that people in municipal affairs and members of this Legislature will have a fair understanding of what the capacities are, provincially and municipally, to finance these capital expansions.
I think members understand that capital borrowing and borrowing of any type is actually controlled by guidelines of the Ontario Municipal Board. I quote from page 86 of the budget paper, “The current guidelines state that a municipality should not commit more than 20 per cent of its annual operating expenditures to debt servicing (including principal repayment as well as interest).” There is that rule, and even with that quite restrictive rule there is a table on page 94, table 10, that I certainly want to bring to the attention of the members who have no doubt perused it carefully and have been struck by the impact of the numbers.
The member for Nipissing said that in the good old days the school boards and municipalities did not have to borrow. In order to match what you might call the historical debt-charge ratio that we have selected at 1979, the municipalities and school boards could borrow $2,451,000,000. The actual limit under the 0MB debt limit guideline, which is very restrictive -- 20 per cent of that cash flow -- is actually $7,888,000,000. If the municipalities were to borrow at a rate that would mean they would be paying interest at the same rate as the province pays -- the honourable members are prepared to say, “We should borrow and hand it over” -- they would have the ability to borrow $3.3 billion, which is just less than half of the limit of $7.8 billion.
The purpose of this is not particularly to encourage school boards and municipalities to borrow. It is simply to point out that there is capacity there under our rules and our traditions that do not go back into the dim and distant past, that the guideline there is 1979. Somehow or other, many school boards are under the impression that they do not have the power to borrow, and many municipalities, very wisely, try to make do with as low a limit of borrowing as possible. The city of Toronto, for example, which I understand has a triple A credit rating, is about as close as any city in North America to having practically no debt and could very well arrange that, if it wanted to order its business in a different way. I am not suggesting it do that, other than saying it is a very prosperous, well-financed city.
The message in this budget paper is, frankly, that many of the municipalities have the capacity to move forward to provide the services that they are demanding be paid for, particularly by way of capital, out of the provincial Treasury. I believe the policy that has been enunciated and these bills that are before the House indicate the responsibility still, as it always has, lies in substantial degree with the municipalities and school boards.
This particular bill before us enables the Treasurer now and in the future to provide some substantial assistance in the debt cost by making Canada pension plan funds available. I regret the third party has indicated it will not support even that sort of flexibility, because it makes eminent good sense. But as usual, we can count on the official opposition to support us when it comes to matters of this import and I appreciate the fact the critic has expressed that support.
I ask all reasonable and informed members of the House to support the bill on second reading.
The Deputy Speaker: Mr Nixon has moved second reading of Bill 18, An Act to amend the Ontario Municipal Improvement Corporation Act.
All those in favour will please say “aye.”
All those opposed will please say “nay.”
In my opinion, the ayes have it.
Motion agreed to.
Bill ordered for standing committee on finance and economic affairs.
DEVELOPMENT CHARGES ACT, 1989
Mr Polsinelli moved, on behalf of Hon Mr Eakins, seconding reading of Bill 20, An Act to provide for the Payment of Development Charges.
Mr Polsinelli: On behalf of my colleagues the Minister of Education (Mr Ward) and the Minister of Municipal Affairs (Mr Eakins), I am pleased to present the Development Charges Act for second reading.
As set out in section 2 of the bill, the Minister of Municipal Affairs is responsible for the administration of parts I, II and IV and the Minister of Education is responsible for part III.
The legislation provides municipalities and school boards with the authority to adopt bylaws to finance growth-related capital needs through the imposition of development charges. Lot levies have been imposed by urban municipalities for many years, although the authority for such levies and for front-ending agreements has been ambiguous. This legislation addresses the concerns raised by both the development industry and local governments regarding the need for structure and accountability.
I would also like to point out that parts I, II and IV of this legislation very closely reflect the consensus positions reached after several years of dialogue among representatives of the Association of Municipalities of Ontario, the Ontario Home Builders’ Association, the Urban Development Institute and the Ministry of Municipal Affairs through the minister’s working group.
It is the government’s intention to release draft regulations and guidelines relating to both the municipal and education components of the legislation. There will be a consultation period during which interested parties may make suggestions regarding the technical implementation of the legislation.
We also intend to refer this bill to a standing committee for further deliberation. I understand that will be the standing committee on finance and economic affairs, which is dealing also with Bill 18.
At that time, we shall bring forward some minor technical amendments as well as a change to section 43, which as currently written would not allow development-related charges of any kind to be levied during the period between the passage of this act and the passage of a development charge bylaw which conforms to the act. This hiatus was not intended. The amendment will ensure a smooth transition period which will enable municipalities to impose development charges without interruption.
My colleague the parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Education and member for York North (Mr Beer) will be making representations to issues relating to school board development charges in part III of the bill.
Mr Laughren: I was just hoping that the parliamentary assistant would table with the House the compendium of the agreements that were reached in coming to this bill. The parliamentary assistant stated that this was the result of many years of consultation and consensus -- I believe that was the word he used -- with the school boards, municipalities and the development industry. I assume then that there is some material that could be tabled so that all of us could have a look at that consensus. As a matter of fact, I think that compendium should have been tabled when the bill was tabled. I think that should be a requirement.
I am assuming that the parliamentary assistant has some material to back up his statement that this bill is a result of a consensus of the school boards, the municipalities and the development industry. I anxiously await the documentation.
Mr McCague: I missed the last part of the parliamentary assistant’s comments when he made some reference to the parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Education. Maybe as he replies he would repeat what he said in that regard.
Mr Polsinelli: I should point out to the member for Nickel Belt (Mr Laughren) that he is very good at talking but he is not very good at listening.
If he had listened to my initial remarks, he would have heard that I pointed out that consultation has been going on for a number of years with the Urban Development Institute, the Ontario Home Builders’ Association, the Association of Municipalities of Ontario and the Ministry of Municipal Affairs, and that parts I, II and IV of this bill very closely reflect a consensus position that was reached by those parties negotiating. I think if he contacts any one of those parties he will find that the legislation, as we have introduced it, very closely reflects the consensus that was reached by those parties negotiating, after a substantial number of years in negotiation.
With respect to my colleague the parliamentary assistant for the Minister of Education, members will know that part II of this legislation divides the responsibility for the administration of the bill between the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Municipal Affairs. The Ministry of Education is represented today by the member for York North and, as the rotation comes around to our side to speak again, he will be making representations with respect to part III of this bill.
Mr R. F. Johnston: Perhaps I should wait for the parliamentary assistant because I primarily want to speak about education matters here. I would like to launch in anyway because you can never tell, once the floor is seated, when you are going to get it back again.
I have learned these many years not to say that the member for York North has got the same reputation as a number of others of us for our loquaciousness, but you can never tell what will take place when there is only half an hour to clear my throat and really get into this bill before the House prorogues.
Hon Mr Conway: Now that you and the Bank of Montreal have found an affinity, all else is possible.
Mr R. F. Johnston: I had no idea the government House leader wished to speak, and I would cede my place to him because I know how short-winded he is. Perhaps I could continue without the irrelevant hecklings and ravings of the House leader.
As we are dealing with Bill 20 and not matters to do with the banks, I would like to say that the parliamentary assistant did make it seem like there was a huge consensus out there about this act in its entirety and not about those particular sections as he spoke. I think that my colleague the member for Nickel Belt was absolutely right to question just what this consensus was and what documents could be brought together indicating that. That should have been put together in a compendium with this bill.
I want to talk about Bill 20 in the context of other initiatives around education finance, because I do not think it can be looked at alone as a major change to the Planning Act, as it certainly is. It has to be looked at in the context of the last bill just before us, which I spoke about very briefly, indicating that the two bills should go off together to a committee to be looked at as a package.
It also needs to be looked at in the context of what the select committee on education is dealing with these days or is hoping to deal with this fall, the whole context of the adequacy, equity and accountability of education funding in Ontario, whether it is to deal with capital or operating costs.
What we have here is a government which has really not got itself together around the real needs of education funding in any of those matters, whether it is equity, accountability or adequacy. Instead, they brought themselves together on a number of initiatives, many of which do not actually fit well together and certainly do not meet the criteria of those three matters I have just raised.
This matter, on the face of it, seems like a very sensible approach to dealing with development charges and the horrible situation we are in now, started by the last government and added to by this present government, of having huge new developments start, all across southern Ontario at any rate, without the appropriate services being put in place, especially around schools. We have thousands and thousands of children now whose whole education will be taking place in portables, no matter what kind of capital initiatives this government has started.
That is a travesty and something which needs to be addressed. One hopes that this kind of legislation would be the kind of thing that would deal with it and that members opposite would find it important to listen to the comments of opposition members as they address the matter.
The matter before us is in many ways not so much a major initiative that will redress those problems as it is a masking of the problems of inadequacy of funding that are out there presently, in this case around capital funding of education. The reason I say that is that the capital problems in education today are not just dealing with the question of a new school in a growth area, like Peel, Dufferin or York, outside of Metropolitan Toronto.
Capital problems, as you know from your own area of Windsor, Mr Speaker, can deal with matters of trying to maintain very old stock, of trying to accommodate the changes which have taken place because of Bill 30 and the needs of the Catholic system as it grows and the public system as it tries to maintain its viability within single-school towns, for instance, which there are in Essex county and other areas of the province, and it deals with many complicated matters in terms of the costs of maintaining our capital stock.
One of the great feelings of the past has been that in the budgets of the Ministry of Education there has never ever been a real recognition that a certain percentage should always be going to the upgrading of our capital stock and to preparation for new development as it takes place. As a result, we have a major deficit today, whether it is to do with maintaining old buildings, dealing with the problems of Bill 30 as they have developed or in fact the huge new developments that are taking place around Metro Toronto.
What this neatly does in a funny kind of way is break the ground for pooling. It encouraged boards, whether they were Catholic or public boards, so that they could take initiative together to meet their needs even though many boards were opposed to this in terms of their operational costs.
The thing I want to state is that although it may have been hinted at and now is sort of backed off from by the parliamentary assistant that there is a consensus about how useful this is around Ontario, there are many boards now that are very concerned about this development and the quid pro quo, the tradeoff that is involved in developing a lot levy system.
If you live in Peel or if you live in York region, you can probably be happy that in the new areas that you are going to develop, as that development continues in your area, you are going to be able perhaps to raise a significant amount of money to go towards your new school facilities that you require.
This does nothing at all to meet the deficit that is there presently in those communities. What I am talking about, of course, is the fact that with the present capital grants that have been announced most recently by this government, in a district like Peel for example, where there are now something like 25,000 or 26,000 students in portables, by the year 1992 when that capital funding is complete, there will only be 23,000 students in portables. There is not going to be a measurable change made under existing capital allocations.
Then you look at this response here, which is now supposed to be a major part of our new capital solution, and what do you say to the people in Peel? It does not address their existing development problems. In a new development and a new housing area that develops, perhaps a lot levy of a few thousand dollars on a home will go some way towards meeting the local costs for raising the capital needed for that kind of schooling. But even there, those boards should be very nervous about what this is going to mean in terms of provincial dollars that are now going to come in to meet the actual capital costs in those areas in the coming years.
It is my guess that the lot levies that will be required to actually finance a new high school are going to be quite considerable, are going to be unacceptable in terms of the kind of cost of housing that it will mean is going to be developing in those areas, and those municipalities are still going to need provincial dollars.
Very clearly, that is not the plan of this government. The government wants the lot levies to meet most of the costs of new construction in those areas so that it can divert money, supposedly into the other areas that I was talking about, whether it is the maintaining of old buildings or the need to adjust to other kinds of growth, but not growth in development terms in the province.
By other kinds of development, I mean things like all-day kindergarten, like mandating junior kindergarten as a program, perhaps some of the ramifications from heritage languages being made mandatory at this stage. There will be need for capital funding for those kinds of things, and I think that this government has thought that the money it was going to save from its own capital moneys that it has been putting in would now be able to go to address some of those kinds of issues.
I do not believe that that is going to be the case, that that is going to be adequate in any way to meet the kinds of huge capital costs that are out there at this stage. Even in districts of growth, they are going to be left in a deficit position over the next 15 to 20 years unless some other approach on capital funding is found which is more equitable.
The other thing I would like to say specifically about this bill and about the whole notion of lot levies is that, while it seems to be attractive to say that developers should be paying the costs for the kind of services and infrastructure that are required for that development for education, just as we have expected it for other kinds of services in the municipality, that cannot be looked at in isolation without understanding, of course, that the cost is being passed through to the consumer.
It may be that people in Ontario feel that it is only appropriate that the Metro Toronto area should be penalized, that we should get special taxes and be punished for living in this area, as we are now seeing in the latest budget; that because the economy and the economic planning or lack of planning of this government and past governments has meant that the jobs are being developed in the Golden Horseshoe and we have to live here and we have the highest inflation in the country, now we also get the highest individual taxes in the country as well.
On top of that is the problem of world-class-citydom, which the Treasurer and the Premier (Mr Peterson) have spoken about, that pleasant trial that we all have here of the enormous cost now to live in this Metropolitan area.
Even with the downturn in housing sales at the moment, the average income required to buy a home in the city of Toronto today -- and by city of Toronto, I mean larger Metro Toronto -- is some-where in the neighbourhood of $88,000 to $90,000 a year to pay the average price, the average cost of a house in Metro Toronto today.
What does this do to those first-time home owners, a vanishing breed in our society today? If you look again statistically at the number of people who were in a position to buy a first home in 1970 and look at the percentage of our people today who are in the same kind of position in this large Metropolitan area, it has withered away. It is a much smaller group of people who are now going to be able to own a home in this area.
I look at the pages here today, and those who are going to have to live in Metropolitan Toronto in the next 15, 16 or 20 years, when they may be in a position to buy a house, and say, what is the possibility of them buying a house when part of the whole approach that has been taken recently has been that people can move to Mississauga, they can move to areas north of the city of Toronto and buy homes at cheaper rates and then commute into economic mecca, Metropolitan Toronto, because of our economic policies in the province which demand that they work here?
They can get that house cheaper out there. Of course, they get the house cheaper out there and they are now going to be penalized with new taxes by this government for living in a cheaper place, supposedly. Now this government, through its own policies, is going to be tacking on perhaps $4,000, perhaps more, onto the cost of a house.
Again, you cannot look at that in isolation. You must look at it in the context of what Mr Wilson is doing federally with his notion of an overall tax on all commodities. The estimate there is that the cost of an average new home that will be constructed will rise by $8,000 to $10,000 to $12,000, something in that range.
Again, you take that new sales tax initiative by the federal government, you tack on this $4,000 minimum, I would suggest, in the lot levy that is likely to come forward, and you are talking about an extra $16,000, let’s say, on the cost of a home which is already overpriced, for people who are already being overtaxed, for people who are already facing inflationary costs here in this area which are greater than any place in the rest of the country.
I say to myself, what are we doing? Do we want even fewer people to be able to own homes? Are we setting up this kind of a policy because of past poor economic planning by governments around the development of schools and services and developments, and are they now going to use that as a means of stopping people from owning homes?
There is nothing in this bill at all which speaks about what needs to be done to make sure that affordable housing goes in. There is nothing in here at all. There was some talk, perhaps, at one stage in the green paper that was put out that these kinds of concerns might have to be taken into account to ensure a certain percentage of “affordable housing” -- whatever that is these days, because I am not sure what affordable housing is when the average cost of housing in Toronto is something around $260,000 at this stage. What is affordable any more? There is no attempt even to meet those kinds of issues here.
So yes, we will perhaps assist the real crisis position that huge-growth boards like the York region board or the York separate board are in at this time, when they have, as I have heard from principals, waiting lists for students to go into their schools -- students who are on waiting lists for two years from now, who are on waiting lists for September 1991 at this stage.
That is an enormous problem, and yes, this might address the issue that this problem will not happen with a new development that might be going in next door to the one that exists, but it does nothing for those families in those presently developed areas, as I have already said, and it may be doing it at a social cost which is totally unacceptable.
To come back to my initial thesis on this, it is that you have to look at this initiative in much broader contexts, and in those broader contexts you have to say this is a direction which must be looked at very carefully before we move forward with it. We must make sure that it is working in concert with other kinds of policies and not in ways that are going to be hurting either the local person who wants to buy a home or the person who has to pay local property tax.
I would go back to something that the member for Nickel Belt was saying in the previous debate around the borrowing from Canada pension plans by the local school boards, and that is that our local taxpayers are already paying more, percentage-wise, for the costs of education in this province than they are anywhere else in this country.
What this policy is going to do, I would suggest, is to push the demand for even more bucks on to the local taxpayer, because local school boards are not going to be able to get all the money for the new school off the lot levy. They know what that will do to that new development’s costs and what that will do to stop people from actually moving into the area, so they are going to have to keep those down a bit.
Then they are going to come back to the province and say: “Look, we have this much money from the developers. We need more money from you.” The province is going to say: “No. Nyet. You can use your lot levy. That is your method.” The school board is going to be in the position of having to go to the mill rate to produce extra bucks to pay for that new school, on top of the lot levy. I think there is no doubt about that at all.
Then we look at the case for the Speaker’s riding and areas like that in Windsor and say, “What is the implication for them from this?” We have to look at that in the context of the new change and the percentage of renovation costs which are now being paid for by the province. There is a drop from 75 per cent to 60 per cent of the costs of renovation being assumed.
What does that do? That again throws it on to that other board, which is not a growth board as these new ones are, but used to expect that it was not going to have to pick up 40 per cent of the costs.
Is it the other way around? Did I just reverse that?
An hon member: From 75 per cent to 60 per cent.
Mr R. F. Johnston: So the province picks up 75 per cent.
Mr Laughren: Now.
Mr R. F. Johnston: That is right. I was wondering as I was saying that if I had reversed the language. I am sorry if I confused you, Mr Speaker, especially given how drastically this affects your own area, but the province’s percentage is dropping from 75 per cent to 60 per cent of the capital. That is what I meant to say.
Mr. Pouliot: It is even worse than what you had mentioned.
Mr Black: The member for Lake Nipigon (Mr Pouliot) isn’t in his seat.
Mr R. F. Johnston: The rump is heckling me over there.
Mr Black: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: The member for Scarborough West is one of the better speakers in this House and many of us would like to hear him finish his speech, but the constant interruptions from the member for Lake Nipigon, who is not even in his own seat, are a real distraction.
The Acting Speaker (Mr M. C. Ray): The member for Scarborough West has the floor.
Mr Pouliot: On a point of order, please, Mr Speaker: I cannot sit idly by, when I hung on every word that was said by my distinguished colleague, and be maligned. There is perhaps a time for good humour in this House, but obviously humour or good manners or decorum do not become the member for Muskoka-Georgian Bay. He should have more important matters to address than to make this House his refuge for farcical matters that are not becoming. I am really offended, and I will have the opportunity in the not-too-distant future to address the standing orders so that this kind of abuse and aggression will not be repeated.
The Acting Speaker: Order. We can do with less frivolous talk from a number of members here. I would like to hear the member for Scarborough West.
Mr R. F. Johnston: Let me make it very clear that although I appreciate the help from the member for Muskoka-Georgian Bay, the buzz in my ear was not from the member for Lake Nipigon but from other members in the House who were in the middle of conversations, to which they are all privileged. I did not really want to awaken them. I presume they were talking to others and not just to themselves. I was not sure about that.
I wanted to say, Mr Speaker, coming back to your constituency and to make it clear, if one of your high schools needed a major extension in order to accommodate new programs which were a demand by the government of Ontario, you could now expect only 60 per cent dollars instead of 75 per cent dollars for those matters. That is going to be an extra imposition on the local taxpayer, without any doubt at all. Areas of the province that are not growth areas are not going to benefit, as perhaps they thought they were going to benefit, by the development of these new fees in the growth areas. That was merely one of the things I wanted to point out to you.
I think if we did a survey today of municipalities of Ontario and we looked at the rates of increase in the mill rates for various school boards, we would be shocked at the rates of increase out there. They sometimes are as low as four per cent or five per cent, but in most cases they are nine per cent and above. Many of them are in double digits. Many of them are in double digits now for the second year in a row, because of the problems they have had in terms of their financing.
When one looks at the way Ontario has not adjusted the ceilings for operational costs for the school boards and the kind of squeeze those boards are feeling at the moment, all one can say is that the pressures are going to continue and continue and that this kind of initiative is not going to make a major adjustment in that. Neither, of course, is the ability to borrow from the Canada pension plan funds, which was in the previous bill, going to make a major change in terms of the kind of mill rate pressures boards are feeling today, especially when the government continually initiates new programs and raises expectations for what the boards are supposed to be able to deliver.
I remind members of one of those major factors, and that is the whole question of early entry into school, the junior kindergarten being mandatory and the notion that boards should move more and more into full-day senior kindergarten, move into senior kindergarten without any capital assistance by the province. It is very important to understand that. Now there is that expectation of parents out there that they should be able to get full-day kindergarten, that the space should be available to them, but the province is not going to pick up any of those dollars.
Just to conclude my comments for the day, I would say that this is an act which deserves perusal. It is easy to understand why certain boards have been able to come together and say, “Let’s take it” -- because they are desperate and realize the capital allocations they have been given are not going to come anywhere close to addressing the needs they have. But, as a panacea for capital costs and as a part of the potential solution to the overall financing costs that school boards have, this is not a solution and we must understand that is the case.
I hope that as these two bills we have talked about are dealt with in committee they become part of a larger context, and that is the context of the select committee’s investigation into the costs of education, the adequacy of financing, the equity of financing and the accountability of financing. That is an issue I have not gone into here in terms of just how do we have accountability in this kind of a situation for the raising of lot levies at boards which may not be exactly coterminous. That is a major concern I think many of us might have.
Seeing that it is as late as it is, I will turn the floor over to someone else to have a fulsome speech or to ask me some questions before the evening is out.
Mr Beer: It seems to me that in looking at this issue the previous speaker understands the education system but has missed some of the points behind the legislation being presented. In particular, he mentioned that we view this as some sort of a panacea. I do not think we have ever said that. I think what we are trying to do here is provide this, on a permissive basis, to those boards that feel this can be of some assistance.
In particular, those in the fast-growth areas have made very clear to all of us that this will be of great assistance. Indeed, it was the six boards from the areas around Metropolitan Toronto that came together several months ago and came down to speak to all of us in terms of what they saw as the importance of being able to have this permission to go ahead to provide themselves with more funding for capital.
Remember that with the change that went through this year in funding, the honourable member wants us to discuss the whole range of funding and correctly points out that in the select committee we will be looking at that. But I think this particular change is to be seen as part of all those changes and is a positive one, because it is going to kick-start, is going to provide more funding where new schools are needed, because it is related to where people are moving into communities.
By going to 60 per cent this year and in future, we are going to get more construction started. We are still doing 75 per cent on renovation. So the change, where it has occurred, is specifically where new pupil places will need to be created. The lot levy proposal gives school boards another tool to use along with the tremendously high rate of funding which this government has provided for capital over the last four years and will continue to do.
The Acting Speaker: The clock has now reached 6 pm. Could we have a motion, please?
On motion by Mr McCague, the debate was adjourned.
The House adjourned at 1800.