The House met at 1330.
COLLEGES OF APPLIED ARTS AND TECHNOLOGY
Mr Farnan: The province-wide labour dispute between community colleges and their striking faculty has been temporarily defused but is far from being resolved. It is true that community college teachers and students are back in the classroom. However, the underlying problems have yet to be addressed.
Ironically, the dispute was predicted five years ago by the Premier (Mr Peterson) when as Leader of the Opposition commenting on the 1984 community college teachers’ strike he said in the Legislature:
“Everybody knew this was coming. I will make this prediction.... We are headed for a period of labour turmoil because of bad faith, inadequate funding policies and lack of sensitivity to the parties involved.... I believe a little infusion of fresh money plus some sensitivity on the minister’s part would have solved this problem.”
The Premier and this Liberal government were merely muttering words. How else can we explain that five years later the present government’s college education policy continues to prevent the colleges and faculty from achieving any meaningful success with settling the three major issues of job security, salary and sick leave?
For a real and long-term resolution to this ongoing dispute, the provincial government has a leading role to play. This role involves setting the stage for the other players by eliminating the underlying cause of the problem: inadequate government funding. It is time the government made the funds available so that a proper, decent and fair resolution can be had.
ASSISTANCE TO FARMERS
Mr Villeneuve: Exactly two weeks ago, the Ontario Federation of Agriculture presented its annual brief to cabinet. That brief underlines what many farmers now feel, and that is that this government has decided to ignore the needs of our farmers in Ontario.
The Ontario family farm interest rate reduction program was first announced by the Liberal Party as an emergency relief program. Today, real interest rates are higher than they were when the program was announced but OFFIRR has been cancelled. The outstanding farm debt has moved very little and there is all obvious need for some interest rate relief.
When the OFA meets next week at its annual convention, I hope the ministry will be able to announce a replacement program.
We also lack a food processing and development strategy. Given the Premier’s doom-and-gloom statement of 1987, January 1989 was a little too late to begin work on his strategy. In fact, all this government has done to date has been to close the Ontario Centre for Farm Machinery and Food Processing Technology in Chatham.
Suitable, sustainable agriculture is another area that needs continued support. We have progressed steadily since 1983 and the Minister of Agriculture and Food (Mr Ramsay) should fight hard to keep the Treasurer (Mr R. F. Nixon) from slashing more programs.
The minister has initiated a planning process for the 1990s. The fact that it will not be in place until some time in 1990 shows that agriculture is an afterthought to this government. Ontario’s agriculture is counting on the minister to deliver more than talk next week. I sure hope he does.
GREATER TORONTO AREA
Mr M. C. Ray: When the Greater Toronto Co-ordinating Committee meets -- that is, when Gardner Church, deputy minister in charge of the office for the greater Toronto area, meets with regional chairmen -- do they know what the impact of their assumptions, decisions and recommendations will be on my city of Windsor and all communities outside the greater Toronto area?
Who studies and assesses the impact of their decisions and recommendations on other areas in the province? Should the GTA be planned and developed in isolation from the rest of the province? Is it appropriate for the government to undertake infrastructure planning for one area of the province in a manner different than it does for other areas?
I urge the government to promote the economic growth of all regions of the province to ensure that all regions share our prosperity and our provincial resources equitably. I urge the government to undertake infrastructure planning for the hinterland outside the GTA.
We in the hinterland need a Gardner Church of our own to supplement the activities of the new cabinet committee on housing and community development to plan our future needs and to protect our interest as this new government structure, the co-ordinating committee for the GTA, undertakes its yet unlegislated mandate.
Mr Laughren: In the province of Ontario, when a worker gets injured on the job, that worker is compensated based on a legislated scale of benefits. When a person gets injured in a car accident, it is an entirety different level of benefits and in many cases it must go to court to determine the settlement.
What I have never understood is why it is that in a province such as Ontario we have a system of no-fault insurance for people injured on the job and an entirely different set of insurance for people who are injured in a car accident. It seems to me it is time that in this province we had a universal system of social insurance that compensates people regardless of where they are injured and irrespective of fault.
I hasten to add that if we move to such a program, of course we would have to have a level of benefits that was decent and that compensated people adequately. Certainly, the program of auto insurance that this government is talking about now is completely woefully inadequate.
What we need is a model such as they have in New Zealand, which is universal and where everyone is compensated when they are injured regardless of where the injury occurred and irrespective of fault.
Mr J. M. Johnson: The government yesterday supported a resolution calling for the preservation of the Rouge Valley. That is quite interesting given the plans the Ministry of Transportation has for prime farm land in the Waterloo region.
The government plans to expropriate 33 hectares of farm land and 11 hectares of woodlot from 13 farms in the region in order to construct a six-kilometre four-lane highway linking St Jacobs and Elmira. Rather than simply widening nearby Highway 86 to four lanes, which would be sensible, the government appears intent on destroying the rural character and flavour of the northern part of Waterloo region with an unwanted expressway.
This project will leave a sad array of fragmented farms and odd-shaped fields in its wake. It could split the area’s Mennonite community in half or drive them out of Woolwich township altogether. Public meetings are to be held in the new year to examine the environmental impacts of the various options.
Given its position yesterday on the Rouge Valley, there is still time for this government to rethink its position on the development of Waterloo farm land. In the absence of the Premier (Mr Peterson), I would like the Deputy Premier and Treasurer (Mr R. F. Nixon) to give me an answer to the question: Prime farm land or asphalt, what is it going to be?
LINCOLN COUNTY BOARD OF EDUCATION
Mr Dietsch: Mr Speaker, thank you for allowing me an opportunity to bring to the attention of this House the occasion of the 20th anniversary celebration of the Lincoln County Board of Education.
Last Monday, a ground-breaking ceremony and tree planting for the new education centre took place at Queen Mary School with excellent entertainment provided by a number of local elementary school children.
This past Thursday, further celebrations were held at the Polish Legion in St Catharines. Dinner, followed by Showcase ‘89, provided those in attendance with a very memorable evening.
Among the performers were the Laura Secord Secondary String Quartet, the Grimsby Concert Band, Grantham’s Jazzfyre and the Oakridge Public School Choir. Niagara District Secondary School, which is Lincoln county’s school for the performing arts, delighted the audience with its drama presentation of the movie Grease. The talents of the West Park Choristers and the East Collegiate Jazz Band were the perfect complement to the end of the evening.
It was indeed a pleasure to behold the talents of these students and to honour the system that has helped them develop their skills. I am sure all members of this House will want to joint with me in congratulating the Lincoln County Board of Education -- its trustees, staff and teachers -- for its accomplishments and wish it every success for the continuing perfect education system.
Mr Farnan: Today I received a letter from one of my constituents, James Enright. He is very concerned about environmental issues and he questioned particularly the Ontario government’s failure to protect the red and white pine old-growth forest stands in the Temagami area.
Mr Enright’s letter was written on the rear of a letter he had received from Jake Epp. The postscript on his letter read: “Sorry about the reused paper and envelopes, but it is my way of putting conservation into practice. I hope your office and other government offices use recycled paper.”
The news is not good, Mr Enright. This week I received two recent speeches by the Premier delivered while on tour in Italy. In extremely large print, double-spaced, the speeches are printed on one side of the paper and make use of about half the page. It covers 36 pages.
My legislative assistant informs me that using a normal type, single-spaced and on both sides of the paper, this speech could have been reproduced on six to seven pages maximum.
No doubt the speech of the Premier received widespread distribution. I do not intend to comment on the contents of this speech, but its packaging sends out a very poor environmental message to the citizens of Ontario. It is the James Enrights and not the Premier who are the true leaders and role models when it comes to addressing environmental issues.
Mrs Marland: This is Recycling Week in Ontario. I would like to say congratulations to the communities that have followed Mississauga’s lead and begun blue box programs. Response across the province has been overwhelming in our efforts to reduce the amount of garbage going into landfills.
I hope Ontario’s public servants will bring their recycling habits from home to the workplace. I was pleased to see that we have expanded our recycling program here in the Legislature.
I was, however, somewhat perplexed when I received my recycling containers. First, I received this white container. Of course I put it to use immediately. The next day the white containers were replaced in all the offices on my floor by these green containers. The only difference I can see between the two is that the white ones have the Ministry of the Environment’s name on them and the green ones have the Ministry of Government Services’ name on them.
I would say that these containers can both serve the same purpose, no matter what colour they are or whose name goes on them. It was extremely wasteful of this government to distribute hundreds of white containers and then replace them one day later with green ones. What kind of message does this send to the taxpayers of Ontario? How much did this exchange of coloured containers cost and where did the white ones go?
The irony is that not one container is put inside this chamber, where we simply throw our waste paper on the floor beneath our desks. I will use my white one here.
Mr Faubert: For residents of Scarborough, and indeed all Canadians, the victories and defeats of Ben Johnson’s career were particularly joyous and particularly painful. Ben Johnson was not only representing Canada, but he was also representing his home town of Scarborough.
It seems to me that he was a victim of the business-before-competition movement that has developed in international sport over the previous couple of decades.
Despite the events of Seoul, Korea, Ben Johnson has been demonstrating through his increased volunteer work in antidrug related activities and programs that he is committed to promoting a healthy and drug-free lifestyle.
Recently, while reading George Gross’s column in a Toronto newspaper, I came across this quote from Ben Johnson that I believe is very relevant to share with the members during Drug Awareness Week.
Ben said: “I let down a lot of kids who had become an important support for me and I want to show these kids I can do it and do it clean. I want to tell them and show them that drugs are not necessary and that cheating is wrong. I’ve always worked with kids, doing clinics and helping them. I want to continue working with them. I get a lot of satisfaction out of trying to give them something back for all they have given me.
“I know I was wrong and I must try to make it right. Drugs damaged my liver. I guess some things, like getting caught in Seoul, happen for a reason. I was lucky to get caught and put an end to that era and I hope to get a chance to come back.”
I personally believe Ben deserves a second chance and encourage all members to support me in urging the federal Minister of Fitness and Amateur Sport to take the required action to lift the life ban that denies Ben the opportunity to redeem himself to the people of Scarborough and the people of Canada.
The Speaker: Just before I call the next order of business, I wonder if I could ask the indulgence of all members and make reference to props or demonstrations that have been used in this House. I noticed one member did something yesterday and again today. We do not have any guidelines strictly set out. However, traditions of Parliament have been in many other legislatures not to use props or items for demonstrations. I just ask all members to use common sense and hopefully we can refrain from that.
STATEMENT BY THE MINISTRY
OFFICE OF THE OMBUDSMAN
Hon Mr Scott: Today I will be introducing for first reading a bill containing a number of amendments to the Ombudsman Act. The standing committee on the Ombudsman of the Legislature has for several years requested that the government bring forward amendments to the act. The former Ombudsman, Dr Hill, also requested that we consider various amendments to the act, which were subsequently endorsed by the standing committee. Most recently, a number of changes to the office were recommended by Robert Macaulay in his report to Management Board on his Review of Ontario’s Regulatory Agencies.
The bill provides for a number of procedural changes to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of the office. In particular, the bill clarifies provisions relating to confidentiality, the discretion to refuse to pursue a complaint, the power to seek a declaration in the courts and the Ombudsman’s ability to consult and require production of documents.
Two important changes are found in the bill to enhance the power of government to respond positively to the Ombudsman’s recommendations. First, the bill will provide a new authority to pay compensation out of the consolidated revenue fund where the Ombudsman has so recommended a payment. Second, it will give governmental organizations the authority to reconsider a decision they have made when the Ombudsman so recommends. This is necessary to ensure that those governmental organizations that do not have the statutory power to reconsider their decisions are able to do so.
The amendments further clarify the jurisdiction of the Ombudsman with respect to cabinet decisions. The act currently provides that the Ombudsman may not investigate deliberations and proceedings of the executive council. Different interpretations of this historically have existed. While the former Ombudsman had initially taken the view that this section precluded the investigation of cabinet decisions, he has taken the contrary position in more recent years. The bill will clarify that cabinet decisions are excluded from the Ombudsman’s review.
Next, as a result of court interpretation, the Ombudsman has been given the power to review decisions made by tribunals even where those decisions were made following hearings, whether oral or written. The members of the House will know that the leading case on this subject is with respect to the Ontario Labour Relations Board. Review by the Ombudsman of the decisions of administrative tribunals is not appropriate, I believe, in the current administrative law context. The Ombudsman does not have the specialized expertise of administrative tribunals and has not had the opportunity to hear the evidence as presented to those tribunals or to assess the credibility of the witnesses who gave evidence before the tribunals.
As was noted in the Macaulay report, the fact that the Ombudsman can bring a decision before the Legislature is in conflict with the concept of independent decision-making of tribunals. The Ombudsman’s role is to be a watchdog of administrative and procedural fairness. Other safeguards exist in the case of tribunals whose decisions are reviewable through the process of judicial review under the charter and under the Statutory Powers Procedure Act.
It should be noted that the government has recently moved to improve adjudicative procedures in a number of tribunals, such as the Workers’ Compensation Board and the Social Assistance Review Board, so as to provide for more effective review mechanisms within the boards.
The bill, therefore, provides for a narrow exclusion of the decisions of administrative tribunals from review by the Ombudsman. It excludes from the Ombudsman’s review only the substantive decisions of administrative tribunals on the issues before them. Issues of fairness in procedure and practice will continue, as usual, to be subject to review by the Ombudsman.
The bill also provides for a number of housekeeping amendments which will rationalize the act and clarify several procedural issues.
I believe that the current bill addresses the most pressing concerns raised by the former Ombudsman and the standing committee of this House in terms of procedure and efficiency, and reinforces the role of the Ombudsman as a remedy for citizen complaints about misadministration or maladministration by government. It is my belief that the amended act will enable the recently appointed Ombudsman to consolidate the office and conduct investigations with increased efficiency and effectiveness.
OFFICE OF THE OMBUDSMAN
Mr B. Rae: I am at once surprised and not surprised. Rumours of the long-standing intention of the Attorney General (Mr Scott) to effectively emasculate the Ombudsman have been circulating widely in the bureaucracy and in the committee on the Ombudsman for several months -- indeed, for several years. But I think the wording that has been used by the Attorney General himself is worth commenting on.
He said, and I am looking at page 4, “The current bill addresses the most pressing concerns raised by the former Ombudsman and the standing committee in terms of procedure and efficiency, and reinforces the role of the Ombudsman as a remedy for citizen complaints about misadministration by the government.”
That gives the impression. and I say this with great respect to the Attorney General, that somehow the former Ombudsman, Mr Hill, was pushing for the kinds of changes which are contained in the statement made by the Attorney General. Now I say to the Attorney General, with the greatest of respect, it is no secret that the former Ombudsman was profoundly concerned about the intentions of this government to limit the role and effectiveness and capacity of the Ombudsman to review decisions taken by government bureaucrats and upheld by the cabinet of Ontario whose effect is unfair with respect to the citizens of the province.
To imply somehow that Dr Hill is endorsing what the Attorney General has done is complete nonsense, complete nonsense, and he knows it. He knows perfectly well what he has done. He waited until Dr Hill left office. He would not dare have brought this in while Dr Hill was the Ombudsman. He waited until Eleanor Meslin was replaced, and now, some two or three weeks after he has appointed a new Ombudsman, he brings in a new package with respect to the role of the Ombudsman which dramatically limits the power and capacity of the Ombudsman to protect the citizens of this province.
That is precisely what he has done, so when I say I am surprised and not surprised, I am not surprised that he has done it, but I say the timing cannot be a coincidence. I say it is something which is going to cause considerable concern in a widespread community in this province. We are going to have to take some considerable time in debating and listening to and hearing the reasons why Dr Hill and, indeed, Eleanor Meslin were concerned about the intentions of the Attorney General.
It is all very well to say, as the Attorney General does, that cabinet decisions should be excluded, but I say to him that where a cabinet decision is based on bureaucratic misinformation, where it is based on mistreatment of individuals, I find it hard to believe that we would be saying the Ombudsman should have no power and capacity to ask the cabinet and to seek that the cabinet would reconsider a decision it has made which has affected the lives and liberties of the subject in the province.
I would also make the point that every member here knows that one of the most important aspects of the work of the Ombudsman over the last several years has been the Workers’ Compensation Board. Again, I think the House should perfectly well understand that what the Attorney General is suggesting is not some mild and modest measure, it is a substantial change in the responsibilities and the work of the Office of the Ombudsman. He should have said that, he should have been clear about that, he should have made that clear and let members understand.
Members in this House know perfectly well there are literally hundreds of people who, having received an unacceptable decision from the workers’ compensation system, then go to the Ombudsman. We have met with those people, we know what the work of the Ombudsman is, it is trying to create some greater fairness in the workers’ compensation system and I think it should be understood by everybody that that is what the Attorney General is changing, that is what he is reinforcing.
He is reinforcing the power of bureaucracy, he is reinforcing the power of a Liberal cabinet and he is taking away from the rights and liberties of the subject. That is what this so-called civil libertarian has just done.
Mr Sterling: In general, we are supportive of the amendments to the Ombudsman Act, but we are going to take a more cautious approach to it because the issues are very complex. The wording of the legislation is important in terms of the powers that are retained by the Ombudsman and are given to the Ombudsman. Therefore, I think it is imprudent for our party to criticize to a very great degree the statements contained in the Attorney General’s address to us today.
Might I say, though, that we do not argue with the government’s position that the Ombudsman should not be allowed to review cabinet decisions. We believe that the buck has to stop somewhere and the cabinet is the proper place for the buck to stop.
PROGRAM FOR OLDER WORKER ADJUSTMENT
Mr B. Rae: I want to ask a question of the Minister of Labour. I now have a copy of the agreement signed between the government of Canada and the government of Ontario dealing with the situation of older workers. The agreement limits the protection of older workers who are affected by the extraordinary changes that are happening in our economy today in what are so-called major permanent layoffs.
I wonder why the Minister of Labour would accept an agreement which would be so dramatically limited in its impact and which would effectively abandon tens of thousands of workers who are laid off across this province and who will be laid off across this province because they do not fit into the bureaucratic categories he has accepted.
Hon Mr Phillips: As I said yesterday, we have guidelines and there are no layoffs that are excluded. These are guidelines and we will review each layoff on its own merits. One of the members yesterday suggested that there would be some layoffs that would be excluded. There are no layoffs that will be excluded.
I think the second thing I should say is that we have said all along that we would have preferred a more generous program than this. This was the program that the federal government, in the end -- we were the final province to sign this agreement -- in the final analysis said, “This is the agreement which we are prepared to move forward with.”
We had some encouragement, I might say, to sign the agreement from some people in the labour movement who felt -- and I agree with them -- that this program was a program worth pursuing. We have said in statements in the House and in our releases that we would have preferred a more generous package than this. This was what the federal government finally agreed. Under some encouragement from the labour movement, we finally agreed to this program. It will benefit workers, and we have said many times we will do our best to encourage the most -- if I might say it -- liberal interpretation of the guidelines.
Mr B. Rae: I am sure the minister would not want to mislead anybody, including himself, but he will know that it does not just set out guidelines. If he has not seen the agreement -- although I am sure he has; I am sure he knows it very well -- let me remind him that the agreement refers to very clear criteria qualifications for eligibility. For example, it says that a worker must have been attached to the workforce for 15 of the last 20 years, a condition which is clearly discriminatory against many older women.
Why, in particular, would the minister have agreed to a condition that is so obviously discriminatory against older women when it says, “A worker must have been attached to the Canadian labour force for at least 15 years in the 20 years immediately preceding the date of layoff”? He knows from the record of employment of women in the last 20 years that this directly discriminates against older women. He knows that.
Hon Mr Phillips: I would remind the member -- and perhaps he is not aware of this -- that the only reason we signed that agreement was that we got the agreement of the federal government to review that clause. We were troubled by that, as troubled as the member is, because I agree with him, it does discriminate against women and that was one of the reasons we were reluctant to sign it. That is one of the reasons we were the last province to sign it. It was with the agreement of the federal government to review that specific point after one year that we finally agreed to it.
I do not need a lecture on the need for looking after women in particular, because we recognize that. It was only with that agreement that we finally signed it, and after one year we will review that specific clause for that specific reason.
Mr B. Rae: The minister has changed his second answer from his first answer. The first answer he gave me was that there are no conditions, there are only guidelines. In the second answer he said, “Yes, you are right, there are conditions,” and he admits that the condition he signed discriminates against women. The minister has already changed his mind with respect to this so-called agreement.
Will he agree with me that it is limited to layoffs which are described in the agreement as major and permanent? Would he agree with me that it sets out conditions for entitlement which are directly discriminatory against many workers in this province, workers affected by smaller layoffs, workers affected in communities where there may not be as major a permanent unemployment problem and in particular older women workers who are more likely to be affected by smaller layoffs than by larger ones?
Would he not agree with me that is what he has signed and that is what he has agreed to?
The Speaker: Order. That is the third time and it is the same question.
Hon Mr Phillips: I will repeat exactly what I said before in terms of women. We were reluctant to sign this agreement for that reason. It treats women and men the same, but in this particular case, because of the history of women in this province and the workforce, we think the agreement should have allowed for fewer years of work than men in this particular agreement, but the rest of the agreement are guidelines for interpretation.
As I said yesterday in my answer, we were concerned that layoffs in Metro Toronto -- where perhaps they might not affect the whole of the Metro area but still would clearly affect a large number of older workers -- could be covered.
They are guidelines for interpreting the pro-visions of the program for older workers. So I do not agree with most of the latter question. The one that I already have acknowledged is that we would have preferred that for women there would have been a special provision, and it was only with the agreement that the federal government would review it after one year that we agreed to sign it.
GOODS AND SERVICES TAX
Mr B. Rae: My second question is for the Treasurer. Back in 1988 the Treasurer told the people of Canada, and I am quoting: “We think the sales tax is a fair tax. The sales tax is upfront, it is democratic and people know where it comes from.”
Is it still the view of the Treasurer that the sales tax is a fair tax?
Hon R. F. Nixon: Yes.
Mr B. Rae: If the Treasurer now thinks the sales tax is a fair tax, can he explain why his leader would have described it in 1982, when he was criticizing increases in the sales tax by then Treasurer Frank Miller, as “a regressive tax on consumption which could not be described as progressive”? Why would he have said that?
Hon R. F. Nixon: I think the honourable member is in a very good position to understand the obvious answer to that.
The Speaker: Would there be a follow-up supplementary’?
Mr B. Rae: Yes. Can the Treasurer tell us whether this is the level of cynicism that we can now come to expect? He has shown in his answer the level of cynicism which we can attach to his approach to the sales tax. Is that not precisely the reason why he is going to gang up with the Tories on the goods and services tax? He has shown exactly the same level of cynicism.
Hon R. F. Nixon: I had not realized that the third party had telegraphed its view on this debate this afternoon. Certainly I have not said what we are going to be doing. The Tories in Ottawa are, of course, not supported by anybody in this House as nearly as I can tell. But the honourable member is worried about the level of cynicism. I am concerned, I guess, that the honourable member face reality in that it is the job of the government to levy taxes which are obviously and always unpopular.
The only taxes I know that are popular in this House are popular with the New Democratic Party against the rich. Their slogan, “Let the rich pay,” is well known, and it has got a certain catchiness to it that I am thinking about for the coming budget. It is the job of the government to defend its tax system. Obviously we would not have it if we did not think it were fair and equitable.
In many respects it is the job of the Leader of the Opposition to indicate that anybody who does not agree with him is either not in possession of the facts or is somehow cynical or somehow less than totally frank. I reject that. I do not believe it is true. I think it is time the honourable member grew up.
The Speaker: I would not want the member for Mississauga South (Mrs Marland) to have to shout, so would you please allow her to ask her question?
Mrs Marland: My question is for the Minister of Natural Resources. Yesterday the minister’s government supported my motion that the provincial government should immediately take all appropriate steps to designate the Rouge Valley lands as a provincial park. In my opening speech I made it clear that our definition of the Rouge was the full 10,700 acres, including the tablelands. Now we hear, as reported in today’s Toronto Sun, that the Minister of the Environment (Mr Bradley) says the government would really have to look at that and that he would not rule out a new highway or housing development being built in the area. This is in direct contradiction to the government’s support of my motion yesterday.
My question is this, will the minister please reconfirm her government’s commitment to designate the Rouge lands, the valley and the tablelands, as a provincial park?
Hon Mrs McLeod: In response to the member’s question, I can certainly affirm the position of the Ministry of Natural Resources, which is my mandate to do as minister, and that is our interest as the Ministry of Natural Resources in the preservation of unique natural areas in the Rouge. Obviously, there are many other ministries that are involved in land use decisions. Certainly, in terms of our concerns as the Ministry of Natural Resources with the preservation and the management of areas of natural significance, we have had very strong support from this government in its commitment to the preservation of areas of significance within the Rouge and I think that yesterday’s debate was again very supportive of that direction.
Should there be a decision made that designation of a provincial park is the best way of preserving and managing the Rouge lands, we would certainly be supportive of that and work with it.
Mrs Marland: The minister must agree that by supporting the resolution yesterday in the House that the government was acknowledging, I believe, that any development in the Rouge Valley or its tablelands, be it a highway, a landfill site or housing, would be incompatible with a provincial park. Such development would do irreparable damage in terms of the Rouge environment.
So my question again is, how can the minister say on behalf of her government, and I think speaking as the Minister of Natural Resources she has to speak on behalf of her government as well, that she can preserve the Rouge and yet have a minister the very next day talking about the same uses that her government has talked about before the motion yesterday’?
Hon Mrs McLeod: Again, I am most happy to address that question as the Minister of Natural Resources. Certainly, the Ministry of Natural Resources will be examining any specific proposals for further development of the Rouge from the perspective of our concern for the preservation and for the management of areas of natural significance.
We will participate in all the discussions about the Rouge Valley development and share our perspective as the Ministry of Natural Resources in those discussions and be happy then to take forward this government’s commitment in its specific directions for further management in the Rouge area.
Mrs Marland: There is obviously a two-faced approach here which I think is inexcusable. The government’s own members yesterday in the debate, for example, the member for Scarborough North (Mr Curling) said, “...we have to make sure that we do not damage the ecosystem within the Rouge.” The member for Scarborough-Ellesmere (Mr Faubert) said, “I would be opposed to any proposal, be it a dump, housing or a freeway,” and, “If the sensitive areas of the tablelands...are destroyed or left unprotected, then the Rouge Valley itself would surely be threatened and clearly this would be unacceptable.”
Again, I have to question the minister when she says that she would be willing to get into the discussions about which areas might be part of a provincial park, speaking as the Minister of Natural Resources. The whole point is that it is not a matter of which areas; we want to know, will the minister support the provincial park in the tablelands?
Hon Mrs McLeod: Again, I would indicate that as the Ministry of Natural Resources, we will be most happy to support a decision, if the creation of a provincial park is the best way to preserve and manage the Rouge lands. We would certainly take that forward and work with that most willingly. But I think it is important that we recognize what we as the Ministry of Natural Resources have already been committed to in the Rouge, certainly, in terms of working with the conservation authority to acquire some 2,200 acres of land in the area already.
We are carrying out currently, have carried out in the past and are continuing to carry out studies of areas of natural scientific interest. We are looking at watershed studies. We are looking at studies of fisheries management. We have been supportive of the development of two conservation areas in the Rouge already.
I think it is quite clear that our commitment is to work very actively in the Rouge Valley in order to preserve and manage those lands. I think it is also important to acknowledge that whatever decisions are made about the best way to continue that work, there has been a very active, co-operative partnership between the ministry, the conservation authority, the parks authority and indeed many community members to achieve the level of management and use that is already occurring in the Rouge Valley.
Mrs Cunningham: My question is for the Minister of Health. In 1988 the former Minister without Portfolio responsible for senior citizens’ affairs stated that Ontario needs more services, not more drugs, to improve the quality of life for our senior population. Three important facts were stressed by the Drug Quality and Therapeutics Committee in 1987. I would like to bring them to the attention of the House.
Up to 25 per cent of seniors in hospitals are there because of drug misuse; seniors use 40 per cent of the prescription drugs distributed, yet they only constitute 10 per cent of the population, and more than 25 per cent of those diagnosed as confused are actually overmedicated.
This committee, the Drug Quality and Therapeutics Committee, outlined the problems. They offered suggestions also. One was awareness. We are wondering just what kind of action the minister will be taking immediately to deal with these problems.
Hon Mrs Caplan: I would wonder where the member has been. In fact, I took action, established the Lowy drug inquiry. We have had three reports, and I have acted on each one of them.
Mrs Cunningham: I suppose that is part of the problem, in that in 1987 we already knew what the problem was. We are waiting to address the problem. We do, in fact, have another committee looking at it, the Lowy committee. We are waiting again for more facts that we already know about, and members know what we really need to do is make the public aware. Our party has done that. We have done it in a very concrete way. I would like to send this pamphlet over to the minister. It is called Checking the Mix. It is to help seniors across this province. What specific things will the minister’s government be doing in order to help the seniors become more aware and prevent this overuse now’?
Hon Mrs Caplan: I want to say to the member opposite that I am very concerned about the rate of prescription drug use by the senior citizens in this province. That was the reason I established the Lowy drug inquiry. It is also the reason we reformed the special authorization program. I want her to know that I have acted on the advice of the inquiry and I am expecting their final report to be delivered to me around the end of this year or early in the beginning of next year.
I want her to know that the Ontario drug benefit program is now in the neighbourhood of some $600 million annually, and my goal is to make sure that the people who receive their drugs under that program get the very best of therapeutic results. I also want her to know that every prescription under that program is written by a physician and dispensed by a pharmacist. We are working with all our partners to determine what action is appropriate for a government to reform this program to achieve our goals and objectives, which are better health for the seniors of this province.
Mrs Cunningham: In 1987, every prescription in fact was prescribed by a physician and given by a pharmacist. Nothing has changed there. What we really need to do is make the seniors very much aware of the facts. The facts are that 200,000 elderly Canadians become ill each year from the side effects of prescription drugs, and 4,000 of them die. We should be absolutely shocked. We have done nothing since 1987. We know what the problem is. We really cannot afford to wait any longer. What specifically will the minister be doing in the next two or three months to let seniors know over and above what we have already done to help us solve this problem and prevent this disaster from occurring over and over again’?
Hon Mrs Caplan: I will say to the member opposite that in fact there is much that needs to be done, but there is much that has already been done. In fact, by reform of the special authorization program we have achieved, I think, a first important step. I can say to her as well that the Lowy drug inquiry held public hearings in cities across this province, and that the seniors’ organizations are becoming very aware of the abuse of prescription drugs by seniors in this province, inadvertently in most cases. We know how important public education is and I am looking forward to the report of the Lowy drug inquiry, but I would say to the member opposite that I have no intention -- I am not an expert -- of telling the doctors of this province how to practise medicine or what prescriptions to write. I am not a pharmacist and I have no intention of telling the pharmacists how to do their job, but we do intend to work co-operatively with everyone to achieve our goal, which is better health to the senior citizens of this province.
PROGRAM FOR OLDER WORKER ADJUSTMENT
Mr Farnan: To the Minister of Labour. I have here a press release from the ministry dated 9 August in which the minister announced the program for older worker adjustment, and I also have a press release from Labour Canada and the federal announcement of the implementation plans for the program. In neither case do either of these documents make any reference to the qualifying clause of eligibility that the major dislocation take place in an area of high unemployment.
Surely, this approach is basically a deception. It merely raises the hopes of desperate, vulnerable, displaced laid-off workers by offering the program on the one hand, and then simply dashing those hopes, by pulling out of the hat, the rabbit of ineligibility based on areas of high unemployment.
Hon Mr Phillips: If the question was do people in areas of high unemployment qualify or not qualify, I will repeat what I said yesterday and earlier today, and that is there are several criteria that are taken into account in determining whether workers will benefit from POWA or not. There are criteria that will be taken into account, and the examples the member used yesterday, as I said to him yesterday, would be typical examples of programs that could qualify under POWA.
I wanted to put the member’s mind at ease yesterday and I will do it again today. The examples he used yesterday would be programs that should be ones considered, and would be considered, under POWA.
Mr Farnan: A supplementary to the minister is this question. I want the minister to try and answer this question straightforwardly for the citizens of Cambridge. The minister talked about a major dislocation and he gave the example of Massey, and there are large numbers of workers involved.
What is the difference between that dislocation and the situation in Cambridge where we have a whole number of plants, Artex Woollens, Andrew McNiece, Savage Shoes, with 100, 200, 250 employees in total, let me say, equal to the layoffs at Massey, but individually maybe not considered a major dislocation?
Will the minister give an assurance to this House and to the people of Cambridge that this combined layoff in the shoe industry, as a result of quotas and as a result of free trade, will be recognized and that these workers will, in fact, be compensated and receive benefits under this program’?
Hon Mr Phillips: What I said yesterday, I will say again today and that is that certainly those examples he uses should be ones that will be considered under POWA. I cannot guarantee they will qualify because they must go through the review mechanism, but I can assure the member that those are typical programs.
Again, as I said earlier, seeing that the member has raised the press release, “The minister expressed satisfaction,” that is myself, “that the federal government has agreed to review a requirement for length of participation in the labour force that might adversely affect women returning to employment.” Ottawa has agreed to this review after the first year of the program. I outlined that in the release, as I said earlier.
Also, I outlined specifically in that release, industries such as textiles, clothing and footwear that would be typical industries that should qualify under the POWA program. I cannot guarantee him that the specific instances he raised will, in fact, be ones that will benefit under POWA but they are certainly ones that should be considered under POWA. As I say, I think they sound like ones that typically should benefit from POWA.
I do not make that decision until after the review takes place, but I would hope the member would speak to those workers who are affected, suggest that they get in touch with our ministry and get the process rolling along. My understanding is that there are some 40 industries that already have been looked at and will be coming forward for review.
Mr Eves: I have a question of the Minister of Health. Yesterday the minister responsible for the government’s anti-drug strategy made a statement in the Legislature. That statement was followed by one by the Solicitor General (Mr Offer) and the Minister of Education (Mr Conway). This is indeed a very serious issue in the province today and I wondered why the Minister of Health was silent on this issue yesterday.
Hon Mrs Caplan: The province’s anti-drug strategy, as announced yesterday, reflects the government’ s commitment to promoting healthy lifestyles and discouraging abuse of alcohol and illicit drugs through community action. I am proud to say that the Ministry of Health is an important partner in the anti-drug strategy and we are very supportive of the work of my colleague. I want to point out that in fact in the past three years alone, the Ministry of Health’s addiction programs have increased in funding by 126 per cent.
Mr Eves: I am sure the minister is more than aware that over the past two years the province has spent approximately $10 million, at least, to send over 2,000 Ontarians to drug rehabilitation centres, in the United States mostly. The taxpayers of Ontario are paying for this because those residents cannot receive the same type of treatment here in the province of Ontario.
I am also well aware, as I am sure the minister must be, that her colleague the member for Muskoka-Georgian Bay (Mr Black) this past summer in an address to the annual meeting of the Institute of Addiction Studies made the point that he agreed that there has to be more money made available for rehabilitation treatment here in the province of Ontario. What is the minister doing about that need that the member acknowledges and I presume she does as well’?
Hon Mrs Caplan: I just find it amazing that the member of the third party would stand to even ask this question. In 1984-85, when this government assumed office, total spending on addiction programs by the previous government was $9.4 million. This year, in 1989-90, the increase is $43.3 million. That is a 360 per cent increase in funding by this government over funding that was made available by those folks when they had the opportunity to do something. I am proud of our record. It is not enough, but we are making progress.
TEMAGAMI DISTRICT RESOURCES
Mr Keyes: I have a question for the Minister of Natural Resources. In recent weeks, the constituents of eastern Ontario brought clearly to my attention the concerns about logging in Temagami. In response to questions in this House, I was very pleased that the minister made a commitment that any harvesting to be done will be done in a very sensitive manner. I wonder if the minister could elaborate on her commitment and perhaps give an indication of the kind of the work that is currently being undertaken which is resulting in sensitive and wise management of the resources in the area.
Hon Mrs McLeod: I think I would like to first emphasize, both in responding to the member’s question and to concerns that I know exist among all members of the House, that we are truly concerned about integrated forest management right across the province of Ontario and we are wanting to manage our forests in a way which is sensitive to environmental values as well as to multiple uses. But certainly we have acknowledged in Temagami there are some unique ecological values that do have to be very carefully considered in all of our management plans. I think the honourable member is well aware that we have already set aside some 100,000 hectares of land in parkland in the Temagami area as well as having preserved old pine stands in the skyline reserve.
But he is quite correct. We did make a commitment that we would examine all of our harvesting plans with a view to identifying other sensitive areas that may exist in managing them appropriately. We have undertaken a number of studies, including the study of the old pine growth and including studies of areas of natural scientific interest.
The member, I think, may be aware, following some comments to the standing committee on resources development yesterday, that although our studies are not yet fully complete, early data did suggest to us that there may well be an area north of the Obabika River which is particularly sensitive, and we have recommended to the Temagami Advisory Council that that be set aside from harvesting until our studies are complete.
Mr Keyes: I know a lot of people in eastern Ontario and across the province will be pleased to hear that reaffirmation of the minister’s commitment to sensitive harvesting. But she also spoke on many occasions of the importance of the role of the public in the whole planning process of the Ministry of Natural Resources, and in Temagami, as the minister has just referred to, the Temagami Advisory Council is playing a particularly important role. Could the minister comment on the growing significance of the Temagami Advisory Council in decisions about resource use in the Temagami area?
Hon Mrs McLeod: I think it is probably quite apparent that resource management decisions are going to be increasingly complex because of multiple-use interests and also because of often-competing values. It may be nowhere more true than in Temagami, where the multiple-use interest and the competing interest in values are so pronounced that it is essential that we have a forum in which all those concerned with the management of the Temagami area can come together to review and to discuss the kinds of decisions we are making about management.
The Temagami Advisory Council was established to provide that kind of forum. They have been very conscientiously working to review all of the management plans for the area. We are certainly going to continue to value their advice and we are going to continue to encourage all of those who are concerned with the Temagami forest management to become involved in those discussions and reviews.
Mr Wildman: It is interesting that there are no natives on the Temagami Advisory Council. They are on the road.
The Speaker: And your question is to which minister?
Mr Wildman: My question is to the Minister of Natural Resources, who does not seem to understand what Dr Carmean said, that the integrity of old growth means that you should not be cutting anything in the old-growth area.
I have a question, though, regarding mining development in the Temagami area. In view of the impending closure of the Sherman Mine in the Temagami area and the desire of the Minister of Mines (Mr O’Neil) for companies to develop mining deposits in the Temagami-New Liskeard area and the investment of $600,000 in redevelopment of the Kanichee nickel-copper mine, which would employ approximately 60 workers, why is the Ministry of Natural Resources refusing to assist with the replacement of the bridges with new bridges or culverts on the Kanichee Road and thus, by refusing, ensuring that the mine will not reopen this winter?
Hon Mrs McLeod: This is obviously a very specific issue related to a concern that I will look for an opportunity to discuss with my colleague the Minister of Mines.
Mr Wildman: In discussion with the Minister of Mines, perhaps the Minister of Natural Resources will be able to explain to the Minister of Mines and to this House why MNR can find $3.5 million for the Red Squirrel Road extension, which may provide 75 jobs for Milne Lumber over the next five years, but the ministry cannot find between $25,000 and $125,000 to ensure the creation of 60 mining jobs in the Temagami area.
Hon Mrs McLeod: I am quite sure that if there are issues within the mandate of the Ministry of Natural Resources which can be supportive of economic development in the area, we will certainly want to look into those. I think, however, the honourable member, in asking that question, is perhaps mixing two areas of resource development and resource use when he references the expenditures on the Red Squirrel Road.
Quite clearly, and I think the House is well aware, we have provided for the expenditures related to construction of the Red Squirrel Road because we do believe that it is viable to support a lumbering industry in the Temagami area and that that can he done by accessing areas of the Temagami forest by way of the Red Squirrel Road in a way which leaves us also in a position to manage that forest in a way that is responsive to multiple uses as well as to the environmental and ecological values that I spoke of earlier.
Quite clearly, that is our focus and our justification for the expenditures on the Red Squirrel Road. If there is more we can be doing in other areas in support of other economic development, we can certainly look at that.
Mrs Cunningham: My question is for the minister of all education, the Minister of Education and the Minister of Colleges and Universities. The Ministry of Skills Development has in place a program called Transitions. It is designed to provide training and assistance to workers over 45 years of age.
In the first year, they were able to spend $284,000 out of a $14-million budget; in the second year, $1 million out of a reduced $8-million budget. That means $20 million was not spent to help these older workers. The ministry expected to receive 13,000 requests for assistance in the first two years, yet received only 2,000. Perhaps the minister could offer an explanation why as to this low rate of interest in the program.
Hon Mr Conway: The putative leader of the third party, the member for London North has, I must say, a very, very variable brand of Toryism -- what she says here and what she says in London seem to bear no relationship. one to the other.
Mr Breaugh: Something like yourself.
Mr Jackson: It’s a hazard for every member. You notice that about every member.
Hon Mr Conway: I have great regard and great affection for the member for London North, with whom I have discussed the Transitions project earlier.
The honourable member knows that in recent times we have expanded the eligibility criteria. She is right in indicating that the rate of uptake or participation in this program is not as high as I would like. That is why at the present time the Ministry of Skills Development has embarked upon a publicity campaign to make people aware of what this program is, whom it might involve and what attractions it has. We are working, and I would be very pleased to have the support of the member for London North, to ensure that everyone who is eligible -- and as I say, we have expanded the eligibility criteria so that people who are eligible will, in fact, participate in what we believe is a very good offer.
Mrs Cunningham: We are always interested in helping the minister, and have I got some help for him today. A partial explanation for the lack of uptake probably has to do with information I will share with him. This is a Transitions brochure, and there is an application form on the back of this brochure. You fill it in and you send it back to the ministry.
Now, there is a problem with it, and that is, it does not comply to the business standards by Canada Post. Do you know what? This is too big and it does not fit the machines. It jams the machines, and when you jam the machines up, you then have to sort them by hand. The real problem is this: The Ministry of Skills Development is absorbing, therefore, the higher postage costs to get these letters returned to it, and I just do not think that that is very responsible.
My question there is, how can we rely on the minister then to retrain older workers, when he cannot even make his own ministry work in a responsible fashion? Too big.
Hon Mr Conway: A main question from my friend that has her as a spending Tory and a supplementary that has her sounding like a cost-cutting Tory. I want to say though, her supplementary appears to raise a valid concern, and if it is as valid as it sounds, I say to my honourable friend, we cannot and will not have that. If it is as she reports, I can assure her that in response to her concern I will see to it that changes are made.
OXFORD REGIONAL CENTRE
Mr Tatham: I have a question for the Minister of Community and Social Services regarding the Oxford Regional Centre. During the last few weeks I have had a number of phone calls and questions about the downsizing of this facility. I just wonder if he can give us an update about what is taking place there.
Hon Mr Beer: To my honourable colleague, the Oxford Regional Centre, as he is aware, is one of a number of institutions which over a seven-year period we are downsizing. What we have said with that facility, as with others, is that in doing that and having people leave the institution, we want to make sure that there are community support systems in place so that the people leaving will get the required support back in their own communities.
I think one statistic which would perhaps be of interest to the honourable member is if we compare today to 1980. In 1980 the resident population at Oxford was 683, with some 360 direct-care staff. By March of next year the resident population will be about 363 and about 321 direct care staff. We have been working very closely with not only the Oxford Regional Centre staff but also the community, and we believe that the program is proceeding very well.
Mr Tatham: Can the minister tell me what exists to help employees who will be displaced because of this downsizing?
Hon Mr Beer: At the beginning of the summer, I believe it was in June, under my predecessor, a career counselling centre was set up at Oxford Regional Centre to help those who might he in a position where their jobs were going to end. In point of fact, the job loss to this point has been through attrition, people moving on to other places, but we have this centre that is located there, this counselling centre. One of the things we do is we provide through the Oxford Regional Centre 50 per cent of the cost for upgrading courses, which I believe some 20 workers there are currently undertaking. The counselling centre is to provide any and all kinds of help to the staff members at the centre, and it will continue to stay in place until the issue has been resolved.
Miss Martel: I have a question for the Minister of Labour. He will know that on Friday 17 November the board of directors of the Workers’ Compensation Board finally held a hearing for 25 injured workers who are suffering from chronic disabling pain. The majority of the workers won their cases at the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Tribunal, but then the Workers’ Compensation Board used section 86n of the act to stay the decisions. Most of the decisions were made two years ago, and benefits have been stayed since that time.
During the proceedings on Friday, both the board and the employers made many comments about what the intentions of the Legislature were and are with regard to section 86n. I can tell the minister that neither the employers nor the board spoke for myself or my party at those hearings, but since the ministry was not represented at the hearing, I would like to ask the minister what his intentions are with regard to section 86n and what his intentions are with regard to these cases.
Hon Mr Phillips: I think I have mentioned in the House before -- but if I have not, I will repeat it -- that there is a green paper under preparation now on the whole issue of the Workers’ Compensation Board. One of the issues that has to be addressed is the one that the member refers to as 86n. Right now there is some concern that it is somewhat ambiguous in terms of who has the final responsibility. I would say that that is one of the issues that will be addressed in the green paper, which is due out next year.
Miss Martel: I do not think some of these people can wait until next year, frankly. Let me give the minister the case of Mrs T, who was represented by CUPE at the hearings.
She worked at the Oshawa General Hospital for 13 years until she was injured twice in 1983. She was the sole breadwinner at the time because her husband broke his back in a noncompensable accident in 1974. She was cut off benefits in 1985, but CUPE won the case at WCAT in September 1987. WCAT said benefits should be paid from 1985 onwards and that the benefits should be paid immediately because of the financial hardship of the couple.
The WCB stayed the decision even after CUPE wrote and said the financial situation was desperate and the woman was suicidal. She in fact tried to commit suicide in June 1988. The board responded a month later and said there was no pressing financial situation evident. She receives $59 a month from the WCB.
I would like to ask the minister if he thinks this is fair and if he thinks these people can wait until next year for a decision on 86n.
Hon Mr Phillips: I am not familiar with the specifics of that case. I would hope that in cases where it is clear that the board must and should make a decision quickly that it would. The board having only decided this on Friday, I guess, I would be happy to look into the specifics of that case.
The member doles raise a broader issue, which is an important one, and that is the whole issue of final responsibility between the board at WCB and the tribunal, and it is one that must be clarified and addressed. It is one of those issues that is looked at in the green paper, as I said earlier. I recognize that the board, in the meantime, must move with dispatch in terms of dealing with these more significant and, in some cases, tragic cases. I would be happy, in that specific case, to inquire as to the status of that from the board.
Mr Cousens: I have a question for the Minister of Transportation with regard to an issue that Mayor Mel Lastman has really crusaded for. He has tried to find a way of building the Sheppard subway and last week came forward with a number of recommendations for an innovative approach to financing the Sheppard subway. Yet at the same time, shortly after that, one of the minister’s executive directors came out and said that it would appear that the minister is not in favour of this proposal of the Sheppard subway. Would the minister please be so kind as to tell this House whether or not he is for or against the construction of the Sheppard subway line?
Hon Mr Wrye: I do not think the executive director of the municipal transportation division indicated that we were against the Sheppard subway line or, indeed, against the proposal. I think he quite properly raised some concerns regarding the proposal which came forward last week from Penta Stolp, including the amount of government money that is still requested as part of this private sector proposal, as the member would know, some 56 cents on the dollar; the directions that the private sector wished to put to the proposal; indeed whether the public interest ought to go forward over the private interest, and finally, those items that come to mind quickly, the timing which the private sector wishes a response on. Quite frankly, 60 days for a response is really, from my perspective, unacceptably short.
Mr Cousens: What is even more unacceptable is the lack of a creative response and an approach to transportation directions for the greater Toronto area. To not have the leadership we really need to solve these problems becomes a larger issue. What we are faced with now is, within the Ministry of Transportation, to just find some response to the creative financing techniques for transit expansion that have been suggested.
The bottom-line question that I have for the minister is, what is he going to support? Is he going to support an east-west transit corridor such as the Sheppard line or is he going to support a Finch corridor transit service or is he going to support something that takes things further up Yonge Street into York region? Where is the government going with its transportation directions?
Hon Mr Wrye: The honourable member will be pleased to know that the ministry, at a very senior level, is currently completing a project that has involved Metropolitan Toronto, the Toronto Transit Commission, the region of York and GO Transit. All of those various parties have been working together, trying to come up with a comprehensive solution to some problems and challenges we are faced with in terms of the greater Toronto area.
I would admit very candidly in the Legislature and to the honourable member that we face some very exciting and enormous challenges in terms of this high-growth area. Those recommendations will be coming forward shortly, and I expect, in the not-too-distant future, we will be responding not only to the kind of initiative that came forward -- and we certainly appreciate that initiative -- but also to the general challenge of where we ought to be putting our priorities as we respond to the challenge in the GTA.
Mr Owen: I have a question for the Minister of Community and Social Services. As the minister is aware, this province at the present time has no regulation of social workers. This means that whether a person is competent or incompetent, he or she can set himself or herself up as a social worker. If anyone has any complaint about the incompetence or unethical conduct or performance of a social worker, there is nowhere to go with regard to such a complaint. I know the minister is looking at the matter and I wonder if the minister could tell us today where we stand with regard to addressing this need.
Hon Mr Beer: As the honourable member may recall, last spring there was a consultation document that went out, and earlier this fall I extended the deadline for responses to that consultation document with respect to the whole issue he has raised. To date, there have been a number of responses. It would be fair to say there is no consensus around specifically the route that we ought to take. I and officials of my ministry are meeting with the various groups and so on who have a particular interest in this topic. We want to wait until we get all the responses, at which time we will review those and we will be able to come forward with the approach we are going to take in the new year.
Mr Owen: I appreciate that there is no agreement and probably never will be an agreement on this problem, as there is very rarely agreement found on almost any problem that we face in this Legislature.
At the present time, we have the Ontario College of Certified Social Workers, but it has very little opportunity for exercising any discipline with regard to anyone outside of its membership. There are over 10,000 social workers in the province today, of whom probably fewer than 2,000 are in that membership, yet almost every other province, if not all of the other provinces, has come up with legislation with regard to this matter. I am wondering if the minister appreciates that we must have some protection for the public as well as for the social work profession itself.
Hon Mr Beer: I think everyone in the debate recognizes the need to protect the public, and one of the things that I would want to underline on that is that many of those who are actively engaged in social work are within organizations where, in terms of the kind of work they carry out, there are various disciplinary standards that are there.
None the less, we recognize that the college has done excellent work since its inception and that there is a desire among many in the field to have something more substantial in terms of regulatory or disciplinary powers. We want to be careful before moving in that direction that all of the interested parties have had a chance to comment and to see if there is some way that we can ensure the protection of the public that will bring all of those who are active in this area on board. That is part of the purpose of the whole consultation process.
Mr Hampton: My question is for the Minister of Natural Resources. The Ministry of Natural Resources recently released a report which indicates that, due to the global warming effect, there have been over the last 10 years more and more forest fires in northern Ontario, and the situation is becoming more severe each year.
Given the fact that the ministry has had this information, I wonder how the minister justifies the fact that the Ministry of Natural Resources cut 130 trained firefighters from the forest fire crews this summer and cut some $5 million from the forest fire budget this year. Knowing that the situation is getting worse and worse, how does the minister justify cutting those crews and cutting that commitment to protect our forests?
Hon Mrs McLeod: I had thought when the honourable member first initiated the question that he was perhaps going to ask for comment about the effect of global warming on the forests, but obviously the thrust of his question has to deal with the issue of fighting the forest fires which occurred last year in our forests. There was a new approach to having our firefighting teams developed last year where we used smaller teams that could come together in larger numbers to fight fires in specific areas.
We are committed to carrying out a review of the effectiveness of that new approach now that the fire season is passed, but it is my information -- and that was reaffirmed following my own visit to the firefighting centre in Sault Ste Marie -- that we were in fact able to deal very effectively with the fire situation in northern Ontario over the course of this past spring, summer and fall and as well were able to provide support to a neighbouring province which was experiencing a great deal of difficulty.
Mr Hampton: The minister has received different information than the standing committee on public accounts received when we visited Dryden this summer. When we spoke to the district fire manager there, he was very concerned about the new system. However, it is not just the so-called new system that I am inquiring about. The minister’s own official in Sault Ste Marie, Mr Thomas, who is the director of the forest fire and aviation and fire management centre, said: “The situation gets worse and worse every year. This is a very tense situation.”
This government claims to be interested in protecting our environment. How does the minister measure that claim when she is in fact cutting the budget of a service which is charged with protecting a great extent of the northern Ontario environment, the forest fire protection service? How does the minister justify those cuts?
Hon Mrs McLeod: I recall having read that article some time ago and I think the particular quote that the honourable member uses may be taken somewhat out of context. I think that the district manager was referring to a concern about whether or not the fire situation in our forest was likely to become worse, given the effect of global warming. That is quite another issue, which I would be happy to talk about on another occasion, but the member’s question seems much more directed to our ability to deal with the fire situation as we confronted it this year and as we may confront it in another season.
We have quite clearly made a commitment that we are going to be able to maintain an ability to deal with the forest fire situation effectively. My predecessor, in discussing the new approach that was being taken and recognizing that it builds in a greater mobility of our firefighting crews, also I recall clearly indicated to the House that we would be able to provide the resources to meet the situation that was at hand. It is my understanding that over this past fire season, we did do that and, as I indicate also, we are able to provide some very needed resources to the province of Manitoba.
Mrs Marland: My question is to the Minister of the Environment. On 16 October, in speaking to the Recycling Council of Ontario, the minister said that massive landfilling and incineration will go the way of the dinosaur. He also said, “Furthermore, a path towards massive EFW incineration will only exacerbate the greenhouse effect and global warming.” He said, “EFWs can defeat the whole purpose of waste reduction and recycling.”
The minister has now received a letter from Mayor Hazel McCallion, who needs an answer by Thursday, asking him to clarify how his ministry can issue a certificate of approval for an incinerator in Peel at the same time as he is making these public statements about incineration. Can he do this’?
Hon Mr Bradley: First of all, I want to indicate exactly what I have said on this. There have been some people, of course, who have misrepresented or misinterpreted what I have said. Fairly clearly what I have said is that in achieving the --
Mr Jackson: This is no time to bring up your last cabinet meeting.
Hon Mr Bradley: I do not know if I can answer with the interjections from the member for Burlington South and the member for Hastings-Peterborough, but I will --
The Speaker: Don’t bother.
Mr Brandt: As one who never interjects, I know how difficult it is for you to be interjected upon.
Hon Mr Bradley: That is fine. I will just wait, or shall I try to answer?
Mr Brandt: Why don’t you just wait?
The Speaker: Order. I am glad the minister is learning and I am sure he will have a very brief answer for the member.
Hon Mr Bradley: Some municipalities have asked the question, can they use incineration as a way of diverting waste? My answer is no, they cannot use it as a diversion method because diversion is diversion from getting rid of the garbage, in other words, disposal of the garbage.
There are two ways of disposing of garbage. One is by landfilling, the other by incineration. What I have said is that they cannot use incineration for the first 25 per cent diversion by 1992, and by 2000 they cannot use it for the diversion from 50 per cent. In other words, they cannot simply burn the garbage and say, “Look, we have just diverted it, we have just reduced it,” or something like that. They cannot do that.
What they would have to do is recycle or reuse or they would have to reduce the garbage before they could consider --
Mrs Marland: Can I have a supplementary, Jim?
Mr Jackson: Run out the clock, Jim.
The Speaker: Order. I want to thank the member for Burlington South for his assistance. Now I will recognize the member for a supplementary.
Mrs Marland: In Mayor McCallion’s letter, she is saying that the minister’s address to the Recycling Council of Ontario is in conflict with the fact that his ministry has given a certificate of approval for the incinerator project in Brampton and she wants to know what his clarification is. Does the minister support the incinerator in the region of Peel, or is it in conflict with his public statements to the recycling council?
Hon Mr Bradley: One thing I do know is that the member for Mississauga South strongly supports incineration because she was chastising me during the estimates for eliminating one of the four Rs and going with three Rs.
Mrs Marland: Not true.
Hon Mr Bradley: That was exactly what happened in estimates.
Clearly, any incinerator which is approved must deal with that which is left over after they have achieved the 25 percent. In other words, we want to divert from either incineration or from landfill. To achieve that, we use reuse, we use reduction, which is another way of doing it of course, and we think that recycling is also a good component, and there you have it.
If they are using that for the other 75 per cent to 1992 or for the other 50 per cent to the year 2000, then of course it is acceptable. If they were using it as part of their diversion, then that would not be acceptable. I think that is very clear and that is what I have said.
INTRODUCTION OF BILL
OMBUDSMAN STATUTE LAW AMENDMENT ACT, 1989
Hon Mr Scott moved first reading of Bill 80, An Act to amend the Ombudsman Act and the Child and Family Services Act, 1984.
Motion agreed to.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
GOODS AND SERVICES TAX
Mr Laughren moved opposition day motion 4:
This House resolves that given the regressive nature of the federal goods and services tax, this Liberal government will, under no circumstances, participate in a joint federal-provincial sales tax on goods and services.
The Speaker: You have heard the motion by Mr Laughren. I will remind all members once again that the time this afternoon on this discussion will be divided equally among the three parties, and if the mover wishes to reserve any of that time, that may be reserved out of his party’s one third of the time. I will now recognize the member for Nickel Belt.
Mr Laughren: This resolution, I thought, was necessary to come before this House for a number of reasons. Most of us understand very clearly that the federal government has announced that it is going to introduce a goods and services tax, GST, by 1 January 1991, and that that tax will be on a very broad range of goods and services, broader even than the tax that Ontario imposes on its goods and services.
The Premier (Mr Peterson) has stated on different occasions that he does not like the federal government goods and services tax. The Treasurer (Mr R. F. Nixon) said he did not particularly like it either, but he sort of mumbled when he said it and left many of us to wonder to what extent he really opposed it and to what extent he did not. He said some things, that it was too high or that perhaps if it was a little lower; he talked about a problem of rolling the two taxes together; he talked about the federal government intruding into what has been traditionally Ontario territory, namely, the sales tax field.
For those reasons I thought it best that we should clear it up for the people of Ontario, so that they know exactly where the Liberal government stands when it comes to the federal government’s goods and services tax. Surely to goodness it is not appropriate for the Premier of the province to be talking about this tax not being in Ontario’s interests while the Treasurer of this province, at the very same time his Premier is saying he does not like it, is doing whatever he can to make it easy for the federal government to implement the goods and services tax.
I feel it is time that we had some open government around here and some statements by the Treasurer that indicate just how he feels about the goods and services tax. I am surprised that he is even being ambivalent, so I went back and I checked some of the statements that the Treasurer and his Premier had made on the goods and services tax.
Back about a year ago on 1 November 1988, the Treasurer said that he was not opposed to the idea of the GST in principle. I would put to members that this is the very reason he should be opposed to the goods and services tax: on a matter of principle.
The Deputy Speaker: There are many private conversations in here. Could we respect the standing orders, please? The only member who has the floor right now is the member for Nickel Belt.
Mr Laughren: In November 1987, this is what this Treasurer had to say about sales taxes. He said and I quote:
“Many concerns have been expressed about the possible impact of a new, broad-based sales tax on low-income Canadians. This government will not enter into an agreement on a new national sales tax unless we are provided the flexibility to ensure its fair application for low-income individuals and families through a system of tax credits or exemptions...Ontario’s response to these changes will be guided by the need to maintain the ability of the tax system to deliver adequate revenues in a fair, competitive and simple fashion.”
The Treasurer said that in this assembly on 18 November 1987. He also said two years prior to that when we were dealing with his own budget, “Sales tax is a revenue that we want to keep under strict control and, if anything, increase what little progressivity there is by improving tax grants and by keeping it as low as it is practicable.” That was on 5 November 1985.
Well now, today, on this very day in this assembly in response to a question from my leader, the Treasurer said plain and simply that he thinks the sales tax is fair. He thinks it is fair.
What happened to those previous pronouncements? What happened to those previous expressions of concern about the regressivity of the sales tax? It is truly remarkable what this government has done with taxation since it came to power back in 1985.
The Treasurer sounds remarkably like someone who is not generally associated with Liberalism, somebody who was named Adam Smith, who many members know was the great believer in the invisible hand of the marketplace looking after things out there. He was very much a conservative, but nevertheless a consistent conservative. This is what he said:
“The subjects of every state ought to contribute towards the support of the government as nearly as possible in proportion to their respective abilities, that is, in proportion to the revenue which they respectively enjoy under the protection of the state.”
That was a conservative making an argument for a more progressive kind of tax. This Treasurer now is in the position of supporting a Conservative tax measure at the federal level that is not based on ability to pay. No matter what your income, you are going to be paying the same amount of tax in everything you buy. That is what people clearly understand about a sales tax.
If the Treasurer says that is what tax credits are for, that is a silly argument. The Treasurer’s own tax credits in the province of Ontario have not even kept up with the rate of inflation. This year when the Treasurer raised the sales tax by one per cent, from seven per cent to eight per cent in Ontario, did he touch the sales tax credits in this province? Not a penny.
Since those sales tax credits were introduced in the province of Ontario -- I believe, if memory serves me correct, in 1974 -- they have not kept up with the rate of inflation and it would take about $300 million to bring them up to that level. So for the Treasurer to say that sales tax credits will look after the regressivity problem simply makes no sense at all. Given his history, it makes even less sense than zero. It really is a sad commentary when a Liberal embraces such a conservative tax policy as the federal goods and services tax.
If this Treasurer and his Premier do not like the goods and services tax, if the Liberals do not like the goods and services tax, they should have been saying from day one to Michael Wilson and Brian Mulroney: “We want no part of your goods and services tax. Do not look to us for co-operation on this tax. You are completely on your own if you are going to bring in this tax.”
What does the Treasurer do instead? He says: “How can we help? How can we be a part of this?” We know why he wants to be a part of it. I just wish that the Treasurer, when he responds this afternoon, will stand in his place and he perfectly honest about why he wants to go along with the federal goods and services tax.
I know what my suspicions are. My suspicions are, first, that it will raise a lot of money. Second, the federal goods and services tax will be applied to a much broader range of goods and services than is the provincial government’s sales tax, particularly to services. I can see the Treasurer in a year or in two years saying, “In order to make it much simpler, we are going to tax precisely the same goods and precisely the same services that the federal government goods and services tax taxes.” That is what he is going to say.
That will enormously increase the revenues of this Treasurer in a most regressive way. There is no doubt in my mind why this Treasurer is saying that he can live with the federal government’s goods and services tax. It bothers me a great deal that just as the federal government is relying more and more on consumption taxes, and that is what a sales tax is, so is this government.
Of all the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development countries, Ontario is one of the leaders when it comes to consumption taxes. We are much, much higher than the United States, for example, when it comes to the amount of taxes we raise by consumption. I feel very strongly, and so does my party, that the goods and services tax is probably the most regressive tax this Treasurer could possibly come up with to co-operate with the federal government.
I think of the situation with housing. For example, I commend members to the Toronto Star of Saturday 18 November, to an article by Warren Potter, a very thorough article on exactly what the goods and services tax is going to do to housing. I would love to hear how the Treasurer intends to soften the impact of the goods and services tax on housing. Mr Potter says that the tax, “to start with, is discriminatory. A person who buys a new home at $310,000 or less will pay 4.5 per cent. Then there’s a sliding scale so that people who buy homes at $400,000 or above will pay the full nine per cent.”
Right away you have a discriminatory tax depending on where somebody lives. If they live in a small community not in Ontario, then they will be paying 4.5 percent and somebody else in Ontario will be paying nine per cent.
He goes on to say, “If you buy a resale house you don’t pay any tax, but if you buy a run-down home and then substantially renovate it, it will regarded as a new home and you will pay 9 per cent for those renovations.”
The whole thing is a mess and for the Treasurer to he saying that he is going to co-operate with the federal government on the goods and services tax speaks volumes. It speaks volumes about his attitude towards --
Mr D. R. Cooke: To help them out of their mess. You don’t want to help them out of their mess. Some Canadian you are.
Mr Laughren: I think the member for Kitchener is saying that he believes in the goods and services tax because it is going to reduce the deficit. I think that is what the member for Kitchener was implying. This has nothing at all to do with the deficit.
Mr D. R. Cooke: Nor did my comments.
Mr Laughren: The member is not supposed to comment anyway. The member for Kitchener simply made another irrelevant comment, which should not surprise anybody.
What the Treasurer is doing is hitching his fiscal star to the federal fiscal star, which is unbelievably regressive. Let me give a couple of numbers of what the federal government has done since it came to power in 1984.
For low-income families earning under $24,000 a year, the burden of income taxes has increased by 60 per cent. For middle-income families, their income tax burden has increased by 17 per cent. High-income people, those earning over $120,000 a year, have had a decline in their income tax burden of 6.4 per cent.
It is clear that the Treasurer is heading down a path of conservative fiscal and taxation policy and I would ask him to think very carefully before he takes Ontario down that path. We have an opportunity in this province, given the tremendous economic boom we have had in the last five years -- well, the Treasurer puts his hand downwards. The other day when my leader suggested we could be heading for some problems the Treasurer said: “Don’t be silly. You are just being” --
Hon R. F. Nixon: We have gone from six per cent to two per cent.
Mr Laughren: The point I am trying to make is that the Treasurer has an opportunity to provide Ontario with the fairest tax system of any jurisdiction in North America. He has that opportunity.
Hon R. F. Nixon: We think we have that. Sure we have that. Ask anybody over here.
Mr Laughren: We do not have that at the present time. The Treasurer obviously does not read his mail. He knows that even among other provinces, in Ontario, in this jurisdiction, we pay a higher proportion of personal taxes than other provinces.
Hon R. F. Nixon: You have to balance that with the service.
Mr Laughren: We could get into a good argument on what he is delivering for that too. In conclusion, I would just reiterate that the Treasurer is wrong in supporting the federal government’s goods and services tax. He should not be doing it.
Hon R. F. Nixon: I am not supporting it.
Mr Laughren: He is talking out of both sides of his mouth. That is what he is doing. He is doing the same thing with this as he did with the free trade debate. The Premier said there would be no free trade agreement unless certain conditions were met. Those conditions were not met and the Premier never opened his mouth again about the free trade agreement.
The Treasurer is trying to pretend that he is opposed to the goods and services tax when in fact he is salivating for its beginning. That is exactly what he is doing. The Treasurer can hardly wait to get his hands on the revenues from the goods and services tax. There is no difference between this Treasurer and the federal treasurer, absolutely none when it comes to taxation policy, and shame on him.
Mr Brandt: This is indeed an important issue and a very important debate, and on behalf of my party I am pleased to have this opportunity to participate and to put our views on the floor of this Legislature, perhaps for the first time in terms of sharing with the Treasurer the position of our party as it relates to a very controversial and sometimes misunderstood subject.
Let me say at the outset that I have great respect for the member for Nickel Belt, as he well knows. I always feel somewhat uncomfortable when I have to part company with him in connection with a motion he has placed before this House, and I may have to do that in the context of my remarks this afternoon. I do so with some reluctance. I have to take issue with the overall thrust of what the member for Nickel Belt is suggesting in his resolution.
First of all, the implications of this resolution really are quite startling when one recognizes that the position being put before this House is that under no circumstances whatever should the provincial government co-operate with the federal government in attempting to bring forward a fairer, more equitable, more understandable kind of tax system for this province and for this country.
I would say that to take that particular position is really quite an illogical and unrealistic position. I might add, and I say this to the members of the official opposition, the members of the New Democratic Party with respect that it really, I say to my friends, flies in the face of the heartfelt support their leader gave for Meech Lake. At that time their leader was saying, and I think convinced many members of the 130 of us here in the Legislative Assembly, that Canada is extremely important to each and every one of us, and he went on to plead for the case, when he spoke of Meech Lake, that there had to be a working co-operative relationship between all the partners to this Confederation of ours.
Now we have Mr Parizeau, the Leader of the Opposition in Quebec, talking in a very direct fashion about the fact that the federal deficit may well give Quebec a logical reason for leaving Confederation because it could set aside and put behind it this per capita debt that has to be paid by someone. He argued the case that Quebec might well be better off if it simply turned its back on some of the recognized fiscal and economic problems this country has.
I am not going to stand before the members this afternoon and suggest that the present structure of the GST is something that I or the members of my party wholeheartedly support, because I want to state quite emphatically we do not. We are going to call for a structure that is considerably different than that which is before us at the moment. But we do not believe, and I say this in all sincerity, that any change in the structure can be brought about in an intelligent and sensible fashion without at least some kind of co-operation and dialogue with the provincial governments.
I would like to remind the Treasurer that he himself said -- I always listen to his words of sage advice carefully – “There are no negotiations planned that I am aware of. The Minister of Finance for Canada terminated any discussions between himself and the Treasurer of Ontario and the treasurers of the other provinces.”
I personally think it would be very wise to resume some discussions, but he has made it clear that they are going to proceed independently. I regret that, but that is federal policy. In other words, Michael Wilson has indicated, I suppose out of some degree of frustration, that he is going to take a very unilateral position as it relates to the GST. I do not think that is in the best interests of Ontario or, frankly, of Newfoundland, New Brunswick or any of the other 10 provinces.
If it is justified and if it can be argued, as it was in such an articulate and effective fashion by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr B. Rae), that we should perhaps set aside some of our petty differences -- there are many, some of which are not so petty, some of which are very strongly held by members of this Legislature and by citizens of this province as it relates to the Meech Lake debate -- surely to heavens when we are talking about putting together a new structure to make the Canada of tomorrow more competitive, to make the Ontario of tomorrow a more competitive province, to provide more jobs and to improve the economies of our respective jurisdictions, how can it possibly be that the Treasurer, who has not suggested this, absent himself from those discussions as this resolution and as this motion suggests?
It just boggles the imagination to even suggest that this kind of course of action could be contemplated.
What is needed at this time, and I address this to my friend the member for Nickel Belt, in my view is for some cooler heads to sit and dialogue this problem, to have some discussion in connection with how we can improve upon that which is before us at the moment. I would have to say in that same context that we would like to have an injection of common sense and a little less nonsense when it comes to talking about taxation policy for this province and for this country.
The Treasurer and I may be somewhat closer on this position than I had thought even a few weeks ago as it relates to at least taking a commonsense approach on behalf of the three levels of taxpayers, who I sometimes think we forget in this House. There are municipal taxpayers, provincial taxpayers and federal taxpayers.
When you ultimately come down to the final test, that poor taxpayer has only one pocket and he frankly does not care about transfer payments, sophisticated mechanisms for sharing dollars and all these kinds of things that we in our brilliance think we bring forward to initiate on his behalf. Those things are not of interest to the taxpayer. What he is looking for is fundamentally, I believe, good value for his dollar invested.
If there are ways of bringing in a more efficient means of tax collection where we can reduce the size of the bureaucracy, as an example, instead of having two levels of sales taxes and two levels of collectors and an additional layer of bureaucracy which is going to cost somebody money, namely, that single taxpayer again, should we not be trying to find a way, for once, to build some efficiency into the system so that we give the poor guy who lives down the street a little bit of a break and charge him fewer dollars than perhaps might otherwise be the case?
I would argue that the burden of the deficits at all three levels of government is a crushing burden that we as members of this assembly have to address, and I think address very quickly.
The federal deficit -- let’s put the numbers into perspective -- has now reached $352 billion. I am not going to engage in a partisan litany of who is at fault for what. We all know the deficit was climbing very rapidly during the term of an earlier government, and I am quite prepared to concede that the rise in the rate of the deficit has not abated as much as I would like to have seen it abate during the term of the current government.
I would like to rest the debate simply on the understanding, without getting partisan, that the deficit is a problem that has to be addressed by this country. If we will at least acknowledge that, then we can go to work on how we might be able to tackle that problem in a co-operative fashion.
The deficit works out, and this is a startling number, to $13,500 for every man, woman and child. That is an absolutely staggering amount of money and it limits our federal government’s ability, quite frankly, to respond to some of the pressing social programs we need in this country and also to some of the economic priorities we have in terms of alleviating some regional disparities that have to be addressed as well.
The reality of the situation that led to the proposed tax changes, as it relates to the debate we are engaging in this afternoon and as it relates to the proposition that has been put forward by the federal government, is that all three federal parties agreed that the manufacturers’ sales tax must go. In that we had some degree of unanimity. In that we had some degree of at least agreement that there was a problem with respect to the manner in which that tax was being collected and that we had to move in the future to collect the tax in a more equitable and fairer fashion that would work better for the economy of Canada and for Ontario.
It appears, I have to say, that the provincial Treasurer agrees at least in part with that statement on the part of the three federal parties that the manufacturers’ sales tax must go, because he has alluded to the fact that it is a silent killer of jobs. There is no question it hurts our exports and increases the price of certain products we purchase here in Ontario.
What we are appealing for in our party is a commonsense approach that we believe will eliminate one tax, which it has been agreed is a bad tax, the manufacturers’ sales tax, and replace it with another tax. Here is really what the debate is all about, because there is no debate, frankly. among the three federal parties on the fact that the manufacturers’ tax should go. The debate starts after that point, as to what should replace it.
Is it logical, and have any of the three federal parties have said, “Get rid of this tax,” but recognizing the deficit, recognizing the demand for certain programs, are we going to replace it with nothing? No, they have not said that. They have all said, “We want to bring in a fair tax, a new tax, a tax that is more equitable, a tax that recognizes that those at the lower end of the income spectrum may not be able to pay” -- which I agree with – “a regressive sales tax.” I agree that sales taxes, by and large, are regressive in nature. I have no difficulty in accepting that principle.
Our party believes a new tax must meet certain conditions, and here is perhaps where we part company with our federal counterparts. We feel that the new tax must, first of all, stand these tests: it must be administratively simple; it must be something that is not so complex and so difficult to administrate that it is going to cost us a lot of money, wasted money that we have to collect in the first instance before we can pay it out.
When I talk about wasted money, I am talking about the suggested 5,000 bureaucrats, the new army of tax collectors that we are going to unleash on the poor, innocent taxpayers of this country. We do not think that is necessary. We think some form -- and I am not giving members the bottom line on what the structure might be this afternoon -- of co-operative undertaking by the two levels of government, by the feds and the 10 provincial governments, could bring about a tax which makes more sense from an administrative standpoint.
We believe any such new tax that is introduced must be an equitable tax. It must be fair, and depending on the rate at which the tax is brought in -- and I know the suggested rate now is nine per cent; I agree with my friend from the New Democratic Party, the member for Nickel Belt, that the tax could be an inequitable tax as it relates to those at the lower end of the income spectrum -- I think we have to try to drive that number down as low as possible, at the same time recognizing that revenues are needed to pay the bills.
We think as well that a joint tax, a co-operative undertaking in consultation obviously with the provincial governments, would be a tax that would be easier to enforce, easier to understand and it would be more efficient. We also think -- and this is an important point that I want to raise at this particular time -- this tax would be replacing a very negative, very regressive tax which has been generally accepted as a bad tax, namely the manufacturers’ tax; but to replace that with something that is a futuristic-looking tax, one that recognizes the realities of our international trading competitors, is one that will improve the competitive position of Ontario and of Canada. I think the Treasurer, in fairness to him, has acknowledged this fact as well.
Without moving, necessarily, to a fixed position on what should replace the manufacturers’ tax, he has at least acknowledged that is a bad tax. How can a tax be anything but bad when already something in the order of – forgive me if I have not got the right number, but I will be close -- 22,000 amendments have already been made to that particular tax exempting certain products from the tax itself. It does not make any sense to leave that sort of an archaic piece of legislation on the federal books, because it obviously is not working. It has outlived its usefulness.
Where do we go from here? I have fought with this question in my own soul, as I know most members have, in terms of what is right not only politically, but what is right for this country of ours. Again I return to the argument of Meech Lake. If you can show some sensitivity towards the need for a co-operative confederation of 10 provinces and a federal government in the context of Meech Lake, surely to goodness you can recognize that the underpinnings of a strong Canada, the very foundation of this country, must in fact be constructed and must be built on a fair and equitable and reasonable position of taxation. That just follows logically.
It does not follow logically, as my New Democratic friends have suggested, that you get rid of one tax but that you suggest nothing by way of an alternative. I frankly think that is a bit of a cop-out, because if you are going to suggest that something is bad and you know full well that the ledger has to be balanced and the books have got to be kept in order, as the Treasurer of Ontario has so frequently said when he has to raise taxes in Ontario, and if you want to meet the demands of the citizens and the programs that they want -- including, I might add, servicing the debt, for which now about a third of every dollar raised by the federal government is used for that purpose alone -- then you obviously have to come to a logical conclusion, my friends, and that is that something has got to replace this manufacturers’ tax that this government is getting rid of.
Mr D. R. Cooke: But not something with 5,000 bureaucrats.
Mr Brandt: I say to the member for Kitchener, he is absolutely right. For one of the first times he has interjected in a debate in which I have participated, he has got my point. I am against 5,000 bureaucrats. I am against a tax which is unilateral and without the co-operation of the provincial governments. I believe there is a better way to go, and I want to state what we think is perhaps a method by which we might reach this kind of a uniquely Canadian consensus on how we proceed through this very difficult issue. I think it is important that some progress be made as we move towards a better level of understanding as it relates to the goods and services tax or some other form of a national sales tax, an NST, if you like.
First, I would call upon Prime Minister Mulroney to state that there will be a moratorium on the introduction of the GST until such time as the provincial treasurers have had an opportunity to sit again with Michael Wilson, the federal Minister of Finance, to see if in fact they can break this logjam. He is the one who suspended the discussions according to the provincial Treasurer. He is the one who telephoned and said, “Discussions are no longer going to continue.”
I think it is the obligation now of the federal government, and I appeal to it, to reopen discussions with its provincial colleagues and to sit and see whether we can find some method of co-operation between the two levels of government. In other words, I say to the provincial Treasurer, “Let’s open the door and see if we can return to the table.”
Secondly, I think it is an appropriate moment for us to discuss the role of the Premier in this entire discussion. I think the Premier must show some leadership. He must back up his Treasurer and support the principles of a joint provincial-federal sales tax program, the structure of which, again, I am not going to discuss in terms of specifics other than to say I believe it will work better if we work it together. We think there is room for a better system, a fairer system and a system that will work to the betterment of all of us in Canada.
If the Premier refuses, and the premiers of other provinces refuse, then we are back to square one and I guess we are back to the position where the feds are going to have to go it alone. We do not think that is the answer to the current dilemma. We do not think that is the answer to the problem that is facing our country and our province today.
Our party believes there is a need for a rather substantial overhaul of the tax system, provincially, municipally and federally. We think all levels of government are going to have to take a very introspective look at what it is they are doing to the taxpayer, because I have to say with the greatest of respect I am not going to allow this debate to simply degenerate into a partisan diatribe but I really believe that all levels of government make decisions with respect to taxation policy without really thinking through the impact on the taxpayer who is bombarded by all levels of government. I think we have to look at that total burden very carefully.
The tax system for the 1990s is going to have to be one that reflects a Canada which is strong, which is economically flexible and which allows us to meet that international competition that I talked about. We cannot expect Canada to compete with a slide-rule and a manual typewriter when the rest of the world is now competing with calculators, word processors and sophisticated computers.
We have to put ourselves on an equal footing with what other countries are doing and, whether we like it or not and whether we want to change the name of it, whether we want to alter the structure of it, the fact of the matter is that most of the international competition around this world has a form of goods and services tax which is a consumptive tax at the retail level rather than the archaic manufacturers sales tax which we have in place now. Virtually all of our competitors have shifted to a different type of tax, so the rest of the world, in fact, has made these changes. I am not saying they are necessarily right but I am saying those changes are in fact what has caused us to be in an uncompetitive position.
My friend the member for Nickel Belt has said, effectively, “Do not talk to the feds.” How can we run a confederation, how can we run a country, how can we operate in terms of trying to come to grips with the economic problems that we have to face if we do not even talk to them or if we say, “Under no circumstances are we going to co-operate with them”?
I take the member’s motion only slightly out of context when I say that, but that is exactly the implication of what he has put before this House. In other words, slam the door shut, do not talk to the federal government about anything to do with taxation policy, and let’s all march to the tune of our own drummer. What utter nonsense that is.
I say to the member, there is a degree of hypocrisy here. Let me revisit it for a moment, if I might. This angers me. There is a degree of hypocrisy when, on one hand, he can argue passionately for this country to be kept together and held together under the context of a Meech Lake agreement and in the next question that comes up, when we talk economic policy -- and let us not for one moment forget the fact that Meech Lake in fact has economic implications -- when we talk economic policy and taxation, no, no more co-operation, slam the door, dialogue comes to an end; we are not having any conversation with those bad guys in Ottawa.
I know my time is running rapidly and I want to conclude my address in the next few short minutes. By way of conclusion, I appeal to the provincial Treasurer to look at this question with an open mind. I do not like taxes any more than he does. I do not like the direction being taken. I might add, nor do my colleagues in this party, by the GST as it is presently proposed, so if the motion on the part of the member for Nickel Belt was simply to reject today’s proposal in connection with the GST he would have the unanimous support of my colleagues, because we cannot live with it the way it is at the moment. We want some changes. The member might have to live with it, because he is not prepared to talk and co-operate.
We are going to work constructively towards a better form of tax, a tax which is more fair, more equitable, more reasonable and which applies, I think, in a far more effective way to the needs of this province and this country. The feds have got to pay their bills too. When the provincial Treasurer stands up and talks about paying the bills for the province of Ontario, he rarely hears me interject, because I understand those responsibilities. I too sat in cabinet at one time. He has to pay bills like provincial transfers.
There will be members of this assembly, I assure members, who, if the GST does not go through in its present form or in some altered form or whatever and if provincial transfers are reduced, members of the official opposition will be the first ones to stand and scream at the federal government for not providing the necessary funds they require. If there is an alteration in the UIC payments, if there is an alteration in regional disparity payments, if there is an alteration of any kind they will he the first ones to say: “The federal government is opting out of agreements. The federal government is going back on its word. It is not paying its bills.”
I have to tell the member, he has never been in government; he may well never be in government. The fact of the matter is, however, there is a concomitant responsibility, on the one hand, to develop programs that meet the needs of the people and, on the other hand, to collect the money that you require to pay for those programs. We are simply saying there is a better way than what is on the table at the moment, but that is not what the member said. We think the alternatives that are out there are still worth pursuing. We think there are some alterations that can be made, perhaps, to lower the tax, to make the tax somewhat more equitable, to make it more applicable to the situation we face.
Opposition members would be the first ones and have been the first ones to talk about, “Don’t cut Via, and don’t cut this program or that program.” Not once have I heard them come up with an alternative in tax policy other than taxing the rich. When we talk about taxing the rich, let’s be fair about how --
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please. The standing orders seem to have been distorted a bit for a little while. The member for Nickel Belt will please allow the member for Sarnia to continue, and the member for Sarnia will always remember to address all remarks in the third person singular or plural through the Speaker.
Mr Brandt: I am glad that you admonished the member for Nickel Belt, and I too, sir, deserve your words of direction.
Let me address my remarks through you by simply saying the bottom line of the position of the Conservative Party of this province is that we favour some form of a national sales tax. We favour a one-level collection system which will reduce costs. We favour a co-operative undertaking between federal and provincial governments that will provide the maximum return to the taxpayers of this country for the minimum outlay in terms of taxation.
We think the motion proposed by the members of the opposition through the member for Nickel Belt, which reads as follows -- and listen to this for a nation-building motion; if we are talking again about nation-building through Meech Lake and if we are talking about nation-building by co-operative dialogue between partners as we are supposed to have in a Confederation -- listen to this motion; listen to what this motion says. I am going to read this motion because I think members would want to hear it.
“This House resolves that given the regressive nature of the federal goods and services tax, this Liberal government will, under no circumstances” -- Wow.
An hon member: Read that again.
Mr Brandt: Yes, well, I have not finished yet: “under no circumstances” -- I suppose even if the federal government gave all the money to the provinces the member for Nickel Belt would say that is not fair. Even if the whole program was based on the provincial government getting 100 per cent of the revenues, the member would stand up and say, “No, I think that is unfair.”
Mr Laughren: That is right.
Mr Brandt: Well, I think you have lost a degree of your fairness and your balance on this, because it says “under no circumstances, participate in a joint federal-provincial sales tax on goods and services.” I think that is utter nonsense.
Again, I want to appeal to the reason, to the sense of fairness and to the sense of balance that I believe to be the case of the majority of the members of this House and say, if we are going to nation-build, if we are going to correct some of the problems that relate to the deficit --
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please.
Mr Brandt: -- the sharing of taxation in this country, we have to proceed on the basis of the co-operation, not on the basis of confrontation, as suggested by the member for Nickel Belt. Therefore, we are going to vote against this resolution.
Mr Reycraft: I am pleased to have an opportunity this afternoon to join in the debate on the resolution that has been brought forward by my friend the member for Nickel Belt. I listened very carefully to the remarks by the member for Sarnia. His speeches in this House are more and more making him sound, despite his protestations, like a contender for the leadership of his party.
I am happy to provide my endorsement. The resolution from my friend from Shining Tree, the member for Nickel Belt, addresses an issue that is of great concern to a large number of Canadians and Ontarians and of great importance to this province and this country. The issue, of course, is the proposed federal goods and services tax, a tax that the federal government has suggested it wants to implement effective 1 January 1991.
I want to say at the outset that there should be no confusion about the opinion of this government on the proposed goods and services tax. We find the tax to be unacceptable. It is that simple.
The Treasurer, as recently as last month, at the meeting of finance ministers, very clearly expressed that opinion to the federal Minister of Finance. The Premier, just the week before last at the first ministers’ conference on 9 and 10 November repeated that position.
We are opposed to the goods and services tax as it has been crafted and put forward by the government of Canada. We are extremely concerned about its impact on our taxpayers and about the impact on the economy of this province.
I want to talk for a few minutes this afternoon about how we believe the economy will be affected by the proposed goods and services tax, but I also want to talk briefly about that other tax that is involved in this debate, the tax that is proposed to be eliminated, that silent killer of jobs that Michael Wilson has talked about, the federal manufacturers’ sales tax.
That sales tax, I think it is agreed by all parties, represents a significant impediment that hurts the manufacturing industry of this country. It puts a tax burden on our manufacturers that makes it very difficult, perhaps impossible, for them to compete both in foreign markets and in domestic markets with the manufacturers from other countries because those foreign manufacturers simply do not have to contend with the burden of that kind of manufacturers’ sales tax.
Any change in public policy that makes our manufacturers more competitive, that gives them a better chance in competing in that world economy both in foreign markets and in our own domestic market, is something that I think has to be very carefully considered.
The reasons should be very simple and obvious for everyone to see: a healthy manufacturing industry in this country secures existing jobs and also leads to the creation of more jobs. That, in the broad scheme of things, should make this a more prosperous nation.
The government of Canada is not entirely blameless in the uncompetitive position that our manufacturers have been placed in as a result of this manufacturers’ sales tax. It is not a new tax. The manufacturers’ sales tax has been in existence since 1924, for some 65 years. It is generally applied to the sale of goods by the manufacturer and the tax is based on the price that the manufacturer sells the product for. That price, of course, is much less than the price to which the proposed goods and services tax will be applied.
The manufacturers’ tax is a very complicated one, and my friend the member for Sarnia has alluded this afternoon to some of those complications. But it seems to me that there are three very specific features of the tax that tend to complicate it. One of those is the fact that there is a large host of exemptions from the manufacturers’ sales tax, exemptions that are based on the nature of the goods and on their end use, as well.
The second thing that tends to complicate the manufacturers’ sales tax is the fact that there are a few goods that are exempt from the tax at the manufacturers’ level but that are taxed by the same tax at the wholesale level. I think an example has been made. Televisions, for example, are an example of a product that is subject to that kind of tax.
The third complicating feature of the manufacturers’ sales tax is the variation in its rate. Most goods are subject to a manufacturers’ sales tax that is now 13.5 per cent, but there are exceptions to that. Some goods are taxed lower. Construction materials, for example, are taxed only at eight per cent. Other goods, alcohol and tobacco, for example, are taxed at a much higher rate, at 19 per cent.
I indicated a minute or two ago that the federal government is not entirely blameless in the impact of this so-called silent killer of jobs. If that is what it is, and I agree that it is., then I think the federal government has to accept responsibility for some of the casualties.
The manufacturers’ sales tax, while it has been around for 65 years, has not always been at 13.5 per cent. In fact, in the most recent federal budget, it was increased by one per cent from 12.5 per cent where it existed last year.
If we look back to 1984, when Brian Mulroney won that record majority in the House of Commons and the Conservatives took over the government of Canada, the manufacturers’ sales tax at that time was only nine per cent, and today, five years later, it is 13.5 per cent. They have increased the manufacturers’ sales tax by 50 per cent in that five-year period.
The manufacturers’ sales tax now produces for the federal government revenue of about $18.5 billion. The proposed goods and services tax will generate some $24 billion. It is that difference, that $5.5 billion difference, that is of greatest concern to us, because we believe that $5.5 billion difference is going to have a very significant impact in the economy of this province and of Canada.
We know that the federal Minister of Finance has said that some of that $5.5 billion is going to be used to reduce taxes for certain groups. But the point remains that it will still represent $5.5 billion that is going to be taken out of the economy of this country in the form of taxation. That can surely have nothing but an upward impact on inflation. Indeed, in the technical paper that Mr Wilson released in August of this year, he has suggested that the consumer price index will be affected upwardly by 2.25 per cent more than the customary or background increase in the consumer price index.
Our own officials within the Ministry of Treasury and Economics have suggested that the impact will be greater than that. They have suggested that it will be closer to three per cent. Whether they are right, or whether the Minister of Finance is right, the fact remains that we can look forward, if this tax is implemented in its present form, to an inflation rate of somewhere between 8.5 per cent and nine per cent in 1991.
That will have an impact. It will lead to an increase in interest rates, which will have an impact on consumer spending and cause it to decline. There will be a resulting loss of employment across the province and across the country as a result of that, and also an increase in pressures for higher wage settlements that must follow in consequence. All of that will put us back into that inflationary spiral that led us to the recession we experienced in the early years of this decade.
We have other concerns about the impact of the tax, but other colleagues are going to address those this afternoon. The resolution of the member for Nickel Belt has, as the member for Sarnia (Mr Brandt) has reiterated, asked the provincial government to under no circumstances participate in a joint federal-provincial sales tax on goods and services. It suggests that because this goods and services tax is poorly designed, because the government of Canada has not done a good job in putting it together, that we should agree to never participate in a joint tax.
I think what the member for Nickel Belt is saying is that because the federal government has proceeded with a badly designed tax, that somehow we should punish the taxpayers of Ontario by agreeing to never combine theirs and ours. Because the fact remains that the superimposition of the two taxes, the federal goods and services tax over our own provincial sales tax, will leave the people and businesses of this province with two separate sales taxes, with two different tax bases, with two different tax rates, with two different sets of remission forms, with two different administrative bureaucracies. That will result in a system that is complex, that is complicated, and is costly.
I have looked very carefully at the resolution from the member for Nickel Belt. It is not one that I can support and I look forward to the comments of his colleagues in his party and other members of the Legislature this afternoon.
Mr Mackenzie: I am pleased to rise in this House and support the opposition day motion that is before us, a move by my colleague the member for Nickel Belt. I simply am compelled to make one or two comments before I get into the remarks that I really have prepared for today and those comments deal with surprise, even a little dismay, if I can put it that way, at the leader of the Conservative Party, who I wish was here.
When I heard the leader of the Conservative Party say how most of his own colleagues would not really support this GST and wanted revisions or changes to it, then heard his attack, which was a rather intemperate one in terms of fact, on my party over whether or not we had ever before laid out any suggested changes in taxes to resolve some of the problem, it made me realize all of a sudden just how desperate the Tories are to have somebody on side with them and obviously it is the Liberal Party of Ontario they are hoping to have on side with them. They do not want to face the electorate in this country and they do not want to go through the next year of debate in this country over the GST. It is obviously totally rejected, about as totally rejected as any proposition I have seen in the years that I have been involved in polities in this country of ours. People just do not like it, do not want it, they know it is not fair, they know it is a lousy way to raise taxes in this country. The Tories obviously do not want to have to carry the can alone on this particular issue.
I guess I was even more disappointed with his comments that somehow or other we were opposing this GST and not willing to put forward any alternate proposals. That is not like my colleagues in the Tory party. I have rarely ever supported them, but at least, unlike the Liberals, I have usually found that they do not mislead you or that their information is pretty meaningful, well meant and it is an honest position they take. I am sure the leader of the Tory party knows very well that this party has suggested dealing with the multitude of loopholes, both for corporations and the wealthy. They know very well that we have dealt with wealth tax, they know very well we have suggested speculation taxes. There are any number of specific proposals that this party has put forward time and time again. I guess that is the only point at which I am a little bit hurt, to be honest, by the uncalled for and untrue comments of my colleague in the Conservative party.
Leaving that alone or having relieved myself of those feelings of a little bit of disappointment in the Tory party, I want to say that just over a month ago I stood in this House and accused the Premier of being so deep in the pockets of business that if he were at all human he would choke to death on the lint in that pocket. I have to tell you, Mr Speaker, that my conviction in this regard has been reaffirmed by this government’s stand or the uncertainty of its stand on the federal goods and services tax. It is unfortunate, but when you start hearing a Liberal government tell you about what they are against, you just take a look at the last two or three years and immediately you get scared.
Ontarians of all walks of life are worried and confused about the federal government’s plan to impose a new sales tax on almost every product and service that we can buy. But instead of reassuring the people of Ontario, the Treasurer takes a stand only on behalf of Ontario’s economic élite: big business, society’s wealthy. This is unconscionable. As the Treasurer is well aware, the federal government’s proposed GST, set to come into force at the start of 1991, will have a profound detrimental effect on economic growth in this province.
This of course comes at a time when Ontario’s economic growth has already been projected by the Ministry of Treasury and Economics to be reduced to two per cent annually, down from an average of about 5.5 per cent a year over the period from 1985 to 1988. The proposed GST would add to this decline by boosting the consumer price index by an average of 1 .6 percentage points annually, from 1991 through to 1993, and would cause a loss in average real growth of 0.2 per cent annually.
The Treasurer is, of course, well aware of these facts since it was his ministry that projected these figures. The impact of these figures is, however, not addressed by the Treasurer. So let me tell him what the impact would be. It would reduce employment growth by an average of 18,000 jobs a year. In fact, most estimates place this figure even higher. Job loss attributable to the GST has been forecast to lie between the 60,000 and 80,000 range in the first three years of the tax. Again, I say this is simply unacceptable.
That of course is not all. When this reduction in employment growth is coupled with the higher prices resulting from the general sales tax, the very real impact for all Ontarians is the erosion of their real personal income. Consumer spending will be particularly hard-hit by the proposed GST.
What groups will be hardest hit by all of this? Mr Speaker, I am sure you have looked at it. Let me tell you, it certainly will not be big business and society’s wealthy. One merely needs to look at the list of items that are subject to the GST to understand the point I am trying to make. Bowling -- we will be paying the nine per cent on it; movies; popcorn at the theatre; video rentals; take-out pizzas; snack foods, and even your takeout burger at McDonald’s are all subject to the proposed GST. This is not the stuff of champagne wishes and caviar dreams, this is the entertainment of Ontario’s working-class people.
What about our young couples? Couples already have to think twice about starting a family today, because the cost of doing so is prohibitive, but the GST makes matters even worse. Now there will be a tax on children’s clothing, and for God’s sake, even on diapers. But do young couples have a choice? No. We are not into promoting family planning, we are taxing condoms. Again, this adversely affects the younger generation.
In the area of education, the GST has a similar impact. The federal government’s new tax is helping to make post-secondary education exclusively available to the rich. The cost of education is already out of reach for some families, and the new tax will make matters worse. It will increase the cost of everything for students from essentials such as textbooks to individual lessons and to courses that do not lead to a diploma or a degree. Can we really support a tax that makes education in this province a luxury rather than a right?
Lastly, let’s look at the transportation items that are to be taxed under the GST. These include what is left of train travel in Canada, and intercity bus travel. Who uses these services? Certainly not Canada’s chauffeur-driven élite. It is the working people of this province once again, those who cannot afford a car, especially now that the purchase of a used car is to be taxed as well. This scenario is repeated in air travel as well. The tax does not hit those lucky few who spend their holidays abroad, but rather it hits those whose budgets allow them to travel only within Canada and the United States.
If it is true that the GST has a disproportionately adverse effect on Canada’s working poor people, why is it that the Treasurer of Ontario has not raised any of their concerns in this House? He has not raised one of them that I can recall. Why has he commented only on issues that affect society’s wealthy and big business? I would argue that the reason for his silence is because he is in fact the minister for big business in Ontario. He, like the rest of the Liberal government in Ontario, has very little concern for the working people of this province.
Hon R. F. Nixon: That’s not what big business says.
Mr Mackenzie: They do say.
What he cares about is the rich who want to get richer, and there he is concerned that the tax on land and house, in the case of new housing, is unfair and damaging to the housing crisis. I ask you, Mr Speaker, who is it in this province who is affected by this issue? First and foremost, it is developers and home owners, not the tenants of Ontario.
The Treasurer’s second concern relates to the fact that the tax will be assessed on purchases by municipalities, universities, school boards and hospitals. Again, this is not out of a deep-seated concern for working-class Ontarians, but rather because this increased cost may mean an increased strain on provincial funding.
Lastly, the Treasurer objects to the rate of the tax; not the nature of the tax, but the rate. The Treasurer seems to be saying that maybe a reduction from nine per cent to seven per cent – yes, the tax will be less of a tax grab at seven per cent, but the tax is no less regressive at seven percent than it is at nine percent. There is a principle to be upheld here, so how can the Treasurer say that he is not opposed to the idea of the GST in principle? That was his exact comment in the Toronto Star of 1 November 1988. It is precisely in principle that the Treasurer should be opposed to the GST.
Sales taxes are the most regressive taxes of all, and I think it is time to wake up and smell the coffee, as my leader told some of the trade unionists today. This government is wrong when it says that the sales tax is a fair tax, “It’s up front, it’s democratic and people know where it comes from.” Once again, the Treasurer’s remarks in the Toronto Star of 27 May 1988. The fact that the tax is visible does not make it fair.
I would like to urge the Treasurer to return to liberal doctrine and refocus on the writings of some of its most eloquent exponents. I think it was John Stuart Mill, after all, who said, “Equality in taxation means equality of sacrifice.”
I cannot leave without two or three comments that I think really put some of this in focus. Treasurer Robert Nixon, the Toronto Star, to repeat once again, 27 May 1988: “We think sales tax is a fair tax. It is up front, it is democratic and people know where it is coming from.”
I can recall sitting down with the Treasurer of this province in the standing committee on finance and economic affairs and hearing him say that in principle he opposed this idea, but -- and then he went into the amount of money. As I have said before, you could almost see the dollar that sales taxes can produce in the province signs going around in the Treasurer’s eyes. How easy it is.
Sales taxes, all of us know, are not fair. Tax fairness means, as far as we are concerned, a minimum corporate tax. Tax fairness means that over 700,000 individuals earning less than $10,000 per year should not be paying income tax. Tax fairness means that the kind of breaks that we have for the hundreds and thousands of, in many cases, major corporations that are paying no taxes today should not be in that position and that the loopholes should not be there for the wealthy in this province.
I think we have to point out that in 1985 provincial sales taxes -- and I say this because of the remarks made by my colleague -- and I forget the riding but the former government whip -- the member for Middlesex (Mr Reycraft) about the increased taxes that the Tories have brought about federally since they took office. I would point out to him that in 1985 provincial sales tax in Ontario was seven per cent and raised $5 billion. By 1989 the Liberals had an eight per cent sales tax that raised $8.6 billion. I want to tell the members that this government is doling as much of a grab on the ordinary people in this province as the federal Tories are doing, so I do not think this government can get away with that kind of an argument.
Gas taxes have increased from 8.8 cents per litre to 11.3 cents in the same period of time and 14.3 cents per leaded litre. Property taxes double the rate of inflation in most municipalities, and there is a direct tie-in to the cutbacks in transfer funding to local municipalities. The figures are available for all the major regions in this province. The tax grab that has already come from this government equals anything the Tories are doing.
I think the message that has to get out and will get out to the people is simply that we have two parties here, obviously from the comments of the leader of the Tory party earlier, desperate not to be left alone trying to defend themselves in this issue, and no clear message. Maybe this Treasurer will come down finally saying, “We will have nothing to do with it,” but I doubt it, from the comments I have heard in this debate so far; but no clear message from this party as to what it is going to do in terms of the GST. As a matter of fact, the comments we are getting in the paper are that, simply, some kind of deal worked out would be much more efficient and much better for the province of Ontario.
It is a sad day, whether people like it or not, when a member has to stand in this House and say that he simply does not trust what he is being told by a government in the province of Ontario. I do not like being in that position. I do not care how partisan we get in this House, but I have to tell the members, when I hear comments come from this government about what it is going to do or not going to do, whether it is taxes or free trade or auto insurance, I do not trust them one iota, and I do not think the people in this province should either.
It really is something when we look at what we are facing in this debate and why it is so doggone important that people do start thinking seriously about what all of us are saying and then make their judgement on who is right or who is wrong.
We are now going to see up to a nine per cent, or whatever they come up with, tax assessed, on not only all the items that I mentioned earlier -- heating and electricity bills, funerals, taxi fares, haircuts, real estate and legal fees on all homes, postage stamps when you want to write to your friends. My God, what they are doing with this tax is almost sacrilegious.
We do not have any clear indication that we can expect any real defence in the hard, solid terms that my colleague has suggested from the Liberal government of the province of Ontario. I say shame on them and I say a pox on both their houses.
Mr J. M. Johnson: Just before I get into the debate, I might just mention to the member for Hamilton East that he should not be in such bad humour and disappointed with the comments made by my leader. After all, his Hamilton Tiger Cats did win the eastern division of the Canadian Football League, and with a little bit of luck they may go all the way. So the member should be a little more charitable towards my leader. We need a lot of charity just now.
I am pleased to participate in this debate and to put on the record some of the concerns of my constituents and many of the municipalities that I represent, and concerns about taxation in general, including the goods and services tax.
I start by saying, quite clearly, that I cannot support the resolution as presented by my good friend the member for Nickel Belt (Mr Laughren): “This House resolves that given the regressive nature of the federal goods and services tax, this Liberal government will, under no circumstances, participate in a joint federal-provincial sales tax on goods and services.”
I think the member for Nickel Belt really did not mean that, under any circumstances. There must have been a slip in typing or something. He did not write it. My colleagues think that perhaps his leader drafted his speech and the member did not read it, but I cannot accept the logic that under no circumstances should provincial and federal governments work together to design a simple and fair tax base. I think it is the opposite.
Both the federal and provincial governments should be working towards implementing a national sales tax. It just does not make sense, a federal GST and a provincial retail sales tax.
I was in business for over 30 years and it was a darned nuisance collecting the provincial sales tax. It started out at three per cent and steadily rose until it is now eight per cent, heading towards nine.
It is a problem for the small retailers to collect the tax now. It will be dramatically compounded by getting into the GST, and it just does not make sense that the Treasurer has to be so stubborn that he cannot work with the federal Minister of Finance and implement one tax. He should give it serious consideration.
I am sure that everyone here would agree, certainly the two members from the New Democratic Party, that the present manufacturers sales tax is not acceptable and should be abolished. If the manufacturers sales tax is eliminated and if Canada is to be competitive in exporting in the world markets, then it should and must be eliminated. This is the case and the tax base must be replaced by some other tax. Federal, provincial and municipal needs are not reduced; in fact, they are continuing to increase, and we need some form of taxation.
The member for Hamilton East has suggested there are several other methods. He says that they brought it to the attention of this House on numerous occasions. Perhaps the member for Nickel Belt, when he sums up, could just highlight these areas where he would like to see taxes increased to offset this.
Mr Laughren: Did Bob Runciman write this speech?
The Acting Speaker (Mr Cureatz): Order. I would like to bring to all members’ attention that as I was watching the monitor, my predecessor indicated that comments should be made directly through the chair. That is in regard to those particular members who are speaking and those who are interjecting who are not in their places.
Mr J. M. Johnson: The federal finance minister, the honourable Michael Wilson, has indicated on numerous occasions that he is willing to sit down with the premiers or the treasurers if they can bring to the table an alternative to the GST which they will support. What alternatives have the Premier or Treasurer, or indeed the member for Nickel Belt, presented? None that I am aware of that are meaningful, none that will replace the manufacturer’s tax. Perhaps, as I mentioned earlier, the member for Nickel Belt can comment on this later. I wonder if the member for Nickel Belt is really presenting this resolution in preparation for his convention next week in Winnipeg and this is a platform that may be adopted.
However, in all fairness, I do commend that same member for trying to ferret out the Premier’s position, and indeed the provincial Liberals’ position, on this issue respecting our tax system in this province and this country.
That is not easy. I strongly believe the federal government and the provincial government have a responsibility to work together in the best interests of the same people we all serve, our constituents. On this note, I would like to add a third level of government, our municipal governments, which also serve these same people.
As I mentioned earlier, many of my constituents have expressed concern to me about all levels of taxation, gas tax, tire tax, provincial sales tax, personal income tax, lot levies, income tax, the proposed GST, as well as municipal taxes, and I question very much whether the Treasurer could list the number of taxes he collects. Quite frankly, they are all sick to death of the taxes that are being levied on them, but as long as people want the services provided by the three levels of government, then most of our good citizens will accept a fair and equitable tax system. That is the responsibility of all the members of this Legislature, to work together with our federal colleagues and our municipal politicians and devise such a system.
At this time I would like to read into the record a resolution from the town of Palmerston, county of Wellington, that highlights its frustration with the present system of taxation and financing of its civic needs. A letter was sent out to all the clerks:
“Please find enclosed a resolution passed by the council of the corporation of the town of Palmerston at its regular meeting of Tuesday, October 10, 1989 regarding recent provincial initiatives for consideration by the council of your municipality.
“The issues of provincial funding and transfer of responsibilities are very important to all municipalities and have direct implications on everyone’s future taxation. Please have your council review this resolution and consider supporting it.
“The council of the corporation of the town of Palmerston would appreciate being notified of any action that your council takes on this matter. Thanking you in advance, I remain
“Yours very truly,”
Larry Adams, clerk-treasurer of the town of Palmerston.
To read the resolution into the record, resolution of the town of Palmerston, C-410-89:
“That, whereas local government revenues have not kept pace with increasing demands for funds; and
“Whereas local government revenue sources are limited by provincial statute; and
“Whereas the province of Ontario has displayed a tendency to transfer many added responsibilities to local governments while at the same time effectively reducing or eliminating various grants and subsidies; and
“Whereas this tendency seriously impairs the ability of local governments to execute local priorities and respond to local demands without incurring excessive debt;
“Therefore be it resolved that the transfer of responsibilities from the province to the local level be suspended; and further
“That the province of Ontario immediately commission a report whose terms of reference shall include but not be limited to:
“(1) scope of demands on local governments revenues; (2) scope of local government revenue sources; (3) adequacy of existing local government revenue sources and (4) recommendation for future provincial funding commitments;
“That pending receipt of the final report and action on its recommendations, all existing provincial unconditional grants be retained and increased January 1 of each year by the previous year’s rate of inflation; and further
“That this resolution be circulated to all Wellington county municipalities requesting their support and to Jack Johnson, MPP.”
It was carried, and I am very pleased and proud to support this resolution.
The following municipalities supported this resolution: the towns of Palmerston, Fergus and Harriston; the townships of Erin, Eramosa, Maryborough, Peel, Pilkington, Puslinch and West Luther. I am sure that most of the other municipalities in Wellington, and indeed in Ontario, would be very supportive of this Palmerston resolution.
In conclusion, may I just say that instead of following the recommendations of the member for Nickel Belt’s resolution, “under no circumstances” should federal and provincial governments participate in a joint tax program, I submit the opposite, that indeed they have an obligation and a responsibility to all Canadians to work together to implement tax measures that are fair and equitable to all.
The Acting Speaker: The honourable member for York Mills.
Mr J. B. Nixon: Thank you, Mr Speaker. I welcome you to your new responsibilities. I am late. I know, but it is the first time I have had to congratulate you.
I want to do three things very briefly. First, I want to talk about the impact of the general sales tax on the housing market and the supply of affordable housing. Second, I want to talk about the impact of the GST on small businesses generally. Third, I want to talk about the context in which the provincial treasurers must operate in terms of dealing with the federal government, the federal Minister of Finance and their determination to proceed with this tax.
On the issue of housing and affordable housing, we all know that the proponents of the GST are proposing to tax new housing. They suggest that they will tax it a lower rate than the nine per cent. They are talking about taxing it at 4.5 per cent.
The problem is the federal government does not have its facts right yet. The technical paper that the federal government produced estimated the impact of the GST on new housing to be in the order of 0.3 per cent, or $480 for the average price of a new home.
Canadian home builders took a look at this. Canadian home builders applied the tax rate to the real cost of housing and found out that the average cost of the GST is $3,000 across Canada. In Toronto, it is $9,200. That is how much every consumer in Toronto who buys an average new home will pay as a result of the GST. That is a big problem.
Some people have said the price of the GST is not applied to rental housing.
Mr Villeneuve: How much are the lot levies? Talk about them.
Mr J. B. Nixon: Well, it is true; no tenant will pay the goods and services tax on his rent. Nine per cent will not be tacked on to his rent every month --
Mr Wiseman: Land transfer tax, the lot levies.
Mr J. B. Nixon: -- but nine per cent will be tacked on to all the goods and services that the landlord purchases, and if members think the landlord is going to eat those costs, they have another thing to think about. The landlord is going to pass those costs through to the tenants, so that nine per cent GST will apply to tenants just as much as it is going to apply to new home buyers.
Now, Mr Blenkarn is suggesting, or we hear rumours that he is going to suggest, that the GST should apply to used homes or resales. Suffice it to say that housing in Metro Toronto, housing in the province of Ontario is going to cost thousands, in some cases tens of thousands, of dollars more because of the GST.
Mr Villeneuve: How about lot levies?
Mr Speaker, do me a favour and calm these gentlemen down. Calm them down, will you? Do your duty.
Mr Wiseman: Tell us what taxes you put on.
The Acting Speaker (Mr Breaugh): Order, please. I have a member in distress here. It would be helpful. There seem to be a number of conversations going on in the chamber. I have no objection to that, just take it somewhere else and have your conversation. The member for York Mills has the floor, just barely.
Mr J. B. Nixon: I wanted to talk, second, about the impact of the GST on small business. The Canadian Federation of Independent Business recently issued a report. They called the GST the nightmare on Main Street; not Elm Street, but Main Street.
They make two essential points. They are very concerned about the high rate of tax. They are also concerned about the two-tiered structure. What do I mean by the two-tiered structure? Simply, there is a federal GST applied at nine per cent and there are provincial rates of sales tax varying from province to province, some as high as 12 per cent, I understand, in Newfoundland.
Let me say that what will happen under the existing proposal is that the province in its jurisdiction will apply the provincial sales tax; the federal government will apply the federal goods and services tax. Those are the two tiers. Under the GST, many small businesses will have to buy new cash registers just to compute two levels of taxation.
The problem is that some goods they sell will be federally tax exempt; some goods they sell will be provincially tax exempt; some will be exempt from both; some will be exempt from neither. For a small business that has to retain an accountant to take care of its books, that is not a simple prospect. It is not something they can take care of because they have to have a guy in there looking at both accounts, valuing every purchase and determining whether or not the tax applies or does not apply, and then remitting tax to the appropriate authorities.
The CFIB says and I quote, “This is complex and costly for smaller firms and belies the federal government’s promises of a sales tax system that small business could administer with their existing books of account.” They also point out, quite correctly, that a two-tiered system is inordinately costly to government since an enormous new federal bureaucracy of 4,000 civil servants is needed.
I remind my friends in the Progressive Conservative Party that those 4,000 federal civil servants will take care of collecting their leader’s tax. If they support the GST, they should stand up and say so. If they support the hiring of 4,000 more civil servants to collect the tax, they should stand up and say so. I have a problem with that. Many of my constituents do, as do theirs. I am sure.
The problem is not easily resolved. The CFIB suggests that the current GST proposal be withdrawn and the federal government reopen negotiations with the provinces with a view to achieving a simple, harmonized federal-provincial sales tax. That is what the Canadian Federation of Independent Business says: “Scrap the tax, reopen negotiations, and let’s start talking about a simple, harmonized tax.”
The CFIB is one lobby group. There are other lobby groups. The Consumers’ Association of Canada probably has a different view on many matters than the CFIB. I know they do, quite different points of view. But their financial expert, their consumer advocate in Toronto, Tom Delaney, recently wrote in the London Free Press and the Financial Post that there are many problems with the GST and there is no doubt about it.
Mr Delaney also suggests, and I suggest to the member for Nickel Belt that he will be interested in this:
“Instead of hiring 4,000 more federal civil servants, the GST could be collected by provincial governments which would reimburse the federal Treasury, as the federal government does with provincial income tax. Alternatively, a combined federal and provincial sales tax administration could also utilize provincial expertise for greater economy.”
I am not putting this forward as anything other than the Consumers’ Association of Canada saying: “Don’t hire 4,000 civil servants. Harmonize the tax. Have the provinces and the federal government work together for a change.”
Mr Speaker, you know that this is not our tax. This is a tax that was announced in the budget in 1989 by the federal Minister of Finance, Michael Wilson, fully supported by the Prime Minister of Canada, Brian Mulroney. They sat down, they wanted to talk to the provinces, they started talking to the provinces and then, unilaterally, Michael Wilson withdrew. I understand he was very gentlemanly about it, but he did withdraw: no more discussions, end of discussions.
The premiers of all 10 provinces issued a press release after their recent conference -- all 10 premiers, all four parties -- and stressed the need for intergovernmental co-operation to address the issue. No one likes the nine per cent, no one likes the choice of exemptions, no one likes the way it is applied, no one likes the tax. But everyone agrees, but for the member for Nickel Belt, that the premiers, the Minister of Finance, the Prime Minister and the treasurers must continue to discuss and negotiate. Otherwise, this Nightmare on Elm Street is going to become a nightmare in our home towns.
Finally, the member for Nickel Belt -- and this is a point that has been underscored by other speakers; the leader of the third party has made the point and I am sure others following me will make the point -- in the drafting of this resolution dooms it to go nowhere when he says that under no circumstances should a province participate. A province has an obligation as a member of this Confederation to discuss and ensure that its taxpayers are protected and well represented. If the member does not believe that, he should stand up and say that.
The fact is that by refusing to participate, we are going to end up with 4,000 more civil servants in Ottawa and the worst tax we have ever seen applied to our constituents, the businesses and the unions in our hometowns. We cannot run away from it; we have got to deal with it; we have got to deal with it as properly and in an as upfront manner as we possibly can. We cannot run away from it, I say to the member. We have got to deal with it, and that is what I urge this House to do when the members oppose this motion.
Mr Morin-Strom: I am pleased to be able to speak in support of the resolution of my colleague the member for Nickel Belt today before the House.
Surely this is something that we can all in this House support. It is with some difficulty that I hear members of the Liberal Party suggest that while they are opposed to Brian Mulroney, Michael Wilson and the federal Conservatives moving on a goods and services tax, they will not take a principled approach and endorse a resolution which would clearly indicate the opposition of all the members of this Legislature to participation in such a tax grab by the federal government.
Instead we have got a Liberal Party that speaks in opposition to the motion but wants to keep its opportunities, its ability to be a part of that tax grab and to deliver to the consumers in Ontario a double whammy, a double taxation, a much broader tax base than the current sales taxes, a much more unfair tax base than is currently being proposed by the federal government, to become a partner with that same federal government in hitting consumers with that double taxation.
I cannot understand how we can have a party which claims to be opposed to an initiative and then behind the scenes continues to be supportive of it. We have a Treasurer here in the province of Ontario who has indicated his support for the principle behind this federal tax proposal. It is quite clear that this Premier would like to be able to use the federal proposal on the GST for the political opportunism that it provides to him in speaking up opposed to this tax, in pretending to protect Ontario consumers against Brian Mulroney and the federal government, while we have a Treasurer and Treasury officials in the province of Ontario at the same time continuing to negotiate behind the scenes with the federal government to come up with an amalgamated tax.
Just last week we heard the Treasurer again stating his position that he would like to see an amalgamation of the current provincial sales tax with the federal proposal for a goods and services tax, an opportunity whereby the provincial government will be able to get additional revenues on a basis that is surely far from being fair to the taxpayers of the province of Ontario, and hit the consumers again.
When it comes to regressive taxes under this Liberal government, the record certainly has not been a good one since 1985. This government has talked about open, fair taxes, but it has not delivered. Given the large increases in regressive consumption and sales taxes that have occurred in the past four and a half years under Liberal rule, it is literally the height of hypocrisy for the Liberals to complain about the federal goods and services tax.
In 1985, the provincial sales tax was seven per cent and raised some $5 billion here in the province of Ontario. Today, in 1989, the Liberals with their eight per cent sales tax are now raising some $8.6 billion, in four years nearly a doubling in the total sales tax revenues coming in to the provincial coffers. At the same time in other areas, major increases in regressive taxes have been implemented under this Liberal government.
Gasoline taxes have gone from 8.8 cents per litre in 1985 to some 11.3 cents per litre for unleaded gas today and 14.3 cents per litre for leaded gasoline today. The gasoline tax increase is a particularly hard hit for residents of northern Ontario. During the minority government, the New Democratic Party insisted that there would be no tax increases on gasoline. We were able to hold this government to it during that period, but again, the consumers got hit in the head by this government once it got its majority in 1987.
This year, we have seen property tax increases double the rate of inflation in many municipalities across this province because of provincial cutbacks in transfer funds to local governments. This government has taken the approach whenever it can of passing the buck to local municipalities and local taxpayers.
One looks at the underfunding of the education system in Ontario, with the result that regressive property taxes are again being increased across the province. In 1985, the provincial government funded some 47 per cent of education expenditures. This year, that level of funding has dropped to 43 per cent, despite the government’s political commitment in the last two election campaigns to move that funding up to the historical 60 per cent level that it was back in the 1970s.
In the last Liberal budget, among other new tax increases that have hit consumers, the government applied a new $5-per-tire increase for the purchase of cars and replacement tires for vehicles. In 1989, the Liberals also raised the cost of passenger vehicle registrations from $27 to $33 in the north and there were even greater increases for residents here in southern Ontario.
I know that the opposition to this tax is at tremendous levels right across the province of Ontario. In Sault Ste Marie I have had the opportunity to talk to many local residents with regard to this tax increase. I and my federal colleague have held tax hearings in Sault Ste Marie. We had the opportunity to hear input from the business community, from consumers, from organizations, social service agencies, health organizations, from the farm community in Sault Ste Marie. The opposition is complete to the goods and services tax. There is certainly no interest whatsoever in having this provincial government join with the federal government in a joint double whammy which would hit all consumers, all businesses, all service agencies in the province of Ontario.
People have expressed their opinion in polls across Canada. The opposition to this tax is clear and unequivocal. The effects of this tax are going to be most severely felt by low-income Canadians. We heard in Sault Ste Marie presentations from the Antipoverty Coalition, from representatives of the local soup kitchen, from representatives of Women for Women, expressing particular concern about how those on fixed incomes, those who are living on welfare or unemployment, pensioners, are going to be able to absorb the kind of increase that will result from the goods and services tax.
There is no indication that fixed-income earners, that pensioners, are going to get any kind of increase in their income to match the additional costs they are going to have to pay for the goods and services they need to maintain even a meagre style of life. The difficulties of this kind of tax are ones that have focused most clearly on those least able to pay.
In the business community, one has to have serious concerns about how they are going to absorb these cost increases, particularly in communities like Sault Ste Marie, border communities, where the competition puts retail operators in direct competition with American operations on the other side of the border. The opportunity for sales and for business to leave Ontario and go into Michigan or New York state or Quebec in our border communities will be a very serious concern resulting from any major increase in consumption taxes.
The farm community is particularly concerned by the proposals, particularly with respect to the timing of payments on a goods and services tax. They, of course, have to make considerable investments in terms of materials, in terms of seed, in terms of labour which they have to put into their business, adding to their debt load every year before they get the revenues back at the end of the season when they are able to sell their products. This tax will have to be paid on those inputs, tax that will have to be paid up front and add to the debt load of our farming community.
Surely we can have here in Ontario a government that does not only provide rhetoric in opposition to this kind of tax proposal, but also will provide a clear commitment of opposition and an absolute commitment that it will not participate in a joint regressive tax scheme as has been proposed by the federal government. This government knows the kinds of regressive tax reform proposals that have come forward from Michael Wilson over the past several years.
Instead of looking at more joint efforts of taxing and hitting the consumers of this province, this province should be looking at going its own way when it comes to taxation in Ontario. We know that in the area of personal income taxes, this province and the federal government have not moved on a minimum tax on corporations and on a minimum tax on high-income earners.
This province has the right to devise its own income tax formula and go it alone with its own tax system, which could create a fairer, more equitable tax system for the residents of Ontario. Why should the Treasurer of Ontario be dependent upon a federal government that continues to move towards a more and more regressive tax system? We should be going our own way and standing up for the kind of tax fairness we as a province believe in.
If this government really believed in tax fairness, it would not be proposing amalgamation of tax schemes and tax resources; it would be looking at a fair system, a made-in-Ontario system, that would be in the best interests of all the consumers and all the taxpayers of this province. That is what I ask for, a commitment from this Treasurer right now, and I hope we see it at the end of this debate.
Mr Wiseman: First of all, I would like to say that I associate my remarks with those of our leader. I say to the member for Nickel Belt, whom I have known in this Legislature for some time, that I am sure he really did not write this motion which we are discussing today. If he did, I think he did it in one of his weaker moments, because anyone who would put in here, as my leader said earlier, that under no circumstances should we participate with the federal government in this matter, I think is wrong. It has been said before and that is why I am a little discouraged to see that, after all the committees I sat on with him, he could not be a little more progressive in his thinking than he was this afternoon.
I too do not like the tax as it is presently written, but as has been said so many times this afternoon all three federal parties have said they need some sort of tax to replace the present goods and services tax. We know -- I know the Treasurer knows -- that the goods and services tax as it is presently written is costing us a lot of jobs out there in the manufacturing industry. That is why I cannot for the life of me believe our friends in the New Democratic Party are opposed to this, because it will create more jobs and probably give them more union dues and so on and so forth. They should be in favour of this.
I would like to see the ministers -- I understand our minister of finance for the province will be meeting with other ministers in December, and knowing him as long as I have in this Legislature, which is about 18 years, I feel he will probably be taking to that table -- I hope he will -- as he was earlier on in this conversation, a different approach than he is at the present time
I say this because at one of the committees the member for Nickel Belt and I were on, and we were in Ottawa, I happened to recognize at breakfast some of the Minister of Revenue’s chief personnel who were there. Having been Minister of Government Services and having known them when we were building the building at Oshawa, I said to them, “What are you doing here?” They said, “We are here to talk about what will take place when this goods and services tax comes through, and what personnel we will be shifting to Ottawa because we will probably be phasing down and some of our key people will be going there.”
A lot has happened since last spring. I know the Treasurer to be a fair person, but I think the fellow that sits on his left has given him a marching order that is a little difficult for him to follow, being the fair-minded person he is.
I really wonder if it is because the Premier has told the Treasurer that he wants him to go in a different direction that he has changed his mind since last spring, when some of the Revenue officials told me personally that they were down there to discuss it and so on. I think this is the way they should go, with one tax collected similarly to what we do with our income tax right now, with the federal government collecting it and sending on the portion to the province. Surely to goodness there is some way, some mechanism that all the finance ministers can come up with, so that a portion of whatever tax percentage it is can go to the province and the other to the federal government.
I think all of us, and all my constituents, are fed up with taxes. They see local taxes going up as a result of many of the shifts that are being shifted down to them from the provincial government.
Mr Ballinger: Oh, get serious.
Mr Wiseman: Oh, I am.
Mr Ballinger: You don’t believe that for a minute.
Mr Wiseman: We can name a few of them here if he would like --
Mr Ballinger: Start with the feds first.
Mr Wiseman: -- such as this government’s cutting back. As our director of education in Lanark county said, look at what we are getting now from the government for assistance to schools. Look at what this government is doing for the policing in the area. Look at what they are doing to cut back on hospitals, 15 per cent, and putting in a lot levy that they have to collect. There are all these things and we could go on and on.
I also think that when the Treasurer is talking with his federal counterpart and the Premier is talking to the Prime Minister there should be some policing there -- right now it is the manufacturers’ tax -- to make sure that retailers return that portion to the purchasers. I am afraid that without some sort of policing mechanism, that will not go back to the people it should.
I think now of the case, of the one I am familiar with. At the present time there is 13 per cent on shoes. If it goes at nine per cent or seven per cent, whatever it would be, there should be a reduction in the cost of that footwear. There certainly will be in the case of the ones I have anything to do with, but I think there should be a policing mechanism to make sure it is turned back to make it fair.
I just have a few things here. I know quite a few members want to get on and say what they have to. All of us throughout the province and throughout Canada are sick and tired of tax increases. As I said before, whatever level it is at, we do not want a tax revolt such as they had down in California but I hear people talking along that line and it scares me.
We would never have heard of that 17 or 18 years ago when I came here. Gradually, all levels of government are taking a bite out of the people. I know that if members are listening to their people back in their ridings, they are telling them the same thing, “We see services going down at the same time the cost to we who pay the taxes is going up.”
We see moving kids out of schools into portable classrooms and all these things are deteriorating at the same time the Treasurer is raising, I believe, about $42 billion. When I was in cabinet, I think the amount was something around $26 billion or $27 billion and at that time we were transferring more. But I do not want to get into politics here because the members opposite know what good responsible government was when we were the government for so long and what it has fallen to at the present time.
Before the Treasurer gets away, I am hopeful that he will continue to push the Premier and himself to sit at the bargaining table and let reason prevail, because we do not want to do as the member for Nickel Belt says. We want to have consultation with one another. We are trying to get together. We have heard their leader on Meech Lake and what they are trying to do there.
Just in summing up, there are a few points I would like to leave. We do need a replacement for the manufacturers’ tax and we all agree on that, I am sure. The finance minister should work for one tax, similar to what we are presently doing with our federal income tax. It cannot help but save money. We have heard different ones say there will be about 4,000 more federal civil servants. Perhaps we could collect both taxes with the same amount. We must have that many collecting the provincial tax at the present time. There would be a saving to the taxpayers.
In there too, whatever level it is at, I would like there to be a commitment that if there is more tax collected than there presently is under the manufacturers’ tax, that tax will be earmarked and not spent for anything else but reducing the debt. Then people would take it seriously and would, I think, pay it a little more graciously than they would if they just think it is going in for more programs for whatever level of government it is.
Again, I would recommend that the minister of finance listen carefully. He will get a copy of Hansard with my leader’s suggestions and I think if he follows that, along with some good common sense of his own, we will have a working relationship with the federal government and with the other provinces that will be better for all the taxpayers, not only of Ontario but of Canada, and will make something that is more workable than the piece of legislation that is there right now.
Hon Mrs Caplan: I am pleased to rise today and participate in this debate. The agenda that is before us is of course a challenging one. When I read the member’s resolution, I had some concerns because it seemed very simplistic. While I do not question the intent of the member’s resolution, I do believe it is misguided. I want to say that the reason I come to this conclusion is that no one likes taxes. In fact, we all acknowledge and recognize the need of the Treasurer and the Minister of Revenue to raise, through taxes, the resources that are needed to fund the programs that are so important and valuable to the people of this province.
I would like to speak about some of my own experiences as a municipal politician for quite some time. As an alderman in the city of North York, I was very aware of the important role municipalities play in this province, of the important services they provide. Many of the issues those serving at the municipal level encounter are issues that have to do with potholes, planning or parks. Often they involve the people in their communities, the pets in their multiple-family dwellings and an irritant that often municipal people have to deal with, such as parking.
I often describe the municipal arena as having to do with people, pets, parking, potholes, planning and parks, and when the humour of those kinds of comments pass we know that the services that are provided by the municipalities are very valuable. They are the kinds of services people can relate to, because all of these directly affect people. Often they have to do with their neighbours, what happens next door to them, the park down the street.
The concerns I have are that the present federal proposals regarding this new tax, I think, will have a significant impact on our municipalities. I want members of this House to know that I believe it will also have a negative impact potentially on our universities and our schools, and most certainly potentially on our hospitals, all of which we discuss as transfer payment agencies, each one being independent of government and relying on transfer payments. In the case of municipalities, they have the opportunity through the property taxes to raise the revenues they need to deliver services and programs to the people in their municipalities.
We know that all of these transfer payment agencies -- hospitals, universities, boards of education as well as the municipalities -- receive significant dollars very generously from our Treasurer. In total, I believe that this year the amount going to transfer payment agencies totals some $17 billion. Hospitals alone this year will be receiving some $6 billion from the Treasury of the province of Ontario. A full third of the total provincial budget, very significant dollars, go to the Ministry of Health, of which $6 billion, of the ministry’s almost $14 billion, go to our hospitals.
We look at this proposal from the federal government that will impose a further tax on those transfer payment agencies, without having any kind of open and appropriate consultation to ensure that the interests of those transfer payment agencies, the interests of Ontario are met.
I want the members of this House to know that what I am concerned about is the fact that the federal government unilaterally broke off the kinds of discussions that would have ensured the Treasurer of this province could have forcefully advocated for the interests of the people of Ontario, for our transfer payment agencies, our hospitals, our municipalities and our school boards, to ensure that when the federal government, as is its right, brings forward its version of tax reform and when it does as it must or as it will, impose whatever kinds of taxation it determines in the federal forum is appropriate, my concern is that the consultation, the discussions that are so necessary, take place with the Treasurer of this province so that the responsibilities that we have in this Legislature ensure that Ontario citizens and Ontario’s transfer payment agencies are treated fairly and that we accept our responsibility to advocate on their behalf in the most appropriate forum.
I believe the resolution that is before us in the House today would not permit us to make sure, through consultation and co-operative discussions with the federal government, that our Treasurer would be able to ensure that Ontarians and Ontario transfer payment agencies, in fact, do not get shortchanged with regard to this new federal tax.
We know how important it is for the Treasurer to be able to be in a position to advocate forcefully in the interests not only of the people of this province, but also to be able to be an advocate for the transfer payment agencies -- the hospitals, municipalities and the school boards.
I was very impressed with the proposal that our Treasurer took to a meeting of the finance ministers in April of 1989. At that meeting, which was on the national sales tax proposals of the federal government, the suggestion was that a zero rating for municipalities, universities, colleges, schools and hospitals would be the only treatment which would provide for the necessary fiscal safeguards for the province of Ontario and for its major transfer payment agencies.
This is the kind of advocacy that our Treasurer takes to the table at meetings of ministers of finance. I think it is very important when we discuss any proposal by the federal government that we acknowledge the need to have that kind of co-operative attitude, and not in advance of those kinds of discussions say to the Treasurer: “Your hands are tied. Under no circumstances can you discuss or negotiate the best interests of the people of this province.”
I feel that is not only an inappropriate direction from the members of this House to our Treasurer, but it would not be in the public interest of the people of this province. I do not believe it would be in the interests of any of the transfer payment agencies or, in fact, the small businesses that look to the Treasurer and Minister of Economics to understand how any tax must and should be fairly applied to be responsive to the realities of those in Ontario who contribute not only to the provincial consolidated revenue fund, but also so generously, and sometimes we think very generously, to the federal coffers as well.
I realize it is important for government programs to be appropriately funded. Certainly, as Minister of Health, taking a full third of all the provincial revenues, almost $14 billion this year, we know that 85 per cent of the Ministry of Health revenues are going to the traditional institutional sectors, the hospitals and the doctors.
As we look at the response from the federal government, which has been a decline in its participation in transfer payments to the provinces from 50 per cent to 38 per cent over the course of the last few years, we understand how important it is for Ontario to be able to advocate appropriately for the interest of its citizens and to be able to discuss its needs. Also, whether it is tax reform, program redesign, federal participation, whether it happens to be in health care, in education, we know how very important it is for the ministers of this government not to enter those negotiations and those discussions in anything other than an attitude of co-operation and discussion and a desire to ensure that the best interests of the people of this province are met and sustained.
I have absolute confidence that when our Treasurer enters those arenas with his colleagues from across the provinces or with the federal officials and federal ministers, this province has never and will never see a better advocate on behalf of this province in the interests of fairness and in the interests of appropriateness than the kind of advocacy and the kind of co-operative approach that our Treasurer in good humour always takes in those forums and with his colleagues from across the country.
We know there are many alternatives open to the federal government. Certainly there is always the co-operative approach, but one of the most viable alternatives, I believe, is the current proposal by our Treasurer for what I refer to as zero-rate status for our transfer payment agencies. We know that in order to do that it will take co-operation, co-operation between the provinces and the federal government.
If we are to be responsible and if we are to appropriately fund the programs that are so important to the people of this province, then we know that taxes are necessary. We have an obligation and a responsibility to make sure that all of our resources are used effectively, that we evaluate everything we do so that we can tell the people of this province they are getting good value for the tax dollars they entrust to our care.
We also know how very, very important it is for us to be able to prioritize across the government between the ministries so that when we allocate our resources the people of this province can judge us very, very surely and clearly because we have been clear about our priorities, we have set our goals and we have evaluated our programs to make sure they are effective in delivering the kinds of services to the people of this province which they tell us are so important to them.
So we recognize how very important it is that any proposal around tax reform, any proposals for new taxes, be reviewed and scrutinized not only by the people of this province but also by the government of Ontario to ensure that in fact we have the opportunity to advocate appropriately, to be able to negotiate with the federal government and to be able to ensure that we are not taking the simplistic approach of my friend opposite who would just say, “Under no circumstances should you even talk.” That is not an appropriate approach and in fact I would argue that is the head-in-the-sand approach that says, “Just let them do to us what they will.”
If he thinks about it, I know the position he would want to take. That is, that in fact we in this Legislature, and certainly those of us on this side of the House, should be advocates for the people of this province. I want to assure him our Treasurer will take that role and that is why I will not be supporting this resolution.
Mr Villeneuve: It is a pleasure to also participate in this debate, to simply support the statement as made by the leader of our party and by the members of our party who participated.
There is a 13.5 percent manufacturers’ tax in place now, something that makes it very, very difficult for our small and larger manufacturers to compete on the world stage. As Europe is opening right up to markets and the Americans are opening right up to markets, the 13.5 per cent, if not removed, would make it very difficult for us to even think about competing, leave alone trying to be in the same ballpark. So we have to look at that in a very positive light.
None of us likes to see additional taxes, although in this Legislature on numerous budgets, particularly since 1987, we have been subjected to some fairly drastic increases in taxes. We may talk a little bit about that.
The transfer payments from the federal level went up by seven per cent last year. There is talk about. “Well, we all want to cut down on spending.” Yes, maybe governments at all levels are overspending. but remember an increase of seven per cent in federal transfer payments came from Ottawa to the province of Ontario last year. We passed that on, and look at what sort of increases were transferred to school boards and to municipalities, for instance: we see a flat-lining at the municipal level and an actual reduction at the school board level.
So this government, yes, has reduced spending, has accepted more money from the federal level and, however, wherever that money has gone, $42 billion this year will have been spent in whatever fashion this government sees fit without passing it on to the lower levels of government which it is directly responsible for.
My friend the member for Cornwall (Mr Cleary) is sitting here. A federal Liberal task force went to Cornwall earlier this year, a couple of months ago, and the main subjects were the lack of funding for the municipal infrastructure, roads, sewage disposal systems and those types of lack of funding. Do members know what the federal Liberals said? The provincial Liberals were not touched too much, but they said that the federal government should be providing funding for municipal infrastructure.
There is a very clear message for me there. It is that this government at the provincial level, this Liberal government, is not providing the kind of funding that municipalities and school boards require. That is a pretty clear message.
I recall when there was a federal Liberal government in Ottawa in the early 1980s, and I think interest rates were in the area of 20 plus per cent. We did not talk about that too much. Ontario survived quite well under very good management by the government of the day; it managed very well on $28 billion, which was the last budget we as a government were responsible for. We now have some $42 billion that will be coming in and we still have a deficit, a reduced deficit. As the Treasurer said, four or five days of fiscal income at the provincial level would, indeed, wipe out the deficit.
However, it is still not a balanced budget and we are facing the very real possibility of recession. I want to touch on a few of the small manufacturers in the riding that I represent and their very grave concern about the 13.5 percent tax on the products they produce, particularly for export. And the world is at our door.
Take, for instance, Dominion Textile Inc, Caldwell Plant at Iroquois; very, very important to the economy of southwestern Dundas county. Unless that 13.5 per cent surtax is not removed from their manufactured products, they will not be able to compete. Likewise, we go to Alexandria. We have several shoe companies there, the Brown Shoe Co of Canada Ltd, for instance, Alexandria Footwear Ltd, both very important to that local economy. Mr Speaker, you are aware of that. Our federal member, for ever and always, is talking about saving them. The 13.5 percent applies to all of their products, and to their export products, under the new taxation system, would not apply at all.
So it is most important that we look at restructuring the tax. The federal Liberals when in power talked of a value added tax and were very serious about it. They left office in 1984. They were also in favour of a national sales tax. They were much in favour, as even this Treasurer was in 1987. He is on record. However, whenever it comes to crass politics, this is what we are talking about. Mark my words, if there is not a provincial election about this time next year based on exactly that subject, I think I am crystal ball gazing and I think I am right.
Hon R. F. Nixon: Mr Speaker --
Mr Cousens: Two clapped and the rest of them kept quiet.
Hon R. F. Nixon: I have two friends over here and I appreciate that.
I am interested that the official opposition has selected this topic for this particular opposition day, the last permitted in this session, at a time when the --
Mr D. S. Cooke: No, no, we have one more.
Hon R. F. Nixon: I do not think they get it.
Mr Reville: Yes, we get it.
Hon R. F. Nixon: We will see what they select.
The Deputy Speaker: Will the Treasurer --
Hon R. F. Nixon: I am concerned frankly that with the problems facing the provincial jurisdiction and our participation in the Constitution of the nation -- the needs for strengthening of our medicare program and concerns that have been expressed about our own tax base, including the employers’ health tax, the environmental concerns in the province, the transportation difficulties, some say inadequacies -- that the opposition party would choose a federal tax for a full day’s debate.
I think it is interesting. I have certainly listened to the contributions made, but in many respects it shows the barrenness of the official opposition, the paucity of leadership, the abdication of the traditional role of the official opposition, that they sort of go along with what they read yesterday in the Toronto Star and figure they might as well talk about the federal goods and services tax. There may even be people who are watching this who are under the impression we are talking about a tax over which we have jurisdiction. Of course, that is not the case. On the other hand, the opposition today is calling the shots, at least for the subject of debate, and that is what I want to speak about for the few minutes at my disposal.
I want to just mention briefly some of the history of the goods and services tax. My colleague the member for Middlesex, the parliamentary assistant who works with me, referred to the present manufacturers’ sales tax which has grown, since the Conservatives took office in Ottawa, from nine per cent to 13.5 per cent. He indicated his view about that and it is generally accepted that it is necessary that revenue be replaced by something that is not going to be so intrusive and dangerous to the economy at large. It is questionable whether the goods and services tax proposed by the government of Canada fills that bill, but certainly it does replace the revenue and then some.
We have to recall, those of us who have been around a while, not so long, that earlier in this decade, 1981, 1982 and 1983, the country, as a matter of fact the whole of the non-centrally-planned world, was suffering from a substantial economic recession and at that time this government in Ontario had difficulties with its revenue. Its programs became more expensive and its deficit ballooned to over $3 billion. The same thing was happening to the government of Canada. It had a responsibility to use ever-reducing revenues to meet government responsibilities, to support unemployment insurance, as well as a wide variety of programs that became very expensive during those unfortunate years of recession.
When the government unfortunately changed in 1984, the new Minister of Finance, Michael Wilson, still the Minister of Finance for Canada, found himself facing a situation with a very large deficit, somewhat similar to our experience in this province when we took office about a year later.
Mr Villeneuve: That was unfortunate.
Hon R. F. Nixon: I do not mind that shot.
He did a number of things to attempt to correct it. Certainly some of his tax increases were designed to reduce the deficit. Everybody in here knows that he began increasing consumer taxes, particularly gasoline and liquor taxes, taxes on cigarettes and so on, as well as certain other taxes. In that instance -- I do not know whether any of my colleagues mentioned it, the honourable member for York Mills indicated the ranges of federal taxation. But I never let a chance pass, particularly since gasoline tax was mentioned by one of the speakers for the NDP, to indicate that the federal gasoline tax is now considerably higher than the provincial tax and they do not build any roads.
So you cannot say that Michael Wilson has not raised taxes. There are those who feel that he has not raised them enough, but certainly he has not raised them enough to control the federal deficit. Even in this budgetary year, his deficit is ballooning somewhat above his projections because of the cost of public debt interest, with the response to inflation by Mr Crowe, the governor of the Bank of Canada, giving rise to ever increasing interest rates.
Mr Wilson, I think, was very straightforward. He announced to Parliament and to the electorate that he was going to reduce taxes before the election just a year ago, and he did that. He reduced certain taxes, which was well received, but he indicated also that there would be tax increases after the election. A lot of people thought this was strange, because the idea that the electorate was going to have the advantage of reduced taxes before an election and a promise of increased taxes after an election seemed to be an interesting way of approaching politics.
So you cannot say he was misleading in any way, because they had an election. It tended to be a fairly one-issue election, and you cannot really blame the Progressive Conservative government of Canada for that, because they said, “If you elect us, we are going to come in with a new tax, probably a value-added tax, that is going to increase our revenue.” They have to do that because their deficit is in a very seriously elevated situation and all of us want to see that brought under better control. So now they are simply keeping their promise.
I remember the election campaign, because the only people who spoke about the proposed value-added tax were Mr Blenkarn, who is well known across Canada. He indicated that if they brought in that tax, there would be a substantial increase in revenue. As Treasurer of Ontario, when asked about it, I said that the new tax they were proposing would certainly bring in far more revenue than the manufacturers’ sales tax which was then at 12 per cent. I indicated at that time that it would almost double in revenue and said that the tax would be in excess of $25 billion.
Frankly, I received some criticism from federal Conservatives for talking about something that they considered to be misleading, because the federal position was that any new tax would be neutral. Anybody who knows anything about this -- and that includes everybody in this room -- knows that it was never intended to be neutral in the amount of revenue that would come in. Obviously, this new tax is going to bring in far more revenue than the present tax which it will replace if the government has its way.
To be fair, I believe the Minister of Finance for Canada was not misleading anybody in any way when he said the revenue finally, the net revenue, would be the same, because he intended to pay a lot of money back to low-income Canadians so that the regressivity of the tax would be at least partially moderated; that he intended to reduce other taxes, and so his revenue for purposes of financing government programs would stay the same. Anybody who took the time to review it could see in this instance that everybody was right, and that is not often the case.
Anyway, the point is, they have said they are going to go forward, and with his announcements in his budget and in his white paper, he told us what the base of the tax would be, which would be all goods and services with certain exceptions, now including groceries, medical prosthetic devices, prescription drugs and so on. I cannot go through the whole list, but it is a relatively short list. In other words, the base is very broad.
In his white paper, he said the tax would be from eight per cent to 10 per cent. All of my figuring on that was on the basis of nine per cent and he has now said that the plan will be for a nine per cent tax.
There are lots of people who are critical of the tax; everybody, in fact, except Mr Wilson and probably his immediate family. Certainly, Conservatives in this Legislature have very properly indicated that they intend to oppose it in its present form.
Mr Blenkarn, among others, has given broad hints that when his committee reports, it is going to suggest that the rate go from nine per cent down to seven per cent and the lost revenue be made up in certain other ways. Although some parts of his report have been leaked to the press, it still has not, as far as I know, been made public, and it will be interesting to see what Mr Blenkarn proposes. Aside from the fact that he, like many of us as politicians, sometimes says things that he wishes he had not said, still I believe Blenkarn has a good reputation across Canada as a pretty strong and independent person. So we do not know what he is going to propose, but obviously he does not like the tax in its present form.
The premiers, meeting together this August, I believe it was, took thought and, after considerable discussion, indicated that they felt, and said, that the tax was unacceptable and they directed their treasurers, me included, to do some review as to the fiscal impact on our provinces, which we did. We retained the Conference Board of Canada to advise us in this matter, and that report has still not formally been made public, but at the time of the first ministers’ conference a couple of weeks ago it was made available to the press by somebody -- I do not know who. There was some comment about that, but the fiscal impact on the provinces is significant and we have already discussed that in this Legislature.
In fact, rather than worrying about the impact numbers that have come from the Ministry of Finance in Ottawa as opposed to the conference board, I think the real difference is as follows: that the Minister of Finance says that this tax essentially will be good for the economy and that benefit will be seen immediately upon its introduction proposed for 1 January 1991. He indicates that the real growth of the economy will begin at that time, and although there will be what he chooses to call a blip in inflation, it is something that will not have any deleterious effects on the economy, and the country will proceed from that. The point of view that has been expressed to me by the economists in the Ontario Treasury, and has been reflected by the Treasuries across Canada as well as many independent economists. is that there will be a substantial had economic effect in the short-to-middle-term run. In the first five years, three to five years particularly, the fiscal impact will be significant.
I do not want to go into the details now because the clock tells me I only have eight minutes left, and I have certain other things that I want to talk about, but the real difference is that the Ministry of Finance says that this tax will have good effects on the economy immediately. The government of Ontario and I, as Treasurer, with the information available to me, am quite certain that there will be a bad effect on the economy over the first three years and as a matter of fact, the fiscal impact on Ontario at the end of the third year will be cumulatively in excess of $l billion. So that is a real concern, and that is why the premiers, including Ontario’s Premier, have said the tax in its present form is unacceptable. We are really not here debating whether the tax is a good tax or a bad tax. I do not think anybody thinks it is a good tax. The argument is whether Ontario will play any part in it in the future, and that is really what I want to talk about.
The effects have to be based, as I have talked about the progression of the development of the tax, on this: That many people in looking and reading what was said by the politicians in Ottawa, have said: “Well, they are probably going to cut it down to seven per cent. Maybe they are going to adjust the base somehow. Maybe they are going to assist the provinces with the impact on housing. Maybe, surely, they are not going to go ahead and apply the nine per cent to municipalities, university school hoards and hospitals with the program that the extra tax will somehow be fed back from the federal government to these institutions.”
Yet the Prime Minister, in his lengthy opening address at the first ministers’ conference, echoed by the Minister of Finance, said that the tax is going forward as planned. I believe them. They have said it time and again, and their plan is quite clear and quite explicit. So we might as well assume that since they command a substantial majority in the Parliament of Canada, that this tax will be enacted, that there will be all sorts of difficulties and shortcomings, and whatever we think about it -- since we do not get to vote on it and we are not going to send the OPP to Ottawa to stop it, although my honourable friend the member for Nickel Belt would contemplate probably even that -- that at the same time we have to see in the province, as a part of Canada, that the tax is certainly going to be applied here, that it will even be applied in Alberta where there is no sales tax at all: they have oil wells instead. If had my choice, I would prefer oil wells, but we do not have those and so we have an eight per cent sales tax, which returns to our consolidated revenue fund about $8.6 billion, going on $8.7 billion.
It pays a lot of our bills. It pays for New Democratic Party research. It pays for all of those things that are so necessary, and we all know from the obvious characteristics how inadequate that particular funding is.
Let’s say this, that the tax is going forward. We, in Ontario, already have a well-established sales tax. As a matter of fact, when I was first elected, the tax was brand new, and at three per cent, it was considered onerous, regressive, a very bad thing. There are certain people who, with enough research, can turn up quite able politicians making those statements in the past, and they were all true.
I can recall as the tax progressed beyond that, to seven per cent when we took office, and I can remember the careful deliberation that led me, as Treasurer, to recommend to this House that the tax go to eight per cent. I was glad to see that the thoughtful members of the House supported that, because they want the programs that are paid for by these tax revenues.
Mr Brandt: Those were the Liberal members, not the thoughtful ones.
Mr Villeneuve: How many thoughtful ones are there?
Hon R. F. Nixon: We all know who we are. There is no problem with that.
The situation is that the tax is evidently going to be imposed. The federal government has many difficulties, I can tell members, with this. We have read that they may need as many as 5,000 new civil servants, and others are unkind enough to say it may take 12,000 to 15,000 new civil servants to apply this tax right across the country.
It will be a complex situation involving all of the paperwork that is associated with a value added tax. The province of Ontario, as I say, has a well-established tax. It is up front. It goes on the bottom of the bill whenever you make a purchase, and each time you do that, people know whom to blame. They know to blame the Peterson government and they also know that we are responsible for paying the bills. That is really the way the democratic process is supposed to work.
While we have political difficulties with it, we feel, in further answer to a question asked earlier today, that it is fair and equitable and that we have programs to at least remove some of the regressivity, which we do not think is unduly onerous.
We have this situation that is facing us. We have said, through the Premier himself joining all the other premiers, that the tax is unacceptable.
It means that the Parliament of Canada, using the constitutional rights that it has and the powers that undoubtedly it has, will be expected to support the present government and enact the tax. Whatever we think about it, we expect the tax to be imposed in Ontario in 1991.
There may be some way to stop it. There may be something we can do. It may be that our criticisms will fend it off. Maybe Mr Blenkarn’s committee will give a recommendation that will change it. But we have to return to the statement made publicly by the Prime Minister that it will go forward.
On that basis, we have to look at what the responsibility of the government of Ontario is. Somehow or other, the NDP members are under the impression, through the wording of this motion, that because of the ill-advised initiatives taken by the government of Canada, the people here should be made to suffer more than they ordinarily would. It is as if the federal government put too many players on the ice in a hockey game and the NDP says Ontario should suffer the penalty. That is the kind of thinking that they have.
I see the Leader of the Opposition squinting because he may not be as familiar with these matters as I am. I am sorry for him in that connection. It is obvious that this kind of glassy-eyed opposition expressed by the New Democratic Party in this House has really no role to play in the traditions and the history of this province.
Frankly, I thought that the leader of the third party made an excellent contribution in this regard, not just because he too is going to oppose this ill-advised motion but because his presentation was thoughtful and well worked out, and in many respects not very good. There were many aspects that I did not agree with.
Mr Brandt: Which ones were those?
Hon R. F. Nixon: In case in the future there is something I missed, that is the one I did not agree with.
I certainly thought the quality of the debate this afternoon has been useful. I believe the motion put forward is not a useful one, that it indicates quite clearly that the NDP opposition has missed many of the issues that have an impact directly on the province of Ontario and that can be settled by a vote in this House. In this particular instance they are sort of playing to some sort of a crowd that I believe is not responding to them. I call on all of my colleagues to oppose the ill-advised motion.
Mr B. Rae: I enjoy the chance to participate in this debate and particularly appreciate the opportunity to follow the Treasurer, who, I can tell members, in his defence of the indefensible almost outdid himself today.
The first thing he said was, and he ended on this same note, that somehow it was inappropriate -- I really appreciate the advice he is giving to us -- for us to be asking this assembly to go on record with respect to Ontario’s participation in a national sales tax. I say to members, what could be more relevant, what could be more significant for the people of this province, than that we hear directly from the Treasurer of Ontario and from the Liberal Party of Ontario exactly what their intentions and their plans are with respect to the future of taxation in this province? Surely to goodness we are entitled to have that on record.
The fact that the Treasurer would rather not be debating this issue, I say to the Treasurer, speaks far more eloquently than anything else he said. Of course he does not want to talk about it; of course he does not want to be accountable; of course he does not want to come into this assembly and tell us what his plans are. All I can say is, too bad. That is what democracy is all about, that is what accountability is all about, and if the Treasurer does not think he should be accountable for what his government is going to do with respect to the GST, then he has another thought coming. Ontario’s position on the GST should be a matter of public debate. Ontario’s record on taxation should be a matter of public debate.
The fact that this Treasurer has relied heavily on increasing the sales tax, the fact that this Treasurer has stated now that he is in favour of the sales tax as a method of increasing his revenues, the fact that he sees that as his role and he thinks that tax is a fair and equitable one -- I think those are facts that ought to be on record in Ontario.
Mr J. B. Nixon: Speak to the motion.
Mr B. Rae: I am delighted that they are on record in Ontario. I am delighted that my colleague the member for Nickel Belt has put them on record, because that is precisely what we are debating.
Mr J. B. Nixon: No, it’s not.
Mr B. Rae: What we are debating today is the question of the future of taxation in Ontario. Let there be no question and let there be no doubt: The sales tax future of this province is at stake.
Mr J. B. Nixon: Is this your launch speech?
Mr B. Rae: The future of taxation is at stake and the fundamental question is, how fair is our tax system going to be? What kind of tax system are we going to have in Ontario?
My friend the member for York Mills, when he is not busy defending insurance brokers and insurance agents and the insurance industry, when he is not busy trying to bring in a private member’s bill that will resurrect some developer in the province, when he is not busy doing that, has the temerity to say, as the Treasurer tried to say, that somehow if we raise this question in the House we are raising some kind of federal issue.
I want to say, the question of Ontario’s participation in a national sales tax is an issue for this Legislature. It is not an issue alone for the Liberal caucus. They should not tell me this issue has not been discussed in the Liberal caucus; they should not tell me this issue has not been discussed in the Liberal cabinet, and if it is good enough for discussions in the Liberal cabinet and the Liberal caucus, it is good enough for this House to discuss and to debate as widely as possible.
The question at hand is whether or not this assembly is going to go on record as recognizing that for us to go further down this road of participating in a sales taxes as the means to generate revenue in this province is wrong, that it is the wrong way to raise taxes. It is the wrong way to rely on increased revenues, because it is, its very nature, an inequitable tax.
I say to the member for York Mills and to others, this is a question of how we tax ourselves in Ontario. It has nothing to do with the federal government; it has to do with what Ontario is going to be doing.
Mr J. B. Nixon: It is a federal tax.
Mr B. Rae: The member for York Mills insists on heckling. I do not mind dealing with it.
The Acting Speaker (Mr Cureatz): Order, please. I would like to remind all members that unnecessary interjections are certainly unparliamentary and I would ask the honourable member for York Mills to please restrain himself.
Mr B. Rae: The critical issue here is the future of taxation in Ontario. This Treasurer has relied more heavily on sales tax increases. He raised the sales tax by 14 per cent last year. He raised an additional $900 million in taxation by increasing the sales tax. This is the same party that just a few short years before was insisting that it was going to make the tax system fairer, more just and more equitable.
Then the Treasurer says, “Well, that is what everybody says when they are in opposition.” The implication of what he said in question period today was: “Well, what do you expect people to say in opposition? When we are in government, of course, that is exactly what we are going to do. We are simply going to maintain the unfairness of the Ontario tax system.”
I believe profoundly that there is a choice facing this province, and that choice is this: If we collaborate with the federal government on this tax -- and that is why we are asking this government and this assembly to come out on record on this -- it will be impossible for Ontario to create a fair system of taxation for its own citizens.
We have already seen that on the income tax. We have already seen on the income tax, and the Treasurer himself has said -- he has not been prepared to do anything about it, but he himself has said -- that with respect to the income tax, Ontario does not have the flexibility to tax income. All Ontario can do is get a share of what the feds raise. Therefore, there is nothing we can do. The fact that there are thousands of people who pay no income tax in Ontario -- nothing he can do. The fact that the capital gains system is unfair -- nothing he can do.
What we are saying is that is why Ontario needs to generate its own system. It needs to create its own system of taxation, which will create its own system of fairness for the citizens of this province. I believe in this very strongly.
Members may say, and the leader of the third party, the Conservative Party said, “Well, that’s not nation-building.” I disagree profoundly with the leader of the Conservative Party on this question, because I believe so strongly that we simply cannot trust -- look at the record of what the federal Liberals and the federal Tories have done with respect to taxation.
For us to continue to collaborate with that agenda means that billions will go untaxed, billions in terms of wealth, billions in terms of inheritance, billions in terms of money that is there that will never be taxed and will always be evaded and avoided by those who are rich enough and powerful enough to avoid that system.
The question for us here in Ontario is whether we have the courage and the imagination to create a tax system that is truly fair. We cannot do that, and I want members to be under no illusions about that. If this government or any government goes along with that federal system, it will make it impossible for us to generate a fairer tax system in Ontario.
The record is very clear. We can look at the example of what has happened to us on the income tax side. Frankly, we can look at the example of what has happened to Ontario with respect to retail sales taxes themselves. The record has not been good and that is why we have insisted on having a discussion in this House. I regret to say that even at this late date, even though he said he was looking forward to participating in this discussion, the Treasurer spent several minutes saying we had no business talking about this.
He spent several moments saying that it was an irrelevant subject and of no great interest to the people of Ontario, and then went on through a history of the GST as it relates back through time. He paid tribute to Don Blenkarn, which I found fascinating, and it truly boggles the mind as one looks at the statements that that honourable member has made about life and taxes over the past several years. I served with him in the House of Commons years ago and am quite astonished to find that the Treasurer finds him such a cosy political bedmate, but there you are. You make your friends, and there you are.
Hon R. F. Nixon: I used to be in bed with you.
Mr B. Rae: The Treasurer says --
Hon R. F. Nixon: Of course you’ll sleep with anybody.
Mr B. Rae: I can tell the Treasurer that I did not find it any more cosy, but I found it a mite more progressive than the statements that he has been making since 1987.
Let me say that the Treasurer never actually -- he still has not told us. He says that this tax is inevitable. He has told us that. He said that there is nothing that can be done about it. He said that it is coming in anyway.
Mr Neumann: He didn’t say that.
Mr B. Rae: Yes, he did. The member should read Hansard in terms of what he said. He said that it is coming in and he said that there is nothing that he can do about it. If there are members of the Liberal Party who are unhappy with that, I suggest that they go back and look at precisely what the Treasurer said. I was here listening very carefully to every word. He said that they have a huge majority and he knows, having a huge majority himself. He said, “We can do whatever we want, so we can only assume that they can do whatever they want.”
I am here to say that if this is the kind of fight that Ontario is putting up, then I do not think any of us should be surprised that the tax is going to be coming in. If the toughest message that can be received from the Treasurer of Ontario is that he is so mad about this tax and so opposed to it and finds it so unacceptable that he wants to have another meeting so he can sit down and figure out how he can get a piece of the action, then we should not be surprised if the feds say: “Wait a minute here. We are getting a funny screwy message from the Ontario government. The message we are getting is a tough one where the Premier says: ‘We may even need to have an election to fight this thing. That is how serious it is.’”
That just brings me back, in spades, to another memory. Then the Treasurer says: “No, we might have an election about it. It might be the cause for calling a provincial election, but it is an entirely inappropriate subject for us to be discussing in the Legislature on a Tuesday afternoon.” If it is good enough for the electorate, it is good enough for us to discuss it too. I think we are entitled to know and we still have not heard, we still do not know what Ontario is putting on the table.
All we know is that as time goes on and as time unfolds, the Treasurer of Ontario has said, again and again, how much it makes sense to have an amalgamated tax, and he expressed today in his support for his new-found friends in the Conservative Party an alliance which I think is certainly historically earth shattering and which will, I know, do them both a whole lot of good as they contemplate their collective future.
As they conduct this exercise in mutual admiration, let us at least understand that these two wings of the same bird of prey are talking about the same thing. How can these two wings of this same vulture come down on this poor old taxpayer and pick pockets on both sides? That is what they are talking about.
What they are talking about is not a case of the government of Ontario standing up for the people of Ontario and saying, “We are going to fight this tax because we think it is unfair.” It is not a case of the government doing what some other governments are doing and talking about challenging its very legality because of the way in which it interferes and takes away from provincial jurisdiction. What is the Treasurer’s position? It is: “We want a piece of the action. We want a piece of the pie. We want to get in there too.”
Why would he say that his main objection to the GST is that it is too high? I will tell you why, Mr Speaker. By “too high” he means that the federal share of the take is too high. That is what he means. He does not mean that the tax is too high; he does not mean that the ultimate level of tax to be paid by consumers when it comes to a sales tax is too high. What this Treasurer means is that he wants a bigger piece. He wants to bargain, and that is exactly what the leader of the Conservative Party was talking about. He wants to bargain too. Both these --
Mr Brandt: I said co-operation.
Mr B. Rae: Excuse me, co-operation, and we all know from Sesame Street what an important concept that is. I say to the leader of the third party, “Taxpayers beware.” When treasurers get together and talk about how they can co-operate or amalgamate, at whose expense is it? I will tell him at whose expense.
We are going to see an example of amalgamation in the vote that is going to be coming up, an amalgamation between the Conservative Party and the Liberal Party on this fundamental question of the fairness of our tax system in Ontario, a tax system that will continue to leave the wealthy alone, that will continue to leave Canada and Ontario on a level with Turkey in terms of our fairness in taxing wealth, and a system which sticks it to the little guy every day of the week. That is the Tory/Liberal tax system and that is what we are being left with.
The House divided on Mr Laughren’s motion, which was negatived on the following vote:
Allen, Bryden, Charlton, Cooke, D. S., Farnan, Grier, Hampton, Johnston, R. F., Laughren, Mackenzie, Martel, Morin-Strom, Philip, E., Rae, B., Reville, Wildman.
Ballinger, Beer, Bossy, Brandt, Brown, Campbell, Caplan, Cleary, Collins, Conway, Cooke, D. R., Cordiano, Cousens, Dietsch, Eakins, Elston, Epp, Eves, Faubert, Fawcett, Fleet, Fontaine, Grandmaître, Haggerty, Hart, Henderson, Johnson, J. M., Kanter, Kerrio, Keyes, Kozyra, Lipsett, MacDonald, Matrundola, McCague, McGuinty, McLeod, Miclash, Miller, Nicholas, Nixon, J. B., Nixon, R. F.;
Oddie Munro, Offer, O’Neil, H., O’Neill, Y., Owen, Patten, Pelissero, Phillips, G., Polsinelli, Ramsay, Ray, M. C., Reycraft, Ruprecht, Scott, Smith, D. W., Smith, E. J., Sola, South, Stoner, Tatham, Villeneuve, Wiseman, Wong.
Ayes 16; nays 65.
The House adjourned at 1806.