The House met at 1332.
Mr Miller: Mr Speaker, the apples that you see on our desks today are the product of Tom and Joan Haskett’s apple farm at Vittoria, and in the spirit of Christmas they are put there by the member for Norfolk. The variety is Empire. I just want to bring that to your attention, Mr Speaker.
The Speaker: Before I call the first order of business, I glance to the east gallery and see a former member sitting there. I would like you to join me in welcoming Ed Good, formerly the member for Waterloo North.
RETAIL STORE HOURS
Mr Kormos: If indeed it is true that an apple a day keeps the doctor away, I hope it is not too late for this one. I am hoping it will do the trick.
This Sunday past was about as cold a Sunday as we have had down in the Niagara Peninsula and it was made even chillier by a biting wind. Notwithstanding that, large numbers of people, members of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, turned out along with their spouses and children, both big kids and little kids, and friends and neighbours to picket those A&P stores that were brazenly and openly defying the law of the province, A&P stores that were remaining open on Sunday requiring their workers to work on Sunday notwithstanding that we supposedly, and I say that very carefully, have laws against that sort of thing.
Without hesitation and with some pride, I joined those workers. Welland-Thorold and the communities around Welland-Thorold are communities that hold families in high regard, communities that have high regard for their churches, and there are many of them, communities that consist of workers who fought long and hard to make sure that there would be a five-day workweek. Now we see A&P, apparently with the support of this government, forcing workers to work on Sunday. It is wrong and those workers who picketed knew it. It is time this government took positive action to make sure it does not happen again.
NORTHERN ONTARIO HERITAGE FUND
Mr Harris: Now that the first annual report of the northern Ontario heritage fund has been tabled, it is clear the Peterson Liberals have again broken their word. They promised to spend $30 million a year for 12 years through the heritage fund. In the minister’s own words, “Its major goal is to promote and stimulate economic development in northern Ontario by providing financial assistance for single-industry communities experiencing economic disruption.” Yet we now know they did not spend one dime of the initial $30 million in support of this goal during its first year of operation. In fact, they spent less than $950,000, or about three per cent of the entire budget.
Few places need more help than Temagami. Last year the fund invested the grand total of $45,000 in the entire Temagami region. Yet huge companies like MacMillan Bloedel, in my riding I might add, Normick Perron and Westinghouse Canada each received $100,000 as small business incentives. Analysis also shows that virtually every recipient qualified under programs that existed before the fund.
The fund has now grown to $60 million. I have no doubt they will eventually spend this money. They will make all kinds of announcements as we near the next election. But where is the vision? Where is the leadership and the support for the exciting new tourism, transportation and economic restructuring initiatives that were so boldly promised by this fund? It was not created to simply rehash and dole out titbits from old programs at election time.
Mr Ballinger: I am pleased to rise in the Legislature today and inform the members that today is Media Day at Queen’s Park for the press of my riding of Durham-York.
Durham-York is made up of five uniquely different municipalities within the regions of Durham and York which share many common features, including the type of media which covers the day-to-day life of our communities of Georgina, Brock, East Gwillimbury, Uxbridge and Whitchurch-Stouffville.
Joining us in the members’ east gallery are representatives from various newspapers, cable TV and local radio stations who do an important job of reporting and informing the residents of each of these respective regions with the up-to-date news, sports, community events, as well as some of the more provincial and national stories.
Communities the size that I represent rely totally on the dedication and community interest of these weekly newspaper, cable TV and radio stations to cover and promote local events. My communities would be lost without them.
Durham-York Media Day is an opportunity for me, as their provincial member, to provide an interesting afternoon at Queen’s Park that normally cannot occur due to the nature and importance of the role that they carry out on behalf of their communities. It is my hope that these people find the afternoon at Queen’s Park not only entertaining, but also educational.
Mr Pope: I rise today to repeat a call that I made to the Minister of Transportation (Mr Wrye) two months ago for a clearer transportation policy for northern Ontario. We have seen recently in the news media an extended decline in mineral exploration in northern Ontario, particularly northeastern Ontario, and I say to the Minister of Mines (Mr O’Neil), with no programs and no real incentives to encourage increased mining exploration in the Mining Act.
We have seen actual mines in production closing down in Latchford, Kirkland Lake and Wawa, with no alternative employment for the miners and for the communities there. We have seen mills closing down because of the softwood lumber tax that this government participated in. We have no program for diversification or modernization of the mills.
We have seen the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission pull the tracks out of Timmins. We have seen Air Canada service with-drawn from northeastern Ontario. We have seen no noticeable improvement in highway transportation north of North Bay. We see the ONTC, Ontario’s development railroad, withdrawing services from northern Ontario because of the closure of the mines. That is their excuse for reducing service.
What is clearly required of this government is a comprehensive transportation policy for rail, air and railroad transportation to benefit all of northern Ontario.
Mrs Sullivan: Across Ontario, 1989 4-H agricultural projects have now been completed and awards nights have been held to recognize the achievements of 4-H members. Today I would like to pay tribute to all 4-H members and leaders across the province, and in particular I would like to champion the work of 4-H clubs in my area, Halton region, which had outstanding success this year at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair.
The Scotiabank Hays Classic at the Royal Fair attracted some 250 4-Hers from across Canada. Halton’s 4-H team was judged the premier club based on showmanship, conformation and herdsmanship. Halton’s entrants placed first in showmanship, in the summer yearling Holstein class and in the Jersey calf class.
In the National Beef Heifer Show, a Halton 4-Her was named Grand Champion Showman and she also exhibited the champion Simmental heifer. Halton also had a strong showing in the Queen’s Guineas and the Lawara trophy competitions.
Wherever they are, 4-Hers become self-confident, knowledgeable, active members of the community who have learned to do by doing. I am pleased to honour them today.
Mrs Grier: I rise to thank the Minister of Housing (Mr Sweeney). Unusual though that occasion might be, I want to thank him for allocation of co-operative homes in my riding of Etobicoke-Lakeshore. In his announcement on Friday the minister announced that BRC Workers Housing Co-operative, Marilyn Bell Housing Co-operative, New Toronto Housing Co-operative and Westshore Village Co-operative would all receive an allocation totalling 490 units.
I make the point because there is a real fear in the co-operative housing movement at this time that this government’s commitment to that form of housing is diminishing. The Czechs talk about the Czech spring in 1968. There is the sense in the co-op housing movement that the period of the accord between the Liberals and the New Democrats was the equivalent of the Czech spring when it comes to progressive issues such as co-op housing.
Co-op housing is a form of tenure that allows people to have control over their own accommodation. It allows tenants to have a say in how that housing will be managed. It allows people to have affordable housing that remains affordable because the increases in the rental allowance that is paid to the co-op is determined by the members themselves and by their demands.
I am very proud that in Etobicoke-Lakeshore we are going to have some new co-ops and I urge the minister to make sure that this allocation is only the beginning of a major commitment in Metropolitan Toronto.
Mr J. M. Johnson: I would like to bring to the attention of this Legislature, especially the Solicitor General (Mr Offer), a very serious highway safety problem that exists in my riding of Wellington.
This morning I received a letter from fire chief Alfred Slade, township of Puslinch, county of Wellington, expressing serious concern about the lack of Ontario Provincial Police coverage for the area of Highway 401 which passes through the township of Puslinch. I understand that the police detachment serving this area is the third busiest in Ontario, but the level of its manpower does not reflect this fact. As a result, Puslinch township fire department personnel are called upon, when accidents occur on the highway in this area, to perform traffic control duties.
Chief Slade states, and I will quote directly from his letter: “Last winter we had a 40-car pileup on the 401 and only one police officer. Consequently, I had six of our firefighters tied up controlling traffic. The policemen we have in this area are terrific, but they can only do so much.... What we need is a traffic squad. With all the chemicals and hazardous materials travelling the highway today, sooner or later the fan is going to get hit and somebody will have to answer -- ‘Why?’”
Hopefully the Solicitor General will take some positive action in response to Chief Slade’s concerns.
Mr Daigeler: I would like to congratulate the Minister of the Environment (Mr Bradley), together with the Society of the Plastics Industry of Canada and Trans-Ontario Plastics Recovery Inc for the completion of a report entitled Barrhaven Demonstration Project.
This study was done in my riding of Nepean. It concluded that plastics recovery for recycling is feasible for communities where the blue box program exists. The report will be useful to municipalities considering such a move. The communities of Mississauga, Guelph and Toronto also collect plastics in their blue boxes. The Barrhaven report should enable additional municipalities to undertake plastics recycling.
Although plastics are only a small portion of landfill sites by weight, by volume they can be as much as 28 per cent of landfill. Municipalities concerned with the costs of plastics recycling should consider not only the revenue generated by curbside pickup, but the environmental and economic costs of additional landfill sites.
Again, I wish to congratulate the minister and I hope he will work actively with other municipalities to include plastics recovery in their blue box programs, as was done in my riding of Nepean.
Hon Mr Offer: I rise on a point of privilege, Mr Speaker. Today I received a news release on the stationery of the Ministry of the Solicitor General. This release came via Canada News-Wire under date 11 December. I would like to indicate to the House that the information contained within this release did not emanate from my ministry.
I have received information from Canada News-Wire that due to a clerical error at Canada News-Wire Toronto, copies of a press release issued 11 December by the Ontario Teachers’ Federation were inadvertently delivered to Queen’s Park Press on Ontario Ministry of the Solicitor General letterhead.
Canada News-Wire has indicated that it is solely responsible for the error and apologizes to the Ministry of the Solicitor General and to the Ontario Teachers’ Federation for any embarrassment caused.
The Speaker: Order. I listened carefully to the member raising a point of privilege, however, it would appear to me that it would not be a prima facie case of privilege. I cannot see where there would be any contempt of the House. There may be contempt of the ministry, and I am sure that the minister can deal with that internally or externally.
RETAIL STORE HOURS
Mr B. Rae: I want to go back to the Attorney General again today and try to ask him a simple question as to why it is that, while section 8 of the act involving retail stores makes it very clear that the Attorney General has the discretion to apply to the courts for an injunction when he has reason to believe that the law is going to be broken, he is not gathering information with respect to which stores are planning to open on Sunday and he is not himself bringing an injunction to make sure that these stores remain closed.
Hon Mr Scott: The answer is the same as I gave yesterday.
Mr B. Rae: I wonder if the Attorney General can stand in the House and tell us what is the average length of time that it takes for a case to be heard in the county of Peel and in York region? Can he tell us how long he thinks it will be before any charges that are laid in the month of December 1989 are heard?
Hon Mr Scott: It depends on whether the accused is in custody or not, whether it is a bylaw enforcement matter or not, or whether the matter is given urgency by the presiding judge.
Mr B. Rae: I can tell the Attorney General, from my experience of cases that I have known in York region and in Peel, that cases are being delayed by as much as a year and a year and a half before they are heard; that in some instances cases are taking so long to come to judges that judges themselves are throwing them out on constitutional grounds. That argument is being applied with respect to many charges that are coming before judges.
I want to ask the Attorney General, does he not realize that the law is seen as a joke, that it is seen as a scoff law, that its enforcement is seen as a joke, that his actions are seen as a joke and his failure to bring an injunction sends the clearest possible signal to these stores that they --
The Speaker: There seemed to be about three supplementaries in that.
Hon Mr Scott: I did not hear any question. I heard sort of a windup, but there was no question.
The Speaker: New question, the Leader of the Opposition.
Mr B. Rae: I think we have seen arrogance. The question was, does the Attorney General not realize-
Hon Mr Scott: I did not hear any question.
Mr B. Rae: I have seen arrogance in my time but never such --
Hon Mr Scott: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: If the honourable member would like to put a question, I would be delighted to answer.
The Speaker: Order. Have you all finished? New question.
Mr B. Rae: My question is to the Minister of Housing. I would like to ask the minister this question. There are now 42,000 families on the waiting list for assisted housing. There are at least 54,000 applications from co-op housing groups and nonprofit groups throughout the province for funding from the ministry for the future. Now, the ministry has just completed its program, called Homes Now, with its most recent announcement with respect to nonprofit housing. I want to ask the minister, does the government of Ontario intend to bring in a new program, an Ontario program, funded exclusively by the Ontario government, for the funding of nonprofit and co-operative housing in Ontario?
Hon Mr Sweeney: I would remind my honourable friend that at the present time Ontario is the only province in Canada that has such a program. In fact, over the three-year period covering 1988-89-90, it will be producing more nonprofit housing than all the rest of the country put together. So Ontario is doing a lot.
I would also point out to the honourable member that the capital cost of that program is in excess of $3 billion, and the accumulated subsidy cost of that program when it reaches maturity in 1993 will be in excess of $900 million, compared with $150 million when this government was formed in 1985. So there has been tremendous progress there.
Obviously, the government is going to have to look very carefully at its total housing policy and total housing initiatives over the next year or so to determine where it goes from here. That decision has not yet been made.
Mr B. Rae: No one denies the fact that Ontario has a program which was negotiated during the period of the accord. No one denies the fact that there is a need. While the Attorney General (Mr Scott) is laughing and showing his general contempt for the rest of the world, I can tell him that there are, in fact, 20,000 homeless people in Toronto, as well as the tens of thousands more who are underhoused and poorly housed, which led to the view in his report in 1988 there are some 200,000 households that are caught in the cycle of homelessness.
I want to ask the minister why he would not be announcing a continuing commitment from the government of Ontario so that people could know that in fact their applications were going to be considered and that their place on the waiting list meant something, rather than simply meaning that they are on a waiting list for nowhere.
Hon Mr Sweeney: The honourable member was correct when he said that the bulk of the 30,000 units for Homes Now have been allocated. I believe the last figure I saw was that 28,000 out of the 30,000 have been allocated. But I am sure the honourable leader of the official opposition is also aware of the fact that this is a long way from completed projects. He will be well aware of the fact that many of these allocations were given in 1988 and are in terms under construction now. The allocations which were just given yesterday, in many cases, will not be completed during 1990 or even into 1991, so we still have a long way to go on the existing program.
What I tried to suggest to him in my first answer was that we have not yet formulated the next step in the entire affordable shelter program. That is part of the process that is coming up. But right now we are in the middle of a very ambitious program. The 30,000, I would remind him, started just last year, and it is going to take us a couple of years to work that one through the entire system. We have a couple of years to decide what the next step is going to be and what form it is going to take. That decision has not yet been taken.
Mr B. Rae: If the minister just said the ministry has a couple of years, that is absolute nonsense. It does not have a couple of years. We have a whole co-operative and nonprofit movement out there with plans on the books, with plans that are ready to go. We have the cost of land spiralling and escalating in many parts of the province to the point where land is no longer affordable for many people. I cannot believe the minister honestly believes he has a couple of years.
Let me ask the minister, when he has 42,000 people on a waiting list, when he has 54,000 applications in, is he seriously saying he can afford to wait one or two years before he announces his program for the future?
Hon Mr Sweeney: What I tried to suggest to the honourable leader was that the program that is currently in place will take at least two years to work its way through. I am not suggesting that we wait until that one is complete before we start the next one. I recognize he is saying that there has to be some lead time, and decisions will be made in sufficient lead time, as we have all the way along.
I would also remind the honourable leader of the official opposition that we have an ongoing cost-shared program with the federal government which is providing somewhere in the neighbourhood of 5,000 to 6,000 units a year. We are still working on that. That is part of the process as well.
The third thing I would point out is that I have met with the nonprofit association and the co-operative association and indicated to them that, along with these kinds of projects, I want to work with them with a wider base of projects that are going to provide affordable housing. The nonprofit one is not the only route we are going. We are going to continue to go that route, but we want to expand it even beyond that into other types of housing.
RETAIL STORE HOURS
Mr Brandt: With some degree of trepidation, I have a question for the Attorney General. In the spirit of Christmas -- I do not want to upset him and I do not want to get him angry -- I simply want to know if the Attorney General is aware that York region has indicated that any charges that are laid in connection with the breaking of the law as it relates to Sunday openings will probably not be heard until February 1991.
Does that concern the Attorney General, and if it does concern him, what action does his ministry intend to take either to assist with the particular backlog of cases or to help correct the situation, which is obviously not a particular problem that we can live with here in the province of Ontario?
Hon Mr Scott: If I may say so without ruining the interim leader’s leadership chances, that is an excellent question.
It is essentially the same question as the Leader of the Opposition (Mr B. Rae) asked, but the trouble with his questions was, if it is going to rain tomorrow, that is bad management on the part of the government; if the sun comes up, it is because it was mentioned in the accord. So I am really delighted to get this question from the honourable member and to explain that in Newmarket, which is the regional town for York region, there is a significant backlog problem which has existed for five or six years which leads to out-of-custody cases being tried about a year or 11 months down the pike.
A year ago we established delay reduction committees in the six communities in Ontario which have this kind of delay problem, this kind of historic problem which is connected with very large growth in those communities. Those delay reduction committees, under the leadership of the local judge, have been working well. Because disposition rates have improved and delay times have been reduced, often very significantly, we have put new resources into those regions. The honourable member will know, I believe, that two new judges and three new crown attorneys have been promised for Newmarket. Those positions are being filled at the moment and we hope to have those new resources in place shortly.
I am very grateful for the question because it allows me to remind honourable members about this delay reduction.
Mr Brandt: The Attorney General is going to be even more grateful for the supplementary. The supplementary is, recognizing that judges have rather arbitrarily established 15 months as the period of time in which they will simply dismiss charges because of the charter reservations that they have and the consequences of those delays, can the minister give any assurance to this House that charges now being laid by the police forces in York and other regions where there are court backlogs, will be heard, certainly within that 15-month time frame or earlier if at all possible, so that those who are illegally opening on a Sunday, who are breaking the law, who are causing havoc at the moment with respect to Sunday shopping laws will, in fact, be prosecuted in the appropriate manner?
Hon Mr Scott: I can give the honourable member the assurance he wants. I would just do so adding one reservation. The honourable member refers, and we see it in the press, to suggestions that judges have picked 15 months as the time, if there is delay, beyond which will lead to a dismissal of the prosecution. In fact, the appeals that have been taken from those judgements to the Court of Appeal for Ontario are not supporting that conclusion, and in the circumstances, when the results of the appeals are looked at, it cannot be concluded that there is any arbitrary time or, indeed, that the time is 15 months.
But I am very conscious of what the honourable member says. I think we can give the assurance that he requires. This government has made plain to communities which, for demographic reasons, have big population increases that if they will establish delay reduction committees to work with the bench within existing resources, when those committees begin to produce results, as they have been doing -- delay times in Ottawa were reduced from 15 months to nine with no new resources -- new resources will be provided, as they have been in York region.
Mr Brandt: The Attorney General said some time ago, “Persistent violators will be dealt with in accordance with the provisions of the legislation. The act now permits the Attorney General or a municipality to apply for injunctive relief against persistent violators. I have no doubt that this route will be pursued soon, as a sufficient case can be made for so doing.”
I would suggest to the Attorney General that over 80 stores which have chosen to be open over the course of the past few weeks, illegally, support the position that he took in his statement that a case can now be made to vigorously pursue these particular individuals and corporations.
Would the Attorney General share with this House whether in fact it is his intention to become more actively involved, as is his right under Bill 113, I believe it is, but section 8 of that bill? Will the Attorney General take the option that is available to him and vigorously pursue this matter in order to stop the kind of illegal openings that are happening each and every Sunday, and have for the past few weeks?
Hon Mr Scott: As I indicated to the honourable member yesterday, and presumably will have to indicate every day until the Christmas shopping season is over, we have decided what the appropriate role for the Attorney General under section 8 is, and what role is appropriate for the municipalities.
The honourable member will be glad to know that the municipalities in southern Ontario have recognized that, and the municipality of Metropolitan Toronto and the regional municipality of Peel have commenced those proceedings. We have indicated repeatedly, and I am delighted to emphasize again, that if there are difficulties that the regional municipalities have, as there appear to be in one instance as a result of the Honourable Mr Justice Potts’s decision, we will be delighted to support the municipalities in advancing their case.
As I said the other day, I have communicated that in written form to Chairman Tonks in Metropolitan Toronto and I make the same pledge to any other community that has commenced or is prepared to commence an injunction proceeding. We will support them vigorously.
Mr Brandt: My question is to the Minister of Health. As the minister is aware, as of 1 January 1990, this government will be introducing an employer health levy to cover what was previously known as the OHIP premiums that were paid by individuals. Some of these individuals who previously were paying their own premiums under OHIP will no longer be required to do so as of 1 January 1990.
If those individuals, who are receiving bills now for the first quarter of 1990, refuse to pay and for whatever reason end up in a hospital in January, February, March or April 1990, the minister has indicated that they will have access to the health system. She has not indicated who will pay for an individual who has refused to pay the OHIP premium for the first part of 1990. Could she now clarify for the House who will pay that particular charge if the individual ends up in the hospital or requiring the attention of a physician in that period of time?
Hon Mrs Caplan: As I begin the answer to this question -- the leader of the third party has asked this question before -- I would encourage him and members opposite not to create confusion around this matter, and I will try to be very clear.
All residents of Ontario will have access to health care services as of 1 January and beyond as we go through the transitional period, as we move from premiums to taxation as a method of funding health care services. Clearly, all residents who receive their last premium notice prior to 1 January are expected to follow the instructions accompanying their last premium notice, as is the reality today.
Mr Brandt: The minister in this House has said repeatedly that she wants factual information to be shared with the 9.5 million citizens of Ontario. In the interest of pursuing that common goal of having factual information, will the minister state simply -- and remove from her vocabulary the word “access,” because I am not at the moment asking a question about access to health facilities; I am asking a question about payment upon access to those facilities. If an individual refuses to pay the OHIP premium because in his mind he is being double billed, will he in fact be billed in the first quarter of 1990?
Hon Mrs Caplan: I want to say to the leader of the third party that I believe the Treasurer (Mr R. F. Nixon) very ably, as he always has and l am sure always will, has answered the question regarding the issue that the member opposite raises, and, I think, fully to the satisfaction of most objective observers. For the interest of the leader of the third party, we are communicating directly with residents regarding payment of their last premium notice during this period of transition. I would say to him again that I would encourage him not to create confusion on this matter and I would state again that in fact all residents will have access to health services in the province of Ontario.
Mr Brandt: Somehow or another, in spite of my attempts to remove the word “access,” which is a different question entirely, the minister has included that in her response. Let me try the question another way. Since she has consistently taken the position that doublebilling is not part of the format of the introduction of the new employer health levy, maybe the minister could indicate to the people of Ontario, in order to keep this information factually correct, how much additional money she is collecting as a result of the change in system from OHIP premiums to the employer health levy. And before she answers the question, I am going to tell the people of Ontario it is well in excess of $400 million.
Hon Mrs Caplan: I say to the leader of the third party that I am proud of the initiative of this government to convert from a premium to a tax levy. I would say to him that it results in a $1-billion tax cut in the pockets of the taxpayers, the people of this province. That is very fair. It was recommended by the Social Assistance Review Committee report on welfare reform, and he should be supporting this as well.
Mr Brandt: It’s not a tax cut and you know it. Don’t mislead the people of Ontario. That’s nonsense.
Mr Brandt: Answer the question for once.
Hon Mrs Caplan: I would ask him to stop trying to confuse the people of this province. We are committed to the principles of medicare --
The Speaker: Order.
Mr Cousens: If anybody is trying to confuse them, it’s you and the Liberals.
Hon Mrs Caplan: -- which are, and I will spell them out for him, universality, reasonable access --
The Speaker: Order. Are you finished wasting the time? Order.
Mr Hampton: My question is for the Minister of Tourism and Recreation. The minister will understand that tourism is a very important economic activity in northwestern Ontario. Tourist operators and community representatives regularly attend sport shows in several midwestern United States cities in order to market our tourism activities. They are somewhat dismayed, however, that the Ministry of Tourism and Recreation does not attend many of these sports shows and does not offer marketing assistance or information assistance in order to attract tourist dollars from the US midwest into northwestern Ontario. Can the minister explain why his ministry has abandoned many of these sports shows and does not perform an aggressive marketing role on behalf of tourism in the northwest?
Hon Mr Black: I should first of all tell the member that his facts are incorrect. I am not sure where he is getting them, but he is obviously not getting the correct facts. My ministry is continuing, as it has in the past, to support tourism operators from across this province. It is continuing, through the Ontario travel association program, to provide moneys for regional marketing programs. It is continuing to do marketing at regional trade shows across the United States. Through some of the television and radio advertising we do in the northern and northeastern United States, those states which border northwestern Ontario, we are continuing to feature northern Ontario and northern Ontario destinations in our advertising. I am not sure where the member gets his facts, but they are not correct.
Mr Hampton: Maybe it would help if the minister attended meetings when the Northwestern Ontario Associated Chambers of Commerce come to Queen’s Park to talk to cabinet. They made it very clear to the Premier (Mr Peterson) and they made it very clear to the Minister of Northern Development (Mr Fontaine) that they are quite upset that the Ministry of Tourism and Recreation does not attend these sports shows. The ministry used to attend them. The ministry used to perform a very valuable, specific function; that is, explain regulations. Whether they be Ministry of Natural Resource regulations or whether they be accommodation regulations, the ministry used to explain these types of things to potential clients, but the ministry is no longer there. So representatives of the Northwestern Ontario Tourism Association --
The Speaker: Are you coming to your question?
Mr Hampton: -- and the chambers of commerce want to know why the ministry is not there and why they have to do its job for it.
Hon Mr Black: I am pleased to tell the member that the Ministry of Tourism and Recreation still has a strong presence at trade shows in the United States. I will repeat the comments I made earlier: We continue to provide marketing support through several media. Now surely the member would not be expecting my ministry to continue to do things as it did two or three decades ago. Times change, marketing strategies change, the tourism market is changing and we need to keep up to date. I want the member to know that I have travelled extensively in northwestern Ontario since my appointment. I have met with tourism operators from across the northwest and will continue to do so. We are happy to work in partnership with them.
Mr Eves: I have a question of the Minister of Health. In the absence again today of the Premier (Mr Peterson), I would like to return the minister to the issue of the Stella Lacroix inquest and the coroner’s jury’s recommendations. On 12 October 1989, the Premier said in this House, and I quote:
“As I understand what the Minister of Health has just said, there is a system in place but the system was not used....”
“So the question is: Why was the system which is in place and, to the best of my knowledge, functions well most of the time, not used?...The beds were available....The question is, why was it not used?”
Does the minister still stand by the Premier’s statement of 12 October, and hers on many subsequent occasions, that there was a province-wide, emergency care hotline number and system in place and Dr Nesdoly and everybody else was to blame for not using the system?
The Speaker: Thank you.
Mr Eves: Because that is what he said. I just quoted what he said. Will the minister not now stand up and admit that she was wrong?
Hon Mrs Caplan: I think it is very important when we discuss these issues that we recognize that the existing system, and we refer to our health care system as a system, we say that it is good. In fact, we know that some of the features of the existing system are that it is unco-ordinated and fragmented, and we are working together to develop networks. What the Premier was referring to was the letter, which I tabled in this House, from the Toronto General Hospital outlining the system that it had in place. The Toronto General Hospital, at the inquest, stood by as factual the information in its letter. I think that letter was presented to this House in good faith.
Mr Eves: The question is not whether or not the letter was presented to this House in good faith. Nobody is questioning that. Vickery Stoughton, the author of the letter, himself admitted during the coroner’s inquest that there is no provincial-wide system and there is no hotline. It is an emergency phone in the emergency department of the hospital. That is all it is.
Mr Eves: That is not what she said. I quote from her on 12 October --
The Speaker: Order. I am afraid the member is having to shout for some reason. Perhaps the member would place his supplementary.
Mr Eves: I am shouting to get through the minister’s thick skull.
The Speaker: Perhaps the member would just want to remain seated and not ask a supplementary, because we do have a standing order that we do not like abusive and insulting language. Do you have a supplementary?
Mr Eves: Mr Speaker, first of all, I would like to withdraw the last comment. Second of all, I would like to ask my supplementary.
The minister has said in this House on many occasions that we have a world-class health care system. I think that when the Premier and she herself, as Minister of Health, go out of their way to make disparaging remarks in public about a member of the medical profession, which have subsequently been proved by a coroner’s jury to be inaccurate and unfactual, the very least she can do as Minister of Health is stand up and be world-class herself, admit she made a mistake and publicly apologize. For the last time, will she do that now?
Hon Mrs Caplan: The quote that the member has read into the record in the House today is a direct quote from the letter from the Toronto General Hospital, which it stands by as being completely accurate and factual.
Mr Eves: It’s not factual.
Hon Mrs Caplan: It was presented to this House in good faith.
Mr Eves: It’s not what the coroner’s jury found.
Hon Mrs Caplan: I would say to him that the evidence before the coroner’s jury was that in fact that information --
Mr Eves: You’re wrong again, Elinor. Are you on vacation or what?
The Speaker: Order. I would remind the member for Parry Sound of standing order 20(b). Every member has the right to be heard without interruption by any other member except on a point of order.
Hon Mrs Caplan: That information was made available from the Toronto Hospital to hospitals outside of the province. The Huronia District Hospital had that information and Dr Nesdoly said that he knew of the number and decided not to call. Those were the facts. I had never questioned medical judgement. That letter only stated what was in existence at the Toronto General Hospital.
I would say to the member that I announced last June our intention to establish regional numbers to develop a network to share information. That is what we announced in June; that is what we are moving to implement. I would say to the member opposite that it is very important, when we talk about the health care system today, to realize that every hospital has its own system and that the health care system, we believe, can be improved by developing networks, sharing information and working together to provide the information --
The Speaker: Thank you.
Hon Mrs Caplan: -- that doctors, hospitals and consumers need to make informed choices.
The Speaker: New question. The member for Nepean.
Mr Daigeler: We will see whether my question will elicit as many interjections as the previous one.
The Speaker: And to which minister?
Mr Daigeler: It is to the Minister of the Environment, and he is always a pleasure with the opposition.
I was very pleased to learn that my own neighbourhood of Barrhaven was recently the subject of a Ministry of the Environment study on plastics recycling. This study found that plastics recovery is feasible through the blue box program. However, some people in Ottawa-Carleton and also, I understand, in the Toronto area, are raising questions about the economic viability of plastics recycling. Can the minister comment on these questions?
Hon Mr Bradley: Yes, I certainly can. I want to commend those who have been involved in the Barrhaven project because I think it was particularly useful. There are several communities in Ontario that are involved in plastics recycling -- Mississauga and Guelph and here in Toronto -- as well as Barrhaven. The demonstration project, certainly in my view, proves that such a project can work without requiring on-board compaction equipment and with only a small amount of extra time.
Mr Sterling: You going to pay for the loss, Jimmy?
Hon Mr Bradley: This is a good point. I am glad the member for Carleton has brought this out, because some people will try to point out that recycling is not cost-effective. What they do not take into account are the following things: the landfill site selection, the cost of expropriation, the loss of farm land, the cost of operating a modern, safe landfill site, the closure of the landfill site and the perpetual care and monitoring. I am convinced that if people will take into consideration what the real costs of landfill or incineration are, they will decide that, not only for the environment but for the bottom line, recycling is superior.
Mr Daigeler: I am glad that members of the opposition are taking an interest in this question, which I think is of very great importance across the province. My neighbourhood of Barrhaven took a great interest in this project of plastics recycling and I certainly hope we can continue this program. Can the minister outline what initiatives his ministry is taking to encourage new technologies and new markets for plastics recycling?
Hon Mr Bradley: I could probably name many, but I will pick only a couple of examples. First of all, our industrial 3Rs program provides assistance for all industrial and commercial sectors to take advantage of new opportunities for waste diversion from either landfill or incineration. Activities eligible for funding include feasibility studies, process or equipment modification or evaluation, demonstration projects and research.
There are a couple. Custom Cryogenic Grinding Corp received a grant of $541,000 towards a recycling plant for plastic, rubber and leather. The plant now under construction will be able to process 13 million pounds of plastic. Polymer Development Corp recently received a grant of $610,000 to help establish a scrap plastic recycling operation of municipal, commercial and industrial plastics presently destined for disposal. I will not go into the details of that, except to say --
The Speaker: Thank you.
PROPOSED HOSPITAL MERGER
Mr Reville: My question is for the Minister of Health. There is a panel reviewing the decision-making process about the merger between Women’s College Hospital and the Toronto Hospital. The city of Toronto’s medical officer of health is looking at the proposed merger from the perspective of access to health care, but we do not yet have the promised vision statement from the two boards and people are becoming increasingly concerned that the Toronto Hospital is being handed a blank cheque. Will the minister tell us what her view is of the future of Women’s College?
Hon Mrs Caplan: I want to say to my critic opposite that I have confidence in the boards which govern the hospitals of this province. I often refer to them as nonprofit private corporations. The ministry, as the member knows, has agreed to an independent review of the process leading to the merger decision. It is my understanding that that team -- if it has not already been announced, it will be very soon -- will review the process that led to that decision.
Mr Reville: I have a lot less confidence in the track record of hospital boards involving the public in wide-ranging discussion about their future than the minister seems to have. Quite frankly, I remember, as an outside viewer, a 1983 statement by a gentleman member of this House, who is now the Premier (Mr Peterson). He said that there had to be wide public consultation with all the people affected by the decisions being involved. He said that on 15 February 1983. Further, the minister -- and he meant the minister of the day -- had an obligation to table in the House and share with everybody concerned all the facts about rationalizations or mergers of services.
Will the minister take the Premier’s advice and table in the House all the information that she has about this merger so that people can assure themselves that the culture of Women’s College Hospital will not be lost?
The Speaker: Thank you. The question has been asked.
Hon Mrs Caplan: I think I should declare openly in this House that I was born at Women’s College Hospital, just so that if that matter comes out in the future, members might know. I would say to the member opposite that hospital mergers begin as initiatives from the hospitals. They are decisions that rest with the independent hospital boards.
I want him to know, however, that the ministry and I have been speaking about the importance of hospitals working together. They decide best how to do that, but it is important that we look at how services are provided and focus our attention not only on the process of decision-making, but also on ensuring ourselves that we have the most effective quality care whose results, often referred to as outcomes, will lead to a healthier society.
Mr Cousens: In spite of the fact that the Minister of Health was born at Women’s College, we support it anyway.
The Speaker: Your question is to?
Mr Cousens: My question is to the Minister of Revenue. On 17 October I asked the Minister of Revenue his views on Metro Toronto’s proposal for market value reassessment. At that time, he indicated that the matter was under serious review by his ministry. It is now almost two months later and I would like to ask the minister, once again, where does he stand on market value reassessment for Metro Toronto?
Hon Mr Mancini: The matter is still under serious review.
Mr Cousens: Metro’s commercial sector is going to be subsidizing Metro’s property tax proposals. Commercial establishments will also be paying a new tax, the commercial concentration levy. A committee for Metro’s finance officers has been established to prepare the implementation plan for market value reassessment. The Minister of Revenue will be paying $11.5 million for a study to assess the property values in Metro. Is Metro’s proposal for market value reassessment a fait accompli?
Hon Mr Mancini: The proposal is just that, the proposal of the corporation of the greater Metropolitan Toronto area. It is a proposal similar in some aspects and dissimilar in other ways to the more-than-600 reassessments that have already taken place here in Ontario. For a reassessment to take place the local municipality, the region or the county, must in fact pass a resolution asking for such a reassessment to take place. The responsibility, of course, therefore lies with the local municipalities.
Mr Cousens: So what are you going to do about it, Remo?
The Speaker: The member for Markham had already asked a supplementary.
Mr Matrundola: My question is to the Minister of Transportation. We are all aware of the problem of traffic congestion in Metropolitan Toronto, and in spite of the federal government’s cuts to Via Rail, our government has been making great strides in encouraging people to use public transit.
One way we have been encouraging public transit is through the expansion and promotion of GO Transit, especially the concept of driving to the Station and parking the car there. His ministry has been doing an excellent job in this area, perhaps even too good of a job.
In Willowdale, at the Old Cummer GO station on Leslie Street, there is a very serious problem. There is very limited parking. The parking lot is normally filled to capacity quite early in the morning and people who drive to the station often have nowhere to park. I have three parking tickets here from local residents who could not find parking spots, so they parked at the side of the parking lot.
The Speaker: Order. Maybe the member should be careful with his request. However, I would like to hear a question.
Mr Matrundola: Thank you, Mr Speaker. They are not my parking tickets; they are parking tickets of constituents of mine. I want you to know that. These people parked at the side of the parking lot, not blocking anyone and not on a fire route. As there is quite a bit of vacant land surrounding the GO station --
The Speaker: The question?
Mr Matrundola: -- can we expect any expansion of the parking lots so that people can take GO Transit to work without facing any fines for supposedly parking illegally?
The Speaker: I have to ask the minister, did you hear the question, or would you like to hear it again?
Hon Mr Wrye: I should tell the honourable member I received a parking ticket on Saturday morning while I was selling newspapers for the Goodfellows back in Windsor. I hope my friend the member for Windsor-Riverside got one as well, because we left at about the same time. I paid the ticket, and I certainly would not want to leave any impression that I have anything but sympathy for the parking ticket. Please do not send it over here on a supplementary.
I can tell the honourable member that we do have a problem at Old Cummer station and indeed a lot of stations on the GO route, as the very outstanding expansion of that system has led to some difficulties in terms of parking. We are having a meeting, I believe next Wednesday, with the affected councillors and indeed with those who are involved in studies in North York, as phase 2 of the planning study that is now under way in terms of expansion of the parking facilities at Old Cummer station. It is a problem we are trying to resolve.
Mr Matrundola: Even though the honourable members of this House may think this is a funny thing, it is not funny for those people who go to work to earn a living and park their cars there and they find a parking ticket when they come back home.
In the meantime, can the minister ask GO Transit security people to use their discretion not to ticket cars that may be parked illegally, provided of course they are not blocking anyone or interfering with the traffic flow? Furthermore, can anything be done to void those parking tickets that people have received from GO Transit?
Mrs Marland: Bill, it’s your chance not to be a Scrooge.
Hon Mr Wrye: There is a suggestion that in the spirit of the Christmas season perhaps I should announce that all tickets are voided, but GO Transit certainly has the authority in this area to hand out tickets and I would not want to impinge upon its authority.
I can say to the honourable member and to the House that the enforcement officials of GO Transit, who do on occasion give out tickets, also on a lot of occasions do use the discretion that is given to them and try to show some sensitivity in such cases. We realize we have an important challenge. I hope that members of the public, recognizing that we do have these challenges which we are trying to meet, will also meet the challenge in their own way by enhancing the amount of car pooling that is being done in an effort to alleviate some of the problems that are occurring.
Mr Allen: I have a question for the Minister of Community and Social Services. A constituent of mine, Janice Reidel, a 44-year-old nurse afflicted with severe arthritis, has had to retire. She applied successfully to vocational rehabilitation for a program, but when she applied to family benefits for a personal support allowance she was refused because she has in excess of $3,000 in a registered retirement savings plan which arose out of the transfer of her pensionable savings as a nurse into an RRSP, which is currently in trust with a company.
Is that fair, and what is the minister doing about the asset rules that would relieve persons like Janice Reidel from the kind of treatment that she has received in seeking to retrain herself for a new occupation?
Hon Mr Beer: I am not aware of the specifics of the particular question the member raised. In terms of the amount, I know that is at the limit of what is allowed by the federal government at this time. We have received from a number of people questions around this, and at the last federal-provincial meeting of ministers responsible for social services we raised this issue in terms of looking at how we could make some changes to reflect changes in the world around us and problems of the sort that the member mentioned. I would be certainly prepared to look at that specific case, but it does go beyond what we in the province are able to do ourselves in making changes to those rules.
Mr Allen: This question was laid on the minister by the Social Assistance Review Committee, as he may recall. The legislation under the Canada assistance plan allows us as a province to determine what is or is not a liquid asset and to establish our own asset ceiling. Secondly, the CAP guidelines permit assets above ceiling if the money is in a special fund or trust for purposes deemed socially important by the provincial administration.
Is it not important that Janice Reidel have a hedge against being one of those single poor women who are one of the most important and difficult poverty sectors we face? Is that not a socially important consideration for this administration?
Hon Mr Beer: Indeed, and I think that would be one of the directions we would want to go. I would have to say that in making changes to the specific rules and guidelines, we have to be aware of what their implications are. I can tell the member that I will look specifically at this case to see in which way we can help and provide assistance. I say as well to the member that we are looking at that specific matter; it has been raised with me during the fall by different organizations, and we are trying to come to some determination of how we can help. There are some areas with respect to this question where I believe we have been able to make some positive changes around the question of assets, but we have not been able to fully deal with that issue. I will make the commitment to deal specifically with the individual in question and to continue to try to resolve the broader question.
ELECTRICITY DEMAND AND SUPPLY
Mr Cureatz: I have a question for the Minister of Energy. Last week my colleague the member for Leeds-Grenville (Mr Runciman) asked the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology (Mr Kwinter) whether he was concerned about the lack of electricity being provided to Ontario industries.
I have been contacted by the president of Lasco Steel, located in the town of Whitby. I represent a portion of that municipality. He indicated to me that three days last week he had to shut down his plant and send 250 employees home, because Ontario Hydro could not produce electricity. This is while Ontario Hydro is telling us to unplug Christmas lights, and at the Darlington generating station, located in my riding, there is a huge billboard all lit up with Christmas lights saying, “Season’s Greetings.”
Would the minister please confirm to this House that the reason Ontario residents and employees are suffering a lack of electricity is that this government has not made adequate plans since it has taken office and since the accord in 1985?
Hon Mrs McLeod: No, I will not confirm that interpretation of the facts. Last Thursday, when the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology was asked the question about interruptions of power to specific industries, I had just returned to my own riding of Thunder Bay from witnessing the signing of the Manitoba purchase agreement, which is a part of the plans that Ontario Hydro is putting in place to ensure security of electricity supply in the future.
I heard the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology very correctly indicate that the only industries which had their power interrupted were those that had a portion of their power purchase on interruptible contracts, knowing that at points of potential shortages, very short-term shortages, power could be interrupted for short terms. As I am sure the member is aware, those companies secure that power at quite reasonable rates in return for that prospect of its being interruptible, and Ontario Hydro has a very remarkable rate of ensuring reliability of electricity and has very, very rare shutdowns even to its interruptible customers.
As the member knows, I am also aware of the plans Ontario Hydro is currently putting in place to ensure long-term supply.
Mr Cureatz: Speaking of the Manitoba agreement, how could the minister and her administration agree to signing a contract worth billions of dollars when in the first place that kind of money could be spent in Ontario on the construction of a new station, for instance a Darlington B? Secondly, why would she enter into the agreement before Ontario Hydro has even announced its demand-supply options study, which was supposed to have been announced in September, then October and then November?
Hon Mrs McLeod: I am sure the honourable member is well aware that negotiations on the prospective out-of-province hydro purchases have been going on for some time. It was important to determine whether or not those negotiations could be successfully concluded, both for Manitoba Hydro, which is looking at a very major power generation project which is important to that province, as well as for Ontario Hydro, so they would know whether or not the prospective purchase of out-of-province electricity could be a part of those plans, which in fact they are going to table with the government very shortly.
I think the honourable member will be well aware that we have announced an environmental assessment review process, and the Manitoba purchase agreement will be a part of our environmental assessment review. As to the issue of why out-of-province purchase is a part of the options that Ontario Hydro will want to present, I think Ontario Hydro is looking at a diversity of options, and I think that there will undoubtedly be other proposals that Hydro brings forward in its plans.
As for Ontario jobs, there are some very positive spinoffs, not only in terms of reliability of electricity but in terms of economic opportunities for northern Ontario, through this possible purchase.
Ms Oddie Munro: My question is to the Minister of the Environment. The development of Hamilton’s waterfront is of great interest, excitement and concern to all Hamiltonians. As the minister knows, our plans are wide-ranging and diverse, and I was pleased to note his involvement in CHCH-TV’s recent program dealing with the waterfront. It is important to note we recognize that environmental cleanup and restoration of our harbour is critical to development of the waterfront.
My question is, can the minister tell me when he will be in a position to arrange a meeting with the city of Hamilton on the cleanup activities proposed for the Lax lands?
Hon Mr Bradley: I think the member would know that the land was expropriated in 1984 by the city of Hamilton for recreational purposes and that in 1986 there was an undertaking and actual processing of taking some contaminated soil away for appropriate disposal. It was discovered subsequently that some 13,000 tons of waste still has to be taken away to make it usable.
The city, I understand, has now put forward a formal proposal. I know the mayor, Bob Morrow, is very enthusiastic about this and is eager to proceed with it. It offers a lot of opportunity for Hamilton. Certainly, I think we should be in a position next week to have the Hamilton district office of the Ministry of the Environment meeting with the city of Hamilton to look at the details of that proposal and to come forward with a funding formula.
I already gave a commitment in 1986 on the part of the provincial government to participate by providing funds from our environmental security fund to assist in this regard. That offer stands, and I am very pleased to know that in the very near future there will be a meeting between our officials to work out the details.
Ms Oddie Munro: I am looking forward to the outcome of that meeting. With respect to the environmental cleanup of the harbour, could the minister indicate the potential impact of the municipal-industrial strategy for abatement regulations affecting the iron and steel sector? What is the status of the implementation of such regulations?
Hon Mr Bradley: There will be an impact. The first part is dealing with some remedial work; the second part with some preventive work. As of 1 November 1989, the MISA monitoring regulation went in for some seven iron and steel plants in the province, including the ones located in the city of Hamilton.
Final discharges to waterways will be monitored daily for four different substances, three times a week for 12 contaminants and weekly for eight to 12 substances. Monthly and quarterly monitoring for a group of contaminants that sums 86 to 149 contaminants will also take place. There will be monthly biological monitoring that will be required, involving toxicity tests on mill effluents using rainbow trout and water fleas.
With the results from this in hand, there will be formulated a very tough program of abatement, which is the second portion of the regulation, which will have the preventive effect of bringing further reductions in the contaminants that will be going into the waterway, with the final goal being the virtual elimination of persistent toxic substances going into Hamilton harbour.
REGIONAL MUNICIPALITY OF NIAGARA
Mr Wildman: I have a question for the Minister of Municipal Affairs regarding the $400,000 Niagara regional review report which was completed by Professor Harry Kitchen of Trent University and to which the minister has requested reaction.
The report proposes to abolish single lot severances of good agricultural land, a recommendation which is directly contrary to the opportunistic suggestion of his colleague the Minister of Agriculture and Food (Mr Ramsay) in a speech to the Niagara Federation of Agriculture on 21 October that restrictions on urban development of farm land be eased.
Could the minister clarify whether he or the Minister of Agriculture and Food speaks for government policy in this matter?
Hon Mr Sweeney: I am fairly certain that my honourable friend is well aware of the fact that Harry Kitchen’s report is Harry Kitchen’s report; it is not the government report. When I went down to Niagara to officially make the report public, I made that very clear to the people down there, including all of the municipal officials, and I must say to my honourable friend that there was some strong difference of opinion.
Hon Mr Bradley: How could you leave him time for a supplementary?
Mr Wildman: The Minister of the Environment wonders why the minister left time for a supplementary. Could the minister indicate how long he intends to leave time for reaction and when he, as the minister responsible, will be stating government policy with regard to land severances of good agricultural land in the Niagara region?
Hon Mr Sweeney: We indicated last week that we wanted reaction by 31 May 1990 and that how widespread the reactions were, or how closely they were, would determine how long it would take me to give government reaction.
ANIMALS FOR RESEARCH
Mr Wildman: I have a petition signed by approximately 3,400 residents of Ontario, mostly from the Metropolitan Toronto region, requesting that the Parliament of Ontario pass into law a bill prohibiting the use of animals in cosmetic and product testing; that is, Bill 190. This raises the total of signatures to approximately 76,400 residents of Ontario supporting Bill 190’s passage. I have added my name to it and I support the petition.
Mr Kanter: I have two petitions, each gathered by naturopaths practising in my riding and each signed by approximately 100 residents, many of whom are residents in my riding, asking the Ontario government to introduce legislation that would guarantee naturopaths the right to practise their art and science to the fullest without prejudice or harassment. I have signed each of these petitions and would present them to the Legislature.
Mr MacDonald: I have three petitions from the Quinte area that I am presenting today. All of these petitions were signed by citizens who oppose the French Language Services Act. I have affixed my signature according to the standing orders.
Mr Matrundola: I have a petition to the Honourable Lieutenant Governor and the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:
“We, the undersigned, beg leave to petition the Parliament of Ontario as follows;
“Whereas the French ethnic population of Ontario at the time of Confederation was less than 1.85 per cent, and
“Whereas all ethnic groups residing in Ontario at the time of Confederation can claim to be founding people, and
“Whereas the French Language Services Act of the province of Ontario creates a special status for 4.5 per cent of the provincial population, and
“Whereas the creation of a special status for one ethnic group discriminates against all other ethnic groups comprising 95.5 per cent of the population and is a source of disunity within the province,
“Wherefore, the undersigned humbly pray and call upon the Legislature of the province of Ontario to pass legislation repealing the French Language Services Act, being the Statutes of Ontario 1986, chapter 45.”
It is my duty to present the petition, which is signed by 36 residents of the riding of Willowdale. The petition calls upon the Legislative Assembly to repeal the French Language Services Act. As required by the standing rules, I have affixed my signature.
The Speaker: I might remind the honourable member, he might take another look at the new standing order 35 pertaining to petitions.
LICENSING OF TOBACCO PRODUCTS
Mr Allen: I have 11 names on a petition to the Honourable Lieutenant Governor and the Legislative Assembly of Ontario which is essentially a demand for the licensing of tobacco products which they argue should not be left to the whim of municipalities as provided under the Municipal Act but should be included in provincial legislation. They urge the Minister of Health (Mrs Caplan) to move speedily in that direction and ask her why the government has not, to date, introduced a licensing system to control this, since it is the only hazardous product available in Ontario, the sale of which is not controlled by government.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
House in committee of the whole.
COURTS OF JUSTICE AMENDMENT ACT, 1989
Consideration of Bill 69, An Act to amend the Courts of Justice Act.
The Chair: At this moment, I would like to list all possible sections on which members would like to make comments, propose amendments or ask questions. I have in front of me government motions for sections 1, 2, 3, 4, 7 and 8. Do other members have a list of proposed amendments?
Mr Sterling: It might be easier, in this bill, to list the sections to which there are no amendments.
The Chair: There being no other proposed amendments, let us have a look at section 1.
The Chair: Mr Polsinelli moves that clause 90(1)(va) of the act, as set out in subsection 1(1) of the bill, be struck out and the following substituted therefor:
“(va) the method of calculating the amount to be included in an award of damages to offset any liability for income tax on income from investment of the award.”
The Chair: Did the parliamentary assistant provide copies for everyone?
Mr Polsinelli: I understand the critic from the official opposition does not have copies of the amendments. They were delivered yesterday to the substitute critic, who was acting on his behalf, but I will ensure that copies of these amendments are sent also to the critic.
This motion would broaden the language of the proposed act to ensure that the rules committee can provide for rules for all circumstances that may require gross-up calculations. In particular, this section gives the rules committee of the Supreme and District Court the power to make rules that will guide the court in making calculations for what is known as gross-up. The current wording makes this possible, but only where it relates to the cost of future care. This broadens the rules committee’s powers in that section.
Mr Sterling: Before I get to the substance of the amendment, as I have mentioned and as you pointed out, Mr Chairman, we have a bill with seven substantive sections and we have nine amendments. I want to ask the parliamentary assistant what kind of consultations have gone on with the Advocates Society and the Canadian Bar Association, in particular, and the rules committee, with respect to the amendments which are being presented by the parliamentary assistant at this time?
Mr Polsinelli: I am informed that the rules committee has copies of all the amendments and these particular amendments are as a result of comments on the bill since its introduction and first reading.
Mr Sterling: When did they receive copies of these amendments, and have the Canadian Bar Association and the Advocates Society, who deal with these on a day-to-day basis, also received copies of these amendments?
Mr Polsinelli: I am informed that the Advocates Society has not received copies of these amendments.
Mr Sterling: When did the rules committee receive these? Have they considered them and responded to these particular amendments which are being put forward at this time?
Mr Polsinelli: The rules committee does not have these amendments. I understand that they do not need them. They have a request to develop all the possible rules that will be developed as a result, not only of this act but also of Bills 2 and 3.
Mr Sterling: That is kind of a strange answer, that I guess they do not need them because they could do anything anyway, with or without the statute, so why do we need the amendments in the first place, or why do we need the statute in the first place?
Basically, as I understand it, this statute gives them certain parameters to work within. What I would like to know is whether or not there has been adequate time for response. Notwithstanding the desire of everybody to get on with this, I cannot emphasize enough my concern as to whether or not it is wise to do so at this juncture.
Mr Polsinelli: I am advised that we do not normally circulate these to the rules committee. The rules committee makes the rules as a result of the legislation that is passed by the House. In terms of this particular legislation and these amendments, we have consulted with the bar, both the practising bar in Toronto and in Ottawa, and the official guardian’s office. Once this legislation is passed, there will be an obligation on the rules committee to develop the rules as a consequence of this legislation.
Mr Sterling: I am not referring to the amendments as proposed in Bill 69; I am referring to the amendments to the amendments which we were given yesterday -- the amendments to the amendments. Because I know those amendments were drawn over the weekend and in fact were being drafted only yesterday, and we received this version of the amendments only during question period, at approximately 2:30 yesterday afternoon, I would be greatly surprised if in fact the member had consulted with the bar or the rules committee or anybody else with regard to these amendments which he is presenting today in committee of the whole House.
I guess he is confirming that on this package of amendments, these nine amendments which I have on my desk, he has not consulted with any of the profession or the rules committee other than the general consultations that might have taken place prior to the presentation of Bill 69. Is that correct?
Mr Polsinelli: I would have to agree with the member for Carleton. As a result of first reading, we consulted, as I said, with the bar, both the practising bar in Toronto and in Ottawa, with the official guardian’s office and with private practitioners. As a result of our consultation with those individuals, we developed these amendments which we feel will satisfy some of the questions and concerns that they had as a result of the bill. They feel these amendments will make this a better, more palatable and fairer bill.
Mr Sterling: My only concern when we are amending rules like this, a lot of which in effect acts in a retroactive way to existing court actions that are under way in the court system already, is that in fact they be right and they be logical and they be well thought out. Our most recent experience with other court reform has indicated that the Attorney General’s office has not acted always in that manner. I, of course, speak of Bills 2 and 3 which, 10 days after passing, were amended by another bill which indeed was amended during the legislative process once again.
I will go to the substance of the present motion. Under Bill 69 as introduced on 23 October of this year, the minister has indicated the method of calculating the amount to be included in an award of damages for future care to offset liability for income tax. That is what he had in the original proposal on Bill 69, which we passed on second reading yesterday. He has now changed that to this amendment which changes certain words of it, and I find those words more confining, not more generic in how they are laid.
I did not get the sense that the parliamentary assistant was pointing to that. Under this proposal, he is saying, “the method of calculating the amount to be included in an award of damages to offset any liability for income tax on income from investment of the award.” To me, those words are more confining than those that he originally had. Is that his intent, to confine, or is it to give the rules committee more power?
Mr Polsinelli: It is clear that our intention is to broaden the scope of powers that the rules committee would have. If I can give an example to the member for Carleton, we would not think, for example, that it is inappropriate for the rules committee to consider other than the income tax aspects, which would normally have been taken into consideration under the first amendment. With this amendment, they would be able to consider, for example, the loss of future income from a dependant that the plaintiff would have been entitled to, if not for the accident or for the tort claim. So it is clearly our intention to broaden the powers of the rules committee in developing rules.
Mr Sterling: The intention with regard to this amendment is to give the rules committee some powers, but this amendment to the amendment which we are debating today adds the words “on income from investment of the award.” If the parliamentary assistant did not have those words in it, as Bill 69 now has excluded those words, to me, that gives the rules committee more power to make calculations and rules than what he is proposing today. In other words, he has seen between 23 October and today a need to limit the power of the rules committee on setting the method of calculating these amounts. If that is correct, I would like to ask him why he wants to limit the rules committee in that regard.
Mr Polsinelli: I am advised that the key to the amendment is that we are now removing the words “for future care.” What we are doing with this is just clarifying the section and we believe that the net result will be a broadening of the powers of the rules committee.
Motion agreed to.
Mr Polsinelli: I would ask the unanimous consent of the House to place this next amendment.
The Chair: Why?
Mr Polsinelli: We have been advised by the clerk that, otherwise, this amendment would be out of order because it refers to a subsection that was not initially amended by Bill 69, as a result of which we are technically required to ask for unanimous consent of the House to place this before the House.
The Chair: Is there unanimous consent to place this amendment?
The Chair: Mr Polsinelli moves that section 1 of the bill be amended by adding thereto the following subsections:
“(3) Subsection 65(2) of the said act, as enacted by the Statutes of Ontario, 1989, chapter 55, section 2, is amended by adding thereto the following clauses:
“(ua) the method of calculating the amount to be included in an award of damages to offset any liability for income tax on income from investment of the award;
“(ub) the discount rate with respect to the rate of interest on damages for nonpecuniary loss.
“(4) Section 65 of the said act, as enacted by the Statutes of Ontario, 1989, chapter 55, section 2, is amended by adding thereto the following subsection:
“(4) Rules made under clauses (1)(p)(ua) and (ub) shall be reviewed at least once in every four-year period.”
Mr Polsinelli: When Bill 2, the court reform bill, is proclaimed, it will make changes to the constitution of the rules committee. This motion will add a subsection that preserves these amendments after Bill 2 is proclaimed.
Motion agreed to.
Section 1, as amended, agreed to.
Mr Polsinelli: We have no motion with respect to this section. However, it is our intention to delete this section from the bill. This section codifies the court’s power to do a gross-up calculation and this motion repeals it so that it can be merged with the next section, section 129.
The Chair: I will explain to you that the correct procedure is to vote against this section standing as part of the bill. Therefore, you may move it, so we can vote against it.
Mr Polsinelli: When you call that section 2 of the bill be carried, I will say no.
The Chair: In that case, let’s simplify this even more. Shall section 2 stand as part of the bill?
Section 2 negatived.
The Chair: Mr Polsinelli moves that clause 129(1)(b) of the act, as set out in section 3 of the bill, be amended by striking out “requests an increase” in the first line and inserting in lieu thereof “requests that an amount be included.”
Mr Polsinelli: We feel that this is an improvement on the wording of clause 129(1)(b). It is not a substantive motion.
Motion agreed to.
The Chair: Mr Polsinelli moves that section 129 of the act, as set out in section 3 of the bill, be amended by adding thereto the following subsection:
“(2a) In considering the best interest of the plaintiff, the court shall take into account,
“(a) whether the defendant has sufficient means to fund an adequate scheme of periodic payments;
“(b) whether the plaintiff has a plan or a method of payment that is better able to meet the interests of the plaintiff than periodic payments by the defendant; and
“(c) whether a scheme of periodic payments is practicable having regarding to all the circumstances of the case.”
Mr Polsinelli: We feel that this gives the court a bit more flexibility and guidance in determining what the best interest of the plaintiff is. It would not be, for example, in the best interest of the plaintiff if the court were to order a structured settlement which would be beyond the policy limits of the insurance of the defendant’s insurer or in similar cases where the court feels that it is not in the best interest of the plaintiff, it can refuse to order a structure and can look at some alternative judgement.
Mr Sterling: I had understood, with what was already proposed in the act, that the court would have a pretty unfettered discretion to make whatever order it thought was right. I am just somewhat concerned about whether or not, when taking into consideration the best interests of the plaintiff, the parliamentary assistant should consider whether or not the defendant has sufficient means to fund an adequate scheme of periodic payments.
I just wonder whether or not the argument might be put forward that, as often happens in family court cases, the defendant loads himself up with a tremendous amount of debt obligation, almost on purpose, to avoid any periodic payments he might be required to make either for his spouse or for children. Therefore, I just wondered whether this could be interpreted in any way as acting against the best interests of a plaintiff spouse in a family court situation.
Mr Polsinelli: We do not see the situation of a defendant loading up on debt to avoid a structure, because the alternative to that would be a lump sum payment.
Mr Sterling: I know the parliamentary assistant is relatively new to the bar, but notwithstanding that, I think it only takes a very short period of experience in the family court to understand what happens. Often a spouse, primarily the man, wants to avoid making any kind of maintenance payments for his wife or his children and goes out and buys a big expensive car with high payments on it and then submits his budget to the family court and says that his take-home pay is, for the sake of simplicity, $2,500, but he has $600 in car payments. I do not know whether this encourages the defendant to do that kind of thing. Quite frankly, I do not know what the necessity of the section is in the act.
Mr Polsinelli: I am having some difficulty understanding how this would apply in a family law action. My understanding is that it only applies to actions that are generally personal injury actions. In this type of situation, what we have is the court having to make a decision between a lump sum payment, a judgement for X amount of dollars, or whether it would be more appropriate and in the plaintiff’s better interest to award a structured settlement that would cost $120,000.
When we are talking about periodic payments, we are talking about the monthly or regular payments that are made pursuant to an annuity, or some type of structure that would be imposed by the court in this type of situation. Again, what we think this does is provide the court with some guidance in determining what the best interest of the plaintiff is in this particular situation. If they find that a structured settlement or a particular structure is not in the plaintiff’s best interest, they may order something else such as a lump sum payment, for example, or a different type of structure.
Mr Sterling: I want to refer the parliamentary assistant to subsection 129(1) of the act where it says, “In a proceeding where damages are claimed for personal injuries or under part V of the Family Law Act.” That is why I am referring to the family court situation which could result when combined with a personal injury. But that is no question.
Mr Polsinelli: Part V of the Family Law Act that is referred to in subsection 129(1) is the section that allows for derivative actions to be placed by the relative. It is narrowly defined as to who can bring that type of action, but if a parent were to bring a derivative action on behalf of a child who was injured tripping on a sidewalk in front of a grocery store, or something in that nature, it still narrows it to a personal injury type of action.
Motion agreed to.
The Chair: Mr Polsinelli moves that section 129 of the Act, as set out in section 3 of the bill, be amended by adding thereto the following subsection:
“(4) If the court does not make an order for periodic payment under subsection (1), it shall make an award for damages that shall include an amount to offset liability for income tax on income from investment of the award.”
Mr Polsinelli: This motion makes the subsection clear in providing first that the gross-up is to be ordered if a structured judgement is not ordered. Second, it broadens the language so that the courts’ power to gross up is not limited to the cost of future care.
Motion agreed to.
Section 3, as amended, agreed to.
The Chair: Mr Polsinelli moves that subsection 130c(4) of the act, as set out in section 4 of the bill, be amended inserting after “but” in the second line “shall be disclosed.”
Mr Polsinelli: This is not a substantive amendment. It just improves the language of the amendment.
Motion agreed to.
The Chair: Shall section 4, as amended, carry?
Mr Kormos: Mr Chairman.
The Chair: Yes. On section 4?
Mr Kormos: Yes, please. The section refers to new sections, amendments proposed by section 4. Sections 130a and 13Ob talk about damages for personal injury. It is surely ironic that this legislation would speak of damages for personal injury. The parliamentary assistant gave the illustration of a person slipping and falling on a sidewalk, perhaps on a patch of ice left behind by a negligent property owner who showed a complete lack of care for pedestrians, people using that sidewalk in front of his business or in front of his home.
What happens is that in this province, if this government has its way, the person who slips and falls on a piece of ice that was negligently left behind by a property owner will be able to get compensated for his or her pain and suffering, for his or her damages for personal injury, exactly what these sections talk about. But if that same person here in the province of Ontario is struck down by a drunk or a negligent or a careless driver, this government is saying no.
That same person who is struck down, whose legs are broken, whose back is broken by a drunk or negligent or careless driver, will not be able to seek compensation for personal injury, will not have 130a and 130b considered on his or her behalf, because this very same government that proposes these amendments now is at the same time telling people who are going to be the innocent victims of drunk, negligent, careless and reckless drivers, “No, we are going to deny you the right to be compensated for your personal injuries.”
There will not be any talk about collecting damages for personal injuries by way of compensation because they are going to be protecting that negligent or drunk or careless or reckless driver and they are not going to be permitting the victim to accept or receive or even claim compensation for pain, for suffering, for loss of enjoyment of life.
Indeed, what we are speaking of, of course, is the juxtaposition of this particular Bill 69 with its predecessor numerically, that is, Bill 68. Bill 69 on the one hand speaks so boldly of damages for personal injuries, but Bill 68 took away the right of at least 95 per cent of all innocent injured accident victims, motor vehicle accident victims here in the province of Ontario to even think about being compensated for their personal injury.
I am wondering if the parliamentary assistant could comment on the irony inherent in that particular juxtaposition.
Mr Poisinelli: It is usually very difficult for me to comment on irony, but I will bring to the member’s attention that the advance payments that are contemplated under this bill are presently available to individuals who are involved in auto accidents under section 224 of the Insurance Act.
What we are doing is extending that provision, or not necessarily that provision but a similar provision, to all tort cases and not just auto cases. So the slip-and-fall case that I gave as an example earlier would not be entitled to the same benefits as someone who was involved in an auto accident today would be entitled to.
Mr Kormos: It is incredible that the parliamentary assistant could say that because he knows or he certainly should know that Bill 68 is going to take away the right of at least 95 per cent of those innocent injured accident victims to look for compensation for personal injury. How can he talk in the manner that he just has? He knows better than that. Shame on him.
Section 4, as amended, agreed to.
Sections 5 and 6 agreed to.
The Chair: Mr Polsinelli moves that clauses 140(2)(g), (h) and (i) of the act, as set out in section 7 of the bill, be struck out.
Mr Polsinelli: I think they are fairly self-explanatory.
Mr Sterling: I cannot understand why the parliamentary assistant wants to take these particular clauses out when basically this section is trying to give direction to the court to punish litigants by varying the rate of interest that they might be able to receive on their damages by taking into consideration various factors.
The first of the three factors that they want to erase from the original Bill 69 is “the fact that a step in the proceeding was improper, vexatious or unnecessary.” In fact, if a litigant, a lawyer or a client through his lawyer takes a step that is improper, vexatious or unnecessary, quite frankly we believe that that litigant should be penalized in some form. Otherwise, the whole thrust of this legislation will be lost. We want this legislation to encourage people to act in a reasonable, sane manner in dealing with litigation before our courts.
The next one that was removed is “the fact that a step in the proceeding was taken through negligence, mistake or excessive caution.” Again, we believe that if in fact a party is negligent in the action, causes an undue delay, causes a party to not receive the damages within time, that should be penalized as well in a striking of the interest rate that the defendant should be entitled to.
The third one they are striking out is “the fact that a party denied or refused to admit anything that should have been admitted” during the proceedings. In other words, if a particular fact is self-evident to everyone and one of the sides requires, for instance, the proof of a fact which is self-evident and can be proved perhaps with some difficulty by bringing witnesses from afar or providing affidavits or whatever proof is necessary, if that can be admitted up front, it saves the time of the court, it saves the expense of the court, it saves the expense of the litigants, and therefore we believe that it should also be reflected in the interest rate that the judge hits when he is deciding on damages in the final analysis.
Quite frankly, we do not understand why the government wants to take out these three sections which we believe would speed up, would lead to less cost in litigation, when that is what the whole bill is all about. Perhaps the parliamentary assistant could explain it.
Mr Polsinelli: The three clauses that we are taking out, clauses (g), (h) and (i), we believe are covered by clause (f), and that is what we have been told by the practising bar. That section says “the conduct of any party that tended to shorten or to lengthen unnecessarily the duration of the proceeding,” and we have been told by the practising bar that that effectively covers those items that are listed in (g), (h) and (i). So there is no discretion taken away from the court in determining the plaintiffs entitlement to interest.
The other factor that we should take into consideration is that these are items that really apply to the cost of the action, and the judge has the discretion under the rules of civil procedure to take these particular items into consideration in awarding costs. In fact, clauses (g), (h) and (i), which we are taking out of this particular bill, are very, very similar in wording to the rules of civil procedure.
The Chair: Any other comments? Ready for the vote? Is it the pleasure of the committee that the motion carry?
All those in favour will please say “aye.”
All those opposed will please say “nay.”
In my opinion, the ayes have it.
Motion agreed to.
Section 7, as amended, agreed to.
The Chair: Mr Polsinelli moves that section 8 of the bill be struck out and the following substituted therefor:
“(1) The amendments to the Courts of Justice Act, 1984, enacted by this act, except for the amendments enacted by subsections 1(3) and (4), section 4 and subsection 6(2), apply to causes of action arising after the 23rd day of October, 1989.
“(2) The amendments to the Courts of Justice Act, 1984, enacted by section 4 and subsection 6(2) of this act apply to,
(a) actions commenced but not settled or adjudicated upon before this act comes into force; and
(b) causes of action arising after this Act comes into force.
“(3) Subsections 1(3) and (4) come into force on the day that section 2 of the Courts of Justice Amendment Act, 1989, being chapter 55, is proclaimed in force.”
Mr Polsinelli: Consultation has told us that some of these amendments, particularly the guidance to juries on quantum, appeal court power to substitute their assessments or the advance payments provisions, should be made available to the practising bar and to the plaintiffs as quickly as possible. Accordingly, we are making those amendments.
The Chair: Any comments? Ready for the vote? Is it the pleasure of the committee that the motion carry?
Motion agreed to.
Section 8, as amended, agreed to.
Section 9 agreed to.
Mr Sterling: I have not submitted an amendment to section 10, but I thought that a more appropriate name for the short title of this act would be the “Fifth or Sixth or Seventh Courts of Justice Amendment Act, 1989.” I think that would be more appropriate. I am not sure what number it is. Perhaps the parliamentary assistant could tell me how many times we have amended the Courts of Justice Act this year.
Mr Polsinelli: The member for Carleton, being a practising lawyer, knows that the Courts 3 of Justice Act is a very comprehensive document that controls the structure of the legal system and the administration of justice in this province. Quite frankly, I do not think we can have enough situations where we try to make it better, more equitable and fair for the people of the province.
Mr Sterling: I am concerned that we make it right when we do it. The past experience has been that it has not been right. I expect that early in March, when we reconvene, we will have the Courts of Justice Amendment Act, 1990 before us.
Section 10 agreed to.
Bill, as amended, ordered to be reported.
EMPLOYER HEALTH TAX ACT, 1989
Consideration of Bill 47, An Act to impose a Tax on Employers for the purpose of providing for Health Care and to revise the requirements respecting the payment of Premiums under the Health Insurance Act.
The Chair: As usual, I would like to list the proposed amendments. The clerk assistant has just delivered a fine package of third-party motions.
Hon Mr Mancini: With your permission, I would like to move down and also have permission for my officials to join me.
The Chair: Please go ahead, Minister.
Hon Mr Mancini: I understand we have not yet received the reprinted bill. We believe that three government motions were carried in the committee. I want to ask whether or not you could confirm that, or if you do have a reprinted bill, we would prefer a copy.
The Chair: We have a reprinted copy here on the table. It just came in today, by the way.
I wanted to ask the member for Beaches-Woodbine, have you circulated copies of the proposed amendments to sections 40 and 41 that you just submitted?
Ms Bryden: Yes.
The Chair: Including to the interpreters and Hansard?
Ms Bryden: No, I did not.
The Chair: No? Can I remind members, it is habitual procedure, two hours ahead of time, to give seven copies to the table so that we can give them to all the clerk assistants, legislative counsel, Hansard and interpreters, please. Thank you.
I have quite a number of proposed amendments, sections 1, 2, 3, 7 ,20, 20a, 32,36, 40 and 41 from the official opposition; section 41 also from the government; section 41 also from the third party. Does that cover it, more or less? There are no more unannounced proposals to come forward.
In that case, can we look at subsection 1(1), definitions, as a third party motion?
Hon Mr Mancini: Excuse me, are we starting from the beginning again? Are we not starting from where the committee left off? We are asking for your guidance on this.
The Chair: From what I have been told, we start on section 1 from scratch.
Hon Mr Mancini: Does that mean the government must remove its amendments?
Mr Sterling: No, they have been passed.
The Chair: I have been told that the amendments that you had passed before are already in the reprinted version, so you do not have to deal with those again, but as this is a different committee, we have to start from scratch at section 1 again.
Hon Mr Mancini: You are saying maybe we are going to give the member for Cochrane South (Mr Pope) another chance. Is that what you are telling us, Mr Chairman?
The Chair: That sounds like a fair interpretation.
Hon Mr Mancini: I think in the spirit of the season, we should allow that.
Mr Sterling: On a point of order, Mr Chairman: I want to make it clear to the minister that if he reads the standing order, he should understand that it is not in the spirit of his giving us anything. We, as members of the Legislature, have the right to present amendments at all stages of the process, in committee, or even if the committee is usurped by the government members and it is sent back here, we have the right to present those amendments.
I appreciate his kindness in the spirit of the Christmas season, but surely if he wants to convey to us his good wishes, he will do it in some other manner after we prorogue or we leave this evening -- perhaps take all the members involved in this out to dine with him this evening or something of that nature.
Ms Bryden: On the point of order --
The Chair: No, it is not speaking on a point of order, it is just an explanation. I just want to say, in the spirit of the House, let us proceed with the member for Cochrane South.
Mr Pope: As I was saying, in order to expedite this process, and I mean that, I wanted to ask the minister if he could reply under section 1 to a number of questions that we have. Will he confirm the information that was given by the member for Middlesex (Mr Reycraft) and Mr Orsini last week in the standing committee on finance and economic affairs on Thursday, 7 December 1989? It is found on pages 36 and 37 of the instant Hansard report.
We just want to get the minister to confirm that in fact for January, February and March 1990, the payroll tax will bring in to the coffers of the province of Ontario approximately $500 million in that three-month period. I will quote the answer from Mr Orsini on page 37. “There are no premiums collected in the January-February-March period, but the payments made for January, February and March would amount to over $400 million, approximately $435 million.”
I want to expedite this exercise here, and we can get on to the amendments. Will the minister confirm that the employer health tax will bring in, in January, February and March, $500 million in payroll tax and, at the same time, OHIP premiums collected for the same period will bring in an additional $435 million?
Hon Mr Mancini: We have had long and continuous discussions, I believe, on this particular matter. I think I have told the House and the honourable members as often as they have asked that under the system that is in place now, where people are paying premiums, we are in fact covering 13 per cent of the health care bill. Under the new system, we will be covering 16 per cent of the health care bill.
I believe the honourable member knows full well that under the old system, which was premium driven, some employers paid full premiums on behalf of their employees, some paid partial premiums, some employers paid no premiums at all. We are putting health care on a firm financial footing. We are asking all employers to make a contribution to the funding of our health care system, and as I said at the beginning of my remarks, we are going from a system which provided 13 per cent of the health care costs to a system which is providing 16 per cent of the health care costs.
Mr Pope: Maybe this is going to take a while. I guess we will have to put very specific questions. Will the minister confirm the member for Middlesex’s opinion, given to the standing committee on finance and economic affairs on Thursday, 7 December at page 36 of the transcript from instant Hansard, that approximately $500 million will be paid under this legislation by employers in the province of Ontario for the months January, February and March 1990?
Hon Mr Mancini: If memory serves me correctly, I believe the employers’ health levy will bring in approximately $2.1 billion. The OHIP premiums brought in were $1.8 billion. The new employers’ health levy will be bringing in an extra $300 million.
At this point I would like to add that OHIP premiums have in fact been frozen since 1984-85. If OHIP premiums had not been frozen, if OHIP premiums had gone up equal to the consumer price index, OHIP premiums next year would be bringing in not $2.1 billion, which the employers’ health levy is bringing in, but $2.6 billion. So I do not care which way the members of the opposition try to dissect this particular matter, we are in fact bringing in less money for the support of health care under this new system than we would otherwise have brought in if we had adopted the old system which had been in place and supported at that time by the Conservative government and, from my understanding, the Conservative Party of today.
Mr Pope: That is contrary, by the way, to the testimony of the minister’s own officials in the committee. He has just reversed his position in which he formerly said three per cent more was coming in.
We will go on until we get the answer. Will the minister confirm the statement of the member for Middlesex made to the finance committee, which I have given the minister a copy of, that in January, February and March 1990, $500 million will come into the coffers of the government of Ontario under the employers’ health tax levy?
Hon Mr Mancini: With all due respect to the member opposite, he is not going to direct me to answer a question in a specific way. The member opposite has the right to ask any question he wants in any manner that he likes. I have the right to put the facts on the table and I have the right to speak for the government here this afternoon and to tell the taxpayers who are watching that if this government had endorsed the system that the member left us, OHIP premiums would be bringing in $500 million more than the new employers’ health levy will bring in. Those are the facts.
If we had endorsed what the member had left behind, many employers would not be making a fair contribution to the support of our health care system. If we had endorsed the position that the members opposite left behind, the $1 billion that we are returning to Ontario citizens would in fact not happen. The individual people who are paying their own premiums would not be receiving the $450 million tax break that they are receiving under this legislation. The people who have had their OHIP premiums paid for them would not be receiving the almost $400 million in tax breaks, because the OHIP premiums were in fact a taxable benefit as judged by the Department of National Revenue. We are returning $1 billion to the taxpayers. We are instituting a fair system of raising part of the money that is needed to support a $ 14-billion health care system in this province.
Mr Pope: The member for Middlesex, as he is noted in the transcript of instant Hansard from the economic affairs committee of this Legislature, is the parliamentary assistant, I believe, to the Treasurer (Mr R. F. Nixon) of this province. He stated -- and I have given the minister a copy of his statement -- on 7 December, just last Thursday, that his estimate of the employer health tax yield to the province for January, February and March of 1990, will be $500 million. All l am asking the minister is, will he confirm what the parliamentary assistant to the Treasurer has said about the benefits to the Treasury of the province of this tax?
Hon Mr Mancini: My understanding is that we are taking in $2.1 billion for the year. That is a fact.
Mr Pope: Will the minister indicate whether or not the member for Middlesex was wrong when he said, last Thursday to the members of the standing committee on finance and economic affairs, that for January, February and March $500 million would be raised by the employer health tax levy? Was the member for Middlesex wrong or right?
Hon Mr Mancini: I assume that in the first three months we would take in a quarter of the $2.1 billion, which is -- the honourable members can figure it out. I am assuming that these large employers are paying monthly and the small employers are paying quarterly. I am assuming that these payments will come in over the course of 12 months and we will take in $2.1 billion. I have said that right from the very beginning. I do not think we have made that a secret. We have put the facts on the table very clearly.
I say to my honourable friend across the floor that we have said from day one that health insurance premiums would bring in 13 per cent of the health care bill. We have said that the employer health levy would bring in 16 per cent. We have said very clearly that had we continued with the system that was left there when we assumed power, OHIP premiums would be $2.6 billion and not the $2.1 billion that we are taking in through the employer health levy. We have also verified for the honourable member that we are requesting all employers to pay, and that was not the case before.
Mr Pope: If the minister is saying that the annual benefit to the Treasurer from the employer health tax levy is $2.1 billion, will he then confirm that what the member for Middlesex said last Thursday to the committee was correct, that the payments for January, February and March of 1990 under this legislation will amount to approximately $500 million?
The Chair: Minister. No? The member for Cochrane South.
Mr Pope: I am waiting for an answer. I will ask the question again: Will the minister confirm, using his own numbers, that for the period of January, February and March of 1990 the yield to the Treasury from this legislation, from the employers under the employer health tax levy, will be $500 million or $525 million? That is all I want to know. I want confirmation from the minister.
Hon Mr Mancini: I have answered the honourable member’s question several times.
Mr Pope: Actually, the minister has not, and I will continue to ask the question until the minister answers it. Last Thursday in the committee, the member for Middlesex said that the yield to the Treasurer from the employer health tax levy is $500 million. I asked 20 minutes ago for the Minister of Revenue to confirm that the member for Middlesex was correct in his statement. I have yet to have an answer. The minister refuses to use the words “$500 million.” I want to know what the take for the Treasurer is for the months of January, February and March of 1990 in this levy.
Hon Mr Mancini: To try to be as helpful as I can to my friend, whom I have known a good number of years, the take for the employer health levy will be $2.1 billion per year. I am assuming that in three months’ time we will take in 25 per cent of whatever that total is.
Mr Pope: Could the minister give me the result of that calculation from his own mind? If we divide $2.1 billion by four, which is the three-month period of January, February and March 1990, that gives $525 million. Am I correct that this is the number for January, February and March -- $525 million?
Hon Mr Mancini: The honourable member opposite knows that I answered his question fully several times and answered it the first time he placed this question.
Mr Pope: This minister refuses to use the words “$500 million.” He refuses to confirm what the parliamentary assistant to the Treasurer said last Thursday in the standing committee on finance and economic affairs. He refuses to do so even though we are dealing with this bill and we have a right to have those answers.
Last week, the member for Middlesex told members of this Legislative Assembly that it was $500 million. I am trying to shorten this process. The minister does not want this process shortened, so I will keep asking until hell freezes over. I want to know whether or not the take from this employer health tax for January, February and March 1990 is approximately $500 million.
The minister will not answer. The minister will not answer that question. Will the minister answer this question: Will OHIP premiums paid in addition to the employer health tax levy for the period January, February and March 1990 amount to $435 million, as Mr Orsini testified last week before the economic affairs committee?
Hon Mr Mancini: The government is faced with the need to increase the level of health care funding. The honourable member knows that. At present, OHIP covers 13 per cent of health care costs. The government could have increased the OHIP premium rate to provide health care cost coverage to 16 per cent -- we could have done that -- which is approximately the level that will be covered by the employer health tax.
I want the honourable member to listen to this because he may want to get up later and say that we have not answered his questions. I want him to pay close attention to this: The cash flow impact of increasing OHIP premiums for an employer who is already paying 100 per cent of the OHIP premiums will not be any different to the cash flow demands that will be experienced as a result of the employer health tax startup. In fact, small employers get a three-month cash flow break.
The coverage becomes academic at this point. If the other option of staying within OHIP with increased premiums, if that particular avenue had been taken by the government, the employer obligation, I believe, would have been considerably more than it is today.
Mr Pope: I asked the minister to confirm statements that I did not make, that no member of the committee made, but that Mr Orsini made on behalf of the Ministry of Revenue last Thursday in the economic affairs committee. He himself testified, on page 37 of Instant Hansard for that day, that OHIP premiums paid in the month of December, due in the month of December, for the period of January, February and March 1990 would amount to $435 million. I think we are entitled to know whether that is correct or incorrect.
Hon Mr Mancini: With all due respect to my friend across the floor, he or some of his colleagues have put that same question to the Treasurer in the Legislature. The Treasurer has responded to those questions. I have been asked myself at different times about this particular matter. I have answered the member’s queries. He asked me just a moment ago for an explanation. I provided him a full explanation. He now wants to repeat his question, which is the same tack that he took just a few minutes ago on another matter.
I am prepared to proceed with the legislation. I am prepared to answer the member’s questions as best I can. If the member feels that he finds the answers unsatisfactory, all I can tell the member is that l am giving him the details as I know them.
Mr Cousens: Well, you don’t know enough, then.
Hon Mr Mancini: I am answering his questions. As for the interjection from the honourable gentleman behind him, I want to reiterate what I had the opportunity to say only last week, that my officials thoroughly briefed the members of the opposition who were serving as critics or support critics. They received the identical information that was provided to me.
The First Deputy Chair: Before we proceed for much longer, we are in committee and the member has every right in the world to ask any question he wants. The beauty of this place is that the minister has every right in the world to answer in any way that he sees fit. We can do this until the cows come home. It does seem to me that we have reached a point where the member has put his question many times and made his point. The minister has indicated his position many times and made his point. It certainly is getting a little repetitious. Why do we not try it one more time and then perhaps we can go to work for the afternoon?
Mr Pope: I think it is clear that this minister will not answer. He wants us to support his legislation, yet he will not answer rather basic questions. That is in line with the strategy of this government when it comes to bilking the people of this province in additional taxes. They will not answer for their legislation, nor do they have any idea of the impact on people in their daily lives of the legislation they are introducing here.
For two weeks the Minister of Health (Mrs Caplan) has steadfastly refused to admit that people are being double-billed. The people of this province are paying twice for the months of January, February and March 1990 for their health care system. An individual who comes to my constituency office with an OHIP premium notice in the month of December is being told to pay it, even though it is applicable to January, February and March of 1990. That same person, who will now be covered under the employer health tax payroll deduction scheme, will actually be subject to and be part of a double payment for OHIP services in this province for the months of January, February and March.
This minister, the Minister of Health and the Treasurer have stonewalled and refused to admit what they are doing to the people of this province, and that is bilking them out of hundreds of millions of dollars. They refuse to admit it. All that we had to have from any minister in this government was the gumption to stand up and tell the truth, that individuals were being asked to pay OHIP premiums for January, February and March of 1990 at the same time that their employers are going to be asked to pay a payroll tax deduction for January, February and March of 1990. We have seen nothing but stonewalling from three ministers in this government over the past three weeks on this issue.
Now we have a Minister of Revenue who will not confirm statements made by the member for Middlesex, a member of his own party and the parliamentary assistant to the Treasurer, who stated, in the transcript of Hansard last week from this committee, what the employer tax levy would bring to Ontario for three months in 1990, and by an official of the government to the same committee, on the very next page, that OHIP premiums for January, February and March would bring in $435 million, a clear statement by officials of this government that there is double taxation going on, and we cannot get one responsible minister to fess up and tell the truth to the people of this province about what is going on.
I think it is time we got some straight answers from a government that wants us to support its tax measures. If they do not want our support and they are going to plow ahead, that is fine, but the fact of the matter is that not one minister will stand up and admit what these officials had the courage to admit to the committee, that there is double taxation going on here and that there is a windfall to the Treasurer. Not one of them will say it; they do not have the gumption to come clean with the people of Ontario. We are just getting started on this debate until we get the truth.
The First Deputy Chair: Does the minister care to reply one final time?
Hon Mr Mancini: Yes. I can understand the concerns that come from across the floor because they support an OHIP system. My colleague across the floor would rather have OHIP premiums than an employer health tax, I know that. They have spoken out against the new employer health tax. They would rather have a premium-based system where some employers pay all of the premiums, some employers pay part of the premiums and some employers, I say to my colleagues here in the House, pay no premiums at all to support a health care system that we are very proud of, a health care system that costs a great deal of money to operate, $14 billion this year and more next year.
OHIP premiums, I want to say to the taxpayers who are watching, brought in 13 per cent of total health care expenditures. The new employer health tax is going to bring in 16 percent. Sixteen per cent of what? Sixteen per cent of $14 billion. We are not putting the entire load on employers, large or small. We are asking employers, large and small, to pay a fair share. We are giving a break to small employers. We are charging small employers only the half rate. We are putting $1 billion back into the pockets of Ontario citizens.
People who paid premiums through their own personal financial contributions will no longer have to make those payments. That is $450 million going back to those taxpayers. Individual citizens who had their premiums paid for them paid taxes on those taxable benefits. Now that is no longer the case, nearly another $400 million going back to the taxpayers.
Finally, and in conclusion, the member says that we are not answering the public’s questions. That is not true. I have been answering the public on a regular basis. With your co-operation, Mr Chairman, I would like to read into the record a letter that I just signed and put in the mail, if it is in order.
Mr Cousens: How can it be in the mail if it was just signed?
Hon Mr Mancini: This afternoon. It is addressed to a certain individual living within the province and it reads as follows:
“Thank you for your letter of October 24, 1989, regarding the elimination of Ontario health insurance plan premiums and the introduction of the new employer health tax in Ontario. The present OHIP premiums, currently payable by individuals or an employer, have long been viewed as being somewhat regressive in that they place a large burden on those low-income families that do not qualify for premium assistance. As a result, the government made a commitment in 1985 to eliminate OHIP premiums and at the same time introduce a system of universal health care.
“Also, the Social Assistance Review Committee, in reviewing the whole area of social assistance, recommended that the elimination of OHIP premiums was essential in providing greater access to health care for many low-income people. Accordingly, the foundation for the employer’s health tax was established.
“I note your comment regarding the issue of overlap between the employers health tax and OHIP coverage. Given that OHIP is insurance-based, premiums are paid in one month for coverage three months in advance. As announced in the 1989 budget, OHIP premium payments will be paid to December 31, 1989.
“Starting in January of 1990 employers will be required to pay the employer’s health tax for one month in arrears for large employers and three months in arrears for small employers. There is no direct relationship between an employer’s payment of the employer’s health tax and a person’s health care coverage under OHIP.
“Therefore, to say that the January payment relates to January coverage would be to err. As a result of this change from a prepaid insurance system to an arrears-paid tax system, there is a short period of time when the employer’s health tax is in operation and OHIP coverage is in effect. This situation will exist from January 1, 1990 until the end of March 31, 1990.
“There is, however, no overlap in payments for employers paying OHIP premiums for their employees. OHIP premiums end December 31, 1989, and employer health tax payments commence January or April of 1990, depending on the size of the payroll. Employers not paying OHIP premiums will also start making payments in 1990. Had the first payment of the employer health tax been postponed until April 1990” --
Mr Cousens: This sounds like a filibuster.
Hon Mr Mancini: Okay. The honourable members say I am filibustering. I tried to read into the record a full and complete answer. I have answered the honourable members’ questions on numerous occasions and several times again today. They evidently do not want to hear the rest of this. I take my cue from them, that they are not interested in the real facts; that all they want to do is get up and oppose the new employer health levy and retain OHIP premiums; that is fine. If that is their position, that is fine with me.
The First Deputy Chair: That is your final kick at the cat. The member for Beaches-Woodbine has not had an opportunity to make any initial comments and we are going to allow her to do that now.
Ms Bryden: I raised this point in my initial comments in the committee, but I think it is unfortunate that the Liberal majority on the committee alone voted to bring this back to the House today, instead of trying to have their steering committee find another committee day, which would have been much more expeditious. Also, we would not have had to go back to square one. So I think the Liberals brought on themselves this particular discussion at this moment.
I want to say that I think the member for Cochrane South has brought out the facts on the amount of money that will come in from the employer health levy and the amount of money that will come from the payment of OHIP premium assessments which come in before 31 December and the coverage and the amount of money that will be OHIP premiums for the first three months of 1990. It seems to me the minister is simply not telling the truth when he says there will be no --
The First Deputy Chair: I am going to have to ask you to withdraw that.
Ms Bryden: Yes, Mr Chairman, I will withdraw that. But he is simply not making it clear that that money that comes in from OHIP premium payments made in December will be for 1 January to 31 March OHIP coverage. That is double taxation, however he wants to put it that there is no double taxation.
That $425 million should not have been paid, but the Minister of Health in a letter to subscribers in December said, “As always, premiums are payable three months in advance,” and that means a premium paid before 31 December will cover the next three months of OHIP coverage. People who pay those premiums in reply to notices sent out before the end of December will be paying this double taxation. There are, I think, about a million pay-direct subscribers, and there are a great many employers who pay their employees’ premiums also in December. So it seems to me that we are not getting a true picture of what is going on in this thing.
I want to remind the minister that when it came to a question of whether employers would be paying a December payment that might be considered double taxation before the premiums were abolished, the government moved very quickly to amend the bill and to strike out the requirement for either a December payment or a payment based on December payroll. It was a very neat amendment that just took out any references to December and started the whole employer health levy process going as of 1 January 1990.
Why they can jump to help the employers when they cannot even see that there is a problem for the pay-direct subscribers who received December notices or for the employers who made December payments, I find it hard to understand. I think we must get some commitment from the minister that he will rectify this situation and not require this double taxation, because it is simply unfair to expect all those December payment subscribers, both employers and employees or ordinary residents, to provide the government with another $425 million of revenue in the first three months of January. That is my main comment on that particular issue, and I certainly support what the third party is doing on it.
I just have a couple of more things I want to raise. I do not have amendments on them, but I want a response when we get to the sections that may appear to cover them. I want responses to what the ministry is considering doing about those issues.
First, the John Howard Society has written a letter pointing out that the employers’ payroll tax will put it in a very difficult position because it will not qualify for the lower rate of employers’ payroll tax to cover its ordinary payroll, but it will qualify for the two per cent rate on those employees because it is administering a program for the Ministry of Skills Development, and it is receiving money for the payroll that is needed in that particular program.
Unless the minister can tell us that he is going to exempt the portion of its payroll that is to provide a service on contract to the government, the John Howard Society will be in very serious trouble. They will have a much higher payroll tax levy, and they will have to pay out all sorts of money with apparently no additional compensation or change in the contract that they have. I think that probably would come up under section 2, which imposes the tax, but I am not sure. I hope we have an answer when we get to that.
The other area I have great concern about, but I have not brought in an amendment because I do not think there should be an amendment, is the question of the brief from the Provincial Building and Construction Trades Council regarding the request of the Council of Ontario Construction Association to be exempt because its members are already paying premiums to the Provincial Building and Construction Trades Council through their collective bargaining and therefore they should be exempt from the employers’ payroll tax.
This is simply a wrong approach to the situation, as the Provincial Building and Construction Trades Council told us through their very good brief presented by their lawyer, who is Murray Gold. I just want to read a little bit of the executive summary of his very impressive brief. He said:
‘‘These submissions are made on behalf of a number of unions and councils of unions. Together they represent over 100,000 workers in Ontario.
“Multi-employer benefit plans (MEPs) are trusteed benefit plans that provide coverage to employees of more than one unrelated employer. They are widespread in industries, such as construction, where employees are employed on a job-by-job basis. MEPs allow these employees to aggregate their service with all participating employers so as to obtain coverage comparable to that provided by single-employer plans (SEPs).
“MEPs are funded through fixed hourly contributions. In collective bargaining negotiations, these contributions come directly off the employees’ hourly wage rate. For tax reasons, however, they are generally structured as employer contributions.
“MEP employers have undertaken in their collective agreements to make hourly contributions to a fund. They have not bargained to provide a specific benefit regardless of cost. Accordingly, the risk of higher benefit costs is on the employees, and employees have absorbed OHIP premium increases in the past.
“All MEP assets are trust assets to be used exclusively to provide benefits to employees. Employers have no right, claim or title to the assets of an MEP.” But that is what they are asking in their brief to this committee on this bill.
“The trustees of a MEP are responsible for selecting the particular benefits the MEP will provide. Some MEPs provide OHIP coverage, others do not. If an MEP does not pay OHIP premiums, it may provide other benefits, or, alternatively, the employees’ hourly wage rate will be higher.
“Some employers are using Bill 47 as a pretext to attack their collectively bargained obligation to pay hourly wages and make hourly contributions. Bill 47 was not however intended to interfere in collective bargaining, and should not be used to change collective agreements.
“Contributions to MEPs are wages and money in MEPs is deferred wages. These moneys are not employer moneys and cannot be used by employers to exempt themselves from Bill 47.
“Some employers have claimed that they cannot pay the employer health tax because they are working on fixed-price contracts. Employers have however anticipated this tax since it was announced on May 17, 1989. Employers can and do always anticipate cost changes, including those certain to arise effective May 1, 1990 with a new provincial collective agreement.”
I felt it was important to put that on the record, because we do want a commitment from the minister that the request of the Council of Ontario Construction Associations will not be allowed for either in regulations or in amendments, because it is actually dealing with money that is not under the power of the construction associations, and it would be wrong to consider it as money that it is responsible for. It is entirely a collective bargaining arrangement.
When we get to the clause on the application of the act to employers, I hope the minister will give us some sort of commitment or a clarification that the members of this Provincial Building and Construction Trades Council and their multi-employer benefit plans are not affected by the act.
Those are the things I wanted to draw attention to. As we go by different sections, we may raise other concerns. But I have just my two amendments.
The First Deputy Chair: We have entertained quite a bit of discussion. The chair knows we are in committee. The chair knows we normally extend to the critics and the ministers the opportunity to make opening statements. I also have a pile of amendments in front of me that people from all sides have indicated they are anxious to put in committee. My quandary is, does this House want to proceed through all these amendments that the members have typed and provided for each of us, or do we want to discuss these further?
I am really at a loss to understand what we are trying to do. My preference would be, since people have gone to the trouble of preparing amendments and notifying each of the caucuses, to proceed now to begin. The first amendment I have is from the Progressive Conservatives on section 1.
Ms Bryden: Mr Chairman, I did not give any previous statement on my two amendments, which I understand from legal counsel’s advice may or may not be in order. I would like to speak briefly about them so that when it comes time to present them, the chair will be able to --
The First Deputy Chair: Excuse me. Will the member please take her seat for a moment. My problem is that people want to speak to amendments they have put, but they are not being given the opportunity to do that because we are still on opening remarks. The member has amendments; l am sure she wants to debate them. But I am being prevented from allowing her that opportunity because we are on opening remarks.
It would be my sense of the House at the moment that the members are anxious to proceed with amendments they have prepared, and I would very much like to do that. With the members’ concurrence, the first one that I have is --
Mrs Marland: With respect, Mr Chairman, our caucus has not yet had opening remarks. We have simply asked one question of the minister, and we have not had opening remarks. It was going to be on the basis of the minister’s answer that we would know what our remarks needed to be.
It is just coincidental that the question that was being asked by the member for Cochrane South, only for clarification, was my own question. It was my question in committee to the minister and to the Liberal members of that committee. It was my question to which the parliamentary assistant to the Treasurer, the member for Middlesex, gave the answer that $500 million would be collected in the first three-month period. It was also my question to --
The First Deputy Chair: Would the member take her seat for a moment, please. The chair does not want to get involved in an argument about who did what. I think, while I have been in the chamber, each of the critics and the minister have made general opening remarks at some length, for the better part of an hour now. I am a little taken aback now that someone says. “No, we haven’t even begun opening remarks.” I thought we heard fairly extensively from each of the parties the comments they wanted to make initially. It does not prevent anybody from debating any matter as we go through each of the sections. There is no indication that we are going to limit debate on that.
There will be the opportunity to ask questions, the opportunity to put forward amendments, the opportunity to comment at length, if the House wants, on each of those amendments as they are put. My difficulty is that I have been given an indication that people want to put amendments, and I am having some difficulty getting the amendments on the floor. I seek a little co-operation here.
Mr Harris: I think you are quite right, Mr Chair, and I think we do want to get to the bill. The member for Mississauga South (Mrs Marland) has spent considerable time in the committee, and it is my sense that we might move faster through the actual amendments if she might be allowed to put a few things on the record on behalf of our party in general terms. I would suggest that it would certainly not take any longer than the comments the minister made or those that the New Democratic Party member made. I have a sense that five or six minutes now might facilitate passage later on, and I offer that for the committee’s suggestion.
The First Deputy Chair: The chair has no problem with that. My difficulty is that normally we would recognize someone from each of the parties to make some opening remarks. We have done that and we have heard some rather lengthy opening remarks that may have been one question asked many times, but it is your choice how you make your remarks.
I would be happy to hear the member for Mississauga South if she has a few chosen remarks because I know she is interested in the bill and wants to make them. She should have every right to do that. I would be happy to hear from her now if members feel that would facilitate as we go through the amendments.
Mrs Marland: I think it is important to understand that when the member for Cochrane South asked a question, he got a 10- to 15-minute reply. I made a note of the times, as a matter of fact, so I have them.
The Minister of Revenue (Mr Mancini) says he feels that he and other members of this government have answered these questions about the employer health tax in the House, and he does not know why we keep asking the questions. I think it is very important for the minister to understand that the reason we ask the questions is that the public has a right to know. The public has made this government very much aware of its concern about this employer health tax. The public has been saying, “How is it this Liberal government didn’t allow the physicians and doctors to extra-bill, yet they themselves are extra-billing to the tune of $500 million for three months?”
I think it is important for this minister to understand that although there has been no acknowledgement by his government, the concern that is out there in the community is very real and very strong. Part of that concern has been expressed in a letter from the Mississauga Board of Trade, which says businesses are facing double taxation. They say employees must remit their first payment 15 January and will still be double taxed for the first three months of 1990. They also go on to say that it has been estimated that the government will be collecting an additional $300 million for this double taxation. The irony of this letter from the board of trade is that, in response to my question in committee, that figure of $300 million extra turned out to be $500 million, by the words of the parliamentary assistant to the Treasurer himself.
The Mississauga Board of Trade questioned the government’s attempt to collect double revenue from businesses and, in light of that, it strongly urged that the committee, where this matter was prior to coming into the House, recommend to the government that Bill 47 be amended in order to eliminate the double taxation of businesses for the first three months of 1990. That is the Mississauga Board of Trade, a very large organization, obviously representing a very large number of employers in this province.
On behalf of single individuals, and since the minister says he has written a letter to one of his individual constituents, I would like him to answer a question from one of my constituents, Peter Went, who wrote in November to the Treasurer, and I will ask the question as he does. He said he was most surprised to receive a notice from the Minister of Health advising him that he will not be eligible to receive employer health tax benefits unless he paid premiums for the period 1 January 1990 to 1 April 1990.
A booklet entitled Employer Health Tax released by the Ministry of Revenue to all employers states: “In his budget of 17 May 1989, the Treasurer of Ontario announced that the employer health tax would replace the Ontario health insurance plan -- OHIP -- premium payments commencing January 1990. As of that date, Ontario residents will continue to receive health care coverage but will no longer be required to pay OHIP premiums.”
Mr Went is asking this question because he says, “My employer has already advised me that my wages will be reduced by 1.95 per cent commencing 1 January 1990 since the extra payroll expense cannot be absorbed by him or passed on to his customers due to competitive market conditions.”
This is another example of the burden of this particular health tax not only to employers -- and we have to be very clear about this -- but also to employees, because the government is saying: “Are we not wonderful? We are eliminating OHIP premiums and we are doing something for employees.” In fact, it is not.
I will give another example. We have a letter from the Profit Sharing Council of Canada over the signature of Michael Welch. He says the council has concerns over this bill. I would like the minister’s staff to give him the answers to these questions, because they are very critical. The questions have not been addressed and they are as follows: “The allocation is a share of profits, and not salary or wages,” if you work under an employee profit-sharing plan. Also, “Profit-sharing firms pay equitable and competitive salaries and/or wages” and, “Unlike wages and salaries, the employee may not obtain immediate ownership of the allocation. Further service may be needed before vesting.” Most important of all, “The employee may not have access to the funds until he retires or leaves the firm. (Employer contributions to registered pension plans are not in the base for the levy).” So why, in a profit-sharing situation, would they be in the base for this health levy?
“Unlike salaries and wages, which are known weekly or monthly, it is not known whether there are profits to share until the books are closed at the end of the year. Profit Sharing promotes teamwork and efficiency, and helps create employment.” I would think this Liberal government was interested in creating employment.
One other example that I brought to the attention of the minister in the committee last week was the example in the real estate industry. “Under the proposed law, brokers will be required to pay a health tax of 1.95 percent on the gross commissions paid to their salespeople without regard for expenses incurred by the employees to earn the commission income. Because gross commission incomes paid to salespeople represent a major percentage of the total commission received by the broker, the health tax will have a detrimental effect on the broker’s net income. The Toronto Real Estate Board has grave concerns with the inequities in the application of the employer health tax on commission industries.” That is in a letter over the signature of Stephen Moranis, president-elect of the Toronto Real Estate Board.
I have given the minister an example of an individual citizen, Mr Went. I have given him an example of somebody who works in a profit-sharing plan employer situation and I have given him the example of the Mississauga board of trade. How many more examples does he need to try to tell the public the actual facts about what it is the Liberal government is doing with Bill 47?
Is it not the truth that in 1990, from 1 January to 1 April, this government is having $500 million come into its Treasury through the employer health levy on top of the $435 million it has already had prepaid in OHIP premiums? I think it is similar to a landlord asking for first and last month’s rent and then when he comes to the beginning of the last month he asks the tenant to pay again.
The important question that the minister needs to explain to the public of this province is why is he double billing everyone. It is not only the businesses that he is double billing, because if a business is double billed he can be sure that it is the employee who is going to face that real cost. There are so many businesses in this province today for which two per cent is the figure of the margin of profit. Two per cent to a lot of businesses in Ontario today is the percentage by which they make it or lose it.
The minister must be aware that the greatest number of jobs in this province today is in small business. In fact, he does not even have to look at small business. Has he even looked at what the cost of this health tax is for school boards? Has he looked at how much he is going to be taking from school boards for those first three months of the year, and when he takes it from school boards he takes it right off the backs of the property taxpayers. That first three months has already been paid for by the employees in that school board.
What the minister is doing to the public is using another vehicle as a tax grab. He is saying, “We are taking in 16 per cent more than we did last year to cover the cost of health care.” Nobody is arguing about what he is taking it for. We know there is a cost to health care in this province, but what we are saying is, if he is double billing why does he not be honest and come right up front and say, “Yes, we are charging tax from 1 January even though the premiums have been paid for those three months.”
Could the minister tell me what I tell Mr Went, who has been told to pay his premium for January, February and March? If he does not pay his premium for the first three months of next year, will his family be covered? If his family is ill and needs to access the health care in this province today, will it be covered without him paying his OHIP premium?
The Second Deputy Chair: Thank you very much, and I --
Mrs Marland: I have one more question I am waiting for the minister to answer.
The Second Deputy Chair: I want to say to the honourable member I was monitoring the previous chairperson in terms of his exasperation in trying to get this bill along. You indicated through the House leader of the third party that five minutes would be ample enough time for your discussion. I know how you were keeping track of your time, because you indicated back to the previous chairman that you were very cautiously acknowledging it and you slightly ran over the time indicated. But in the interests of co-operation we will see if the minister would like to reply and I know you will be very conscientious on your next question, on your opening remarks to Bill 47.
Hon Mr Mancini: There were questions by the member for Beaches-Woodbine prior to the comments we heard. In all fairness, I would like to refer some comments to some of the questions. I believe the member for Beaches-Woodbine, if memory serves me correctly -- it was so long ago now -- asked about the multi-employer benefit plans. The province will not be altering any collective agreements that have been negotiated. We will not be altering any agreements and we will not be interfering in any of those agreements.
On the question regarding the John Howard Society, I want to say to the honourable member that we have just received that letter and I have asked my officials to take a very, very close look at that and to also consult with their counterparts in Treasury. I am hoping we will have an answer soon, very soon.
The honourable member for Mississauga South asked a number of questions. She made some comments about what certain constituents were telling her. I would like to say what certain constituents are telling me. They are pleased that they will no longer have to pay OHIP premiums and they are also pleased that they will no longer have to pay taxes on OHIP premiums if they were in fact paid by the employer. Those are the voices I am hearing.
The honourable member opposite had some questions about employees under profit sharing. I want to say to the honourable member that all allocations to employees under a profit-sharing plan that in fact produces these benefits that the employee has to pay income tax on are subject to the employer health tax. When the employee has to pay income tax under federal rules, under the government of Canada legislation, then the employer must pay the employer health tax. It is that simple.
The honourable member mentioned something about employers making the employees pay for the employer health tax out of their wages. I want to say that according to the Employment Standards Act of Ontario, section 8, no employer can claim a setoff against wages of an employee unless it is authorized by statute. The proposed employer health tax does not authorize any setoff, and the employer rather than the employee -- I want to make that very clear: the employer rather than the employee -- is legally responsible for the tax. I believe that answers the specific questions raised by the honourable member.
Mrs Marland: Excuse me, Mr Chairman. This is the most critical question. Regarding the individual who has paid his own OHIP premiums and who has been told there are no OHIP premiums after 1 January, if his employer does not pay a health tax on his behalf, is he covered, and if so, why is he being asked for the OHIP premium for January to April?
The Second Deputy Chair: Thank you. If I may now refer to the minister, it is my understanding that we are supposedly on general discussion of section 1. I would like a response.
Hon Mr Mancini: I believe the Minister of Health appropriately answered that question this afternoon.
Mr Cousens: Let us hear your answer. The member for Mississauga South obviously has a very great deal of concern about this and so do I. I would like to hear what the honourable minister has to say on that, rather than just tell us that the other minister has answered it. Come on, own up to it, I say to him.
The Second Deputy Chair: I thank the honourable member for Markham for giving assistance to the minister. But, of course, as we all well know, ministers can respond to questions in the manner in which they see fit. It is my understanding from watching the monitor on the proceedings of this bill that we can now proceed -- unless the member for Beaches-Woodbine is dissatisfied with the answer to her question.
Ms Bryden: Mr Chairman, I appreciate your giving me the opportunity. I want to thank the minister for saying that he is taking the problem of the John Howard Society under advisement and that he has a copy of the letter it sent in, which I have tabled in the committee. That is good news.
As far as the question of the payment of premiums for the next three months, there was a story headed “Government Crosses Signals on OHIP Bills” in today’s Toronto Star, which indicates there is still confusion out there as to whether somebody who is billed for a payment before the end of December is required to pay it or whether that is going to be taken from them. It does not relate to whether they get access to health care; it relates to whether they have a legal obligation to pay that assessment.
Hon Mr Mancini: I believe I have answered these questions.
The Second Deputy Chair: Fine. Carrying on with section 1 of Bill 47, I see we have a third-party motion. Might I turn at this time to the House leader for the third party and inquire who is presenting the motion?
Mrs Marland: I am.
The Second Deputy Chair: Mrs Marland moves that subsection 1(1) of the bill be amended by striking out the definition of “employer” and substituting the following therefor:
“‘Employer’ means a person or a government, including the government of a province or Canada who pays remuneration to an employee but does not include an employer whose total Ontario remuneration paid during the year is $200,000 or less or an employer who is a city, town, village, township or county within the meaning of and for the purposes of the Municipal Act, RSO 1980, chapter 302, a regional municipality, or a school board, hospital, college or university who shall be exempt from tax under this act.”
Mrs Marland: We actually have two amendments under this section. Each proposed amendment is to create an exemption and is accompanied by the amendment that will change the definition of “employer” to give effect to the exemption. While the definition will change depending on the exemption level being proposed, there is one constant in each of these amendments. All would exempt provincial transfer payment recipients from the tax by excluding them from the definition of “employer” under the bill.
Obviously, that is very logical, because otherwise we are taxing other levels of government and it is a tax upon tax which ultimately then comes down on to the backs of the property taxpayers.
As a backup, a specific amendment which would exempt only the transfer payment recipients is included, which could be moved -- after we see what happens to this one -- independently of the amendments which would provide exemptions for other employers.
The case for exempting transfer payment recipients such as municipalities, hospitals, school boards, colleges and universities obviously can be made on a number of grounds.
First of all, the province has objected to the proposed goods and services tax on the grounds that it does not exempt or zero-rate those agencies. Yet the province has not provided these agencies with an exemption from its own employer health tax. It is clear and I think a very clear case of “Tax as I say, not as I do.”
Second, the employer health tax is just another provincially mandated cost imposed on those agencies which are already strapped for cash. For instance, the employer health tax will cost Ontario hospitals an estimated $60 million next year, and universities have estimated that the employer health tax will amount to 1.3 per cent of their compensation costs, net, of OHIP savings. That is the important thing. The minister has been saying that now that they do not have to pay OHIP, they are going to gain money. In fact, they are not; it is costing them more.
Third, the employer health tax will in some cases, for example, municipalities and school boards, simply contribute to another round of property and school tax increases, as these agencies pass the cost through to the local ratepayer.
Fourth, the government is playing a rather cynical game with the employer health tax and transfer payment recipients. With the employer health tax, the government is simply taxing back a portion of the transfer payment increases it takes such pleasure in announcing. While the government has said that the impact of the employer health tax will be taken into account when it adjusts its transfers, it is now clear that the government will not fully offset the cost of the employer health tax. So these agencies will be left to absorb this new cost. If the government does intend to fully offset the cost of the employer health tax in its transfers, then it should not bother to put itself or the agencies through the time, trouble and expense of collecting the employer health tax in the first place.
I just want to give a couple of examples. The following are estimates of the cost of the employer health tax to the various transfer payment recipients. I have already mentioned that the Ontario Hospital Association has said it will cost hospitals an additional $60 million. School boards will have to pay an additional $27 million. Universities will have to pay out an additional $24 million.
We have no estimate on the total cost of the employer health tax to all the Ontario municipalities. However, the Association of Municipalities of Ontario has provided the following information on the cost to the following cities and regional municipalities: the city of Burlington, $203,000; the city of Etobicoke -- and I think the member is here -- $400,000; Kitchener, $206,000; North York, $317,000; Sault Ste Marie, $47,500; Sudbury, $140,000. The city of Toronto has an additional burden of $1,876,210; the city of Windsor, $310,000; the city of York, $200,000; Durham, $400,000; Halton, $250,000; Niagara, $300,000.
How is it that if the government plans to rebate those municipalities through increasing their transfer payments to adjust for the cost that it has already burdened them with with the employer health tax, the government would not exempt them in the first place? Is it looking for more work, more expense and more bureaucracy to administer it? I am quite sure, when the minister considers this amendment, he will see the logic of it and support it.
Ms Bryden: I support the amendment put forward by the third party. I think it is simply counterproductive to impose the employer payroll tax on public sector bodies: municipalities, school boards, hospitals, colleges and universities. These institutions and governments would have to go back to the government to get larger grants to cover the costs or they would have to cut their services, because they simply do not have additional sources of revenue which would bring in the costs of this tax.
The offer by the Treasurer to provide a transitional grant to some of these bodies for the first quarter of 1990, in order to cover their costs until such time as they can raise their mill rates, raise their fees at universities, or raise their hospital charges, is simply an insult to them because it means that they will have to revamp their whole revenue-collecting systems or they will have to cut services.
I do not think we want to see any of these organizations cutting their services. They are badly enough cut now by reductions in transfer payments from both the federal and the provincial governments. They are also being asked to bear more and more responsibility for activities which were formerly covered by the provincial government, particularly in the education, health and pollution control fields and in the protecting of the security of the courts so that this kind of shifting of responsibilities to municipalities is going to be increased greatly by imposing the employer payroll tax on them.
I think the provincial government should be looking at alternative sources to cover the costs of health care than a payroll tax that hits the public sector bodies particularly. In fact, I would like to see the whole employer payroll tax replaced by a more progressive tax, so I will support this amendment.
Hon Mr Mancini: First of all, I would like to say that we cannot support the amendment. The members opposite would have us go back to OHIP premiums. We are not going back to the situation where some employers paid premiums, some employers paid part and others paid nothing. The members opposite know that had premiums not been frozen in 1984-85, the cost of premiums today for employers and employees would be far greater than the new employer health tax.
As far as the health and social service agencies that the member for Mississauga South referred to earlier are concerned, I believe she has maybe coincidentally or conveniently forgotten that on 15 June the Treasurer announced $23 million in transitional relief for colleges, universities and hospitals for the January-March 1990 period. In addition, the Treasurer announced funding in-creases for major transfer agencies just the other day on 29 November for the next fiscal year, the 1990-91 fiscal year, which in fact includes the cost of the employer health tax.
Just to refresh the memories of all honourable members who are interested, I would just like to say that, for example, for the 1990-91 fiscal year, operating grants to universities will increase by eight per cent, a full eight per cent to $1.8 billion. Operating grants for colleges of applied arts and technology will also increase by eight per cent to $754 million. That is over and above the capital expenditures. Further, just to refresh the memories of the members, operating allocations for hospitals will increase by over $500 million or 8.7 per cent.
As members can see, the Treasurer has taken these concerns into consideration, and I put those figures before the members for their consideration.
The Second Deputy Chair: We had an amendment moved by the honourable member for Mississauga South to subsection 1(1) of Bill 47.
All those in favour will please say “aye.”
All those opposed will please say “nay.”
In my opinion the nays have it.
Mrs Marland: I will put that one on the floor. The next one is also to subsection 1(1).
The Second Deputy Chair: Mrs Marland moves that subsection 1(1) of the bill be amended by striking out the definition of “employer” and substituting the following therefor:
“‘Employer’ means a person or a government, including the government of a province or Canada, who pays remuneration to an employee but does not include an employer whose total Ontario remuneration paid during the year is $400,000 or less or an employer who is a city, town, village, township or county within the meaning of and for the purposes of the Municipal Act [RSO 1980, chapter 302], a regional municipality, or a school board, hospital, college or university who shall be exempt from the tax under this act.”
Mrs Marland: It is the same argument and it is the same good logic as with the first amendment that I moved. I would hope that instead of the government getting up and telling us that it is awarding $23 million for a cost to the municipalities, the school boards and the hospitals of this province of over half a billion dollars -- and I spell it out that that means $500 million.
I have just placed on the record the cost to hospitals, universities, school boards and municipalities of this employer health tax in the province. If this government chooses to ignore the fact that those are the same people they have to fund through transfer payments and then the minister stands up and asks if I missed the big announcement of $23 million to help -- $23 million? We have already said it is going to cost hospitals $60 million. Those are the same hospitals the minister is not funding now and he is giving them an additional burden of $60 million.
Ms Bryden: I also support this amendment from the third party. I think it is important to recognize that government sector institutions and bodies should not bear this burden. The minister told us that there were tremendous new grants going to municipal governments, universities, hospitals in the next fiscal year, starting in April 1991, as well as the Treasurer’s token contribution for the remainder of this fiscal year.
There is no statement in those new grants to the various institutions that there is any consideration of the effect of the employer health tax levy on those institutions. There is no money in those new grants earmarked to take account of the tremendous cost to these institutions which the member for Mississauga South mentioned could be as much as $60 million. It seems to me that the Treasurer has to make a statement that he is making specific funds available for paying the costs of the employer health tax levy.
Hon Mr Mancini: The Conservatives and the New Democrats would have us go backwards. They would have us go back to OHIP premiums, where some people get covered, others do not. It is regressive. It is hard on low-income people. Some employers do not make any contribution at all. The Conservatives and the New Democrats would have us go backwards. They would have us go back to a system where the only alternative would be on an annual basis to substantially raise OHIP premiums, as they did for many, many years.
That is not the position that we are taking. We are abolishing OHIP premiums. We are putting health care on a sound financial footing. We are asking all employers to make a fair contribution.
The Second Deputy Chair: The honourable member for Mississauga South has placed a second amendment to the proposed subsection 1(1). All those in favour of the proposed amendment, please say “aye.”
All those against, please say “nay.”
In my opinion, the nays have it.
The Chair: Mrs Marland moves that subsection 1(1) of the bill be amended by striking out the definition of “employer” and substituting the following therefor:
“‘Employer’ means a person or a government, including the government of a province or Canada who pays remuneration to an employee but does not include an employer whose total Ontario remuneration paid during the year is $400,000 or less or an employer who is a city, town, village, township or county within the meaning of and for the purposes of the Municipal Act [RSO, 1980, chapter 302], a regional municipality, or a school board, hospital, college or university who shall be exempt from tax under this act.”
Mrs Marland: When the minister votes and has his colleagues in the Liberal government vote against these amendments, he says that we moving the amendments, we the Progressive Conservatives, would have them move backwards. The only direction that we would like this Liberal government to move is forward and to be honest and to tell the public what is going on here.
The fact is that this Minister of Revenue stands in the House today and says, “It’s okay to ask the employers to pay a fair contribution, because we have eliminated OHIP premiums.” Perhaps the next time the minister gets to speak, he might tell us how many people in this province were still paying OHIP premiums and how many people, through their negotiations, accepted employment with employment benefits which included the coverage of their OHIP premiums.
The minister might also address the fact as to how businesses are going to be able to pay two per cent of their payrolls in a health tax right off the top and stay in business, because he is going to have to answer to those employers who simply say: “We have to close up shop because we cannot afford another tax. We cannot afford an employer health tax. We cannot afford any more taxes, as a matter of fact.”
But these Liberal members are the ones, while they stand in this House and say they are doing something for employees because they no longer have to pay OHIP premiums, most of whom have not been paying the OHIP premiums out of their pockets anyway for some years because of partial and full payments by employers. This government will have to explain to that employee, who then will lose his job because this government’s taxation will drive his employer out of business, what a wonderful government this is because, whoopee, there are no more OHIP premiums. But your boss is asked to pay two per cent of your salary as an employer health tax, a health tax levy that, by this government’s own admission, is going to bring in three per cent more than OHIP premiums did. Where does this government think the three per cent more is coming from?
And when he is talking about three per cent of $14 billion, I, with respect, suggest to him that he is not talking about chicken feed. I do not know who he thinks in this province in business today can absorb this outrageous health tax that he is asking them to pay.
The Second Deputy Chair: Any further discussion to the proposed amendment?
Hon Mr Mancini: The honourable member opposite has made a lot of comments this afternoon, but I think probably the comments we just heard a few minutes ago -- she has made better, let me put it that way.
The member has considerably exaggerated the situation. She, on a continual basis, ignores the fact that small business is paying the half rate. That is a reality; that is a fact; that is in the legislation.
The member keeps saying that health care costs in Ontario for employers are out of control. Health care costs for employers are in fact out of control, but not in Ontario. With our competitors in the United States, health care costs are out of control.
Just let me give some facts to the honourable members who are here today, because I know they are interested. The cost of private health care coverage in the United States has grown by over 20 per cent in each of the last two years. The cost of coverage now ranges from $3,000 to $6,000 per employee. On top of that, 37 million people in the United States have no health care coverage.
If we compare Ontario to the province of Quebec, we can see that small business pays at a rate of 0.98 per cent. In the province of Quebec they pay at a rate of 3.36 per cent; in New York, Michigan and Ohio they pay 9.70 per cent. Those are health care costs which are burdensome to employers.
I want to say to the honourable member also, who asked: “Well, tell us how many people are paying their own OHIP today?” as if the number was minuscule, $450 million worth, that is how many.
The Second Deputy Chair: The member for Mississauga South has moved a final amendment to subsection 1(1) of Bill 47. All those in favour of the proposed amendment will please say “aye.”
All those opposed will please say “nay.”
In my opinion, the nays have it.
Mr Pope: Briefly, for the minister to stand here and try to indicate that there is no concern about the competitiveness of Ontario industry with industry in the United States based solely on his numbers with respect to health plan coverage and the cost of it in the United States is one of the phonier arguments I have heard in this Legislature in the last year.
Everyone knows that the total tax burden this government has placed on business and on individuals in this province with tax freedom day on 7 July of last year and moving into the end of July of this year -- there is nothing that is more destructive to Ontario’s competitive position and our ability to sell in the international market, to invest in this province, to expand industries in this province and to employ people in this province than the government’s tax policies. To stand up here and try to say that we are competitive with other jurisdictions is just nonsense when every single industrial group in this province disagrees with what the minister is saying.
Section 1 agreed to.
The Second Deputy Chair: Mrs Marland moves that subsection 2(1) of the bill be amended by inserting after the word “employer” and before the word “shall” the words “except those employers whose total Ontario remuneration paid during the year is $400,000 or less or an employer who is a city, town, village, township or county within the meaning of and for the purposes of the Municipal Act [RSO, 1980, chapter 302], a regional municipality, or a school board, hospital, college or university who shall be exempt from the tax under this act.”
Mrs Marland: In speaking to this amendment, I think it is very important, when we talk about exemptions, that we have on record in Hansard of last Thursday, 7 December, in the afternoon session, in answer to questions which I raised about the inequities of this employer health tax legislation; we have answers from this minister when I asked about the fact that there are huge, gaping loopholes in this legislation through which you could drive a Mack truck and I said to the minister: “What are you doing about the inequities? If you are going to have a tax, why won’t it be a fair tax for everybody?” If he is saying that this is a fair contribution by employers, it is very interesting that people who are self-employed -- and I gave as an example last week professionals. I think I used a dentist as an example. If a dentist is self-employed and does not have to pay employer health tax on behalf of anyone, neither does he or she have to pay any employer health tax.
I think it is important for the record in this House to show the answer of the minister. When these inequities were pointed out to the minister, this was his answer: “We do not have any answers to that matter yet, but we want to explore the matter, Jim. do you have anything else to add to this answer?” I assume Jim was one of his staff members to whom he referred the question.
I think it is shameful that we are here today asked to pass legislation through which, by the minister’s own admission, there is a whole section and there is a whole application of this legislation that they do not have the answers to. I think this Liberal government should be embarrassed. If it cannot draft a piece of legislation without inequities, and by its own admission, it is saying -- it is here: “We’ve got to get this passed, and of course, we’ve got to get it rammed through before Christmas, and the reason we have to get it rammed through before Christmas is that we are double billing from January to April and we’ve got to get that $500 million extra between January and April. We’ve got to get the $500 million that we’re double billing. We have to get that in because, although we have $435 million,” by the minister’s own figures and by the words of the parliamentary assistant to the Treasurer, “although we’ve got the $435 million in OHIP premiums, we’ve got to get this tax grab from the businesses and the employers of this province and, ultimately, from the employees, because the businesses cannot support paying that tax. Somebody has to pay for it.”
Here we are, with this legislation, with inequities, and the answer to my questions in committee is, “We do not have any answers to that matter yet, but we want to explore the matter.” My suggestion is that if the minister supports this amendment which exempts other employers, namely other levels of government, other people who depend on government funding, like hospitals, universities, school boards and municipalities, at least he could save some face by supporting this amendment; at least he might have the grace to say, as he did in committee, “We don’t have all the answers.”
In other words: “This is not perfect legislation. It is not perfectly drafted, but we want to get it through so that we can start collecting our money.” At least the minister might have the grace to say, as he did in committee: “Yes, we don’t have all the answers. In other words, this isn’t perfect legislation, it isn’t perfectly drafted, but we want to get it through so we can start collecting our money.”
At least the minister might have the grace to support an amendment that exempts those same organizations in this province that are dependent on government transfer payments in order to look after the people of this province. I give him, as a perfect and most important example, the $60 million that is going to be an added cost to hospitals alone.
Hon Mr Mancini: I would like to add at this point that I am very happy that the lines are as clear as possible at this stage. We are against premiums. We are against regressive premiums. They are for premiums. We want all employers to pay a fair share, a half rate for small employers. They want some employers to pay none at all and they would like to keep that for ever. We want to put health care on a sound financial footing. I am not sure what their party’s position is. I am glad that the lines are as clear as they are.
Ms Bryden: I would like to concur with the remarks of the member for Mississauga South to the effect that the self-employed should be paying some share of the money which will be replacing premiums. Also, I think the corporations should be asked to pay a share through their corporation taxes, which are income taxes. The employer health tax levy is something that can be passed on to the customers. The corporation tax, presumably if it is based on income, cannot be passed on, so I am disappointed that the minister has not looked at alternative sources of revenue to replace the premiums.
I think that all in our party are pleased that the premiums are being eliminated, but applying the Employer Health Tax Act in the way it is prescribed in this bill is not going to result in a more progressive tax system. That is why we think he should have looked at other sources of alternative revenue and should be looking at the self-employed, who will be getting off very lightly under this particular bill. So I will support the amendment.
Mr J. M. Johnson: I would like to ask the minister one question pertaining to my riding. In the hospitals of Fergus, Palmerston and Mount Forest, the boards have asked me what will happen to the Mennonites in that area. There is a fairly large population and in the past they have paid for services rendered by the hospitals. Under this new scheme, how will the hospitals collect any money from these people? They do not have incomes per se because they do not hire people.
The Chair: Any other comments? Are we ready for the vote?
All those in favour will please say “aye.”
All those opposed will please say “nay.”
In my opinion, the nays have it.
The Chair: Mrs Marland moves that subsection 2(1) of the bill be amended by inserting after the word “employer” and before the word “shall” the words:
“except those employers whose total Ontario remuneration paid during the year is $200,000 or less or an employer who is a city, town, village, township or county within the meaning of and for the purposes of the Municipal Act [RSO, 1980, chapter 302], a regional municipality, or a school board, hospital, college or university who shall be exempt from the tax under this act.”
Mrs Marland: The minister continues to say that they are against premiums and that the opposition is in favour of premiums, but the minister does not come clean with the people in this province and answer my question, which is to tell the people of Ontario how many people still pay their premiums directly. The fact of the matter is that when he says, and I think this is what he said, “We want to put health care on a sound financial footing,” he has got the wrong part of the body.
What this Liberal government wants to do is put the cost of health care on the backs of the employers, subsequently the employees and ultimately the consumers and all the taxpayers in this province who pay property tax. When the minister talks about the kinds of dollars that we are talking about in terms of the penalty for universities and hospitals, maybe we should just look at the university figure of $24 million. Maybe that is the figure when the minister said, “We’re going to help out. We realize there is a cost.” The very fact is that he realizes there is going to be a burden on the public institutions in this province, the very fact is that he realizes that and says he is going to give $23 million to ease that, but he seems to ignore the fact that for school boards it is $27 million and for hospitals it is an additional $60 million.
Why does the minister not support the amendment and exempt those institutions? That is simply what this amendment is all about. It is simply saying, “Why does he not save the whole process up front in those areas which he transfers payments to -- hospitals, school boards, universities and municipalities?” It is common sense. Also, this last amendment is asking the minister at least to exempt those people who pay remuneration of less than $200,000 during the year.
When the minister talks about our party being in favour of OHIP premiums, it is quite true that our party established the OHIP premiums. It was the Progressive Conservative government of this province that established the world-class health care system that his government inherited four years ago, but I can assure members that the public knows what is happening.
When they have to go out of town for cancer treatments, when they have to go to the United States for their heart procedures in terms of surgery, members of the public know what is going on. Why this amendment is so important is the public is finally saying: “What is happening here?” The government is not funding those areas that it is responsible for, so what it is doing is creating a vehicle to take another tax grab, and the tax grab it is using is an employer health tax. It is saying, “We’re going to get every employer to pay a percentage of salaries to this health tax.”
But when you look at the percentage, it is 1.95 per cent, it is close to two per cent, for the sake of argument. And when the government is asking those employers to pay the two percent, what it is saying is: “We can’t manage the affairs of this province. All we continue to do is try to run this province into bankruptcy, so we’re going to get the small business guy, the small employer, to pay.” This amendment that is before members now says, “At least exempt the small employer.”
Every question that has been placed to this Minister of Revenue this afternoon has either not been answered or he has said two things: “That question’s already been answered in this House a number of times,” or, as he said earlier, “The Minister of Health gave a perfectly adequate answer to that question.” The fact of the matter is that the people of this province know what is going on.
The Minister of Revenue should not be mistaken; he cannot be the Minister of Revenue and sit in this House and not answer questions. If he is taking the public’s money, he has to tell it why. He has to tell the public why it is that he will not support this Progressive Conservative amendment. The public has a right to know. They have a right to know. The employee who goes to his boss for a raise has the right to know when his boss turns around and says:
“I can’t give you a raise this year. I’m sorry. I’d like to give you a raise. You’re hardworking, you’re a committed, well-serving employee, but I can’t give you a raise this year because the Ontario Liberal government is now taxing me two per cent of my salaries in this organization in order to pay for health care.”
That employer cannot pay taxes and give increases in wages, and if employees do not get increases in wages, how can they live with the kind of inflation that this kind of policy drives in this province?
The minister talked about the goods and services tax and he complained about what the federal government did, but what he has not done is come across in an honest way with the people in this province. The people in this province say that this government is dishonest. The people in this province are saying that they question the tax bills of this Liberal government because it does not come clean with them. Here, when we are trying to ask questions about what actually is going on, how many people are still paying OHIP premiums, the minister stands up and says, “We’re doing away with OHIP premiums. We know you’re in favour of them,” but he will not say how many people are paying OHIP premiums. He will not say whether it is an issue or not.
The fact is that the Minister of Revenue stands here pushing through these taxation bills, which is purely what they are, and refuses to answer questions. Quite frankly, I am amazed, the little that I know of this minister, that he would not be more interested in his own personal integrity, in his portfolio, and would at least want to tell the public what is going on and say: “Look, we’re going bankrupt because of the cost of health care. We have to do this, folks.” But he should not try to snow them by saying the government is not doing something that it is doing. What they are doing is taking double-billing money for the first three months of next year.
Hon Mr Mancini: I will not make any personal attacks against the honourable member opposite. I will just try to answer the questions that have been put forward, like I have done all afternoon, and anyone who has been watching the proceedings of the House this afternoon will know that all questions have been answered.
As a matter of fact, I underestimated the give-back to the general public. Earlier I said we were giving back $450-million worth of premiums paid. In actual fact, it is $550 million back to Ontario residents who are paying their own premiums. There are 277,300 individuals who are paying their own OHIP premiums and there are 316,00 families paying their own OHIP premiums. That excludes those who were on full or partial assistance, which is paid for by the government of Ontario.
Mr Cousens: It is rather a strong disappointment that the member for Mississauga South has tabled a number of questions and a number of concerns, along with a very reasonable amendment to this bill, and on the face of it the minister comes back and says everything is okay. It is not, because on the one hand all these municipalities and school boards have not budgeted for any of the costs that the minister is not going to relieve them of now. It is going to be largely funded by Ontario.
What is happening on this one is that this is just another reason why the municipal tax structure is going out of control, where the province is not carrying its weight but passing the responsibility on to local governments and therefore causing them to increase their local mill rate so that the taxpayers are going into double-digit increases. Etobicoke, just today --
The minister waves his hand as if it is not important. I will tell him this much: The people might be doing that to him in the next election because they are going to realize that it is his government that has passed on so many of these programs to the local municipalities, to school boards and other jurisdictions underneath this one, causing them to pay the bill.
Why does he not come back with a counteramendment of some kind where he will at least subsidize these extra costs in some way? It is one huge pot that he controls and he is not doing anything to turn the tap on for those at the lower level. How can he not do that when at the same time -- I have to consult with my honourable friend the member for Mississauga South on this one; if she has made it in her own remarks, I would like to re-emphasize it -- certain people are exempt from having to pay this health levy, especially if they are lawyers?
Mr Daigeler: She made that point.
Mr Cousens: And I want to make it again because it is a good one. I think that is a good one and I just want to compliment her.
What groups are excluded from it?
Mr Pope: Vince Kerrio is excluded.
Mr Cousens: But he is a senior. Anyone who is a senior should be protected and I want to make sure that we do that. Even though the member for Niagara Falls acts like a teenager, we will treat him like a senior when it comes to this.
Mr Pelissero: He has the body of a 20-year-old.
Mr Cousens: I do not want to get into what his body looks like.
Mr Pelissero: The 20-year-old wants it back.
Mr Cousens: I am concerned that there are certain people who are not going to be paying this levy. I would like the minister at this point, if you would be so kind, since you have not answered one question, to tell us who is being exempted from this bill, including lawyers, doctors, dentists and any other professional group.
Mr Pelissero: Farmers.
Mr Cousens: Farmers. Would you be so kind as to give us that full list? How can you do that on the one side and not approve this amendment moved by the member for Mississauga South?
The Chair: Order, please. May I remind all members when you are addressing your remarks in the House to address them through the Speaker, in the third-person singular or plural. The standing orders do not call for members to address other members directly, I may remind you. Did you want to respond, Minister?
Hon Mr Mancini: We have spent the better part of two hours this afternoon and we are still on section 2. We have not placed any government amendments. We have spent the afternoon answering questions that have been placed by the opposition. We have answered each and every question that has been placed.
The honourable members know, because it was discussed thoroughly in committee last week, in committee hearings the weeks before and in the briefings that my officials gave to the honourable members who were interested a couple of weeks prior to that, that in fact the self-employed at this point in time are excluded in the same manner in which the self-employed are excluded in the employer health tax in Manitoba and also in Quebec.
Mr Cousens: Is that his answer? Is that the minister’s answer? If he is saying that he is giving answers in this House, I want to go on record right now, through you, Mr Chairman. That is just a copout, a full and complete copout, and he has not begun to face up to the questions raised by the member for Mississauga South or to the question that I just raised. Let him come back and be more responsible with his answers. It is too bad you do not have any control over him.
The Chair: Are we ready for the vote?
All those in favour will please say “aye.”
All those opposed will please say “nay.”
In my opinion, the nays have it.
Mrs Marland: I will tear up another amendment, which goes against the people of this province. The people of this province will certainly have a very clear understanding about what is taking place here.
The Chair: Mrs Marland moves that subsection 2(1) of the bill be amended by inserting after the word “employer” and before the word “shall” the words;
“except an employer who is a city, town, village, township or county within the meaning of and for the purposes of the Municipal Act [RSO, 1980, chapter 302], a regional municipality, or a school board, hospital, college or university who shall be exempt from tax under this act.”
Mrs Marland: The minister said that all these matters have been discussed thoroughly in committee. I would like to correct the record. None of these amendments was discussed in committee. I think it is very important that the record be accurate. These amendments were not placed in committee and they are being discussed here in the House today for the first time. So I would appreciate it, when the minister speaks, if he would try to relate the facts.
I think the facts are very clear in this final amendment. This is the opportunity for the Minister of Revenue, a minister of the crown of this province, to try --
Mrs Marland: I think it should be noted that it is the Minister of Health who is applauding the Minister of Revenue. I do not think that this is a humorous session at all. I think that this is a very serious matter to the people of the province. If the other ministers have come in to make this into some kind of charade, then so be it, it is up to them. But it so happens that those of us in the Progressive Conservative Party see this as a very serious matter and I take exception to the Minister of Health applauding and thinking that this whole thing is a joke.
It is not a joke. The people of Ontario know it is not a joke and the employers in Ontario know it is not a joke. Certainly the employees who are looking to have increases in their salaries and wages simply will not be able to get them because their employer cannot pay two per cent on their salaries and give their employees increases as well. So everybody gets hurt with this legislation. Let’s not miss that point.
The other fact is that it is 1.95 per cent, or two per cent, for next year. We do not know where it is going to be six or seven years from now because it is going to be a wonderful cash cow for this Liberal government, as with every other piece of taxation it imposes, because it cannot manage its Treasury, it cannot balance its revenues with its expenses.
When it comes to health care, in this amendment I am simply moving that those bodies that depend on government funding be exempt from this taxation, the very thing that this government asks of the federal government in the discussion of the goods and services tax. The goods and services tax was criticized by this government because it is understood that when it comes in it will not exempt other levels of government. This government criticized them for that. This motion simply asks that this government have some wisdom and exempt those very members of its family that it sends transfer grants to; namely, hospitals, school boards, colleges and municipalities. It simply says, “Exempt them from submitting the employer health tax on behalf of their employees.”
As my colleague the member for Markham (Mr Cousens) says, it is perfectly true that none of those bodies has budgeted for this health tax. With regard to the school boards, the figure in Peel is horrific. We are not talking here about the difference between what school boards, colleges, hospitals, universities and municipalities paid on the one hand for OHIP premiums as part of the package for their employees; we are talking about the difference between that and what this employer health tax presents. The fact of the matter is that we are talking of upwards of $500 million dollars, the difference between those.
For this minister not to agree to exempt those government bodies and municipalities -- I say again, with the Minister of Health in the House, why on earth could he not exempt at least hospitals? It is this Liberal government which says that health care is such a crucial part of its budget that it cannot cope with the burden. Well, if it is taxing the public of this province to pay for health care, why would it not exempt the hospitals? That is beyond us.
We are talking about at least $60 million to hospitals, yet the government is collecting the money on the one hand to pay for health care. In taxing hospitals it is adding to the tax burden and the operating costs of those hospitals. So if the Minister of Revenue cannot accept my entire amendment, he might at least accept the part that exempts hospitals rather than adding to their expenses by $60 million. It is so convoluted. It is unbelievable that the government is taxing for health care and, in so doing, adding to the expenditure of operating hospitals. It is beyond any common logic.
Hon Mr Mancini: Let’s try to put in perspective what we have heard today from the spokesman for the Ontario Conservative Party. We have heard, I guess, that she is for the goods and service tax. We have heard that she is for, and her party is for, OHIP premiums.
I said earlier that if OHIP premiums had been indexed to the consumer price index since 1984-85, when this government froze OHIP premiums, the take today would be $2.6 billion, not the $2.1 billion that we will be taking in from the employer health levy. If the honourable members want to refer to a $500-million figure, that is one figure they can easily refer to.
I am sure that the thousands of people who are watching today, particularly the families and the individuals that pay their own OHIP premiums -- the 277,300 who pay their own OHIP premiums, the 316,200 families that pay their own OHIP premiums -- and the thousands of others who receive partial and full assistance from the government of Ontario are pleased with our actions.
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please.
Hon Mr Mancini: I know that the companies which are paying full OHIP premiums for their employees, while other companies pay only half or none at all, will be happy that all employers will take some responsibility. I know that the small business sector is pleased that it is being charged at the half rate. I also know that we are putting $1 billion back into the pockets of Ontario citizens.
Finally, the honourable member talked about the deficit and talked about moneys coming in and moneys going out. I am very surprised that any Conservative member would even refer to the deficit because the fact is that when we took over office the deficit was well over $2 billion and climbing steadily, climbing out of control. Last year, the Ontario deficit was reduced to $600 million by the initiative of the Treasurer and by the initiative of this government.
Mr Pope: This will take a while. The minister would have the people of this province believe that this party will stand by and see this government, for the second straight year, rip $1.3 billion out of their pockets; that we will stand by and see businesses and individuals pay more taxes than at any other time in the history of this province; that they will pay 53 per cent personal income tax to the provincial government as a percentage of the federal income tax rate; that they will pay eight per cent sales tax; that they will face their third increase in the gasoline tax in two and a half years; that they will see the cost of housing go up because of two successive increases in the land transfer tax; that we will see a commercial concentration levy that will have an impact on the greater Toronto area which will result in increased costs and prices for every single resident of the great municipality of Metropolitan Toronto; that we will see a $5 tire tax with the phoney excuse that it will go to environmental issues when it is going straight into consolidated revenue; that we will see increases in virtually every single tax mechanism at the disposal of the Liberal government of Ontario.
When we see increases of 46 per cent over three years in the administration costs of this government; when we see waste of money shown by the auditor’s report for two successive years; when we call for some fiscal and financial responsibility from the Liberal administration of the government of Ontario, and it says we are in favour of its taxes or any tax increases, the answer is no, not one whit.
We will oppose every single tax measure until this government learns fiscal and economic responsibility; stops ripping dollars out of the taxpayers pockets and starts to mind its own shop; cuts down the administrative costs, cuts down the costs of consultants in housing, cuts down the cost of advertising for all of its programs, cuts down on the administrative costs, cuts down on the party costs and the membership costs in clubs for the Attorney General (Mr Scott), and shows some fiscal and economic responsibility. Then the government can bring its tax measures back into this House, but do not try to con the people of the province of Ontario that it is acting in their best interests because we know it is not.
Mrs Marland: I think I have the right to correct the minister. He said a few moments ago that I stood in this House this afternoon and said I was for a number of things. It is very unfair and it is totally inaccurate of this minister to say that I am for the goods and services tax, because I did not say I was for the goods and services tax. My reference to the goods and services tax was to quote this Liberal government’s comments on that tax, which said that it should exempt public bodies and institutions, the very thing I was asking in my amendment to exempt.
He said I am for OHIP premiums. Finally, he gave me the figures. I think he said there are 277,000 individuals who pay their OHIP premiums. The fact of the matter is that among those individuals who pay their own OHIP premiums there are the self-employed professionals -- doctors, dentists, lawyers, whatever kind of individual professional one wants to add to the list -- who presently happily pay for health.
People do not live in Alice in Wonderland. People in the real world understand that yes, there is a cost to health care. People in the real world accept the fact that they have to pay for health care protection. They know that because there are still people living in this province today who remember what it was like when they did not have an OHIP premium that gave them the protection and the insurance so that when they were ill or their family was ill they could access surgical procedures and health care without having to mortgage their homes.
There are still people today who remember that in Ontario, and those people are very reasonable people who say, “We would be willing to pay,” especially those people in the upper income brackets who by this bill no longer have to pay anything towards health care. Interestingly enough, in the example the minister gave, he spoke about what it costs to be protected for health care in the United States. It is interesting that he says if we were in the United States it would cost us this, this and this.
We know what health insurance costs in other locations. That is not the argument. The argument is that this bill is so badly drafted that it exempts people who do not need exemptions, and more importantly, those people are not even asking for exemptions. They are not even asking. We do not hear a lawyer, a doctor, a dentist or a self-employed professional saying: “Look, folks, I cannot afford to pay for health insurance. I expect the government to pay for health insurance.”
Those people have to be given more credit. They understand how it works. They understand that the government collects money to fund certain programs and they are willing and able to pay their own fair share, but in this bill there is this great big loophole, and when I asked the minister about it his answer was, “We’re looking at that.”
This minister comes to this House with a piece of legislation where he says, “We do not have any answers to the matter yet, but we want to explore it.” I would suggest that if this minister does not support my amendment, then Bill 47 is premature. If they still have matters that they have to explore, then they have brought this legislation in ill prepared and ill drafted. Since the minister has used a number of quotations this afternoon about what happens in other provinces, it is significant to note that even if he had supported my amendment for an exemption at $400,000, it would not have been as generous as in Manitoba where the exemption is $600,000.
So, when this minister talks about who pays for what, he had better be very clear about the reality that people do expect to pay for some protection in terms of health care, especially those people who can afford to. That is how the system works in Ontario today because we have premium assistance in Ontario and have had for some time prior to the Liberal government, I might point out. There is not a person living in Ontario today who cannot afford an OHIP premium and who is forced to pay it. We have premium assistance for those people in this province today who cannot afford to pay the full premium.
Therefore, for this government to say it wants to tax every employer, and as I say, ultimately every employee, is such a regressive, unjust tax that this government should be ashamed. They should be ashamed because of the fact that businesses are going to go out of business because of this health tax levy and employees are going to simply be out of work. It will not be a matter of people being able to access anything because we are driving people out of this province with the kind of taxation this Liberal government is imposing. This employer health tax levy is just another example of it.
Mr Cousens: I would be very interested if the honourable minister would respond to the remarks by the member for Mississauga South, and in particular if he could say why it is that the legislation excludes lawyers, doctors, dentists and other professional groups from this bill. The minister is obviously too busy talking to someone else to listen to the debate. We are here trying to do our job and he is ignoring us. Would you please draw that to his attention, Mr Chairman? Would the minister give a response to that?
The Chair: Order, please. There are many private conversations; if they would stop, please.
Hon Mr Mancini: Mr Chairman, I know you have been here all afternoon. I know a lot of others members have been here most of the afternoon, and anyone watching these proceedings would know that I have responded to each and every question that has been put.
Mr Cousens: The minister has not answered the questions. The minister has not answered this question. It is time the minister stood up and gave the honest truth. The members can clap us down. We are not about to be clapped down.
This minister is failing in his responsibility. We will vote against this bill, and if I lived in his riding, I would vote against him.
On motion by Mr Ward, the committee of the whole House reported progress on one bill and reported one bill with certain amendments.
The House adjourned at 1802.